IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

William J. Gilchrist
Mendon Twp.

William J. Gilchrist is the lineal descendant of two Scotchmen, on his father's and mother's side, who came to the colonies previous to the Revolutionary war, and settled in the then County Tyron (now towns of Charlton and Galway, county of Saratoga and State of New York), named Wm. Gilchrist and William McCartney. A raid of Indians and Tories during the Revolutionary war, under Sir John Johnson, compelled them to leave their farms; they removed to near Albany, and particpated in the perils and hardships of the war. The only son of the former married the daughter of the latter on Nov. 22, 1799; both died in 1811, leaving four children, who were reared by the respective grandfathers, the subject of this sketch being the only survivor of these children, and was born Sept. 16, 1802. He was educated in the common schools of the town and subsequently aided by a celebrated Scotch teacher, and acquired a partial knowledge of the Spanish language, intending to go to South America, but these plans were frustrated by his marriage to a lady of his own name, in May, 1824. They had five children, two of whom only survive. He remained a farmer until 1854 when he sold his farm and possessions and removed to Elgin, and afterward to Rockford, Ill. While in New York he possessed the confidence of many of the prominent statemen of the Empire State, Silas Wright, John Cramer, Samuel Young, Eli M. Todd, John Van Buren, and others, and was nominated as a Delegate to the Constitutional Convention to amend the Constitution of the State, in 1844, in opposition to John K. Porter, but was defeated on account of his temperance and free-soil proclivities. He was also a delegate to the Free-Soil Convention that nominated Martin Van Buren for the Presidency, in opposition to General Cass; and during the administration of Governor Wright, and subsequently, he was a commissioner to loan out the United States Deposit fund on improved farms, the interest of which went to the support of common schools. This fund he managed with fidelity and to the full satisfaction of State. After coming to Illinois, he invested his funds in farm mortgages and entered lands in Iowa, and finally came to McGregor, in 1857, and organized the old reliable produce firm of Gilchrist & Co. In 1863 he assisted Ex-Governor Samuel Merrill in the organization of the First National Bank of McGregor, of which he was a Director and Vice-President, and subsequently; with others organized the Clayton County Savings Bank, of McGregor, and was President for several years. When Congress authorized the issue of four per cent, bonds, in small amounts, to be sold by Postmasters, the managers concluded to close up the institution, which they did, to the profit of the stockholders and the satisfaction of all concerned. The tear and wear of nearly four-fifths of a century has compelled him to relinquish all care, except his private business, with a liberal competency and home, and all the appliances of comfort and luxury desired, and a wife yet surviving, having passed the fifty-eighth anniversary of their marriage, with kind children and grandchildren, he is a looker-on, rather than a participant, of the great events transpiring. He was nominated as a candidate for Representative to the General Assembly of Iowa, in 1861, but on account of the multiplicity of his engagements, was compelled to decline, but in 1863 was nominated and elected, and actively particpated in the legislation of that session as Chairman of the Committee of Ways and means in the House.

source: History of Clayton County, Iowa, 1882, p. 980-82
transcribed by Sally Scarff and Marlene Chaney


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