William Francis Gibson was born February 7, 1860 in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri to Herod Gibson and Sara Jane Patterson. He was their oldest child, and only son. On the 1860 census we can find him listed as Francis at the age of 6 months, living in Ste. Genevieve County with his parents. The family was living in the household of Alexander and Melinda Gibson, Herod's parents. Because most records show his name as Francis, that is how we'll reference him in this post.
In 1861, Francis' father enlisted in the Southern Army and served in the Missouri State Guard for a short time. After being honorably discharged and returning home to his family, he was then drafted into the Union Army. I'll discuss this more in another post about Herod.
Back to Francis...we aren't sure where he and his mother were living during the war, but I'm guessing they were probably living with Herod's family. Francis' parents had 3 more children, all girls: Ida Ann b. 1863 and d.1865, Mary Emma b. 1864, and Sara Jane b. 1866 and d. 1867. In 1866, after giving birth, Sara Jane, Francis' mother, died.
In 1870, we find Francis at age 11 and attending school. He is living with his father, Herod, and sister, Emma, in Central Township, Jefferson County, Missouri. Next door to them is Herod's older brother William and his family. His father was working on the railroad, and his uncle was a foreman for the railroad.
By 1880, the family can be found in De Soto, Jefferson County, Missouri. At this time we see Melinda Gibson, Francis' grandmother, widowed and living with the family as well. Both Francis and his father, Herod, were listed as laborers.
Francis and Louisa went on to have 9 children:
- Claude Percy (1882-1956)
- Francis Pearl (1884-19510
- Leslie Lee (Lester) (1886-1898)
- Emma Clyde (1888-1981)
- Olive Louisa (1890-1986)
- Hazel Mae (1892-1988)
- William Frank (1895-1965)
- Isaac Herod (1897-1978)
- Stella Laura (1900-1923)
"She (Emma) recalled the times when she was a child that her father would rent a carriage (rig) with horses, and they would all pile into it, kids and mother and father, and drive out to the "Plattin" to her grandfather and grandmother Cotner's farm for the day, she said it was "great fun."
I believe this would have been their grandmother Mary Elizabeth Griffaw Cotner's place. She was living in Plattin in 1880 with Louisa and Louisa's older brother Isaac, before Louisa married Francis. Mary was also living in Plattin with her brother John Griffaw on the 1900 census. Mary's husband, Hezekiah Cotner, died sometime before 1870 (the last record we can find of him is the 1860 census).
The 1900 census we find Francis and Louisa, with 8 of their children, living in Valle Township, City of De Soto, Jefferson County, Missouri. Also in the household are Francis' father, Herod, his sister, Emma Brown (she was listed as a widow), and Emma's two children: Cleo and Ethel. Francis was working as a switch man for the railroad.
In 1980, there was a Gibson family reunion. At that reunion was a wall, or mural, with notes from family members. One note from Emma, Francis and Louisa's daughter, talked about the death of her brother Leslie. The note I was given says "Leslie was found hanging in the shed by his mother. He had been playing in the rafters and had his book strap round his shoulders and he fell and the strap caught on something and broke his neck. He was 12 years old." The note also says "Another story says he hung himself accidentally while putting up a swing. November 4, 1898." How very sad to lose a child, especially in this way. I can't imagine what Francis and his wife must have went through. But, unfortunately, the bad times don't end there...
On January 8, 1904, Louisa passed away. Her obituary stated that she suffered from the disease "consumption" for 3 years before it took her life. Consumption was what they called Tuberculosis. She wasn't the only one to suffer it in the family. Later that same year, on December 29, Francis died of the same disease.
The children were left without their parents. Some were grown, but some were still very young. In the note written by Betty Tracy Thayer, she also stated the following:
"Emma, Mom, also recalled that after her father, Wm. Frank Gibson died, her mother having preceded him in death by a year, she and her brothers and sisters were left alone in their home in De Soto. She recalled that they "had no sens of money," and when the "rag man" came by at various times, calling "old rags and bottles" the children blithely sold articles of value to the man - I.E. down comforters for 10 cents each! Later, they were taken care of by their Aunt Em Brown, who had lost her husband in a tragic caboose fire sometime before. Aunt Em had 2 girls Ethel and Stella. The good times were over thereafter!!" (The note says Emma's daughters were Ethel and Stella, but I think she meant Ethel and Cleo).
Not sure how long the children stayed with their Aunt Emma, but the 1910 census has them living in another part of town, with Claude as the head of household. Writing this post, I did some additional research, and found that the Jefferson College Library has a searchable Probate File Index. Listed on the index are two case numbers (6717 and 4841) for "Gibson Minors." At this time I haven't contacted them to obtain a copy. Hopefully in the near future. I'm sure there must have been some court proceedings to determine who would take care of the minor children. The youngest would have only been 4 years old. Francis and his wife Louisa had such a short life. At the ages of 44 and 42, they left so much behind.
The picture to the right was found online on Ancestry.com in the Gibson/Stockdale Family Tree. I'm not sure when it was taken.