Biography of Leonard W. Gilchrist
Saunders County, NE Biographies





LEONARD WHITING GILCHRIST.
One meeting Leonard Whiting Gilchrist would scarcely imagine that he has passed the eighty fourth milestone on life's journey, for he is a well preserved man physically and mentally and in spirit and interests seems yet in his prime. His life history, however, has been fraught with many incidents that cover the period from the administration of Martin Van Buren to that of Woodrow Yilson and his journeyings have taken him from the Atlantic to the Pacific and to the far northwest. A native of New Hampshire, he was born at Goffstown, December 14, 1881, a son of James and Anne (Dickey) Gilchrist. The paternal great grandfather, Alexander Gilchrist, was a native of Scotland and became the founder of the family in the new world, settling in New Hampshire, where his son and namesake, Alexander Gilchrist, Jr., grandfather of Leonard W. Gilchrist, was born and made his home. The father's birth occurred in Goffstown, April 25, 1800, and in I829, in New Boston, New Hampshire, he wedded Anne Dickey, after which they began their domestic life in the old Granite state, there remaining until 1856, when they removed to Carrollton, Greene county, Illinois. The father there passed away in 1872 but the mother, surviving for a long period, died in Canon City, Colorado, in 1890.

Leonard W. Gilchrist pursued his education in the public schools of his native town and in September, 1848, when a youth of about seventeen years, went to sea, sailing on a brig of four hundred and fifty tons. He spent two years as a sailor, at the end of which time he left his ship at the Sandwich islands and there took passage on a vessel bound for California, arriving in San Francisco on the 15th of April, 1850. He immediately started for the mines at Sonora and in the fall of 1856 was engaged in working on a flume in Palo Alto county. Between 4 A. M. and 5 P. M. one day he walked fifty five miles in order to get to Columbia, California, where he could cast a ballot for General John C. Fremont for president, the first candidate of the newly organized republican party. He remained in California until 1863, after which he returned to the east, spending a few months in New Hampshire, but the lure of the west was upon him and in the spring of 1865 he started for Montana. When about seventy miles from Atchison, Kansas, making the trip on the overland stage, he became ill and returned to Atchison, where he sold his stage ticket to Helena, Montana, for one hundred and fifty dollars - the price he had paid for it. A month later he went to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he remained for about four weeks recuperating his health. At the end of that time he proceeded by steamer to Nebraska City, Nebraska, where he arrived early in July, 1865. There he remained until the spring of 1866 and until February of that year was in the employ of a grain house, receiving a salary of five dollars per day and board. At the date mentioned, however, he took a boat for Fort Benton and began building flatboats to be sold to emigrants returning to the east. He remained there from June, 1866, until November of the same year and his labors brought him good financial returns. He closed out his business after building a covered flatboat eighty feet long and thirteen feet wide, which he loaded with passengers, fifty two in number, of whom thirty eight paid him ninety dollars for passage and board, while fourteen paid him forty dollars each for passage without board. He landed his passengers at Sioux City, Iowa, and thence floated downs the river. About forty miles below Sioux City he took on a load of twenty five cords of wood, for which he paid two dollars per cord, and proceeded to Omaha, where he sold the wood for ten dollars per cord. When in that city he was offered an acre and a quarter of land in what is now the best part of Omaha in exchange for his boat, but refused the offer and proceeded on down the river to St. Joseph, Missouri. There he disposed of fifty dried hides for four dollars each and at St. Joseph sold his boat for one hundred and twenty five dollars.

Mr. Gilchrist next went to Illinois to visit his sister, Mrs. Eared, who was living at Carrollton, and in the fall of 1866 he went to Topeka, Kansas, to see his brother, Hon. Charles K. Gilchrist, who at that time was judge of the fifth judicial district. Later Mr. Gilchrist went to Nebraska City, Nebraska, where he spent the succeeding winter, and in the spring of 1867 he made his way to Fremont county, Nebraska, where he purchased a sawmill and eighty acres of timber land, together with one million two hundred thousand feet of logs. In the spring a flood came, washing away half of his logs, but he remained at Nebraska City until the spring of 1868, having sold his mill six months before.

In August, 1868, Mr. Gilchrist arrived in Saunders county and purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land from the Union Pacific Railway Company for seven dollars an acre land that is now worth one hundred and forty dollars per acre. He retained possession of that property until 1885, when he sold out and went to Cheyenne county, Nebraska, where he established a cattle ranch near Alliance with two brothers of the name of Stocking. While his ranch was situated in Cheyenne county his family remained in Boxbutte county, Nebraska, and while residing there Mr. Gilchrist was elected to the Nebraska legislature, representing a district that comprised four counties; Boxbutte, Sheridan, Sioux and Barnes. He remained a member of the general assembly until 1889, when he was appointed railroad commissioner of Nebraska and resigned his legislative office. He continued as commissioner for three years, during which period he made his home in Lincoln. He then came to Wahoo in 1892 and has since resided in this city, a valued, highly respected and honored resident. He served for some years as justice of the peace, but is now living retired. In June, 1900, he went to Alaska prospecting for gold, but only remained until October, 1900, when he returned home on account of illness brought on by the hardships which he had endured. He made his way to Seattle, Washington, where a physician ordered him to California. and he proceeded by steamer to Los Angeles, remaining in that state until February, 1902, when, his health again recovered, he returned to Seattle and in the summer of that year again went to Alaska, working at the carpenter's trade in Nome, where be was paid nine dollars per day. He there continued until October 1, 1902, when he made his way to Windsor, Missouri, where he followed the carpenter's trade until the next spring. He was afterward in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for three months, working at the carpenter's trade, after which he returned to Wahoo, where he has since lived, and although he declares that his days of adventure are over, his friends say that only the lack of opportunity for new adventures will hold him at home. He is a remarkably well preserved man, his intellectual powers remaining undiminished, while his physical condition is better than that of a great majority of men of half his age. His face and steel blue eyes, that still have a flash in them, would make him a noticeable man in any crowd.

It was in Saunders county, on the 17th of February, 1880, that Mr. Gilchrist was united in marriage to Miss Nancy J. Smith, who passed away in 1891. They became the parents of a daughter. Ora Jeannette, at home; and a son, James Charles, who is married and lives at Cedar Bluffs; this county.

Mr. Gilchrist has no identification with fraternal, church or club organizations. In his political views he has always been a republican since casting his first presidential vote for John C. Fremont, but has not been an aspirant for office, although he served as legislator and railroad commissioner. His has been a notable record, bringing him broad and varied experiences, enriching his life and rendering his conversation of interest by reason of his many anecdotes and tales of his sojourn in pioneer sections of the country.

From:
Past and Present Saunders County, Nebraska
A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
Charles Perky Supervising Editor
Vol. II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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