Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Gillespie, Charles Van Megen

Updated September 10, 2014

Charles Van Megen Gillespie, merchant, was listed as a resident of Hong Kong from 1841 to ca.1848. Significantly, Gillespie was the first American to reside in the British Hong Kong.

He was the founder and proprietor of the mercantile firm C.V. Gillespie 記唎士庇行 (also known as 花旗記唎士庇行).  He owned a warehouse built in 1842 at #46 Queen's Road, at which place he also carried on the trading of wine and liquor, chandlery supplies, piece goods, building materials, etc.

Gillespie had a brother, Archibald Hamilton Gillespie, a lieutenant in the US Marines, who fought against Mexicans after the United States took control of California in August 1846.

Selected Bibliography: The Friend of China, March 24, 1842, p.4. Hong Kong's First [online]. Sinn, Elizabeth, Pacific Crossing: California Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong Kong, Hong Kong: Hong Kong Uinversity Press, 2013.

Eliza Gillespie (b. July 11, 1819 – d. 1911) was born to a fourth generation immigrant family originated in Scotland, which had rooted in New York since the turn of the Eighteenth Century. She was daughter of David Gillespie (b.1789-d.1824) and Mary S. Post (b.ca.1789-d.bef.1825). She and her sister Elizabeth McDougall Gillespie (b.1814-d.1837) went to join their brother, Charles Van Megen Gillespie (b.1810-d. Unknown) in China in 1830s. Charles ran businesses and lived between Hong Kong, Macau and Canton. He owned a godown (storage house), and ran auction and mercantile businesses at No. 46 Queens Road. Elizabeth McDougall died from illness in 1837 and was buried in Macau. Eliza and Anderson left Hong Kong in 1846; Charles and his family by the end of the following year. Instead of returning home in New York, Charles took his family to San Francisco where they arrived on the brigantine Eagle on February 2, 1848. His arrival somehow turned into a remarkable historical event when latter day historians declared that the three servants (two unnamed men and a woman called Marie Seise -- no one seemed to know her Chinese name; she was once married to a Portuguese sailor named Seise) he brought with him from China, the first Chinese immigrants to the United States. Having settled down in San Francisco, Charles became very busy engaging in a variety of activities: as a notary public and searcher of records, and a real estate broker, in addition to running an importing firm for Chinese goods. He had (in essence but not as a right) a monopoly of the business of examination of wills, and above all else launched a company named Fidelity National that would eventually become Fidelity National Financial. FNF ranked 472 in the 2012 Fortune 500 ranking. Eliza's another brother was the famous U.S. Marine Lieutenant (later Captain, and Major) Archibald Hamilton Gillespie who made his name during the Mexican-American War, which I would not go into details here. Archibald was remembered by the naming of destroyer USS Gillespie (DD-609) and the Gillespie Field airport in El Cajon, California.


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