James Gibson papers
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
James Gibson (1769-1856) was from Pennsylvania and studied at Princeton University. He was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1791 and admitted to the Philadelphia Supreme Court in 1793. He married Elizabeth Bordley (1777-1863) and was related to the Shippen family of Philadelphia.
In addition to his work as a lawyer, Gibson worked with several companies that dealt with the speculation in and distribution of Northern and Western Pennsylvania lands, and he may have served as an agent for those interested in these lands. Among the companies for which he worked were the Asylum Company, which worked with lands in Luzerne, Northampton, and Northumberland counties; the Holland Land Company, which had bought land in western New York State; and the Pennsylvania Population Company, which oversaw lands in far western Pennsylvania counties such as Erie, Crawford, and Allegheny.
In 1792, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed an "act for the sale of vacant lands within this Commonwealth." At least some of these lands, particularly those in western Pennsylvania, were to be given to Revolutionary War soldiers. Shortly after the act's passage, the Pennsylvania Population Company was formed by the state's Comptroller General John Nicholson, land agent Theophilus Cazenove, Dr. William Irvine, and others, to control lands in the "Erie Triangle" (Erie County) that had been deeded to Pennsylvania from the government in 1792, and other portions of westernmost Pennsylvania.
Though it is not clear exactly what role Gibson played for the Population Company, he presumably handled its legal affairs, and may have been somewhat involved in ensuring that some of the lands were given to Revolutionary War soldiers, as was the government's original intent.
Comprising the James Gibson papers are two series of documents that together span from the early 1700s to the mid 1800s. Each series is arranged chronologically. The first series, Personal and collected groups of papers (Boxes 1, 6 and Volume 1), contains an assortment of items, from a few folders of papers from family members to foreign language documents. The second and larger series, Pennsylvania Population Company papers (Boxes 1-7 and Flat File 1), consists of an assortment of deeds, correspondence, legal papers, surveys, and other items documenting the history of the company's work in overseeing lands in western Pennsylvania. Most of these materials originated from John Nicholson, Robert Morris, and other founders of the company.
While this collection documents Gibson's legal relationship with the Pennsylvania Population Company, it also contains records of Gibson's other legal work, such as handling the Indiana County and Cambria County land purchases of the Gilpin and Fisher families during the early 1800s. While there are a few folders of papers from Gibson's wife (Elizabeth Bordley) and other family members, the collection contains little from Gibson himself.
This collection once contained a group of letters, 1824-1846, addressed to Carey & Lea; Carey, Lea, & Carey; and Lea & Blanchard, booksellers and publishers. These papers have been moved to the Edward Carey Gardiner collection (Collection 227A), Box 29.
- Cazenove, Théophile, 1740-1811.
- Colt, Judah, 1761-1832.
- Denny, Ebenezer, 1761-1822.
- Hoge, John, 1760-1824.
- Morris, Robert, 1734-1806.
- Nicholson, John, 1757-1800.
- Parker, Daniel, 1782-1846.
- Asylum Company.
- Erie and Waterford Turnpike Company.
- Holland Land Company.
- Pennsylvania Population Company.
- Land settlement and speculation--Northeastern states--18th century
- Land speculation--Pennsylvania--Federal period
- Land Surveys--18th century
- United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Economic aspects
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2012
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from Howard Lewis.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
This group of papers contains items from members of Gibson's family, a few papers from Gibson himself, and folders of other mostly legal papers that do not directly relate to the Pennsylvania Population Company. While most of the papers are in Box 1, one folder is in Box 5 and oversized materials are in Boxes 6 and 7.
Among the assorted papers are Bordley family land claims and deeds of Maryland from the early 1700s (Box 1, Folder 1), French and Spanish passports for trade and shipping (Box 1, Folders 4 and 5), agreements of Philadelphia merchants to decline acceptances of notes of credit in lieu of specie (Box 6, Folder 1), and correspondence on local affairs and general politics. Additional items of note include papers from both John Nicholson (Box 1, Folder 10) and Robert Morris (Box 6, Folder 2), accounts of money paid out on warrants by the Auditor General John Gibson (Box 1, Folder 8), and scattered materials from several other companies such as the Asylum Company (Box 1, Folder 11), the Holland Land Company (Box 1, Folder 13), and the Erie and Waterford Turnpike Company (Box 1, Folder 15).
There are also miscellaneous administrative and legal documents, such as minutes of proceedings in charges brought against the Board of the Treasury by Francis Hopkinson, a statement of Treasury accounts of Francis Hopkinson, contract between Robert Morris and Daniel Parker to supply rations to the Revolutionary Army, register of accounts and claims against the United States, and a review of the business transacted by the Chamber of Accounts. An additional group of papers in Box 7 relates to the land purchases of the Gilpin and Fisher families in Indiana and Cambria counties. While Gibson's name appears infrequently among these papers, it seems that he worked as their lawyer or land agent during the transactions. There are deeds, surveys, printed lists of lands, and accounts.
There is one volume in this series titled "Maps of Mackenzie's Track" from 1801. The book contains three bound and folded printed maps showing Scottish explorer Alexander Mackenzie's route across Canada in the 1790s.
This group of documents, which is housed in Boxes 1 to 5 and 7, relate directly to the formation and operation of the Pennsylvania Population Company, founded in 1792. There are also papers concerning James Gibson's own Erie County lands (Boxes 2-3), and the donation lands that were provided to Revolutionary War soldiers (Boxes 3-4). Overall, the series is comprised of mortgages, agreements of sales, surveys, deeds, powers of attorney, claims, court proceedings, minutes of the board of managers, and plats. There is also a copy of the map and exemplification of the grant of the Erie triangle from the United States to Pennsylvania from 1792, and the correspondence of land agents, including Judah Colt and James Gibson. Numerous names recur among the papers, namely the company's founders and subscribers including Robert Morris, John Nicholson, Archibald McCall, Ebenezer Denny, John Hoge, and Theophilus Cazenove.