HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ILLINOIS
& HISTORY OF MORGAN COUNTY
Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1906.




Phillip Goode Gillett, LL.D.

GILLETT, PHILIP GOODE, LL. D., for thirty-seven and a half years Superintendent of the Illinois Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, Jacksonville, Ill., was born at Madison, Ind., March 24, 1833, and died at his home in Jacksonville October 2, 1901. He was generally recognized as one of the highest American authorities on he education of the deaf. He was the son of the Rev. Samuel Trumbull and Harriet Ann (Goode) Gillett, the latter a descendant of John Goode, of Whitby England, a Virginia colonist of the seventeenth century, through Philip Goode, who emigrated from Prince Edward County, Va., to the Miami Valley, Ohio, in 1805.

The record of the Goode family has been traced back to the close of the tenth century. In the reign of Ethelred II, in the year 988 A.D., Goda, Earl or Thane of Devon, a Saxon, commanded the inhabitants of that shire in a fight with the Danes. He was the first of the family mentioned in the historical records in England. The line from Richard Gode, who lived in the fourteenth century, is as follows, down to Harriet Ann Goode, who was a representative of the sixteenth generation; Richard Gode; William Gode; William Gode; William Gode; Walter Gode; William Good or Gode; Walter Goode; Richard Goode; Richard Goode, born in 1580 and died in 1650; John Goode, the immigrant from Whitby, born in 1620 or 1630; Samuel Goode, born about 1655 to 1658; Samuel Goode, born in 1700; Robert Goode, born 1720-30; Philip Goode, born March 15, 1777; Harriet Ann Goode, born August 24, 1813. John Goode, the founder of the family in America, first settled in the Barbados between 1643 and 1650, and came to the Colony of Virginia some time prior to 1660. Samuel, his son, was born on the Barbados Islands between 1655 and 1658, and accompanied his parents to Virginia. His son, Samuel, was born in Henrico County, Va., about 1700, and afterward lived in Prince Edward County, Va. Robert, son of the second Samuel, also a resident of Prince Edward County, was born between 1720 and 1730. Philip, father of Harriet Ann Goode, was born in Prince Edward County, March 15, 1777, and died at Campbell Courthouse, Va., September 24, 1824. He married Rebekah Hayes.

The Gillett family was founded in America in 1630. On May 30, 1860, the ship "Mary and John" arrived at Nantucket, Mass., from England with 140 passengers, the congregation of the Rev. John Washburn and the Rev. John Maverick, who had been chosen their ministers at Plymouth, England, at which point they had gathered from Devonshire, Dorsetshire and Somersetshire. This colony first settled at Dorchester, Mass., and in 1635 removed to Windsor, Conn. Among them were two brothers, Jonathan and Nathan Gillet. Dr. Philip Goode Gillett was descended from the former, the line being as follows: Jonathan, Jonathan, Jr., Thomas, Jonah, Simeon, Simeon, Jr., (who married Salome Palmer, a daughter of John Smith of Connecticut). Their youngest son was Samuel Trumbull Gillett, who was born in Madison County, N. Y., February 19, 1809. The latter first spelled his name as Gillet, in accordance with the style adopted by his forefathers.

The Goode family presents a long roll of patriots who served their country in the Indian wars, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. In church and state and all the professions the family name has been carried high. Samuel Trumbull Gillett entered the United States Navy as a midshipman, and was graduated at the head of a class of sixty, which embraced Admirals Dahlgren, Briggs, Glisson and Rowan, and Captain Semmes of the "Alabama." Resigning his naval commission, he entered the ministry, and for more than half a century was prominent in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was the father of four sons: Philip Goode; Francis Trumbull, Paymaster in the United States Navy; Simeon Palmer (the only survivor), Commander in the United States Navy, President of the Citizens' National Bank of Evansville, Ind.; and Dr. Omer Tousey Gillett, late of the medical faculty of the Iowa State University.

Dr. Philip Goode Gillett was graduated form Asbury (now DePauw) University in 1852 and became a teacher in the Indiana Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, with the expectation of studying medicine later; but the needs of the deaf so impressed him that he decided to make their education his life work. When called to Illinois, April 26, 1856, his engagement was "on trial.: As no other engagement was ever made with him he continued there "temporarily" for over thirty-seven and a half years.

When he assumed the duties of Superintendent of the Institution, Dr. Gillett was but twenty-three years of age, and some who were inclined to doubt his capacity at the time styled him "that boy who has come to run the deaf and dumb." Only 22 out of 107 pupils and only two teachers remained. How well he succeeded in the difficult task of creating and organizing a new corps of officers and teachers, winning public confidence and gathering old and new pupils, is shown by the report of the Board of Directors, December 26, 1856, which states that "the Institution opened this session with the largest number of pupils it has ever had - 109." The report goes on to congratulate the State on having secured a man of such vigor, accomplishment and especial fitness for the difficult position. That this congratulation - renewed by succeeding boards again and again during his long administration - was ell deserved then, and always continued to be, was evidenced by the high opinion of others engaged in the same work when, at the World's Congress Auxiliary of the Columbian Exposition, he was chosen presiding officer of the World's Congress of Instructors of the Deaf, an appointment later approved by the unanimous vote of the Conference of Principals of American Institutions for the Deaf. Twenty-two pupils when he took charge - a few short of six hundred in 1893! For many years the enrollment in the Illinois Institution exhibited the largest aggregation of deaf persons in the world. And Dr. Gillett did not permit the institution in his care to excel in numbers alone. It was among the first to afford methodical manual training; the first to recognize the fitness of educated women for this work by employing them; the first State institution to teach methodically articulation and lip-reading; first to establish a really useful library, containing over 15,000 volume of history, poetry, fiction, travel, science, art, biography and carefully chosen reference works. Dr. Gillett make fitness the sole test for employment of teachers, a fact so widely known that from this corps of instructors ten have been called to superintend similar institutions.

Dr. Gillett wielded a ready and powerful pen. In evidence of this fact stands the paper read before the convention of American Instructors at Indianapolis in 1870, which was formally adopted by a unanimous vote as the expression of he view of the profession. This document has been one of the authoritative guides in the organization and management of boarding schools for the deaf. He made some written contributions to science, and his formal reports have a brevity, force and fecundity of ideas, instead of words, that have caused them to be highly valued. In the midst of his many duties he made time for much evangelistic and Sunday-school work. He was President of the International Sunday-school Convention at Indianapolis in 1872, which, under the leadership of B. F. Jacobs, adopted the International System of Uniform Lessons; and for fourteen years he was a member of the International Committee and in close touch with the great biblical students and Sunday-school workers associated with him in the preparation of the courses of Scripture study. Deeply interested in Freemasonry, he was a charter member and First Eminent Commander of Hospitaler Commandery, No. 31, K. T., of Jacksonville. He was married May 2, 1854, to Ellen. M. Phipps, of Indianapolis, who survives him. Their children are: Charles P. Gillett, present Superintendent of the Institution with which his father was identified so long; Philip F. Gillett, M.D., of Elgin, Ill.; Mrs. Harriet G. Cole, of New York City; and Alma Gillett, of Jacksonville.

Dr. Gillett's pupils loved him, his associates and contemporaries respected and admired him, his intimates and his family perhaps alone fully recognized the "sweetness and nobility of character, the loftiness of aim, the loyalty to country, to friends, to duty, and all the sweet assemblage of noble parts of a personality deserving of honor, worthy of loving remembrance," and a high ensample for the emulative following of American youth entering upon the realities of life. In the "American Annals" Joseph C. Gordon, who succeeded Dr. Gillett as Superintendent, gave an estimate of the character and services of the latter, a portion of which follows: "True to the traditions of the older schools for the deaf, no labor or duty affecting the pupils was delegated to others so long as it was possible for Dr. Gillett to perform it himself . . . Under his influence large numbers professed religion. The spiritual welfare of the deaf was always nearest Dr. Gillett's heart, and one outcome of this interest was his establishment of a mission station for the deaf in Chicago, which has grown into an organized church with numerous outlying stations, served by a regular pastor with several assistants . . . In reorganizing the Illinois school Dr. Gillett established and maintained high standards in the selection of experienced teachers specially qualified for the work, so far as possible. In carrying out his policy a few teachers were trained in the school; but, believing that "it required seven years to make a teacher," Dr. Gillett preferred to draw upon other schools. He sought out superior talent earnestly, and during his superintendency the institutions in at least eleven States were drawn upon in his efforts to obtain able assistants. In the long run these obligations were well repaid, for the Illinois school has furnished ten Superintendents for schools in other States, besides two college professors and one college President . . . During Dr. Gillett's superintendency a number of additions were made to the land owned by the institution. Perhaps nothing better illustrates the Doctor's pertinacity of purpose than the fact that a valuable addition to the front lawn was secured by him only after presenting the matter to successive legislatures for twenty-nine years before success was attained . . .

"It will be remembered that the first conference of principals, which was held in Washington City in May, 1868, was called mainly to determine what attitude the old institutions should take in regard to teaching speech to the deaf, a subject brought prominently before the profession at that time by the opening of oral schools in New York City and in Northampton, Mass., and by Dr. Gallaudet's report upon his visit to schools in Europe. Although Dr. Gillett has been trained as a "sign teacher", and at that time was unfamiliar with any other method of instruction, he, in company with Harvey W. Milligan, M.D., at that time at the head of the Wisconsin school, concluded to brave the prejudice of the times and to visit the Northampton school in order to judge for himself of the practicability and efficiency of the instruction there afforded without recourse to the sign language. The work there done was a revelation to these gentlemen, and they did not hesitate to assume a liberal attitude toward the innovation. Dr. Gillett at once became a leader in the progressive wing of the profession, which secured modification of some of the resolutions presented to the conference and the passage of the resolution favorable to the teaching of speech in all schools for the deaf. Immediately upon his return home he presented a special report to the Trustees and Governor, and with the consent of the authorities an oral department was established in the Illinois school at the opening of the term in September, 1868.

"The pitiful condition of children not deaf, but feeble-minded, appealed so strongly to the sympathies of Dr. Gillett that he took active measures in their behalf, and after much urging the Legislature was induced to found the Illinois Institution for Feeble-minded Children. This new institution was located temporarily near the State School for the Deaf, with Dr. Gillett as Superintendent; he remained in charge until he found a worthy successor in the person of Dr. C. T. Wilbur. Dr. Gillett was instrumental in the organization of the Illinois State Board of Charities, which probably largely owes its establishment to his energetic efforts in that direction. The active direction of this board was tendered to him, but he declined the appointment . . .

"Early in life Dr. Gillett connected himself with the Methodist Church, and was always active in religious work . . . He engaged in evangelistic and Sunday-school work throughout the State, laboring with his personal friends, Stephen Paxson, William Reynolds, A. G. Tyng, John H. Vincent and Dwight L. Moody, in efforts which have left their impress upon the State. He was also active during the Civil War in the work of the Christian Commission, and thus became a close personal friend of George H. Stuart, President of the Commission . . . He was a delegate to three General Conferences of his own church. In 1888 he was Chairman of the Sunday school Committee of the General Conference, and he was twice President of the Illinois State Sunday-school Convention. He was President of the Eleventh Convention of the Instructors of the Deaf, which met in California in 1886. It might be said that this was a trans-continental convention, which was an informal session, at least, on a special train all the way from Chicago to California, the arrangements for which were made by Dr. Gillett.

"After thirty-seven and one-half years of continuous service as Superintendent of the Illinois School, Dr. Gillett's connection with the school was severed in consequence of the introduction of the so-called spoils system, with a change of administration in the State. Dr. Gillett was called almost immediately to a wider and, in some respects, more important field of usefulness, as President of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, in which capacity he visited every State and every school for the deaf in the Union. . . . His great energies were directed to aiding the work of teaching speech to the deaf, a cause which had the approval of the profession in America as expressed by the action of several conferences of principals and conventions of instructors, and the Doctor's visits to the various institutions proved occasions of great profit in almost every instance. Dr. Gillett's health did not prove equal to the great strain placed upon him, and growing infirmities finally compelled him to abandon an active career. The closing years of his life were spent in the retirement of his home until the end came."


1906 Index

Home