CAPT. E. L. GILLHAM, a prominent figure of Scott County, was born near Winchester, Ill., on July 14, 1823, and is a well-to-do farmer, operating 260 acres of land. His father, the Hon. James Gillham, was a native of South Carolina. His grandfather, Isaac Gillham, was a native of the same State, and served through the Revolutionary War. He was wounded in the head and left on the field for dead, but recovered sufficiently to crawl to a house, where he recovered. He removed to this State in the first year of this century, and located on the opposite side of the present location of St. Louis, on what is called the "American Bottoms," where he engaged in stock raising and farming until his death, which occurred in 1847, he being at that time eighty-nine years of age. The Gillhams are of Irish descent.
The father of Capt. Gillham was four years old when he came to Illinois, where he engaged with his father in farming until the War of 1812 began, when he enlisted as an ensign, and served with distinguished bravery for two years. IN 1820 he removed to what is now Scott County, and entered a half section of land, which he improved and operated. When the Black Hawk War broke out he enlisted as Captain of a company, afterward being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and as such served until the close of the war. He returned to his farm, which he operated until his death, in May, 1870, when he was seventy-four years old. Col. Gillham held many political offices, among them that of State Senator, serving in the years 1842-43. He was an old-line Democrat, a communicant of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Superintendent of a Sunday-school, and always took great interest in church affairs;, for in the early days his house was always open for worship. His wife, Sarah L. Lofton, was a native of South Carolina, but reared in Kentucky. She died in 1882, at the good old age of eighty-three years. She pinned her faith to the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was one of eight that formed the first Methodist class in this section of Illinois, which event occurred in 1821. She was the mother of eight children, three of whom are living: William A., Capt. Gillham and Margaret A. The following are deceased: LeRoy L., Alvira A., Elsie J., Wesley C. and Milton F.
Capt. Gillham was a child of the frontier. The rudiments of his education were received in the old log school-house, whose benches were constructed of slabs, and which contained no window except an aperture in the side of the building. An abundance of wild game in those days abounded, deer in large droves were daily seen, in fact there were "none to molest or make them afraid." The Captain is clearly entitled to the honor of being a pioneer, as he attended the first school-house erected in Morgan County, and there learned the lessons that in after life were so valuable to him. IN 1846 the Mexican War broke out, and Illinois furnished many brave men for the army, and among them was Capt. Gillham. He enlisted in the 1st Illinois Infantry, under Capt. Montgomery and Col. John J. Hardin. His regiment was mustered in at Alton, and was sent South to Texas, from where it marched overland to Mexico. The regiment was engaged in the battle of Buena Vista, under Gen. Taylor's command, It remained at Saltillo until their time had nearly expired, when it proceeded to Monterey, where the regiment was mustered out of service in July, 1847. After the war, and 1848, Capt. Gillham bought 120 acres of land, which he improved and developed into a good farm. Here he employed himself in a general farm business, and was one of the first of Morgan County to engage in breeding thoroughbred live stock, which he continued for a period of twenty-five years, and was very successful. He has added to his farm, and at the time of his enlistment in the Civil War he was in the possession of 240 acres of land.
On Aug. 13, 1862, our subject enlisted, and proceeded immediately to the rendezvous at Pontiac, where, on the 8th day of September, he was mustered into the 129th Illinois Infantry, as the commanding officer of Company F. His regiment was ordered to Louisville, Ky., and from there it went in pursuit of Bragg. The command was in the battle of Bowling Green, after which it was ordered to duty guarding railroads. At Buck Lodge, Tenn., on account of disability, Capt. Gillham was mustered out of service, on May 14, 1863.
After leaving the army Capt. Gillham came home and purchased more land, which added to his old farm, made a place of 500 acres. He has since continued in his old business, and with notable success, that of breeding good cattle. The Captain made an unfortunate move financially when he was persuaded to sink a coal shaft, losing a great deal of money, but he still has a fine farm of 260 acres, and highly improved, with commodious buildings, his house being built of brick, 36x50 feet. He also has a warehouse at Merritt. On the whole Capt. Gillham has one of the best locations in his precinct.
Our subject was married to Miss Elizabeth Becraft, near Jacksonville, in 1848. His wife is a native of Bourbon County, Ky., and attended school at Jacksonville. They have four children: James B., Hester A., Sarah E. and Erastus N. Three of the children are married, while the youngest remains at home. Capt. Gillham is the oldest native resident of Scott County. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, both Blue Lodge and Chapter. He worships at the Methodist Episcopal Church, and has been Class-Leader for twenty years. He has also been Superintendent of the Sunday-school, Steward and Trustee, and was largely instrumental in erecting the church building where he now worships. Politically, he is a Democrat, and has represented his party in both County and State Conventions. By self culture Capt. Gillham has become a man of a great deal of general information, and by his neighbors he is accorded the praise of being a good citizen, which verdict if fully confirmed by his every day life.