James S. Gilliam | Gilliams of Virginia

Obituary of James S. GILLIAM, Esq.
Updated March 24, 2016

James S. GILLIAM, Esq. was the son of Dr. James S. GILLIAM, Sr., and Mary Feild, his wife. His his obituary states he attended the Petersburg Academy and the College of William and Mary. He also served in the War of 1812 in the 39th Regiment of the Virginia Militia as a Private. He left a Will in Petersburg, dated 1 May 1820, naming his four brothers, and Uncle R. M. GILLIAM. Brother, John, was to receive "Arlington" and one third of Elk Island. The Will was recorded 16 Nov 1820.
[Brothers include John, Robert, Theophilus Feild, and Marius. His uncle was Reuben Meriwether GILLIAM. Elk Island was left to his father, Dr. James S. GILLIAM, by the Doctor's mother, Lucy Skelton.]

His Obituary appeared in numerous publications including the one below:
Richmond Commercial Compiler, Thursday, June 16, 1820, page 3, column 2
Died- At Philadelphia on Saturday, June 10, on his way to Ballstown Springs, N.Y., James S. GILLIAM, in the 26th year of his age, son of the late Dr. GILLIAM, of Petersburg.

Virginia Patriot, and Richmond Daily Mercantile Advertiser, Friday, June 23, 1820, page 3, column 1
Died- James S. GILLIAM was educated at the Petersburg Academy, attended the College of William and Mary, where he graduated in 1812. He then studied law and obtained a license to practice law in 1814. He spent a large part of his time to the estate of his late father's estate and family matters. He had gone to Philadelphia for his health where he died.

American Commercial Beacon and Norfolk & Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, Saturday, June 24, 1820, page 3, column 1
Died- On Saturday, June 10, in Philadelphia, PA, James S. GILLIAM, of Petersburg, in his 26th year. A graduate of William and Mary College, he became a lawyer. He had left Petersburg on May 11, going to Philadelphia for his health.

Friday, June 16, 1820, page 3, column 1

Died- At Philadelphia on Saturday, June 10, on his way to the Ball-Town Springs for his health, James S. GILLIAM, in his 26th year, son of the late Dr. GILLIAM, of Petersburg.

Friday, June 16, 1820,
Died- At Philadelphia on Saturday evening the 10th instant, on his way to the Balltown Springs for the recovery of his health, James S. GILLIAM, Esq., in the 26th year of his age son of the late Doctor GILLIAM of Petersburg.
Fe melancholy events of a domestic ____time will be more deeply deplored by the citizens of Petersburg than the death of Mr. GILLIAM. To the amiable family of his deceased father his loss will be irreparable, and to those who had the please of his confidence, the social moments of his friendly intercourse can never be obliterated from their recollection. Of this circle, the write of these few lines had the happiness to be one, but __ hours of earthly happiness are now at rest with his friend;not do the feelings of his mind even permit him to pay that tribute to the character of Mr. GILLIAM which his attainment, his talents and his virtue deserved.

According to James' various obituaries he dies on his way to Balltown Springs. His obituaries lead one to believe that a cold he caught on his way back from Elk Island precipitated the trip and his death and that otherwise James was in good health. However, from his Journal dated 1816, it appears that James had made several earlier trips to Ballstown for his health. It appears he had been suffering from poor health for a good portion of his life.

His journal dated 1816 details his trip from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to the spas and springs at Ballstown and Saratoga, New York. GILLIAM provides a description of his journey from Philadelphia through New Jersey, including a stop at Princeton, to New York City, and his stay in that town.

GILLIAM depicts travel aboard steamboats from Philadelphia to New York and up the Hudson River. He describes his journey from New York City to the spas at Saratoga and Ballstown and discusses the social life at the springs. He details journeys to Lake George, the Saratoga battlefield, and surrounding countryside.

GILLIAM concludes his journal with his return to New York City. GILLIAM mentions many individuals that he meets on his trip including General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), General Edmund Gaines (1777-1849), George Hay (1765-1830), Moses Myers (1753-1835), Travis Harwood, and William F. Wickham (1793-1880).

The volume also includes several watercolor drawings and sketches of the countryside that GILLIAM drew, including of the Schuykill River at Philadelphia, Lake George, the Saratoga battlefield, and the "Waterford Beauty."
James Skelton GILLIAM. Journal, 1816. Accession 13946. Personal papers collection. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. 23219.

Ballston Spa is a village in Saratoga County, New York. It was named for Eliphalet Ball, an early settler. It was first settled in 1771 and was incorporated as a village in 1807. Ballston Spa was famous for its healing mineral water spring, and for the San Souci Hotel, which in the early 19th century was the largest in the United States and one of the largest in the world.

24 Jun 1820

"Ah, te meae si partem animae rapit
Maturior vis, quia moror altera?
[From To Maecenas, Horace, Ode ii, 17, 5.
If that half of my soul were snatch away from me by an untimely stroke,
why should the other stay?]

It has unhappily been the fate of Virginia, too frequently to behold the most promising of her youth, arrested in the early ____of life, and consigned to a premature grave. The death of James S. GILLIAM, Esq. of Petersburg in the 26th year of his age, which took place at Philadelphia, on Saturday the 10th instant is a lamentable instance of the kind. To d___ and to dwell upon such event is a melancholy task; but it is the last tribute which the affection friend has to bestow and the writer of this hoped he will be forgiven if he attempts to describe, on the present occasion, the various excellencies of the deceased, which a close and un____ apted friendship, for a series of years has sufficiently developed.

James S. GILLIAM, son of the late Doct'r GILLIAM, received his classical education at the academy of Petersburg, and in 1810 was sent to the college of William and Mary during the Presidency of the venerable Bishop Madison. As the excellent man was always the friend and guardian of promising youth—so he was the most particular in his attention to young GILLIAM. The years of academical study generally constitute the period of life, when both the talents and genius, as well as the inclinations of the juvenile mind best unfold themselves. Mr. GILLIAM at this period not only exhibited the strongest marks of a vigorous intellect, but in his conduct as a student uniformly attained a genteel and dignified deportment, accompanied with the most scrupulous regard to the principle of honour, in every transaction even of the most trifling nature. He also carefully abstained form all frivolous pursuits, and never once was known to indulge in any of those vices which so frequently captivate and destroy the unwary youth. It was at this time that his acquaintance with his present afflicted friend first commenced—who can declare that from the first hour of the acquaintance with Mr. GILLIAM, not withstanding a considerable disparity in their ages, he has never received the same satisfaction in the company of any other individual. He always found Mr. GILLIAM the most sincere and the best friend to apply to for advice—as well as the most rational companion in the moments of relation.

Upon his return to Petersburg in 1812 after receiving the usual honours bestowed upon genius at the College of William and Mary, he commenced the study of law and obtained a license for practice in 1814, a few months after the death of his father. This unhappy event entirely changed the prospects of Mr. GILLIAM. In place of prosecuting his legal studies, in which doubtless he would have acquired an eminence that would have been honorable both to himself and the town of Petersburg he was compelled to devote all his attention to the extensive estate of the late Doctor GILLIAM and to the affairs of the family. In this new sphere of life, so foreign to his former pursuits, Mr. GILLIAM also evinced the greatest proofs both of industry and judgment; so much so, that he has been admitted by the best farmers of James River to have been inferior to no one as a successful agriculturalist. But the career of his valuable life was soon to stop! He contracted a cold last November in returning from Elk Island, which terminated in a liver and pulmonary disease. Strong hopes were however, entertained by his physicians and all his friends that a journey in the northern states might be the means of restoring his health. With this intention he left Petersburg, and bid his family the last farewell on the 11th of May. He remained at Norfolk a few weeks for the benefit of the sea air, and embarked for Philadelphia the 4th instant. The physician who attended him during his stay at Norfolk, seems to have had considerable hopes of his recovery—for so late as the 16th he wrote the following: allegiance to his friend in Richmond: "Our mutual friend, James S. GILLIAM, Esq. left this for Philadelphia in a better state of health than when he arrived; stronger, with no fever in the morning, very little in the afternoon, and hardly any enough." But, alas, how uncertain are the hopes even of the most skillful professional men! James S. GILLIAM, when the lines were written was no more! He had arrived at Philadelphia on Thursday, the 8th, in avery exhausted state: doctor Physic was sent for immediately, and afforded him a temporary relief. Everything was done for him which medical art could suggest but on Saturday, he grew weaker and weaker and expired about eight in the evening without a struggle, and resigned to his fate.

The scene of life is now closed forever upon this inestimable young man; and nothing is left to fill the melancholy void occasioned by his loss to his afflicted family his friends and acquaintances, but the recollection of his virtues. These were of the most exalted kind. No man ever more rigidly adhered to the strict rules of truth and had higher ideas of the first principles of honour that he: and no one ever practiced them more. But although the cold hand of death has wrapped his mortal clay, such a mind as his can never perish. Eternal, he has already entered the threshold of a happy immortality, and now sees this world a world of folly.

"In one broad glance the soul behelds
And all that was at once appears."

  • American Commercial Beacon and Norfolk & Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, Saturday, June 24, 1820, page 3, column 1
  • James Skelton GILLIAM. Journal, 1816. Accession 13946. Personal papers collection. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. 2321
  • Richmond Commercial Compiler, Thursday, June 16, 1820, page 3, column 2
  • Virginia Patriot, and Richmond Daily Mercantile Advertiser, Friday, June 23, 1820, page 3, column 1