In the early history of Madison county the most numerous family were the Gillhams. Thomas Gillham, the first of the family to come to America, was a native of Ireland.
He settled in Virginia about the year 1730, and afterward moved to South Corolina. He had eleven children, seven sons and four daughters: Ezekiel, Charles, Thomas, William, James, John, Isaac, Nancy, Mary, Sally, and Susannah. The original stock was Irish Presbyterian, though the descendants are now mostly of the Methodist faith.
The first of the family to behold the Illinois country was James Gillham, the fourth sou of Thomas Gillham. He came iu the summer of the year 1794 in search of his wife
and cliildren, who were then held captive by the Indians.
He had married Ann Barnett in South Carolina, and at the close of the war of the Revolution moved to Kentucky* He conceived so favorable an opinion of Illinois that he made it his home in 1797, first settling in the American Bottom below St. Louis, and at the beginning of the present century moving to what is now Madison county. Congress, in 1815, gave to Mrs. Gillham one hundred and sixty acres of land at the head of Long Lake, iu township four, range nine, in testimony of the hardship and sufferings she endured during her captivity among the Indians. The children of
James Gillham, were Samuel, Isaac, Jacob demons, James, Harvey, David M., Polly, Sally and Nancy. Samuel settled in section fifteen of township four, range nine; and the other sons, Isaac, Jacob Clemons, James, Harvey and David M., all made homes for themselves iu section four of the same township and range. The descendants of the two youngest daughters now reside in the State of Mississippi.
James Gillham wrote to his brothers in South Carolina of the advantages of the Illinois country, and his brother, Thomas, left South Carolina in the fall of the year 1799, and reached the end of his journey on the closing day of the eighteenth century—thus ready to begin the new century in the new western world. Two other brothers, John and William, came to Illinois in the year 1802, both settling within the present boundaries of Madison county, and another brother, Isaac, followed a couple of years afterward.
The oldest son of Thomas Gillham was Isham Gillham, sheriff of Madison county, from 1812 to 1818. He first settled on a farm adjoining that of Colonel Samuel Judy, and in the spring of 1817 moved to the bank of the Mississippi, nearly opposite the luouth of the Missouri. Another son, William, settled on a farm in the Ridge prairie, five miles east of Edwardsville. One of the daughters, Violet, married Joshua Vaughn, and settled in the American Bottom ; and another. Patsy, became the wife of Peter Hubbird, and moved to Bond county.
William Gillham, on coming to Illinois settled in the Six mile prairie, as early as 1820, or 1822 ; he moved to Jersey county. His sons were John D., William, and Ezekiel.
William became a resident of Scott county, and the two others lived in Jersey county. One of the daughters, Agnes, married John G. Lofton, one of the early judges of the court of com men pleas of Madison county. Sally married a Mr. Waddle, and subsequently a Mr. Jarvis. Jane became the wife of William Davidson. Peggy became the wife of Benjamin Steadmau, and Polly of Frank Kirkpatrick.
John Gillham arrived in what is now Madison county on the tenth day of June, 1802, and first settled in section nineteen, township four, range eight, on the west bank of Cahokia creek, near the farms of Col Samuel Judy, and William Bolin Whiteside, and afterward removed to a farm in section one, township four, range nine, where he lived till his death in the year 1832 His oldest daughter, Margaret was married in South Carolina to Samuel Brown, who settled in section four, township four, range nine, and in 1830, moved to Scott county. Ann, his next daughter, was likewise married in South Carolina, to Isaiah Dunnagan, who made the first improvement in township five, range eight. James, the oldest son, married Polly Good, under the authority of the first marriage license issued in Madison county, and settled in section one, of township four, range nine. Ryderus C, another son, settled near his brother James. The other children were Thomas, Sarah, Charles,
Elizabeth, Susannah, Polly, John and William. Sarah became the wife of Daniel Brown, and settled on the Cahokia, in section eighteen, township four, range eight. Susannah married William Ramsey, and moved to Scott county. Polly married Thomas Cox, and settled in section thirty six, township five, range nine. John settled where Wanda station now is. He was a pioneer Methodist preacher and died in 1835. William was born in Tennessee in 1802, on the journey from South Carolina to Illinois. His home was in section thirty six, of township five, range nine. He was
also a Methodist minister, and died of the cholera in Alton in 1853.
Isaac Gillham came to Illinois in 1804 or 1805, and settled in the American Bottom, in this county. His children were Thomas, John, James, William, Isaac, Polly, Margaret, Susannah, and Jane. Thomas settled within a short distauce of the old Six mile prairie Methodist Church; John settled on an adjoining farm; James moved to Scott county, William improved the farm on which Dr T. J. Irish now resides, in township three, range nine; Isaac lived on a farm near his brother Thomas; Margaret married John Davidson, who lived on a farm adjoining the church property at Kinder; Polly married Robert Whiteside, and removed from the county; Susannah became the wife of Hardy Willbanks, and emigrated to Texas; Jane, the youngest daughter, married Hiram Fish, and resided in township three, range nine.
Ezekiel Gillham, the oldest son of the original Thomas Gillham, was married in Virginia, and moved to what is now Oglethorpe county, Georgia. One of his sons and two of his daughters. Charles, Mary and Margaret, came to Illinois in 1803. Charles Gillham stttled the Phillips farm, southeast of Edwardsville, and his daughter, Lucretia, hecame the wife of John T. Lusk. Mary married Thomas Good in Georgia. Good settled two miles and a half south of Edwardsville. His wife was a Methodist, and on his farm were held the early Methodist camp meetings. Margaret had married in Georgia Bryant Mooney. Mooney settled about a mile east of Edwardsville, and gave his name to Mooney's branches.
Sally, one of the daughters of the original Thomas Gillham, married in South Carolina John Davidson, who was killed in one of the battles of the Revolutionary war. Two of her sons, Thomas G., and William Davidson, and one of her daughters, Sally, came to Illinois, and settled in Madison county early in the present century.
Susannah, the youngest daughter of Thomas Gillham, married James Kirkpatrick in South Carolina. After an absence of months in the army during the war for Independence, he obtained permission to visit his family, which, on account of the strong Tory feeling in the neighborhood iu which he lived, he had to do by stealth. He had been home but a few minutes when as he was seated by his wife, surrounded
by his children, he was shot through the window by a Tory and killed. The four oldest sons of Mrs. Kirkpatrick James, Thomas, Franklin, and John came to Illinois,
and figured prominently in the early settlement of Madison county.
The Gillhams were strong supporters of morality and order, and among the best citizens of the county. Though born in a slave State, they recognized the corrupting influence of slavery, and unalterably opposed its introduction into Illinois. The author of a history of the State, published in 1849, remarks that the convention party of 1824 owed its defeat to the Gillham family and their kinsmen who, almost in a solid phalanx, cast five hundred votes against the proposition to make Illinois a slave State.