Mr John Gill was born in Congresbury, Somerset, England around early 1888.1 His parents were Richard (1865-1924), a coal merchant's carter born in 1865 in Somerset, and Annie, née Sampson; she was c. 1864 in Somerset and was christened 4 January 1865 at St. Peter’s Church in Bishopsworth, Somerset. Before she married John’s father, she had been a general servant and lived in Bedminster.
John Gill’s parents married 18 May 1886 at St. John’s Church in Bedminster, Somerset, in the Church of England tradition. They produced two children; Henry (Henry Joseph R., born late 1886?), and John, b. 1888.
Tragedy struck in 1890 in the summer of 1890 when Annie died, aged only 25.
In 1891, John, his father and brother were living with his grandparents, James and Jane Gill in Congresbury, Somerset. For some reason, the two young boys were listed as the sons of the elderly couple.
His father married Minnie Louisa Pitts (1866-1943) 29 December 1893 at the church of St. Philip and St. Jacob in Bristol, England. His new wife, and subsequently Henry’s and John’s stepmother, was born in the summer of 1866 at Weston-Super-Mare in the Axbridge district of Somerset.
Richard and his new wife went on to have some children, including James, b. 1895, Charles, b. 1901, Evelyn, b. 1907, and Percy Nunny, b. 1 February 1911.
In 1901, John lived in Congresbury with his parents and brothers Henry, 15, and Willie, 6. There were also two boarders living with them.
He had left Southampton, England, 9 February 1907 as a third class passenger on the steamship St. Louis and came to New York 18 February 1907. He was noted as an unmarried farm labourer aged 19. His last place of permanent residence was his native Congresbury, England, and his destination was Stoughton, Michigan. He was 5’6’’ tall, had brown hair and brown eyes.
In 1910, he lived in Rutland Township, Dane County, Wisconsin, and was noted as an unmarried farm labourer ’working out,’ aged 22.
He returned to England at some point in late 1910 or in 1911.
John married Sarah Elizabeth Wilton (née Hodder) on 14 February 1912 at the church of St. John the Evangelist, Clevedon. Sarah was born in 1890 in Portishead, Somerset, the daughter of Frederick William Hodder, a postal worker, and his wife Emma, née Stambury. The couple later lived at the home of his parents-in-law at 3 Griffin Road, Clevedon, Bristol and John worked as a chauffeur to Rev. C. R. Braithwaite, vicar of Hewish St. Ann, near Puxton.
John Gill boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger (ticket number 233866 which cost £13 and purchased from Cook & Son in Bristol). His exact destination in the USA remains unknown, but it is thought he was going there to set up a new home for himself and his wife; perhaps he was going back to Wisconsin. Before going to the USA on the Titanic,
John Gill died in the sinking and his body was subsequently recovered from the sea by the MacKay Bennett (#155) on 23 April. He was buried at sea the following day:
NO. 155. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 31. DARK - HAIR.
CLOTHING - Dark clothes; pajamas underneath.
EFFECTS - Pocket comb; pocketbook; gold watch and chain; silver match box; keys; pocket knife; gold ring; $4.60 in silver; 9s. in various coins; $43.00 in notes; collar button.
NAME - JOHN W. GILL,
Following an exchange of letters, the effects were returned to Gill's widow.
Gold watch and chain
Following his loss a large portrait of John and his wife taken on their wedding day was placed in the porch of the parish church where they had wed. A special hymn, composed by the Reverend Braithwaite, was sung by the congregation in his honour.
John's widow Sarah was never remarried. She continued to live in Bristol and died there in 1968 aged 77.