In 1862, William Ellison was one of the largest slave owners in South Carolina as well as one of the wealthiest. He was born a slave and was given the name April, after the month in which he was born. He was luckier than most and was bought by a white slave owner named William Ellison, who took the time to educate him. When he was 26 years old, he was freed by his master and began building his expansive cotton plantation. As a free man, he had his name changed to William Ellison, that of his former owner.