Timeline

1864: William Henry Ellis born in Victoria, Texas (precise date uncertain)

1865: June 19: U.S. forces land in Galveston Texas and declare an end to slavery in Texas (now celebrated as the holiday Juneteenth)

1873: Victoria replaces the Spanish names of its streets with English-language versions

1876: Porfirio Díaz becomes president of Mexico

1877: End of Reconstruction in U.S. South

1880s: Ellis works as assistant and translator for William McNamara, a white cotton and hide dealer in Victoria, Texas

1882: July 4: Railroad reaches Victoria, Texas

1888: April 14: Ellis speaks in favor of Cuney at a political meeting in Victoria

1888: Ellis moves from Victoria to San Antonio, Texas

1889: October 11: Mexican Congress passes Ellis’s colonization plan with only one vote against

1889: November 7: Mexican Senate approves Ellis’s colonization plan

1890: February 1: Ellis recruits colonists in Waco, Texas

1890: February 25: Ellis recruits colonists in Houston, Texas

1891: August 16: Ellis recruits colonists in Chicago, Illinois

1891: August 17: In interview with Chicago Herald, Ellis makes his only known public comment about his ethnic reinvention: “[i]n passing through Texas from Mexico, I am forced to pass as a Mexican in order to obtain the ordinary comforts of a white traveler.”

1891: September 18: Mexican government cancels Ellis’s 1889 colonization contract

1892: Ellis runs for state representative in Texas on the Republican ticket with support of Norris Wright Cuney

1893: Ellis attends Bishop Henry Turner’s convention in Cincinnati on Black emigration, where he serves as a vice president

1894: Ellis signs contract with La Compañía Agrícola Limitada del Tlahualilo to bring African American sharecroppers to their hacienda in Durango, Mexico

1895: Controversy erupts in Mexico City when the American owner of the Hotel Iturbide attempts to deny three African Americans service

1895: January 25: Ellis and “Peg-Leg” Williams send the first trainload of African American colonists from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Tlahualilo, Mexico

1895: July 28: Texas begins its quarantine of the returning colonists from Tlahualilo at Eagle Pass; in August, the federal government assumes control of the quarantine camp

1895: September 18: Booker T. Washington delivers his “Atlanta Compromise” speech

1895: October 23: last of the returning colonists leave the quarantine camp in Eagle Pass

1896: Ellis identified as Black for the first time in the San Antonio city directory

1896: Ellis purchases the Edward Butts furniture factory in Mexico City

1898: Ellis shows up the New York City directory for the first time; listed as having an office at 29 Wall Street and as living in the Hotel Imperial

1898: Ellis called as a witness in the Fayne Strahan “badger” case in New York City

1898: Ellis buys Butts Furniture, the largest furniture factory in Mexico City

1899: Ellis becomes president of the New York and Westchester Water Company

1901: Ellis’s younger sister, Isabella, attends Northwestern but leaves after a year when she is barred from the all-white dormitories

1902: Ellis meets Ras Makonnen of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in London

1903: May 27: Ellis marries Maude Sherwood at Grace Episcopal Church in New York City

1903: Ellis visits Emperor Menelik in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for the first time

1904: February 1: Ellis and Sherwood’s first child, Guillermo Enrique Eliseo Jr., born in New York City

1904: June: Ellis departs for Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for the second time. His companion, Kent Loomis, bears the first treaty of between the U.S. and Abyssinia

1904: June 20: Kent Loomis disappears from the ocean liner bringing him and Ellis to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) by way of England

1904: July 17: Kent Loomis’s body washes up on the beach in England

1904: November 21: Ellis meets with President Teddy Roosevelt at the White House

1905: September 10: Ellis and Sherwood’s second son, Carlos Sherwood, born in Mount Vernon, New York

1909: January 10: Ellis signs agreement with Mexican government for a concession to make rubber from the Palo Amarillo and Amate plants

1909: March 14: Ellis excluded from Pullman train when he crosses the border from Mexico into Texas

1909: June 8: Ellis and Sherwood’s first daughter, Victoria Taitu Ellis, born in Mount Vernon, New York

1910: Mexican Revolution begins

1912: May 25: Ellis and Sherwood’s twin sons, Porfirio Díaz Ellis and Sherwood Ellis, born in Mount Vernon, New York. The children die in infancy and are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York

1912: June 3: Victoria, Texas, erects Confederate memorial in its main square

1915: May 14: Ellis and Sherwood’s youngest son, Fernando Demetrio Ellis, born in Mount Vernon, New York

1916: The Bureau of Investigation (forerunner to the FBI) investigates Ellis

1918: Ellis involved in an oil scheme in Costa Rica

1920: Ellis involved in effort to create “free ports” modeled on Hong Kong and Singapore in Mexico

1923: September 24: Ellis dies in Mexico City and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Spanish cemetery

1923: November 14: Ellis’s estate is valued at only $5,000

1924: May 2: Ellis and Sherwood’s oldest son, Guillermo Enrique Eliseo Jr., dies of typhus in Mexico City and is buried in the American cemetery, apart from his father

1926: April 15: Ellis’s widow and surviving children enter Mexico via Veracruz