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Margaret <I>Northcross</I> Ellis

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Margaret Northcross Ellis

Birth
Death
9 Oct 1995 (aged 85)
Burial
Shawsville, Montgomery County, Virginia, USA Add to Map
Memorial ID
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People throughout the Roanoke Valley, where the influence of North Cross School is so significant, were saddened when Margaret Northcross Ellis died on October 9. Her death was particularly felt in Elliston, where she was born in 1910 and lived her entire life. But it is in Salem where Mrs. Ellis should be remembered, and her loss mourned, above all.

"Billy," as her friends called her, was the first teacher and one of the founders of North Cross School in a Salem basement back in 1944. She supervised its growth for a decade or more, stayed with it as head of the lower division after the school added the high school grades, and helped it reach its current status as one of Virginia's pre-eminent private schools, located on a spacious campus in Roanoke County.

Mrs. Ellis told how it started, in a brief history of the school which she wrote not long before her death: "Mrs. Howard Butts [of Salem] organized a group of parents who were interested in a private school. Due to age requirements of the public school, no kindergartens and a polio epidemic, eighteen students were enrolled." She was the only teacher that year, holding class in Mrs. Butts' basement on Lewis Avenue. Tuition was $90 a year. (Mrs. Butts, incidentally, still lives in that home.)

The following year, the school was named North Cross, splitting Billy's name, and it moved to "New Castle" at 12 Union Street, one of Salem's most historic buildings. In the fifties, it was incorporated; private donations started coming in, and the program expanded steadily. Miss Northcross married Lion Ellis of Shawsville/Elliston, a grandson of President John Tyler, and a member of the family for which Elliston was named. Her reputation grew as an effective, no-nonsense disciplinarian in teaching, as well as for her sense of humor and pageantry, manifested in elaborate May Day dances, Halloween parades, Christmas pageants and other costumed holiday programs.

In 1960-61, the board of trustees merged North Cross with Eaton School of Roanoke County to become a full-fledged college preparatory school with all grade levels, pre-kindergarten through high school. They bought a tract of land on Colonial Avenue. Mrs. Ellis told of visiting the site, where she found the chairman of the board sitting on a bale of hay, looking at a farm house, scrub pines and a hayfield, and planning the consolidated school that would rise there.

The first headmaster came in, and Mrs. Ellis headed the Lower School. Every year brought new programs and facilities: a revised Book Fair, a Field Day, a Fathers' Association, a new gym, tennis courts, football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, lacrosse and soccer; accreditation, an endowment, summer school, a summer camp, a football field with bleachers, an athletic center, and numerous new academic buildings, facilities and programs. The students went on to many of the nation's foremost colleges and universities.

For years after her "final" retirement in 1979, Mrs. Ellis appeared at the school's founders days, commencements and other special programs. She continued to read to children from her favorite stories at North Cross and other schools. The school's leadership named the Lower School building Ellis Hall in her honor, and she lived with the knowledge that the school, the elementary school building and her home town all carried her names.

North Cross continued to prosper. Today, it enrolls more than 500, with a teaching faculty of fifty, plus administrators and staff. As the school's size and contribution grew, Mrs. Ellis' supporters and admirers -- many of the parents of her students and a growing body of alumni -- included many of the Roanoke Valley's most influential citizens, including one who wrote that "she could scare the wool out of you and let you know that she loved you at the same time."

Mrs. Ellis was known for her New Years Eve parties. She also was known for the gatherings around her swimming pool at her home in Elliston, where her friends and family gathered in the summer to swim and talk and wave to the railroad crews on the trains that passed just a hundred feet away.

Margaret Northcross Ellis always identified with Salem, where she attended church, where she had scores of good friends, and where she started one of the state's great private schools. Salem should always remember her, too.

People throughout the Roanoke Valley, where the influence of North Cross School is so significant, were saddened when Margaret Northcross Ellis died on October 9. Her death was particularly felt in Elliston, where she was born in 1910 and lived her entire life. But it is in Salem where Mrs. Ellis should be remembered, and her loss mourned, above all.

"Billy," as her friends called her, was the first teacher and one of the founders of North Cross School in a Salem basement back in 1944. She supervised its growth for a decade or more, stayed with it as head of the lower division after the school added the high school grades, and helped it reach its current status as one of Virginia's pre-eminent private schools, located on a spacious campus in Roanoke County.

Mrs. Ellis told how it started, in a brief history of the school which she wrote not long before her death: "Mrs. Howard Butts [of Salem] organized a group of parents who were interested in a private school. Due to age requirements of the public school, no kindergartens and a polio epidemic, eighteen students were enrolled." She was the only teacher that year, holding class in Mrs. Butts' basement on Lewis Avenue. Tuition was $90 a year. (Mrs. Butts, incidentally, still lives in that home.)

The following year, the school was named North Cross, splitting Billy's name, and it moved to "New Castle" at 12 Union Street, one of Salem's most historic buildings. In the fifties, it was incorporated; private donations started coming in, and the program expanded steadily. Miss Northcross married Lion Ellis of Shawsville/Elliston, a grandson of President John Tyler, and a member of the family for which Elliston was named. Her reputation grew as an effective, no-nonsense disciplinarian in teaching, as well as for her sense of humor and pageantry, manifested in elaborate May Day dances, Halloween parades, Christmas pageants and other costumed holiday programs.

In 1960-61, the board of trustees merged North Cross with Eaton School of Roanoke County to become a full-fledged college preparatory school with all grade levels, pre-kindergarten through high school. They bought a tract of land on Colonial Avenue. Mrs. Ellis told of visiting the site, where she found the chairman of the board sitting on a bale of hay, looking at a farm house, scrub pines and a hayfield, and planning the consolidated school that would rise there.

The first headmaster came in, and Mrs. Ellis headed the Lower School. Every year brought new programs and facilities: a revised Book Fair, a Field Day, a Fathers' Association, a new gym, tennis courts, football, basketball, volleyball, tennis, lacrosse and soccer; accreditation, an endowment, summer school, a summer camp, a football field with bleachers, an athletic center, and numerous new academic buildings, facilities and programs. The students went on to many of the nation's foremost colleges and universities.

For years after her "final" retirement in 1979, Mrs. Ellis appeared at the school's founders days, commencements and other special programs. She continued to read to children from her favorite stories at North Cross and other schools. The school's leadership named the Lower School building Ellis Hall in her honor, and she lived with the knowledge that the school, the elementary school building and her home town all carried her names.

North Cross continued to prosper. Today, it enrolls more than 500, with a teaching faculty of fifty, plus administrators and staff. As the school's size and contribution grew, Mrs. Ellis' supporters and admirers -- many of the parents of her students and a growing body of alumni -- included many of the Roanoke Valley's most influential citizens, including one who wrote that "she could scare the wool out of you and let you know that she loved you at the same time."

Mrs. Ellis was known for her New Years Eve parties. She also was known for the gatherings around her swimming pool at her home in Elliston, where her friends and family gathered in the summer to swim and talk and wave to the railroad crews on the trains that passed just a hundred feet away.

Margaret Northcross Ellis always identified with Salem, where she attended church, where she had scores of good friends, and where she started one of the state's great private schools. Salem should always remember her, too.



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  • Created by: Laurie
  • Added: Oct 27, 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID:
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/43608280/margaret-ellis: accessed ), memorial page for Margaret Northcross Ellis (6 Aug 1910–9 Oct 1995), Find a Grave Memorial ID 43608280, citing White Cemetery, Shawsville, Montgomery County, Virginia, USA; Maintained by Laurie (contributor 2811407).