JAMES R. GILLICK is one of the men of Western Kansas who has long been identified with the soil and its varied activities and who has reaped most generously of its profits and pursuits. He represents the pioneer element in Meade County and has one of the sightliest and most valuable farms and ranches in the vicinity of Plains.
However, it is proper to say that he was a small boy when he came with his parents to this country. He was born in Pettis County, Missouri, April 4, 1878, and was seven years old when he came with his father and mother into Meade County.
This story therefore properly begins with his father, Andrew Gillick, who was a native of Ireland. He was one of that great group of toilers who "go down to the sea in ships" and from early childhood his life was spent on the ocean as a sailor. On one of his voyages he landed in the United States, and found his first home at Dubuque, Iowa. He went to work in a paper mill owned by a man named Shaffer and somewhat later married the daughter of the proprietor, Hannah Shaffer. From Dubuque Andrew Gillick and wife moved to Pettis County, Missouri, but in the meantime he had served his adopted country in the navy during the Civil war. While on duty he received an injury and later years drew a pension for his service. In Pettis County, Missouri, Andrew Gillick lived the life of a farmer for sixteen years.
Then in March, 1885, he came to Kansas and filed on the northeast quarter of section 1, township 31, range 30. There a tent sheltered the family until a wind blew it down and that home gave way to a sod house 12 by 14 feet. For two years the parents and their four children lived in these crowded quarters. Then another site was selected and from the sods stripped from the prairie walls rose for another home, 14 by 28 feet, containing two rooms. In this house a floor was laid, the interior was finished, and the roof was of boards and dirt. Five years later this was replaced by a frame house. This last building was constructed as a result of the prosperity which had gradually rewarded the family efforts as farmers and stock growers.
On coming to Meade County Andrew Gillick brought a team and wagon and some cash, in fact more money than the average early settler. But his extreme faith in the rapid development of the country led him to invest liberally in town lots, in some of the ambitious towns that were then springing up everywhere, and the result was that he lost a large part of his surplus. His chief and most profitable enterprise for many years was handling cattle, and thereby he laid the foundation for the final success of the family. When Andrew Gillick died in 1903, at the age of seventy-six, he was owner of three quarter sections of land. It had been his ambition and the object of his earnest endeavor as a pioneer to develop his county in every possible way. For about fourteen years he was postmaster of the country village of Mertilla. In the townsite of Mertilla he had invested some of his pioneer cash. He also helped move the first house to that townsite. Two yoke of oxen laboriously drew a shack from another part of the prairie and established it as the first improvement of the town. Andrew Gillick was a man of fair education, held a teacher's certificate and was a factor in preparing for the pioneer educational work of Meade County, and was also one of those who organized the county. Throughout almost his entire residence he served as a member of the school board. In practical politics he took very little part. He first voted as a republican and later as a democrat. He was a devout churchman of the Catholic faith. The place he occupied in Meade County was such that every possible record should be made of him for the sake of the future. Physically he was rather short and heavy, and weighed 175 pounds. He was always fond of books and papers, and as far as his abilities permitted educated his children. His death was a sad one. One morning he left in his cart to go out on the range with his cattle, was in high spirits, waved his son good-bye, and in less than three hours was dead from heart trouble. His widow is still living and makes her permanent home with her son James.
The children of the family were: Cressie, who died in childhood; Ella, who married Charles Terrell of Pettis County, Missouri; Maggie, who married Canada Murphy, and she died and is buried at Sedalia, Missouri; James R.; Mary, wife of Jesse Whiteside, of St. Louis, Missouri; Pearl, who married John Neueschwander, of St. Louis; and Mrs. Rosa Stevens, of St. Louis.
All the formal education acquired by James R. Gillick was obtained in the little sod schoolhouse of the district near his father's home in Meade County. And in that one community the best efforts of his life have been expended. He was associated with his father as long as the latter lived. On taking up land for himself he filed on the southeast quarter of section 1, township 31, range 30. He was the fourth to make a filing on this land, but was the first one to possess himself of it with a title and develop it as a farm. He had one of the typical sod houses and in it he spent fourteen years as a bachelor, and it was his home until 1912. As its successor he bought an old schoolhouse and that became the nucleus around which during 1917-18 he added and remodeled until he made his present substantial residence of eight rooms. Mr. Gillick has prospered chiefly as a farmer, raising wheat and seed, and there are few failures to his credit as a wheat raiser. The farm and modest ranch he has developed comprises 760 acres, and 500 acres are under cultivation. As one of its improvements a splendid barn 80 by 90 feet was built in 1915, and it has unusual arrangements and equipment, including space for the storage of 100 tons of feed. Outside the barn he has granaries of about 9,000 bushels capacity. This barn and other permanent improvements mark the Gillick home as one of the best improved in this region.
He has frequently served as a member of the school board in district No 36 and as a voter his interest in politics is usually influenced by the democratic party. He cast his first vote for Mr. Bryan as president in 1900. Mr. Gillick is a stockholder in the Equity Elevator at Plains and also in the Farmers Store in that town.
December 6, 1911, he married Pearl Whan. Mrs. Gillick was born in Summit County, Colorado, February 7, 1893, daughter of James H. Whan. Her father was a native of Grundy County, Missouri, and came to Kansas in 1897, from Summit County, Colorado, first locating in Ness County and later moving to Meade County in 1900. James H. Whan married Mrs. Anna Rowe, who became the mother of two children, Robert and Mrs. Gillick. Mrs. Whan by her first husband had two children, Julia and Frank Rowe. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Gillick are Robert Henry and Jenettia Barbara. The daughter died in December, 1917, when a little past three years of age.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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