250th Celebration Facts: Gish House

Christian Gish home, Daleville
Christian Gish was born in 1735, two years after his parents’ arrival in Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1733. His patriotic service duty states he served in the Revolutionary War in the Lancaster Co. Militia under Captain Stone, Sixth Co, 2nd Battalion.
He married Sophia Hock and, like his father before him, he was a blacksmith in the tiny town of Penryn, Pa., north of Lancaster in the beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch country. Today there stands a handsome bronze tablet, “To the memory of Matthias and Kathryn Bauer Gish,” and their descendants attached to a large rock in the middle of that town. Christian’s name is listed on the plaque as well. Mathias received a patent for this land directly from William Penn. Blacksmithing was lucrative and hard work invested there allowed Christian to sell his blacksmith shop and land, as prices had rapidly increased in only two generations.

He and his family were one of the first families to cross the Susquehanna River and migrate southward. One can well imagine as we cross that river by highway bridge today the challenges this experience with only paddleboats to guide them across. Large families, babies, a few cattle, horses, chickens; it would have been a sight for us to behold.
Christian soon bought land on the Tinker Creek, Glade Creek and Roanoke River and lots in the town of Amsterdam, which was expected to become an economic hub. He also purchased 850 acres of land from the Breckinridge family and built this home there. In all likelihood, the Tinker Mill that is standing nearby was part of the Greenfield Plantation at one time. The Prestons soon moved to Smithfield in Blacksburg.

His investments in farming and the purchase of land in Cloverdale, Daleville, Troutville and other areas of the both Botetourt and northern Roanoke counties, ensured that his children and descendants would be well provided for in his lengthy will. Years of hard work had taken their toll and he states that he is “Weak and sick of body, but sound of mind and memory.” He was only 51 years old and died at this house in 1797 three years after his arrival. The nearby Daleville Cemetery contains the tombstones of he and Sophia but they are now illegible.
He arrived in September of 1792 and it is believed this cabin still standing in Daleville near The Bank of Fincastle, completed the same year. It bears unusual round stone columns and is built of substantial logs, now covered with weatherboarding. Recently, a new metal roof was installed and this is a good sign that the current owners plan to take care of their rental property. Once painted blue and now traditional white again, we can be thankful this home has been preserved.
Because of his service in the Revolutionary War, we would welcome the Daughters of the American Revolution of Sons of the Revolution involvement in placing a proper headstone for his grave, and also at the home. It is also time for Botetourt County to begin recognizing historic old homes and dwellings. We cannot be expected to engage in meaningful preservation until we designate these places and enact powerful ordinances against destroying or changing their historical integrity, especially on homes and churches that are 200 years old. This county must begin to understand the benefit of historical restoration as another means of economic development, rather than destroy it for that purpose.
The Gish family members are legendary for their intermarriages in later generations. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 Roanoke and Botetourt residents share these common ancestors. My family alone has descended through this Gish ancestor for 10 consecutive generations. Christian and Sophia Gish were my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. I am proud to be the son of this patriot.
-Greg Rieley
Country Club Road, Troutville

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