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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company; Elwood Roberts, Editor.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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THOMAS S. GILLIN, borough engineer of Ambler, and well known as a surveyor, is the son of James and Anna Matilda (Felten) Gillin. He was born September 27, 1853, on the farm on which he now lives.

In his early youth he attended the old Eight Square school, which was the place at which many of the young men and women of his generation were educated. He also attended for a time the select school of William Arrott, of Penllyn. Still later he was a pupil at Sunnyside School, Ambler, taught by the Misses Knight, which was very popular in its day, but has recently been discontinued after a prosperous career of more than thirty years. He next became a student at the Polytechnic College, of which Dr. Alfred L. Kennedy was the head for many years. He graduated from that institution in the class of 1877. He then remained at home one year, at the end of which time he engaged in railroad engineering in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, on the Gould and Vanderbilt systems, and assisted on the surveying corps of the South Pennsylvania Railroad until 1882, when the corps was disbanded at Pittsburg, and he returned home and resumed work on the farm. In the meantime he engaged in local survey and topographical work, and since the incorporation of Ambler into a borough he has been employed as its engineer. On May 19, 1885, Mr. Gillin married Mary Hannah, born January 28, 1863, daughter of Tilghman V. and Elizabeth Rebecca (Breinig) Rhoads, of Fort Washington, and located at Lilac Lane Farm, the Gillin homestead. The house, which was built in 1768, is a good example of the old colonial style of architecture, being such a home as the prosperous German farmers of that day were wont to erect, having an eye to general convenience as well as comfort. It is a long two and a half story building, constructed of stone, with low ceilings and great open fire-places, in which are large iron cranes that were used in former times for a support over the fire for kettles in which were made the delicious apple butter for which that section of the county was famous. Everything about the mansion and the farm indicates thrift and abundance on the part of its fortunate owners. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Gillin are: James Rhoads, born March 4, 1886, resides with his parents and is a student in the Department of Mechanical Arts in the Drexel Institute, Philadelphia; Mary Matilda, born March 29, 1887, attended school at Sunnyside Academy, Ambler, and was also a student at St. Joseph’s Academy, at Chestnut Hill, resides with her parents, at Lilac Lane Farm.

James Gillin (father) son of Robert and Catharine (Hamilton) Gillin, was born October 9, 1805, near Belfast, in County Antrim, Ireland. He emigrated to this country, reaching the port of Baltimore in the spring of 1830. Having spent seven weeks on the voyage to this country, he remained some time in Baltimore to rest, and then, in company with several others, set out on foot for Philadelphia, there being no railroads at that early date. On arriving in Philadelphia he applied himself at once to his trade of stone mason, and devoted himself to the improvement of his condition. In the fall of that year, having heard of the demand for stone masons in Mauch Chunk and its vicinity, he journeyed to that place, but, a very hard winter setting in soon afterwards, he found very little doing at his trade, but found many opportunities of making money that are ordinarily neglected by mechanics. He was not afraid to work, and he shoveled snow and whatever else offered itself, so that by the opening of spring he had still untouched the money he had earned the previous winter in Philadelphia. He returned to that city in 1831, where he rejoined his parents and the rest of the family who had meantime come from Ireland, encouraged by the good accounts he and others had sent them. They came by way of Canada. James Gillin continued for some time to work at his occupation of stone mason, but about the year 1843 he began dealing in horses and cattle, his occupation of drover often taking him as far west as the valley of the Ohio. In this business he was associated for a time with a brother of the late Jeremiah Black, who occupied a prominent position as judge, and was a member of the cabinet of President James Buchanan. On October 6, 1840, Mr. Gillin married Anna Matilda Felten, daughter of Anthony Felten, of Norriton township, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, and located at the corner of Twenty-ninth and Master streets, Philadelphia, engaging in business as a dairyman and farmer, and remaining there until 1853. In the spring of that year he purchased the farm of Isaac Ellis, in Lower Gwynedd township, contaning 105 acres of excellent land, well timbered, and its farm and dairy products, under the management of Mr. Gillin and his wife supplying some of the most prominent families of Germantown and Chestnut Hill with what they needed in this line. The children of James and Anna Matilda Felten Gillin were: Catherine, born in 1841, married James Mann, a farmer, of Lower Gwynedd, and had eight children as follows: Margaret, Jennie, Thomas, Gillin, Harvey, Matilda, Cynthia, Francis; Robert Hamilton, born December 3, 1843, in Penn township, Philadelphia, now Twenty-ninth and Master streets, attended in his youth a public school in that neighborhood, and, after the removal of the family to the farm purchased by the father in Montgomery county in 1853, he attended the Eight Square school, previously mentioned, until his sixteenth year, also attended the William Arrott School, after which he remained at home on the farm assisting in its cultivation and in the marketing of its products; James, born 1845, deceased; Jane, born 1848, married Lewis F. Sloan, son of Robert Sloan and his wife, who was a Miss Shively, whose parents were farmers of Montgomery township; Margaret Ross, born 1851, married Maurice Weiss, son of Casper Weiss, who resides at Flourtown; Thomas S., subject of this sketch.

By the will of James Gillin his real estate was left to his sons, Robert and Thomas, on the death of their mother, as owners in common. Since that time there has been a division of the estate, Robert taking for his share of the property fifty-four and one-third acres of the northeastern part, on the higher ground and including the woodland, and Thomas retaining thirty-two acres of improved land with the buildings attached, including the mansion, which is rendered dear by the many associations connected with it. In this capacious residence he has abundant room for his specimens in ornithology, in which pursuit he is greatly interested.

Mrs. Thomas Gillin is descended from a long line of honorable ancestors, of whom she may well be proud. Her father, Tilghman Victor Rhoads, was the son of Josiah and Hannah Rhoads. He was born in 1835, and died October 27, 1872. He married, in 1862, Elizabeth Rebecca Breinig, of Allentown. He located in Philadelphia, sometime after his marriage, but soon afterwards removed to Allentown, where he edited and published the “Lehigh Patriot,” and had a book and stationery store. He was a staunch Republican in politics, and during President Grant’s administration he held the position of United States internal revenue assessor in that district. While residing In Allentown, Mrs. Gillin attended the public schools of that city. The family removed to Fort Washington in 1878. The children of Tilghman V. and Elizabeth (Breinig) Rhoads were as follows: Mrs. Thomas S. Gillin, born January 28, 1863; William Breinig, born October 27, 1865, resides at Fort Washington, where he is a real estate agent; Magdalene Elizabeth, born April 8, 1867, married, March 27, 1889, Samuel Yeakle, son of William A. Yeakle, deceased, of Flourtown, and has one child, William, born July 30, 1893; Annie Victoria, born in November, 1870, married, August 24, 1897, David Brooke Johnson, son of Hophni and Elizabeth (Shrawder) Johnson, of Eagleville.

Thomas S. Gillin is a Democrat in politics, as was his father. He is a justice of the peace. His popularity is shown by the fact that he has been repeatedly elected to the position of borough engineer in the Republican district of Ambler. He frequently serves on road juries, in which his acquirements as a surveyor are of great value in assisting the members to agree upon their award. The family are members of the Upper Dublin Lutheran church, in whose graveyard the father and mother were interred.

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This family biography is one of more than 1,000 biographies included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

View additional Montgomery County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Biographies

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