I suppose some folks would question how I can relate an early 1900s Chicago medicine bottle to Hiawatha, the Mohawk Indian Chief, and Hiawatha, Kansas, a beautiful little town named after him. It’s actually quite simple.
I’m a bottle digger and collector. There are probably two hundred bottles in my collection. At one point there were three times that many, but I’ve sold or given away a slew.
One large bottle that I’ve never paid much attention has the following wording embossed on front glass,
HENRY R. GILLISPIE – PHARMACIST – 824 MADISON, COR. HOYNE AVE.
Ten years ago, searching online for that address, I pinpointed it to Chicago, Illinois. Pharmacist bulletins from back then confirmed that Henry R. Gillispie was doing business at this locale from 1901 – 1910. I wasn’t too excited on the discovery, as there were hundreds of druggists in Chicago back then.
Just recently, I came across Gillispie’s dusty bottle sitting on an office shelf and decided to further investigate before relegating it to a packing box. I uncovered quite an interesting story during this research.
Henry Gillispie was born in Hiawatha, Kansas in 1864. Hiawatha, Kansas is named after the famous Indian leader. Henry’s father, Henry Gillispie Sr., was one of the most beloved citizens of the Hiawatha community. Just about everyone addressed him as, Uncle Henry.
In 1886, Henry Gillispie Jr., one of eleven children, was partners with Dr. John Milton Cecil in a Hiawatha drug store, Cecil & Gillispie Drug. Young Henry Gillispie was also a college student in Lawrence at this time.
Gillispie was not a licensed pharmacist and was working alongside Dr. Cecil to learn the trade. In 1888, Dr. J.M. Cecil and Henry Gillispie sold their business, with the doctor first moving to Hays City, KS., and then heading back to his ranch in Muscotah, KS. He continued to practice medicine in Reserve and Muscotah even with a bad heart.
Henry Gillispie completed his studies at Kansas State University; academically being first in his class. Gillispie then ventured to Pennsylvania to finish up his education at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He had the highest honors at this university as well.
By 1900, Henry Gillispie Jr. was managing a store in Chicago, and records show that in 1901, he had his own pharmacy, Henry R. Gillispie Drug.
Sadly, Henry contracted tuberculosis and passed away in 1910, at the age of 46, leaving behind a wife and young child. His father accompanied the body back to Hiawatha from Chicago, where it was taken to Reserve for burial. Henry Gillespie Sr. died two years later in 1912. They’re buried in the same cemetery.
- Dr. John Milton Cecil died in 1904 and his remains are interned in Hiawatha.