AfriGeneas States Research Forum
[GA] [FL] Gibson Family of Ga and Fla
I came across this while researching another Gibson family.
The three shotgun style wood structures are all that remain of a larger complex of tenement houses built sometime in early 1900 and owned by William Gibson and his wife Kate. They provided a decent place to live for grove workers, farm hands, and railroad workers when they came to this area to work seasonal jobs. There were two larger houses located on the northern section of the lot, one was a duplex and the other was a single house used by the supervisor and his family. Another shotgun style house was located at the south end and was lost to deterioration years ago. The last larger duplex house was demolished in the year 2000. The duplex was originally 810 sq. ft. with a front porch, and the small shotgun houses were each 371 sq. ft. William's second wife Sadye added indoor bathrooms and front porches, sometime after her and William were married in the late twenties. They were constructed of heart pine lumber, painted clapboard siding, tin hip roof, and sat on brick piers. The remaining houses still have the original 2 over 2 glass paned windows, and appear much as they did when Sadye remodeled them in the late 1920s.
This area of Titusville became known as "Colored Town" in the late 1800's, and legend has it recorded like this: E.L. Brady and Brother Grocery Store, a well established business located on Washington Ave. in downtown Titusville, put into use a delivery wagon in order to provide better customer service. At first he could identify each customer by name, and when a delivery was going to the black section, he would say, "This goes to Andrew Gibson", or as the case may be. When Titusville's black community became more populated, Mr. Brady nor his clerk could no longer easily name everyone, so he would put the customer's orders in certain baskets and would tell his deliveryman, "This load goes out to Colored Town". The name stuck for many years.
When another black businessman by the name of Henry Maxwell arrived in 1880, he found a black population of approximately thirteen already there, which included the families of Dick Wright, Andrew and Ed Gibson, and Betsy Thomas. Most of the black community was located on the south side of South Street, until after the completion of the JT & KW Railroad in 1885, when many of the railroad workers settled in Titusville. When the black community began to grow, many newcomers, who were grove workers, farm hands and railroad workers, found there were no available places to live and resorted to living in tents. When Judge George Robbins, a white man, saw these deplorable conditions, he had a large rooming house built on the north side of South Street near the railroad tracks. It was a two story wood structure, 125 feet long x 60 feet wide, and often referred to as the "long house". In 1886, a well-respected man by the name of Dick Wright, was the only black who owned a home on the north side of South Street. He was the mail carrier on the route from Titusville to Eau Gallie, and ran a boat called the "Dolphin".
In 1886 Andrew, Edward and a railroad worker by the name of Louis Ufollow, started the first black church in Titusville in a little 12 x 12 upright wood shack owned by Andrew. The Missionary Baptist Church was founded and they served as the first deacons. The congregation continued to grow and services were moved to the larger home of Tom Smith. When the need for a larger church became apparent, Louis Ufollow went to Mary Titus to make arrangements to get a lot for a church. *Mrs. Titus donated a lot for a church and a school, and named William Gibson, Isaiah Gory and Lewis Ufollow as trustees. Today the church is known as The Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church and continues to play a central role in the religious life of Titusville's black community. Andrew remained active in the church until his death August 2, 1928. He is buried in the Gibson family plot at LaGrange Cemetery. Andrew was also a member of the Masonic Lodge.
*A warranty deed recorded January 27, 1887 records the following information: An indenture was made on December 17, 1886, between William Gibson, Andrew Gibson, and Edward Gibson, named as Trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Mary E. Titus, widow, of the town of Titusville, for the sum of one dollar for a church lot for the use of and benefit of said church. It is described as Lot Number twelve (12), Block number twenty-five (25), as shown on the 1880 map by J. Francis Le Baron and on file at the clerks office in the county of Brevard and State of Florida. This map shows the location of lot 12 to be on the northwest corner of South and Canaveral Streets, and possibly was St. James AME Church, which is presently located on the corner of South Street and Dummit Ave.
William Gibson was born December 25, 1865, the son of Edward and Emma (Smith) Gibson. William married Kate Reed in 1890 at Titusville, Florida. Kate was born in 1870, and died October 6, 1926. She is buried in the Gibson Family plot at LaGrange Cemetery. He had two sisters, Addie, born February 19, 1878, and Jerusha (Ziegler) who also lived in Titusville. Addie married Henry R. Rivers, born 1875 and died May 31, 1944. Addie died February 24, 1944, and both are buried at LaGrange Cemetery.
William married Sadye L. Smith, September 5, 1927, in Titusville, Florida. Sadye Gibson became a teacher, and in 1932 taught second grade at Titusville Colored School, where Harriette V. Moore was also a teacher, and Harry T. Moore was the principle. When Sadye had difficulty teaching the history lesson, she would ask Mr. Moore for help, because she knew he was always willing to help one of his teachers. She also taught math at the Gibson School in the late 1950's. Sadye was born May 31, 1904 and died April 12, 1996. William died May 13, 1960. Sadye and William are buried in the Gibson family plot at LaGrange Cemetery.
The preservation of the Gibson tenement houses will provide an important visual link to the rich heritage and history of the black community of Titusville and Brevard County. Through preservation of such structures, we provide future generations with tangible evidence of the past and the history of those who have paved the way to the present.
Research Sources: Brevard County Tax Records, Deed and Mortgage Records, County and City of Titusville and Joynerville Maps, U.S. and Brevard County Census, Mortuary Records, Star Advocate Newspapers Articles and Obituaries, Gibson Family Records and Oral Histories.