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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.