Biography of John Gibbs



Kalamazoo County

Online Biographies


Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

From the landing of the Pilgrim fathers at Plymouth Rock down to the present time, the pioneers of America have, been men of iron nerve, men who never found danger so great or privations so severe as to deter them from keeping their faces westward. No matter how rough the country; how dense the forests, or unfriendly the Indians, their paths were ever towards the setting sun. Where but a few years ago naught was to be beard but the howl of the woli the scream of the panther, and the war-whoop of the Indians, great cities have sprang up, and are now surrounded by thickly settled and prosperous communities. Railroads reach from city to city, and the rivers and lakes have become the pathways of commerce. To the hardy pioneers all this is due. Such a pioneer was John Gibbs, the subject of this sketch. He was born in Middlefield, Otsego Co., N. Y., July 23, 1798. His was a family of pioneers; his grandfather being an early settler in Cherry Valley, was living there at the time of the Indian massacre, and saw his wife killed and scalped by the Indians. As set forth in the biography of Isaac Gibbs, his father was a farmer, and with him John remained until he reached manhood. He learned the carpenter and joiner trade, and was also a millwright; he followed his trade most of the time until old age prevented.

In the spring of 1832 he with his brothers—Isaac and Chester came to Michigan, and settled in Kalamazoo township. A full account of his early settlement will be found in the biography before referred to. Few men have done more for Kalamazoo County than he. He helped raise the third frame house built in Kalamazoo village. He also built the first three barns built on Grand, Genesee, and Dry Prairies. When the railroad reached Kalamazoo, Mr. Gibbs assisted in building the first bridge across the Kalamazoo River. He assisted in building many of the first mills in the county. When a mill-dam could not be made to stand, Mr. Gibbs was sent for as the last resort, and be never failed. With him to attempt was to succeed, though he often worked in water and mud up to his waist, and in all seasons of the year.

In 1850, Mr. Gibbs, in company with his brother Isaac, and his son William, fitted out an ox team and wagon, and with a .large supply of provisions, started for California. They were months going, and endured many hardships. They engaged in mining, and were gone three years. Returning by water.

In 1859, accompanied by his second son, John, he went to Colorado, and visited it again in 1860, the second time accompanied by his son Willard. He continued there until 1861, when he returned to his home where he has since remained. And now, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, surrounded by his family, all of whom are in affluent circumstances, and in the enjoyment of every comfort, he is passing the evening of his days honored and respeóted by all.

When Mr. Gibbs first came to the town with his family they stopped with John Hascall. Mr. Gibbs selected a building site,. and then hung his hat on a bush to show his wife where her future home was to be. He built many of the first saw-mills, carrying the iron used in them on his back. In polities he has always been a Democrat, but never a politician.

He married Miranda Kinne, January 29, 1824. She was born March 25, 1805, in Braintrem, Pa. Their union was blessed with thirteen children, as follows: Jennette D., born Feb. 6, 1825; Marcia V., Aug. 3, 1826; William A., Oct. 4, 1828; Rosa Annis, Dec. 15, 1830; Josephine K., April 21, 1833;. John Jr., Feb. 22, 1835; James O., April 18, 1837; Emeline P., Nov. 13, 1839; L W. Willard, Feb. 3, 1841; James Martin, Jan. 30, 1843; Alice M., Dec. 7, 1845; H. Elizabeth, June 29, 1848; L. Isinella, July 12, 1850. Of these, the first four were born in New York, the rest in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of its Men and Pioneers.
Everts & Abbott., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.