Born: 1809-08-22 New York, New York
Died: 1885-01-07 Edwardsville, Illinois
Flourished: Edwardsville, Illinois
Joseph Gillespie moved with his family to Edwardsville, Illinois, in 1819. He worked for a time in the lead mines at Galena before returning to his father’s farm in 1829. Soon thereafter, Gillespie began studying law under the direction of Cyrus Edwards in Wood River. After volunteering in the militia during the Black Hawk War, Gillespie studied law for two years at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He returned to Madison County, and the Illinois Supreme Court admitted him to the bar in 1836. Gillespie served as a probate judge in Madison County, and he served as a Whig in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1840 to 1841 and in the Illinois Senate from 1846 to 1857. While in the Illinois General Assembly, he helped to win approval of a charter for the Terre Haute & Alton Railroad, which had a route that benefitted his constituents. He also served as an attorney for the railroad. Gillespie ultimately became a Republican, and in 1860, he campaigned for Abraham Lincoln’s presidential nomination and presided over the Decatur Convention. In 1861, he was elected to the bench of the Twenty-Fourth Judicial Circuit and held that position for a total of twelve years. He married Mary E. Smith in 1845 and the pair had eight children. Gillespie died in his home in Edwardsville.
Josephine G. Prickett, “Joseph Gillespie,” Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society 17 (1912): 93-114; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News, 1879), 121-27; John M. Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 2:684-89; The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Illinois Volume (Chicago: American Biographical, 1876), 257-59; Albert A. Woldman, Lawyer Lincoln (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1936), 262; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Bond County, 18 June 1845, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Alton Telegraph (IL), 8 January 1885, 5:5; Gravestone, Woodlawn Cemetery, Edwardsville, IL. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.