Ellen is the oldest of seven children born to Milford Riley Mohawk and Elizabeth (Welch). Ellen thought fondly of both her parents, "my dad really loved music, he use to jig and play guitar." When speaking of her mother Ellen said "there was nothing she couldn't do," as she spoke of the way her mother use to sew all of her children's clothes, did canning, and took care of the family.
Ellen was born and raised in Red Springs. She attended the Mission School up until 8th grade. At age 13 Ellen’s family made a move to Gresham and Ellen began attending school there.
Upon finishing school in Gresham, Ellen moved to Milwaukee where she found work in some area factories. Ellen married Duane Schreiber, the two had met through family members.
Ellen and Duane lived in Milwaukee for about five years before returning to Gresham. The couple have six children; Karla, Duane, Annette, Kim, Sterling, and Stacey.