Elsie’s Gilman Connection

30 Jul

30 July

I have always enjoyed looking at profiles of faces. When my siblings and I divided my mother’s estate some years ago, my first choice of furniture or keepsakes was a relief profile of Ephraim Gilman. I seem to remember that my mother never had it hanging in my childhood home. She stored it in a closet, but the story behind the face fascinated me as a child. My grandmother Elsie frequently reminded me that this was the face of her great-grandfather. It was carved from a piece of wood by Ephraim’s younger brother, Zadok, and given to Ephraim on his wedding day, June 20, 1805. Ephraim married Anne Crawford (age 18) in Alexandria, Virginia. They had seven children that lived and six that died in infancy. Their second daughter, Malvina Amanda Gilman, born in 1810, was Elsie’s Grandmother.


Ephraim Gilman carved by brother Zadok

Thursday was Ephraim’s birthday; He was born July 12, 1778, 240 years ago. His family came to America on the good ship Diligent in 1638 due to religious persecution in England. Ephraim’s grandfather Johnathan Gilman was a captain in the War of Independence and was killed in action at age 63 in 1776.
Ephraim became a prosperous merchant in Alexandria. One of the ledgers records that he imported Moroccan shoes. It also stated he sailed his ships to foreign places to bring back molasses.

moroccan shoes 1800

Moroccan shoes of 1800


moroccan shoes

Moroccan shoes

I spent 38 years smelling molasses in Antigua, a by-product of the production of Antiguan Rum. Someday I want to read his ledgers from 1808-1820 preserved on microfilm in the Alexandria Library. I imagine all sorts of adventures hidden in those ledgers. During the war of 1812, the British burned Ephraim’s warehouse and a schooner of flour.

These paintings of the Gilmans were the work of a young artist, Cephas Thompson. Cephas eventually became well known. He captures Anne’s young beauty and a handsome Ephraim. I do not own the paintings. But, the profile carved and gifted from one brother to another is mine.


ann Crawford Gilman

Anne Crawford Gilman – painted by Cephas Thompson about 1808



Elsie’s great-grandfather Ephraim Gilman

I am grateful for an invitation to speak to the daughters of the American Revolution in Valley Center on February 14th at 10 a.m. in the Valley Center Library. I enjoy sharing history. I have relatives from at least three branches that fought in the Revolutionary War. My son Joshua has researched at least 14 relatives that came to America before 1640.

My goal now is to include an imaginary link in my next book between the Hart sisters of Antigua and Ephraim Gilman’s wife, Anne Crawford. They lived during the same time-period. Elizabeth Hart was married the same year Ephraim and Anne Crawford were married.

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