William Gibbons was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1794 to Thomas Gibbons 1757-1826 and Ann Heyward. Thomas Gibbons was a successful lawyer and was elected mayor of Savannah 4 times in succession. He owned plantations on the banks of the Savannah River, and, after moving north to New Jersey, became involved in the business of steamboat transportation. His ownership of a ferry from Elizabeth Point to New York put him at odds with the ferry operator, Aaron Ogden, whose steamboat had been granted exclusive rights to these waters by the state of New York. Aaron Ogden sued Thomas Gibbons, and in the Supreme Court case of 1824 Gibbons vs. Ogden, Thomas Gibbons won, with the result that no one could have a monopoly of interstate waters.
William Gibbons attended the College of New Jersey later Princeton, but discontinued his education early to assist his father with the operation of the Georgia plantations. Thomas Gibbons willed virtually all of his land, property, and businesses to William after his death in May 1826. William married Abigail Louisa Taintor 1791-1844 in 1826 and had four children: Isabel, Caroline Gilmour, Sarah Taintor, and William Heyward. Like his father, he purchased land in New Jersey and moved there with his family, placing the operation of the one of the Georgia plantations in the hands of William Dunham. William Gibbons funded the building of a mansion for his wife now Mead Hall at Drew University, the Morris County House, and the United States Hotel in Morristown. He managed the operation of his father's steamboat business until 1829, offered financial assistance to the publishing of at least one newspaper, and was interested in horse breeding and racing. He died on December 10, 1852, in New Jersey.