Joseph N. Gibbs and the Quaker connection

The Gibbs surname appears several times on my family tree, which is not surprising given that various portions of the family tree stayed in Burlington County, New Jersey for most of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the case of Joseph Gibbs (1781-1865) the intriguing part was reading the Quaker meeting records to get a better understanding of his family’s life and times.

MiddletownMonthlyMeeting_MinutesofFriends_p48_crop_Middletown
The Quakers were great record keepers, in part because you either joined the meeting or you had a “birthright” to belong. As New Jersey and Philadelphia became more settled in the 18th century, there was considerable movement of individuals and families between meetings.  This all had to be tracked through the monthly minutes as well as the committees. The commentary can be sometimes perfunctory, sometimes fascinating.

I first find Joseph Gibbs requesting permission in February 1809 to join the Upper Springfield Meeting. The record explains very little but much later in the year, Joseph Gibbs and Elizabeth Ellis begin the cumbersome process of requesting permission to marry.  The final marriage certificate states that Joseph Gibbs, son of Benjamin and Deborah Gibbs of Dedford in Gloucester County, and Elizabeth Ellis, daughter of John and Elizabeth Ellis of Upperfreehold, have declared their intention to wed. It is signed by those present, but I don’t understand why Benjamin Gibbs’ name is not listed while John Ellis and family are.

Joseph and Elizabeth Gibbs may have remained at Upper Springfield until 1817 but the membership records are lost. On 8 May 1817, they transferred to the Mount Holly Monthly Meeting and stayed until 9 May 1844. At the time they joined they had three children. Shortly afterward their family increased with the addition of two more girls:

  • Martha Dorsey Gibbs (1811-1885) married John W. C Evans MD (1809-1860)
  • Susannah Ellis Gibbs (1814-1837) married Richard Jones (1812-1890)
  • Rebecca Howard Gibbs(1816-1877) M1 John Corneau M2 Nathan Ellis
  • Elizabeth E Gibbs (1818-bef. 1850) married Owen Shoemaker (1816-1898)
  • Josephine Abigail Gibbs (ca 1829-1886) married Martin M Cox (ca 1814-1875)

This seems to have been a turbulent time for most of the meetings in the area, which seems reasonable given the rapid growth of the area and the introduction of new technologies. Joseph’s name appears in several records in the 1820’s and 30’s as he and several other men in the Meeting are cautioned, censured and dismissed for joining groups (the local grange would be such a group). Late in the 1830’s, Joseph seems to have made some bad financial decisions and occurs debt, which is a real problem for the Quakers. I could pair the monthly and men’s meeting records with newspaper notices which asked creditors to present themselves to Samuel Ellis by a certain date.

JosephGibbs_Debt_crop

In 1844, the Gibbs family requested that their certificate be moved to Middletown, Pennsylvania, in Bucks County, Joseph and Elizabeth were accompanied by their minor daughter Josephine and seem to have settled in Bristol for several years. They are there long enough to marry off daughter Elizabeth (to Owen Shoemaker) and to bury wife Elizabeth (death 15 October 1845), returning to Burlington County by 1849 when Joseph begins proceedings to join the Meeting there.  Fascinating sideways genealogy tidbit! In Quaker tradition all the Quakers at the meeting sign the marriage certificate: Richard Jones, Alice W. Jones, Benjamin Jones and Joseph G. Jones are all listed as signatures!

I need to do more research to find out what Joseph Gibbs does between 1849 and his death in 1865. On the census he is a gentleman (isn’t that just loaded with nuance) but I need to get into newspapers and other types of records to go beyond his acting as an elder in the Mount Holly meeting. Once again, if you have information, please share it!

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