The daughter of Civil War Captain Samuel and Sarah Tower, Ellen May Tower was born May 8, 1868, in Bryon. She attended Chaffee School, the Byron Village School and a nurse's training program at Detroit's Grace Hospital. She worked for several years at the Michigan School for the Blind.
On April 21, 1898, Tower volunteered for service as an army nurse "in the event of war between the United States and Spain." War was declared by Spain three days later. She took her oath in September 1, 1898, and was sent to Camp Wikoff, located at Montauk Point, New York. Known as one of the "Camp Wikoff Angels," she cared for soldiers who had been returned to the United States to recover from injuries or disease. In late September 1898, she volunteered for duty in Puerto Rico where she died less than three months later.