Gillespies of Madison, A Vintage Vignette

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Gillespies of Madison
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
October 27, 2010

With a focus toward closing out my Vintage Vignette series about Madison's pioneer families by the end of this year, I have selected some data published in “The Heritage of Madison County, Alabama” (1998). Much of the information which follows is extracted from an article submitted for that book by Mrs. Gene Hailey to describe her husband's roots in this area.

Madison residents are familiar with Gillespie Road, but many do not realize that the house of George Sharp Gillespie on that road is now occupied by his great grandson Russell Hailey. The house was built in 1917 by “ Mr. Sharp” across the road from that of his father, Samuel Cowan Gillespie (1851-1936). Samuel was one of the eight children of Campbell Milton Gillespie (1829-1910) and Narcissa Lorinda Clark. The family came from Maryville, Tennessee and settled in Morgan County in 1870. They moved to Madison County in 1878, buying land south of the railroad in Madison. Another of Campbell's children was “Miss Hessie” (Nancy Hesseltine Gillespie), Madison's long-time beloved first grade teacher, who married Joseph Bruce Farley and built the house at 313 Church Street in 1911.

The parents of Campbell Milton Gillespie are believed to have been William Cowan Gillespie (1797-1860) and Narcissa Sharp (1803-1884). In 1850 the two Gillespie families, along with some Sharp and Campbell families, were living very close together in District 15 of Blount County, Tennessee. However, there is data posted on that shows Campbell Milton's parents were James Richard (1790-1849) and Lucy Johnson Gillespie (1796-1886, died in Morgan County, Alabama). The parents of James were shown as John Gillespie (1774-1842 , born in Virginia) and Martha Patsie Houston (1783-1805, died in Blount County, Tennessee).

Better known are the thirteen children of Samuel Cowan Gillespie and his wife Eliza Jane Morrow.  These Gillespie children were:  James Milton (1876-1880), John Cowan (1877-1880), Samuel Edgar (1878-1956), Clark Patton (1881-1960), Campbell Houston (1883-1975), Ethel Jane (1885-1981), Mary Helen (1886-1980), George Sharp (1888-1981), Robert (1890-1890), Nancy Edlena (1891-1973), William Morrow (1893-1961), Narcissa Belle (1896-1984), and Alva Rachford (1899-unknown).  In 1899 Samuel bought land and built a large two-story home on the north side of the then-unpaved Gillespie Road between Wall-Triana Highway and Balch Road.  His son George Sharp Gillespie married Nora McElwee (1891-1989) in October of 1919, after World War I service.  “Mr. Sharp” Gillespie was a Justice of the Peace and noted farmer of the area.  He had two children, Agertha Jane and Charles Samuel Gillespie.

Charles served in World War II and had two sons, Michael (“Mike”) Charles and Jerry Samuel. Mike Gillespie is Chairman of the Madison County Commissioners. Agertha Jane Gillespie married Orman Leon Hailey (1921-1957). Jane taught in the Madison County school system for over thirty years, serving in Madison, Farley, Big Cove, and New Hope. She had two sons, Gene Thomas and Carl Sharp Hailey. The family lived in Detroit, Michigan for a while, where Gene was born before they moved back to Madison. Carl married Madge Blackwood in 1967. He served in Viet Nam and had two sons, Thomas Sharp and Nicholas James Hailey. Jane's son Gene is the owner and operator of the Balch Road Self Storage facility located just south of Gillespie Road. That facility is positioned on the west side of the Gray Cemetery, which served as the burial ground of the old Providence Presbyterian Church. The cemetery has not been used since the early 1900s. Gene married Lavinia “Beanie” Brady in 1965. He joined the Army in 1966 and was stationed at Ft. Bliss in Texas, where his first child, Kelly, was born. She married Brian Johnson and is employed by the City of Madison as Program Director for Athletic Field Scheduling in the Recreation Department. After living in Texas, Gene and Beanie moved back to Huntsville. Their second child, Russell Leon, was born there in 1970. Their third child, Christopher Gene, was born in 1973, and the family returned to Madison in 1980. Their last child, Pamela Michelle, was born to Gene and Beanie in 1985, and the family lived for a time in Sharp Gillespie's house on the now-paved Gillespie Road.

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