Rev. George Gillmore (1720-1811)
His career as a minister was also interspersed with teaching and farming. The year he arrived in America he preached in Blandford, Mass. and also taught school at Stratford a Connecticut community. By October 1770, the family had settled in Voluntown, Connecticut. On July 2, 1773 Rev. Gillmore was formally ordained by the Presbytery of Boston. While living at Voluntown, Connecticut daughters Ann, Sarah and son George were born in 1771, 1772 and 1774 respectively. An infant daughter Hanah died in 1774. He was paid about £50 per year and also supplied with a farm, rent free. The growing family of six children lived there "in love and amity" until the outbreak of the American Revolution.
His British allegiances branded Gillmore a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. In 1776 Governor Turnbull of Connecticut called for him to be censured for his attachment to the British Government, thus he fled discrimination and followed his conscience to the north. There were only two Presbyterian clergymen in Connecticut at the time, the second a Mr. Drummond who was also a Loyalist was eventually killed. Ironically Drummond's death in New York was at the hands of a British officer, and although no additional details are available about the killing, many Loyalists faced trouble for the views they held.
Forced finally to leave his Church, the Gillmore family lived on what money they had saved and by selling their cattle. Through the combined effort of the couple and three of their children, they managed a year of subsistence living, but the clergyman was compelled, in the winter of 1776 -1777, to leave his family in Voluntown to find a new home. Locating a small farm in Noble Town, near Albany, N.Y. the family was reunited and resided a few years in "low circumstances supporting . . . by preaching, keeping school and farming."
Mr. Gillmore preached until the defeat of Gen. Burgoyne, when he was "stopped from exercising the office of the ministry". He was, however, able to support his family by keeping a school at Spencer Town, Columbia County, N.Y, until the capture of Lord Cornwallis.
Make his escape through the woods to Canada. Gillmore's flight through the wilderness and along the length of Lake Champlain, brought him to St. Jeans, Quebec, in the fall of 1782. He wintered with the British forces under Major Rogers, sharing rations with other Loyalists. The Spring of 1783, he went to Quebec to make his case before Governor Haldimand, who enrolled him on the list of Loyalist pensioners. George Gillmore, however, received from this source only one instalment, amounting to £ 7 and was cut off from further payments "agreeable to his Majesty's special instructions" which undoubtedly applied to other claimants as a group and not to him alone.
In the fall of 1783 he left Quebec and went to Sorrel, at the same time sending for Ann his wife and children. While at Sorrel he ministered to the Artillery there all winter and preached a sermon to a Lodge of Free Masons. The sermon contained a defence of masonic institutions and was afterwards published in London in 1788.
Ann Gillmore and her six children arrived at St. Jean, Quebec in March 1784. In November 1784, her husband petitioned and received from Gov. Haldimand "a certificate and recommendation as a minister and Loyalist for the Province of Nova Scotia", where he hoped to obtain a living in the line of his profession. The succeeding Spring, Col. Hope, the Commandant of the garrison at Quebec, secured for him and his family, a passage to Halifax, at the expense of government and supplied them with rations for the voyage. At Halifax they spent the summer, having arrived there in July, but in the fall they moved to the Windsor - Newport area where he resumed preaching although no Presbyterian church building existed there.
In February 1786, Mr. Gillmore obtained a grant and settled on 500 acres at Ardoise Hill, Hants County, some ten or fifteen miles east of Windsor toward Halifax. This was his home for the next six years during which he continued his ministry in Windsor and the Township of Newport.
An article on Gillmore published in 1860 described his ordeal. Having spent everything he had clearing part of his farm, and his crops having failed he travelled on foot to Halifax, (about thirty miles) and offered his land and home for security for a single barrel of flour and some pork - and was refused. The family were then obliged to subsist for months almost solely on potatoes and other vegetables. "Three Winters" he says at another time "I have bought hay at a great price and carried it on my back four miles through the woods, where there was no path or road, to keep alive two cows, which were the support of my family with the help of potatoes".
The Presbyterian ministers of Nova Scotia met for the formation of their first Presbytery, called the Presbytery of Truro, on the 2nd of August 1786 and Gillmore was among the four ministers present,
In 1786 he was also pressing his claim at Halifax with the Home Government. Making his case he recites the sad tale of his movements and his losses during the war, he says "Thus he hath spent a number of the years of his life in wandering, his days in poverty, hunger, nakedness and cold, and all for his loyalty".
Getting no satisfaction from the Commissioners at Halifax, he sailed for London in 1787 to press his claim there. The thirty-seven day voyage on the North Atlantic was made in the middle of the winter. Arriving in Scotland he preached in Greenock and in Glasgow at College Church. From here he went to Edinburgh, and on to London by coach. The Commissioners in London eventually decided to "pay him £20 in full and £20 more on his return to Nova Scotia as it would take too much time to refer the matter back to the Commissioners in Nova Scotia for further investigation." This action is, no doubt, the origin of the belief that he obtained a pension of £40 the rest of his life.
Departing England, he arrived in Boston, Massachusetts six weeks later, and continued on from Boston to Halifax and then to Ardoise Hill. Speaking of his arrival home, he wrote:"The few names that walk with me in this barren country have manifested great joy at my return -- for poverty prevents not spiritual joy, even in a wilderness, although we hang our harps on the willows and weep as often as we remember Zion."
At Windsor and Newport he continued to minister until 1791 when he moved to Horton, in Kings County, to the pastorate of Grand Pré. Rev. George Gillmore initiated the plan to build the Covenanters' Church (see history) constructed between 1804 and 1811. As a designated historic site as well as an active church the structure is a lasting monument to his ministry in Grand Pré, a ministry which is believed to have continued until his death at 90. In Horton the family received a grant of land along the Gaspereau River. A dozen of the descendants have, like their ancestor, entered the Christian ministry including Rev. John Redford Scott.
Buried in the churchyard at
Grand Pré his inscription is in
Latin, and has been translated by two individual with slightly
translations. The most glaring difference is the date of death with 10
days in the difference. If the inscription
has been accurately transcribed as trigesimo die Septembris then it
appears to be more correct as 30th (30 = triginta)
rather than 20th (20 = viginti)
in this grave lies the body of
who on the 20th day of September,
in the 90th year of his age,
died in the year of our Lord
He received ordination,
at the hands of the Presbytery
For many years he preached the Gospel.
Unholy contact with the irreligious crowd
did not turn him from the right path.
Through varied experiences through many conditions of things,
Full of faith and holding fast to his belief,
lamented by many good people, he died.
Remember that thou must die.
Grand Pré, Wolfville and the surrounding counties of Kings and Hants continued to be the home of Gillmore descendants for many years until Maritime migration patterns eventually established branches in New England, California, and eventually throughout Canada and the United States. Rev. George and Ann Gillmore's descendants trace ancestry through the six children who had families. The children of Ann and George Gillmore were:
born in Ireland, date unknown.
married Samuel Densmore
SOPHIA, born in Ireland about 1763
married Lodovich Hunter
born in Ireland about 1767
married Sarah Hamilton
in Voluntown, Conn. 20 April 1771
married Archibald Smith
in Voluntown, Conn. 30 Sept. 1772
married 1st Mr. Bennet, 2nd Mr. Cummings
born in Voluntown, Conn. 13 Nov. 1774
married Rachel Terry
HANAH, date of birth unknown but died in Voluntown, Conn. 30 Oct. 1774
The information in this brief biography was taken from a more complete biography of Rev. George Gillmore produced as a typescript in 1960 by Sidvin F. Tucker of Boston Mass., who also provided a transcription of Gillmore's journal and compiled a genealogy of descendants called The Gillmore Saga. In 1960 Tucker also donated a collection of original Gillmore documents to the Nova Scotia Archives. The original journal resides in the United Church Maritime Conference Archives in Sackville N.B. Additional information from Winds of Change - The People of the Covenanter Church, by Heather Ann Davidson.A history of the Covenanters' Church in Grand Pré was provided by the congregation of Orchard Valley United Church in New Minas, Nova Scotia who maintain the historic structure. Morning services are conducted during the summer and evening services and programs held during the fall. An additional biography of Rev. George Gillmore, is included in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
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