Friday, September 4, 2009

A HILL COUNTRY FAMILY: Gurley and Reba Gilliland of Splunge

by Terry Thornton

"It was Mr. Gurley who carried me on his shoulders when I grew too tired to walk up the hills out of Weaver's Creek Bottom on a fishing outing. That ride high on his strong back and shoulders with me holding on to his head is the earliest recollection I have of the Thornton farm in Monroe County --- and after more than sixty years, I can still identify to spot on the steep hill where my little legs gave out and where Mr. Gurley scooped me up and plopped me atop his shoulders for the rest of the walk to the car."

"I thought of . . . Mr. Gurley Gilliland, as sort of a grandfather figure."

"I asked Mr. Gurley, 'If I sprinkled salt on the tail of a bird, could I catch it?' And he said that if I moved fast that he was sure enough I could catch any bird I had sprinkled with salt on its tail."

(from Catching Birds at Parham by Terry Thornton, December 7, 2007, number 295, in Hill Country of Monroe County Mississippi Volume 1, CD published 2009.)

GURLEY GILLILAND late of Splunge, Monroe County, Mississippi, was one of my best friends when I was a little boy. He was ten years older than my father --- but I considered him my buddy.

As you can see from the above quotes from earlier writing I have done about Mr. Gurley, I considered him "family" and enjoyed his company so very much. I even wrote about Mr. Gurley helping us with hog killing at Parham in one of the most widely read articles I've ever published, Hog Killing at Parham (#41, May 17, 2007 at Hill Country of Monroe County Mississippi Volume 1, CD published 2009).

But I don't really know much about Mr. Gurley --- all I needed to know was that he was a friend.

Gurley Gilliland was married to Reba F. Gilliland --- they and their large family lived at Splunge on a farm near the intersection of Hatley-Detroit Road and Splunge Road. The last house they lived in survives but many of the farm building once there are gone

Gurley Webster Gilliland was the son of Greenbury Jerome Gilliland and Sarah J. Bird/Byrd Gilliland (see earlier article at by clicking here) of Monroe County, Mississippi. Gurley was the grandson of Amos P. and Harriett Gilliland of Marion County, Alabama (which borders on Monroe County).

The earliest census report I've seen on this family is the Marion County Alabama of 1880. Amos P. Gilliland (62 born Georgia); wife Harriett (55 born Georgia); and ten Alabama-born children: daughter Vinetta M.A. (30); Susan E.F. (26); Napolean B. (23); Henry T. (23); Greenberry J. (21); Amos L. (19); Melinda A. (15); Jackson L. (12); Sterling P. (10); and Sidney J. (8) comprised the household.

By 1900, the Amos P. Gilliland household consisted of Amos (82), daughters Vinttie A. (54) and Susan E. (48). The family lived at Camp, Marion County, Alabama.

In neighboring Lamar County, Alabama, the 1900 census at Millville (now known as Detroit) was the family of Greebenic (sic) B. Gilliland (42 born Alabama) and wife Sarah J. (34 born Mississippi) and seven Alabama-born children: son Gurden G. (9); daughter (sic) Gurlie A. (8); daughter Ludy S. (6); son Robert G. (5), son T. Rufus (3); daughter Florie L. (2); and son A. Claudie (6/12ths). This is the family of Greenbury Jerome "Rome" Gilliland.

Note that eight year-old Gurlie is listed by the 1900 census enumerator as female.

In 1910, the Greenbury Jerome Gilliland family was listed on the Monroe County Mississippi census as living in the Splunge Community. Note that Splunge and Millville/Detroit are only a few miles apart. On that census Mr. Gilliland is listed as Rome, head-of-household (51 born Alabama); wife Sarah (45 born Mississippi); son Girdon (19 born Mississippi); Gurley son (18 born Alabama); daughter Love (16 born Alabama); son Bob (15 born Alabama); son Rufe (13 born Alabama); daughter Flora Lee (11 born Alabama); son Luther (6 born Mississippi); and son Donnie (3 born Mississippi).

Before the next census, Gurley Webster Gilliland, according to a military marker at his gravesite, served his country as a Private, United States Army, in World War 1. I have no additional information about his military service.

By 1920, Gurley W. Gilliland was married to Reba F. Gilliland. They are shown on the census of Monroe County as living at Cox Store Precinct (Splunge). Gurley's name is mangled in the index to Heritage Quest as "Grieley W. Gilliland" but he is listed a head-of-house, age 27 born Alabama, with wife Reba, 25 born Mississippi.

Two houses away are Gurley's parents and some of his siblings --- Green B. Gilliland (62), Sarah J. (54), Robert G. (24), Thomas (22), Flora S. Irvin (20), Luther M. (15), and Daniel (12).

One house away is Gurley's brother Gurdon G. Gilliland (29) and wife Sathie (2), with children Burley (5) and Vernie (8/12ths).

I remember Mr. Gurley Gilliland as a tall, thin, gregarious and happy man . He was kind and caring --- and he was a pleasure to know.

The gravemarker for Gurley and Reba Gilliland is at New Hope Cemetery, Parham, Monroe County, Mississippi, along with a military marker for Mr. Gurley.

If you have documents, photographs, or family information to share about the Gilliland family of the Hill Country, please contact me by leaving a comment below or by emailing . Of particular interest to me are the children of Gurley and Reba Gilliland --- I remember three names --- Roy, Clinton, and Verlon but I know there were others.

SEE UPDATE # 1 to this article by clicking here.


Gilliland Family census information: 1880 and 1900 Marion County, Alabama; 1900 Lamar County, Alabama; 1910 and 1920 Monroe County, Mississippi transcribed from census images available at Heritage Quest available through the Lee-Itawamba County Library System.

Gilliland grave markers: information and photographs by Terry Thornton, 2007 and 2008; New Hope Cemetery, CD published 2009.

No comments: