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“I Never Dreamed I’d Be This Old”

Gilmer County’s Roxy Ellyson at 105

By Harriet Whipkey

Roxy Ellyson
Soon to be 105 years old, Roxy Ellyson of Gilmer County sits on her porch swing, holding a decorative metal plaque, including a picture of herself at about the time of her marriage. Photograph by Neal Menschel.


Roxy Gay Williams Ellyson speaks with amazing clarity for someone who will be 105 years old this October 1. "I’ve seen Halley’s Comet twice,” she says. “I clearly remember the first time. I was about 10 years old, and I was at my brother Roy’s home on Lower Big Run. We took a lantern and went a ways back on the hill. ‘Course, some neighbors went, too. Took us some food and went up there and watched for Halley’s Comet.” It was a cold, clear night in Gilmer County as they built a fire and watched what looked to Roxy like a “big star with a tail.”

Roxy was born in 1900 in Gilmer County about five miles above the mouth of Sinking Creek at what is known as Salt Block Run. She was one of eight children of Ira and Laura Isabelle Williams. The family’s home was a log cabin with four large rooms — two up and two down — plus an add-on kitchen. They heated and cooked with both wood and coal, and they got their water from a dug well. When Roxy was four years old, the family moved into a larger frame house on the same property, and the log house was moved and converted into a barn.

“From the time I can remember, I had jobs to do,” Roxy says. As a small child, she was given the chore of shooing the flies off the table before the family sat down to a meal. “My mother taught me to crochet before I started to school. I used to sit on a little stool at her feet and watch her, and I learned like that.”

There were many life skills needed for rural living, and Roxy learned them all.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.