The historic Baillie House hosted one of Merritt’s historic families this past weekend as 52 members of the Gillis family convened for a family first.
Tom Hryniuk and Etelka Gillespie, the residents who own the famed Gillis House at the corner of Garcia Street and Merritt Avenue helped gather the family together this past weekend for a reunion.
Only about 35 family members were missing from the reunion Don Gallaher — grandson of J.J. Gillis — told the Herald.
The family originated from Prince Edward Island — and Scotland before that.
Currently, members of the Gillis family live in various places such as Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle.
“It’s a pretty good turnout,” Hryniuk said.
J.J. Gillis was one of the original doctors who worked in Merritt after moving here in 1911.
J.J.’s younger brother Austin served as an army doctor in the First World War after he completed his medical training, Gallaher said.
In Merritt, J.J. bought property in 1921 and built the now historic house that spring.
After the war, Austin joined his brother in Merritt, buying a house nearby and worked as a doctor in the community as well.
“The rest is history, really,” Gallaher said.
J.J. Gillis also served as MLA from 1928 to 1952.
Don said Austin took over J.J’s responsibilities as a doctor when he became MLA as J.J. could not work both professions.
“This is the first time we’ve had a family reunion under J.J.’s name since he past away in April of ‘65 and we’re looking forward to putting together another one in 2021 for the house’s 100th anniversary,” Gallaher said.
On Saturday, the family took in a bunch of activities including entering a float in the Nicola Valley Fall Fair and Pro Rodeo Parade, and touring the Nicola Valley Museum.