Alabama Pioneers HonoredBiographiesGenealogy Information

Biography: John Finley Gillespie born 1858



(1858-aft. 1930)

Morgan and Madison county, Alabama

John Finley Gillespie, a prominent attorney of Birmingham, Alabama, was born near Maryville, Blount county, Tenn. He was the son of Campbell Milton Gillespie and Narcissa Larinda (Clarke) Gillespie both of whom were born at Maryville, Tenn., and lived successively at Maryville and Fayetteville, Tenn., and in Morgan and Madison counties, Alabama.

Narcissa L. Clarke was the daughter of James Clarke, of Maryville, Tenn. The Gillespie family came from the north of Ireland, where they lived among the Scotch who had fled their native heath to escape persecution. James Gillespie, the great-grandfather of John Finley Gillespie emigrated to this country with his brothers, John Gillespie and William Gillespie, settling in Virginia.

Later they removed to Blount county, Tennessee, where William Gillespie, Sr. b. 1734 Ulster located on the Holston river and became a wealthy planter and merchant. He married Isabelle Houston ca. 1766-68 and reared a large and prominent family. He died 1826 in Blount County, Tennessee. His son John Gillespie married Elizabeth and d. March 16, 1796 Blount County, Tennessee.

James Gillespie born about 1730 Ulster married Ellen Elizabeth Finley in Prince Edward Co., Va. Jan 5, 1764 and was the father of the following children:

  1. Campbell Gillespie,
  2. William Cowan Gillespie
  3. Dr. James H. Gillespie
  4. John Finley Gillespie

He served in the legislature of Tennessee for years and made a strong fight for the people of the eastern part of the State in their effort to preserve their rights to Indian land “grants,” and with the assistance of his son, John Finley Gillespie, a lawyer of distinction and deep legal knowledge, and also a member of the State senate, his efforts were crowned with success. John Finley Gillespie afterward became counsel for President James K. Polk, and though not a member of his cabinet, had charge of the Indian claims department.

  1. William C. Gillespie, the second son of James Gillespie, was the father of the following children:
  2. Campbell Milton Gillespie, father of John Finley Gillespie, the subject of this article;
  3. James Gillespie who served on the staff of Gen. Joseph Wheeler during the Civil war, and who died a bachelor;
  4. John Sharpe Gillespie, who was the father of John S. Gillespie and James M. Gillespie of Birmingham, Alabama
  5. Bessie (Gillespie) Toole, of Maryville, Tenn.;
  6. Clennie (Gillespie) Campbell of Alabama;
  7. Eglantine (Gillespie) Hartsell

Campbell Milton Gillespie and his wife, Narcissa L. Clarke, were parents of the following children:

  1. Samuel C. Gillespie,
  2. Narcissa E. Gillespie.,
  3. Dr. James C. Gillespie, of Decatur, Ala.;
  4. Philander M. Gillespie married Sallie Farley
  5. John Finley Gillespie;
  6. George Houston Gillespie; (March 12, 1862- Oct. 24, 1887)
  7. Nancy E. (Gillespie) Farley, (July 22, 1868- January 1, 1939)
  8. William H. Gillespie, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

John F. Gillespie received his early education at Fayetteville college, Prof.. Mooney, principal, Fayetteville, Tenn.; Saurville academy, Hon. William E. Skeggs principal, Saurville, Ala., arid at Hartsell’s college, at Hartsell’s, Alabama; later he entered the University of Alabama, graduating bachelor of laws in 1882 with high honors. For four years after his graduation, he practiced law in Saurville, and then went to Birmingham, where he has since resided and enjoyed a good practice. He was an ardent Democrat and a member of the Presbyterian church. He married Zuleika Theodosia Burgamy, (b. 1871 AL – May 4, 1949) a daughter of Dr. Tillman P. Burgamy of Birmingham.

Dr. Burgamy was a graduate of Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, and was a scholarly and polished gentleman, being a member of a prominent French family of South Carolina and Georgia. He practiced medicine in Montgomery county, Alabama for a number of years. He went to Birmingham in the early days of the city and became one of its leading physicians. He died in 1892, leaving a splendid estate to his widow and six daughters, who were among the most beautiful and cultured women of the State. His wife, Sarah M. Fonville, was a daughter of Rev. Fonville, a noted Baptist minister and author, who for many years preached in Montgomery county, Alabama. He emigrated from South Carolina in the history of which State the Sloan and Bryan branch of the family occupied a prominent position for years.

Sarah M. Fonville, was a sister of the following: Prof. Drake Fonville; Culpepper Fonville; Dr. Fonville, Susan (Fonville) Strakeley, mother of Dr. Charles Strakeley, and of Lita Strakeley, also of Mrs. (Strakeley) Clarke, all of whom were prominent in Southern educational circles; Mrs. (Fonville) Stanton: and Col. Gibson Fonville, a brave and gallant Confederate soldier, who was killed in battle in Virginia. The Fonvilles are of French descent, and trace their lineage to the DeFonvilles, a prominent family in the history of France. Mr. and Mrs. Gillespie had the following children:

  1. Helen Gillespie (b. Jan 3, 1891 AL – Mar. 1976 Mass. ) married a Towne.
  2. Tillman Burgamy Gillespie (b. Oct. 26, 1893 AL- Apr 1974 FL) married Margaret Kelley

John Finley and Zuliska resided with their children in Cambridge Ward 6 in Middlesex, Mass. In the 1920 census and in Jacksonville, Duval, Florida in the 1930 census.



  1. Notable men of Alabama By Joel Campbell DuBose 1904
  2. 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 US. Census
  3. Social Security database
  4. Find A Grave Memorial# 20852664 # 20852703 # 20852647 # 20847609

This biography can be found in Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Volume VI

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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