From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Elster, Jesse James

(born: 1883  -  died: 1950) Jesse J. Elster was a prominent baseball player and manager of the Grand Rapids Colored Athletics team. The son of Simon and Lydia Holly Elster, he was born in Mt. Sterling, KY on October 4, 1883, and moved to Grand Rapids in 1904. He was employed as a chauffeur for the Macey Company in Grand Rapids when he completed his Draft Registration Card during World War I, and he was still with the company when he completed his Draft Registration Card during World War II.

In 1914, Elster and Stanley Barnett formed the Colored Athletic Businesses Association (CABA), which supported the Grand Rapids Colored Athletics baseball team. Elster was still the baseball team manager the year before his death in 1950. The last articles about the team appeared in Michigan newspapers in 1949.

Jesse J. Elster was the husband of Mamie E. Bellis Elster (b. 1887 in MO - died 1920), and he later married Emma V. Young (b. 1883 in VA - died 1933). The family of five is listed in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census; they lived at 439 James Avenue in Grand Rapids, according to volumes of Polk's Grand Rapids (Kent County, Mich) City Directory.

Jess Elster and his son Russell were truck drivers for the Macey Company. His son Eugene was a shoe shiner. Elster's first name has been spelled different ways: he signed as "Jesse Elster" on his World War I draft registration card.

Jesse Elster died in Grand Rapids, MI, on December 10, 1950; he is buried in Oakhill Cemetery [see Find A Grave record].

For more see African Americans in the Furniture City, by R. M. Jelks; The Negro Leagues Revisited, by B. P. Kelley; and "Face Muskegon Club Sunday," Record-Eagle, 7/01/1949, p. 15.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Montgomery County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Polk's Grand Rapids (Kent County, Mich.) city directory (serial)
NKAA Source: African Americans in the Furniture City : the struggle for civil rights in Grand Rapids
NKAA Source: The Negro leagues revisited : conversations with 66 more baseball heroes
NKAA Source: Traverse City record-eagle (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Elster, Jesse James,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed January 24, 2022,

Last modified: 2020-08-19 17:43:16