Chubby-cheeked Daisy Gilchrist’s gift to Vermilion

By Rich Tarrant

As many folks may already know Captain Joseph C. Gilchrist was a successful lumber merchant and a lake captain. Prior to becoming the owner of the Gilchrist Transportation Company and managing a fleet of lake steamers Capt. Gilchrist, his young wife, Alice Devin, their children and his father Alexander lived in Vermilion in a large home on Huron Street. We currently (2017) know the home as the Gilchrist Bed and Breakfast.

As said in a previous essay (VPJ 11/02/17) I’ve been reading histories of Vermilion’s old Congregational Church that eventually evolved into the UCC Congregational church. In those tracts I came across the following passage:

Children’s Day, June 14, 1896 was a day long to be remembered by reason of the offer made by Mr. JC. Gilchrist of Cleveland, a former member of the church. The old pipe organ had outlived its usefulness and had been taken down and a cabinet organ put in its place. At the close of the program, Mr. Gilchrist arose and said he would like to present the church with an organ costing not less than $1,000 or more than $1,500 in memory of his daughter Daisy…”

            Curious about what happened to Gilchrist’s daughter I looked further into the matter and found, first of all, that Daisy’s first name was actually Alice – her middle name was Daisy. She was born in Vermilion on March 15th in 1885. At the time she was the youngest member of the five Gilchrist children. In the photo accompanying this piece Daisy is the chubby-cheeked little girl on her mother’s lap. Her big sisters Frances and Agnes stand beside her, and her big brothers Joseph and John stand behind their mother. This photograph was taken around 1887. Mrs. Gilchrist died that same year.

AN HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: It may interest some to know that another girl had been born to the couple in 1881. Her name was also Alice – Alice Mabel. She died in June of 1882. My “uneducated” assumption is that both girls were named after their mother. Had Alice Mabel survived Daisy’s first name would have most likely been something different.

But in any case, little Daisy was stricken by typhoid fever just before Christmas in 1892. She lay ill for six weeks. And though she seemed to be getting better after four weeks she again fell ill and passed into the hands of God on the 5th day of January the following year. She was seven years, nine months and twenty days old. It was, to say the very least, a sad day for the family as well as the entire community. The funeral was held at the Gilchrist home on Sunday January 8th. A Sandusky newspaper reported that the services were brief – no singing or music was allowed – “owing the illness” of her stepmother.

To better understand the situation it helps to know that Capt. Gilchrist had remarried in 1889. On Wednesday January 4, 1893, just one day before Daisy died the new Mrs. Gilchrist (Amelia / Emilia / Emily) had given birth to a baby girl the couple name Marie. It was the second child for the couple. A son they named Charles had been welcomed to the fold in June of 1891. This certainly must have been an exceptionally difficult time for the family – to celebrate and morn at the same time.

All of this must have weighed heavily on the Captain. It may very well explain his gift to the local church. By that time the family had moved to Cleveland. The move was likely to allow him be close to his growing business concerns. So it was unusual for him to have returned to Vermilion. Perhaps he felt that little chubby-cheeked Daisy had been cheated. I doubt if anyone would disagree. I wouldn’t.

Ref: Sandusky Register 01/11/1893 – 01/26/1887; The Erie County Reporter 01/1893; Vermilion History Museum Photo Archive; The First 100 Years of History of the Congregational Church in Vermilion, Ohio, Lucy Morgan.

Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: rnt@twc.com

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