A Visit to Gilliland Dairy Farm, Mabees Corner, Jackson County, Ohio

Gilliland Farm. In the family for over 150 years.
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  A misty morn on Sam Gilliland Road.
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While visiting with my mother, who lives in Scioto County, Ohio, I took the opportunity to travel up to Mabees Corner in Jackson County and stop at the Gilliland Dairy Farm on Route139. There I had the pleasure of meeting Roger Gilliland, a descendant of Nathan Gilliland's line and current owner of the farm. Roger has a big, infectious smile, laughing blue eyes and is a salt-of-the-earth guy -- he's also well over six feet tall with arms like tree trunks. His hands were so large and powerful that when I went to shake hands with him I couldn't even get my fingers over his broad palms. I'd heard the Gillilands around the Minford area were big, tall people but no one told me they make Gentle Ben look like a shrimp! Good thing he's such a good natured fellow because he could have snapped me like a twig -- and I'm no ballerina.

Anyway, I had a great chat with Roger, standing out in the middle of his barnyard with cows mooing and rain dripping all over my papers. He seems quite interested in finding out more about his Gilliland roots and said there was actually someone in his family who had done quite a bit of research but at that time he hadn't paid it much mind. I promised to send him some more maps and copies of land patents. As we chatted he rattled off all the familiar family names, the location of the family cemeteries and who now owns which plot of the old Gilliland lands. Many of the farms are still in the family. I only regret I didn't have a tape recorder with me.

A glimpse of the area around Mabee's Corner. Much of this land is still in the extended Gilliland family.   Another view of Sam Gilliland Road, which connects State Route 139 with 279. Two of the oldest Gilliland cemeteries in Ohio can be found near either end of Sam Gilliland road: the Hamilton-McCoy Cemetery to the north side (Rt 139) and to the south, the Stephenson Cemetery just off 279.

The Gilliland Dairy is mere spitting distance from Mabees Corner, even if the only thing left of Mabees is a tiny white building that is the "polling place", as he called it. (This polling place actually looks like one of those school bus shelters they set up along country roads and is directly across from Sam Gilliland Road and 139.) Roger's farm seems to be located where George Gilliland's land is indicated on the 1875 Jackson County maps. I believe Roger Gilliland now farms several parcels over a wide area which, to the west towards Minford, may include what once once Hugh Gilliland's land. The Gilliland Dairy actually straddles 139; the family home as well as some grazing and forested land sits to the north of 139, whereas the barns and much of the farming acreage is situated on the south side of the highway.

During our chat Roger said that at the age of fifteen he had taken over the running of the farm. His father, Warren Gilliland, had been horribly injured in a tractor rollover that left him crippled and the lingering injuries eventually led to his father's death some years later. It was obvious that Roger lives and breathes the farm. When I asked him just when a dairy farmer takes a vacation, he gave me a look that said, "but why would you want to do that?"

The family house hides its own secret, one that Roger shared with me. Beneath the siding which makes this look like any other contemporary house, there beats the heart of the original Gilliland home built on the spot over 150 years ago. If you were to go inside and ascend to the upper floor, he explained, you'd still see the evidence of the old post and beam construction! So is this the home built by George and Julina Canter Gilliland? I'll definitely have to write to Roger because there are so many questions he could answer about this family's history.

I was sorry to cut short our visit but with severe storms on the way I had to get back home before the rains hit. (I didn't make it -- the deluge met me not five minutes after I got back on the road and I had to pull over in Minford for another hour.)

A few days ago I mentioned this visit to cousin Judy Erwin Cornick, who has a database the size of Montana. In no time at all she pulled up a tree for Roger who, like me, is a descendant of George and Julina Canter Gilliland. I'm from the line of their son Washington Gilliland, whereas Roger descends from Washington's younger brother, Warren Gilliland. Judy has been working on the Nathan Gilliland tree for some time now and knows more about Nathan's line than I do. Her help and advice has been invaluable.

I now owe Roger a nice, long letter, and I'm thrilled to have discovered a long-lost cousin! Isn't that what this journey is all about?


For a look at the 1875 Jackson County Township maps, see: http://www.rootsweb.com/~ohjackso/twpmaps.htm

The maps of particular interest to the Gillilands would include those in the south-central and southwestern portions of the county:

In 1875 the Gillilands also had farms in neighboring Scioto County and I will in future post pdfs of those townships; those maps are not available from any online source so there is no URL to post. I was only able to get them from the original map at the Library of Congress.