Elley, Gustav (1816–1897)

By: Charlene Nash and Pearl Elley Bethune

Type: Biography

Published: October 1, 1995

Updated: April 7, 2016

Gustav Elley, soldier and Methodist preacher, only son of Christine Wilhelmine Weisbach and Joachim Gustav Ferdinand von Elterlein, was born Gustavus von Elterlein on June 10, 1816, in Mittelschmiedeberg in the kingdom of Saxony. As far back as 1500 the family owned iron works in the Erzgebirge region. Elley was orphaned at an early age and reared by his grandparents and his uncle, Julius Weisbach, a mathemetician at Freiberg Academy of Mines. While still in his teens Elley immigrated to the United States. He traveled by way of New Orleans to Texas in 1836 with George H. Burroughs's Zanesville volunteers, Company G. Upon arrival he dropped his title of "baron" and anglicized his name to Elley, the name of his English governess. He was in the Army of the Republic of Texas from October 1, 1836, to December 21, 1837. He joined the Texas Navy in 1840 and was a fireman on the steamship Zavala. On June 1, 1842, he enlisted in Capt. John C. Hays's Texas Ranger Volunteer Spy Company, with headquarters in San Antonio. He was on special detail guarding the District Court as a member of Capt. Chauncey Johnson's company when he was captured by Gen. Adrián Woll's invading army on September 11, 1842. His occupation was listed as "miner." With his fellow prisoners he reached Perote Prison on December 22, after traveling a distance of more than 1,000 miles on foot. In July 1843 sixteen of the Perote prisoners escaped, Gen. Thomas J. Green and Elley among them, but Elley was recaptured and held until March 24, 1844, when he was released with all of the remaining San Antonio and Dawson Massacre prisoners to Waddy Thompson, United States minister to Mexico.

Elley returned to the vicinity of San Antonio and was influenced during this time by a Methodist missionary preacher, John Wesley DeVilbiss. Along with seven other people he and DeVilbiss began a church that eventually became Travis Park Methodist Church. In 1854 Elley was accepted on trial as a Methodist Episcopal minister and assigned to the New Braunfels and Castroville Circuit. In 1859 he was a charter member of the Rio Grande Methodist Episcopal Conference. He was appointed to the New Fountain and New Braunfels missions. In 1868 he transferred to the Methodist Episcopal Church (North) and was accepted as an elder. He was a charter member of the Southern German Conference and a pastor at Industry and Rabbs Creek. In 1870 he was presiding elder in the Guadalupe Circuit, which included Fredericksburg and Mason. He was subsequently appointed to San Antonio, where he organized the Little Church of La Villita, which is now included in the Aldersgate United Methodist Church. As a charter member of the Southern Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (North) in 1874, he supplied the La Grange mission. On January 31, 1847, Elley married Henriette Blumberg in New Braunfels. They had thirteen children who grew to adulthood. Upon his retirement he bought a farm near Seguin, where he was living at the time of his death, on November 13, 1897. He was buried in Blumberg Cemetery in McQueeney, Texas.

Pearl Elley Bethune, Forward to the Past! (Austin, 1990). Rena Maverick Green, ed., Samuel Maverick, Texan (San Antonio, 1952). Thomas J. Green, Journal of the Texian Expedition Against Mier (New York: Harper, 1845; rpt., Austin: Steck, 1935).

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Religion
  • Military
  • Soldiers
  • Methodist

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Charlene Nash and Pearl Elley Bethune, “Elley, Gustav,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/elley-gustav.

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October 1, 1995
April 7, 2016