John W. Gilliam | Gilliams of Virginia

John W. Gilliam Family of Dinwiddie County
Updated March 8, 2016

Background:
The Gilliam Home, known as Burnt Quarter, was the headquarters for Union Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt during the Battle of Five Forks. When Confederate forces under the command of Maj. Gen. George Pickett—of Gettysburg fame— entrenched along the White Oak Road at Five Forks, the South's Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee advised the Gilliams to leave. Mrs. Gilliam sent her daughters to stay with relatives, but she herself remained at the house throughout the battle to care for a sick servant.

Pickett's adjutant, Lt. Col. Walter Harrison, described a clash on a field near the house as "one of the most brilliant cavalry engagements of the war." Mrs. Gilliam reported that after the battle her lawn and garden were so littered with dead horses that it took days to drag them away.

After the War, Mrs. Gilliam swore allegiance to the United States on 19 Jan 1866.



Samuel Yates Gilliam, the son of Col. John William Gilliam, Sr., and Mary Elizabeth Coleman Goodwyn was born 18 Jan 1849 in Dinwiddie County, VA. His boyhood portrait, below, was slashed by Union soldiers during the Civil War. After Union forces departed, Samuel's mother glued back the damaged portion of the painting.

The Gilliam Family Papers, 1802-1932 at the University of Virginia consist of ca. 1500 items (ca. 2 shelf feet) primarily pertaining to personal family correspondence, various accounts and bills, and political correspondence. These papers are grouped into the following categories: accounts, receipts; personal and family correspondence; slave trade papers; political correspondence.

The accounts and receipts, including various bills, etc., chronicle the daily financial activities of the family. They include indentures and a series of rent agreements made by Samuel Y. Gilliam during 1896- 1900. During the pre-Civil War period the accounts pertain to the operation of a farm or plantation. The personal and family papers are concentrated in the post 1850 years. The papers relating to slavery cover the years 1828-1865 and include the hiring out of slaves, trading of slaves, purchases, slavery accounts, and general papers revealing the daily involvement with the institution. The political correspondence is concentrated in the 1870-1899 period and centered on the activities of Samuel Gilliam.
Although historically obscure, the Gilliam family had a long and fruitful association with Dinwiddie County. John W. Gilliam was the most prominent member of the family until his death in 1853. He and his wife Mary Gilliam had four children. Joseph P., John W., and Samuel Y. Gilliam all appear subsequently in the family papers. The papers prior to 1853 are receipts, bills, accounts that indicate Gilliam's activities in running his farm. His name and that of his son Joseph P. Gilliam dominate the slavery papers. John Gilliam also represented Dinwiddie County in the state House of Delegates during 1847-1848 and vigorously criticized the Mexican War (see family papers 3593-a). Upon his death his wife Mary Gilliam carried on the family affairs and her name appears frequently in the accounts and correspondence during the 1850's and 1860's. There is surprisingly little material concerning the Civil War. But by 1866 the family was "heavily indebted," possibly as a consequence of the ravages of war.
Samuel Y. Gilliam dominates the family papers during 1870-1899. There is important political correspondence contained in the papers of these years. In 1877 he sought to represent Dinwiddie County in the legislature but was defeated. Subsequently, however, he became a leader of the "readjustor" party and by 1896 was described as the "leader of the Republican Party" in the county. In 1899 he was elected county treasurer. His letters are quite interesting, discussing candidly political maneuvering and the need to gain the votes of blacks to control county politics.
The latter portion of the papers, from 1901-1932, contain correspondence and miscellaneous financial records such as tax receipts. They pertain chiefly to Rosa Boisseau, a cousin of the Gilliams, about whom little is known.
Contents List
• Deed 1802-1805 Box: 1
• Estate listing 1817 Box: 1
• Gilliam Estate listing, Copy of Will 1823-1827 Box: 1
• Indentures, Accounts 1828-1829 Box: 1
• Accounts, Courts and debt papers 1830-1833 Box: 1
• Accounts, Promises to pay 1834-1837 Box: 1
• Accounts, Receipts, Indenture 1838-1839 Box: 1
• Receipts 1840-1842 Box: 1
• Military Commissions 1842-1843 Box: 1
• Accounts, Receipts 1843-1844 Box: 1
• Personal Correspondence 1844 Box: 1
• Accounts, Receipts 1845-1849 Box: 1
• Personal and Business letters 1848-1849 Box: 1
• Accounts, Receipts 1850 Box: 2
• Business and Family letters 1850 Box: 2
• Accounts, Receipts 1851 Box: 2
• Business and Miscellaneous letters 1851 Box: 2
• Accounts, Receipts 1852 Box: 2
• Family and Business letters, Sale Bill 1852 Box: 2
• Accounts, Receipts 1853 Box: 2
• Family and Business letters 1853 Box: 2
• Accounts, Receipts 1854 Box: 2
• Family and Personal letters 1854 Box: 2
• Business and Family letters 1855 Box: 2
• Accounts, Bills, Receipts, Promises to pay 1856 Box: 2
• Family and Personal letters 1856 Box: 2
• Political Correspondence 1855-1856 Box: 2
• Accounts, Receipts 1857 Box: 2
• Personal and Family Correspondence, Court matter 1857 Box: 2
• Accounts, Receipts, Bills 1858 Box: 2
• Personal and Family Correspondence 1858 Box: 2
• Slavery Trade papers 1828-1861 Box: 2
• Accounts, Receipts, Bills 1859 Box: 3
• Family and Personal Correspondence 1859 Box: 3
• Accounts, Receipts, Bills 1860 Box: 3
• Family and Personal Correspondence 1860 Box: 3
• Accounts, Receipts, Bills 1861 Box: 3
• Personal and Family Correspondence 1861 Box: 3
• Accounts, Receipts, Bills 1862 Box: 3
• Personal Correspondence and Papers re Confederate Army Forces 1862 Box: 3
• Accounts, Receipts, Bills 1863 Box: 3
• Personal Correspondence and Family letters 1863 Box: 3
• Accounts, Bills, Receipts 1864-1865 Box: 3
• Personal and Family Correspondence 1864-1865 Box: 3, 2 folders
• Accounts, Receipts, Bills, Bankruptcy Certificate 1866-1868 Box: 3
• Personal Correspondence 1866-1868 Box: 3
• Accounts, Bills, Receipts 1869-1873 Box: 4
• Personal and Family Correspondence 1869-1873 Box: 4
• Accounts, Bills, Receipts 1874-1880 Box: 4
• Personal, Political and Family papers 1874-1880 Box: 4
• Accounts, Receipts, Miscellaneous 1881-1886 Box: 4
• Personal, Political and Family papers 1881-1886 Box: 4
• Accounts, Receipts, Miscellaneous 1887-1890 Box: 4
• Personal, Family and Political papers 1887-1890 Box: 4
• Political papers and Correspondence 1873-1899 Box: 4
• Accounts, Receipts, Rent Agreements, Miscellaneous 1891-1892 Box: 4
• Personal Correspondence 1891-1892 Box: 4
• Accounts, Receipts, Rent Agreements, Miscellaneous 1893-1895 Box: 4
• Personal and Family Correspondence 1893-1895 Box: 4
• Rent Agreements, Miscellaneous Accounts, Receipts 1896-1897 Box: 5
• Personal, Family, Miscellaneous Correspondence 1896-1897 Box: 5
• Rent Agreements 1898-1900 Box: 5
• Personal and Family Correspondence 1898-1900 Box: 5
• Accounts, Deeds, Contracts 1901-1917 Box: 5
• Personal and Family Correspondence 1901-1917 Box: 5
• Tax receipts and bank notes 1920-1932 Box: 5
• Personal Correspondence 1920-1926 Box: 5
• Miscellaneous n.d. Box: 5
• Notebook n.d. Box: 5


Sources:
  • Grant, Ulysses S., III. "Appomattox Where Grant and Lee Made Peace with Honor a Century Ago." National Geographic, Volume 127, Number 4, April 1965, pages 435-469.