Gibson Biographies

Notable Gibson's From Western Pennsylvania

Included herein are excerpts of stories and biographies written about some of the notable Gibson's from western Pennsylvania. There is no indication that these Gibson's are related to this writer (Walter Edmond McClelland). They are included for the general interest of descendents of Gibson's who settled in the western Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio area.

The following is abstracted from a small pamphlet titled "Capt. James Gibson and Anna Belle, his wife and their descendents. Pioneers of Youngstown, Ohio" found in the National Genealogical Society Library, (rare) CS71.G45-189.

The following pages are written as a sort of tribute to the memory of those plain, industrious people who were the pioneers of our family in the Mahoning Valley; and not for the exaltation of the fact that our ancestors assisted in the establishment of American independence or because any honor is due us for that reason. Our reputation as citizens must stand or fall upon the record we make for ourselves. It is a matter of regret that Captain James Gibson and his wife Anna Bella left no written record of their lives as pioneers on the frontier of Pennsylvania before and during the war of the American Revolution, and no written story of their journey over the mountains and through the silent forests on their way to the Ohio. They came here in wagons with their family and all their household goods, after each of them had passed the meridian of their lives. They crossed hills and valleys and unbridged rivers, stopping over-night or for rest in forest hamlets which are not thriving cities. It was a journey of weeks, which may now be made in a few hours with ease and comfort. The every-day events of their life on the border and on their way here would be most interesting reading because of the strange contrast to events of the present day. Doubtless they thought their experiences were common-place though full of war's alarms and other difficulties and dangers incident to the frontier. For their experiences whatever they may have been, were similar to that of most of their neighbors and acquaintenances. In their wildest fancy they could not have imagined the comforts and privileges which their labors and that of their border acquaintenances and friends were to bring to the people of the present day. They did not know: They could not foretell, the effect of their hard experience and labors upon the conditions under which ensuing generations would live. But we who look back over the wake of years may understand the value of the heritage which the undaunted courage and persistence of the pioneers left to all who live in America. A heritage of liberty and opportunity to be preserved and handed on to those who come after us.

W. T. Gibson

Captain James Gibson, Youngstown Pioneer

He was born in the year 1740, in County Tyrone, Ireland. The exact place and date of his birth is unknown. He came from Ireland to Pennsylvania, where he arrived in the year 1760. His ancestors from Scotland settled in Ireland following the revolution of 1688. In Scotland in the year 1685, one John Gibson and four other men, all covenanters, were arrested while hiding in a cave, by a Colonel Douglas and Lieutenant Livingston with a Company of Royal Soldiers, their hiding place having been betrayed by one Andrew Watson. These five covenanters were lined up and shot to death by order of Colonel Douglas without the formality of a trial, and without an opportunity to settle their worldly affairs, or say good-bye to friends. Their execution took place at Ingleston in the parish of Glencairn, Scotland. Headstones with inscriptions on them were placed on their graves by their surviving friends. The headstone on the grave of John Gibson bore the following:

"My soul is in Heaven, here lies my dust,
By wicked sentence and unjust
Shot dead, convicted of no crime
But non-compliance with the time,
When Babel's bastard had command
And monstrous tyrants ruled the land."

These were gruesome times in Scotland. Hundreds of men and women were put to death because they refused to renounce the Covenant which they had taken, and declined to say "God Save the King." Men were hung, drawn and quartered and their heads and limbs displayed in public places as a warning to others. Women were tied to posts on the sea-shore where they were gradually submerged by the advancing tide from the sea. They were thus given an opportunity to view their impending fate and before their heads went under to say "God Save the King" in which event they were released. But they were a stubborn race and very few availed themselves of the privelege of living by a renunciation of the covenant or a prayer for the king. John Gibson and two of his associates found in the cave were sought for some definite offense against the government. It is probably that they had been in the battle at Bothwell Bridge, where the covenanters led by their ministers were defeated by the King's troups under the command of the Duke of Monmouth in the year 1679. The other two of the five had never been tried for, or even accused of any offense against the government, and were shot without a hearing, probably because of the company they were in. The Covenanters were Presbyterians, who had entered into a solemn league and covenant with each other, founded upon the Presbyterian form of Church government and including the Presbyterian Creed to oppose Catholicism and the Roman Catholic form of of Church government and worship, ans especially to oppose the English Church and its government and liturgy, which the King sought to impose upon them by law and force of arms.

The Covenanters were themselves most intolerant and aggressive. They not only insisted upon their right to worship according to their own form of religion, but sought to impose it upon those who adhered to other churches, as being of devine origin. They alone were right. Those who did not agree, were wrong. There was no compromising with them. They denounced the King, the established church and everybody who differed with them. When forbidden by law to use of churches and houses for their worship, they held coventicles in caves and other secret places, even after the law provided a punishment for those who attended coventicles.

Out of this intolerance upon the part of the government and the Covenanters towards each other, came gradually a kind of tolerance. The covenanters began to see that they were not the only people who believed their faith of devine origin, and while they did not admit that others had any justification in scripture for their belief, they were glad under most any condition to be permitted to worship in peace.

When they ceased trying to impose their creed upon their neighbor, their condition was improved. Their courage and persistence together with the terrible punishment suffered by them, created for them, a certain respect mingled with pity for their sufferings amongst their enemies.

It is supposed that James Givson, if not a direct descendant, was descended from the same family as the John Gibson, whose violent death in 1685 is described above. For his people came from that part of Scotland where these men were executed.

James Gibson was of Scotch descent, but was born in Ireland. Query! Was he Scotch or Irish or both? In these days of German-Americans, Anglo-Americans, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, etc., it is sometimes difficult to tell just where we belong. In reply to something a man once said to me, I called him an Irishman, he said, "Ye'r Irish yerself," I said "No, I am an American, I was born in America." "Sure," said he, "If a man is born in a stable, is he a horse?" He had the best of the argument, for I could not answer him. A man, however, is of the nationality of the country wherein his parents have a permanent residence at the time of his birth.

James Gibson was an Irishman by birth. But it is not important where a man is born. It is the man himself, and that which he thinks and does, which we consider in this land of equality under the law.

James Gibson arrived in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania when that county was on the American frontier. In 1763, Pontiac, an Ottowa chief, who had assisted the French with a band of his tribesmen in the defeat of Gen. Braddock on July 9th, 1755, inspired by French influences and promises of assistance formed a plan amongst the Indians, who had been on the side of France in the war with England, which war had just been ended, to kill all the English settlers on the American frontier. This conspiracy resulted in the destruction of many border forts and homes and the killing of about two thousand white people. The Susquehanna River, which formed the eastern boundry of Cumberland County, marked the eastern limits of these Indian outrages in Pennsylvania. The settlers, by reason of their isolation, were unable adequately to protect themselves. Men were shot from ambush while doing their farm work, the houses of many were burned, their crops destroyed and their cattle killed. Women and children were killed or carried away in captivity. In one instance the teacher and pupils of a school were tommy-hawked and scalped and left in the schoolhouse. One small boy of this school, who had been scalped survived and lived to nature years. For defense the frontiersmen organized companies of rangers with from tten to twenty men in a company, under a captain selected by the men of each company. It was the duty of the rangers, when the alarm came to go out and look for the enemy. Some of these ranger bands used dogs with which to detect the presence of Indians.

James Gibson was made Captain of a ranger company. He had a bloodhound which went with him all the time and was a useful assistant. The dog soon learned to know the game to be hunted and was as fierce and resolute as his human foe.

After James Gibson came to Youngstown, in 1799, he went to Warren on some business. Youngstown was then in Trumbull County and Warren was the county seat. He found there a considerable gathering of Indians. They had come together for some purpose relative to their standing under the white man's government. Amongst these Indians was an old chief, who recognized him and entering into conversation said, "Gibson, I would have had your scalp long ago, but for your damn big dog." Then he told how he had lured Givson into the forest with an imitation turkey call, and how he did not date shoot, because [of] the dog...

James Gibson's wife's name before marriage was Anna Bella Dixon, her people lived in Path Valley, now located in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. There is a story in the family that two of her brothers were killed in the Revolutionary war. There is a record of the death of one, whose name was Robert and who was killed at Quebec in 1775. I have not heard the name of the other one.

James Gibson, his wife and four sons came to Youngstown, Ohio, in wagons drawn by horses, bringing with them all their property and arriving here in the early part of November, 1799. They camped one night, by the big spring now known as the "Gibson Spring," on Poland avenue, in the City of Youngstown, Ohio. They next day they moved to Warren, where thjey stayed about two weeks. They found no land that suited them as well as the place on which was located the spring by which they had camped one night in Youngstown Township. They came back to Youngstown and purchased from John Young 189 acres of land in Great Lot No. 43 of the original survey of Youngstown Township. This land extended south from the center of the Mahoning River along the east line of Great Lot 43 about one mile. Mr. Young at that time did not have a deed for the township, and the first paper between them was a contract, in which James Gibson agreed to pay the sum of $867.75 for the 289 acres. On the 9th day of April, 1800, the trustees of the Connecticut Land Company made a Quitclaim deed to John Young of 15560 acres of land then known as Youngstown township. This deed was recorded August 9th, 1801. On the 30th day of May, 1801, John Young made a Warranty Deed to James Gibson of the land described in the above mentioned contract. James Gibson gave a mortgage to John Young on the same date for $540.00 on the premises, which mortgage was released to his heirs on July 16th, 1816. This deed was recorded February 18th, 1802. In a paper written by the late Austin Wopods, concerning Daniel Shehy, a pioneer of Youngstown, the writer suggests that Mr. Shehy had some claim to land afterwards sold by John Young to Robert Gibson, about which Shehy and Young quarreled. He must have meant James Gibson rather than Robert, as Robert Gibson never got any land from John Young. There is no record of any claim on the part of Shehy to any of the land purchased from John Young by James Gibson. If there was such a claim it must have arisen from a verbal promise upon the part of Young, to Shehy.

The rest of the story is about the descendants of James Gibson.

The following is abstracted from "FORT MCINTOSH = THE STORY OF ITS HISTORY AND RESTORATION OF THE SITE" by Frank F. Carver. A Publication Of The Beaver Area Heritage Foundation Beaver, Pennsylvania 15009, May, 1983.


Col. John Gibson came to Western Pennsylvania as an Ensign in orbes expedition and remained to become a successful trader. He was captured by the Indians at the mouth of the Beaver, adopted by them, and released by the Bouquet expedition in 1764. Because of his familiarity with their language, he was trusted by the Indians. When the Revolution began he commanded the 5th Virginia and took part in the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Germantown, and Brandywine. In 1778, he was transferred to the 13th Virginia when that regiment returned to the Western Department, commanded at Fort Laurens when it was under seige in the winter of 1778-79, and for a brief period in 1781 replaced Brodhead in command at Fort Pitt. He finished the war under Van Steuben in the Virginia campaign. After the war he became a Pittsburgh leader, a judge of the court of common pleas, and one of the incorporators of the First Presbyterian Church, the Western Theological Seminary, and the Pittsburgh Academy, now the University of Pittsburgh. His last public service was his appointment by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of the Indiana Territory.

Gibson Page
McClelland Home Page