John Nicholas Gibbs II (1733–1817) was a German settler in Eastern Tennessee. He was born Johann Nickel Gibbs on September 29, 1733 in the Village of Wallruth in the Duchy of Baden, Germany.
Ancestry and origins
Nicholas Gibbs is believed to be descended from English refugees who fled to Germany to escape political and religious persecution in England. According to a book published by the Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society entitled "Nicholas Gibbs and His Descendants", the "grandfather of Nicholas Gibbs left England because of religious and political reasons to save his head when his King, Charles I, lost his in 1649. He married a woman in Amsterdam and never went back to London, but sought refuge along the Rhine River in Germany."
Early life and migration to America
Nicholas, named for his father, became offended with his father in some way and left home for America at age of 14 in 1747. He left home with 30 guineas ($150.00 in American money), which the captain of the ship told him was just half enough to pay for his fare across the ocean, so Nicholas sold his time to pay for the other half. After working his time out for the other half of his fare, he joined the English army and served five years in the French and Indian Wars. While he was a soldier his brother, Abraham, heard of him and sought an appointment with him. Nicholas had no recollections of ever having seen his brother, so he applied the criterion his mother had given him by which to identity Abraham. should ever they meet, which was a spot or scar on Abraham's head. Finding the spot on Abraham's head, he at once claimed him as his brother. After serving his tour of five years, Nicholas went to Frederickstown, Maryland, to live with his brother, Abraham. However, his brother's wife and he did not harmonize, so Nicholas went to North Carolina and settled in Orange County, where he married Miss Mary Ephland, and where part of his family was grown and some married before he came to East Tennessee to settle 12 miles northeast of Knoxville, Tennessee, near House Mountain."
Nicholas served in the French and Indian War, and then in the American Revolution, including seeing combat in the Battle of Kings Mountain under the command of General George Washington. His DAR Ancestor Number is A044667.
Early settlement of Tennessee
Nicholas Gibbs was one of the first settlers of Eastern Tennessee. In 1792, he built a homestead on 450 acres, along Emery Road (today spelled Emory Road) which is currently a national landmark and under the custody of the Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society. An archaeological survey of the property was conducted by the University of Tennessee and has helped academics understand the life of early settlers in the region.
Nicholas Gibbs Homestead
The Gibbs farmstead, a rural domestic site was inhabited by four generations of the Nicholas Gibbs family between ca. 1792 and 1913. The hewed log house is one of the oldest structures in the state still on its original site; it was the boyhood home of three War of 1812 soldiers.
The Nicholas Gibbs homeplace consists of a single pen log house, an outhouse with standing seam metal roof and log smokehouse which stand on a site containing a running spring, numerous "Kentucky coffee trees," a recent split-rail fence addition. The circa 1793 house is located on Emory Road in Northeast Knox County, at the headwaters of Beaver Creek. The property on which the house and resources stand was part of a land grant made to Nicholas Gibbs in honor of his service in the Revolutionary War at the battle of Kings Mountain in North Carolina. Together with subsequent land purchases, Nicholas Gibbs was reported to have held as many as 1,200 acres of land at one time. The current landholding numbers U.75 acres. Of all the original buildings, only the house remains. The property remained in the family from 1792 through 1971 and was again purchased by descendants of Nicholas Gibbs, who refer to themselves as the Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society, in 1986. Scattered throughout the U.75 acres are several coffee trees to grow on the property. The trees were originally planted by John Gibbs as a memorial to his dead brother, Nicholas, Jr., who was killed in the battle of Horseshoe Bend in l8l2. The trees were brought from his brother's belongings. Seedlings continue to sprout on the property from generations of the trees, which can only be found in that area.
Although through the years various changes have been made to the house, it retains many original features, as well as its architectural and historical integrity. The second story of the original portion of the log house (with the exception of cosmetic changes, such as wallpapering), remains as it did in 1793. The original building consisted of one large room downstairs with two rooms on the second story. The original flooring remains under the present pine flooring (installed during a renovation in 1959) on the first level and steps to the second story. The fireplace was rebuilt (also in 1959) utilizing most of the original brick. The original pine mantel remains. Additions were added to the rear and east end of the house circa 1850. These included a pantry, kitchen, bedroom, and two porches. Additions were weather boarded. During the renovation of 1959, all additions were removed and replaced by new additions which include a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and utility room. The front of the kitchen (east end) addition contains logs from the original barn. Side and rear exterior walls are of board and batten finish. A gable roofed front porch was also added to the original portion of the house, with two benches on the front porch constructed from the stable doors of the barn. It should be noted that the 1959 additions relate in size, placement, and design to those of the 1850 additions.
The two-story pine log building has chestnut log sills and is joined with half-dovetail notching, built from woods found on the surrounding property. Clapboards comprise the gable ends. The building consists of three bays. Original six-over-three double hung pegged windows occur on the first story of the main portion of the house, six light windows on the second-story. The east end (or kitchen) one-story addition has a six-over-six double hung window. One brick end chimney (rebuilt in 1959) is contained on the east end of the original portion of the house. Asphalt shingles cover the gable roof. The Victorian era screen door fronts a pegged batten or vertical board entry. A gable-roofed porch, added during the 1959 renovation, extends approximately 3M of the length of the original facade and is supported by unadorned squared wooden porch posts. Exterior chinking has been replaced with Portland cement, a later addition which the present owners wish to remove and replace with appropriate materials. Attached to the rear of the main portion and east end addition of the house is a onestory portion containing a bedroom, bathroom, and utility room. These board and batten additions, with shed roof of asphalt roll, have a limestone foundation.
The interior of the house retains much of its original integrity and features examples of late l8th century primitive carpentry. Exposed beams form the sills for the second story in the original portion of the house, with edges trimmed by mitered, beaded trim. The original pine mantel, which is quite plain and has a projecting mantle shelf, remains in the living room. The hearth and fireplace were rebuilt utilizing existing brick. Interior walls are of beaded wide pine vertical board. Ceilings are of pine planks and plaster. There are two pine steps leading to the kitchen addition which have risers of approximately six inches. A narrow and enclosed staircase is located toward the northwest portion of the first floor, providing the only access to two upstairs bedrooms. Hand-split vertical and horizontal planks act as wainscotting in the enclosed staircase area, with the area above the chair railing now wallpapered or, in the case of the east wall, continuing with pine vertical planks. A pegged vertical plank door remains to close off the staircased area. The ceilings of the upstairs bedrooms slope to a point of approximately four and one-half feet under the eaves of each room.
Until 1959, the house was not wired for electricity, nor were bathrooms available until that time. Although this renovation created alterations to both the interior and exterior, the basic plan and historical integrity of the house have been preserved. Both the exterior and interior of the building retain their integrity of feeling and association and have a strong visual character. There are two non-contributing resources and one contributing site on the property. Non-contributing outbuildings include a one-story log smokehouse with limestone foundation and standing seam metal gable roof. The oak handhewn logs of the smokehouse are joined with full dovetail notching. The structure has been rebuilt within the last five years and has no chinking. The second non-contributing outbuilding is a wooden outhouse of an unknown date with a standing seam roof. Archaeological testing has shown that the remaining ^.75 acres of the Nicholas Gibbs House has the potential to yield valuable information on the early German-American homesite.
In 1986, the Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society purchased the property. It is the ongoing intent of the Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society to preserve the house, outbuildings, and site as a museum. All proceeds that have been received have gone towards the purchase and upkeep of these buildings and the grounds, as will continued donations.
In 1988, the Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society applied to the Department of the Interior to make the place a national landmark.
Personal life, wife and children
Nicholas Gibbs had many children. Nicholas and Mary Gibbs are buried in the Gibbs family cemetery on Emory Road.
Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society
Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society is a tax exempt organization located in Corryton, Tennessee. Donations to Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society are tax deductible. Dr. Ralph Gibbs Nichols was a founder of Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society. The society hosts reunions every June at the homestead of Nicholas Gibbs.
One estimate by family historian Tom Wilson puts the descendants of Nicholas Gibbs to be over 100,000 people and as high as 200,000. Some notable descendants include:
- Colonel Charles Nicholas Gibbs, Secretary of State of Tennessee
- Reverend Bernard Gibbs, Minister and social activist
- Malcolm G. Gibbs, Founder of Peoples Drug Stores, Now CVS Pharmacy
- Brock Hislop, actor and model
- William Gibbs McAdoo, an American lawyer, statesman and former Secretary of the Treasury
- Dr.Ralph Gibbs Nichols, founder of the Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society
- Curtis Robertson Jr., American musician
- Dale Robertson, American actor
- Isaiah Rothstein, American Rabbi
- Barnett Gibbs, Lt. Governor of Texas