McGown, Gillis families became linked through marriage in 1900s

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2012

Although several columns have been written in the past featuring various lines of the McGowin family, another one is being offered today which covers the branch that

married into the Gillis family. Genealogy of the Gillis family was presented in last week’s forum.

An early McGowin ancestor, David, was given a grant of land by King George III of England on December 24, 1771. The award called for 200 acres, which was located in St. George Parrish, Georgia. This David McGowin I and his wife, Elizabeth McGowin, had a son named William McGowin I and one named John McGowin I. David died circa 1798.

The name of William McGowin I’s wife is not known, but they had a son named James McGowin I who was married to Mary Lewis. James and Mary had the following children: Sarah Ann, b. 1796; Alexander, b. 1798; Jacob, b. 1800; Anthony, b. 1802, m. (1) ? (2) Widow Watts; Samuel, b. 1805, d. 1892, m. Martha Moore (ca 1807-1892); James II, b. 1807, d. ca 1874, m. (1) Eliza Straughn (2) Virginia Sanks; and John, d. 1817.

James McGowin I (1770-1813) died during his early 40s and left Mary a widow to rear their children. Mary was later married to Thomas “Tom” Floyd who moved the family from Georgia to South Alabama where they settled in Conecuh County circa 1830. Mary and James’s oldest three children remained in Georgia, but the younger ones either came with their mother or arrived later.

James and Mary McGowin’s son, James McGowin II, is the line of interest for this writing. James II and his first wife, Eliza Straughn, had the following children: Jacob Lewis, b. 1836, d. 1899, m. (1) Rebecca Francis Moore (2) Sarah “Sally” Douglas, (3) Donnie Sowell; Sam; George; James Travis, m. Amanda Moore; William; John; Martha Jane “Missie;” Mary; Margaret Elizabeth; Sallie; and Susane.

James McGowin I was married second to Virginia Sanks, daughter of John Sanks who lost his life while serving in the Confederate Army. Virginia was born in the Brooklyn community and grew up to be a person who used medical skills to help her neighbors, which led to her being called “Jenny Buster.” James and Virginia had the following children: John Walker or William, b. 1865, d. 1939, m. (1) Missie Moore (1876-1905) (2) 1908 Lunar Clyde Acree; Lula Virginia, b. 1866, m. James Levi Moore (1855-1929); Callie, m. J.B. “Tobe” Mancill (1863-1930); and Augusta, b. 1872, m. William “Billy” Clements (1861-1905).

James McGowin I’s oldest son by Virginia (Sanks) was John Walker (or William) McGowin. John W. and his first wife, Missie (Moore), reared the following children: Mollie Bernice, b. 1896, d. 1979, m. Henry Eugene Gillis (1888-1913); Madge; and Corine. John W. and his second wife, Lunar Clyde (Acree) reared the following children: Herbert; Columbus; Woodrow; Sam; and Evelyn.

John W. and Missie McGowin’s oldest daughter, Mollie Bernice McGowin, was married to Henry Eugene Gillis, son of John Alexander and Della (Raborn) Gillis. They resided in Covington County and reared the following children: John Willie, b. 1915, m. Clarita Talley; Wettie Eugene Sr., b. 1917, m. Dorothy Rae Everage; Luther James, b. 1919, m. Josephine Hixon; Edna Ruth, b. 1920, m. (1) Homer D. Brooks (2) Buford Howard Cook; Ruby Lee, b. 1925, m. Elwood E. Barden; and Claire Mae, b. 1936, m. (1) Gary Wayne Dreading (2) Benjamin Otis Gunter (3) Ford Bulger.

John W.’s oldest son, Wattie Eugene Gillis, Sr., was married to Dorothy Rae Everage. They reared the following children: Joseph A., b. 1940, m. Betty Jean Raiford; Wattie Eugene Jr., m. Myra Bryant; Walter Lee, b. 1951, m. Mary Katherine Alday; Robert Clyde, b. 1954, m. (1) Shirley Lee Siler (2) Flora Price.

John W.’s next son, Luther James Gillis, was married to Josephine Hixon. They had the following children: Wayne Hixon, b. 1945, m. Karen Sue Loerch; Terry Demond, b. 1950; and James Gregory, b. 1952, m. Dianne S. Fleming.

John W.’s daughter, Edna Ruth Gillis, and her first husband, Homer D. Brooks, had the following three children: Norma Elaine, b. 1943, m. William Odom; Naomi Ruth, b. 1947, m. Robert E. Cook; and Gary Lehn, b. 1952, m. Sandra Powell.

John W.’s daughter, Ruby Lee Gillis, was married to Elwood E. Barden, Sr.. They had the following children: Elwood E. Jr., b. 1946, m. (1) Arseia Arquisola (2) Leslie A. Bryant; Becky, b. 1950, m. (1) Wendall Otis Hall (2) Marshall Godwin; Dwight Chris, b. 1952, m. Martha W. Reade; Douglas E., b. 1955, m. Janice Lee Bryant; and Debra Dianna, b. 1955, m. Joel David Valenti.

John W.’s daughter, Claire Mae Gillis, was married in 1954 to her first husband, Gary Wayne Dreading. They had the following two sons: David DeWayne, b. 1956, m. Melanie Kayla McVay; and Ricky Lane, b. 1960, m. Jaunice Guy. Claire was married second to Benjamin Otis Gunter, and they had the following two sons: Benji Ladon, m. Lisa Kayla Mullen; and Wallace Keith, m. Amanda K. Kirkland.

Many of the above Gillis families lived and reared their families in the Covington County area, but some chose to move to different locations. A special Gillis Family Reunion was conducted June 21-23, 2002, at the Williamson’s Camphouse in Columbus, Mississippi. Descendants of Wattie Eugene Gillis Sr. planned and hosted the memorable event that was attended by most of the relatives.

An informative program booklet was designed, which included all the information needed to experience the planned activities. In addition to sites, locations and planned events, genealogy of the McGowin and Gillis families were included. This publication still serves as a memento of the enjoyable occasion, and it was the primary source for this writing.

Anyone who has any corrections or additions to the above information is requested to contact this writer, 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 6:30 p.m. on Thurs., May 3, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Those appreciating Confederate history are cordially invited to attend.