Friday, July 29, 2011

O Pioneer!

I just returned for a nine-day trip to Michigan. I'm going to be uploading some of my research notes to the my Gillespie/Greer research site, but want to add some highlights to the blog here.

Sometimes it's easy to forget the character who started all the research excitement in 2010: Elizabeth Gillespie, half-sister of my ggg-grandfathers James and Robert Gillespie. While I was in Lansing at the Michigan State Archives and the Library of Michigan, I was reminded of those who first bought land from the U.S. Government while Michigan was still a territory. The one and only person with the Gillespie name in that time and place and circumstance was Elizabeth Gillespie of Orange County, New York. In April of 1833 she purchased, in her own name at a time when women were elsewhere not entitled to own land or even be considered guardians of their own children, 78 acres in Oakland County in the township of Bloomfield. Elizabeth was single when she bought the land but soon after in 1834 she married Peter Gordon. Curiously though, by the 1840 census she was living alone. And of course it's interesting to note that Elizabeth's gravestone in Franklin Cemetery names her a Gillespie not a Gordon.

At the end of long library days, I like to save time for wandering the aisles because somehow I am always lead to something I am supposed to look at. So I ended up in an aisle with Oakland County records, and I pulled Divorce Records for Oakland County, 1839-1865. No reason, just did. What I found was a divorce petition filed by and granted to Peter Gordon in 1850, ending his marriage with Elizabeth Gillespie because of HER abandonment shortly after the marriage (the actual wording of the petition is located in the library of documents on my website). In addition, the witness who was deposed was named Charles Lemon. The name LEMON pops up because one of the daughters of James Greer and Jane Gillespie Greer, Eliza, married somebody of the name Lemon - a fact I got from Jane's probate record. Jane died in 1868, so clearly the LEMON family knew the Gillespie's quite a long time.

So. Miss Elizabeth Gillespie. A woman before her time, it seems, owning land, becoming a divorcee, a woman with no children. When she died in 1857, relations headed to probate court to divvy up her pioneer land. If not for those records, we would probably never know that Elizabeth was ours. And she was. Even though mystery still abounds as to who Elizabeth's parents were, and when and where she came to America from Ireland, she is no less a key character in our family history.

Any way, let's **toot**toot** the horn for Elizabeth, for as far as I can tell, she is the FIRST Gillespie in our lineage to own land anywhere in Michigan. She is also the ONLY original Michigan pioneer with the Gillespie name and she deserves all the credit for establishing the Gillespie family for generations to come upon Michigan soil. Cheers to Elizabeth, o pioneer.

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