Volume 6, Number 8, Summer 1978
Georg Gillis Thorin, my great grandfather, was born June 24, 1838 in Kunglav, a small ancient town about 15 miles north of Gothenborg, Sweden. His parents were Anders Thorin and Sara Johanna Mellgren. Anders Thorin was born Feb. 10, 1785 in Onnerod, Torsby Parish and his wife, Sara Johanna Mellgren was born September 15, 1802 at Marstrand.
Marstrand is an ancient town northwest from Kunglav and located on an island. It was a famous seaside resort in the 1890s and was regularly visited by Oscar II. The old tower can be seen from Gothenbourg.
Anders Thorin was the son of Olof Anderson Allarm, born about 1756 and his wife Giertrud Nilsdotter, born August 2, 1766 at Flateby. Both died at Runnaro.
Anders was given the name of Thorin when he entered the Swedish army at the age of 17. He served as sergeant and also sergeant major in Bohuslan Regiment South Co. and he retired after thirty years of service. He died in Kunglav April 17, 1852.
After his fathers death, Georg Gillis and his mother moved to Gothenbourg where he became a silver smyth and watchmakers apprentice. As he neared army induction age it was decided he should be sent to the United States for many families thought the year of service was a waste of a sons time. Georg left his home in the Gustavi Parish of Gothenbourg on the sixth of July, 1856 for America. He was a young man 17 years of age.
The first four years of his life in this country are unknown but by 1860 census Georg is living at the Osceola House on Second St., Osceola, Missouri. He is listed as a watchmaker and a bachelor. He owned a jewelry store at No. 3, Second St. with a picture gallery on the second floor. He advertised extensively in the Osage Valley Star. He dropped his fathers military name of Thorin and was known as Georg Gillis thereafter.
Not until the last few generations did the children of soldiers retain their fathers military name. They preferred instead the regular patronymic name.1
Osceola was a thriving town at this time. A regular steam boat brought supplies from St. Louis. It was the greatest commercial city west of Jefferson City and south west of Boonville.2
The future of my great grandfather seemed bright and he wrote many letters back to his mother and eight brothers in Gothenbourg telling them of his success. By this time he was twenty-two years old and owned a good business in a booming town. He bought a farm at Aldrich and land at Bolivar. While at Bolivar he met my great grandmother, Emily E. Coble. Emily had blue eyes and platium blond hair and she must have resembled the girls of Georges homeland. She was the youngest child of David and Nancy Coble and she was born just south of Springfield after the family came from North Carolina in 1814. They probably came from Randolph or Orange Co. North Carolina. They were closely related to the McDaniel family of Springfield.
Georg Gillis and Emily E. Coble were married in Bolivar April 11, 1861. The next day the Civil War began. History tells us how Jim Lane and his Jay Hawkers rode into Osceola September 23, 1861, looted and burned every building. Lane took his wagons full of plundered items back to Kansas. Merchants in Osceola were completely destroyed.
With everything gone, George and Emily moved to the farm he had bought near Aldrich. By the end of the war they were living on South Street in Springfield where my grandfather, Charles A. Gillis, their only child, was born September 8, 1865. Sometime later they moved to Pocahontas, Arkansas where George owned a Roller Mill. He worked long hours in the cold water, became ill and died.
Letters came from Sweden after the death but Emily could not read them and no one Emily
knew of could read them so they were destroyed. Sara Thorin probably died in 1882 never knowing what had happened to her youngest son in America.
Emily took her son Charles and moved back to Springfield where her mother Nancy Coble and other relatives lived. My grandfather, Charles, was a second cousin to Lizzie, George and Bunch McDaniel of Springfield but we dont know yet how this came about.
Emily Coble Gillis married George Tedrick October 3, 1875 and their children were: Belle who married Shockley, Wilbur Wesley who married Hattie and Mary Bird who married Blame Berry, all of Springfield. Emily died Sept. 17. 1901 and is buried in the Hazelwood cemetery.
My grandfather, Charles A. Gillis married first to Florence Belle Epperson March 23, 1891. She was the only daughter of John Calvin Epperson and wife Sarah Settle of Springfield. Two sons were born -- Frank Lee Gillis, born Jan. 6, 1892, died Nov. 31, 1906, buried at Bass Chapel -- and Jesse Gulls born Sept. 8, 1894. Charles and Florence were divorced and custody of the two children were given to Charles. His second wife was Rosa Ethel Goodwin and they were married January 24. 1901. One son was born to them, George A. Gillis March 4, 1902.
Rosa was the daughter of Epphyndotus Goodwin and his third wife, Ella Hamilton. Her grandparents were Peter and Ceily Goodwin who had settled on Pomme de Terre near Fairgrove about 1838. Pronounced Pumly Tar by the Goodwins. Ella Hamilton was the daughter of James C. Hamilton and Easter Haymes. The Hamiltons and Haymes came to the Marshfield area from McMinn Co., Tennessee about 1838.
Charles and Rosa Gillis lived for a time in Springfield where he worked for the Frisco Shops, then they moved to a farm near Strafford. From Strafford they moved to Kissee Mills and lived a short time. From Kissee Mills they moved to Batesville, Arkansas where Charles bought and sold cotton. From Batesville they moved to a farm they bought at Love, Arkansas on the Strawberry River.
My father went to a one room school across the road from this farm home where the hogs slept under the school during the night and flies competed with the teacher for the pupils attention during the day. There was no well at the school house and all of the water for the school, plus other activities held there, had to be carried from my grandfathers home. The school board finally built a skirt around the school to keep the hogs out but they refused to dig a well when there was good water near by.
We visited this old school house in 1966. The old stove and school desks were still in the room. Someday we hope to visit again this old school at Love, Arkansas on the Strawberry River.
The farm on the Strawberry was a rich bottom land farm but it was a long way from Rosas relatives at Springfield and Fairgrove so they sold it and went back to Taney County and bought the farm two and a half miles south of Forsyth in the Thurman Bend where all of us grew up. Rosa still wasnt happy with the farm but Charles had always liked Taney County for he visited his Uncle Harvey Coble at Cedar Creek many times as a youngster and that was as close to Springfield as he ever intended to get. Rosa was thirteen years younger than Charles and by this time he had palsey and could do little farm work. She dug out Johnson grass, built fence, milked the cows, cut fire wood during the day and at night she scrubbed the floors and patched clothing. She did the work on the farm during the day and her house work at night. She worked for people at Forsyth and walked both ways, a total of five miles a day. Riding in a car was a luxury she didnt think necessary for herself, unless of course she was going to Springfield to visit her friends and relatives, and a visit
from them to Taney County to fish on White River was worth all the hardships she endured on the farm.
After my grandfather, Charles Gillis died June 15, 1940 Rosa went to live with her nephew Cleo Snider at Banta, California. She died at Banta November 7, 1946.
Jesse Gillis, the son of Charles and wife Florence, married Cecil Easterly. Their children were: Gloria Ruth, Jesse Emmett, Frank Howard, and Clara Mae. All are living today except Frank who died in an industrial accident at Little Rock.
George A. Gillis, the son of Charles and wife Rosa, married Mabel Alberta Morris at Kirbyville July 16, 1921. Their children are Virginia Ruth, Lillian Rosalee, Jessie Mae, Charles Edwin, Patricia June, and Della Jean. All are living except Lillian who had kidney failure and uremic poisoning as a baby and died at five years old from the results.
We, the great grand children of Georg Gillis Thorin have all left Taney County and are scattered along the West Coast. All that remains to remind us of our Swedish roots is a large picture of Georg Gillis Thorin which was probably made upstairs in his picture gallery over his jewelry store at No. 3, Second Street, Osceola, Missouri and which today hangs on a wall in my living room and holds a special place in my heart.
My Dear cousin, Jesse Emmett Gillis has been the only descendant to visit Sweden. Jesse lives in Alameda, California, a pilot. He often flies into Gothenbourg and as he gazes out over Kunglav and Marstand I know he is remembering our great grandfather and how he left that beautiful country 122 years ago at the age of 17 to seek his fortune in America.
(1) Ref. Cradled in Sweden, by Carl-Erik Johansson
(2) History of Henry & St. Clair Counties (1883)
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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