Remembering Maj. Gen. John Rison Gibbons
Obituary dated June 19, 1919: General J. R. Gibbons, one of Saline County’s most distinguished citizens, passed away last Sunday afternoon at the family home in Bauxite, after a short illness of pneumonia, aged seventy-six years … Being in charge of one of our biggest industries – American Bauxite Co., gave him an opportunity to do big things … He was the founder of the town of Bauxite and it was his ambition to make it a model industrial town.
For many years,
John Rison Gibbons has been referred to as Col. Gibbons by people from Bauxite. Doing research on the 100th anniversary of his death, facts revealed that actually he had been commissioned Major General of the Arkansas Division, United Confederate Veterans. He was referred to as Gen. John R. Gibbons, by comrades in the U.C.V.
Jonathan Kellogg, of
Little Rock, who referred to himself as a close, intimate friend of Gibbons, authored the following article, in its original form, revealing
details of Gibbon’s life:
“When a close friend has passed out of this life, language becomes inadequate to express feeling. Such is the case in the death of Gen. John R. Gibbons, of Bauxite, Ark., who has been my intimate friend for a long time. Close friends, aye, closer than brothers! And I wish to pay tribute, though it may be a feeble way, to this devoted friend, loving father, loyal husband, good citizen and splendid soldier.
“John Rison Gibbons was born in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 16, 1843, his father being George Rockingham Gibbons and his mother Harriet Caroline Rison, of Rockingham County,
Va. He attended school in Bridgewater, Va., and later at Massey Creek Academy, where he was preparing to attend the University of Virginia.
While a student at the academy in 1861, at the age of 17, Gibbons joined Capt. Tom Yancey’s company of Calvary as a volunteer. This company was designated as Company 1 of the 1st Regiment of Virginia Calvary, which had been organized by Gen. J.E.B. Stuart at Harper’s Ferry. He served in this regiment as a private during the war and was in every great battle fought by the Army of Northern Virginia except two, when he was away on furlough.
“Gibbons was present with the regiment at the surrender of General Lee’s army in Appomattox and then returned to his father’s home, which at that time was in North Georgia. He subsequently went to Tennessee where he engaged in farming near Nolensville and in milling and engineer work in Bentwood and surrounding country.
“On Nov. 25, 1874, Comrade Gibbons was married to Miss Annie America Felton, the daughter of
Dr. William H. Felton, of Cartersville, Ga. He moved to Rome, Ga., in 1880, engaging in the mercantile business. In 1891, he became engaged in mining of bauxite in Georgia and so continued for a period of 10 years.
“Gibbons then removed to Saline County, Ark., with his family and prosecuted the same vocation there. There he constructed the plant of the American Bauxite Company, the largest of its kind in the world, and founded the town of Bauxite as the result, which he supplied with all the modern conveniences of much larger towns and cities.
“Comrade Gibbons always led a very active life, and in the growth, welfare, and development of the community, he was consistent in his efforts. He was most patriotic and had a deep affection for his adopted state. He was an active member of the State Council of Defense, the Fuel Administrator of Saline County, and chairmen of the War Savings Stamps Board of Saline County.
“He was always interested in matters that affected the history of the War Between the States and in the Confederate veterans organization. He was a member of Omer R. Weaver Camp, No. 354, U.C.V., of Little Rock, and was commander of that body several years, discharging the duties of his office with rare tact and ability during his incumbency.
“In the state organization of the United Confederate Veterans, Comrade Gibbons held several positions to which the commanding officers had appointed him, first ranking as major, then as lieutenant colonel, and then to colonel. He discharged the duties assigned to him in these respective positions with such zeal and fidelity that his comrades elected him to command the Arkansas Division, and as such he was commissioned major general. He willed this position two years and until his business called him to South America, being abroad several months in the interest of the American Bauxite Company.
“In the year 1913, he was appointed by the governor as commissioner for the State of Arkansas at the reunion of the blue and gray at Gettysburg. A notable and unique incident in his life was the part he took in returning the flag of the 76th Ohio Volunteers, which had been captured at Ringgold Gap, Ga., in
1863 by the 1st Arkansas Volunteers. It was his idea to return the flag as a symbol of the spirit of the South.
“This matter was planned, and the program was successfully carried out, with the hearty cooperation of the survivors of the 76th Ohio at Newark, Ohio, where the regiment was organized in the early part of the year. The survivors of the 1st Arkansas were traced out and invited to attend the ceremony in
Ohio, and all those who could do so went. They were accompanied by a staff of ladies from this state.
“In addition to this, a number of distinguished citizens, including the governor of Arkansas, accompanied the party. This incident and the spirit that promoted it brought forth wide and favorable comment from the Northern and Eastern press.
“The funeral services for Gibbons were held at Bauxite. The Rev. Phillip Cone Fletcher officiated, and the remains were immediately taken to Cartersville, Ga., his former home, for burial.
“It can and has been said of Comrade Gibbons that as a business man, he took first rank; as a citizen, he was progressive and liberal; and, his record as a Confederate soldier was not surpassed for gallantry, bravery, and devotion to duty.
“In his death, not only his state, but the entire South, sustains loss which will be deeply felt, while his comrades will grieve with his family.”
Thanks to Mr. Kellogg, no amount of research could have produced a more appropriate tribute to General Gibbons than this article to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gibbon’s death.
The small companyowned town of Bauxite was fortunate to have such a man as John Rison Gibbons overseeing the place we now call “The Last Stop Before Heaven,” Bauxite, Arkansas.
These are miner memories and some of them are not so minor.