Henry Flavel (Falvel) Gillette, teacher and superintendent of Bayland Orphan's Home, was born in Grandby County, Connecticut, on July 16, 1816, the third child of Laura (Adams) and Almon Gillette. At about the age of twenty-one he entered Trinity College at Hartford. Because of ill health he left school in 1839 and probably moved immediately to Texas to join his cousin, Ashbel Smith. As early as 1840 he taught a school in Houston. Sometime during the summer of 1841 he went to Washington County to take charge of Union Academy, where he taught until early in 1843, when he became interested in farming and moved to the Trinity River. At Union Academy Gillette met Lucinda Maxey, whom he married on March 3, 1842. They had ten children.
In 1844 he moved to Houston, where he again taught school until he moved to Independence early in 1846 to teach in the preparatory department of Baylor University. After only two years at Baylor, Gillette decided to leave Independence. Difficulty in collecting tuition, upon which his salary depended, and other problems confronting the infant institution discouraged him greatly. He moved to Fireman's Hill, later called Cold Springs, in Polk County. There he taught school and farmed. In 1860 he moved his family to his Galveston Bay estate, Bell Prairie. Although Gillette did not join the army he supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.
In 1866 he was one of a group of men who met in Houston and laid plans for establishing an orphans' home. When, on January 15, 1867, the board of trustees was organized, he was elected superintendent of Bayland Orphans' Home, which he served as manager for fifteen years. After severing his connection with the institution, Gillette spent his declining days at Bell Prairie, where he died on April 25, 1896.