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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


James Walter Gibson

In a number of public capacities Mr. Gibson has fulfilled popular expectations and proved himself not only capable, but a thoroughly public-spirited citizen of Glen Ellen. He is one of the native sons of the state who have developed reliable characteristics, and whose growth to manhood and on through middle age has been watched by a host of friends and well-wishers. Mr. Gibson benefits by the sterling qualities of English and German ancestors, his father being a native of England, and his mother the descendant of German ancestors. The elder Mr. Gibson was a young man when he realized that America held forth possibilities that the slower and more conservative country in which he had been born and reared did not have to offer and the year 1848 found him landing as an immigrant in San Francisco. His interests were confined to the metropolis and vicinity until about the year 1856, when he came to Sonoma county and a mile and a half north of what is now the site of Glen Ellen purchased a squatter’s right to one hundred and sixty acres of land. He purchased the land in good faith, thinking the original right had been secured directly from the government by the previous owner, but later developments proved that it was grant land and in 1865 he was dispossessed of the land. Instead of contesting his right to the land he let it go and purchased what is now the eastern half of the town of Glen Ellen. Although the country round about was almost entirely unsettled, he still saw prospects of a coming settlement and here erected the Glen Ellen hotel, which was the first business building and the nucleus around which the town of Glen Ellen was later built up. In the town which he had done so much to advance during the thirty years of his residence in it, his earth life came to a close in 1887. His wife died in Glen Ellen in 1908, her residence in the state dating from the year 1850.

The only child of the parental family now living, James W. Gibson was born in San Francisco in 1854, on the present site of the Bancroft building. When he was eighteen months old his parents removed from San Francisco to Sonoma county, and here his entire life has practically been passed. For almost ten years the home of the family was on a ranch one and a-half miles north of what is now Glen Ellen, and during this time the son grew to a sturdy youth and attended the local district schools, to this primary education adding a course in St. Mary’s College and the State University. James Gibson was about eleven years of age when through defective title to the land which his father supposed he had purchased, he gave up the land which bore the efforts of nine laborious years and purchased the property which is the home of the son today, on the eastern border of the town. Here the father erected the first hotel in the country for miles around, the old Glen Ellen hotel being a land-mark and haven of rest and refreshment well remembered by pioneers and early comers to this part of Sonoma county. These were the days preceding the coming of the railroad, and staging was consequently a remunerative business. One of the largest stage companies of this time was the Clifford Stage Company, running a line of vehicles between Santa Rosa and Sonoma, and it was for this company that James Gibson was first employed, running one of its stages. Later he became proprietor of the Glen Ellen hotel, and it was while thus engaged that as a candidate on the Democratic ticket he was elected justice of the peace of Glen Ellen, a position which he held continuously for sixteen years.

Mr. Gibson has been three times married, his first marriage occurring in 1883 and united him with Miss Catherine O’Connor, a native of New York, who died the same year of her marriage. In 1895 he married Miss Matilda Justi, a native of Glen Ellen, who survived her marriage only two0 years. Mr. Gibson’s present wife was formerly Miss Myrtle Thompson, also a native of California, and two children have been born of this marriage, Lucile D. and James Lawrence, born in 1900 and 1903 respectively, both pupils in The Glen Ellen grammar school. Politically Mr. Gibson is a Democrat, and fraternally he is a member of the Woodmen of the World.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011