Civil War Veteran, Businessman, Allegheny City Postmaster
John Adams Gilleland was born in 1841, the third child in a family of nine. The Gillelands were a farming family with Scotch-Irish Presbyterian roots, Gilleland’s grandfather having immigrated to Butler County from North Ireland. At 19 years old Gilleland left the family farm and went to Allegheny City where he found work as a clerk in the drygoods store of William Sample. When the Civil War broke out, Gilleland left his job to enlist in Company E, One Hundred and Twenty Third Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In his nine months with Company E, Gilleland saw action in some of the major battles of the war, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and the second battle of Bull Run at Antietam. After an honorable discharge Gilleland returned to Sample’s store but was unable to settle back into civilian life. He reenlisted in 1864, joining the One Hundred and Ninety Third Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry, Company B. Again he served his time, was discharged and returned to Sample’s store only to organize a company of volunteers that was mustered into the service as Co. D, Seventy Seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers. Company D was sent from Harrisburg to Tennessee and then to Nashville and finally Texas, where it was mustered out upon completion of the war. Gilleland returned for a final time to Sample’s store, where he worked until 1867. He worked at other similar establishments until he went into business for himself as the proprietor of clothing and tailoring shop in 1887.
Soon after his 1889 election, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Gilleland postmaster of Allegheny City. It is not clear how Gilleland came to the attention of President Harrison but, by this time, Gilleland was a prominent business man, had been serving as director of a local school, was one of the original stockholders of the Enterprise Bank and had spent several years as a member of the Poor Board of Allegheny City. He succeeded John Swan as Allegheny City Postmaster and was succeed in turn by Isaac R. Stayton in 1894.
In 1869, Gilleland married Annetta Dunlap, daughter of Capt. Hance Dunlap. The couple had three children that survived to adulthood. Gilleland died in 1897 after a five week confinement at his home due to illness and injuries incurred in a fall from a streetcar.