After his birth, Elias was left by his father in an orphanage to be collected later and formally adopted by Lamar. After Elias reached adulthood, he was ordained a minister and settled in Massachusetts. Elias became a secret frequenter of prostitutes and whorehouses under the guise of bringing spiritual comfort to the poor and destitute. In 1846-47, Elias seduced a woman who bore a son, Gregory, who was left at the Milldew Orphanage as an infant to disguise his heritage; however, Elias paid for his sin by contracting syphilis from Gregory's natural mother. Gregory was 'adopted' by his natural father and given the surname "Trask" in 1855.
In 1859, Elias married Matilda Benton, the local schoolteacher. However, this marriage was doomed, as Matilda wished for a physical relationship, which Elias was unwilling to provide (which probably means that the marriage was never consummated). When Gregory falsely accused Matilda of adultery with a naval captain before Elias's congregation, she fled in disgrace and Elias later had the marriage annulled.
In 1861, Elias left his Massachusetts ministry with Gregory in tow and travelled west preaching for the next eight years. In 1865, the two settled near Salina, Kansas, where Elias became the local minister. However, his position did not last long, as his syphilitic condition became fatal, and he died in 1868.
Elias was referred to in the original Dark Shadows series, but his first name and personal history was not revealed until the radio dramas.