Sunday’s Obituary — Maiden Aunts and Bachelor Uncles: Harriet Ann Gillespie

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.


1. 1850 U.S Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Eastern, p. 96 (inferred), dwelling 340, family 340, Jeremiah Gillaspie and family; digital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012);  citing NARA microfilm publication, M432, roll 933.
2. 1860 U.S. Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule,, p. 132 (penned), dwelling 979, family 977, Jaremiah Gillispie and familydigital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012);   citing NARA microfilm publication, M653, roll RRR
3. “Virginia, Deaths and Burial Index, 1853-1917,” database, ( : accessed 22 Jul 2012), entry Sarah Gilispie, daughter of Jerry and Mary Gillespie, Feb 1865, Amherst, Virginia.
4. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 22 Jul 1922), memorial page for Corp Wiatt Gillespie  Find A Grave Memorial no. 35296331, citing Elmira Prison Camp, Chemung County, New York, USA.
5. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 6 Aug 2010), memorial page for Wyatt Paul Gillespie (1865 – 1941), Find A Grave Memorial no. 56048050, citing Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia; the tombstone is for Wyatt Paul Gillespie and his wife Laura Cecile Donald.
6. 1870 U.S. Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Peddler, p. 497 (stamped), dwelling 218, family 210, Jeremiah Glasby;  digital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012);  digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, M593, roll 1633.
7. 1880 U.S. Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Pedlar, enumeration district 19, p. 215A (stamped), p. 13 (penned), dwelling 118, family 125, Jese Gilaspiedigital images, ( accessed : 18 Jul 2012);  digital images, citing NARA microfilm publication, T9, roll 1353.
8. 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Amherst County, Virginia, population schedule, Pedlar, p. 123 (stamped), enumeration district (ED) 11, sheet 19-A, dwelling 336, family 341, George C and Harriott A Galispie; digital image, ( : accessed : 19 Jul 2012 ); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1699.
9. 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Rockbridge County, Virginia, population schedule, Lexington, p. 133 (stamped), enumeration district (ED) 121, sheet 1-A, dwelling 336, family 341, Harriet A Gillespie; digital image, ( : accessed : 19 Jul 2012 ); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1906.