LETTER FROM REV. J. G. JONES TO McKINLEY
Port Gibson, Miss., May 17, 1878
Your letter of 10th inst.has been duly received. I heartily approve of your laudable undertaking to rescue from oblivion the memorials of the Gibson family of Mississippi, but fear I can not assist you except indirectly. I do not remember ever to have seen in print Dr. Winans’ funeral sermon of Rev. Randal Gibson and wife. I was away from this part of the State when they died, and if the funeral sermon was published I did not see a copy. At a later date Mr. Winans preached the funeral sermon of the venerable Simeon Gibson of Pine Ridge near Natchez, which was published, and I long retained a copy, but I can not now lay my hand upon it.
There were three branches of the Gibson connexion which settled in Mississippi at an early day: The parents of Rev. Randall Gibson near Natchez about where the old town of Washington now stands; the family of Samuel Gibson - the founder of the Town of Port Gibson, in this vicinity; and that of Rev. Tobias Gibson in what is now Warren county in the vicinity of Warrenrtown. So far as I know these families all came from the valley of the Great Pee Dee river in South Carolina. Some time in the sixteenth century three ship loads of Portuguese Hugenots voluntarily exiled themselves from Portugal rather than renounce their Protestant faith, and settled in South Carolina, then the Colony of Carolina, in the very region of county where our Gibsons are llrst found, and, from their elevated intellectuality, morality, religion and enterprise, I have long believed that they were the descendants of those refugee Huguenots, though I do not remember ever to have heard but one of the connexion refer to this as a tradition of the family. I wish we now had the means of demonstrating this theory.
I will now write, from memory and a few scraps of memoranda, what little I know of these three leading Gibson families. First; the parents of Rev. Randall Gibson came to the Natchez county (as it was then called), about 1781. In ordei to avoid the hostile Indians in what is now Western Georgia and Eastern Alabama, immigrants from the Carolinas travelled over land to the Holston river in East Tennessee, where they built family boats and descended the Holston and Tennessee rivers, etc. Randall Gibson was then about fifteen years old, and I have heard him relate this fact in connection with an attack made on their boat by hostile Cherokee Indians. From_the family Bible of Randall Gibson I once obtained these records by the hands of his grand-daughter, Mrs. Louisa Barnes (nee Nailer) now living near Warerntown: Randall Gibson was born September 1766 and died April 3, 1836. Harriett McKinley was born June 29, 1771, at Mount Royal Forge, Maryland and died October 6, 1837: Randall Gibson and Harriett McKinley were married February 7, 1792. They died and are buried in Warren county. Randall may have had (and I think had), other brothers, but I only knew one, the venerable David Gibson, late of Jefferson county, who was near one hundred years oldat the time of his death. Unless they have died lately, he has two sons still living: Randall Gibson, Jr., some where in Texas, and Fielding Gibson somewhere in California. Col. Isaac Harrison, a grand-nephew, I think, or otherwise related to Rev. Randall Gibson’s family, and whose wife is a daughter of Randall Gibson, Jr., now living eight miles east of Rodney, can probably put you in possession of the history of David Gibson’s family. Rev. Randall Gibson had several sisters. One married a Harrison, I think the grandfather of Col. Isaac Harrison of Texas Cavalry fame: One, Edna, married John Bullen; some of her descendants are living in the northern part ofWarren county, by the name of Alexander. If there were other sisters I do not now recollect them.
Second: Samuel Gibson and his branch of the connexion were here in the beginning (if not before) of the present century. In 1803 he sold certain commissioners appointed by the Territorial Legislature, two acres of land on which the courthouse and jail of this town and county stands today. He was a resident of this town forty-five years, and he and his wife Rebecca are buried in our cemetry with plain headstones at their graves. I knew but little of other members of this branch of the connexion, except that several of the ladies were noted Methodists when I was a youth.
Third: The first we know of Rev.Tobias Gibson’s family they were on Great Pee Dee river in South Carolina. The family consisted of John, Tobias, Nathaniel, Malachiah, Stephen and Rhoda. John remained in South Carolina and lived to be upwards of ninety years old. Malachiah and Nathaniel married in South Carolina and died there in middle life, but their widows and children came to this county with Stephen and Rhoda in 1802, and the following year settled in what is now Warren county where numbers of their descendants are yet to be found. John B. Gibson near Warrenton, a son of Stephen is yet alive and has some valuable family records in his father’s Bible. Rhoda married a Stevens and died early in life. The memoir of Rev. Tobias Gibson in the General Minutes of the Methodist Episcopal Church, states that he was born November 10, 1771; this date differs from some of the old family records, but I presume it is correct, for he entered the ministry in 1792 at the age of twenty-one. He died in the family of Nathaniel Gibson April 5, 1804, a little south of Vicksburg.
I now ask leave to refer you to a little, unpretending book, I wrote and published in 1866 by the solicitation of numerous friends, in order to preserve valuable materials from hopeless oblivion, called the “Introduction of Protestantism into Mississippi and the South-west.” You can get a copy from Rev. Rob’t J. Harp’s Depository, 112 Camp street. The book is slightly defective in typography but you can get some valuable information of Tobias and Randall Gibson in it.
About six years ago I was requested by the Mississippi Conference to write for them, “A complete History of Methodism in the Mississippi Conference from 1799 to a late date.” This work I finished in four volumes, more than a year ago, but such has been the stringency of the times, the Conference has not yet been able to publish it. It will however be published after awhile. In that history I have written many paragraphs, here and there, about the religious phase of the Gibson family. In conclusion, I may be permitted to say as a just and true tribute of respect to the memory of old and dear friends, that I have know the Gibsons (I mean our Gibsons), ever since I can recollect, and after entering the ministry I became intimate with large numbers of them, often sustaining the relation of pastor to their families; and, I never knew a rowdy, loafer or beggar among them; never knew or heard of one being prosecuted for any criminal offence; never knew one of the females to sacrifice her virtue or otherwise stain her reputation by unlady-like conduct. They have almost universally occupied an elevated position in society, on account of their intelligence, morality, refinement and high toned and honorable bearing in all the relations of life; and they have entered largely into the composition of the M. E. Church and have made our best church members.
As I have had a good deal of experience permit me to make a suggestion. If you wish to obtain correct information of deceased persons, (1) for names, dates of births, marriages and deaths, consult old family Bibles, and tombstones. (2) For the same reason consult the oldest inhabitants. (3) For the correct names of men and their wives consult the records of land deeds in the proper office where they have once been owners of land. (4) A certificate of marriage on record will often give you what you can not find elsewhere.
Should you ever publish anything in the form of a genealogical book or tree of the Gibson family in my life I would be glad to see it, but, as this is a work in which you, must make haste very slowly, it will hardly be seen by me. These seventy-four years remind me that my time on earth is now short. I hope to meet many of the Gibsons in that bright world where the living never die and friendship never parts,