Gresham Family Biographies

John Jones Gresham (1812-1891) and Mary E. Baxter Gresham (1822-1889)

Born in Burke County, Georgia, John Jones Gresham (January 21, 1812-October 16, 1891) attended Waynesboro Academy and Richmond Bath Academy, before graduating from Franklin College in 1833. Franklin College would become the University of Georgia, on whose board of trustees John Gresham later served. After studying law in Augusta, Georgia, Gresham was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1834. For four years prior to the start of the Civil War, Gresham served as a judge in Macon, Georgia, which provided him with the title of "Judge" by which he was thereafter known.

Gresham moved to Macon in 1836 and married Mary E. Baxter Gresham (July 26, 1822-March 7, 1889) on May 25, 1843. Mary Baxter Gresham grew up in Athens, Georgia, and was one of eight children of Thomas W. Baxter (1787-1844) and Mary Wiley Baxter (b. 1798). Mary's sister Sarah C. J. ("Sallie") Baxter Bird (b. 1828) of Granite Farm near Sparta, Georgia frequently corresponded with Mary and her family, and Sallie's children Sarah Baxter ("Saida") and Wilson Dalton ("Bud") Bird were close to the Gresham children.

John Jones and Mary Baxter Gresham were the parents of three children: Thomas, LeRoy and Mary ("Minnie"). Two other children died in infancy. The Greshams lived in a substantial Greek Revival home on College Street in Macon, which still exists. They also owned a plantation called Houston, located south of Macon. Judge Gresham owned slaves, and the 1860 federal census records eight Gresham slaves residing in Macon, and forty-three at Houston.

Although trained as a lawyer, Judge Gresham more often engaged in business and political pursuits. He established the Macon Manufacturing Company in 1850, and built a cotton mill in 1851. He was twice elected mayor of Macon (1843 and 1847), and was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 1865. During the presidential election of 1860, Gresham served as the president of the Breckinridge & Lane Club of Bibb County and allied himself with the Confederacy when Georgia seceded from the Union. During the war, Gresham contributed to the Confederate cause in a variety of ways, including through financial contributions and brief service in the home guard. At the close of the war Judge Gresham formed a legal partnership with his son Thomas, but he soon retired to manage his financial interests.

Judge Gresham was a longtime member of the Presbyterian Church in Macon and promoted the local public schools. His activism on behalf of public education prompted the local board of education to name a high school in his honor. Gresham's surviving children donated funds in 1899 for the John J. Gresham Memorial Hospital building in Macon, further perpetuating Judge Gresham's memory.

Gresham's wife Mary died in 1889. John J. Gresham died in 1891 while visiting his daughter Minnie in Baltimore, Maryland. Gresham is interred with his wife in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon.

Thomas B. Gresham (1844-1933)

During the Civil War, John and Mary Gresham's elder son Thomas B. Gresham (October 20, 1844 -July 8, 1933) served with Co. B, 2nd Georgia Battalion in 1863, before transferring to the Engineer Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia and being assigned special detail duty in Macon in 1864. After the war, Thomas studied law at the University of Virginia and briefly practiced in Macon with his father before the latter retired from the law. Thomas then partnered with Richard F. Lyon in the firm Lyon & Gresham, until Gresham moved to Baltimore in 1887. Like his parents, Thomas was a firm adherent to the Presbyterian faith, and was active in both the Presbyterian Church in Macon and the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. He also worked on behalf of the public library in Macon.

On October 15, 1869, Thomas Gresham married Tallulah "Lula" Billups (1848-1879) of Madison, Georgia, the daughter of Hon. Joel A. Billups. The Greshams had one son, Reverend LeRoy Gresham (1871-1955), named in honor of Thomas's brother LeRoy. After Lula Gresham died of tuberculosis in 1879, Thomas remarried in 1887. His second wife was Bessie E. Johnston (1848-1926) of Baltimore, a daughter of Thomas Donaldson Johnston.  Bessie Gresham was active in the Baltimore chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and amassed a notable collection of Confederate manuscripts and relics at the Gresham home at 815 Park Avenue in Baltimore. Thomas B. Gresham died in Roanoke, Virginia and was buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore

LeRoy Wiley Gresham (1847-1865)

LeRoy Wiley Gresham (November 11, 1847-June 18, 1865) was named for his maternal uncle, LeRoy Wiley, but was often referred to within the family as "Loy." The capitalization of LeRoy's first name varied by author, and even LeRoy himself was not consistent in writing his name as "LeRoy" or "Leroy." For the sake of consistency, his name is written as "LeRoy" in this presentation.

As is clear in the family correspondence and his own Civil War diaries, LeRoy suffered from a host of medical problems that rendered him an invalid for most of his young life. The exact origins of his health concerns are not specified in the family papers, but he broke his left leg on September 20, 1856, and noted in 1861 that "from that time I have never been altogether well." The circumstances surrounding the breaking of LeRoy's leg are not known definitively; however, the April 10, 1919, issue of the Macon Daily Telegraph contained an article that included a recollection by Judge Albert Ayres. According to Ayres, about sixty-five years prior the Washington Hall hotel on the corner of Mulberry and Second in Macon burned, leaving a tall chimney among the ruins. While some local boys explored the site, the chimney fell and debris hit Ayers and LeRoy Gresham. According to the article, Ayers suffered only bruises, but the debris crushed LeRoy Gresham's legs. LeRoy's mobility difficulties largely confined him to a bed or couch, which may account for the severe abscesses on his back from which he suffered greatly. It may also account for his slight frame, and he recorded that he weighed only 63 pounds when sixteen years of age. He additionally suffered from coughing fits and digestive troubles. He recorded the variable state of his health in his diary entries, noting not only the symptoms accompanying his ailments, but also the remedies used to treat them. LeRoy often used morphine, Dover's Powders, belladonna plasters, and brandy to manage his pain.

Despite his physical infirmities and confined circumstances, LeRoy Gresham led a full life of voracious reading, playing chess, following events of the Civil War, supervising the planting of the garden at the Gresham home in Macon, and enjoying social visits with friends and family. LeRoy absorbed Confederate sympathies from his family and community, which is reflected in his correspondence and diaries. He does not dwell on any political or philosophical underpinnings to his nationalism, but consistently "hurrahed" for the Confederacy and made derogatory remarks about Abraham Lincoln and Union troops.

LeRoy Gresham began his final diary entry on June 9, 1865, but ceased writing after just a few words. He died June 18, 1865, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon. A portion of the inscription on LeRoy's tombstone confirms his special place in the Gresham family: "In life, this dear child was the light of the home circle." LeRoy's memory continued through his father's endowment of the LeRoy Gresham chair at the Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and a nephew named in his honor.

Mary Jones ("Minnie") Gresham Machen (1849-1931)

The youngest surviving child of John and Mary Gresham, Mary Jones ("Minnie") Gresham Machen (June 17, 1849-October 13, 1931) was educated at the Edgeworth School in Baltimore and the Wesleyan Female College in Macon, from which she graduated in 1865. On February 13, 1873, Minnie married Arthur W. Machen (1827-1915), a prominent Baltimore lawyer. Machen was the son of Caroline Webster and Lewis H. Machen, the principal clerk of the United States Senate from 1836 to 1859, and owner of "Walney," in Fairfax County, Virginia. The Arthur Machens had three sons. Arthur W. Machen, Jr. (1877-1950) followed his father into the law, while Thomas G. Machen (1886-1975) pursued a career in architecture. Middle son Rev. Dr. John Gresham Machen (1881-1937) became a well-known Presbyterian theologian. Minnie Gresham Machen was also a devout Presbyterian, reflected in her longtime membership in the Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore and her authorship of The Bible in Browning, a book tracing the influence of the Bible on the poetry of Robert Browning. Like her brother Thomas, Minnie Machen is interred in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.