Friday, July 27, 2018

Rev. Alexander Gibson (1790-1863) Westmeath, Mullingar, Ireland Part 2


I joined Find My Past that covers the British Isles newspapers. I found an interesting article about Rev. Gibson attending a luncheon honouring him with his ministry to the local jail. Another article about Rev. Gibson starting a Bible Study group in the community of Mullingar where he was the Presbyterian minister. I then found the page that revealed what I was seeking.

In the Westmeath Journal dated 27 March 1823, on page 3, column 3; I find the marriage announcement of Rev. Alexander Gibson.

Westmeath (Ireland) Journal, 27 March 1823, p. 3, col. 3; digital images, accessed 11 May 2015. Used with permission.
“On the 9th instant [March], in the city of Londonderry, by the Rev. Mr. Hamilton, of Fahan, the Rev. Alexander Gibson, Presbyterian Minister of the United Congregation of Mullingar and Tyrrelspass, to Jane, youngest daughter of Mr. Joseph Gibson, of Strabane.”

So here we have a Gibson marrying a Gibson. Are they cousins? How are their fathers, John and Joseph, related or are they?

On the same page, right above the marriage announcement is Rev. Gibson’s Ordinance article. 

Westmeath (Ireland) Journal, 27 March 1823, p. 3, col. 3; digital images, accessed 11 May 2015. Used with permission.

“The Ordination of the Rev. Alexander Gibson, Presbyterian Minister of the United Congregation of Mullingar and Tyrrelspass, was celebrated in this town on Wednesday the 19th instant. The Rev. Mr. Scott began the service by singing and prayer--the Rev. Mr. Carlile preaches an appropriate sermon on the occasion, the Rev. Mr. Horner ordained, and the Rev. Mr. Morgan delivered a most eloquent address to Mr. Gibson and the members of the congregation.

“After the ceremony a numerous and respectable party dined in Mr. Murray’s Inn. The following toasts were drunk. ‘The King,’  ‘The General Synod of Ulster,‘   ‘Mr. Gibson and the Congregation of Mullingar,‘   ‘Mr. Horner, Mr. Carlile, and the Congregation of Mary’s Abbey,’  ‘The Land we live in,’ &c. &c.”

At the same time, Rev. Gibson started a 'Classical and Mercantile' School to teach higher education to those who are interested in his community of Mullingar.

“Education. The Rev. Alexander Gibson, A. M.,” Westmeath (Ireland) Journal, 23 January 1823, p. 3, col. 4; digital images, accessed 11 May 2015. Used with permission.
I find a birth announcement of a daughter, born on 31 May 1826, in the same local newspaper, The Westmeath Journal. Who is this with no name listed?

Westmeath (Ireland) Journal. 1 June 1826, p. 3, col. 5; digital images. accessed 7 Jan 2015. Used with permission.

Elizabeth Gibson Cooper, my 2nd great-grandmother was born 19 April 1828.

Jane Gibson Digges La Touche was born in 1831 according to a census record. She was identified as the Reverand's daughter in her marriage announcement to Edmund Digges La Touche. Jane & Edmund's daughter, Frances Digges La Touche, married her first cousin, Henry Cooper, son of Austin & Elizabeth Gibson Cooper.

“Marriages.” Cork (Ireland) Examiner. 12 April 1850. p. 2. col. 3. digital images. Accessed : accessed 11 May 2015. Used with permission.
Looking through Google Books, I find several mentions of Rev. Alexander Gibson of Mullingar, Westmeath, Ireland. One is in A Genealogical & Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain by Bernard Burke. It states that Alexander Jason HASSARD marries 14 Jan 1864, Frances Margaret, youngest daughter of Rev.  Alexander GIBSON, of Mullinger, and has issue, Alexander Jason, born 28 May 1866.

Here is a fourth daughter of Rev. Alexander & Jane Gibson. I find Frances Margaret’s marriage registration on 14 Jan 1864, 18 months after Rev. Gibson’s death.

"Ireland Marriages, 1619-1898," database, FamilySearch( : 10 February 2018), Alexander Jason Hassard and Frances Margaret Gibson, 14 Jan 1864; citing 921,Bray,Wicklow,Ireland,  FHL microfilm 101,453. Accessed 8 May 2012.

It states that they are married by license by John Gibson. Is this the same John Gibson, who was listed as a witness to Austin and her sister's Elizabeth’s marriage, 13 years earlier, in 1851? (Refer back to Part I of Rev. Alexander Gibson (1790-1863) Westmeath, Mullingar, Ireland.) Is this John Gibson a family member?

Looking through the Irish newspapers again, I find the marriage announcement for Frances Margaret GIBSON & Alexander HASSARD.

“Marriages,” Dublin, Ireland. The Dublin Evening Mail. 16 Jan 1864. p.1. Col. 1. digital images. accessed 7 Sep 2016. Used with permission.

In this announcement, I see that Rev. John Gibson is a "brother of the bride!" I can conclude no relation evidence other than the marriage record of her parent's Austin Cooper/Elizabeth Gibson's marriage registration with John Gibson listed as a witness.  Could this be Frances Margaret's uncle? More research is needed to find out how this John Gibson is related.

I find the obituary for Rev. Alexander Gibson in the local newspaper announcing his death on June 12, 1862, in Mullingar. Did the Mullingar Presbyterian Church with their new minister, Rev. Robert Hugh Harshaw, perform a funeral service for Rev. Gibson, who served the community of Mullingar for 35 years? Or did he just quietly ‘disappear’?Where was he buried?

"Deaths." Meath People, and Cavan and Westmeath Chronicle. 21 June 1862, p.4. col.5. digital images. : accessed 12 Mar 2015. Used with permission.

"Ireland Calendar of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1920," database with images, Alexander Gibson, 12 Jun 1862; Accessed 30 Jun 2013.

I search Ireland, Calendar of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1920 records online at Here is Rev. Gibson, who is mentioned as a Clerk, with his death 4 years after his suspension. I see Frances Margaret Gibson mentioned with another sister I am not aware, Mary Gibson, both spinsters.

Is this Mary Gibson, the eldest daughter born 31 May 1826? I look for other records for this Mary, finding no marriage nor death records to verify this woman. This will take more work to locate her.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Rev. Alexander Gibson (1790-1863) Westmeath, Mullingar, Ireland Part 1

Mary Cooper holding a copy of the booklet, A History of Mullingar Presbyterian Church by John W. Lockington. Printed by Topic Newspapers, 2013.
Rev. Alexander Gibson is my 3rd great grandfather, whom I first found in the marriage record of his daughter, Elizabeth Gibson, to Austin Cooper on 14 Jun 1851. His profession is listed as a Presbyterian minister.

Irish Civil Records. Marriage Registration of Austin Cooper & Elizabeth Gibson, 14 June 1851, Church of Mullingar, County Westmeath. Married by Thomas Woodward. 1851, Quarter 1,  Vol. 8, page 269, No. 78. Microfilm #101,329. Family History Library, Salt Lake City: accessed 12 November 2008.
My next source to investigate was the book (which I found at my local Family History Center, San Diego, CA) A History of Congregations in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, 1610-1982. Belfast: Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland. 1982. (Including a book of corrections)

Rev. Gibson was the first minister of the Presbyterian Church of Mullingar, Westmeath, Ireland (licensed in  Letterkenny) & ordained on 19 Mar 1823. He died on 12 June 1862. The book also mentions that Rev. Gibson was suspended on 8 Feb 1858 and resigned. What is this?!  I really have to find out more about this suspension. But, I now need to work on the clues mentioned here.  

I set up a Research Plan to discover the education and career of this Presbyterian minister of Mullingar. I order several microfilms (2011) and wait patiently. Others I find at my local Family History Center. 

These clues include: 

1) Gibson attends the University of Glasgow from 1813 -1817 graduating with a Masters. Again his suspension is mentioned.1

2) In 1833, I find Rev. Gibson mentioned in the Tithe Applotment Books in Mullingar. In 1832, the Irish Tithe Composition Act was passed to collect tithes to be paid to the State Church, the Church of Ireland.2

3) I also look at those "unknown" documents of Richard Griffith’s Valuations of Ireland. I find Rev. A. Gibson mentioned in records dated 1840-1854, including the Field, House & Tenure Books.3

4) By 1858, I find Rev. Gibson listed as a dweller on Main St. with two dwelling houses, a yard, offices & a garden from the Irish Encumbered Estate Rentals. These records cover the years from 1850-1885 listing the value of lands after the famine from the previous decade. The landowners lost income from the death and emigration of their tenants causing many to foreclose their properties. This was a result of an act passed in 1849, that established the Encumbered Estates Court. These records are very detailed including hand-drawn maps and tenant lists. 4

Rentals of encumbered Irish estates, pre-1860. Westmeath, Vol. 78. Microfilm #258,848. Family History Library: Salt Lake City. Accessed 24 Mar 2011.

Rev. Alexander Gibson is listed on Lot 2 in Space 21, which I have circled on Main Street, a block around the corner from the  Presbyterian Meetinghouse, called "Scots Church" on the map, which is space 26, also circled in red. 
In the above Griffin's Valuations House and Field books from 1846 and 1853, the property observations state "ho[use] & offices well built & furnished & in good repair, yard & garden with [a] back gateway. Not a good situation for a shop [drapery] business."3 

Currently, Harbour St. becomes Castle St. and Main St. is now called Pearse St. in this area.

I investigate the current Presbyterian Church of Mullingar. I find the church on Facebook and comment on the page. The minister in 2011, Stephen Lockington, responded by inviting me to attend services. I responded by stating my interest was in the church history and asked what he knew about it.  I also found out that the church property was up for sale as the present congregation was too large for the historic building with a tiny cemetery. 

A booklet about the church history was later published to raise monies for a new property. I ordered several copies. I was excited to see one whole chapter (7 pages) about Rev. Gibson. It gave detailed coverage of Gibson’s 35 years at Mullingar. 

The book mentions some new information about Rev. Gibson for me. He is the eldest son of John Gibson born around 1790, near Raphoe, Co. Donegal.  He was licensed by the Presbytery of Letterkenny in 1820. He helped with the establishment of several local Presbytery congregations in Athlone and Tully. By 1842, complaints were brought to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, about the ‘peculiar circumstances of Mullingar.’  A special visit with the report was made. The church ministered to 40 families,  with three baptisms and seven marriages. There were Sunday schools that met in the church, a local home and one in the local barracks. Gibson was chaplain to the local jail where he visited twice a week and preached on Sundays. (I also read about his jail visits in local newspapers.) Not mentioned in this report, Gibson also ran a school for further secondary education as also seen in newspaper ads at this time period.  What were the complaints of part of the congregation towards Gibson? “He did not visit the congregation, made and circulated lies to the injury of respectable people and performed irregular marriages for which he took payment.” (He performed marriages to couples who were not Presbyterian.) Another major incident was that the Pulpit Bible was mutilated and pages scattered on the floor. This led to their conclusion that the Presbytery Church of Mullingar was under ‘unfavorable if not a distressful state of religious feeling both in minister and people.’ He was admonished; ordered to apologize, visit his members to read and pray and to abstain from irregular marriages. By the time of the Great Famine, Gibson was involved along with other religious leaders to care for those who suffered greatly. The Midland Great Western Railway line came to Mullingar from Dublin in states starting in 1846. This provided work for many during the Famine. It was finished nine years later. Again, in 1857, the Athlone congregation had complaints about the Mullingar congregation not taking a missions collection with them. It was brought to the Presbytery Synod of Dublin. The conclusion stated that  ”the congregation was in a weak position with no prospect of improvement while Gibson remained its minister.” Gibson In the following months continued to disobey his leaderships‘ requests (marriage on the Lord’s Day, ignore several summonses from the Presbytery, interfering with the settlement of a new minister). Thus, his suspension from office of ministry “for deceit and false statements, for violating an agreed arrangement, contumacy, and obstructing the call of a minister” occurred on 8 Feb. 1858.5

So here I have a “black sheep” in my family tree. I was disappointed that no family members were included. Who was the mother of Elizabeth Gibson? Did Elizabeth have any siblings? How did the church politics affect Rev. Gibson’s family?

1. Addison, W. Innes. A Roll of the Graduates of the University of Glasgow from 31st December 1727 to 31st December 1897: with short biographical notes. Glasgow, Scotland: J. MacLehose, 1898. Microfilm #994098. Family History Library: Salt Lake City. Accessed 13 Jul 2013.
2. "Ireland Tithe Applotment Books, 1814-1855," database with images, FamilySearch( 11 March 2018), Gibson,; citing Mullingar, Mullingar, Westmeath, Ireland; Public Record Office, Dublin; FHL microfilm 256,671.
3. "Ireland, Valuation Office Books, 1831-1856." Database with images. FamilySearch. 5 December 2016. From “Griffith's Valuation 1847-1864.” Database and images. Accessed 29 June 2018.
4. Rentals of encumbered Irish estates, pre-1860. Westmeath, Vol. 78. Microfilm #258,848. Family History Library: Salt Lake City. Accessed 24 Mar 2011.

5. Lockington, John W. A History of Mullingar Presbyterian Church. Topic Newspapers: 2013.

Friday, June 15, 2018

John William “Billy” Oswald (1860-1932) Part 8

       Billy was sentenced on July 12. He was returned to Devils Lake on the train with his older brother, Sheriff Wayness & Judge McConnell. A new trial was declined. The judge took the opportunity to talk face to face with Billy about his “manslaughter in first degree.” This has highly affected his family….his parents, his brother, & his uncle... along with the community.

        The words of the judge to Oswald, "You are a young man. I was raised in a state where it is prescribed in the constitution that punishment for certain crimes shall be administered with a view to the reformation of the criminal. There are crimes, however, where there is no hope. In murder and in treason there is no safety to society. Your case may be said to come within this category. Although there is no doubt as to your guilt, yet the verdict of the jury was manslaughter in the first degree, and I am to assume that the verdict is right. Under the law the minimum of punishment for manslaughter in the first degree is four years imprisonment, while the maximum is for life. It remains entirely with the court, and in your case I am seriously perplexed in deciding upon the limit of time. I have thought that you deserve the highest and most severe penalty. Again, I have been told that you were a peaceable citizen when out of liquor. However all this may be, your old parents are brokenhearted, and you alone are to blame. They only words your aged father ever said to me were, “Don’t be too hard on my poor boy,” It was all he could say, and the words are full of meaning to a thoughtful mind. Your mother appeared but once in this courtroom during the trial - when the arguments were made, and there is a sore lesson for you in her bearing on that occasion. Your uncle called upon me in your behalf recently and said that you had conducted yourself properly prior to coming to Dakota, and that they still have hope of reclaiming you to moral paths and walks or rectitude. Your brother has told me that in your boyhood days your demeanor was the reverse of the life you seem to have led the two or three years prior to the commission of this crime; and all this has had a deep impression upon my mind. On the other hand, here is society. The law must be obeyed, and its majesty and dignity must be protected. While I feel a deep sympathy for you and a deeper sympathy for your family, there is but one duty for me to perform. Until now I have not had an opportunity, and will not have it again, to express my opinion of the line of defense sought to be dragged into your case. For this of course you are not to blame, and it is not to be considered in passing sentence. I refer to the theory that McWeeney’s death was the result of heart-burst, and regard the whole of that part of the defense as a fraudulent proceeding. I was heartily disgusted with it at the time, but was not then in a position to say so. It was a bold thing to say, and attempt to prove, that McWeeney died from the effects of heart-burst. You killed McWeeney; that is all there is to it. The heart-burst theory cost the county heavily, and that makes it a double wrong. But as I have said, I do not propose to be influenced by this part of the defense; it is the merest balderdash. Considering all the circumstances, I have concluded that twelve years imprisonment would not be out of keeping with the crime you have committed and the verdict returned by the jury. I therefore sentence you to twelve years confinement in the penitentiary at Bismarck from today noon."1

The newspaper reporter observed Oswald as he was given his sentence. "Oswald stood with bowed head during the delivering of Judge McConnell’s remarks, and when the sentence was pronounced he raised his head sufficient to make a slight bow of thanks to the court. He betrayed no outward feeling throughout the entire proceeding, and when he had reached the depot in company with the sheriff and his deputy his face had lighted up and he frequently smiled as he nodded to acquaintances he passed on the way. Quite a number of friends gathered about him on the platform and he was the recipient of something of an ovation up to the ringing of the locomotive bell. He boarded the smoker, followed by his brother, Sheriff Wagness and Deputy Flumerfelt, the train sped out for the east, and Oswald’s back was turned upon the scene of his “rough pleasantries.” Let us hope that he may emerge from his confinement a better man and a wiser."2

Three years later on 31 Oct. 1889, Oswald was pardoned of his crime by Gov. Arthur Calvin Mallette (1842-1896). 

Governor Arthur Calvin Melette of Dakota Territory and North Dakota. Wikipedia.Public Domain.
Jamestown weekly alert. (Jamestown, Stutsman County, D.T. [N.D.]), 03 Dec. 1891. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <> page 4, column 3.

Billy Oswald seriously applies the judge's advice & completely turns his life around by settling in a small community in Cascade Co., Montana. He meets Jane "Jennie" M. Cooper & they are married, two years later on 19 November 1891.

1 Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, Ramsey Co., Dakota [N.D.]), 17 July 1886. Chronicling America: Historic       American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
2 Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, Ramsey Co., Dakota [N.D.]), 17 July 1886. Chronicling America: Historic     American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>