Member Biography

James Lyle Gillis 


History of Jefferson County; Genealogical and Personal History of the Allegheny Valley, PA, Vol. I, ed. John W. Woolf (NY, Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1913)

Sessions Office Position District Party
1845       28 Democrat
1847       28 Democrat


1792 - 1881

The Honorable James Lyle Gillis, considered the "Patriarch of Elk County,” was the son of Robert and Sarah (Stewart) Gillis of Hebron, Washington County, N.Y., born October 2, 1792; he attended public schools; worked as a tanner, 1808-1811;  served in the War of 1812 with a cavalry regiment; action at Fort George, Chipewa, Lundy’s Lane (where he was wounded), was captured, imprisoned, escaped, recaptured imprisoned through surrender; moved to Victor New York briefly, then moved to Ridgway, Pa., in 1822.  Gillis was appointed associate judge of Jefferson County by Governor Porter; was a member of the state House of Representatives, 1840 and 1851; a judge of Jefferson County in 1842; member of the state Senate in 1846-1848; wrote the bill that formed Elk County; served as a mail agent in San Francisco, California; elected as a Democrat to Congress, 1857-1859; was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1858; appointed agent for the Pawnee Indians; moved with son Charles to Iowa in 1862,  died in Mount Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa, July 8, 1881; interment in Forest Home Cemetery. He married Mary Ridgway of Philadelphia, a close relative of financier Jacob Ridgway, 1816.  She died in 1826, and Gillis married (2) Cecilia Anne Berray.