Search billions of records on


 Biographies Index  



California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


R. EMERSON GILLILAND is one of the prominent men of Riverside who has earned the right to be numbered among the leading citrus fruit growers of the Southwest through his energy and efficiency. While he has acquired wealth in his industry, he has not neglected his duty as a good citizen, but has ever been generous in his donations of time and capabilities to public service. It is to such men as he that Riverside owes its present supremacy in so many lines.

Born near New Marion, Indiana, June 11, 1868, Mr. Gilliland is a son of William F. Gilliland, a native of Cross Plains, Indiana, now deceased. He was a farmer and raiser of fine stock in Indiana. During the war between the two sections of the country William F. Gilliland served as captain of Company E, Eighty-third Indiana Volunteer Infantry, under General Logan and General McPherson, and was with General Sherman in the campaign which began with Atlanta and continued to the seacoast. During this service Captain Gilliland had one remarkable escape from death. A minnie ball penetrated the various thicknesses of his clothing and his canteen, broke two ribs, but did not pierce the skin. The ball dropped between his underclothing and skin.

Captain Gilliland possessed many of the characteristics of both the Irish and Scotch from whom he was descended, his family having been founded in Philadelphia during the seventeenth century by Scotch Irish ancestors. Later representatives of the family migrated to the Western Reserve in Ohio, when the only roads were mere trails and the traveling dangerous on account of the savage Indians. Still later “Billy" Gilliland, father of Captain Gilliland, moved to Indiana. Captain Gilliland married in Indiana Annis Jane Blair, a native of Friendship, Indiana, who is now deceased. She was a daughter of Robert Conn and Elizabeth F. Blair of Scotch-Irish descent, and her ancestors also moved from Philadelphia to Ohio and thence to Indiana in 1804.

Mr. Gilliland's great-great-grandfather, Robert Blair, built the old homestead house in Friendship, Indiana, when Captain Gilliland's father was four years old. When the latter was twenty-one he moved into another house, but his father lived in the old home for seventy-four years, until his death. R. E. Gilliland's mother, during the entire term of the war, lived, in her father’s house and taught school. One of her schools had an average attendance of eighty-six pupils.

R. Emerson Gilliland was educated in the public -schools of Indiana and Nebraska, his parents having moved to Beaver City, Furnas County, Nebraska, in 1879. His first "occupation was that of farming and stock-raising, which he carried on with his father until 1898, but in that year went to Oregon. During the subsequent summer he came to California, and after a visit at Casa Blanca, landed at Riverside November 12, 1898.

For the following couple of years he worked on different ranches, and then for one summer was with the National Ice Company. He then clerked for three years in the grocery store of J. H. D. Cox. The succeeding summer he spent in the Imperial Valley, and in 1909 he purchased twenty-five acres of land in West Riverside and set out his land in oranges, lemons and grape fruit, getting the seed out of grape fruit, raising the seedlings and budding them on his trees. This property he still owns and operates, and he is also engaged in a small way in the nursery business.

Mr. Gilliland was a heavy stockholder and one of the directors of the De Luxe Groves & Water Company, owning 170 acres in the southwestern part of Riverside. He set out the entire acreage in oranges in twenty-eight days, establishing a new record for speed. Later he disposed of this interest and secured property in Tulare County, California, a part of which he still owns, but he has sold off the cultivated portion and retained that which is still uncultivated. He is also the owner of eighty acres of apple land near the Grant National Park in Fresno County, California.

Desiring suitable home, Mr. Gilliland bought property at 52 Allen Place, off La Cadena Drive, where he still resides. Adjoining the home lot is a 100-foot frontage, which he devotes to a garden, but it is principally noted for containing the largest planted walnut tree in the state of California, of which he takes great care. The tree has a circumference of over nineteen feet, and its branches spread 117 feet in one direction, and 112 feet in the other. Five hundred persons can picnic under its branches at the same time without crowding one another. Recently the branches on the east side of the tree began to crowd the two-story home of Frank Allen at 22 Allen Place, and the latter, with the characteristic California devotion to the preservation of all that is beautiful, caused his house to be moved a number of feet rather than mar the grace of this historic tree by cutting off the limb which was causing the discomfort. A picture of this remarkable tree is given elsewhere in this work.

Mr. Gilliland is a republican, and took an active part in politics while a resident of Nebraska, where he served on the Central Committees and represented his party in county conventions. Since locating at Riverside he has participated in the election contests, and gives much time and effort in behalf of the candidates he favors. He belongs to the Sons of Veterans, and has served as commander of the local camp for two terms. Fraternally he belongs to the Woodmen of the World.

In 1892 Mr. Gilliland married at Liberty, Iowa, Miss Margaret Jane Wilkerson, a native of Iowa, of Scotch descent, who died October 9, 1895, having borne her husband two children, namely : Ronald H., who is a resident of Los Angeles, California; and Margaret Annis, who died in infancy.

On March 10, 1909, Mr. Gilliland married at Los Angeles Mrs. Jennie E. Strimple, a native of Ohio and a daughter of Captain Benjamin F. and Miranda A. Willoughby, of Sandusky, Ohio. During the Civil War Captain Willoughby enlisted for three months and then re-enlisted, serving throughout the war with Company F, 123d Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was a private, second lieutenant and then captain. He messed with his two brothers and in one engagement the three were standing side by side, and when the one in the middle fell the others were not aware of it. Captain Willoughby was superintendent of schools in Ohio when he was accidentally killed in an explosion. He came from an old American family of English descent and traces his ancestry back to Lord Willoughby. Mrs. Gilliland had fourteen uncles in the Civil War and all but two returned. Her father's youngest brother was killed in the battle of Stone River, and her mother's oldest brother died in Andersonville prison. Mrs. Gilliland's mother was Miranda A. De Bolt, a native of Ohio and a daughter of Rev. S. De Bolt, a Baptist minister of Wyandotte County. Before the war he kept a department store and conducted a tannery. He was of Revolutionary stock and French descent. One of Mrs. De Bolt's brothers, Silas De Bolt, during the Civil War was shot through the body three times and left two days and three nights on the battlefield. When the soldiers went out to care for the dead they found life in him and rushed him to the hospital. He is living today. By her first marriage Mrs. Gilliland had two children, namely: Maude, who is a resident of Riverside; and Ross W. Strimple, who is a shoe merchant of Santa Ana, California. Mrs. Gilliland was made a teacher by petition when she was sixteen and taught for thirty-nine continuous terms, until she came to California. One of her schools had an enrollment of seventy-seven pupils. She taught school for thirteen years in Nebraska, and was assistant principal of the high school at Republican City, Franklin County, Nebraska. Mrs. Gilliland is a member of the Woman's Relief Corps, Daughters of Veterans, Ladies of the G. A. R. and Neighbors of Woodcraft.

She went through the W. R. C. and the Sons of Veterans Auxiliary, having been president twice of the latter. She has a brother, Harry A. Willoughby, living in Sandusky, Ohio, and a sister, Blanche F. Alspach, residing in Upper Sandusky, Wyandotte County, Ohio.

Mr. Gilliland is devoted to the city and county of Riverside, giving his support to all matters of civic importance. He is an enthusiastic booster for everything Californian, and Mrs. Gilliland is not far behind him in her interest in these movements. Both of them stand very high in popular esteem, and their hospitable home is oftentimes the scene of delightful gatherings of their many friends, whom they welcome in true Californian fashion.


History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011