Grandpa Elliott gets around, just not on horses

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published June 20, 2001 in The Suburban Life, added June 13, 2016.

Matlock and MacKenzie pull the carriage that took President Abraham Lincoln (Stan Wernz) to Madeira High School. Terry Elliott drove the carriage; his father, Thomas "Grandpa" Elliott rode shotgun.

Matlock and MacKenzie pull the carriage that took President Abraham Lincoln (Stan Wernz) to Madeira High School. Terry Elliott drove the carriage; his father, Thomas “Grandpa” Elliott rode shotgun.

Back in March when Abraham Lincoln (also known as Stan Wernz) came to Madeira, he was met at the train station by horse and carriage, which carried him in grand style up Miami Avenue to Madeira High School where he was to speak.

The carriage is well over a hundred years old and had been painstakingly restored to every inch of its former glory by the Amish in Ohio.  But easily, the stars of that evening were the handsome pair of horses, which pulled the carriage.

The horses were Matlock and MacKenzie, a pair of Haflinger horses.  According to my source, Haflingers were first bred in Austria from a mountain mare and an Arabian stallion and were brought to this country in 1950 by a man named Temple Smith.  Matlock and MacKenzie are full brothers and came from Canada.

Black and white photos do only a fraction of justice to these beautiful horses.  You have to see them in living color.  As a horse expert, I rank somewhere on the scale between zero and minus 13.  To me, these are some kind of gorgeous horses.  I can only describe the color as a reddish, golden brown, blending to tan to cream to white.    They have white faces and white manes.  I do know about horses’ manes.

The horses and carriage are owned by the Thomas Elliott family and the Elliott’s’ youngest son, Terry, who lives on a farm near Circleville, Ohio.  They came down all the way from Circleville that night.  Terry drove the carriage that carried Lincoln (Wernz) to his destination, and his dad rode shotgun.

Thomas “Grandpa” Elliott and his wife, Bernice, grew up on neighboring farms in Logan County, Ohio, near Bellefontaine.  He and his brothers grew up with a large number of working and show horses on the farm.

Thomas and Bernice moved to Madeira on May 30, 1942, to seven acres on Shawnee Run.  They had enough room there to continue their farming ways, and Bernice remembers canning as much as 600 jars of food in a single summer – food they had grown themselves.  “We had no freezer then,” she said.

Then their daughters grew up, and it was a long way for them to walk to the bus.  They decided they needed to move into “town.”  In 1951, they did, right into the very heart of Madeira, where they still live on Maple Avenue.

If you’re out and around Madeira in the mornings, you know Thomas Elliott, or you’ve seen him.  He’s everyone’s grandpa, and he hits all the spots on his motorized scooter.

Motorized scooters may be one of the greatest contrivances invented by man.  They allow people like Grandpa to still have wheels.

Grandpa celebrated his 90th birthday last fall with a huge party thrown by his daughters.  His 91st is coming up in a few months, and he isn’t as mobile as he once was while living on the farm in Logan County.  But with his scooter, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “Oh the places he does go.”

You’re apt to bump into him anywhere in the mornings.  He makes the rounds.  He goes out for coffee with his buddies.  If there’s anything going on or being done around Madeira, he can go out and do sidewalk supervising.  Every morning, he motors up to Walgreen’s to visit his daughter, Joan Stotle, who works there.

Everybody knows and loves grandpa. I have a friend who describes any special person as having a “good heart.”  Grandpa Elliot has a “good heart,” and he’s the eternal optimist.  He loves people, and he has a joke for every occasion, most of them on himself.

Grandpa and Bernice don’t own any horses of their own anymore.  The horses are at Terry’s farm in Circleville.  Terry is into mini-mules too, and shows them, especially one pair, Sugar and Spice.

But Grandpa and Bernice have a long lifetime of horse memories.  They can pull out enough framed photos, albums and ribbons to keep you interested all day.

One of their all-time favorite horses they’ve owned was Conlea.  They loaned Conlea to a family with a little girl who rode her and showed her at the nationals and at shows all over the place for four years.  By then, the family, especially the girl and her little brother, had fallen in love with Conlea.  So Grandpa gave the horse to them-for $1.  Just another example of Grandpa’s good heart.

These days, Thomas and Bernice stay busy with their large, close family, though it would take a lot of space to get them all close together.  My family could have a reunion in a motel room, with room for visitors.  The Elliotts would need an arena the size of Paul Brown Stadium.

Grandpa and Bernice have seven children (five daughters and two sons) 23 grandchildren and 47 great-grandchildren.  It would be difficult to get them all together, one daughter lives in Florida, but they have reunions at a son’s house whenever they can.  As many as 80 sometimes make it.

And it’s safe to say they all ride and know horses.  They got it from their grandpa and grandma.