Initial interest in the Gibsons

My interest in the Gibson family was originally sparked by a marriage between a Daniel Calvert and Alice Gibson in 1844, the two had lived next door to each other in 1841, Daniel left the family home and worked as a coal miner in Habergham Eaves in 1851. One of their children, Benjamin, was the subject of the following newspaper report:

Preston Guardian, Nov 26 1864, "On Wedneday, before the county magistrates at Blackburn, Benjamin Calvert pleaded guilty to stealing two half-sovereigns belonging to Thomas Gibson, of Great Harwood, his grandfather. The prisoner had taken the money in question from a basin at the top of the pot-shelf. The prisoner was sentenced to receive twelve strokes of the rod at the hands of PC Robinson and then be discharged."

Other newspaper reports show that Benjamin was a bit of a tearaway and had a few other encounters with the local forces of the law.

The Gibson Family

The story of the Gibson family is centred on the area around Accrington in Lancashire, England and is best commenced from the marriage at Altham Church in 1744 between a John Gibson and Ann Bradshaw.


In order to follow the story of this family it is useful to understand the area they lived in. Clayton-le-Moors is in Lancashire, the North West of England and is situated between two villages which had old Parish Churches - Great Harwood (St Bartholomews) and Altham (St James). People living in Clayton may have regarded either on as "their" Parish Church depending on where in the village they lived and their own family ancestry. "Oakenshaw" is part of Clayton-le-Moors but only a short walk from Great Harwood. Manchester is some 20 miles to the South.

The drawing below gives an indication of the relative positions of the towns and villages.

Location of towns etc

John Gibson and Alice Bradshaw

John is described in Parish records as a "shoemaker" and also as a "cordwainer" - a worker in fine leather. As previously mentioned he married Ann Bradshaw at St James Church, Altham in 1744.

John and Ann had three children - Cuthbert (born 1744), Henry (1747) and John (1757) all of whom appear to have been born in Clayton-le-Moors.

John died in 1784 and was survived by his wife, Ann, who died twenty years later in 1804.

The name Cuthbert is unusual in the area however it occurs frequently in the descendants of John and Alice. Cuthbert the son of John and Alice, married an Ellen Calvert in 1764, however they had no children. Cuthbert left a will and despite it being indexed at Lancashire County Records Office it cannot be located there. This Cuthbert appears to be the one who signed a petition in 1773 as one of the "principal inhabitants of Harwood Chapelry" "praying that as the Revd. Mr. Smith, their Curate, is at the point of death, the Vicar will appoint to the curacy Mr. Elleray, Curate of Langho, a curate in the parish upwards of thirty years. " He was also one of the witnesses to the 1765 will of Lawrence Walmesley , tenant of the Queens Hotel. Cuthbert was shown as a "Yeoman" in the indexing of his will which, taken with the presence on the above petition, suggests that he was a respected person. His name appears frequently in the "Alehouse Recognisances" in Great Harwood and it appears that he was an Innkeeper.

The two remaining children of John and Ann married in Gt Harwood - Henry, born 1747, married Margaret Giles in 1772 and John, born 1757, married Alice Baron in 1779. Reconstructing the descendants of these two lines has thrown up some interesting contrasts and the occasional oddity.

The descendants of John Gibson and Alice Baron

John Gibson was born in Clayton-le-Moors, in 1757, married Alice Baron on 1779. They had two sons - Henry (1780) and Cuthbert (1782). Alice died in 1784 and the Overseers of the Poor for Gt Harwood obtained a removal order for John and his sons Henry and Cuthbert to Altham. John eventually died in Accrington but was buried in Gt Harwood which he must have thought of as his home.

Cuthbert who was "removed" to Altham (actually we don't know if the removal took place, the Overseers may have got the order as a precaution or perhaps Altham challenged the validity) didn't live long - he died at the age of 8 years in 1790, by which time his father, John, was back in Great Harwood, but the Cuthbert name provided a degree of family continuity which has been useful in re-constructing the families. His brother, Henry, however made good and became a "Counting House Clerk" then a "Bookkeeper" His first wife, Elizabeth Williamson seems to have died in childbirth in 1803 with their daughter only surviving for a few weeks. He then married Mary Howarth with whom he had five children - Ann (1805), Alice (1807), James Howarth (1809), Margaret (Peggy) (1812) and Henry (1814).

Bankruptcy records show that a Henry Gibson, Abraham Greaves, John and Mary Deane were in partnership as Calico Printers at Plantation Mill, Accrington,using the name Gibson, Greaves and Co. This partnership was dissolved in 1820 with Henry and Abraham continuing the business under the same name leasing Plantation Mill together with six farms from John Aspinall of Reedley House, Burnley. The new partnership, however did not thrive and in 1826 "Henry Gibson and Abraham Greaves, of Plantation-Mills, within Accrington, in the County of Lancaster, Calico-Printers, Dealers, Chapmen, and Copartners" were declared bankrupt.

There was clearly a social as well as a business relationship between the Gibsons and the Greaves as in 1823 Henry's oldest daughter, Ann married Abraham's oldest son, Greenhalgh. Bankruptcy proceeding stretched out over many years with creditors still being paid out in 1833.

Henry Gibson appears in Brazil

One of Henry and Mary's children proved to be most interesting. Henry Gibson was born in 1814 at Oakenshaw. He doesn't appear in the 1841 census and to all intents and purposes it looked as if he probably died while young.

However, it seems Henry went to the city of Recife in Brazil in 1832, to buy cotton for the Lancashire mills where he made his fortune. A picture of the Henry Gibson Mansion (still known as that today) which was built in 1847 will give some indication of his wealth:

Henry Gibson Mansion - Recife

The company that Henry founded had its own vessels and bought farms in Brazil,mainly dedicating to the production of sugar an occupation that relied on the use of negro slaves. Its main activity was "Importing manufactured textiles, leather and and exporting cotton."

It was clearly the right Henry as the family have his passport which shows his date and place of birth. In his short life (he died at the age of 48) he built up a major import/export business and fathered 12 children. Henry had dealings with Owen Owens and co. of Manchester and his correspondence with them is preserved in the John Rylands Library in Manchester. Some of these papers have provided a fascinating insight into Henry's business dealings.

From the correspondence it appears that Henry had been a partner in George Kenworthy and Co when that firm was wound up in 1843, he then commenced business on his own account. Henry and George Kenworthy had been operating a "joint account" with a Mr Rushton of Tib St Manchester with Rushton providing the capital and Gibson/Kenworthy acting as local agents in Brazil for the goods being imported from England to Brazil. The three of them split the profits after expenses. In his initial contact with Owen Owens he says:

"The articles which I at present commend to your attention are Maddapollams (a cotton cloth with a special finish to ensure softness, akin to calico and muslin. It was named after the town in India ), shirtings (shirting material includes broadcloth, Jacquard, jersey, madras, as well as silk, rayon and acetate yarn ), Domestics and ordinary latteens - these are never unsaleable and I think it most prudent that we begin with them."

He then goes on to describe the way in which goods should be marked :

"... both the Maddsand shirtings should be stamped with a Blue fighting Cock, with a bold red single stripe and underneath the cock stamped in bold letters Henry Gibson"

This appears to have been his trade mark.

Clearly this is only a snapshot of his correspondence with a single company and only represents the import to Brazil side of his business.

Recife is a port in the State of Pernambuco, some 1200 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, which would have been the obvious place for a general Import/Export business to be established in Brazil. Pernambuco had been exporting high grade cotton to England since 1781 and was a major port in Brazil for the export of raw cotton. This suggests that Henry's interest was initially the purchase of cotton rather than the Brazilian import business.

Initially it was difficult to understand how Henry came to be in Brazil, however subsequent research showed that an uncle of his - Adam Haworth (his mother's brother) had made a fortune in Valparaiso and Brazil. Adam's partnership in Pernambuco was dissolved in 1824 and he returned home and became a Minister in the New Jerusalem Church. For a time, before 1837 he lived in Accrington and Henry's sisters acted as his housekeepers. It is likely that it was the influence of Adam which caused Henry to seek his fortune in South America.  You can read more about this connection here.

In his book "John Owens, Manchester Merchant" Brian Clapp says :

"It was the young, the ambitious and the penniless who endured the heat and humidity, the diseases and the loneliness of life in a strange land far from home. As soon as the exiles had made some money and acquired useful experience they returned to England to do business from the comparative comfort of a warehouse in Liverpool or Manchester, The agent abroad was often a junior member of a Liverpool forwarding house; as his standing in the firm improved with years of experience, so did his chance of returning to England. It needed no great wealth to forward merchant's goods from Liverpool to the markets of the world...."

We can assume Henry received a reasonable education in writing and accounting at his father's hands. The structure of the cotton trade at that time is given in summary by the following extract from Edward Baines "History of the Cotton manufacture of Great Britain",(1835):

"Cotton is sold in Liverpool by brokers, who are employed by the importers, and who charge 10s. per 100 for their trouble in valuing and selling it. The buyers, who are the Manchester cotton dealers, and the spinners all over the country, also employ brokers, at the same rate of commission, to make their purchases.

Henry married Alexandrina Rosa D'Oliveira in the British Chaplaincy in Recife in 1842 and they had 12 children.

A family tradition is that Henry's brother, James Howarth Gibson went to the USA to buy cotton, however if he did it was only for a short period as he appears in the British censuses living with his parents in 1841 and 1851 initially as a bookkeeper then as a calico block printer. He could, of course have gone and returned before 1841 as he was five years older than Henry. James disappears from the British records following his parents' deaths in 1854 and 1855 and although a James H Gibson of about the right age can be found in the 1880 USA Census it is clear from naturalisation records that he is not James Howarth Gibson from Clayton-le-Moors. Adam Haworth (mentioned above) wrote a Will in 1837 and left money to all the other children of his sister Mary but did not include James Haworth Gibson. There is no clear reason why he was left out, he lived with his parents until 1851 (they died in 1854/5), so was alive when Adam wrote the will.

Henry's Sister - Ann Gibson

As previously mentioned Ann married Greenhalgh Greaves in Altham in 1823. They had seven children and in 1841 the family were living in Manchester with Greenhalgh working as a "pattern designer". In 1844 Lucretia (the second daughter to have been given that name) died there of "inflammation of the lungs" - she was buried in Accrington with her mother, Ann, who died two days later of "apoplexy". The following year Greenhalgh died of "consumption"whilst living at Cheetham Hill in Manchester and was also buried at Christ Church in Accrington. Two of the remaining children Henry Gibson Greaves and Mary Greaves then went to live in Accrington with their maternal grandparents Henry and Mary Gibson who died in 1854 and 1855. Henry Gibson Greaves later went to Brazil, worked as a clerk and married in 1871, at the British Consulate in Recife, Herminia Josephina d'Oliveira. From the marriage certificate Herminia's father is named as Jose Antonio d'Oliveira a Merchant( Deceased) which matches with the father of Alexandrina, the wife of Henry Gibson.

Descendants of Henry Gibson and Margaret Giles

Henry, born in 1747 to John Gibson and Ann Bradshaw, married Margaret Giles in 1772 at St Bartholomew's church, Great Harwood.

They had three sons - Cuthbert, John and Thomas together with four daughters - Mary, twins Ann and Jane,both of whom died whilst young, and Ann.

Nothing interesting can be discovered about this Cuthbert , Thomas became Sexton at St Bartholomews church in Great Harwood- as did his son James, but the other son of Henry and Margaret, John, married Margaret Ashworth at Great Harwood in 1798 - some of their children have turned up stories worth re-telling.

Two of John and Margaret's sons, Henry, born 1802 and Robinson, born 1820 became boatmen on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Henry clearly wanted to confuse later family historians as he managed to be enumerated twice in the 1841 census - once with his wife at Cleaver St, Blackburn where he is shown as an "Ostler" and again with his brother Robinson and two other boatmen at Gargrave in Yorkshire. Henry married three times, the last two to widows with children of their own so he accumulated nine children and four step-children during his lifetime.

Robinson got out of canals and onto the railway where he rose from a Porter to a Railway inspector. Three of his sons who survived to adulthood also went on to work on the Railway so he seems to have founded a dynasty of Railway Employees.

One of Henry and Robinson's brothers was Jonathan Gibson. Initially he was elusive as his baptism in 1806 is not in the Lancashire Parish Register Society's transcript of the Great Harwood Parish records. He appeared in the censuses for Ashton-under-Lyne as born in Gt Harwood and eventually was located in the Bishops Transcripts showing that he was the son of Jno. and Margt. Gibson of Harwood .

There is a newspaper report (Northern Star etc, Sept 10, 1842) that might explain why Jonathan moved from Blackburn to Manchester. In 1842 there was a meeting in Blackburn regarding a strike, following it a Jonathan Gibson, Secretary to the Chartist Association and George Wilson, power-loom weaver, were arrested. The police "searched and ransacked" Jonathan's house for evidence against the Chartists. He was removed to the Preston House of Correction for over a week when no charge could be brought against him. "During their confinement Gibson was repeatedly asked to stand up and walk across the room to exhibit himself to the several gents and special constables who were regularly coming in to look what kind of animal this Chartist Secretary was... ....The magistrates cautioned several persons connected with Gibson to be aware of him as he was a Chartist". After treatment like that you can understand why someone would want to move out of the area. There is a Jonathan Gibson in the records for Chartist land company subscribers in Stalybridge (close to Ashton-under-Lyne) in 1848 a place where "our" Jonathan lived in the 1840's. It appears that Ashton-under-Lyne was a stronghold of Chartism around the 1840's to the point where they formed a "National Guard" and a policeman was murdered there in 1848 during a rising. Perhaps the Chartist connection is why Jonathan (if it was the same one who was Secretary to the Blackburn Chartists) chose to move there.

It has proved impossible to locate Jonathan in the 1851 census probably because many records for the 1851 Census of the Manchester area were damaged in flooding at the Public Record Office and not filmed. A 14 year recovery project resulted in 82% of the 217,717 persons whom the statisticians had counted being recovered. It may be that the Gibsons are lost in that lot as Ashton-u-Lyne was one of the affected areas.

Another son of Henry Gibson (the boatman) - John Gibson , born in 1825, became a successful Tea Merchant in Blackburn. His oldest son, Henry appears to have inherited the business on his father's death but was less successful. He moved to Bolton around 1900 where he became a Grocer's assistant. This John Gibson is sometimes confused with a John Gibson born in 1826 the grandson of John Gibson and Margaret Ashworth through their oldest son (another John) and Jane Duckworth. We learn from the will of Daniel, John and Jane's other son, that his brother John ,born in 1826, was living in Camden, New Jersey USA and should he wish to inherit anything on Daniel's death he had to return to England. The wording of the will makes it clear that John's return was unlikely. It was John the cousin, not John the brother, that was executor to Daniel's will and one of the beneficiaries along with Daniel's uncles.

Ancestors of John Gibson

To complete the picture we need to trace back the family from John Gibson and Alice Bradshaw who had married in 1744.

With no record which showed the age at any time of John, we need to examine the date of birth of his wife, Ann Bradshaw. Working on the basis that she was the Ann Gibson buried in Great Harwood in 1804 age 88 this places her date of birth around 1716. There were two John Gibsons born around a similar time - John Gibson, born 1717 to William Gibson and Grace Hindle and John Gibson, born 1721 to Cuthbert Gibson and Mary Robinson. Both sets of parents were married at Padiham (about three miles from Altham) and both Johns were baptised in Burnley. Cuthbert and William were brothers, born to a Cuthbert Gibson and his wife Elizabeth. It has proved impossible to be sure to which of the families the John who married Ann Bradshaw belonged, however whichever of them it was he had the same grandparents - Cuthbert and Elizabeth. It is more likely that John was the son of Cuthbert and Mary given the number of times the Cuthbert name occurs in John's descendants, together with this John had a brother Henry, a name which also appears in his descendants. The family of William and Grace are difficult to trace as William, a Skinner, died at the age of 35 following incarceration in Lancaster prison for debt. At this time his son John would have been only 12 years of age.

The name Cuthbert in the Gibson family appears to owe its origins to North Yorkshire/ County Durham - Cuthbert and Elizabeth lived at Barningham, near Barnard Castle until around 1697 (their first three children Ann, William and Cuthbert were born there) when they moved to the Burnley area and completed their family with three more - John, Elizabeth and Grace . The name Cuthbert is strongly associated with County Durham where St Cuthbert is buried in the Cathedral.


I would like to thank my fellow researchers into the Gibsons - Gustavo Gibson of Brazil and Sonia Spencer of Burnley for their help in examining this family.