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Descendents of William McKibbin, seacaptain of Philadelphia

Updated April 29, 2002

About Our Family Research

Hello and welcome,

This Homepage is devoted to tracing the many descendents of William McKibbin (1781-1832) and Martha Matilda Campbell (ca. 1781-1845). They are believed to have come from Belfast, Ireland and were probably married there ca. 1801. William McKibbin is believed to have first arrived in Philadelphia in 1798, but spent most of his time at sea. Martha Matilda Campbell and their first daughter, Isabella McKibbin arrived in Philadelphia in 1804 and William petitioned for citizenship shortly thereafter.

William made his first voyage to China as First Mate aboard the Dorthea, owned by French-West Indian merchant, Lewis Clapier and Captained by Martin Dougherty. This was the first of thirteen voyages he would make between the port cities of Philadelphia and Canton. His first voyage as Captain came in 1810, commanding the Ship Pekin, bound for Canton. This was followed by eight voyages aboard the Schooner Phoenix, also to Canton. Each of these voyages took approximately ten months, including the return voyage.

This is a period when America was still new to maratime trade in Asia. During the colonial period, all such trade had been stringently controlled by the English. It was also a time when the high seas were fraught with danger. Pirates of all nationalities represented a constant threat, as did the sudden storms of the Atlantic which could cause a vessel and its crew to vanish without a trace. Moreover, competition was high among the merchant marines of European nations, and few vessels could be trusted to assist the ships of the new American nation.

William McKibbin and other American traders steered their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa. From there it was across the Indian ocean, generally stopping at the Dutch port of Batavia (now Jakarta). India, being under the Administration of Britain, was off limits and needed to be avoided.

In China, they were allowed to enter, along with other European traders, at one port only: Canton. The route these ships took up the Pearl river was carefully controlled by the Mandarin administrators of China. All foreigners arriving in Canton would have to restrict their movements to the designated foreign trade area or face heavy-handed Chinese law. But as the Europeans knew, and the Americans learned, a great deal of money could be made purchasing Chinese decorative arts and selling them at home for high prices to a populace that had developed a taste for the arts of this "seemingly civilized" and yet entirely foreign nation. It was partly upon this very trade to China that the city of Philadelphia developed its early economic prominence among american cities.

William McKibbin's final two voyages were in command of the Dorthea, a new vessel, built under his inspection and named in honor of the now lost ship whereupon he had made his first trip to China. His final voyage to Asia came in 1826. After this, he appears to have been involved in the building of the Delaware Breakwater, at Lewes Beach, Delaware.

It was in 1832 that William McKibbin determined to return to Ireland, wishing to see his mother Isabella Caughey (1762-1838) who was then living in her hometown of Portaferry, co. Down. Its been said that his father, whose given name is unknown, had recently died. The end of the summer of 1832 brought a epidemic of Cholera to the port cities of Europe and America--Philadelphia, Belfast and Liverpool were all struck with disastrous loss of life. It was enroute from Philadelphia to Liverpool on 12 Oct 1832 that William McKibbin too succumbed to the disease, having never arrived to see his mother. He was buried alone in the Necropolis cemetery, Liverpool.

Anyone interested in contacting genealogists researching this family may do so at the email address at the bottom of this page. Photographic or informational contributions to this collection are sincerely welcomed.

Thomas Lester McKibbin

Family Photos
  • William McKibbin, seacaptain (1781-1832) (37 KB)
    This scan shows what is currently the only known surviving image of William McKibbin of Belfast, seacaptain in the China Trade between 1806-1826. Further details regarding this image are available from the author.
  • William McKibbin Jr. (1810-1880) (127 KB)
    William McKibbin Jr. was an Ice Merchant, who eventually took charge of his father-in-law's business. In 1847, he re-settled the family in Fulton County, Pennsylvania.
  • Sarah Isabelle (Lee) McKibbin (1811-1890) (56 KB)
    Known for strong-willed temperment, it was through Sarah Isabelle Lee that the McKibbin's inherited 8000 acres of land in beautiful Buck Valley, Fulton Co., PA. And, it was in this new rural setting that she raised four daughters and three sons.
  • Dr. William Lee McKibbin (1836-1916) (309 KB)
    It was his experience of the horrors following the Battle of Antietum, where wounded soldiers died on the operating table due to inadequate medical care, that prompted William Lee McKibbin to study medicine. In 1869, he became a physician and surgeon, maintaining his office in Amaranth, Pennsylvania. His work as a doctor, as well as his participation in civil affairs made him a respected citizen in his community.
  • Ella Rebecca (Eddowes) McKibbin (1847-1922) (323 KB)
    Descended from English and Welsh gentry, as well as Pennsylvania Quakers, Ella Rebecca Eddowes assisted her husband in his operating room and helped to tend to his many patients. It was she who chose the name "Amaranth" for the new post office that went in on her road, naming it for a flower. In 1917, after her husband's death, she made two trips west to Montana, North Dakota and Missouri, visting her children. From her experiences, she wrote several travel articles which appeared in a Fulton County newspaper.
Related Files
  • Notes from Master/Crew lists (6 KB)
    These notes are a listing of the known voyages made by William McKibbin from the port of Philadelphia. Two of the listings contain a brief physical description of William McKibbin, including that of a tattoo he had on the inner part of his left arm. This information comes from the Master/crew lists available at the Pennsylvania Historical Society.
  • The Civil War Diary of Dr. William Lee McKibbin (12 KB)
    This small pocket diary dates from 1865 and includes reference to the fall of Richmond, the assasination of Abraham Lincoln, the marriage of Dr. William Lee McKibbin with Ella Rebecca Eddowes, and the birth of their first son William Lee McKibbin Jr.
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