Gideon Gibson, the Great Grandfather

Gideon Gibson, a mulatto, was born about 1730 and is the great grandfather of Randall Lee Gibson. While some genealogy records place his birth in England, he more likely was born in Virginia to a British subject of African origin, a carpenter with the same name (b. ca. 1695), who emigrated to North Carolina about 1720, married a white women, Mary Brown, in 1728, and owned slaves to help work his land. [See Gideon1 Gibson].

Little is known of Gideon Gibson's early life [See Gideon2 Gibson]. However, there is a record of his 1749 marriage in Virginia to a white woman, Mary Martha O'Connell, who had emigrated from England. Gibson's family was among those who took advantage of the British government's land grant policy and resettled in the "backcountry" area of South Carolina, which contained immigrants from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

In 1761, to encourage "poor Protestants" of "good character" to settle in its South Carolina province, the British government amended its General Duty Act by increasing its grants to not only defray the cost of passage but to enable settlers to purchase tools and provisions for a year. Taxes on Negroes, slaves and other possessions were also repealed. The generous terms of this act led to a mass migration to South Carolina between 1761 and 1768, at which time authority for payment of these bounties expired.

Settlers were offered 100 acres of land for each head of household and 50 acres for every other family member over 12 years of age. In turn, grantees were required to clear and cultivate a new 3% of their land each year. After two years, settlers could relinquish their land to the royal governor in Charleston and be released from all obligation upon payment of a nominal sum ("quit rent"). Lands were often resold to other landowners. Those who failed under the severe conditions were reduced to living off the land as best they could, and some formed thieving bands that preyed upon the more successful settlers.

Families from Pennsylvania and Virginia seeking to escape the French-supported Indian attacks in the north joined the migration of settlers to South Carolina. Their settlements on the hunting grounds of the Cherokee Nation provoked numerous clashes with Indians who depended on those lands. British government troups laid waste to many Cherokee villages as large numbers of settlers established themselves in the South Carolina backcountry.

Gideon Gibson distinguished himself as a farmer, builder, landowner, and community leader. When local government failed to protect settlers against outlaws, he became a militia captain in the "Regulator" movement whose purpose was to protect settlers' property from the criminal activity of gangs, often meting out vigilante justice to those they apprehended. The Regulator movement became a threat to the government and led to the eventual creation of courthouses, prisons, and a system of law enforcement in the South Carolina backcountry.

Gideon Gibson had nine children: six daughters followed by three sons. He eventually moved his entire family to Adams County, Mississippi, where he continued to prosper until his death in 1792. His last child, the Reverend Randall Gibson (1766-1836), was Randall Lee Gibson's grandfather.

Randall Lee Gibson's father, Tobias Gibson, was born in Adams County, Mississippi, about 1800 and later moved to Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana, where he purchased a large sugar plantation. The slave census of 1850 listed Tobias Gibson with 148 slaves in Terrebonne and 9 slaves in Adams. He served in the Louisiana State Legislature and in 1827 married Louisiana Breckenridge Hart, daughter of Colonel Nathaniel Hart of Kentucky, whose family was closely connected to the Clays, Prestons, and other prominent families. He died in 1872.


  • G. Lloyd Johnson, "Gideon Gibson, the 'Regulator'," (, accessed 12/02/04.

  • "Gibson Family," Ratliff-Smith Genealogy, ( Gibson_Notes.htm), accessed 12/05/04 (remove space from URL)..

  • Pedigree Chart, "Gideon Gibson," (, accessed 12/04/04.

  • Individual Record, "Mary Martha O'Connell," (, accessed 12/04/04.

  • TERREBONNE PARISH [DeBow's Review, 1849], (, accessed 11/22/04.

  • United States National Archives, 1850 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedule [database online] Provo, UT; accessed through ( 2/9/05.

  • William A. LaBach, "Ancestry of Tobias Gibson (1800-1872)," (, accessed 12/22/04.

  • Phil Norfleet, "Incentives for Migration to South Carolina Before the Revolution," South Carolina Loyalists and Rebels, (, accessed 12/02/04.

  • Cyril Ray Parrott, "Land Grants," (, accessed 12/02/04.

  • "Florence County History," Florence Convention & Visitors Bureau, Florence, South Carolina, (, accessed 12/02/04.

  • "Frontline: April 25th Memo," The Blurred Racial Lines of Famous Families, ( shows/secret/famous/april25.html), accessed 12/01/04 (remove space from URL).

  • "Frontline: Gibson," The Blurred Racial Lines of Famous Families, ( shows/secret/famous/gibsonfamily.html), accessed 12/02/04 (remove space from URL).

  • Mary G. McBride and Ann M. McLaurin, Randall Lee Gibson of Louisiana: Confederate General and New South Reformer, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2007, 320 pp.

  • Daniel J. Sharfstein, The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White, The Penguin Press, 2011, 396 pp.

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