Biography of Robert Gibbons

Robert Gibbons, sheriff of the county of Huron, belongs to an old Birmingham, (England) family, where his father, William Gibbons, and the ancestors for several generations, were born, though he himself dates his birth in Glasgow, Scotland, December 24, 1811. His father was an ingenious mechanic or machinist, engaged for years in turning, finishing and fitting up machinery. The maiden name of Robert’s mother was Margaret M. McDonald, who was born in Scotland.

In June, 1820, the family left the old world for Canada, landing at Quebec in August, and settling on land in the county of Lanark. About four hundred persons came out on the same vessel from Glasgow, and settled in the same county, each head of a family having the offer of 100 acres of land from the Government, on condition that they would occupy and improve it. Robert aided his father in opening a farm there; in 1827 went with the family to Pottsdam, St. Lawrence county, New York, where he spent five years in cultivating land, and where he received most of his education; and on the 16th of May, 1832, reached Goderich, walking all the way from Toronto, about 135 miles. The town then contained, perhaps, 250 inhabitants, and he has seen it expand into a town of nearly 5,000.

When Mr. Gibbons reached this point, he had only a very few dollars in money, but he had the wealth of a sound constitution, two hands, already toil hardened, and a disposition to use them. After working a few months at farming, he opened a meat market, and for sixteen years was a butcher and cattle drover a very stirring, energetic business man. After a short time he also carried on farming and stock raising, continuing in agricultural pursuits until a few years ago.

When the rebellion broke out he went into the service as Sergeant, First Hurons, Company 1, and came out in March, 1838, as Lieutenant.
In 1867, Mr. Gibbons was elected to the Ontario Legislature to represent South Huron; lost his seat during the second session; was re-elected in 1871; served two sessions, and in November, 1872, resigned and accepted the shrievalty of the county, still holding that position, and making an efficient officer.

In politics he is a Reformer, and has spent much time and money in disseminating the principles of the party.

Mr. Gibbons has done an unusual amount of work in the town and county municipalities, commencing in the district council in 1848. He was reeve nearly twenty years and warden thirteen years in succession, first of the united counties of Huron and Bruce, then of Huron alone. He was elected mayor in 1853, 1854 and 1855, and his labors in the town and county have been of great value to the community. In 1868 he was elected a member of the Board of Agriculture and Arts Association of Ontario, and served in that situation nine years. He was vice-president in 1873, and president in 1874, and his address the latter year was ordered to be printed in pamphlet form, and was widely distributed.

He is an adherent of the Presbyterian church one of the most liberal supporters of the gospel in Goderich, and has funds in many houses of worship in the county, as well as town.

The address touched on a variety of topics concluding with the following remarks on Pisciculture:
“Our agricultural and other journals do well to call public attention to this matter. A few years ago our creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes teemed with fish. From various causes chiefly neglect of nature’s laws of reproduction and increase all this is changed, so that where there was once excellent fishing, now there is none. Means are being taken very effectively in Britain and the United States to restock the exhausted waters with their finny population, and you are all familiar with the praise worthy efforts of Mr. Wilmot, of Newcastle, to bring about similar results in this country. But what I have mainly in vie, in the introduction of this topic, is not so much governmental action in restocking public waters as individual enterprise, in turning to good account springs, creeks and lakes, privately owned. Great attention is now being turned to this matter in the United States, and many farmers, whose places are suited to the purpose, are making it their business to raise fish for the market precisely as others do flesh and fowl. Artificial propagation of fish can be cheaply and readily carried on, and the rapid growth of young fry, fed on the same principles as farm stock reared on land, renders the business as fairly remunerative as the production of other kinds of human food. I beg to suggest that to stimulate effort in this direction, premiums be offered by this Association for fish of artificial propagation. No country is better suited than this, from its abundant water supply, for going successfully into this branch of rural industry.”

Mr. Gibbons has been twice married, first in November, 1835, to Jane Wilson, from Cumberland, England, who died in May, 1873, leaving five children, one of them soon following her to the spirit world, and one, the only son, dying in February, 1879. His second marriage took place in June, 1874, to Alice Roddy, also from England.

Though pressing close upon his three score years and ten, Mr. Gibbons is quite active; and although he has usually been a hard working man, he is well preserved. He has a cheerful disposition, and a good share of bonhomie, and they shorten nobody’s days.



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