William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Gibbons Papers, 1804-1857

Finding aid created by
Cheney J. Schopieray, 2005

Summary Information
Title: William Gibbons papers
Creator: Gibbons, William, 1794-1852
Inclusive dates: 1804-1857
Bulk dates: 1828-1845
Extent: 264 items (0.5 linear feet)
The papers of William Gibbons consist of Gibbons' incoming correspondence and receipts for the purchase of goods. The letters and receipts contain information regarding the operation of a Georgia plantation, financial and legal matters, as well as family concerns.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2000, 2002, 2004. M-4088, M-4243.5, M-4348.3.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.


Copyright status is unknown.


Additional material was donated to the collection by Thomas J. McDonald in 2004.

Preferred Citation:

William Gibbons Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Series List

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents
  • Series III: Receipts


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.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The William Gibbons papers are comprised of 264 items, dated from June 16, 1804, to March 3, 1857, but most were written between February 21, 1828, and September 14, 1845. The collection contains 172 letters, two documents, and 90 receipts. Of the correspondence, 84 letters are from William Dunham to William Gibbons, 12 are from William Trotter Porter to William Gibbons, and 20 are from Hannah Wheelwright to her uncle, William Gibbons, nine which regard legal matters with the Ogden family. Forty-seven letters are from other correspondents, primarily to William Gibbons and Thomas Gibbons.

William Dunham's letters consist exclusively of matters pertaining to the operation of a plantation in Georgia. His letters include detailed information about crop yields, management, slave labor, and the treatment of slaves. Notable topics represented in the Dunham letters include financial details about the purchase of goods and the sale of crops Rice, potatoes, cotton, and corn; specifics regarding Gibbons' slaves, such as finances pertaining to their sustenance e.g. October 1832, November 1832; the death of slaves from illness e.g. June 22, 1829 and September 15, 1834; and the marriage prospects for slaves September 14, 1832. Dunham also writes about the purchase and sale of cattle and sheep. Of note are a description of the branding of a murderer apparently a man known to both Dunham and Gibbons, May 3 and 24, 1830, a reference to the Nat Turner rebellion letter dated September 22, 1831, a mention of a local woman assaulting a "negro" July 18, 1832, and several letters regarding an outbreak of cholera at Gibbons' and nearby plantations September 1 to September 22, 1834. .

William Porter was the editor of the newspaper The Spirit of the Times, and the letters written by him primarily concern financial matters that is, asking William Gibbons for monetary support. In addition to his financial affairs, Porter writes about speculating on horseracing. The nine E.B.D. Ogden letters regard the purchase of land at Elizabeth Town Point, New York. Two notable items in the Ogden letters are letters from E. van Ansdall regarding the judgment in Aaron Ogden vs. Thomas Gibbons September 22, 1835, and regarding the Elizabeth Town Point land purchase, including limitations on the use of the river for steamboat operation November 13, 1833.

The letters written to Thomas Gibbons pertain to plantation affairs and the shipment of goods mostly casks of rice. One letter of particular interest was written by Adam Newall for the Crawford Davison Co. from Liverpool regarding the trade of cotton between the United States and Great Britain November 28, 1812.

The 90 receipts are from various businesses including the Union Line, the New Jersey Hotel, and various grocers and merchants. Two of the prominent sellers were J.D. Wyckoff and A.H. Osborn. The receipts were for the purchase of groceries, hay, and household goods, and services such as furniture repair, work done on Gibbons' house, and other labor. Most of the wares/services are paid for by William Gibbons, Jedediah Dayman, John Baldwin, Daniel McCalley, Henry Signer, and Cornelius Vanderbilt Oct. 20, 1827. Each of the various buyers named on the receipts made their purchases on behalf of William Gibbons. Four of the receipts regard purchases made for the Steam Boat Thistle and the Steam Boat Bellona Laundry, August 31, 1821; Oysters, August 1823 and March 2, 1825; and Lobsters, August 2, 1828.

Five miscellaneous letters include three letters from Gibbons' son, William H., a letter from William Gale and a letter from C.J. Luster. The two documents regard financial matters and the hiring of a female servant, named Margaret Glen. The receipts are all for the purchase of various goods.

Subject Terms

    • African Americans--History--To 1863.
    • Corn--Planting.
    • Cotton--Planting.
    • Georgia--History--1775-1865.
    • Plantation life--Georgia--History--18th century.
    • Plantation owners--United States.
    • Plantations--Georgia.
    • Rice--Planting.
    • Slaveholders.
    • Slavery.
    • Slaves--Social conditions.
    • Slaves--United States.
    • The Spirit of the Times.
    • Dunham, William.
    • Gibbons, Thomas, 1757-1826.
    • Gibbons, William, 1794-1852.
    • Ogden, Aaron, 1756-1839.
    • Porter, William T., 1809-1858.
    • Wheelwright, Hannah.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]

    Scope note: The correspondence in the William Gibbons Papers is divided into subseries by recipient and then by writer. Five of the subseries consist of letters written to William Gibbons, one consists of letters written to Thomas Gibbons and one consists of miscellaneous correspondence.

    Box   1 Folders   1-8
    William Dunham to William Gibbons,  February 21, 1828-September 22, 1834

    Scope note: 84 letters from William Dunham including updates and questions regarding the specifics of managing and operating Gibbons' plantation in Savannah, Georgia.

    Box   1 Folder   9
    William Porter to William Gibbons,  August 1, 1836-July 7, 1842

    Scope note: 12 letters from William Porter all requesting financial assistance from Gibbons until the final letter July 7, 1842 when Porter states that he has claimed bankruptcy.

    Box   1 Folders   10-11
    Hannah Wheelwright to William Gibbons,  June 14, 1839-September 14, 1845

    Scope note: 20 letters from Hannah Wheelwright including family matters and some talk of business affairs.

    Box   1 Folder   12
    E.B.D. Ogden to William Gibbons; related legal letters,  May 7, 1831-September 28, 1842

    Scope note: Nine E.B.D. Ogden letters regarding the purchase of land at Elizabeth Town Point, New York.

    Box   1 Folders   13-14
    Miscellaneous letters to William Gibbons,  January 23, 1829-August 18, 1852

    Scope note: 27 miscellaneous letters to William Gibbons including miscellaneous business correspondence and several letters pertaining to horse racing.

    Box   1 Folders   15-16
    Letters to Thomas Gibbons, Esq.,  June 16, 1804-January 5, 1813

    Scope note: 15 letters to Thomas Gibbons primarily regarding the shipment of goods from his plantations to various locations.

    Box   1 Folder   17
    Miscellaneous letters,  March 7, 1849-September 27 1853

    Scope note: Five miscellaneous letters including three letters to William H. Gibbons, one letter from William Gale, and one letter from C.J. Luster.

    Documents [series]
    Box   1 Folder   18
     February 4, 1819-March 8, 1830

    Scope note: Two documents including a typed document from the Elizabeth[town] State Bank, and an agreement between Thomas Gibbons and Margaret Glen to employ her as his servant.

    Receipts [series]
    Box   1 Folders   19-24
     August 31, 1821-March 3, 1857

    Scope note: 90 receipts from various businesses including the Union Line, the New Jersey Hotel, and various grocers and merchants.

    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Allaire-Gibbons Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.