Thomas Gibbons (politician)
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Thomas Gibbons Politician
Thomas Gibbons
Thomas Gibbons.png
Mayor of Savannah, Georgia

Matthew Hall McAllister
David Brydie Mitchell

William Stephens
William Stephens

John Houstoun
Joseph Habersham
Personal details
Born(1757-12-15)December 15, 1757
Mulberry Hill, Savannah, Georgia, British America
DiedMay 16, 1826(1826-05-16) (aged 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Ann Miles Heyward
(m. 1780; her death 1820)
ParentsJoseph Gibbons
Hannah Martin Gibbons

Thomas Gibbons (December 15, 1757 - May 16, 1826) was a planter, politician, lawyer, steamboat owner and the plaintiff in Gibbons vs. Ogden.[1][2]

Early life

Gibbons was born at Mulberry Hill, his family's plantation outside of Savannah, Georgia on December 15, 1757.[3] He was the son of Joseph Gibbons and Hannah (née Martin) Gibbons.[4] Between 1752 and 1762, his father acquired several thousand acres between the Ogeechee and Savannah Rivers where he operated a saw mill, grew rice, and owned over 100 slaves.[5]

He was educated at home and in Charleston, South Carolina, where he read law.[4] During the American Revolutionary War, Gibbons, who was just eighteen when it started, was a passive Loyalist.[6]


Following the American's victory over the British, Gibbons and other remaining Tories was convicted of treason and he was considered a prisoner of the Sheriff of Chatham County.[5] His estate was confiscated and only after executive order was he permitted to remain at his mother's and allowed and to pass between there and Savannah.[5] In January 1783, Gibbons petitioned the Assembly for citizenship, which was granted six months later under the stipulation that he could not vote, hold office for 14 years, or practice law. However, in only four years, he was granted full rights and privileges of citizenship.[5]

Between 1791 and 1801, only four years after being granted full rights of citizenship, Gibbons served several terms as the Mayor of Savannah, Georgia from 1791 to 1792, again in 1794 to 1795 and lastly from 1799 to 1801, as a Democratic-Republican.[6] In addition to his service as mayor, he was also an aldermen of the city. In 1801, he was appointed a federal judge.[6]

As mayor, Gibbons was the head of the Savannah delegation who welcomed U.S. President George Washington to Savannah during Washington's "ceremonial tour of the South" in May 1791.[5]

Move to New Jersey

In 1801, Gibbons moved north and purchased a summer house in Elizabethtown in New Jersey,[1] where he purchased a large private dock facility a few years later.[3] His neighbor was former United States Senator and New Jersey Governor Aaron Ogden.[7]

Gibbons formed a partnership with Ogden, to operate steamboats. In 1817 Gibbons acquired a steam ferry, the Stoudinger, built by Allaire Iron Works, as a Hudson River ferry business between Elizabethtown and New Brunswick, New Jersey.[8] In 1818, he acquired Bellona. Gibbons hired Cornelius Vanderbilt to captain the Bellona.[1] Over the next few years, he also purchased Thistle, Swan, and Emerald.[3] Vanderbilt biographer T.J. Stiles described Gibbons as "a staggeringly rich rice planter from Georgia."[9] Gibbons turned out to be a mentor to Vanderbilt throughout his life.[9]

In 1818, Gibbons broke his partnership with neighbor Aaron Ogden and started competing with him, just months before Gibbons hired Vanderbilt. Ogden had acquired rights to a steamboat monopoly in New York waters. The monopoly had been granted by the New York State Legislature to the politically influential patrician Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton, who had designed the steamboat. Both Livingston and Fulton had died by the time Vanderbilt started working for Gibbons. The monopoly was held by Livingston's heirs. They had granted a license to Ogden to run a ferry between New York and New Jersey. Gibbons launched his steamboat venture because of a personal dispute with Ogden, whom he hoped to drive into bankruptcy.[9]:37-48 To accomplish this, he undercut Ogden's prices. Ogden then secured an injunction against Gibbons on October 21, 1818. This prompted Gibbons to bring a legal action to overturn the monopoly. The landmark legal case, known as Gibbons vs. Ogden, was fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where Gibbons, represented by Daniel Webster and U.S. Attorney General William Wirt, eventually won in 1824.[1][10][11]

Personal life

In 1780, Gibbons was married to Ann Miles Heyward (1757-1820).[5] Together, they were the parents of many children,[5] only three of which survived to adulthood:[12][13]

Gibbons died on May 16, 1826 in New York.[3] He was "obese and diabetic from a life of rapacious eating and drinking."[9]


Through his daughter Ann, he was the grandfather of Thomas Gibbons Trumbull, John Heyward Trumbull, and Hannah Gibbons Trumbull (1813-1876), who married Ralph Henry Isham, and Sarah Backus Trumbull (1815-1903), who married Daniel Coit Ripley (1812-1893).[12][17] However, due to Gibbon's falling out with his son-in-law, no child of John Trumbull was able to inherit any piece of Gibbon's estate or property as dictated in Gibbons' scathing will.[5]

Through his son William, he was the grandfather of Sarah Taintor Gibbons (1829-1909), who was married to Ward McAllister (1827-1895); and William Heyward Gibbons (1831-1887), William's only son.[14] William Heyward sold the family mansion, known as the Gibbons Mansion, to Daniel Drew in 1867 for $140,000. Drew donated the mansion and grounds to found Drew Theological Seminary (now known as Drew University), named in his honor.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d "Steamboats on the Hudson: An American Saga - Thomas Gibbons". New York State Library. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ Galvani, William (1999). Mainsail to the Wind: A Book of Sailing Quotations. Sheridan House, Inc. p. 193. ISBN 9781574090673. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Gibbons, Thomas, 1757-1826. Thomas Gibbons Business Papers, 1803-1862 (inclusive), 1803-1852 (bulk): A Finding Aid". Harvard Business School. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Gibbons, Thomas (1757-1826), planter, lawyer, and steamship owner". American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.001.0001/anb-9780198606697-e-0100319. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Thomas Gibbons - Drew University History - U-KNOW". Drew University. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Washington, George; Jackson, Donald Dean; Twohig, Dorothy (1979). The Diaries of George Washington. University Press of Virginia. p. 137. Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ Stiles, T.J. (April 15, 2009). "Character Spotlight: Thomas Gibbons - T.J. Stiles". Retrieved 2018.
  8. ^ Lurie, Maxine N.; Veit, Richard F. (2016). Envisioning New Jersey: An Illustrated History of the Garden State. Rutgers University Press. p. 106. ISBN 9780813569680. Retrieved 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e Stiles, T. J. (2009). The First Tycoon. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307271556. Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ Cox, Thomas H. (2009). Gibbons v. Ogden, Law, and Society in the Early Republic. Ohio University Press. ISBN 9780821418468. Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ Athearn, Robert G. (1988). American Heritage Illustrated History of the United States. Choice Pub. p. 164. ISBN 9780945260059. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ a b Bradford, Alexander Warfield (1859). Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Surrogate's Court of the County of New York. J. S. Voorhies. p. 70. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ New Jersey Supreme Court (1902). New Jersey Law Reports. Soney & Sage. p. 130. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ a b Joyce, William L. (1988). Archives Accessions Annual. Meckler. p. 44. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ Cunningham, John T. (1998). Images of America: Madison. Dover, NH: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 19, 31. ISBN 9780738567792.
  16. ^ "William Gibbons - Drew University History - U-KNOW". Drew University. Retrieved 2018.
  17. ^ Dwight, Benjamin Woodbridge (1874). The History of the Descendants of John Dwight of Dedham, Mass. J.F. Trow & Son, printers. p. 431. Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ "A brief history of Mead Hall". Drew University. Archived from the original on October 24, 2013. Retrieved 2012.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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