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Gillespie, James

by Richard A. Schrader, 1986

1747–11 Jan. 1805

James Gillespie, legislator and congressman, was born in County Monaghan, Ireland, the oldest of three sons of David Gillespie. James received a classical education in Dublin, and, while still a young man, emigrated with his Scottish Presbyterian family to New Bern. Before the American Revolution he bought a plantation (later called Golden Grove) one mile east of Kenansville in Duplin County.

With the outbreak of war, Gillespie received a captain's commission in the First Battalion of North Carolina Volunteers in November 1776. Although he performed assigned military duties and even suffered the burning of his home by Tories, his most significant contributions to the state in the war years were his political and administrative activities. In 1776, he served as a member of the North Carolina Provincial Congress at Halifax that drew up the state constitution, and two years later he was appointed a commissioner to consolidate the towns of Campbellton and Cross Creek (later named Fayetteville). In 1779, Gillespie won election to the North Carolina House of Commons, participating in its deliberations in 1779–80 and 1782–84.

After the war his political involvement increased. He served in the state senate in 1784–86, 1789, and 1792. In 1785, he received appointments as a trustee to establish an academy in Duplin County, as secretary to the governor, and as a member of the state council, to which he was reappointed in 1789. Gillespie attended the constitutional conventions of 1788 and 1789, voting with the anti-Federalists against ratifications on both occasions; however, he later won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving during the years 1793–99 and 1803–5 as a Federalist from the Sixth Congressional District.

At the time of the 1790 census Gillespie owned over 2,000 acres of land and thirty slaves. In addition to his wife, Dorcus Mumford Gillespie of Onslow County, his household consisted of seven children: Catherine, David, Lucy, Joseph, Elizabeth, Jane, and Mildred. His son David (1774–1829) attended The University of North Carolina in 1795, served as a major in the War of 1812, and represented Bladen County in the House of Commons; he also was a member of the council.

Gillespie died in Washington and was buried in Presbyterian Cemetery in Georgetown, D.C.; in 1891 his remains were moved to the Congressional Cemetery in Washington.

References:

Biog. Dir. Am. Cong. (1950).

John L. Cheney, Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585–1974 (1975).

Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, vols. 12-22 (1895–1907).

Gillespie-Wright Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

Additional Resources:

Gillespie and Wright Family Papers, 1735-1990, Collection Number: 00275, Documenting the American South, UNC Libraries: http://www2.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/g/Gillespie_and_Wright_Family.html

"Gillespie, James, (ca. 1747 - 1805)." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Washington, D.C.: The Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=G000196 (accessed August 5, 2013).

 

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Comments

Recently published book "Quest for Freedom "is recommended reading to better understand Gillespie family history . The electrifying story of the Scots-Irish Presbyterians brought to life by "Quest for Freedom" highlights the Gillespie family
and their significant contributions to America's freedom . Of significant interest is Congressman James Gillespie ,Duplin County's first Congressman , who as a personal friend of Governor Alexader Martin ,served on N.C.'s elite senate council and ensured that the nation adopted a Bill of Rights .Congressman James Gillespie fought long and hard for our Bill of Rights for the protection of the common man, especially the first amendment "freedom of religion"
Congressman Gillespie's eldest son, David, sponsored by the friendship of Alexander Martin who served as President of UNC's board of directors until his death, led UNC's first class of 1795 . David Gillespie, through the support of Professor Harris and greatly influenced by Family relative Samuel McCorkel who was was married to Margaret Gillespie , spearheaded the organization of UNC's debate societies serving as the first President of the Philanthropic Society.
To fully understand and appreciate the huge contributions of the Gillespie family and their fellow Scots-Irish Presbyterian supporters to America's freedom, democracy and institutions of higher learning it is recommended that readers review " Quest for Freedom" The Presbyterian struggles for Political and Religious Freedom.
References: UNC Phi Society-Stephen Weeks; History of UNC by Kemp Battle; UNC family records of David Gillespie -Wilson Library; R. Connor Documentary History of UNC;Powell's Dictionary of NC Biography; Papers of Andrew Ellicott -Library of Congress; and "Quest for Freedom " by Willam E. Moore and David B. Nolan"

Dear William,

Thank you very much for providing this additional information for our readers along with information about your recently published book.  Your comment and the resources you've contributed will remain with the James Gillespie article as a resource for NCpedia users.  We are always grateful when readers take the time to contribute their knowledge to our publications.

Please visit us again! And best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NCpedia Staff

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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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