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Toby Gilmore – American Patriot

July 4, 2017

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Last Sunday, Jacqueline Townes (“Miss Jackie” to the younger members of the church) stood up to tell the story of her great-great-great-grandfather, Toby Gilmore.

Born in west Africa in the 1740s, Shibodee Turrey Wurry was captured by slave traders, shipped to Rhode Island, bought by John Gilmore of Raynham, Massachusetts and given the name, Tobias.

Artifacts of Toby Gilmore’s life – his cannon, his military hat, his canteen, his houses and account books.

At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Gilmore enlisted with the promise of winning his freedom, and served three years with local regiments and with the Continental Army, including through the brutal winter at Valley Forge.

Local lore holds that Gilmore rose to become one of Gen. Washington’s bodyguards, and that the cannon he brought home—and fired 14 times each Independence Day (1 for each of the 13 original states, and 1 for Gen. Washington)—was a gift from Washington.

After the war, Gilmore served in the Federal Army during Shay’s Rebellion. He became a successful businessman, landowner and investor; he and his wife Rosanna had eight children. Their house still stands in Raynham, as does the marker over the grave where Toby was buried after his death on April 19, 1812.

The local newspaper reported on Oct. 24, 1921 that Caroline Gilmore, the last of Toby’s descendants, had died. What they didn’t know, what they had no way of knowing, was that Toby’s daughter Delia, who had moved away from southeastern Massachusetts when she married, had living descendants.

Nearly 90 years later, one of Jackie Townes’ younger relatives, Milah Pasto, the family genealogist, traveled back to Raynham to the Old Colony Historical Society and discovered the previously unknown link to Tobias Gilmore.

Today Miss Jackie, Delia’s great-great-granddaughter, is the oldest of nearly 100 living descendants of Toby Gilmore. She’s also a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (a virtually all-white organization, despite the fact that roughly 1/5 of the soldiers in the Continental Army were of African descent).

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

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