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Gilmore Callison
Circuit Riding Oregon Preacher
By Charles Dailey - 1999

Gilmore Callison at a Glance:
Born: 1808 in Kentucky
Married: 1829 to Elizabeth McClure
Moved: Illinois in 1833
Oregon: 1852 wagon train
Wife died: Shortly after arriving
Married: 1853 to Eliza Linder
Family:See list
Preached: Western Oregon
Died:1869 in Eugene

Gilmore Callison was not the first in his family line to preach the gospel. His father, Joseph Callison, had been a circuit-riding preacher in Kentucky. Gilmore often rode with his father and brother Josiah on preaching tours.

At the age of 21, Gilmore married Josiah's wife's sister - Elizabeth McClure. It was common for a brother to marry his sister-in-law's sister. After all, the families were already acquainted. Gilmore had been immersed into Christ when he was 15 and Elizabeth when she was 13.

The new couple lived in Kentucky near the Mt. Pleasant Church. Elizabeth's brother John McClure, along with others, rode into Illinois to see what the country was like. They brought back such good news that many of the Callisons, Dawsons, McClures, Massies and friends moved there in 1833.

When they arrived in Hancock County, Illinois, Gilmore and Elizabeth established a Mt. Pleasant church in their home, about eight miles northeast of Carthage. This was the first Restoration church in Hancock County. It included James McClure, Edmund Green Browning, David and Vashti Browning, Nancy Callison, Josiah and Mary Callison and many others. Gilmore and Josiah shared in the leadership.

The church had a problem with wolves. They had to be fought off while coming and going to services and an armed sentry had to be on duty during church, especially in the evening. (Did a deacon have to be a good shot to qualify?)

Despite the dangers, Gilmore's preaching brought in a serious audience and the little church grew. In those years, the men wore homespun and the women wore dresses of calico and sun bonnets.

Robert Callison - 5.8 K
Gilmore's younger
brother Robert

Courtesy of
John Callison
Gilmore and Elizabeth built a sturdy two-story house and a fine farm. He was a circuit-riding preacher and planned to remain there. However, Gilmore's younger brother Robert and his wife Polly (Bristow) had traveled the Oregon Trail in 1848 and then urged the other members of the family to come west. So the farm was sold, sturdy wagons were built and food was prepared for two years.

In the Spring of 1852 Gilmore and his family and his sister Nancy with her husband, Dr. Edmund Green Browning, along with others, started for Oregon. Josiah Callison decided not to make the trip because his health was failing. Indeed, he died the following year.

Before arriving in Oregon, tragedy struck the wagon train. Nancy Callison Browning died giving birth to a child in Utah. Both Nancy and the baby were buried there and Dr. Browning finished the trip with their other children. He settled at Myrtle Creek, Oregon and is buried in the Myrtle Creek Pioneer Cemetery.

The members of the wagon train made their way to Pleasant Hill because that is where Polly's parents had settled. In fact her father, Elijah Bristow had established the town, the first school and the first church.

Gilmore's wife Elizabeth had been ill for the last part of the journey. Shortly after arriving at Pleasant Hill, she pass away. The Callisons had been married 23 years and had eight children. She is buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

Gilmore and Eliza Callison - 9.6 K
Gilmore and
Eliza Linder Callison

Courtesy of John Callison
Gilmore selected flat land about a mile from the church building and soon had a good farm in operation. The following year he married Eliza Fleenor Linder, the widow of John Linder. Eliza's son Levi married Gilmore's daughter Susan and Eliza's daughter Rebecca married Gilmore's son William.

It was through the hard work and good preaching of Gilmore Callison that the Pleasant Hill Church became a very influential congregation in Oregon, challenging and sending out a number of preachers and other families to establish churches in western Oregon. He was also a circuit-riding preacher in Lane County.

There may be an intriguing side-light to this story. Just maybe. We know that Gilmore rode the preaching circuit in Kentucky, Illinois and Oregon. We know that he liked the name Mt. Pleasant. About 50 miles north of Pleasant Hill is a quiet, out-of-the-way district with the name Mt. Pleasant, located five miles south of Stayton in Marion County. The church there began just two years after Callison arrived in Oregon. Is it possible that Gilmore Callison was responsible for naming the area and establishing this congregation? The first 23 years' history of the congregation no longer exists. There is nothing in the remaining records that connect with Callison - or anyone else - for that matter. Perhaps information will surface some day to rule this side-light in or out.

Callison moved to Eugene and led in organizing what is today First Christian Church. There were about 40 members when the congregation began in 1862. He was elected to the Oregon State Legislature in 1864. The congregation dedicated their first building to the Lord in March of 1869 and Gilmore Callison died that same month.

Gilmore Callison led a full life and influenced many men and women to love the Lord and follow Him. His children did the same.

Here is the death notice for Gilmore Callison from the Weekly Corvallis Gazette, Corvallis, Oregon, March 27, 1869, page 2:

Rev. G. Callison, Christian minister, died at his residence in Eugene on Monday morning, 22d inst. Like a shock of corn, fully ripe, he was ready for the garner of the Lord. His death was calm and peaceful. Father Callison had been instrumental in building a find brick church in that place, but was not permitted to live to see it entirely finished.
On April 3, 1869 a full obituary appeared in the same publication.

A Good Man Gone

On last Monday, the 22nd, Elder Gilmore Callison, well known to nearly all the citizens of the county, died at his residence in this city. He was born in Adair County, Kentucky, December 22nd, 1808, and was consequently 60 years and 3 months old. He moved from Kentucky to the State of Illinois about the year 1833, and settled in Hancock County, where he resided until the spring of 1852, when he emigrated with his family to Oregon, and settled in Lane county, where he continued to reside until his death.

He was elected to the lower House of the Oregon Legislature on the 6th of June, 1864, and served his constituents with honor and ability. For several months previous to his death he had been engaged in building a fine brick church at this place, but was not permitted to see it completed. His relatives and friends have the consolation, though deprived of his wise counsel and good example, that he lived a life of usefulness in the world and built up a monument in the hearts of those who knew him that will endure through coming years. Oregon, Illinois and Kentucky papers please copy notice.

Throughout Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, there is a strong correlation between the arrival of a member of the Callison family in a community and the launching of a church of the New Testament order with the church name, the weekly observance of the Lordís Supper and baptism for salvation as in Acts 2:38. Not enough information is available for us to make a positive correlation, but someday new information may come to light.

Dec. 22, 1808
Mar. 22, 1869
  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord  

Charles Dailey
Northwest College of the Bible 1999

Joseph Callison (1776-1830) & Susannah Dawson 
|      William Callison (1802-1868)
|      Charity Callison (1803-1853) & Smith 
|      John Dawson Callison (1805-1871)
|      Gilmore Callison* (1808-1896) & Elizabeth McClure (1807-1852)
|      |      John Joseph Callison (1830-1852)
|      |      William Thomas Callison (1832-1869) & Rebecca Jane Linder 
|      |      |      Charity Francis Callison 
|      |      |      John Gilmore Callison (1859-1949)
|      |      |      Alvin Callison 
|      |      Susan Ann Callison (1835-1895) & Levi Linder 
|      |      James David Callison (1837-1871) & Catherine Harris 
|      |      Rufus Gilmore Callison (1839-1915) & Martha Willis (1849-1912)
|      |      George Harden Callison (1842-1931) & Mary Ellen Fisher 
|      |      Robert Marshall Callison (1844-1930) & Minerva Fisher 
|      |      Amanda Callison (1848-1938) & William H. H. McClure 
|      Gilmore Callison* (1808-1896) & Eliza Fleenor Linder 
|      Josiah Callison* (1810-1853) & Mary McClure 
|      Nancy Callison (1812-1852) & Edmond Green Browning (1816-1888)
|      |      Louisa Browning (1841-1907) & Frances Marion Gabbert (c.1855-)
|      |      John Browning 
|      |      Linneaus Nathan Browning  & Nancy Conger 
|      |      |      Lew Browning 
|      |      David Browning  & Martha Conger 
|      |      Susan Sara Browning (1848-1919)
|      Susan Callison (1816-1852) & Stark 
|      Robert Callison (1818-1906) & Mary Ann "Polly" Bristow (1820-1911)
|      |      Lucetta Callison (1855-1942) & William H. Baughman (1847-1902)

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