Lost Friends
Eileen Sherman Gillespie Slocum
December 21, 1915 - July 27, 2008

John Jermain Slocum (1914-1997)  and  Eileen Sherman Gillespie (1915-2008)

Mother had left my father when I was 6 weeks old, and I had tried for years to find the books of poetry mother had described, in the few times I was able to get her to talk about him. My recent search for the book had failed, and I turned to genealogy to try to find a relative of father's to whom he might have given a copy. That's what brought me to Eileen. I never did find those books of father's but, in Eileen, I found a cousin and a friend.

The starting place for my search was an obituary of my father's mother that I found among his baby pictures, sent to mother after he died. Catherine was described as having been a daughter of Henry Burnett and a descendant of Henry B. Gibson from Canandaigua NY. That and the fact that her pallbearers included 3 generals and the governor of Colorado. I knew I had a chance.

Husband, being a darling, suggested a trip to Canandaigua NY. As we drove down Gibson Street I did wonder. It was. So was nearby Port Gibson NY. Henry B. Gibson turned out to be one of the richest men in western NY. President of a bank, two railroads and a canal company. Not half shabby. And in the Historical Society files was a small family tree.

In the process of cold calling people all over the US for genealogy leads, I identified Eileen as another possible Henry B. Gibson descendant. As I recited some of my ancestral names, Eileen exclaimed, "But those are my names!" Her invitation to tea was immediately given and accepted.

It wasn't until Paul and I reached Eileen's home in Newport that I understood why she hadn't given me a street address. Her home basically covered the whole block! I was nervous ringing the bell but, when she came to the door, I almost began crying. Standing before me was the first person I'd ever met, besides my brother, who carried my father's blood. That moment is permanently imprinted on my soul.

There were other cousins to meet at that initial visit, such as Andrée Cecile Antoinette Thoresen (Dédée) and her husband Jon Thoresen. Dédée was Eileen's second cousin, that is, she was the granddaughter of Frederick Sherman, the brother of Eileen's grandfather, William Watts Sherman. That made my relationship to Dédée the same as my relationship to Eileen - we were 3rd cousins once removed.

But it was with Eileen and her daughter, Beryl Powell, that I felt instantly at home. Eileen and I shared a passion for genealogical research, and Beryl and I were of an age and disposition. Beryl has great intellectual depth, as well as great kindness. She learned middle eastern languages in order to help her father with his Islamic coin collection. We don't agree on politics but, when my candidate lost in the last election, my instant thought and consolation was that at least Beryl would be happy.

That was the start of the visits. From then on I would gather together copies of whatever research I had done and make copies for Eileen and Beryl, bringing them along when I'd amassed a large enough pile. When I could find something appropriate on ebay, like an ancient magazine article on Beryl's great grandfather, I'd pick it up and bring it along for Beryl's growing collection. A visit almost always included lunch, which was eaten in the smaller dining room.

With Eileen, I could play to my heart's content. Our family tree is very, very large, and I printed out the entire thing on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper that we assembled as a jigsaw puzzle on her huge dining room table. Another time I scanned in old family photographs and was able to bring them back later bright and shiny, and sometimes colorized. Eileen was especially pleased by one of herself as a child.

Some of the visits were hilarious. Wonderfully strange people would wander into the house as a large extended family. One of them was especially taken with a story I told of a 17th c ancestor who was convicted by her own son-in-law, and sentenced to be stripped to the waist and tied to the great gun in the center of Newport for 15 minutes. The visitor couldn't wait for me to repeat the story to Eileen who was, indeed, not pleased. But it was just all so funny and fun.

Eileen had a strong sense of how her ancestors ought to behave themselves, and they didn't always live up to her standards. Like her 3rd great grandfather entering a house through the chimney to retrieve a stolen silk dress, or Henry B. Gibson losing out in his fight with Erastus Corning in the first year of the New York Central's existence.

But whether she was fond of one particular ancestor or not, what we shared was the excitement of bringing these long dead people back to life. Most of my friends were kindness itself in listening to my research enthusiasms, but telling the stories to someone who shared my obsession was pure joy.

Eileen and I were third cousins, once removed. The easiest way to think about genealogy relationships is that 1st cousins are the children of siblings, the grandchildren of siblings are 2nd cousins, and the great grandchildren of siblings are 3rd cousins. The 'removed' roughly refers to what generation you're in. Once removed for Eileen and I means that I'm not in her generation; I'm in her daughter Beryl's. And because Beryl and I are great great grandchildren of siblings, we're 4th cousins. Since we're in the same generation, there's no 'removed' to my relationship with Beryl.

Several handwritten genealogy notebooks floated around the family and, on our first visit, they were brought out for comparison with my computer tree. One of the confusions I was able to clear up was identifying the fact that the Watts Sherman I descended from was not the one they thought of as their ancestor. In fact, they descended from two different Watts Shermans, one the uncle of the other. The Watts Sherman in the huge painting near the front entry was named for his uncle Watts, his father's brother. And to add to the confusion, the younger Watts had married his first cousin, a granddaughter of that elder Watts. On a subsequent visit Eileen laughed and recited for me her newly learned Watts Shermans. We were both inordinately pleased.

Some of Eileen's Ancestry
Colonel Henry Bicker + Sophia 'Fietie' Heyer
    Judge John Gibson and Catharine Bicker
        Henry Bicker Gibson + Sarah Sherman

Captain Nathaniel Sherman and Lucy Tisdale
    Watts Sherman + Olivia Jillson
        Sarah Sherman + Henry Bicker Gibson - My first shared ancestry with Eileen
            Sarah Maria Gibson and Watts Sherman II
    Henry Sherman and Martha Mitchell
        Watts Sherman II + Sarah Maria Gibson
            William Watts Sherman + Sophia Augusta Brown
                Lawrence Lewis Gillespie + Irene Murial Augusta Sherman
                    Eileen Sherman Gillespie + John Jermain Slocum

John Slocum's Obituary
Newport Summer Providence Journal Wake
Providence Journal Obituary
A Glimpse At Rhode Island Aristocracy
Behind the Hedgerow Documentary
Interview with G. Wayne Miller

Documentary on Eileen

Sotheby's Catalog
The Slocum Collection of Islamic Coins
6-7 November 1997

Lawrence Lewis Gillespie (1876-1940)  and  Irene Murial Augusta Sherman (1887-1972)

Graduating from Harvard College in 1898, Lawrence Lewis Gillespie joined the military and served as a First Lieutenant in the 1st U.S.A. Engineers in the War with Spain. He left the military for the banking field, becoming Vice-President of Equitable Trust Co., and Chairman of Trust Co. He later returned to the military and served in Peurto Rico. Gillespie married Irene Sherman, who had been born in Paris, and also became Vice-President of the French Institute of NY.

Lawrence and Irene

Mother's Marriage

General George Gillespie (1841-1913)  and  Frances Rhobie McMaster (1845-?)

General George Lewis Gillespie fought for the North in the Civil War, even though he was from Tennessee. Graduating from West Point, First Lt. Gillespie won notice and began his rapid promotions in 1863 after erecting a bridge across the Rappahannock in the face of the enemy. He was cited for bravery in 1864, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1897. In 1904, he was responsible for the redesign of the medal.

After the war, Gillespie supervised the improvement of multiple harbors, initiated construction on a Columbia River canal, and built the famous lighthouse on Tillamook Rock, off the Oregon coast. Wikipedia

General Gillespie

Medal of Honor

William Watts Sherman (1842-1912)  and  Sophie Augusta Brown (1867-1947)

William Watts Sherman was educated at Heidelburg, and at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He was on the council of the Society of Colonial Wars and a member of many clubs. His wife, Sophia Augusta Brown, was 18 years old when they married. Passionately fond of opera and the arts, Sophia brought exquisite taste and a generosity of spirit to her family and friends. And to her oldest stepdaughter, Georgette Wetmore Sherman, she even brought a husband, her older brother, Harold.

Frequently considered to be the first Queen Anne house in the country, the William Watts Sherman House (1874-1876, Newport RI) was built by H.H. Richardson, and is now a registered national historic landmark.

William Watts Sherman house

Sophia Augusta Brown


Watts Sherman II (1809-1865)  and  Sarah Maria Gibson (1816-1878)

When Watts Sherman was 12 years old, his father, Henry Sherman, was killed by Indians. Of Henry's six children, only Watts grew up to carry on Henry's line.

As others of his family, Watts Sherman II went into the banking business. His first important position was as cashier of a bank in Genesco NY. From there he went to another banking institution in Herkimer, then became cashier and general manager of the Albany City Bank. In 1851, Watts went into partnership with Alexander Duncan, in NYC, founding the banking house of Duncan, Sherman & Company.

Sherman's first wife was the adopted daughter of Erastus Corning, the president of the New York Central, and his second wife, Sarah Maria Gibson, was the daughter of Canandaigua banker Henry Bicker Gibson, who was president of one of the railroads merged into the NY Central and, himself, on the board for the first year.

The portrait of Sarah Maria and Watts (he's the small figure in the top hat) hung in the living area beyond the front entrance of Eileen's home. When Eileen and I first worked out our relationship, I found it easiest to point to Sarah Maria and explain that I descended from her sister Catharine. The sisters' husbands, Watts Sherman and Henry Livingston Lansing, were trustees for the estate of Henry Bicker Gibson (see signatures below).

Watts Sherman, II

U.S. Supreme Court Case

hallway portrait

signatures and Watts portrait

Henry Bicker Gibson and Sarah Sherman

Success followed his undertakings wholly because he had the judgement, foresight and sagacity to see from the beginning the sure results of following certain well known business methods; that he was successful because he deserved to be on account of his industry, shrewdness, integrity and rigid adherence to the principles of temperance, the latter being always kept in view by him. His bank became one of the best known and most sucessful in the interior of the State, while through it and his other extensive operations he amassed one of the largest fortunes of the time outside of the great business centers of the country.

His major positions were as cashier of the Ontario Bank, president of the Auburn and Rochester Railroad and Rochester&Syracuse Railroad, director of the NY Central in its first year of operation, president of the Ontario Canal Company. He was active in town affairs in Canandaigua, acting as president of the village of Canandaigua in 1824.

Growing Up
Agreement of Moscow with the Senecas
Rochester and Auburn Railroad
Rochester and Auburn Railroad Deeds    
Rochester & Syracuse Railroad
New York Central
Henry B. Gibson Will, etc.
Sarah Sherman Will, etc.
Hearing to Contest Will Codicil
American Biographical Notes
Portraits of Prominent Pioneers
Pioneers of Utica
History of Ontario County Biography
Canandaigua Sixty Years Ago
Centennial Celebration, July 4, 1876

Gibson Family

Census Data

Henry B. Gibson Henry B. Gibson
Ontario Bank
John Gibson (1757-1818)  and  Catharine Bicker (1760-1836)

John Gibson served in a Pennsylvania regiment during the Revolutionary War, marrying the daughter of Colonel Henry Bicker, a soldier who commanded the 3rd PA at Valley Forge, in Old Swedes Church in Philadelphia. After the war, John moved his family to Reading, and then to the Saratoga area - Ballston Spa, where he was a lawyer and raised two children. Ballston Spa is an area noted for the number of NY legislators lliving there. John's daughter Mary married Samuel Young, a legislator known for his integrity, who became Speaker of the House and an enthusiastic member and supporter of the Canal Commission. Following in his son-in-law's footsteps, John ran for NY assembly and was elected, dying soon after being elected.

John Gibson in NY Assembly

His tombstone reads:

He was a benevolent and honest man,
abounding in all the social virtues and
truly estimable in every relation of life.

If you would acquire general esteem
and respect while living
and excite in death universal regret,
imitate his character.

John and Catherine Gibson gravestones

Watts Sherman (1775-1818)  and  Olivia Jillson (1779-1860)

Watts Sherman came from Newport RI. His means were small, so that while he followed his trade as a carpenter -- and was but a botch at that -- his wife kept a small shop on Main street where she sold cake and beer. He soon obtained the office of constable, and, as we are assured, manifested unusual zeal in the discharge of his duties, having, on one occasion, descended into a chimney in order to seize a silk dress which the party having it determined he should not come at, and so debarred him other entrance into his house.

But it is likewise reported that at that period he was rather too prone to visit the tavern, and that his wife adopted the following means to cure the failing. One evening, after her work was done, she took her knitting and repaired to the tavern, where she sat down and assumed the air of being at ease. The embarrassment of the other parties present was soon relieved by the wife addressing her husband thus: "Mr. Sherman, I married you for the sake of your company, and I have come here to enjoy it." This visit sufficed to reform the ways of the wanderer; and he was ever after not only closely devoted to business, but a man of marked and exemplary habits in respect to temperance.

I retail the gossip as I have heard it, but whether true or not the incident is deemed sufficiently characteristic of Mrs. Sherman to have deserved to be so. This lady, whose maiden name was Olivia Jillson, was of excellent judgment, and a notably faithful counsellor to her husband throughout his life.

Mr. Sherman was a tall, fine looking person, extremely neat of attire. Although close and sharp in business, he was, up to a certain standard, unexceptionally moral, and gave freely to objects of benevolence or public utility.

Olivia ShermanOlivia Sherman

Olivia Sherman Obit
Captain Nathaniel Sherman (1748-1775)  and  Lucy Tisdale (1749-1838)
Nathaniel Sherman and his wife, Lucy Tisdale, were born in Rhode Island and had two children, Watts and Henry. Nathaniel had chosen the profession of the sea and he died at sea at the age of only 27. Lucy was a widow at 26 years old and married again, this time to Niles Higginbotham.

The home built by Lucy and Niles' son Sands is now a museum in Oneida NY.

COLONEL HENRY BICKER (1723-1801)  and  Sophia 'Fietie' Heyer (1725-1789)

Henry Bicker came in at the beginning of the Revolutionary War as a major commanding the Tenth Pennsylvania. Over the next two years he was alternatively in command of the Sixth Pennsylvania, Fourth Pennsylvania, and Second Pennsylvania, rising from major to colonel.

Colonel Bicker spent the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge with Washington and, while there, kept an orderly book which has been published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.

Valley Forge docs
Captain Edmond Richmond (1748-1695/6)  and  Abigail Davis (Abt 1637-1682)
Edward Richmond was born about 1632, before his father, John, came to New England. The family spent a few years at Taunton MA and, when Edward was about 10 years old, they moved to a Mansion House built on the Mill Brook in Newport.

At 24, Edward was engaged to be married to Abigail Davis. The bans were published twice but, before they could marry, she was taken by her mother and stepfather and given to Richard Ussell. On June 24, 1656, Edward brought suit against Richard Ussell and Abigail's parents to recover Abigail.

Edward became Attorney General of Newport from 1677 to 1680. He and 47 others were granted 5000 acres to be called East Greenwich.

Bef June 1656
    Bans are read twice for Edward Richmond and Abigail Davis
    James Davis dies and his widow, Joan, marries John Cowdall
    John and Joan force Abigail to marry Richard Ussell

24 Jun 1656
    Edward Richmond sues Ussell for 100 pounds for 'trespassing' on Abigail, and loses

12 Oct 1656
    Edward Richmond tries again on Breach of Covenant against Cowdall and Ussell for 300 pounds

4 Jul 1657
    General Court at Warwick says that Ussell's marriage to Abigail was unlawful,
        but jury can't decide if damages due

Jun 1658
    Edward Richmond is accused of living with Abigail without marriage. He pleads guilty
        and pays fine.
    Abigail also pleads guilty; says she has a child by Edward and pays a fine.
    Court agrees with Edward's logic that there will be less temptation to sin again
        if the court would allow them to marry. The court declares them married.

Edward Richmond later prosecuted his mother-inlaw, Joan Davis Cowdall, for fornication. She was sentenced to be bound to the 'great gunn', stripped to the waist, and left there for 15 min.

Captain Edward Richmond and Abigail Davis
    John Remington + Abigail Richmond
        Eber Sherman + Martha Remington
            Henry Sherman + Anna Higginbotham
                Captain Nathaniel Sherman + Lucy Tisdale


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