GILL, GILBERT WILLIAM

Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III

Gilbert William Gill (1838-1910), was born on May 22, 1838, in Marylebone, Middlesex, England, son of Richard (1804-), and Elizabeth Chasey Gill (1803-).

In 1861 he lived with his parents at Lewisham, Kent, England.

He is listed among the passengers as 31 years old, a carpenter by trade,  aboard the ship Hudson that arrivied in New York on July 29, 1869.

Gill moved to Memphis,Tennessee. To his surprise there was another Gilbert Gill, and another gentleman known as Colonel G. W. Gill, as well as others with similar initials and spellings. Perhaps, none of this was a surprise since he might have chosen Memphis, Tennessee having relatives that settled there years earlier. 

Besides his trade as a carpenter Gill was also a very lucid writer and used to write pieces for the newspapers.

He is listed in the 1878 Memphis [Tennessee] City Directory living at 15 Turley Street, working as a carpenter and builder.

Keep in mind Gill was a native Englishman and born into a country where slavery had been abolished before he was born. Moving into Memphis, Tennessee, not long after the Civil War the culture was still much the same as before the War and it did not sit squarely with Gill.

Gill wrote a criticism of the politics at Memphis in the local newspaper that caused a large stir for weeks. Knowing it would create a stir he asked a friend Theodore Krekel to submit his essay to the Avalanche for publication. On July 11, 1880, it was published in the Sunday edition signed anonymously as "Southern Democrat" which caused outrage, indignation and an investigation into the author's identity. 

A small tract of that article was republished on Tuesday, July 13, 1880 : 

"White men who dare to avow themselves as Republicans should be promptly branded as the bitter and malignant enemies of the south, and the name of every northern man who presumes in this community to aspire to office through Republican votes should be saturated with stench. The north, to be sure, sent us some money during the yellow-fever epidemic, but we scorn the imputation of begging. The north but returned a little of the money it stole from us during the war."

No doubt Gill was aping real characters and their sentiments at Memphis in order to show how they seemed to him, to shock open their eyes.

The conflict roared in the press for weeks about the identity of the "Southern Democrat". Eventually, G. W. Gill a partial identity was disclosed. Unfortunately, these were common initials in Memphis at the time including George Washington Gill, a card toting communist. In the July 15, 1880 issue of the Public Ledger , page 4, we find this answer to an enquiry regarding the identity of the writer signed "Southern Democrat": "His true name is Gilbert W. Gill, and he hails from Albion's soil--in other words, "he is an Englishman." One senses a sigh of relief that the critic was an Englishman, an outsider, someone who could hardly understand the politics of Memphis [so they thought], and so wrote him off and the whole bit soon died down. A plausible rumor had it that Gill disappeared during the investigation and was given $100 in U. S. currency to take a summer tour so that he might return months later when the affair died down. 

A snarky comment published in the Memphis Daily, Tuesday, July 20, 1880, page 4 reads : "Why is the Republicans party in Shelby County like rotten fish? Because it looks blue in the Gill. This is a G.W.G -Krekel-Avalanche  "Southern Democrat" joke.

So Gill had his 15 minutes of fame.

Fig. His fictional essay "What is the Use of Coin Collecting," September (1883) issue of Numisma, Vol. 7, No. 5., is a tale told by a Charles I shilling

Gill is among the earliest known coin collectors of record in Memphis, Tennessee.

Fig. Gill correspondence with the Chapman Brothers postmarked January 30, 1886, 5 AM, Memphis, Tennessee. Gill purchased Pattern Pieces from the Chapman Brothers who acquired them directly from the U. S. Mint at Philadelphia. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

Fig. The Collector, No. 18, September 1 (1890) : 151 announcement of coming Frossard coin auction sale at Leavitt & Co., New York selling Gill's collection of U. S. Pattern Pieces, and Richard Hoe Lawrence's collection of ancient Roman silver. The sale took place on January 9-10, 1891.

The 1899 Memphis City Directory places him at 414 Provine Street.

In 1910, he lived at 403 East Butler Street.

He died on August 31, 1910, at Shelby, Tennessee.

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Bibliography :

Gill, G. W., "What is the Use of Coin Collecting," September (1883) issue of Numisma, Vol. 7, No. 5.
"A Coming Coin Sale," The Collector, No. 18, September 1 (1890) : 151



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