Virgil Chase Gilman

Virgil Chase Gilman was born in Unity, Sullivan county, New Hampshire, May 5, 1827, and was the third of a family of eight children born to Emerson and Delia (Way) Gilman.

Emerson Gilman was the oldest son and the first of twelve children born to Stephen and Dorothy (Clough) Gilman, who were married September 5, 1793. This was his second marriage, he having married Anna Huntoon, by whom he had nine children, some of whom died in infancy. Stephen Gilman was a native of Kingston, and served as a cavalry officer in the war of the Revolution. He was a descendant of Moses Gilman, who was one of three brothers,—Edward, John, and Moses,—who emigrated from Hingham, England, early in the sixteenth century.

In 1827, it was said: "Edward Gilman's descendants are as numerous as the sands on the seashore. There is hardly a state in the Union where they may not be found. The family have been in civil office from the time our colony became a royal province to the present time. John Gilman was one of the first counselors named in President Cutts's commission, and died in 1708. Col. Peter Gilman was one of the royal counselors in 1772. Hon. Nicholas Gilman was counselor in 1777 and 1778. Hon. John Gilman, in 1787; while the present venerable John Taylor Gilman was fourteen years, eleven in succession, our highly respected chief magistrate. His brother, Nicholas Gilman, was a member of the house of representatives in congress eight years, and in the national senate nine years. Our ecclesiastical annals have, also, Rev. Nicholas Gilman, Harvard College, 1724; and Rev. Tristram Gilman, Harvard College, 1757, both respected clergymen and useful men."

These words are quoted in substance from Mr. Lincoln's work. "If he had written forty years later" says the author of "The Gilman Family in England and America," "he would have found the family still more numerous and many additions would have been made to his list of prominent men bearing the Gilman name. The family of Gilmans is not one furnishing a few brilliant exceptions in a long list of commonplace names. Its members appear generally to have been remarkable for the quiet home virtues, and rather to have desired to be good citizens than men of great name. To an eminent degree they appear to have obtained the esteem and respect of those nearest to them, for sound judgment and sterling traits of character."

Emerson Gilman followed the trade of clothier until the introduction of machinery supplanted the hand process, when he, after pursuing the business of farmer for a few years, removed to Lowell, Mass., in 1837, relying, upon his strong and willing hands to find support for his large family and give his children the advantages of education which that city signally afforded.

The subject of this sketch was then ten years old, and made fair progress through the several grades to the high school, with which his school-days ended. He removed to Nashua in 1843, but it was not until 1851 that he entered business on his own behalf, at which time he became associated with Messrs. Gage and Murray for the manufacture of printers' cards of all the various kinds, also fancy-colored, embossed, and marble papers, a new business in this country at that time, which business he followed successfully for twenty-one years, and until his close and unremitting application made it necessary for him to relinquish it for a more active out-door employment. Following a natural love for rural affairs, he was not long in possessing himself of a hundred-acres farm in the south part of the city, upon the Lowell road, which he greatly improved, and indulged to some extent in the usually expensive luxury of breeding Jersey cattle, trotting-horses, and Plymouth Rock fowls. He claims to have bred the finest and fastest gaited horse ever raised in New Hampshire. Meantime, having realized the object sought, greatly improved health, and the office of treasurer of the Nashua Savings Bank becoming vacant by the resignation of Dr. E. Spalding, in 1876, he was elected to fill the vacancy, and still continues in this responsible position, with nearly two and a half millions of deposits committed to his watchful care and secure investment.

Never coveting office, still he has rarely refused to perform his full share of duty in the various departments of labor and responsibility incident to city affairs, from ward clerk to the mayor's chair, serving also as assessor, member of the board of education, and is now trustee of the public library, also its secretary and treasurer. To him Dartmouth College is indebted for the Gilman scholarship; and the board of trustees of the Orphans' Home at Franklin finds in him an interested member. He is identified with the mechanical industries of the city, having a large interest in the Nashua Iron and Steel Company, and its local director; also an owner and director in the Underhill Edge Tool Company, and Amoskeag Axe Company; also a director in the Indian Head National Bank.

In military affairs actively he is unknown, his service having commenced and ended with the "Governor's Horse-Guards," enlisting as private in Co. B, and ending as major of the battalion. His interest, however, is kept alive by honorary membership of "City Guards" and "Foster Rifles," of his adopted city.

His strong love for agricultural affairs led him to take an interest in our New Hampshire Agricultural Society, of whose board of trustees he was formerly a member, also one of the trustees of the New England Agricultural Society.

He was a member of the legislature of 1879, serving as chairman of committee on banks and taking a deep interest in the work of that session, and especially zealous in opposition to the taxation of church property. At the present time he is the Republican senator of the Nashua district, and honored by the chairmanship of the leading committee of the senate, the judiciary, no member of the legal profession holding a seat in that body at this time. How well he discharged the duties of this responsible position those can testify who had business with the committee, or those who witnessed his unremitting application and conscientious decisions.

Denominationally he is a Congregationalist, and a communicant with the First church, that was organized in 1685. An interest in its prosperity has induced him to serve as director of the society connected therewith many years, and of which he is now president, and treasurer of the Sabbath-school connected. It will thus be seen that the subject of this sketch fills many positions of responsibility and usefulness which bring no pecuniary reward, without ostentation, and no foul breath tarnishes his fair record.

Our state has among its many honored sons few whose energy, integrity, and discretion have won success in so many directions, and none who command more universal respect among all classes. In business, politics, and social and religious circles he has been and is a leader, whose triumphs shed their blessings far and wide. Few have done so much for Nashua. No one deserves better of the state.

In 1850 he married Sarah Louisa, daughter of Gideon Newcomb, Esq., of Roxbury, by whom he had two children,—Harriet Louise, who married Charles W. Hoitt, an attorney-at-law in Nashua, and Alfred Emerson, who did not attain his second birthday.