Harriet Ann Gillespie was born on June 14 1850 in Amherst, Virginia and died at the age of 70 on October 5, 1920 in Lexington, Virginia. She never married. (I had a photograph of her tombstone which is in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, but I lost it when my dog chewed up my phone. Backups, heh?). Her grave is a short distance from her brother Wyatt’s home at 108 Houston Street where she appears to have lived at least the last few months of her life.
Harriet was the oldest child of Jeremiah Gillespie and Mary E Gillespie who according to my Great Aunt Eva were first cousins. In 1850 she lived with her parents on a farm in Amherst, Virginia. 1
By 1860, the family had grown. Harriet had two brother s James and William, ages 9 and 7, and sister Sarah who was born in the Feb of 1860. (Note: Brother George was born January 28, 1856, but is not listed on the 1860 census.) 2
Virginia seceded from the Union in April of 1861. Her father’s brothers Everett Milton, Varlan, William, and John Calvin all served in the Confederacy. There is not record of her father serving which remains a mystery as to why he did not. At the age of 35, while he was a little old to serve at the beginning, give the shortage of men the Confederacy has, it surprises me that he was called up. He may have served and I may have not found the record of it yet.
Her only sister, Sarah died in Feb of 1865 at the age of 5. 3
Her mother’s brother Wyatt also served. He died in a Yankee prison camp in Elmira New York on May 8, 1865. 4 Harriet’s youngest brother Wyatt was born on July 15, 1865. 5 While I don’t know for sure, I suspect he was named for his Uncle.
In 1870, Virginia is admitted back into the Union and Reconstruction starts. It is not hard to imagine that the family is weary and embittered by the war. Harriet works as a farm hand on her parent’s farm that is value ad $100. She lives with her parents, her brothers James, William, George and Paul in Pedlar, Amherst, Virginia. 6 Given the number of men who died in the war, it is very likely that the number of suitors was greatly diminished which may explain why Harriet never married.
In 1880, she lives with her parents, and her brother’s George and Wyatt, all of them working on the family farm. 7
In the next 20 years, her parents Jeremiah and Mary die, although I have yet to locate the documentation for exactly when, and I’m not sure what happens to the property that they own. In 1900 Harriet lives with her brother George in Pedlar renting a farm. They appear to be living next door to James H Donald, who is the older brother of George and Harriet’s brother, Wyatt’s wife, Laura Donald. 8
I cannot find Harriet in the 1910 census, but in 1920 she is living with her brother Wyatt and his wife Laura. She passes away in October of that year. 9
She lived through the Civil War, and I’m sure she saw much hardship. It appears that after her parent’s death she lived with other family members. She is mostly entries in census records.
Was she kind? Was she bitter? Did her family willingly take her in? Or did they feel duty bound? Did she have a suitor who died in the War?
She lived through impassioned, racially charged times in the South. What did she think and feel about the times she lived through?
I will probably never know much about her, she is truly one of those forgotten stories in the Gillespie family tree. But at least she is a little less forgotten.