Nonprofit news site BenitoLink keeps a close eye on San Benito County, tracking local news and telling stories about local residents and community leaders. It’s also interested in the county’s past, as seen in a new series by Robert Eliason of Benitolink about Hollister’s Gilmore Colony. The first article, published Oct. 2, begins the saga of the colony, a hamlet in Hollister’s Cienega Valley where former slaves came from Arkansas to work the land.
According to Eliason, new research and unpublished correspondence “offer a clearer understanding of what brought a group of former slaves from to Hollister and what happened when they got here.”
Among these arrivals was Scott Gilmore, who had grown up alongside D.W. Gilmore, the grape farmer who founded the colony. As a slave, Scott bore his young master’s last name. Back in Arkansas, the motherless Daniel had been raised by Scott’s house-slave parents. Scott and Daniel were almost the same age. Daniel was a Unionist who left his land behind when the Civil War started.
Scott joined the military. Against the odds, Scott survived the Fort Pillow massacre in Tennessee, where Confederate soldiers butchered some 300 unarmed African-American troops.
Eliason cites this fascinating correspondence between the two Gilmores: a mix of old friendship and unignorable condescension, of gifts as well as starchy lectures on laziness. Upcoming installments will tell of what befell these new arrivals to San Benito County.
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