WILLIAM GILLIS, late a resident of Valley township, Armstrong county, was for a number of years engaged in business there as a woolen manufacturer, and he was prominently identified with the township government, serving his fellow citizens in many official capacities. Mr. Gillis was a native of Bucks county, Pa., born Nov.14, 1808, son of Joseph Gillis and grandson of William Gillis. The family is of Irish origin.

William Gillis, the grandfather, had the following children: Nancy, Mrs. McKnight, Violet, Mrs. Lockheart; Joseph; and John. All came to America.

Joseph Gillis, son of William, was horn in Ireland and was married there to Margaret Hamilton, also a native of that country. Coming to America they made their home at Philadelphia, where Mr. Gillis was engaged as a merchant and weaver. In his later years he would recount the story of the first train of cars which entered the city, and which was drawn in by horses, as the people were afraid some one would be run over, or that the sparks from the engine would set fire to buildings. He was a Whig in politics, and held some offices in the city. One child was born to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Gillis in Ireland, but it died while they were on the ocean on their way to this country and was buried at sea. The following children were born to them after their arrival in this country: Andy, Joseph, William, James, Sarah Jane, Margaret and Mary, all now deceased.

William Gillis received his early education in the common schools, such as they were in his day, and later attended a commercial school at night. He learned the trade of woolen manufacturer on Cobb creek, fourteen miles from Philadelphia, under the instruction of Dennis Kelley. After following this work in Philadelphia for a time he became manager of the woolen mills at Craigsville, Armstrong county, and next ran a woolen factory in Pine Creek (now Boggs) township, for Major White, with whom he remained about two years. He then bought a tract of eleven acres on Pine creek, in Valley township, where he established a home and passed the remainder of his life. He erected a mill 30 by 30 feet in dimensions, three stories high, run by waterpower, and enjoyed a prosperous trade, doing custom work as well as manufacturing for the general market. He took the wool as it came from the sheep's hack, and turned out the finished product, cloth and other woolen productions. The mill is now a picturesque ruin. As he prospered, Mr. Gillis bought a farm, and he was ranked among the substantial men of his locality. He was quite active in politics, supporting what he knew to be the best men and measures in local affairs, and the Republican ticket on national issues. He held almost all of the township offices, was the first president of the election board of Valley township, was particularly active on the school board, and acted as justice of the peace for many years. In religious connection he was a member of the German Reformed Church, to which his wife also belonged.

On Feb. 14, 1832, Mr. Gillis was married in Philadelphia to Mary McMullen, who was born Sept. 15, 1811, and died July 21, 1897. He passed away Jan. 7, 1900. They had the following children: (1) James Hamilton, born Sept.14, 1833, died in March, 1901. He was a veteran of the Civil war, having served in the 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. He married Mary Jane Davis, who survives him, and they had children: James M., now deceased; Eliza, deceased; William L.; H. Lincoln; Grant; Samuel, deceased; Joseph, deceased; Charles F.; and Clarence. (2) Eliza Jane, born May 29, 1836, has never married, and she and her sister Margaret live on the old home place at the mill in Valley township. (3) Sarah Ann, born July 1, 1838, is the widow of Joseph Shannon, who died Aug. 22, 1882. They had these children: Mary A., William T., James M., Harry C., and Margaret, the last named deceased. (4) William B., born March 18, 1840, served during the Civil war in the 9th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He married Virginia Crawford, and they reside in Fayette county, Pa. They have had a family of six children: Harry, Minnie, Ore, Lizzie (deceased), Theodore and Mary. (5) Mary Frances, born May 27, 1841, married William McKinzie, a veteran of the Civil war, and both are now deceased, her death occurring in May, 1909. They had one child, Joseph, who is deceased. (6) Margaret Olive, born March 9, 1844, has never married, and lives with her sister at the old home. (7) Phoebe Isabella, born Aug. 13, 1845, is the widow of Fred A. Snyder, who died at Cygnet, Ohio, in September, 1897, aged fifty-six years, and she makes her home at Muncie, Ill. They had the following children: Maude, May, William, Emma (deceased), Mary (deceased), Theodore and Harry. (8) John, born Jan. 16, 1847, died March 1, 1848. (9) Martha Ann, born April 23, 1851, married Robert P. McCoy in 1869, and six children were born to them, Mary Eliza (born May 23, 1870, now deceased), W. H. (born March 11, 1873, deceased), Olive B (born Nov. 1, 1875), Guy Wayne (born Jan. 9, 1878), R. Alice (born June 26, 1880) and Maude Eliza (born April 26, 1883). The father died June 13, 1893, and Mrs. McCoy subsequently married William Holmes, of Boggs township, by whom she has no children. (10) Joseph W., born Oct. 1, 1854, lives on part of his father's farm.

John McMullen, father of Mrs. Mary (McMullen) Gillis, was a son of Reynold and Ann (Buchanan) McMullen, of Ireland, the former of whom was a landowner, and was the only one of their family to come to America. He was married in Ireland in 1814 and coming to America not long afterward settled in Philadelphia, where he resided the remainder of his days. He was a mason and contractor. His wife, Frances (Cloose), was also born in Ireland, daughter of John Cloose, a country gentleman, who was a landowner and office holder in Ireland. Frances had but one sister, Kate. John and Frances (Cloose) McMullen had three children, Mary (Mrs. Gillis), Robert and Ann.

Joseph W. Gillis, who is engaged in farming and sawmilling in Valley township, was the youngest of the family of the late William and Mary (McMullen) Gillis. He was born in Armstrong county Oct. 1, 1854, and there received his education in the common schools. After his marriage he settled upon the farm belonging to his father, a tract of thirty-six acres in Valley township, which he now owns, and he has since added to his holdings another tract of forty acres. He has improved the property in many ways, carries on general farming, owns and operates a sawmill. He is also interested in stock raising, being a very successful breeder of Angora goats. There is a good gas well on the farm, in operation, and altogether Mr. Gillis has enough irons in the fire to keep him busy and to show that he is a man of energetic and enterprising disposition. He is courteous by nature and pleasant to meet, and is favorably known among a wide circle of neighbors and friends. In politics he is identified with the Republican party.

In 1885 Mr. Gillis married Sarah Hill, who was born March 6, 1860, and they have become the parents of six children: Maud, born Oct. 11, 1886, was married Feb. 19, 1910, to D. I. Himes, of New Kingston, Pa.; Icey Dell was born Jan. 11, 1888; James H., born Dec. 13, 1890, was married May 10, 1911, to Maggie Yokey; Mary May was born April 21, 1892; William L., May 10, 1896; Hobart G., Feb.27, 1898.

Source: Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed September 2001 by Laurel Black Morris for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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