Monday, April 4, 2016
Blame it All on Mom
If you had stumbled upon the full name of the Reverend P. T. Wilson—without benefit of any context with which to understand the genealogical connections preceding his birth—you might have thought it an unusual name to give a son. When I first discovered the missionary's full name, though, I knew right away what the family significance was.
You see, P. T. Wilson's mother was a Gilmer—a family line that seemed to weave its way in and out of my family's Taliaferro line, as well as a number of other colonial family names. There is a long-standing tradition within the Gilmer line of honoring a particular ancestor by repeatedly bestowing his name—or at least parts of it—to the sons of subsequent generations.
In P. T. Wilson's case, as I mentioned yesterday, his was a gift of only the first name, not the middle name of this revered Gilmer ancestor. The missionary's middle initial represented the Taliaferro surname, which connection will become clear with just a bit of genealogical explanation.
P. T.'s mother, Lucy Walker Gilmer—herself bearing a name repeated in the Gilmer clan—was the daughter of a woman named Martha Gaines Harvie. This woman, in turn, was daughter of a Taliaferro: Sallie (or perhaps Sarah) Taliaferro, sister of the Zachariah Taliaferro who was the very patriot gaining me entry into the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Though it was a stretch to reach back to that family name, now you know how P. T. Wilson arrived at his middle name.
But what of his first name? Ah, I thought you'd never ask that!
The P stands for the name Peachy.
While that may seem an unfortunate choice for a son's name in today's world, it was a name often bestowed by proud Gilmer men upon their sons, in honor of an ancestor named Peachy Ridgway Gilmer. There have, in fact, been several Gilmers who carried that name, including the third son of Dr. George Gilmer, friend and physician to President Thomas Jefferson.
For whatever reason, our Peachy did not receive the full name of this ancestor. For one thing, owing to his Gilmer connection being through his maternal line, his surname wasn't going to be Gilmer. For whatever reason, the Ridgway was omitted from this version of the Gilmer namesake. Thus, the rather unwieldy—and not quite fully traditional—Peachy Taliaferro Wilson. One wonders what nickname he chose to hide behind.
Now that you know the full name standing behind those initials, perhaps you might be dismayed to learn that, after all the fuss about the original Peachy Ridgway Gilmer—the one whose name kept being echoed down through the Gilmer generations—the family explanation about its origin might not even be true. We'll take a peek at what another Gilmer posited about how this situation may have come about, tomorrow.