Re­mem­ber­ing Maj. Gen. John Ri­son Gib­bons

The Saline Courier Weekend - - COURIER CLASSIFIED­S | BUSINESS & SERVICE DIRECTORY - GIN­GER ENGLISH Gib­bons Gin­ger English was raised in Baux­ite. Her ar­ti­cles are pub­lished ex­clu­sively in The Sa­line Courier. Email ad­dress is vaenglish1­[email protected]

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.

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