Biography of Holland Gilson
Kalamazoo County, MI Biographies



Kalamazoo County

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Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

Among the early settlers of Kalamazoo County there are none who better deserve the name of pioneers, or who have seen more of the hardships and privations of pioneer life, than Mr. and Mrs. Holland Gilson. He was born in the town of Putney, Windham Co., Vt., Dec. 4, 1809. When Holland was five years old his father, Oliver Gilson, moved to the town of Grafton, in tbe same county, and went upon a farm for which he had traded with his brother Solomon. Anothcr brother served in the war for independence. On this farm Oliver and his wife (formerly Miss Mary Leonard) lived and died. GrowIng to manhood among the rugged hills of the Green Mountain State, Holland eai~ly learned the lessons of industry which have resulted in a home and competency for his old age. He was early set at work, making his opportunities for an education limited. When he was seventeen years old his father hired him to an elder brother, who crossed the mountains and took jobs at building stone fence. At the age of eighteen years he bought his time and a yoke of oxen of his father, for which he was to pay one hundred dollars and help in haying three years. He then went to Rutland Co., Vt., and for three years followed stone wall laying. He then carried on his father's farm a few years. Having married, he bought a small farm, from which he made a scanty living. In 1834, having sold his farm, he came to Michigan and stopped in Kalamazoo, working on the Territorial road for Crane & Burdick. The following September his wife and family came on with Maj. LoveWs family, who came from the same township. In that spring he put out crops for Mr. Lovell on his Climax farm. After the arrival of his wife be hired a shanty and began life anew. Mr. Gilson worked out by the day and month, while Mrs. Gilson, who has been a true pioneer wife and mother, nobly did her share. She often left her four little children in the care of the eight-year-old daughtcr and went a mile or more to wash and clean house for others. During the winter of 1835-36, Mr. Gilson ran a saw-mill in Otsego. In the spring of 1836 he bought a yoke of oxen, borrowing the money to part pay for the sanie. Again he worked in a saw-mill, buying with his earnings some stock, and began to think of a home of his own. In 1836 he bought of Thomas P. Sheldon the quarter-section he now owns, borrowing fifty dollars of the purchase-oney. His laud was entirely new, and there were but one or two log huts between his farm and the prairie. The next winter (1836) he built a shanty of boards, the ends on the ground and leaning against a tree, keeping a fire all night for warmth. They built a log house with only a lower floor of boards and no windows, and with few conveniences or comforts. In this house the winter was passed, suffering with cold, and having little but potatoes and coarse flour. In this way several years were passed, each working hard to keep the wolf from the door, at times selling wheat for twenty-five cents per bushel, and being hardly able to pay their taxes. But industry and economy such as theirs must have its reward, and now they are in possession of all that is needed to make life comfortable; with their farm grown to two hundred acres, besides eighty acres giveu to their son. They are passing the evening of life respected and esteemed by all. In 1826 he married Miss Mehitable Beckwith, daughter of Asa and Sarah (Reding) Beckwith, born Sept. 1, 1806, in Alstead, N. H. They have had six childreu,-Sarah, born Feb. 20, 1827; Mary, March 13, 1828; Hollis, Oct. 3, 1830; Holland, Feb. 11, 1835; Alice, July 31, 1840; and Annie, Feb. 10, 1846.

History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of its Men and Pioneers.
Everts & Abbott., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.