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
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
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
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
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.