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Culpeper Currents: Mrs. Gibson’s boys

Mrs. Gibson’s boys:
Mary Shackelford Gibson was the second wife and widow of Col. Jonathan Catlett Gibson. Colonel Gibson had been a veteran of the War of 1812. After his death in 1849, Mary Gibson was left with their 11 children to raise. Then, like most Virginia mothers of her generation, she watched all five of her sons go off to war.

William St. Pierre Gibson was a member of the Little Fork Rangers and was killed during the fighting at Antietam. Jonathan Catlett Gibson, Jr. was a Captain, later Colonel, with the 49th Virginia Infantry. A history of the 49th notes that he was wounded 11 times during the war. Also with the 49th was Eustace Gibson who was a Captain with the Sperryville Rifles. He suffered a severe abdominal wound from a shell explosion at Gettysburg, but miraculously recovered. John W. S. Gibson served with the Virginia Light Artillery. The youngest brother, Edwin H. “Ned” Gibson, was a student at the Virginia Military Institute when he enlisted as a 1st Sergeant in the 49th Infantry in 1861. It is also believed he served with Mosby’s Rangers.
After the war, the surviving brothers settled back into their lives. Jonathan Catlett Gibson, Jr., known as “Catlett,” was a prominent attorney in this area. At the 1917 presentation of his portrait to the Culpeper Courthouse, he was referred to as “the poor man’s lawyer.” Eustace also practiced law.

In 1867 Edwin left Culpeper to reside with Eustace and penned the following letter to his mother from Giles County. He gave her a long description of the scenery and weather before finally getting to the information she really wanted to know:

Giles C. H. March 7th 1867
My dear Mother:
I found upon my arrival here just such a little village as I expected to see from the descriptions I had heard of it before leaving home – tis a very little place in the midst of high, rugged mountains that seem to shut it out from the rest of the world.

The town is like many other little towns I have seen in Va. with only one street about three hundred yards long, and houses scatteringly built, good, bad & indifferent. At each end there is a church & on each church there is a steeple. About the center of the town is the court house which also has a steeple. And these buildings give the place an appearance distingue peculiar to most county seats. So much for the capital. The surrounding country is rather more striking. Tis much more mountainous than I expected to find it- and along some portions of the road between here & the railroad the scenery is very wild and grand. But until today we have had falling weather ever since my arrival. Last night a heavy snow fell about three inches deep. Today is warm and sunshiny, but the previous rains together with the melting snow have made the ground so soft & roads so muddy as to render walking out of the question. So for these reasons I have not seen much of the country or people.

I room with Eustace in his office, about which you and Bessie were so curious to learn. Tis a little room at the east end of the village about fifteen feet square, more or less, chock-full of furniture, and everything else pertaining to the office of a lawyer. I have seen Eustace’s sweetheart, have called upon her twice. Her name is Mattie Lackland. She is a music teacher and boards with a Dr. Easley whose house is across the street about 20 or 30 yards from this office. I do not think her very pretty. Eustace does – visits her at least once a day and generally oftener.
I shall look impatiently for letters from home. Write to me some & make Bessie do so too.
Your devoted son
Ned


“Bessie” was their sister, Elizabeth Gibson.
Eustace later settled in Huntington, West Virginia where he was active in politics, serving in the West Virginia Legislature, as well as two terms in the U.S. Congress in 1882 and 1884. He married Miss Lackland in December 1867.
I couldn’t learn anything further regarding Edwin; he may have died young. His brother, Catlett, had a son named Edwin H. Gibson, born in 1870, who is sometimes confused for the older Edwin. The 1907 obituary for Catlett Gibson noted that all the siblings were then deceased, with the exception of one sister, Lucy Buckner. At the age of 90, she was a special guest at Catlett’s portrait unveiling in 1917.

Julie Bushong
Culpeper County Library
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