North America


North America

Ontario Provincial Flag

William Gilchrist and his family emigrated to Oro, Ontario, Canada in 1834, from the Isle of Islay, Scotland

  Click here for a global route map of their journey to North America...

  Click here to view a timeline of family events...

William and Sarah brought John, Jessie and Margaret with them on a military sailing vessel (about a 3 months trip) to Oro township in Simcoe County, Ontario. Upon arrival, they lived at a brother's house in Glengarry until they could set up a farmhouse on their homestead in Oro. Five more children would arrive on Canadian land. Mary, Sarah, Catherine, Alexander & Flora. There is some evidence of an adopted daughter growing up with the family, but there is no mention of a name.

  Click here for land acquisition details for emigrants in Oro township...

Not much is known of the life in Ontario. One can presume that on the land that was available, William and Sarah resumed a life of farming and raising cattle. There was some affiliation with the Presbyterian Church in the community, and their gravesites are still intact at the Old Knox Church cemetary in Oro Township.

John Gilchrist goes to America

The oldest son, John, left Ontario when he was 14 years old, He went to Wisconsin and worked. John grew up and was married once to a woman who was named Mimi Casttow. Stories tell of John returning home from his duty in the Civil War to find Mimi had neglected the children and let them die. He left her to remarry a woman named Cynthia Maria Curtis, sometime around 1866, in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin. There is a reference to the event taking place in a community called Springvale.

At this point in the lineage, I only know of one other link. One of John's sister's, Katherine Elizabeth, married William Carlton. There was extensive genealogical research done on that line of the family by a Mrs. William French Smith. I believe her son may be continuing that research, although I have had no contact with that side of the family. My father had corresponded with her several years ago.

There is a good deal of information I have found regarding John Gilchrist's life, based solely on the records found at the National Archives. Many dates and bits of information were contained throughout the files sent from the Archives. According to the records, John was injured twice in combat. First he was shot in the right wrist, then when he returned to service, he was shot in the left leg. This happened on Sherman's march, near New Hope Church, Georgia on May 28, 1864. The leg injury required several months of hospitalization, and left him disabled. His pension and disability files show a $12 check every month!

John and Cynthia settled in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin after the war. Their first child was George Edward, born January 14, 1868. Census records indicate another child named William was born in 1869, but notes in John's pension file do not indicate a child named William - possibly another casualty of infant mortality. Two more children were born later in Madison, South Dakota. Mary Elizabeth, born March 20, 1875; and John Franklin, born March 13, 1882. I have no links to either Mary or John F. If these names look familiar, we could be distant cousins!

It appears that John lived in Madison, South Dakota until the late 1890's. His wife, Cynthia, died in August of 1883, shortly after John Franklin was born. He is mentioned as a charter member of the United Presbyterian Church, there. In a quote from the church's 100th anniversary booklet, it says, "Sunday March 31, 1878 was the date of the organization of the Presbyterian Church with an application drawn up, signed, and forwarded to the Presbytery. Charter members were Mr. and Mrs. John Gilchrist, Mrs. Jeanette Prince, T.H. Vandoren, Mrs. Sarah Lee, Mr. and Mrs. H.P. Harth, Mrs. Janet Walker, and Mrs. C.F. Betts. Mr. John Gilchrist was elected ruling elder. The first formal meeting of the session was on July 19, 1879". It also talks of John's participation in the cornerstone laying ceremony of the new church.

George Edward Gilchrist

The only information I have on any of John's children, is on George. George was born in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin, January 14, 1868. He traveled with his parents to a farm near Madison, Souh Dakota. He entered Pierre University (now Huron College) in 1885, and graduated with a BA in 1891. He then left to attend Princeton Theological Seminary for two years. He and Helen Eliza Graves, from Iowa, were married in Artesia, South Dakota, November 28, 1893.

George was ordained by the Presbytery of Central Dakota, April 17, 1895. He served the church in South Dakota until late in 1896, and then moved to Gary, Minnesota for two years, then on to Clifton and Ashford, Minnesota from 1899 to 1900. It appears that he may have retired from formal clergy work in 1900, as no formal records kept at Princeton Seminary show any service beyond that time. Stories tell of returning to farming as they settled on the north end of Boot Lake in Becker County, Minnesota. See the photo album for a picture of the house.

There is also some evidence that Helen Gilchrist was the woman to call when there was midwifery to be done. I don't know how many babies she helped bring into the world, but I am hoping to come up with more information on this tidbit!

George and Helen had four children. Gladys, John, Luella, and Curtis.

  To the children of George & Helen...

  To the Photo Album Index...

  To the Map Page Index...

Facts and events witnessed in person are limited, but there are still some people alive who knew of George and Helen. A local resident, Ethel Massie of Park Rapids, tells of events she remembers. First, her mother was a friend of Helen, and Ethel was born and raised just 1/4 mile north of the Lakeside Cemetary, on the north end of Boot Lake. I have also written to a gentleman named Mike Scholz, who I am told lives on the land Geroge and Helen did. Ethel also remembers John Gilchrist and Martha Pierce. And at one point in the 1950's, she actually lived in the old Gilchrist house. Ethel does know two others from that era that are still alive...if anyone can get to Minnesota, I think we need to take her out to a nice dinner and use a tape-recorder to get everything she says!
There is a great deal more information to review, compile, and add to the pages. As time and research allow, there will be periodic additions to the information here. If you have any information you would like to add to the pages, feel free. And if you find any historical inaccuracies, please let me know. More stories and photos are always most welcome!