1807 — 1861
Judge Matthew Gillespie, was born in the city of New York on the 26th of November, 1807, and was the eldest son of David and Sarah Gillespie, there being but two children, Matthew and Joseph. The latter is yet a resident of Edwardsville, and one among its oldest and most honored citizens. They were of Scotch-Irish parentage, the family having emigrated from Monaghan, Ireland, to New York but a short time prior to Matthew's birth. In 1819, the family moved to Illinois when Matthew was but twelve years of age, and with his parents settled in Madison county, where he continued to reside to the time of his decease; and where the privations and struggles incident to pioneer life tended to develop those strong and leading traits of character, which marked his after life. At that early day, the facilities for obtaining an education were very limited; he therefore, received no more than a common school education, and even this was mainly due to the instructions of his mother. It was to her, more than all others, that he was indebted for that early training which made him so useful a man in after life. With his love for books, he became familiar with modern history, and acquired much more than an ordinary knowledge of law and theology.
In February, 1827, when he was twenty years of age, he, with his brother Joseph, proceeded to the Galena lead mines; from which he returned in the fall of the same year, when he married Miss Nancy Gordon, a sister of the Rev. Joseph Gordon, late of Vandalia. Of this union there was but one child who lived to maturity - the late Judge David Gillespie of Edwardsville. His wife dying, he again married March 10th, 1839, Mrs. Martha Hynes, nee McGrew, a lady of Scotch parentage. Only three children of this marriage grew to man and womanhood; Isabella J, wife of Moses B. Sherman; Nellie, wife of W. R. Brink, both residents of Edwardsville, and Joseph J. living in San Francisco.
Judge Gillespie was a man of sanguine temperament and positive qualities. He readily arrived at decided opinions on all subjects presented to his consideration, and ever maintained what he deemed to be right with much ability and zeal. His friendships were strong and enduring, and he was ever found a warm champion for those he loved. He was a good judge of human nature, and was rarely, if ever mistaken in the character of men. His hospitality and charities were fully commensurate with his means. His social qualities were of the best order; genial, lively, quick at repartee; he threw around him a degree of animation that made it impossible to feel dejected in his company.
Mr. Gillespie was an able and efficient public officer; his qualifications were of the first order, and his faithfulness worthy the example of all who are entrusted with public cares. In 1832, he was the elected Coroner of this county; from 1836 to 1838 he was engaged in the Land Office; in 1839, was elected Judge of Probate, which office he honorably filled for four years. Was enrolling and engrossing clerk in the State Senate in 1839 and '40; was elected Treasurer and Assessor in 1844, for four years; was appointed by Gen. Taylor, Register of the Land Office in 1849 for four years; was subsequently elected Police Magistrate of Edwardsville, which office he continued to fill to the time of decease. In all his official positions he performed his duties with honor to himself and satisfaction to his constituency. He was strongly imbued with Whig proclivities, and was a great admirer of Henry Clay. After that party became disorganized he affiliated with the Republican party. He was an old and intimate acquaintance of President Lincoln, and gave him the most ardent support for the office of the Chief Magistracy of the United States. The house of Mr. Gillespie, when Mr. Lincoln was stopping at Edwardsville, was one of the latter's favorite places of "breaking bread," and where the family and friends enjoyed the rare treat of listening to the fun-loving anecdotes so peculiar to Mr. Lincoln.
As a friend to youth, Mr. Gillespie had no superior. He was a zealous advocate of temperance, and by his precepts and example, he labored hard to further the welfare and success of the young men of his time. But of all his excellent memories, his moral, religious, and domestic character is the most pleasant. Early in life he made a profession of religion, and attached himself to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, of which body he continued a consistent and leading member during its organization in this vicinity. In 1836, he united with the Methodist Church, of which he continued a communicant to the time of his decease. His earnest liberality, zeal, and sound judgment made him a valuable member of the church and of society, and at the time of his death he was one of the trustees of McKendree College. As a neighbor, he was obliging and generous to the last degree, and as a husband and father, he was all that affection could desire.
He passed to the unknown beyond, on the evening of the 24th of March, 1861. His last words were, "I am gone," and he instantly breathed his last. He was nearly 54 years of age, and had spent a large portion of his life in active, public service, and it can be truthfully said, that the world is better for his living. At this writing, his widow is yet living, and is a resident of Edwardsville. She is now in her sixty-eighth year of age, and is strong physically and mentally for one of her years.*
*For much of the above we are indebted to an article published in 1861 by Mr. E. M. West, who was a warm friend of Judge Gillespie.
Source: History of Madison County, Illinois; Illustrated; With Biographical Sketches Of Many Prominent Men And Pioneers (Edwardsville, Illinois: W. R. Brink and Company, 1882) pages 362-363.
The engraving of Matthew Gillespie at the start of this biographical sketch has a close resemblance to the photograph of him provided by a descendant, Thomas G. Allen.
Matthew Gillespie's family
Nancy Gordon's family
Details of the birth family of Nancy Gordon are not currently known.
Gillespie - Gordon family
Matthew Gillespie's 1st marriage
Mrs. Martha (McGrew) Hynes' (or Hinds') family
Details of the birth family of Martha McGrew or of her first marriage, to Mr. Hynes, or Hinds, are not currently known.