Charles Gilkey, a prominent resident of Cornish, who was formerly engaged in the gunsmith business, is a native of Plainfield, N.H., born September 29, 1826. Charles Gilkey, his grandfather, born in Connecticut, was the first of the family to come to Plainfield. He came originally as agent of a wealthy Connecticut family, and remained in their employ for some time. After failing in an attempt to buy a farm with the Continental money in which his salary was paid, owing to the depreciated value of that currency then, he succeeded in leasing one from the State for nine hundred and ninety-nine years. This property is still in the possession of the family, subject to an annual rental of six or eight dollars, which is paid to the treasurer of the Episcopal church of the town. Grandfather Gilkey married Lucy Avery, who bore him five children-Jonathan, John, Charles, William, and James. Jonathan married a Miss Spaulding, and lived in Vermont. John married and spent his life in Vermont, working at the trade of ship-carpenter. He had one daughter, who married the Rev. Robert Christie. Charles was drowned when a young man. William died young.
James Gilkey, the father of Charles Gilkey, a native of Connecticut, born in September, 1769, came to Cornish when about seven years old. By trade he was a mechanical woodcutter, in which he carried on a large business for some time. After the death of his brother Charles he took charge of the farm. Highly esteemed in the community, he served in every office in the gift of the town, including that of legislative Representative. He married Naomi Smith, of Plainfield, who was born in December, 1805. Their children were: Charles, the subject of this sketch; George, born in Cornish, who died in 1849; James, born in Plainfield, who was a railroad man, and died in Arkansas of a fever contracted there; Jeannette, who married Wats Beckworth, of Kansas; John, who is living on the old homestead in Cornish; Julia, who married Ed Bryant, of Cornish, had four children, and died in 1889; and Asa, living in Brattleboro, who for a number of years was an officer of the Asylum for the Insane, bought a farm, married Lizzie Harris, and has one daughter, Edith.
Charles Gilkey, the eldest child of his parents, was educated in the schools of Plainfield. He then learned the trade of mechanical woodcarver, and worked at Worcester and Chicopee, Mass., in Connecticut, and at Windsor, Vt. Inheriting the mechanical genius of his father, he had no difficulty in taking up the manufacture of guns for a firm that was under contract to make a thousand guns for the Russian government. In 1861, when the Civil War broke out, the United States government took all the guns the factory could turn out. A large part of the guns carried by General Butler’s troops on his trip to New Orleans were made by this concern. While in Worcester, Mr. Gilkey made the machinery for the first double-barrel gun manufactured. After a time his health gave out, and he bought the large farm in Cornish where he now resides. He has been prominent in town affairs, has been Highway Surveyor and a member of the School Board, and he was Collector of Taxes when only twenty-one years of age. In politics he is an independent, preferring to vote for the best man or for the party exemplifying the best principles. He showed his honesty in this respect by voting in the last two elections respectively for Cleveland and McKinley.
Mr. Gilkey married Laura A., daughter of Titus and Lucy (Mills) Sheppard. Mrs. Gilkey was born in Dudley, Mass., in July, 1820, and died February 2, 1897. Her paternal grandfather and great-grandfather were born in Dudley. Her maternal grandfather, Nathaniel Mills, came from Scotland to Thompson, Conn., where he was the first of the name. Her grandmother Mills was born in Thompson, Conn. The house in which Mr. Gilkey lives, although about one hundred and fifty years old, is in an excellent condition still. Its timbers of solid oak are, to all appearances, good for another century and a half. For years it was considered the prettiest cottage in the district. Among many interesting relics preserved by the family is a barrel used for packing pork, that had been used for thirty years by Mrs. Gilkey, and no one knows how long it was in use before. Even the brine, which is submitted to an annual purifying process is, at least part of it, thirty years old.