William Gaston was born at Newburn, North Carolina, April 5th, 1834. He was the oldest of a family of three children of Alexander and Eliza W. Gaston. Alexander Gaston was a man who exercised marked local influence and was of some political prominence in his state. Among the public duties committed to him was that of representing Hyde County in the State Convention of 1835. Judge William Gaston, father of Alexander Gaston, served as a judge of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. He was also for several years a member of Congress from that state.
The Gaston family is an old one in the United States, and several of its members participated in the war for independence. The descendants of the old families are now widely scattered throughout the Union.
The family of Alexander and Eliza Gaston, however, is now extinct. Their children were William, Hugh, and Susan. Hugh, the second son, was born in 1836. Early in the war between the states he entered the Confederate army and became a Captain. He was mortally wounded at the battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg, and died on October 11th, 1862. Susan Gaston married Robert D. Baelieff, and at her death left no descendants.
Alexander Gaston, by another marriage, had a daughter named Eliza; a half-sister, therefore, to William, Hugh and Susan. Eliza married S. S. Kirkland and has one son, John Gaston Kirkland, whose home is at Tampa, Florida.
William Gaston graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1856, at the age of twenty-two. General Hylan B. Lyon, who afterward, as a lieutenant with Colonel Wright, assisted in avenging his death, was one of his classmates. On his graduation he was assigned to duty in the West among the hostile Indians as 2nd Lieutenant. His bravery, sound judgment and skill soon com mended him to the special notice of his superiors, and the prospect of his advancement to exalted rank in the army was most promising. He was esteemed alike by officers and men for his agreeable companionship. Though his health failed him during the last year of his life, he clung cheerfully to his command and flinched at no duty that fell to his lot. At the time of his death he had just reached the age of twenty-four years but little past his youth.
The Weekly Oregonian of May 29th, 1858, in commenting on the battle of Tohotonimme, meager news of which had but just reached it, had this to say: “Among the killed were Capt. O. H. P. Taylor and Lieut. Wm. Gaston, two as gallant officers as ever fell upon the battlefield.
In 1861 the remains of these two officers were by their fellow officers transferred from Walla Walla to the Cadets’ Cemetery at West Point, where side by side they now repose. A modest slab with simple inscription marked their final resting place. Through a feeling of gratitude on the part of relatives toward the officers who placed it there, the slab was never changed; and although a handsome monument has been erected in recent years the original slab is sacredly preserved.