John Ellzey’s mind was like a treasure chest full of historical information, and many Yazooans turned to him when looking for details about local history.
Ellzey also appreciated art, and he was a talented artist in his own right.
So it comes as no surprise that his home was filled with items of historical or artistic significance.
The people of Yazoo City will experience a blast from the past this week as the belongings of the local historic preservation icon will be sold, all while raising funds to preserve his legacy.
The massive antique collection, belonging to the late John Ellzey, is contained inside his historic 19th Century home on Monroe Street, the Bardwell-Sartain House.
Ellzey is best remembered from his career at Ricks Memorial Library in Yazoo City, and for his work in preserving historical sites and documents, and giving tours of the historic areas around town.
Ellzey was also very fond of animals and spent a great deal of his personal time caring for the stray and feral cats who lived near the library.
Paul Cartwright, former director of Ricks Memorial Library, and co-owner of Cartwright Estate Liquidations, Inc., said that Ellzey had been taking care of the cats since the late 1970s.
"He would get up early and come feed the cats and then go home and get ready for work," Cartwright said. "And then he would normally feed the cats again before he left from work around 4:30 or 5."
Because his home was only a block away from the Library, Cartwright said that Ellzey would often come by on weekends and holidays to feed and spend time with the cats, which often numbered at 14 or more during feeding time.
Ellzey passed away on August 7, 2016. Having no children, the contents of his home were left to his sister Gale Powell. Powell enlisted the help of Paul and Wendy Cartwright's estate liquidation business to help ensure that Ellzey's collection would transfer into the hands of other collectors and historians like her brother.
Ellzey worked with the estate sale company for several years, which added many artifacts to his huge collection.
"He collected some of the nicer 19th Century Victorian pieces," said Paul. "Some of the furniture is from the mid to late 1800s, and there are some modern pieces. There are also books signed to him by authors. There are just all kinds of things in the house."
Cartwright said the collection also includes many “Gone With the Wind-style” lamps and furniture, paintings and statues, as well as many collectible figurines, glassware, and china, all in pristine condition.
Because of the sheer volume and quantity of Ellzey's collection, Cartwright Estate Liquidation's has listed the sale regionally on EstateSales.net, which has the potential to draw in big collectors from cities as large as Atlanta or New Orleans.
In order for these collectors to beat the crowds, the company is hosting an early preview sale inside the Bardwell-Sartain House on Thursday, January 10, starting at 5 p.m.
Cartwright added that as a special tribute to John Ellzey's legacy to Yazoo City, there will be an entry fee at the front door, collecting either a $10 donation to the John Ellzey Memorial Fund, benefiting historic preservation at the library, or $10 worth of cat food to continue feeding the cats at the library. Cartwright said that depending on how much cat food is collected, some of it may be donated to an animal rescue mission in his memory.
"We have done fundraisers like this before with other estates," Cartwright said. "It is just a way for people to beat the crowd and shop early, while also continuing the work that he did at the library in preserving local history."
Wendy Cartwright, co-owner of Cartwright Estate Liquidations, Inc., gave The Yazoo Herald a sneak peak of the collection before the sale begins on Thursday. She also shared fond memories of working estate sales with Ellzey over the years.
"John was probably the neatest person I ever knew," she said. "He was like a walking encyclopedia of Yazoo County history, and every time we talked I learned something."
John Ellzey's estate sale is set to open to the public at regular hours starting on Friday, January 11 and Saturday, January 12, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.