Mary Elise White Gillespie

Mary Elise White was born to Stirling Kirkpatrick and Mary Austin Willis White on July 4, 1891 in Raymond, Mississippi. She was christened in St. Mark’s Church in Raymond. She married Hugh B. Gillespie of Raymond.

Mary Gillespie is a descendant of many of Raymond’s earliest settlers. On her father’s side she is a direct descendant of John A. Fairchild, one of the commissioners who laid out the town. John Fairchild’s daughter Mary Ann Fairchild married Alan R. Pittman in Hinds County in 1836. Their daughter Annie Mae Pittman was born here in 1840. Mr. Pittman was murdered in 1841 and Mary Ann Fairchild Pittman then married James William Kirkpatrick. He served as a loving step-father to Annie Mae.

Annie Mae Pittman married William H. Sims in Hinds County. Mr. Sims was killed during the civil war. During the war she met Lt. Benjamin Stirling White of the 6th Texas Cavalry. He had been detailed as a scout in western Hinds County in July1863. White had fought at Pea Ridge, Ark; Corinth, MS; and with Van Dorn from Grenada to Holly Springs. Annie Mae and B. S. White were married in Raymond on May 21, 1864.
The B. S. Whites made their home in Raymond at one time owning a house next to the Baptist Church. Although B. S. White’s military records show him as a Lieutenant, everyone in Raymond seemed to refer to him as Capt. White. He was severely wounded in the Clinton Riots in 1875. He later served as deputy sheriff of Hinds County until his death. He died in the line of duty attempting to arrest the robbers of Bourgeois Jewelers in Jackson as they tried to escape by train. He was shot at the depot in Clinton and later died at home in Raymond in 1891. His wife lived until 1893.

Benjamin Stirling and Annie Mae White had four children. One of them, Stirling Kirkpatrick White became the father of Mary Elise White Gillespie. Stirling K. White was born in Raymond in 1870. He became infatuated with trains and went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad. He later served as conductor and was conductor on the Little Jay that ran through Raymond.

Benjamin Stirling White married Mary Austin Willis in 1890 in Raymond. This union ties Mary White Gillespie to another old Raymond family. Mary Austin Willis’s father, Andrew Jackson Willis was born in Tennessee in 1829. However, he was a citizen of Raymond by 1850.
Capt. Jack, as he became know locally, served with the Raymond Fencibles. His rank at the end of the war was Lieutenant, but he was called Capt. Jack by his fellow soldiers. At one time A. J. Willis served as mayor of Raymond. He taught school, worked as a pharmacist in Dr. Watson’s Drug Store.

Andrew J. Willis married a widow, Julia B. Ragland Daniel in 1869. Her husband had been killed in the war. They lived in the Willis house which stood on Main Street in Raymond.

They also had a home on his Willis plantation on Raymond Clinton Rd. Capt. Jack was a successful farmer.

They had one daughter, Mary Austin Willis, born in 1870 in Raymond in the home on Main St. Julia died in 1874, leaving Capt Jack with a 4 year old. Mary Willis spent much or her time with close friends of her mother’s in Raymond, while A. J. Willis was involved with his plantation. Mary was educated at Miss Maggie Downing’s School in Raymond.
Mary Austin Willis taught school for a time in Dry Grove. She loved writing poetry and must have instilled this in her daughter, Mary Elise.
Stirling K. and Mary Willis White had four daughters. Mary Elise, their first, was born in Raymond even though they were living in New Orleans at the time. Three little sisters were born in New Orleans, two died in infancy and one at the age of 5. They were all brought home and buried in the Raymond Cemetery. Mary Willis White died of T.B. in 1905, leaving Stirling K. White and his 14 year old daughter, Mary Elise.
Mary Elise White was raised in New Orleans; but, Raymond was always home. She visited here with relatives every summer. During this time she met Hugh Boudinout Gillespie. They were destined to be married, again tying her to one of Raymond’s oldest families.

Hugh B. Gillespie was born in Raymond in the home now owned by Martha Gillespie Ferguson on Oak St. His parents were Cade Drew Gillespie and Carrie Blanch Johnston Gillespie.

Cade Drew Gillespie was born in Hinds County on the Gillespie plantation that was on the Edwards Road. He was the son of Mark Alexander Gillespie one of Raymond’s earliest residents. M. A. Gillespie owned property on the square in Raymond in 1830. It is on his plantation that the first shots of the Battle of Champion’s Hill were fired.
Cade Drew Gillespie served with the Raymond Fencibles and was severely wounded in Virginia. He returned to Raymond and never fully recovered from his wounds.

Hugh B. Gillespie was born in 1887. He married Mary Elise White on Sept 11, 1909 in her home in New Orleans. They immediately returned by train to Raymond where they made their home at 204 West Main St. Hugh was a graduate of the University of Mississippi Law School and practiced law for many years in Raymond. He served as Mayor of Raymond, in the Mississippi Legislature, was County Prosecuting Attorney, District Attorney and later Circuit Court Judge. The annex of the courthouse in Raymond was named for him after his death.
Mary and Hugh Gillespie had two children, Hugh B. Gillespie, Jr. and Mary Elise Gillespie (later Adams). Their children were both born and raised in their home on Main St. Their home in the early days was a small farm. Their property continued behind their home into what is now the Gillespie Circle area of Raymond. There are letters from her father asking about her chickens and her cow.

When Mary Gillespie became interested in writing history is unclear. She loved to write, however, she wrote lots of poetry. She wrote two plays in the 1930’s. One of which was produced for the United Daughters of the Confederacy Convention in 1932. The play was entitled, An Afternoon at the White House of the Confederacy. She also played Mrs. Varina Howell Davis in the play and won rave reviews for her beauty and her performance.

She was also an avid gardener and her lawn was always beautiful. She had an article, “Old Gardens Through New Eyes,” published in Garden Magazine in 1933.

She always loved history, particularly Raymond and family history. She began collecting everything she could find about Raymond, saving many copies of the old Hinds County Gazette from destruction. She also did much research at the Mississippi Archive of History and in the Hinds County Courthouse. Her history of Raymond, which she worked on for years, became the source of much that has since been written about Raymond.

She was a devout Episcopalian, often entertaining the Bishop on his visits to Raymond. She also helped organize a Sunday School for the church. She played the old pump organ for services. She had a lovely voice and sang for many weddings in Raymond. Hugh Gillespie had been very active in the Raymond Presbyterian Church; but she had remained an Episcopalian. After Hugh’s death, she joined the Presbyterian Church saying she felt the need of an active pastor. St. Mark’s had dwindled to such a small congregation, it had no regular priest. However, her love of St Mark’s remained strong.

She was one of the early members of the Raymond Culture Club. The Raymond Business Women’s Club honored her with a resolution honoring her work as the town historian in 1961.

Hugh Gillespie died in December of 1949. Mary’s health began to decline soon after her dear Hugh’s death. She suffered from emphysema. Her daughter, Mary Gillespie Adams, and her family moved into the family home to care for her in 1958. Her writing and research had become a thing of the past. However, she always remained available to people visiting Raymond and Raymond’s citizens seeking information about the town or their families who had lived here.
Mary Elise White Gillespie died on September 3, 1969. She is buried next to her dear husband, Hugh B. Gillespie in the Raymond Odd Fellows Cemetery. She shares her burial lot with her parents, Stirling Kirkpatrick and Mary Willis White; her little sisters, Norma Willis White, Minnie Lee White and Stirling Willis White; her mother’s parents, Andrew Jackson and Julia Daniel Willis; her son and daughter-in-law, Hugh B. and Elise Fogg Gillespie, Jr.; her grandson, Hugh B. Gillespie, III; and her daughter and son-in-law, James Hermon and Mary Gillespie Adams. One of the many legacies Mary Gillespie left was her history of Raymond and the many letters and newspaper clippings she preserved. She instilled a strong love of history and family to her children and grandchildren.