This page conforms to the XHTML standard and uses style sheets. If your browser doesn't support these, you may not see the page as designed, but all the text is still accessible to you.


Bringing the heritage of Schenectady County, New York to the world since 1996

You are here: Home » Families » HMGFM Home » Gibson

Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:

Index to All Families | Index to Families by County: Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, Washington

Go to previous family: Alex | next family: Mansfield

[This information is from Vol. IV, pp. 1787-1789 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

Judge James Gibson was a direct descendant of John Gibson, of Providence, Rhode Island, and through his grandmother is ninth in descent from John Brown, the assistant of Plymouth Colony, and by his mother, seventh in descent from John Townsend, of Warwick, Rhode Island, afterwards of Oyster Bay, Long Island. He was a son of James B. and Margaret (Townsend) Gibson. His father was a lawyer of distinction and held in high esteem in the county. He died May 10, 1827. Margaret, his wife, died July 20, 1825.

(II) James, son of James B. and Margaret (Townsend) Gibson, was born at Salem, New York, September 5, 1816. He was eleven years old when his father died, leaving his children little beyond his good name and example. James was educated at Washington Academy, Salem, and while yet a student entered the law office of his uncle, Samuel Stevens, a former partner of his father, at the time an eminent practitioner and later a leading member of the Albany bar. He studied after his uncle's departure with Cyrus Stevens, of Salem, and later with John H. Boyd, of Whitehall. In 1836, at the October term of the supreme court, he was admitted to the bar. He formed a partnership with Cyrus Stevens which continued one year and until the latter removed to Albany. From that time forward Mr. Gibson practiced his profession alone and in his native town, Salem.

He was successful from the beginning. His qualifications were such as to attract the attention of the public and in a short time he commanded an extensive practice. Many important cases were committed to his care, involving novel questions, requiring deep research into the principles and logic of law and the science of jurisprudence. The first case he tried which was carried to the supreme court on appeal and in which he prepared the argument was that of Prindle vs. Anderson (Reported in 19 Wend, 391). This was a case in which he raised and succeeded in the contention that the receipt of rent by landlord, after service by him of notice to quit on his tenant, was a waiver of the notice. This decision was affirmed in the court for the correction of errors. In the case of Shaw vs. Beveridge (3 Hill, 26), he succeeded in establishing as law, that an action of trespass would be, for disturbing a party in possession of a pew in church. In Stevenson vs. Bardin, tried in 1860, the court held that on his motion that photographs of an instrument alleged to be forged could be used to establish such forgery. As this was the first attempt to use photography in the courts the decision was of general interest. After 1853 Mr. Gibson was largely engaged in railroad suits and became attorney for the Boston Hoosac Tunnel and Western Railway Company in several important cases, notably, reopening the Albany Northern railroad.

After becoming a voter, Mr. Gibson became an active Whig, later joining the Republican party. In 1838 he assumed the editorial chair of the Washington County Post, at Salem, and continued as editor through the presidential campaign of 1840, and until January 1, 1841, when he sold the paper. At the first judicial election after the adoption of the constitution of 1846, he was nominated by the Whigs as a candidate for justice of the supreme court. One of his associates on the ticket was Daniel Cady, of Fulton county, who was the only candidate elected. Mr. Gibson ran over a thousand votes ahead of his ticket but was defeated, his connection with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows operating against him, the feeling against secret societies being very strong. In November, 1850, he was elected judge of Washington county, serving four years with great honor and usefulness. In November, 1866, he was elected state senator from the twelfth senatorial district composed of the counties of Rensselaer and Washington. He was well known and was placed at the head of committee on claims and on the judiciary committee. He accepted the chairmanship of claims with reluctance, knowing the pressure that would be brought to bear on him to report favorably in iniquitous claims. He served, however, during his entire term; examined and passed on claims against the state aggregating over one million dollars and with few and meritorious exceptions, rejected them, in which course he was sustained by the senate. He made a strong effort to have the Champlain canal enlarged from Troy to Whitehall, had his bill passed in the senate but the house rejected it. He was a member of the senate when George W. Smith, of Oneida county, was tried by the senate for various crimes and misdemeanors. He voted to remove Judge Smith and in his speech explaining his vote, said, "The land wants such as dare, with vigor, execute the laws." He took a very active part in legislation in the senate; made several speeches and in every way did his full duty as a senator. He was an active Republican until 1871, when he became a Liberal and later became identified with the Democratic party. He was always interested in military affairs. In 1840 he raised and was made captain of a company of light infantry attached by special order to the Fiftieth Regiment in the state militia. Later he was commissioned major and lieutenant-colonel, on the disbanding of the Fiftieth he was attached to the Thirtieth Regiment and promoted to the colonelcy of that regiment. During the civil war the Thirtieth was twice filled up by draft in readiness for service, many of the members volunteering into the United States service. In 1867 he became brigadier-general of the Twelfth Brigade which was disbanded in 1874. This was one of the best-drilled and best-disciplined brigades in the state, outside of the large cities. In 1845 Judge Gibson became an Odd Fellow, passed the various chairs in Salem Lodge, No. 45, served as district deputy grand master for the years 1856-57, and was grand warden of the Grand Lodge of Northern New York in 1857; deputy grand master in 1858 and grand master in 1859. In 1860 he was elected worshipful master of Salem Lodge, No. 391, Free and Accepted Masons. In 1862 was appointed senior grand deacon of the Grand Lodge of New York. In 1863 he was elected junior grand warden; in 1865 elected senior grand warden, an office he held three years; in 1868 he was elected grand master and re-elected in 1869. As grand master of the state of New York he, June 8, 1870, assisted by the officers of the Grand Lodge and twelve others of the craft, laid the cornerstone of the Masonic Temple in the city of New York. During his entire connection with the Grand Lodge he occupied a commanding position and served as chairman or member of many important committees. The honor of being grand master of both these leading fraternities is one in which he stands alone in the state, no other man having been grand master of both orders. During the civil war he was a strong union man and spoke and worked for the cause. He was a member of the war committee of Salem, that did its duty so well that the town had its quota raised in advance of every draft except the first.

The old Court House in Salem was erected in the year 1800, and had outlasted its usefulness. The judges, lawyers and laymen complained of it, but there was strong opposition from other towns, who wished to get the county seat away from Salem. In 1868 Judge Gibson was elected supervisor for the purpose of carrying out the desires of those who wanted the new court house in Salem. In December of that year he brought the matter before the board of supervisors who appointed a committee with Mr. Gibson to obtain plans. In January following it was resolved to build in Salem and he was made chairman of the building committee. Thirty thousand dollars was appropriated for the building, and it is worthy of mention that the committee kept the cost within the appropriation. Judge Gibson was always identified with the cause of education, serving from June 17, 1845, until his death, June 6, 1897, as a member of the board of trustees of Washington Academy. In every way he was closely connected with the development of his village. He drew the charter which went into effect in 1851 which provided for a new school system and drew the agreement between the board of trustees and the academy and the board of education of the village, whereby the common schools were consolidated and sheltered within the walls of the academy. This led to the adoption of the Union or graded system of education, that has proved so beneficial to Salem youth. He was elected a member of the board of education soon after its organization and held until his death. In 1860 he assisted in organizing St. Paul's Episcopal Church at Salem, was chosen one of the wardens, and soon afterward was licensed a lay reader by Bishop Potter of the New York diocese in 1860.

He was deeply interested in the local history of Washington county, and at the formation of the county Historical Society, in 1876, was elected president. On the occasion of his election he delivered an address on the history of agriculture in the county. At the laying of the cornerstone of the new court house at Sandy Hill (Hudson Falls), June 8, 1872, he delivered an historical address on the bench and bar of the county for one hundred years. He also published sketches on the graves and gravestones of the county, on journalism and various other subjects.

He was a member of the American Geographical Society and took deep interest in its work. Although not looked upon as a business but as a professional man, he was for many years a director and vice-president of the National Bank of Salem and was officially connected with the management of Evergreen cemetery. It is worthy of mention that four generations have been connected with the press of Washington county. James B. Gibson owned the Register and conducted it several years. James Gibson owned and edited the Post. James (2), son of Judge James (1) Gibson, edited the Salem Press for three years. James (3), son of James (2) Gibson, was manager of Salem Review-Press for five years.

Judge Gibson married, October 17, 1841, Jane, daughter of Ira and Wealthy Ann (Gilbert) Woodworth. Children:

  1. Mary, married T. A. Wright, died August 22, 1902.
  2. James, a lawyer of Salem, died October 9, 1881.
  3. Jennie, married Charles W. Townsend.

This personal appearance of Judge Gibson is thus described in "Life Sketches of the Legislature" [probably Life Sketches of Government Officers and Members of the Legislature of the State of New York ] published in 1867: "Senator Gibson is a gentleman of quiet dignity. His long flowing hair and whiskers tinged with gray, his mild eye which seems to be overflowing with kindly feelings; his low, persuasive voice, which is seldom brought up to a high pitch, unite in throwing around him a personal atmosphere which renders his presence both pleasant and powerful."

Go to top of page | previous family: Alex | next family: Mansfield

You are here: Home » Families » HMGFM Home » Gibson updated March 30, 2015

Copyright 2015 Schenectady Digital History Archive — a service of the Schenectady County Public Library