Soon after Dad’s death in 1991, I began transcribing all of the documents he had gathered. I spent many hours typing on a used DOS computer with a black and white screen. Later my brother Phil Gammell updated the format of my documents and distributed them to many family members. From that project I got an overview of James' life and experiences, and a pretty good sense of the time line. I really didn’t discover many of the interesting details, however, until I started doing further research. I also discovered that James reminds me a lot of my dad. Like James, Dad was prone to be motivated to action by his heart, not necessarily his head.
I moved with my husband and family to Ann Arbor in 1987, and until that time I hadn’t realized that southeast Michigan was James Gammell country. I felt like I had returned to my roots. One weekend, while returning from a trip to Chicago with my husband, Steve, and my son Matt, we decided to take a rest stop at the Spring Arbor exit on I-94. I knew that James had lived there, and that his first wife, Harriet, was buried in the Spring Arbor Cemetery. A few miles from the exit we came to a main road (M60), took a right turn, and found the cemetery. We found the oldest section of the cemetery (right next to the road) and started walking up and down the rows of weather-beaten stones. It didn’t take long before we found the headstone of Harriet, “wife of James Gemmell, and daughter of John and Abigail Fitzgerald.” (Spring Arbor Cemetery southwest corner, 4 rows west of the west driveway path.) Recently we revisited Spring Arbor with my brother Mark Gammell and his family and spent a few hours there.
As my research and writing continue, I have been energized by my discoveries. Now I can’t wait to share them with all of you who enjoy my same fascination with Grandfather James Gammell (Gemmell.)