Abraham Gibson and Nealy Marion Grant

Patriarch in Chester County Fathers Two Dozen Children
Eighteen Are Thriving From Two Groups in Family
Of “Squire” Gibson, 85, Unthrown Wrestler,
Long Champion Checkerman


Special to The State.

Chester, April 21. —Abraham Gibson, 85, of the Rossville section of Chester county, a distinguished Confederate veteran, is one of the most interesting men in the Carolinas. He is the father of 24 children; 18 are still living, hearty and well. The youngest is 16; the oldest, 61.
     For over three score years he held the checker board championship of the Carolinas, and despite advancing years he can still stage a capital checker battle, but he lays no claims at 85 to championship form.
     As a wrestler he had no superior in the Carolinas. He has never been thrown. Had he been born 50 years later, he might have made a world record, experts say. Back in the days when he was throwing all big and small, the art of wrestling had not been commercialized. Although he stopped wrestling some years ago, the infirmities of age have not yet placed their icy claws upon him. He is yet athletic. Famed for many years for his ability to spring into the air and crack his heels together twice before he descends to the ground again, at 85 he can still do that stunt.
     As interesting as Mr. Gibson himself is, he has a most interesting family. The ages of the father and present mother and 18 children aggregate 731 years.
     From his 18 children, Mr. Gibson can marshall a baseball nine with which he will challenge any baseball team in the world, embracing nine sons, and he states that his sons can defeat any similar aggregation.
     Then, from his daughters he can assemble a basketball sextet that will challenge any basketball team in the universe composed of six daughters, and his daughters will walk of with the honors, Mr. Gibson says.
     Mr. Gibson was the seventh son of a seventh son. Dope that, you “numerologists,” to suit yourselves!
     He is a great lover of the Bible and has instilled a love for it into the minds of his children. One of his daughters annually reads the Scriptures from Genesis through Revelations, can recite over 1,700 verses from it, and is said to be as well versed in the Bible as a well posted minister.
     Only two of the boys use tobacco and none of the daughters. One of the boys smokes a pipe and the other cigarets, both in moderation.
     Sixteen of the children belong to the same church, the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal church, the other two having moved to other sections of Chester county, where they attend other churches. The entire family live within the boundaries of Chester county. Mr. Gibson has been attending the same church since he was old enough, which extends over approximately 80 years.
     He says the Lord has been good to him. He has never wanted for any of the necessities of life. He found no more trouble supporting 25 children than one. He has never yet had to sit his family down to “fat back” meat and corn bread.
     Like his father, Abraham Gibson, Mr. Gibson for many years was magistrate of the Rossville district, but retired some years ago. As an administrator of the law he won a reputation for fairness and fearlessness.
     Mr. Gibson has been married twice. Both times he selected 20-year-old brides. He was 22 when he married Miss Sallie Dye, and some years following her death at 48, he married Miss Elizabeth Roe Gibson, who is well and happy today at 56. He has been married 62 years.
     In addition to having been a successful planter, he was a successful merchant.
     One of his sons met a tragic death in 1892, when he was in a runaway and was dragged over the ground by a mule for nearly two miles, his foot in some unaccountable manner having caught in the trace. Another boy died of typhoid fever, and a daughter died of the same malady. A “yellow chill” claimed a daughter. Two sons died in infancy.
     Mr. Gibson comes of distinguished ancestry. His grandfather, Capt. William Watson, was a notable warrior of the Revolutionary war and was at Yorktown October 19, 1781, when Cornwallis surrendered.
     Mr. Gibson remembers much of the Confederate war and talks interestingly of its stirring days. He was a member of Hampton’s cavalry. His superior officers were Gen. M. C. Butler, Col. B. H. Rutledge of Charleston and Capt. Osmond Barber of Richburg.
     Despite his advanced age, Mr. Gibson’s mind is exceedingly clear regarding the stirring days of the Confederate war and talks most entertainingly regarding it.
     One of the most thrilling things of the entire war, Mr. Gibson states, was done by a Chester county soldier, Ordinance Sergeant Nealy Grant, of Captain Barber’s company, Fourth South Carolina cavalry.
     “Never shall I forget those days at the battle of Trevillian. We had devoured the last of our hardtack and raw meat Friday, June 10, 1864, and there was nothing more to eat until Monday, June 13. We were almost out of ammunition and it began to look as if we were going to have to repulse the next charge of the Yankees with rocks. I know boys of the World war will smile at our thinking of having to resort to rocks.
     “However, right then and there it looked like that was the only ‘ammunition’ that we could find. However, Nealy Grant saved the day for us.
     “Never to my dying day shall I forget the sight of that brave boy as he came driving a two-horse wagon in a gallop over the hill, just behind our line of battle at Trevillian, pitching cases of rifle cartridges from the rear end of his bullet-riddled wagon, as the horses were pulling it at a run on its dangerous mission. Quickly, under the fire of shot and shell, the cases of cartridges were broken open and the cavalrymen supplied. Just a brief time before the arrival of brave young Grant, who, by the way, died at his Chester county home July 29, 1907, every man in the company had fired his last cartridge. General Butler himself, realizing the seriousness of the situation, had ordered Grant to carry the ammunition into the thick of the fighting and they all thought every second that he would be swept over the wagon under the rain of the bullets, but miraculously he did not receive a wound. Butler’s cavalry repulsed seven distinct charges that hot afternoon, and Battery M of the United States Regulars and Hart’s battery had a regular duel over our heads along about the fall of dark, and Battery M was demolished.”
     Mr. Gibson in discussing Sheridan’s retreat, inaugurated from Trevillian Station, June 12, 1864, said that the Confederates hounded him without mercy through what was said to have been, owing to a drought, the dustiest, hottest and driest roads in the country. On that drive it was not an infrequent sight to see a number of horses lying dead, probably broken down from the excessive heat and work. The Yankees had tied them together, he thought, and shot them, rather than let them fall into the hands of Butler’s cavalry.
     Mr. Gibson was a great admirer of Gen. M. C. Butler and says that Butler was seriously wounded and maimed for the rest of his life at the battle of Brandy Station. General Butler and Capt. W. D. Farley had just come out of action early one morning, and were laughing over something amusing that had occurred, when a 12-pound shell hit the earth some distance from General Butler and bounded along and passed through the general’s right leg above the ankle and went on through Farley’s horse, taking off Farley’s right leg at the knee. Both horses were killed, he remarked. General Butler recovered, but Captain Farley died.
     Mr. Gibson says that one of the most remarkable generals in the Confederate army was a Chester county man, Brig. Gen. John Dunovant, who in leading a charge at McDowell’s Farm was mortally wounded. In discussing the death of General Dunovant, Gen. Robert E. Lee told General Hampton, “I grieve with you at the loss of General Dunovant and Doctor Fontaine, two officers whom it will be difficult to replace.”
     Rheumatism in his legs that would have caused some men to want to stop fighting and go to a hospital caused Mr. Gibson to leave the infantry, in which he first enlisted and join the cavalry, in which he performed brilliant service.
     While a member of the infantry and engaged in the Williamsburg, Va., section, exhausted from two days and nights of fighting, he went to sleep in a farm house and told two of his comrades to awaken him when they moved on, or if any urgent need of him developed. However, from some cause, they moved on and failed to awaken him, and when he did wake he discovered to his amazement that instead of the Confederates being outside the house, the 106th Pennsylvania infantry had moved there. Despite his efforts to hide he was discovered by the Keystone men. He hid in an old box, little dreaming that they would look there, but they were after silverware and other valuables and looked everywhere, and even plunged long iron rods into the ground, seeking for buried treasure, and finally turned him up, with the result that for eight days he was a prisoner of war, and was about to [be] sent to Elmira, N. Y., when the Union officers changed their plans and exchanged him along with other Southern prisoners for Northern prisoners. Suffering greatly from rheumatism, Mr. Gibson was happy to be back with the Southerners, and after 90 days on parole he joined the cavalry, in which branch despite his disability, he was to make a splendid name for himself.