biography from Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
ERNEST H. GIBBS, capitalist of Oskaloosa, is one of the prominent and representative men of Mahaska County. He is a native of Massachusetts, born in Blandford, Feb. 10, 1848, and is the son of Israel M. and Cleotha V. (Fitch) Gibbs, the former also a native of Blandford, Mass., 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 1,000 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, Mass. From there he was sent by his father to Fairfield Seminary, at Little Falls, N. Y., but instead of remaining there he continued on his way West, practically running away, and going to Amboy, Ill., where he had relatives, he prospected around for some 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 interest there, came to Oskaloosa, and established the Union Savings Rank, in company with a cousin, Dr. H. L. Gibbs, and the brother with whom he had been formerly associated. They operated until 1874, when the Doctor withdrew, the business being conducted under the firm name of Gibbs Bros., in the building now occupied by Mr. Gibbs and the Farmer's and Trader's National Bank, which they erected that year for banking purposes. Three years later, Mr. Gibbs organized the Farmer's and Trader's 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 Feb. 12, 1874, and died Aug. 11, 1876, and one daughter, Nellie, born Sept. 21, 1877. Since coming to Oskaloosa Mr. Gibbs has led a very active life, and in every enterprise calculated to build up or advance the interest of the place, he has been a 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 & Co., wholesale grocers, was erected by him; also the Times Block, which was destroyed by fire Dec. 22, 1886. At the time of its destruction Mr. Gibbs was in Chicago. On receipt of a telegram giving an account of the fire, he hastened home, and within two hours after his arrival, 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 God-send, 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 centering in 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 is a stockholder in the greater number. Since the death of his father-in-law, John White, Mr. Gibbs has carried out the plan of the latter in issuing scholarships in Oskaloosa College, which are donated to those persons who are made eligible for such gifts under the college law. In this way he is doing great good. Politically Mr. Gibbs is a Democrat, one who believes strongly in the principles of that party; and who is ever ready to give a reason for the faith that is in him. As a Democrat, his counsel is 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 pernrnnent fixture in Mahaska County politics, is evidenced from naming the block in which it is printed, the "Times Block." Though defeated in the Stnte Convention as a delegate to the National Convention in 1880, it was on account of his 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. Though now out of politics, Mr. Gibbs has served as a member of State Central Committees, and Chairman of Congressional and County Committees. As a gentleman who has materially aided in the worthy business projects of this community, Mr. Gibbs is highly valued. As a neighbor and citizen, he is fulfilling all his obligations in a highly creditable and faithful manner. The family occupy a handsome residence, surrounded by all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life.
Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy