Gilmore family has history of Scottish-Irish ancestry

Published 11:20 pm Friday, September 26, 2008

Ancestors of the Gilmore family of Covington County immigrated to America from Ireland circa 1759. They were actually of Scotch ancestry, but King James I of England had repatriated them to Ulster County, Ireland. This was during the period when the king was attempting to put down the Irish for their opposition to British rule. The name Gilmore means “keeper of the gate,” so they probably served in that role.

James Gilmore, Sr., born circa 1730 in Ireland, came with his wife, Elizabeth, and first child to South Carolina where they settled in Spartanburg County, which was a part of Old Ninety Six District. James and Elizabeth had at least the first five children listed here, and they may have been the parents of the last two listed. Rebecca, b. 1754, d. after 1850. m. Alexander Copeland; William; Joseph; James Jr., b. 1762, d. 1841, m. Jane (? Lewis); Mary, b. 1770, m. James Mathews; John; and Samuel. (The parents of John and Samuel have not been documented.)

James Gilmore, Jr. was 13 years old when the Revolutionary War erupted. The conflict was intense around his home are, the 96th District. He spent 196 days in recorded service for the Colonial Army. He served under Captain High Bratton at Pongree Fort, Captain Wallace, Captain Thomas Black on Brier Creek and Camp Pine, and Captain Hugh Bratton at Joikin Church. Some of his service may have been in his home community of Cowpens, where General Nathaniel Green commanded the forces in a decisive victory over the British and Tories. James named one of his sons Nathaniel Green in honor of his commander.

The land records of Spartanburg County, South Carolina, contain several transactions by James Gilmore. His final one was that in which he transferred all of his land and possessions to his son, William. The consideration in this bestowal was “For and in consideration of love, good will and affection which I have and do bear toward my son, William Gilmore, now residing with me.”

James Jr. and his wife, Jane (1776-1855), a native of North Carolina, are reported to have had seven children. The following have been identified to date: William Lewis, b. 1799, m. Susannah Fluker; John W., b. 1802, m. Mary Grey Alston; Elizabeth, m. AL William H. Forester; Sarah Ann; Hugh Miles; and Nathaniel Green, b. 1820; and Mary Jane, b. 1823.

The first two children were born in Spartanburg before the family moved into Tennessee where the next three children were born. Before 1820, they family had moved south to Dallas County, Alabama, where Nathaniel Green and Mary Jane were born. By 1830, they had moved again to Clarke County. When the Choctaw Cession was opened up and Sumpter County formed, James and two of his sons, John and Hugh Miles, bought land and established their homes in the Gaston community in 1835. All of the children with the exception of Nathaniel Green were married in Alabama, and he died single in Sumpter County in 1847.

The Gaston community (Gaston Gullies) was a thriving young town during the mid-1800s when the Gilmores lived there. It has been reported that as many as 600 young men left the male academy there to enlist in the Confederate Army, and that there was also a prosperous female academy located there as well. There is a large cemetery near the former site of Gaston. Also, a small Gilmore Cemetery is located on the old stagecoach road behind the old James Gilmore house, which is still standing. The Gilmore Cemetery has been abandoned, but there are still standing several headstones for Gilmores including one that reads, “In Remembrance of James Gilmore, born February 1762, died 5 May 1841.”

Today’s review will be continued through the line of James Jr.’s second son, John W., and wife, Mary Grey (Alston). This couple had the following seven children: William J., b. 1824, d. 1873, m. Isabella Cheney; Melissa, m. Dr. James C. Foster; Sarah Ann, m. Meredith P. Collins; Elizabeth E., m. Dr. John W. Collins; John, accidentally shot; Dr. Nathaniel A., m. Mattie Heard; and Josaphine A., m. Benjamin F. Marshall.

In the next generation, the oldest son, William J. Gilmore, enrolled in the University of Alabama in 1849 from Sumpter County. He was graduated with an A.B. degree in 1952. When the War Between the States commenced in 1861, William enlisted in the Confederate Army. He returned to his home following the end of the war and apparently continued his work in education. He was later named Superintendent of Education for Choctaw County Schools. In 1872, he was a representative to the General Assembly of Alabama.

William James died in 1873 and left his children as orphans. Apparently, his wife, Isabella, was already deceased. Their three children were then reared by William James’s sister, Josaphine A., and her husband, Benjamin F. Marshall. The Marshalls resided in Choctaw County and reared the following Gilmore children: William J., b. 1860, m. 1881 Rosanna “Anna” Simms; Mary Grey; and Bessie.

The oldest child, William J., and his wife, Rosanna, were living in Covington County in 1900 in the Hamptonville (Gantt) community. Neither could read nor write, but as so many families of that period, they farmed and reared their four children: Erin E., b. 1885; Daisy A., b. 1887; Reuben Mack, b. 1888, d. 1947, m. Alma Ione Pittman (1894-1979); and Alsba, b. 1892.

The only son, Reuben Mack Gilmore, Sr., and his wife were both born in Covington County. During their adult years they owned and operated a small store for many years in the Clearview community next to Gantt Lake. They reared the following three children: Erasta Malachi “Rusty,” b. 1915, d. 1989, m. Mary Elizabeth Robbins; Bernice Virginia, b. 1916, m. Herman Randle Hughes; and Reuben Mack Jr., b. 1929, d. 1994, m. Carrie Lou Johnson.

Erasta “Rusty” Gilmore and his wife had the following two children: Margaret Clair, m. David Feeley; and Mary Elizabeth, m. Michael William Inabinett. Bernice Virginia and her husband, Herman Randle Hughes, had the following two children: Bettye Sue, m. Steven Morrow; and Paula Louise, m. Earl Walden. Reuben Mack Jr. and his wife had the following three children: Melba Jane, m. Larry Earnest Clark; Karen Maxine, m. Jim Mills; and Rueben Mack III “Butch,” m. Amy Darlene Steele.

The source for this writing were notes compiled by Melba (Gilmore) Clark from the 1972 publication, The Ancestry of Frances Sample Franklin.

Anyone who might have information on this family or any other from Covington County is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or Email:

Historical Meeting:

The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 2, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library.