Stuart Knox Gillis, seventh son and eleventh child of John and Christian McIntosh Gillis, was born at Knox Hill, Walton County, Florida on July 28, 1866. He, like his older brothers, attended school at the Old Knox Hill Academy.
As did many of his Gillis kin, Knox Gillis taught school in his younger days before becoming a prominent attorney in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. He also taught in the Knox Hill Academy. Although Knox Gillis was a man filled with goodness, he was a stern man when it came to exhibiting his convictions.
By his being a strict disciplinarian he often had trouble with the parents of his students. He would not permit the parents to “run over” him. On one occasion he had a “humdinger” of a fight with the father of one of his students. This parent, Bob Rushing, and Knox Gillis squared off at school one day. During this fight Knox Gillis fell, rolled down an incline, and broke his collar bone.
For many years he lived with and took care of his mother, Christian McIntosh Gillis. His father had died when Stuart Knox Gillis was but about three years old.
After graduating and receiving his Law degree, he began practicing in his home town of DeFuniak Springs. As is true with many professions, enemies are often made. One time a man in Florala, Alabama attacked him, almost taking his life. This was most likely a man who had been the loser of a case in which Knox Gillis was involved. It may even have been a relative of the person.
Stuart Knox Gillis, teacher, attorney, and do-gooder, was perhaps most widely remembered for his religiousness. He was a very devout layman in the Presbyterian Church. Not only did he work in his church, the First Presbyterian Church at DeFuniak Springs, his former church — the Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church at Knox Hill . . . but was instrumental in the establishing of Palmer College in DeFuniak Springs, and the Gillis Chapel near DeFuniak on the Eucheeanna Road.
Stuart Knox Gillis paid the tuition of many young people who could not afford to attend Palmer College. Sometimes he was proud of their accomplishments, whereas there were a few disappointments. He was greatly distressed when one of his kin, accused of cheating during final examinations, was expelled from Palmer College.
At about the turn of the twentieth century, Stuart Knox Gillis became enamored with a lovely damsel whose name was Mamie McKinnon. She, too, was of the old Scotch stock. She was known as “Mae” by the family and was born on March 26, 1866. Mae and Knox Gillis had an infant son — born dead — on September 18, 1901. He is now buried in the Euchee Valley Cemetery.
After the death of Christian McIntosh Gillis, Knox and Mae Gillis built a beautiful two-story colonial home on Lake DeFuniak on the circle in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. This home still adorns the lake front of this city. Here they lived until their deaths:
Not only was Knox Gillis a good son to his widowed mother, but was a devoted brother to his sisters and his brothers. For his brother, John Newton Gillis, he made wise investments as well as giving legal advice. Copies of letters relating to some of this is incorporated in this history.
When William Currie McLean, husband of Knox Gillis’ sister, Flora, died he looked after her. He saw to it that she always had money in the bank — even if it required his depositing some of his own to her account.
Knox Gillis was a welcome visitor to the John Newton Gillis household, spending hours with the children. He was a good entertainer. Not having any children of his own made his ties with his nieces and nephews much stronger.
One of his favorite pranks was to put his hands together and then slap them to his knees, telling them that he had money in them. The children would then try to pull his hands away, and when they did . . . there was no money at all. He would ask the children why the chicken crossed the road. The answer, of course, was to get to the other side. Another of his pranks was to get the kids to listen to a watch (the old pocket watch type). He then told them there was a tiny blacksmith inside, hammering away.