Elliott's parents were Gilbert Elliott (May 20, 1813 – May 20, 1851) and Sarah Ann Grice (June 1, 1819 – April 22, 1891), granddaughter of shipbuilder Charles Grice and Mary Grandy. He was born at "Milford" estate in Camden County, North Carolina. After his mother became a widow she moved to Oxford, North Carolina, and became the author of a cookbook, "Mrs. Elliott's Housewife", published in New York in 1870.
Elliott was educated in the local schools of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He was a law clerk by 1860.
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