Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Joseph Gibson (b. 1823 – d. ?)
MSA SC 5496-51353
Maryland State Colonization Society Emigrant to Liberia from Talbot County, 1835

Biography:

Joseph Gibson was a free resident of Talbot County, Maryland.1, 2 He emigrated to Maryland's colony in Liberia as a teenager, later becoming a political leader in the independent Liberian republic. Joseph settled in Liberia with his parents Jacob and Rebecca Gibson, his siblings Mary Ann, Henry, Samuel, Garrison, and Louisa, and his cousin Ellen Gibson. The Gibsons left Baltimore on the schooner Harmony on June 28, 1835 and arrived at Cape Palmas, Liberia on August 23, 1835.4 Jacob Gibson died suddenly in 1836 and, the following year, Rebecca married William Delaney on January 19, 1837.5, 6 That year's census recorded Joseph and his siblings living with his mother and step-father. However, by 1838, Joseph was living in the household of Asbury Wilson, a sawyer.8 In 1839, Joseph was once again living with his mother and siblings, continuing to do so at least through 1843.9, 10, 11 Rebecca's new husband, William Delaney, died around 1839 or 1840, with the 1840 census noting that she is a widow.12, 13 Joseph may have returned home to head the household and help his mother care for his younger siblings and cousin. By 1848, Joseph had married a woman named Louisa (b. circa 1828), with whom he had at least five children: son Francis (b. circa 1845), daughter Rebecca V. (b. circa 1847), son Joseph A. (b. circa 1849), son Garretson (b. circa 1850), and Edmond G. (b. circa 1851).14, 15 After Rebecca Gibson died in 1847, it appears that Joseph also assumed the responsibility of caring for his siblings Henry, Garrison and Louisa until they reached adulthood.16, 17

Despite the demands of family, Joseph was an active community leader in the new colony. He served as a lay preacher at the Episcopal mission at Mt. Vaughan and in 1848 became principal of its high school. 18, 19 The school was both a manual labor school for indigent settler children and a boarding school to train settlers for missionary work to the indigenous Africans.20 In 1851, he was elected councilor of the colony. Joseph was also involved with the changing political landscape as the colony transitioned to becoming an independent republic, Maryland in Liberia. In 1847, the American Colonization Society's Liberian colony became an independent nation with its seat of government at  Monrovia. By 1850, settlers in Maryland's impoverished colony were discussing the possibility of annexation to the new nation.21 After the death of Governor John Russwurm in 1851, public sentiment shifted and residents of the Maryland State Colonization Society's settlement began pushing for the colony's independence. Finally, on January 31, 1853, the electorate of the colony at Cape Palmas voted unanimously in favor of independence.22 The following month, Joseph Gibson was one of nine men who was elected to serve on the constitutional committee.23 The group drew up a constitution based on those of the United States and the state of Maryland.24 When the new nation's government was elected on June 6, 1854, Joseph Gibson was appointed to the senate.25

The new nation and government continued to face problems, including struggling with a poor economy. Diplomatic relations with neighboring indigenous people was tenuous as native Liberians feared that the new government would encroach on their territory. Opposition to Governor William Prout's policies grew, combined with a renewal of support for annexation to Liberia. In December 1855, Boston Drayton, the nation's lieutenant governor, led a successful coup leading to Prout's impeachment and ousting. Despite being a member of government, Joseph Gibson also participated in the coup, leading to his appointment as lieutenant governor in the new regime.26 Nevertheless, the country remained unstable and vulnerable to attack by indigenous people. In 1857, amidst rising tensions and fear of attack by native Liberians, Maryland in Liberia united with the neighboring Republic of Liberia.27 Still powerful, in 1857, Joseph was appointed as the first superintendent of Maryland County, the name given to the former colony when it was annexed.28


1. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Manumission Lists, 1832-1839, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13248-1, Emigrants, Lines 252-254. Lines 255-260.

2. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Free Negro Census, Talbot County, 1832, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13255-1, Lines 852-858.

3.  SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Manumission Lists, 1832-1839, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13248-1, Emigrants, Lines 252-254. Lines 255-260.

4. Hall, Richard L. On Afric’s Shore: A History of Maryland in Liberia, 1834-1857. (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2003), 451.

5. Ibid, 450.

6. Maryland Colonization Journal, September 1837, Vol. 1, No.12, p. 52.

7. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1837 Census.

8. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1838 Census.

9. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1839 Census.

10. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1840 Census.

11. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1843a Census.1843b.

12. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1839 Census.

13. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1840 Census.

14. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1848 Census.

15. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1852 Census, Lines 261-267.

16. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1848 Census.

17. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1849 Census.

18. Hall, 451.

19. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), Subscribers Reports Census, 1817-1902, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13247-1, 1848 Census.

20. Hall, 351-352.

21. Hall, 306-307.

22. SPECIAL COLELCTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), 1817-1902, Correspondence, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13224-1, “Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society,” 1970, p. 3-10.

23. Hall, 370-371.

24. 372-374.

25. Hall, 384.

26. Hall, 393-398.

27. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society), 1817-1902, Correspondence, MSA SC 5977, Film Number M 13224-1, “Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Papers of the Maryland State Colonization Society,” 1970, p. 9-10.

28. Hall, 451.
 

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