Friday, March 22, 2013

The Gilmores

The Gilmores

While reviewing my genealogical research on the Buster branch of the family tree, I thought I discovered an error. My sixth great-grandparents, John and Agnes Gilmore, shared the same date for their death. I thought I must have copied the information for one of them and wrote it in the family tree for both.

John Gilmore and Agnes Anderson were both born to Scottish parents in the Ulster Plantation of Northern Ireland. The inconsistencies in the documentation make me reticent to pinpoint birth dates and even second guess the correct parentage. However, I am sure that they were married in Coleraine, Londonderry, Ireland on 11 January 1720. I don’t know what prompted them to uproot their families, cross an ocean, and start new lives in the uncivilized British Colonies of America, but they did. It may have been the higher taxes, religious persecution, or the rumors of abundant farm land. What appears to be true is that the Gilmores were at least a modestly wealthy family. They paid for their passage to America, while other immigrants arrived as indentured servants working for their sponsor to repay the cost of their voyage.

Sometime in the middle to late 1730’s John and Agnes Gilmore, their children, three of John’s brothers, and their extended families arrived in Pennsylvania. They originally settled near the Quakers. These newly arrived Scots-Irish became a buffer zone between the Quakers and the “savage Indians.” Eventually, John and his brother James followed the wagon trails southwest and settled in Virginia among other Presbyterian Scots-Irish. We will never know if this move was due to cultural or religious differences, financial advancement, or the enticement of the adventure of exploring the western frontier.

In Virginia, there is a land deed dated 21 November 1745 in Augusta County proving that the Gilmore brothers moved. John and James purchased 500 acres of land at Kerr’s Creek for 130 Pounds Sterling from Benjamin Borden, Sr., a land speculator. In an effort to understand what 130 Pounds Sterling is today, I used a British inflation calculator, then converted that amount into US Dollars, and concluded that it would equal $37,000 today. But, if one tried to purchase land in the same area today, 50 acres would cost $300,000. Further documentation shows that three years later John Gilmore purchased an additional 250 acres adjacent to his current property.

Most Scots-Irish Presbyterians who immigrated to the Colonies were literate. Education was important in their society. John Gilmore’s appointment as a Justice of the Court is evidence of his education and status within the community.

As the Gilmores, their families, friends, and neighbors built a life on the Western Frontier, the French and English were at war once again. This time it was a battle for control of North America. The Native Americans, aspiring to stop all Europeans from taking their land, sided with the French. The Shawnee Chief Cornstalk headed many raids for the French in an effort to destroy English settlements.

Departing from Ohio in the fall of 1759, Chief Cornstalk and sixty warriors snaked their way through the mountains to the disputed Virginia border. The raiding party divided near the settlements of Greenbrier. The larger group feigned friendship, but once they acquired the colonists trust they assaulted and massacred most of them.

Simultaneously a small band of twenty-seven warriors crept over Mill Mountain. Robert Irvine, a member of the Kerr Creek community, spied the band from atop a bluff. Now Robert had to alert the community in time to avert the impending slaughter.

The first cabin along Kerr’s Creek that the raiding party attacked was that of Charles and Rebecca Daugherty. They butchered the entire family. Moving along the creek warriors assaulted Jacob Cunningham’s homestead. Jacob, who was away for the day, survived and found his wife murdered. Their ten year old daughter was knocked unconscious, scalped, and left for dead.

The next farm along the creek belonged to the Gilmores. Preparing to visit neighbors, John and Agnes were murdered and scalped. Two other family members were slain in the attack. The community had finally been alerted to the danger, but not soon enough to save five people who were slaughtered at the Robert Hamilton home.

With the alarm raised the local militia led by Charles Lewis, John Dickenson, and William Christian recruited 150 men to apprehend the marauding Indians. The militia caught up to the raiding party near what is now the West Virginia border. Twenty warriors were killed, and the militia rescued eleven hostages, and recovered seventeen horses, six white scalps, money, and blankets.

My research notes were correct. John and Agnes both died on 10 October 1759 during the First Massacre of Kerr’s Creek. Ironically while Indians slaughtered John and Agnes, their son Lt. James Gilmore served the Virginia Militia defending other settlers from attack. Life on the frontier returned to normal until Chief Cornstalk renewed hostilities in the summer of 1763.

Thomas Gilmore, another son, was a casualty of the Second Massacre of Kerr’s Creek. His wife Jenny and three of her children were spared due to Jenny’s bravery, but they were taken hostage. When Thomas was killed, Jenny risked her life by standing over her husband protecting his body from mutilation by a tomahawk-welding brave. Many of the captives’ families purchased them back from the Shawnee. Gilmore family members raised the money needed for the return of Jenny, who was sold to a fur trapper, and her son, who lived with the Shawnee. Jenny never saw or heard from her two daughters after she was sold. In 1764 Col. Henry Bouquet demanded that all captives held since the outbreak of war in 1754 be released. Some of the Kerr’s Creek residents were returned.

Martha Gilmore, granddaughter of John and Agnes, married Captain James Hall. Upon learning that Indians killed a Gilmore relative while he was hunting, Captain Hall flew into a rage. He ordered his men to kill Chief Cornstalk for this and the massacres of other relatives at Kerr’s Creek. Hall and his men assassinated Chief Cornstalk and three other Natives that were meeting at Fort Point Pleasant. Captain Hall was tried twice and finally acquitted when no witnesses appeared to testify against him.

The Gilmore descendants continued defending this new homeland. They fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812, and on both sides of the Civil War. This story of the Gilmore’s, the Scots-Irish of Virginia and the other Southern Colonies shows how resilient (or stubborn) our ancestors were. 

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