ERNEST H. GIBBS, b. 10Feb1848


from Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa by Manoah Hedge The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1906

Ernest H. Gibbs, deceased, capitalist of Oskaloosa, was one of the prominent and representative men of Mahaska county. He was a native of Massachusetts, born in Blandford, February 10, 1848, and was the son of Israel M. and Cleotha V. (Fitch) Gibbs, the former also a native of Blandford, Massachusetts, but of English descent, tracing his connections to an old family in Yorkshire, England. His grandfather, Gibbs was a wealthy farmer, possessing an estate of nearly one thousand acres adjacent to the city of Blandford. He was a buyer and shipper of stock, in which he was very successful, realizing a handsome fortune. The subject of this sketch was reared in his native town, where he attended the common schools until he was seventeen years old, and then entered upon a course of study at Wesleyan Academy, Wilbraham, Massachusetts. From there he was sent by his father to Fairfield Seminary, at Little Falls, New York, but instead of remaining there he continued on his way west, practically running away, and going to Amboy, Illinois, where he had relatives. He prospected around for same time and then purchased at auction a piece of property near the city limits, which he sold at sufficient profit to give him a good start without any investment. He then entered the Exchange Bank of Amboy, with George Ryan, where he remained for two years, until August, 1868. From Amboy he went to Parkersburg, Iowa, and in company with his brother, I. M. Gibbs, opened an Exchange Bank and did a large collection business over a wide extent of territory. Thirteen months later he disposed of his interests there, came to Oskaloosa, and established the Union Savings Bank, in company with a cousin, Dr. H. L. Gibbs, and the brother with whom he had formerly been associated. They operated until 1874, when the Doctor withdrew, the business being conducted under the firm name of Gibbs Brothers, in the building now occupied by Mr. Gibbs and the Farmers & Traders National Bank, which they erected that year for banking purposes. Three years later Mr. Gibbs organized the Farmers & Traders Bank but soon afterward withdrew that he might give his attention solely to his private business. In 1882 Mr. Gibbs. in company with Judge Crookham and others, was instrumental in the organization of the Mahaska County Bank, and the Oskaloosa Insurance Company, the latter subsequently being transferred to Des Moines. Shortly after becoming a citizen of Oskaloosa, Mr. Gibbs was united in marriage, April 1, 1871, with Miss Martha J. White, a daughter of John and Martha J. White. (See sketch of John White.) Of this union there was one son, who was born February 12, 1874, and died August 11, 1876, and one daughter, Nellie (now Mrs. Guy Woodin), born September 21, 1877. After coming to Oskaloosa Mr. Gibbs led a very active life, and in every enterprise calculated to build up or advance the interest of the place he was the leading spirit. Without disparagement to others, it can truthfully be said that in the matter of public and private buildings, he has done more for Oskaloosa than any other citizen. The fine brick block now occupied by H. L. Spencer & Company, wholesale grocers, was erected by him; also the Times Block, which was destroyed by fire December 22, 1886. At the time of its destruction Mr. Gibbs was in Chicago. On receiving a telegram giving an account of the fire, he hastened home and within two hours after his arrrval had twenty men working at the ruins, and within sixty days had the building re-erected and ready for occupancy. Such enterprise is indeed commendable. In erecting this building in the dead of winter, with the thermometer half the time below zero, he showed what could be done when there was a will back of it. In building at that season of the year, Mr. Gibbs gave employment to many to whom the work was a Godsend, enabling them to provide more comforts for their families than were usually enjoyed during the inclement season. In the building of the Rock Island and other railroads now entering Oskaloosa. Mr. Gibbs took an active part, devoting much of his time and more of his money to secure their construction to this place. In the various banking and manufacturing enterprises he has invested liberally of his means and was a stockholder in the greater number. After the death of his father-in-law, John White, Mr. Gibbs carried out the plan of the latter in issuing scholarships in Oskaloosa College, which were made eligible for such gifts under the college law. In this way he did great good. Politically Mr. Gibbs was a democrat, one who believed strongly in the principles of that party and who was ever ready to give a reason for the faith that was in him. As a democrat, his council was sought by the leaders of the party in both county and state. He was mainly instrumental in establishing the Oskaloosa Times, the only democratic paper in the county, and for a short time was its editor. That he designed the paper should be a permanent fixture in Mahaska county politics, is evidenced from the naming of the block in which it was printed, the "Times Block." Though defeated in the state convention as a delegate to the national convention in 1880, it was on account of his well known adherence to Mr. Tilden. He was, however, elected an alternate. In 1884 he was chosen a delegate to the national democratic convention on account of his devotion to Tilden, he being his claim, until he retired from the field, when he was for Cleveland, recognizing that without New York his party could not succeed, and believing that Cleveland could carry that state. Mr. Gibbs at one time served as a member of state central committees and chairman of congressional and county committees. Mr. Gibbs was quite extensively interested in real estate and mining, being prominent during the time of Mahaska's greatest days in coal mining. He was, with W. A. Seevers, one of the organizers of the Oskaloosa Coal & Mining Company, which for years operated on an extensive scale at Beacon, and for fifteen years had an exceptionally valuable plant in that vicinity. Later he was one of the company to develop the valuable Hocking mines which he sold for more than one-half million dollars. In real estate Mr. Gibbs was perhaps more largely interested than any other Oskaloosan, having large interests both in the business and residence sections of the town. As a gentleman who materially aided in the worthy business projects of this community, Mr. Gibbs was highly valued. As a neighbor and citizen, he fulfilled all his obligations in a highly creditable and faithful manner. Through the death of Ernest H. Gibbs, which occurred at his home north of town, April 7, 1906, Oskaloosa realized the loss of one of its most valuable and highly respected citizens. His death was due to heart trouble in the form of neuralgia, which lasted but a few minutes. The remaining family, consisting of Mrs. Gibbs and Mr. and Mrs. Guy Woodin, still occupy the handsome "Gibbs residence" just north of town

Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa

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