The Winslow Pilcher Family Cemetery lies along a country road near Brownstown, IL, not far from the larger and still used Pilcher Cemetery. to me it’s a peaceful place, a little graveyard with no recent burials, surrounded by farm land. Pilcher was my grandma Crawford’s birth name, and Winslow Pilcher and his wife Averilla were my 3-great-grandparents. They are buried here, along with some of their children (including my great-great-grandfather Jonathan Kay Pilcher and his wife Rhoda), and Averilla’s brother Thomas A. Gatewood, and their parents, Thomas R. and Margaret (Kay) Gatewood.
Forty years ago this summer, I copied all the inscriptions in these places. I was seventeen and enjoyed my genealogical hobby, about which I write
here. I was also tracing the Crawford family history that Grandma (who died in 1972) had started, and I loved to study the Pilcher family history that one of Grandma’s first cousins had traced.
I drifted away from genealogy after I started college in 1975 but I’ve recently renewed my interest in the subject. The interest never entirely left me. For instance, during the winter of 1978-1979, I worked part-time at the Evans Public Library in my hometown, Vandalia, IL. A package arrived containing a manuscript for our historical collections: The Four Children of James Kay of Essay County, VA and Some of Their Descendants, compiled by Kent Kay Freeman of Tacoma, WA. I was thrilled to look through the typed manuscript! I wrote to Mr. Freeman and asked if I could have a copy. Seventy years old, he wrote right back and said that he had sent all available copies to libraries around the country and to his family, but that the Mormons were going to microfilm his material.
I went ahead and photocopied his interesting material, however, only for my private use. He had uncovered such a goldmine of information about my ancestors back to colonial days!
Recently I found the file again and decided to post on this blog just the information from Mr. Freeman concerning my direct ancestors.
This was VERY challenging material to unravel, not because Mr. Freeman’s material was substandard or vague, but because several of the people are named John or James or Richard or Mary or Margaret, and because the two families intermarried. I’ve left some redundancy in the story just to try to help with clarity.
The Gatewood line:
John Gatewood, Sr., married to Amy, is first recorded in Virginia (in what became Essex Co.) in 1663, and he died there in 1706. They are my 8-great-grandparents.
One of their nine children, John Gatewood, Jr. was born about 1675/80 and died in January or February 1750. His wife Catherine died in 1762.
One of their ten children, Isaac Gatewood, was born before 1720 and died in September or October 1765 in Essex. Co., VA. His wife’s name was Mary.
Among their children were Andrew, Mary, and Richard. This is the family group in which Gatewoods and Kays intermarried.
* Richard Gatewood married Averilla Andrews, the daughter of Thomas A. and Joice (Garnette) Andrews. One of their children was Thomas Richard Gatewood—or Thomas R. Gatewood, whom I mentioned at the very beginning as my 4-great-grandfather.
* Andrew Gatewood married to Margaret Kay (c. 1750-1827), a sister of my ancestor John Kay (1755-1812).
* And John Kay (1755-1812) himself married Andrew Gatewood’s sister Mary (1758-1839), and one of their children was also named Margaret Kay (1782-1857), and she married her first cousin, Thomas R. Gatewood. Thus the siblings Mary (Gatewood) Kay and Richard Gatewood, though fortunately not married to each other, are both my ancestors.
Thomas R. Gatewood was born in 1781 in Essex CO., VA and died September 11, 1856 in Vandalia, IL. Margaret his wife/cousin was born September 7, 1782 and died March 16, 1857. They married in Fayette Co., KY on August 19, 1803.
The Kay line:
The first Kays in Virginia were brothers, James  and William, sons of James Kay  of Bury, Lancashire. The brothers arrived in Virginia in 1658 and settled along the Rappahannock River.
James Kay  married Sarah Iveson in about 1662. Among their chidlren were William, Richard, and James . James  married Mary Pannell in about 1696. James  and Mary had three children, one of whom was also named James , who settled in King George Co., VA. He had sons James  and John.
James Kay  had sons William and Richard, and Richard had a son Robert, who settled in Caroline Co, VA. Robert, in turn had sons named Robert and James—yet another James Kay! This James lived in 1778-1835.
Mr. Freeman could not establish a certain relationship between these Kays and our definite ancestor, who was ALSO named James Kay, whose will was probated in Essex Co, VA in 1769. Surely a connection exists, he writes, perhaps with the King George Co. Kays or with the Caroline Co. Kays.
“Our” James and his wife Mary—-my 6-great-grandparents—had four children, and two of those children we met already (above): Margaret (c. 1750-1827), who married Andrew Gatewood, and John Kay (c. 1755-June 5 1812) who married Mary Gatewood (c. 1758-1839).
And… one of John and Mary’s daughters was Margaret Kay, who (as I wrote above) married Thomas R. Gatewood.
Before I return to Thomas R. and Margaret (Kay) Gatewood. I want to linger with “our” James Kay, my 6-great-grandfather. His will, probated Feb. 2, 1769 (and quoted in toto by Mr. Freeman) reads:
“In the Name of God Amen. I, James Kay of Essex County being sick & weak but of Perfect mind memory and understanding and Knowing that it is appoitned for all men once to Die, but knowing the uncertainty of the same, do by these presents make this my Last Will and Testament, in the manner and form Following. Imprimis, I Lent unto my believe Wife Mary Kay all my Estate both Real and Person during her natural Life or Widowhood, and at the time of which shall happen I give and bequeath it in the Following manner. Item, I do give and bequeath to my daughter Margaret Kay, one Negro boy called Goerge, one ditto called Ben, and one Girl called Lucy, to her and her lawfull heirs forever. Item, I give and equath to my son Richard Kay, one Negro Girl called Sarah an ten pounds Curt. money to him and his heirs forever. Item, I give and bequeath to my son John Kay, one Negro man called Scipio and one Girl called June to him and his heirs forever…. “ and it goes on to give other slaves to his son Christopher, and to stipulate that his land and holdings be devided equally among the four children.
But there is is: my ancestors were slaveowners. My family shares in this horrible national sin and the racism with which we still struggle. The Gatewoods owned and bequeathed slaves as well.
James’ son John Kay—my 5-great-grandfather—was in the Revolutionary War. He was listed as a Sergeant on Feb. 16, 1776 in Capt. Thomas Berry’s company, in the 8th Virginia Regiment of Foot, commanded by Col. Abraham Bowman. On Feb. 3, 1777 he was promoted to Ensign and served until he resigned his commission on Apr. 24, 1778. He was paid six pounds a month, or $20, as an officer in the Contential Line.
Mr Freeman goes on to say write that John and two of his siblings sold their shares in their father’s property to brother Richard. Mr. Freeman speculates that this was in preparation for their move to Kentucky, where John Kay appears in Fayette Co., KY land records in 1786. His will, too, leaves slave to his heirs, in addition to other property and land. His will indicates that he was wealthy at the time of his 1812 death, compared to his $20/month pay as an Ensign in the Revolution.
As I heard the story from older relatives, Thomas R. and Margaret Gatewood, their daughter Averilla and son Thomas A., and their spouses and children came to Fayette Co., IL in the late fall of 1829. Thomas A.’s first wife’s name is unknown, but Averilla’s husband was Winslow Pilcher. Supposedly the roads were too bad for them to continue and they settled the Four Mile Prairie area. The Pilcher family built a house near what is now the small Winslow Pilcher family cemetery; an older relative of mine, born in the 1890s, said she had faint memories of the house, which was torn down when she was small. The Gatewood-Pilcher extended family was not among the very earliest settlers of the Vandalia/Fayette Co. area; Vandalia was founded in 1819, and the first white settlers date from 1815 and possibly earlier. But among my ancestral families, they were the first to arrive and live in the area.
According to Mr. Freeman, Thomas A. Gatewood was born about 1806/10 and died about 1878/79, and had ten children altogether with two wives. His sister Averilla was born May 12, 1804 and died August 28, 1879. He married Winslow Pilcher in 1820. The son of Lewis Pilcher and Mary Rogers Pilcher, Winslow was born October 1, 1794 in Virginia and died May 8, 1866 in Fayette Co., IL. He served in the War of 1812, from Spotsylvania Co., VA, under Capt. McSmith, and received bounty land in Fayette Co. IL for his service. Their children were:
William Lewis Pilcher: November 2, 1821 to January 16, 1899
Thomas Gatewood Pilcher, Jan. 27, 1823 to March 2, 1895
Margarette Pilcher, Feb. 4, 1824 to 1835.
Sarah Pilcher, May 28, 1825 to 1837.
Robert James Pilcher, Aug. 22, 1826 to May 28, 1911.
Mary Ann Pilcher, born Dec. 22, 1827 to 1843/44
Winslow Pilcher Jr., Feb. 17, 1829 to July 4, 1911
Octavia Pilcher, Feb. 16, 1831 to the 1850s
Eliza Jane Pilcher, Sept. 8 1832 to Jan. 8, 1912
Elizabeth Catherine Pilcher, born Feb. 6, 1834, died in 1838.
Louisiana Pilcher, born Dec. 11, 1835, died Feb. 24, 1897.
Joshua Pilcher, born and died Oct. 1 1837
Richard Andrew Pilcher, born Aug 29, 1838 died March 11, 1895
Jonathan Kay Pilcher, born Jan. 23, 1840, died May 12, 1908
Josiah Rogers Pilcher, born Apr. 6, 1842, died March 26, 1928
Charles Benjamin Pilcher, born March 16, 1844 died July 4, 1922
Averilla America Pilcher, born Nov. 13, 1846, died Oct. 15, 1921
Cordelia Caroline Pilcher, born Sept. 8, 1848, died June 15, 1925.
Grandma’s first cousin Blanche Harstad did a wonderful job tracing the descendants of those Pilcher children who survived childhood and married. Jonathan Kay Pilcher, the fourteenth child of these original eighteen children of Winslow and Averilla, was my grandma Crawford’s paternal grandfather. His wife Rhoda, nee Oliver, preceded him in death in 1893.
Unless indicated otherwise, everything up till this point has been from Mr. Freeman’s wonderful manuscript. The rest of this post is my own material gained from other sources.
Grandma had this c. 1891 photo of Jonathan and Rhoda and their children (that is, those who survived to adulthood: near Jonathan’s grave are buried several of his siblings who died in childhood). Grandma’s father, Albert Pilcher, is the adult son seated in front.
As I said before, forty years ago this summer, I copied all the inscriptions in both Pilcher Cemeteries. In the smaller, family cemetery, there are Thomas R. and Margaret Gatewood are buried there. Thomas A. Gatewood has only a stone inscribed with his initials T A G. Averilla’s grave is unmarked, and Winslow’s grave is marked with only a rock, but a memorial to him because of his War of 1812 service was placed upon his grave in 1972.
Among Winslow and Averilla’s children, five are known to be buried there: Jonathan, William, Charles, Louisiana, and Octavia, though her grave’s location is no longer known. Charles was one of the last burial in this place. I’ve always wondered whether the several uninscribed rocks mark the graves of the children (Margarette, Sarah, Mary Ann, and Joshua). It make sense that they do, because this land would’ve been part of Winslow and Averilla’s property. But that is speculation.
I was thrilled to see Thomas’ name appear in an 1840 Vandalia newspaper, where he was running for reelection as Fayette Co., IL coroner (he lost). But above his name is none other than Lincoln who was running as presidential elector for the Whig party.
I’ve already written quite a bit on the Pilcher family in this earlier post. Winslow Pilcher shows up in state records as a worker on the construction of the Vandalia Statehouse. The building served as state capitol in 1836-1839, prior to the removal of the state government to Springfield in 1839. But several people pitched in during the summer and fall of 1836 to construct a suitable building for the government, and Winsow was paid for hauling timber to the public square and later for sweeping out the senate chamber.
I sometimes call this my ancestral claim to fame, since Lincoln served in that building. When I wrote my history of early Vandalia (High on the Okaw’s Western Bank, University of Illinois Press, 1992), I made sure to mention Winslow’s name in my account of the constuction effort. But, as I’ve written here, this entire family branch has many interesting aspects including a colonial heritage, (tragically) slave ownership, an ancestor in the Revolutionary War, pioneers who journeyed from Virginia to Kentucky and from Kentucky to Illinois, and settlers among the earliest to settle in Vandalia and Fayette County, Illinois.
(After I posted this material, I did an internet search for Gatewoods in Essex Co., Virginia and Kays in Virginia. Try that yourself and find some interesting websites that provide more information about these families. )
(Another update: I hadn’t been to the smaller Pilcher family cemetery for several months, and yesterday when I visited (8/9/14), I discovered that two large trees had broken off and fallen. The plain stone that marked Winslow Pilcher’s grave was shattered and the War of 1812 marker was broken. Jonathan and Rhoda Pilcher’s monument was fallen over, and several other gravestones were askew. The tombstones of Thomas and Margaret Gatewood were intact, since they’re a little north of those trees. Someone had sawed the tree trunks, so I hope that there is an effort to get the cemetery in shape. I’ll try to find out more.)