Gilman was born in Sparta, New York, and graduated from Princeton College in 1879. He taught at the Territorial University in Seattle, Washington (1880-1882), then graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1885. He accepted an appointment from the Presbyterian Church to open their new station on Hainan Island, Kwangtung (Guangdong), China.
En route he traveled via India, there marrying Marion MacNair of Sparta, at the Woodstock School, where she had taught for a year. The Gilmans and Henry M. McCandliss were the first Americans to reside on Hainan. Marion Gilman died in New York in 1899. Their surviving children were a son Charles and a daughter Janet (who also served as a missionary in China). In 1903 Gilman married Mrs. Wellington J. White, widow of a Canton missionary. They had no children, and she died in 1917. Gilman frequently journeyed to the interior stations of Nodoa, or Nada (Danxian), established 1888, and Kachek, or Jiaji (Qionghai), established 1900, and to the Liuchow (Liuzhou) peninsula on the mainland. He had a special interest in converting the aboriginal Miao people of the interior of Hainan. Gilman died in Hainan.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
Frank P. Gilman, “Hainan and Its Missionary Work,” Chinese Recorder 21(1890): 271-280. “Frank P. Gilman,” Chinese Recorder 50 (1919): 480 (obit.); Margaret Moninger, ed., The Isle of Palms: Sketches of Hainan (1919,1980), pp. 108-110.