James and Frances Hopkins GILLIAM

Submitted by Nancy Webb Wood

James Gilliam was born about 1747-50 in Virginia. His parents were John and Sarah (Farris) Gilliam of Goochland Co., Virginia. On December 16, 1772, in Goochland County, James married Frances Hopkins, daughter of John and Susanna Hopkins of Goochland County. This marriage was recorded in Rev. William Douglas' Register, using the French spelling - Guillam.

James served in the Virginia Militia during the American Revolutionary War. He was sworn into service as an Ensign on April 23, 1782 in Cumberland County, Virginia. His service record can be found in J.T. McAllister's Records, Section 260, page 198, and John H. Gwatney's Register of Virginians in the Revolution, page 308.

James and Frances moved to Prince Edward County, Virginia about 1795 and lived in the Harris Settlement on Vaughn Creek. This was close to the present Pamplin City, southwest of Farmville, Virginia, which is now in Appomattox County. James Gilliam bought 300 acres of land on April 15, 1811, on Vaughn Creek in Prince Edward County, Virginia, from Phillip and Molly Matthews, parents of his son's wife (James Gilliam, Jr.).

James and Frances had eleven children, several of whom married in Prince Edward County. They remained here until about 1816. On November 25, 1816, James and Frances sold their 300 acres in Prince Edward County to Benjamin Hardwick. In that year, a group of neighbors of the Vaughn Creek Section, composed of Gilliams, Harrises, Meadors, Creaseys, and others moved to Tennessee.

The year the Gilliams and several other families moved from Prince Edward County, Virginia to Tennessee (1816) was known as "the year there was no summer." A tremendous earthquake in Japan had devastating effects on the climate all over the world - including the United States. Due to the large amount of volcanic debris in the atmosphere, much of the U.S. had such low temperatures in 1816 that a crop could not be made. There was a snow storm in New York City in July 1816. I suspect this may have been one reason for this westward migration. Also, Virginia tobacco lands were wearing out, thus the desire to move to the newer tobacco lands of Tennessee. Some say James received a land grant in Sumner County. This may have been for his Revolutionary War service, however, I have not located a record for a land grant. They paid taxes on 400 acres of land in Sumner County.

The children of James and Frances (Hopkins) Gilliam are:

  1. John Hopkins Gilliam, b abt 1775 Prince Edward Co., VA, d abt 27 Jan 1840 Sumner Co., TN, md. Lucy Bennett on 3 Oct 1805, Prince Edward Co., VA.

  2. James Gilliam, Jr., b 2 Sep 1776 VA, d abt 18 Jan 1841 Prince Edward Co., VA, md. Martha "Patty" Matthews on 10 Oct 1798, Prince Edward Co., VA.

  3. Susanna Gilliam, b abt 1777-81 VA, d bef Feb 1821, md. John Morton Woodson on 11 Sep 1800 Prince Edward Co., VA.

  4. Sarah Frances "Sally" Gilliam, b 1778 Va, d 8 Nov 1867 Macon Co., TN, md. Robert Hawkins on 20 Sep 1808 Prince Edward Co., VA.

  5. Mary L. "Polly" Gilliam, b 14 Feb 1782 VA, d 8 Oct 1858 Henderson Co., TN, md. Daniel Gary Webb on 6 Oct 1803 Prince Edward Co., VA.

  6. Martha Taylor Gilliam, b 3 Feb 1786 VA, d 14 May 1860 Marshall Co., TN, md. Gideon Harris on 25 Dec 1805 Prince Edward Co., VA.

  7. Frances H. "Franky" Gilliam, b 1784-94 VA, d bef Feb 1821, prob. Sumner Co., TN, md. James Patterson on 24 Mar 1813 Prince Edward Co., VA.

  8. Charles H. Gilliam, b abt 1775-94 VA, d abt 1827 Sumner Co., TN, md. Martha "Patsy" Wyatt on 11 Feb 1813 Charlotte Co., VA.

  9. Taylor Gardner Gilliam, b abt 1797 VA, d 1853-6 Osceola, St. Clair, MO, md. Mary Meador on 10 Jul 1820 Sumner Co., TN.

  10. Nancy H. Gilliam, b 1800 VA, d 16 Aug 1875, md. William F. Claiborne on 3 Jul 1823.

  11. Stephen Rice Gilliam, b abt 1801 VA, d abt 1857 Sumner Co., TN, md. Nancy F. Duffer on 22 Apr 1827 in Sumner Co., TN.

The first of the Gilliam family to migrate to Tennessee was their daughter, Mary "Polly" Gilliam, who married Daniel Gary Webb, in Prince Edward County in 1803. Daniel and Polly were in Tennessee by 1809 and bought land at the headwaters of Trammel Creek in Sumner County in 1815. James and Frances Gilliam and their family (with the exception of James, Jr. who remained in Virginia) settled at or near the town of Westmoreland in the northeast corner of Sumner County, Tennessee. Their sons, Charles and John H., purchased land in Sumner County on May 18, 1818.

James Gilliam, Sr. died on June 15, 1821, in Sumner County. Daughters, Susanna (Gilliam) Woodson and Frances H. (Gilliam) Patterson, had died prior to the death of their father, leaving heirs who were named in James' will.

James and Frances had over 20 slaves and his estate inventory indicates they had a blacksmith shop on their place, as blacksmith tools are listed as well as outstanding accounts others owed them for blacksmith work performed.

Frances (Hopkins) Gilliam was listed in the 1830 Sumner County census as being 70-80 years old and having 24 slaves. Her sons, John Hopkins, Taylor, and Stephen, and her daughter, Sally (Gilliam) Hawkins, and their families were also living in Sumner County in 1830. Son Charles Gilliam had died about 1827 according to a deed on file in Sumner County. Daughter Mary "Polly" (Gilliam) Webb and family had moved to Henderson County, Tennessee in 1824.

In November 1835, the 400 acres of James Gilliam, deceased, was sold for $730 to William Bratton. Securities for Bratton were John Gilliam, Jonathan Davis, and William Claiborne (Nancy Gilliam's husband and therefore the son-in-law of James and Frances). This sale seems to indicate the final act of settling this estate was being carried out. In 1840, sons John H., Taylor, and Stephen were again listed in Sumner County census records. Son John H. Gilliam died in Sumner County in May 1840, leaving a nuncuperative will. Daughter Nancy (Gilliam) Claiborne was living in Macon County, Tennessee. Only their son Stephen and the widow of son John H. Gilliam (Lucy) were listed in 1850. Many of the others were in Macon County, Tennessee in 1850.

Taylor G. Gilliam was the first Justice of Peace for Macon County, Tennessee, which was established from Smith and Sumner Counties. Stephen Rice Gilliam was the first postmaster of Gilliam's Post Office in Sumner County in February 2, 1833.

The James Gilliam homeplace is on a 400 acre tract of land near Westmoreland, 6/10 mile north of Pleasant Grove Road on Highway 31E, then approximately 300 feet west of the highway on the Jimmy Law farm. Odo Rhodes once lived on the place. The old Gilliam cemetery is located on a hill about 300 yards east across the road from the old Gilliam homeplace. Several Gilliams are buried here, however there are few tombstones remaining, some having sunk in the ground or been carried off. This is believed to be the burial place of James and Frances Hopkins Gilliam. Some of the older Gilliams recall seeing Odo Rhodes' father plowing in the old cemetery. Gilliam's Hollow is down the road on the right from this site.

I have corresponded with descendants of nine of the children of James and Frances (Hopkins) Gilliam. I have not located descendants of Susanna Gilliam Woodson, (her sons were James Gilliam Woodson and Richard Woodson), who were named in James Gilliam's 1821 will. I have not located descendants of Frances (Gilliam) Patterson, who had two daughters born between 1810-1820.

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