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Collection Number: 00922

Collection Title: Gibson and Humphreys Family Papers, 1846-1919

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 350 items)
Abstract Gibson and Humphreys families of Live Oak Plantation and Oak Forest Plantation near Tigerville in Terrebonne Parish, La., and Sumner's Forest Plantation near Versailles, Ky. Prominent family members included Louisiana plantation owner Tobias Gibson (d. ca. 1870); his son, Randall Lee Gibson (1832-1892), lawyer and U.S. representative and senator, 1875- 1892; Tobias's daughter, Sarah Gibson Humphreys (fl. 1846-1885), fiction writer; and her son, Joseph A. Humphreys, Jr. (fl. 1870-1898). The collection contains chiefly correspondence relating to Gibson and Humphreys family members. Letters document the period before the Civil War when the Gibson children were in school at the Phillips Academy and Yale College, and while traveling in Europe, and include a discussion about slavery. Post-war letters chiefly document the lives of Humphreys family members and their efforts to improve their financial situation. Among the subjects discussed are Sarah Humphreys's writing efforts and her support of women's causes, particularly suffrage; Joseph Humphreys's efforts to run a sheep ranch near Miles City, Mont.; and the experiences of two female family members who worked at the Post Office and the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. There are also a number of letters written by Randall Lee Gibson on family and business affairs and a small amount of financial and miscellaneous material relating to both families.
Creator Gibson family.



Humphreys family.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Gibson and Humphreys Family Papers #922, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Given by Mrs. S. G. Humphreys of Lexington, Ky., in November 1944.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subject Headings

The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

The chief figures in these papers are Tobias Gibson of Live Oak Plantation and Oak Forest Plantation near Tigerville, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, and members of his family, especially his daughter, Sarah, who married Joseph A. Humphreys of Kentucky; and her son, Joseph Humphreys.

Tobias Gibson and his wife, whose maiden name is not clear, probably moved to Louisiana from Kentucky. They maintained, however, close relations with the relatives and friends they left behind. Tobias was a planter and owned plantations named Live Oak and Oak Forest, and another plantation referred to as Holly Wood. Their children, in approximate age order, are noted below.

Preston, who studied medicine and was a planter, had a wife named Elodie and a son named Preston. There is not much in the papers about Preston Gibson, who died sometime between 7 April 1864 and 13 February 1867, and there are only brief references to his wife and son thereafter.

Randall Lee, the best known member of the family, served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He was born in 1832, graduated from Yale College in 1853, and studied law at the University of Louisiana (later Tulane). He became a brigadier general in the Confederate Army and, after the war, practiced law in New Orleans. He served as a representative, 1875 1883, and as a senator from 1883 until his death in 1892. He married Mary Montgomery of Kentucky and had a son Montgomery, a daughter Leila, and perhaps other daughters. There are many letters from him in the collection, chiefly on family and business affairs rather than politics. His family frequently refered to him as "Lee."

Sarah Thompson Gibson married Joseph A. Humphreys, of Sumner's Forest near Versailles, Kentucky, probably in 1853. She wrote fiction and evidently had a few short stories published. The papers indicate that she also wrote a book, but she apparently did not find a publisher. She had three children, Lucy, Sarah Gibson (Sallie), and Joseph A., Jr. Sarah's husband seems to have been sickly. He probably did not serve in the Confederate Army. He died sometime during the war years. Lucy married Lewis A. Johnstone; Sallie evidently never married. Sometime between 1888 and 1898, Joseph, Jr., married a woman named Mary. They had a son named Joseph.

Claude, was a student at Andover, at Yale, and in Europe. He may have been killed during the Civil War.

Tobias, studied at Andover, Yale, the University of North Carolina (1857), and in Europe. He served in the Confederate Army, studied law, and later lived in Louisiana and in Kentucky. His wife was named Eva. He was usually called Tobe or Toby in the correspondence.

Hart studied at Yale and became a planter at Hartland in Kentucky before the Civil War. He married Mary Duncan of Lexington, Kentucky, and had a son named Duncan.

John McKinley was called McKinley, Kin, or Kinny. He studied at Andover and in Europe, served in the Confederate Army, lived in Kentucky after the war, was usually in ill health, and died in 1880.

Louisiana H., called Loulie, the youngest of the children, was sent to school in Paris during the Civil War. She married sometime in the mid 1870s (husband not named in the papers) and died in childbirth in 1877.

Less is known about the family of Joseph A. Humphreys. Joseph A. was the son of D. C. Humphreys, whose chief plantation seems to have been Waverly, in Woodford County, Kentucky. He had a brother named Samuel, and possibly sisters named Mary, Lucy, and Sue. D. C. Humphreys apparently died long before his wife, who continued to live at Waverly most of the time. The Humphreys children were frequently with her and refer to her as "Grandma" and "Aunt Mary." In later years, she travelled quite a bit in the north, visiting relatives in New York, frequently accompanied by one of the Humphreys girls.

There are many letters from and references to relatives in Kentucky, where both the Humphreys and the Gibsons seem to have had widespread connections. Aunt Anne was Tobias Gibson's sister, but whether she was married and, if so, to whom, is not clear. Susan was a cousin of the Gibson family, married a Grigsby, and was a widow with several children, including Virginia and Hart, when she corresponded with Sarah Gibson Humphreys. Many other relatives cannot be identified at all.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

This collection consists chiefly of correspondence, with a few, scattered financial papers and miscellaneous items. Papers relating to Tobias Gibson and his family cover the years before and during the Civil War. Many of the letters are from Gibson children at school and in Europe. Starting in the 1870s, most of the papers relate to Sarah Gibson Humphreys and her children. Many letters deal with their efforts to improve their financial situation, as well as with family activities. There is some documentation of the writing efforts of Sarah Gibson Humphreys, as well as her support of the women's movement, particularly suffrage. Also documented are Joseph A. Humphreys, Jr.'s attempt to run a sheep ranch in Montana, and the experiences of two female family members who worked at the Post Office and the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

Randall Lee Gibson's professional life is not documented, but there are numerous letters written by him on family and business affairs.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. 1846-1849.

13 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly correspondence received by Sarah Thompson Gibson, and Joseph A. Humphreys. Sarah received several letters from Ellen of Green Plains, Virginia, who was apparently a schoolfriend. Sarah also corresponded with Mrs. George L. Guion, giving family news and news of the parish elections. Joseph also received several letters from friends.

Folder 1

1846-1849 #00922, Series: "1. 1846-1849." Folder 1

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. 1850-1860.

About 45 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly correspondence of the Gibson family, including numerous letters from the Gibson children to their father and to each other while they attended various schools and traveled in Europe. Also included are a few letters to Joseph A. Humphreys who traveled in Europe in 1850 and 1851.

In 1849, Randall was accepted at Yale. In December 1850, Randall wrote his father telling him he would leave school and manage the plantation if his father intended to travel for his mother's health. Included in this year are instructions for treating Mrs. Gibson written by Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright, a New Orleans physician. He believed she was suffering ill effects from an early menopause. Mrs. Gibson, in fact, died sometime in the early 1850s.

In 1851, Joseph A. Humphreys was traveling in Europe, where received letters from his father, sending local news, and from his banker or man of business who assisted him with transferring money and forwarding mail.

On 21 October 1853, Randall Gibson wrote to his brother Hart while on a visit to the University of Virginia. He felt it compared poorly to Yale. Randall also mentioned that his sister Sarah and her husband, Joseph Humphreys, were at Sumner's Forest. This is the first indication of their marriage.

In May 1854, L. H. Taylor at the Phillips Academy in Andover wrote to Tobias Gibson about the progress of his sons Claude and Tobias. In September of that year, Claude wrote to his father about the various boys in school. Tobias and John McKinley were at Andover, and Hart and Claude at Yale. On 26 March 1855, Hart wrote about two speakers (George?) Fitzhugh of Virginia and Wendell Phillips of Boston, who presented lectures to the students on their opposing views of slavery. In the late 1850s, Claude, Tobias, and John McKinley (Kin or Kinny), were traveling in Europe. Randall wrote Claude in 1859 advising him that he was too old and had neglected his studies for too long to take a German course. Randall sent advice and home news to the boys in Europe, insisting that they must know French well to work in Louisiana. Randall practiced law in Thibodaux, had a plantation in Lafourche Parish, and conducted all his business in French.

The youngest Gibson daughter, Louisiana (Loulie), was in school in New Orleans. On 15 May 1857, she wrote a very homesick letter to her father.

Other letters during these years include several from Randall to his father about the care of the plantation. Relatives and friends wrote to Sarah Gibson Humphreys whose two daughters were born in 1854 and 1855. In 1854, Brown Shipley & Co. of Liverpool wrote that they would handle for Joseph Humphreys the payment of passage for a Mr. A. Bode and an English gardener who were coming to work for the Humphreys. In 1857 and 1858, there are a few letters of introduction for Joseph Humphreys, who was apparently traveling in Virginia.

Folder 2

1850-1853 #00922, Series: "2. 1850-1860." Folder 2

Folder 3

1854-1855 #00922, Series: "2. 1850-1860." Folder 3

Folder 4

1856-1860 #00922, Series: "2. 1850-1860." Folder 4

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. 1861-1865.

12 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

There is scattered correspondence during the Civil War years. The Gibson sons served in the Confederate army. Many of the letters were to Loulie from a schoolfriend in Paris. It appears that Loulie was also studying abroad at this time.

On 17 April 1861, Tobias Gibson wrote a gloomy letter to Mr. Guion about the boys getting ready for military service. In 1862, he wrote expressing ardent southern feelings. In June 1862, Hart wrote of the local political situation in Kentucky. He also mentioned his brothers Claude, Tobias, and Kin and their activities in the war. Toby wrote from Tennessee in August 1862, where he was with Bragg's army near Chattanooga.

Tobias Gibson wrote Sarah on 10 December 1863, telling her that it might be dangerous for her to leave her property; he had been saved from ruin only by being on the plantation. On 7 April 1864, Toby sent Loulie news of all the family, telling her that Hart was a prisoner in the Ohio Penitentiary.

Folder 5

1861-1865 #00922, Series: "3. 1861-1865." Folder 5

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. 1867-1872.

12 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

A few scattered letters among the Gibson family. After the war, Randall practiced law in New Orleans and married Mary Montgomery in 1868. Several letters describe the activities of the various members of the family. Randall wrote in 1871 about his efforts to pay off his debts.

Folder 6

1867-1872 #00922, Series: "4. 1867-1872." Folder 6

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 5. 1873-1879.

About 60 items

Arrangement: chronological.

Beginning in 1873, the correspondence is chiefly directed to the Humphreys family, particularly to Sarah Gibson Humphreys. Many of the letters deal with her efforts to combat financial difficulties.

There are numerous letters from "Aunt Anne" and other unidentified female relatives. Sallie Humphreys sent schoolgirl letters to her mother. Mary Montgomery Gibson, wife of Randall, wrote several times, once about the death of Loulie, who died in childbirth in 1877.

In 1878, Sarah Humphreys wrote to her son Joe about the yellow fever epidemic. John D. Shaffer also wrote to Joe about the yellow fever epidemic, news of Terrebonne Parish, and crops.

Sarah Gibson Humphreys was living at Oak Forest and apparently having financial difficulties during these years. She was involved in a disagreement with her brothers and seemed particularly angry at and distrustful of Randall. In 1879, there are several letters that mention the affair. Randall wrote to Kin about the distressing state of his sister's affairs. On 5 October, Sarah Humphreys also wrote to Kin and expressed her great distrust of Randall. On October 17, Sarah wrote to Joe about a scholarship Randall could get him. She disliked the idea of accepting it, but felt she ought to do everything possible to further Joe's education.

In 1879, Sarah Humphreys wrote to Joe while she was in Kentucky, Evansville, Indiana, and Hopkinsville, Ohio. In the summer, she returned to the plantation, and Joe and Sallie went to Kentucky.

Folder 7

1873-1874 #00922, Series: "5. 1873-1879." Folder 7

Folder 8

1875-1876 #00922, Series: "5. 1873-1879." Folder 8

Folder 9

1877-1878 #00922, Series: "5. 1873-1879." Folder 9

Folder 10

1879 #00922, Series: "5. 1873-1879." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 6. 1880-1895.

About 120 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Beginning in 1880, many of the letters are directed to Joe Humphreys, who went to Montana in 1883 to start a sheep ranch with Hart Grigsby.

In January, Lucy wrote from Washington, D.C., where she was visiting the Randall Gibsons. She described her social activities, including a call upon Mrs. Hayes at the White House. There are several papers relating to Randall's efforts to get work for Joe with the Census Bureau and with the Mississippi River Commission. A friend of Joe's wrote him about his plans to go west. McKinley died that year, and there are letters referring to his death.

In 1881, letters from family continue, and there are also letters from Randall about the disposition of Live Oak. In the 1880s, Sarah's relationship with her brother Randall seemed to improve greatly. In March, Lucy wrote from West Point, New York, where she was visiting.

In 1882, the Humphreys family began spending most of their time at Sumner's Forest in Kentucky. They received several letters from Randall about financial arrangements and the settlement of McKinley Gibson's estate. There are letters from Louisiana neighbors describing recent floods, damage to crops, and a strike of farm laborers. In December, Sarah Humphreys wrote to Joe from Washington describing the very comfortable house the Randall Gibson's lived in. It is believed that Sarah published a story during this year.

On 19 January 1883, Sarah Humphreys wrote from Washington to Joe describing the property settlement she had made with her brothers, exchanging her interest in Live Oak for Magnolia, plus cash. She said that Randall expected to build up a sort of principality around Live Oak. He hoped to buy out Tigerville and change its name; he may have succeeded since the map now shows Gibson and no Tigerville. In this year, Joe apparently sold a portion of Sumner's Forest, possibly to get cash to start the ranch in Montana.

On 10 June 1883, Sarah Humphreys sent a letter to Joe in Montana, expressing her fears that his ranching plan would prove unprofitable. She also mentioned that Randall had obtained jobs for Susan and Virginia Grigsby in Washington, D.C., one at the Post Office and one at the Department of the Interior. A letter to Randall from Virginia had had a great effect on him, showing him that, "(a woman) could feel the same human necessities, to eat, to sleep, to be clothed and sheltered, and get ahead in the world, that he did." This is one of several references that Sarah made in her letters during these years to her support of the women's movement, particularly of suffrage. She also mentioned her writing, stating that her friend at the "Weekly" had died and that they had not accepted any of her stories since.

Susan Grigsby corresponded with Sarah and wrote her on 5 August 1883 about how tired she was from work and that she no longer had the energy to go to church on the Sabbath. There are several other letters from Susan Grigsby and her daughter, Virginia, describing their experiences in Washington as they begin work in government offices, revealing their reactions to the experience of working outside the home.

A few letters written at the end of the summer of 1883 between Joe and his mother mentioned the possibility of Lucy and Sallie getting married. Lucy apparently did get married, for, on 30 January 1884, Susan Grigsby wrote to Sarah about Lucy's impending marriage.

In 1884, Joe made a trip home, but returned to Montana. He and Hart decided to give up the ranch and, in 1884 and 1885, he attempted, with Randall's help, to secure a government appointment in Montana. There are several letters in 1885, among Joe, Randall, and others, about Joe's efforts to be appointed U.S. Marshal of Montana. Randall was confident that Joe would get the place if Augustus H. Garland became Attorney General, which he did. Grover Cleveland, however, insisted on giving the marshal's appointment to someone else. On 26 April 1885, Sarah wrote a letter to Joe saying that she had tried to borrow money to send to him, but had been turned down because she was a woman.

Joe returned East, and received a few disconnected letters from friends in Montana, including one from Washington Berry of the U.S. Land Office in Miles City, about his troubles as a land agent and the ranchers who were trying to get him fired. He enclosed a copy of his recent report, which he wanted Senator Gibson to read and endorse.

Folder 11

1880 #00922, Series: "6. 1880-1895." Folder 11

Folder 12

1881 #00922, Series: "6. 1880-1895." Folder 12

Folder 13

1882 #00922, Series: "6. 1880-1895." Folder 13

Folder 14

January-June 1883 #00922, Series: "6. 1880-1895." Folder 14

Folder 15

July-December 1883 #00922, Series: "6. 1880-1895." Folder 15

Folder 16

1884 #00922, Series: "6. 1880-1895." Folder 16

Folder 17

January-October 1885 #00922, Series: "6. 1880-1895." Folder 17

Folder 18

November-December 1885 #00922, Series: "6. 1880-1895." Folder 18

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 7. 1886-1919.

About 30 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

After 1887, the letters are few and scattered. On 20 August 1886, Lucy wrote to Joe, saying that she heard he was going to study law with Uncle Hart. In 1887, there are letters from Joe in Chicago and St. Paul, where he went on business. He seems to have worked for a while for a friend, S. M. Magoffin, who was a real estate dealer in St. Paul. In 1888, there are two letters to Montgomery Gibson, one from his father Randall at White Sulphur Springs, and one from his Uncle Tobias.

There are no papers until 1898, when M. A. Spurr, who had been president of a bank in Nashville that failed, wrote to Joe. Charges had been brought against Spurr in the federal courts, and he had been convicted, but at the time of his letter he was optimistic about the prospects for a new trial. He referred to Joe's wife Mary and to Joe, Jr., and sent remembrances to all at Sumner's Forest. In 1916, there is a wedding invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Johnstone at Sumner's Forest, and, in 1919, a letter to Lucy Humphreys Johnstone from a friend in New Orleans, discussing Christmas gifts, children, and servants.

Folder 19

1886-1887 #00922, Series: "7. 1886-1919." Folder 19

Folder 20

1888-1919 #00922, Series: "7. 1886-1919." Folder 20

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 8. Undated.

About 40 items.

Undated letters and letter fragments, chiefly written and received by Sarah Gibson Humphreys and her children, Lucy, Sallie, and Joe. There are several letters from Aunt Anne to Sarah giving family news, and one mentioning the flooding around Bayou Black in Terrebonne Parish. Sarah wrote to Joe about plantation business. There are a few letters from other members of the Gibson family. Also included are copies of advertisements run by Sarah Gibson Humphreys in The Ohio Farmer, offering fruit farms for rent or for sale.

Folder 21-22

Folder 21

Folder 22

Undated fragments #00922, Series: "8. Undated." Folder 21-22

Folder 23-24

Folder 23

Folder 24

Undated #00922, Series: "8. Undated." Folder 23-24

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Processing Information

Processed by: Shonra Newman, December 1990

Encoded by: Lynn Holdzkom, January 2006

Updated by: Kathryn Michaelis, November 2009

This inventory is based on an original inventory compiled in June 1955.

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