HISTORY OF HOLMES COUNTY -- The First Settlers of Holmes County --- The Pittman Family

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 By Anna Paget Wells (used with permission of publisher Sue Cronkite) from the book "Heart and History of Holmes County". This book is chock full of pictures and what has been used within this web site is only a small amount of the book.  It can still be ordered from Sue Cronkite or from the Holmes County Advertiser, 112 E Virginia Avenue, Bonifay FL 32425; phone 850-547-2270; fax 850-547-9200

The Gillis family came to Holmes County before the Civil War. They came from North Carolina to Florida.

There were four heads of families by the Gillis name in Holmes County’s first census. Two of the household heads were women and two were men. One of the women was Margaret Gillis, age 52. There were five children listed in her household. They were: Malcom, age 25, probably Cerro Gordo’s second postmaster; Catherine, age 20; Angus D, age 18; Daniel, age 16 (Daniel was postmaster of Ponce de Leon post office in 1883); and Sarah A, age 14.

The other Gillis woman head of a family was Sarah, age 57. There were two children, Catherine A, age 20; and Rebecca, age 17.

The Gillis male heads of the family were Angus, age 48; and John G, age 43.

There was an Angus Gillis that was one of the first county commissioners of Holmes. Although Maragaret had an Angus in her family, he would have been rather young for a commissioner. The following were listed in the household of Angus: Catherine, age 40 (probably wife); Catherine, age 17 (daughter); Murdock, age 13; William, age 11; Arch, age 7; Jinett, age 5; Christian, age 2; and Mary, age 1.

The other male Gillis head of a household was John G, age 43. In his household were: Sarah, age 32 (wife); and Mol, age 3.

Descendants of the Gillis family are still making their contributions in the field of public service. Harvey Belser, a great-grandson of Malcolm Gillis, has served as Sheriff of Holmes County. He has also been a candidate for governor of the state.

Harvey Belser is listed in Who’s Who in the South and Southwest. The information on his goes as follows:

"BELSER, Harvie Jordon, state senator, b. Leonia, Fla, June 3, 1917; s. Theodore Lamar and Abbie Lee (Gillis) B, student Campbell's Bus. Colle., 1936, George Washington U., 1938 – 39; LL.B., Nat. U., 1947; m. Nancy Caroline Granade, June 22, 1951; children – Jennie Catherine, Nancy Granade, Harvie Jordon. Admitted to Fla bar, 1948; pvt. Law practice, Bonifay, Fla; county atty; county pros atty, Holmes County Fla; 1951 – 56; atty Bd Pub Instrn, Holmes County, 1957 Mem Fla Ho of Reps, Holmes County, 1951 – 52, 55 – 56, mem Senate,3d dist, 1956. Served from pvt to capt, USAAF, 1941 – 46. Me Am, 14th Jud Circuit (pres 1953 – 54), Fla (gov 1949 – 50) bar assns, Bar Assn DC, Ph Beta Gamma. Baptist. Mem Woodmen of World. Address: Bonifay, Fla."

Malcom Gillis (probably son of Maragaret) married Callie Hunter. They were the parents of the following: John Gillis, who married Lellia Padgett; Murdock Gillis, who married Mary Jane Padgett. They were the parents of five children: Abbie, married Theodora Belser; Arminter, married Erastus Padgett; John, married Vergie; Annie, married Elum Spears; and Kate, married W D Morrison.

After Mary Jane’s death, Murdock Gillis married Mary Padgett, daughter of Frank and Eliza Padgett. Mary died after giving birth to twins. One twin died. The other twin, Ray Gillis, married Annie Ruth Arrant.

After Mary’s death, Murdock Gillis married Beulah Padgett, the youngest sister of Mary (the second wife). They were the parents of three daughters: Ella Lee, Berlie Florence, and Wynell.

The Murdock Gillis family lived in the Leonia Community and was a neighbor to the writer’s family for awhile. I remember what a wonderful neighbor he was. During a flue epidemic, he brought loads of lightwood and stacked it on our porch for use while the family was incapacitated by the epidemic. Mr Gillis was also a wonderful gardener and shared the produce of his garden with us.

Sarah Gillis, daughter of Malcolm and Callie Gillis, married George Padgett; Malcolm "Make" Gillis married Elizabeth Padgett; Emma Gillis married John Brannon; Ella Gillis married John Padgett; Dan Gillis married Bell Ramer; Angus Gillis married Mollie Padgett; and Peggy Gillis married Tollie Harrison.

A beautiful lady, Joanne Gillis, lived in the Westville area around the turn of the century. She was probably a daughter of the proprietor of the "Gillis Hotel" referred to by E A Williams in his description of "Court Days at Westville."

I do not know what relation the Holmes County Gillises were to the Knox Hill Gillises in Walton County, but I’m sure there was a relationship.


This page was lasted updated on 17 June, 2002 08:42 PM