- On 26 Nov 1863, at the age of 17, he volunteered for the Army (the Civil War). He served with his cousin, Henry B.A. Eller. They were in Troop I, 10th Indiana Cavalry, where he served until the end of the war. This unit moved from Indiana to Tennessee and Decatur, Alabama. Later it was involved in battles around New Orleans.
At the close of the war, near Vicksburg, James William Eller became ill from diarrhea. He was hospitalized. In his application for a Union Army pension, he complained that this disability prevented him from doing any heavy work.
He was among the first students to attend the new State University in Indiana. He later attended and graduated from Chicago Law School.
He moved to Nebraska in 1871 (date included in a pension application), probably at the same time his parents moved. He settled in Exeter, Nebraska, along what was termed the "Oregon trail." It must have been "the fronteer," since his wedding was the first recorded in Filmore County. He moved to Fairmont in 1873, and Omaha in 1886. He practiced law in that area until (says his obituary) "..failing health forced him to close up that line of his work." This health problem, he would claim, was related to the illness he suffered in the war.
During that period, he was elected District Attorney for the Omaha area (1875, two terms, Nebraska Blue Book). His obituary in the Filmore County News of 06 Sep 1923 says he also served as a County Judge about 1903. Another obituary (Tryon Graphic, 18 Oct 1923) says he served as the clerk of the Nebraska State Legislature.
James' wife, Francis, died on Christmas Day 1898. Family stories suggest she and Donald died in a fire, the record shows Donald actually died three years later.
In the census of 1900, James William Eller is still in Omaha (and presumably a lawyer or judge). The census shows eight children in the home and a 28 year old woman, Louise Millagan, who is listed as a Nanny and who gives her profession as a stenographer.
In 1905, James W. Eller left Omaha and the law and took a "soldier's homestead" in McPherson County, Nebraska. Family stories say he was upset over the death of his wife and son. Some say he went "round the bend." Whatever the case, he remarried after the move.
On 29 May 1921, at the age of 76, he married 49 year-old Louise Millagan, the former Nanny. She was alive at his death.