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(John) Hamilton Gillespie


1852 - 1923

Father of Sarasota. Born in Edinburgh, the son of a lawyer, Sir James Gillespie, Gillespie was educated at Hunter's School in York Place and then the Edinburgh Academy. He studied at both the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews, but graduated from neither. He trained as a lawyer and was admitted as a Writer to the Signet in 1875. The same year he became a member of the Royal Company of Archers. In 1885, he sailed from Glasgow for Sarasota in Florida (USA) to represent his father's interests in the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company, which had been sold land for a new Scottish colony (the Ormiston Colony) in what was described as thriving city. The colonists were disappointed when they found little habitation and only a poorly-stocked store. Gillespie was one of the few Scottish settlers who remained and he set about building a viable settlement. He was responsible for installing infrastructure, bringing the railway and building the first substantial buildings, including a sizeable hotel. He settled into legal practice and also enjoyed golf, a game he had brought to the town and was responsible for laying out one of the first golf courses in the USA here in 1886. Gillespie became the first Mayor of Sarasota in 1902.

Gillespie died on the golf course and was buried in Rosemary Cemetery in the city. Sarasota has a park named in his honour.


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