The 1848 Gillard-Duncan House
The Gillard-Duncan (Welder) House, built in 1848 by Dr. Edward J. and his wife Emma DeBlanc Gillard, and located on the grounds of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, is one of the oldest homes in Southeast Texas. The restored home, complete with original furnishings, is open to public for tours. Please contact the Center for tour information. Tours must be arranged two weeks in advance.
One of eight families with the Creole immigration from the Red River Valley of Louisiana, the Gillard family arrived in Liberty County in December of 1845. These French families were direct descendants of the French nobleman and explorer, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. Their family entourage included their daughter Eliza, nephew and niece Simeon and Celima DeBlanc.
Dr. Gillard built his plantation home to resemble the Red River Valley homes of "Plaisance" and "Castile." The home, strongly influenced by the Creole style of architecture, was built of native pine and cypress wood and was located on the M.G. White League, near Ames. The lumber for the house was milled at their plantation sawmill located nearby. Special features of the two-story home included a travelers' room, an enclosed stairway, marbling, and wood-grained doors. Another unique feature of the home was the upstairs school room. The Gillard family believed in a good education for their children as well as those of their neighbors.
The home remained in the family until 1976. In 1848 the Gillard's daughter Eliza married Captain William B. Duncan. After her death in 1856, Capt. Duncan married Dr. Gillard's niece, Celima, in 1858. Following Celima's death in 1925, her son Emory Duncan lived in the family home until he died in 1939 after which time Julia Duncan Welder made the home her residence until her death in 1954. Mrs. Welder, a well known local historian, is credited with the preservation of the many family artifacts and archives.
Elizabeth Gay Bennett, granddaughter of Mrs. Welder, inherited the home and in 1976 made a gift of it to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. In 1980 the home was relocated, for reasons of security and public access, to the grounds of the center. Through generous donations by family members including Elizabeth Bennett, Connie Pratka, Pat O'Conner, Chessie Quesenbury, Duke Felton, Mary Urban, Mary Welder Gay, Thelma Gay, Mrs. Emory Dugat, Pat Allison, Duncan Welder, Jr., Ann Welder Jolly, Mrs. Duncan Welder, Sr., Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Devine, Mrs. Opal Hightower and the Mary Gay Trust, the home was fully restored under the auspices of the Atascosito Historical Society which maintains the home on behalf of the Texas State Library. The house received a Texas State historical marker in 1984. Many members of the Gillard, Duncan and Welder families live in the Liberty County area.