Died at Sheridan, M.T., Wednesday, April 6, 1881, at 11 A.M., after a lingering illness of many months, James Gemmell, aged about 66 years.
Mr. Gemmell was one of the few men in this or any other country whose chequered life from young manhood to old age, if written, would make a volume of such hairbreadth escapes as would be interesting to old and young. He was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, moved with his parents to New York City, where he lived until he was nineteen. His father kept the Rob Roy Hotel on Hammond Street near the East River, that was much frequented by Scotch and Irish sailors whose long yarns filled his youthful mind with roving and adventurous desires. His parents were of the old Scotch Presbyterian faith, honest and true, whom Sir Walter Scott represents as holding the Bible in one hand and a sword in the other, ready to slay all who did not believe in the covenants…
As fascinating as any sailor’s yarn, the tales of grandfather James Gammell—that captivated journalists of his day—are told and retold by each generation of his descendants. The patriarch of the Utah/Montana Gammell or Gemmell family, was robust, energetic, adventurous, patriotic, honest, with a strong sense of justice, and dedicated to truth as he saw it. Add to these qualities his Scottish heritage, plus his journeys on three continents—all set against the backdrop of social and political conflicts of the times—and you have the makings of an exciting novel. Hopefully, these posts will eventually represent the complete life story of James Gammell for the benefit and interest of future generations of his descendants.
Those of us who bear the Gammell/Gemmell name hope that we possess at least a few of Grandfather’s positive qualities in our DNA. We want to learn about his forefathers and his genetic inheritance, and about the events that shaped him and eventually us as his descendants. We can’t help feeling that this is our story, too. When his life hung in the balance, so did ours. When he explored and planned, built and planted, the seeds of his efforts would yield our harvest.
Note: I gave up trying to be consistent in using either Gammell or Gemmell. Those of us who come from James’ marriage to Hannah Jane Davis carry the name Gammell, and that’s how we identify our great grandfather. The Montana family spells the name Gemmell, as written on James’ headstone. In this biography I have used various spellings interchangeably, but they all refer to the same man, our forefather James Gammell.