Lee County Biography

William W. Gilmore
Compton - Brooklyn Twp.


William W. Gilmore is engaged in the mercantile business at Compton, and in his neatly fitted up and well-stocked store he carries a full line of hardware, stoves, cutlery, agricultural implements, etc. He is a son of one of the early pioneers of Lee County, and is distinguished in its history as the second child born of white parents in what is now Brooklyn Township, his birth occurring here November 8, 1835.

John Gilmore, the father of our subject, was one of the first to settle in this part of the State. He was a native of County Donegal, Ireland, and was a son of another John Gilmore, who was of Scotch antecedents, and was born either in Scotland or Ireland. He reared his family in the latter country, and remained there until 1820, when he emigrated to the US. He landed in NY, and lived in that city until 1845, when he came to Illinois to spend his last years with the father of our subject. He lived to the remarkable age of one hundred and two years with the father of our subject. When he came to America he did not bring his family with him, but sent for his wife, two daughters and two sons, two years later. The vessel on which they sailed was wrecked and the wife and two sons were drowned. The daughters that survived located in New York City.

The father of our subject was reared in his native land, and came to America in 1818. He learned the trade of a morocco-dresser in NY and engaged in it in that city until 1830, when he went to Michigan, and entering a tract of Government land 20 miles from Detroit, began the hard task of reclaiming a farm from the forests. He first built a log house, and in the course of time cleared thirty-five acres of land and put it into good cultivation. In 1835 he came to Illinois with a pair of horses and a wagon, bringing with him his wife and the six children that had previously been born to them. They struck camp on the edge of Chicago, which was then but a small village, and Mr. Gilmore and William Guthrie started on foot for this part of the State. They at length arrived at Malugin's Grove, of which Zachariah Malugin was then the sole settler. There was then but one house on the present site of Dixon, and not a settlement on the open prairies.

Mr. Gilmore bought a claim to one-half of the grove, and tben went back to Chicago for his family. He returned in June, and began his new life here with but $40 in money and his team, with which to make a living for his wire and six children, of whom the eldest was but twelve years of age. But he had plenty of ptuck and courage and was a good worker. While there were many hardships to contend with, still life had its compensations. The soil was of unsurpassed fertility, and needed only to be cultivated, to respond with generous harvests, and wild game was plentiful, as well as wild fruits, and furnished an agreeable addition to the fare of the pioneers, who had to dispense with many articles of food now considered necessities. There were no mills anywhere in this section, but at Ross Grove, twenty miles distant, there was a rude corn cracker, and the father of our subject used to go there with a sack of con and use his horse to grind it with. Corn bread was the chief article of living, flour bread being considered a great luxury. For some years there were no railways in this region, Chicago being the nearest railway point and market.

The first house that Mr. Gilmore built on his claim was of round logs, and not a nail entered into its construction. He split shakes fort the roof which were held in place with weight poles, but were inadequate for shelter, as during the cold winter nights the snow would blow in on the beds. He split puncheon for floor and door, using wooden pins instead of nails, and the rude door was provided with a wooden latch and the old­ time latch string that always hung out in token of perpetual hospitality. In that humble abode the family resided for some years, and then the father built and opened a public house on the Chicago & Dixon road when that was constructed. His tavern was made a stage station, and he was known far and wide to the traveling public in his character as mine host, and was popular with all. In 1865 he abandoned hotel-keeping, selling his establishment and removing to Mendota, and was engaged in the mercantile business there for a time. In 1875 he went to California to visit a daughter, Mrs. C. S. Frost, and died at her home soon after. The maiden name of his wife was Hannah Smith. She was likewise a native of Ireland, and coming to America with friends, was married to him in New York City at the age of sixteen. She spent her last years with her children, and died at the home of her son, Alexander P., in 1887. The parents of our subject reared twelve children: Alexander P., Rebecca, John, Mollie, David, William W., Robert, Addie and Emma, (twins) , Eliza, Cecilia snd James.

William W. Gilmore was bom in the humble pioneer home of his parents, and was reared amid pioneer scenes. He attended the primitive schools of his boyhood, the first one that he went to being taught in a log house, that was furnished with rude homemade furniture. Like other farmer's boys, he was early set to work on the farm, and he continued to live with his parents until he attained his majority, when he commenced farming on his own account on a tract of land his father had bought for him. It was wild and uncultivated at the time, and after he had erected suitable buildings to make it habitable, he proceeded with his customary vigor to improve his real-estate, and in the course of time had one of the finest farms in the locality. He resided upon his homestead until 1865, when he established himself in the mercantile business at Malugin's Grove. In 1868 he went to Mendota, and lived there the ensuing two years. At the expiration of that time he moved back to Brooklyn Township and resumed farming, which he carried on until 1881. In that year he came to Compton and again embarked in the mercantile business, which he has conducted with good profit ever since. Besides hardware, stoves and such articles, of which he carries a large assortment, he always has on hand a full supply of all styles of agricultural implements, and enjoys a large trade among the farmers in the surrounding country, who know him well, place a full reliance in his business integrity, and are always sure of square deal with him.

Mr. Gilmore was married in 1856 to Regina J. Carnahan, a native of PA and a daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Carnahan. They have six children - Clara Janet, John W., Ida C. now Mrs. Charles I., Barrett, Hattie E, Florence and Daisy. Clara is the wife of Charles F. Guffin, John married Ollie Avery.

Mr. Gilmore, his wife and daughters are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church and their names are associated with its every good work. Mr. Gilmore has always been faithful to the Democratic party in politics. In his social relations he is a member of the Brooklyn Lodge, No. 282, A.F. & A.M.; of Mendota Commandry, No. 76, R.A.M and of Bethany Chapter No 28, K.T.

1892 Portrait and Biographical Record - Lee County 1892 Pg 655

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