December 27, 2013

The Gillis Family

Gillis House 1923-1933

While posting the stories about the Gillis House, I became curious about the Gillis family.  It is told that the Gillis family only lived in the house for a short time but I still felt the need to learn more about this family and how they came to own a home in Sicily Island.

From a 1980 edition of the Catahoula News-Booster, Will Peck, IV, gave the following account:
Shortly after the house was begun [by the Lovelace family], the Civil War broke out.  Hard times fell on Lovelace who had invested almost all of his funds into cotton, a commodity that hit the market during the war.
It was during this period of financial difficulty for Lovelace that New Orleans broker, Alfred B. Gillis, whose name became synonymous with the home, came into the picture.  Gillis mortgaged the house and property of Lovelace and after Lovelace could not repay the funds, Gillis foreclosed.
Gillis was apparently a sensitive man for he remarked even then that he wanted the Lovelace family to one day get the house and property back.
Although Gillis never actually resided in the house for a long period of time, he and his wife made frequent visits to the estate, holding parties and often entertaining guests.  Instead, Gillis hired Israel Scott to manage the plantation.
Indianapolis Sunday Star, October 6, 1912
Courtesy of Chronicling America

Marcelin Gillis was born on August 21, 1824 in Hanles Prysmors, Laniculle France.  He arrived in New Orleans aboard the French ship Le Valliant on January 21, 1843 at the age of eighteen.  His occupation was listed as Accountant.

The 1850 U.S. Census shows Marcelin Gillis living in the Trinity area of Catahoula Parish.  His occupation was shown as Merchant.

On May 25, 1854, Marcelin Gillis married Caroline Nancy Griffin in Catahoula Parish.

A son was born to this marriage in 1855. His name was Alfred Barr Gillis.  It is this Alfred Barr Gillis who once owned the Gillis House in Sicily Island.

He attended law school at Washington & Lee University in New Orleans and in 1879 he was listed as a practicing attorney in New Orleans.

A U.S. passport application was filed and issued to Alfred Barr Gillis on April 24, 1880.

On April 12, 1888, Alfred Barr Gillis married Lucille Winchester Bohn who was born on May 22, 1864.  She was the daughter of Auguste Bohn and Lucille Winchester  Their marriage took place in Orleans Parish.

The following children were born to the marriage of Alfred Barr Gillis and Lucille Winchester Bohn:
Lucille, 1889-1954 (m. John Duncan Minor, 1876-1937)
Alfred Marcel, 1892-1971 (m. Marcie Caffery, 1893-1991)
Daphne W., 1895-1973 (m. Edward Caffery, 1889-1982
Alfred Barr Gillis died on June 15, 1914 and Lucille Winchester Bohn Gillis died in 1957.  Both are buried in the Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana.  Alfred is buried with the Gillis family and Lucille is buried with the Bohn family.  Tombstone photographs were taken by FindAGrave member, Barbara Munson.

Gillis Family Tomb

Gillis Family Tomb
Jean/John Gillis (brother to Marcelin)
M. Gillis
Caroline N. Gillis
Alfred B. Gillis
St. Michael Caffery (possibly a grandson of Marcelin)
Colonel Marcel Gillis (son of Marcelin)

Bohn Family Marker
Auguste Bohn
Lucile W. Bohn
Fergus Bohn
Lucille Bohn Gillis

Special thanks to Kendell Coney Horton for forwarding the newspaper article and photograph of the Gillis House provided to her by Bill Lambert of Natchez, Mississippi.  Kendell is a descendant of Israel Smith Scott and Emily Mason Turpin.  Bill is a descendant of the Crawford family who once lived in the Gillis House.


  1. What an awesome detective you are Deborah!!! Thanks! Kendell

  2. Great information. I was looking for some of my Gillis Family. Marcelin Gillis
    is my great-great-grandfather. My grandmother's father, was the child born from a slave belonging to Marcelin. Are there any Gillis family living?

    1. Hello, Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am not aware of any Gillis descendants living in Sicily Island today. You might want to check the New Orleans area for possible descendants.