On May 12, 1847 at Brandon, Vermont, United States a meeting was held to form an organization of the Gibbs family’s of America. The purpose of the organization was to investigate reports circulating in the United States relative to a large unclaimed property, which had’ been left in England for the Gibbs’s in the United States of America. The Association voted unanimously to appoint Columbus Smith, Esq., of Salisbury, Vermont, Agent, for the purpose of looking after the property in England, said to belong to the Gibbs’. Smith proceeded to England, made the desired search, and reported thereon to the President of the Association. The Association published 500 copies of his report for the use of the members of the Association. The following account of his search for William Gibbs of Frome is extracted from that report.
“William Gibbs, about 45 years since, died without issue, in the town of Frome, in Somersetshire, and left a large property, by will, for the Gibbs’s in this country. Some portion of this property was real estate in Frome, but a large portion was money in the bank of England. One William Gibbs of Frome had four sons, viz: William, Robert, James and John. William, the eldest son, inherited his father’s estates in Frome. Robert, James and John came to America about 1665. Robert afterwards returned to England, but came again to America, in or about 1669, and brought with him his son Robert, then about five years old. Several years since a latter was sent from England to the Grandson of Robert, stating a large property had been left for him in Frome.”
In order to give this subject a thorough investigation, I went to Frome in Somersetshire. I found it a small place, containing a few thousand inhabitants. The parish records were searched by my order. The following is a certificate of the Curate of the parish:
“I hereby certify that the register of burials for the parish of Frome Selwood in the county of Somerset, England, has been duly searched from the year one thousand six hundred and twenty, to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight inclusive. Also, the register of Baptisms from the year one thousand six hundred and twenty, to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight inclusive. And that the name of Gibbs only occurs in the following entries—viz:
March 1639, 2, Mary Gibbs daughter of Anthony and Mary, Baptized.
July 1671, 16, Jane Gibbs, daughter of Thomas and Rose, Baptized.
February 1672, 8, Ann Gibbs, buried.
February 1673, 26, Richard Gibbs, son of Thomas and Rose Baptized.
July 1722, 17, Richard Gibbs, buried.
May 1728, 27, Precilla Gibbs, wile of James.
March 1729, 15, Jane Gibbs, wife of John, buried.
November 1731, 1, Jane Gibbs buried.
August 1795, 1, Thomas Gibbs, P.
I further certify that, to the best of my belief, there was no other Register for Baptisms and Burials in this parish within the years above mentioned.
Witness my hand this 18th day of September, 1847.
W. B. COLVERT, Curate of St. Peters, Frome Selwood, Somersetshire, England.
CHAS. PHILLOTT, Vicar of Frome Selwood.
18th’ Sept’r, 1847.”
If this William Gibbs family had lived and died in Frome, as reported, some of their names ought to have appeared on the parish records. But this was not the case, as appears from the foregoing certificate; nor could I, after a faithful search, find a single monument or tomb stone erected to the memory of this rich family. I saw many of the oldest inhabitants of Frome, who informed me that they never -knew or heard of a rich man in Frome by the name of Gibbs. This information, differing widely from the report in circulation in U. S. A., I began to suspect this report, concerning William Gibbs .of Frome, a mere fabrication. But as the records of the wills of Frome and the letters of administration granted on the estates of individuals dying at Frome were recorded at Wells, I concluded to extend my researches to Wells. I proceeded there and had those records examined. The following is a certificate received by me at the Recorder’s Office in Wells.
“I hereby certify that I have this day made search in the Registry of the Consistorial Episcopal Court of Wells, and also in the Registry of the Consistorial Archidiaconal Court of Wells, both in the County of Somerset, in England, for Wills or Administrations of persons of the name of Gibbs, viz. Wills from 1660 to 1845, and Administrations from 1669 to 1845, and that no Will or Administration of any person of the name of William Gibbs, late of Frome, is to be found in either of the said Courts; and that the Wills of Ann Gibbs, of Frome Selwood, in 1672, and Edward Gibbs of Frome Selwood in 1762, now in the Registry of the Consistorial Archidiaconal Court of Wells and of John Gibbs of the same place, in 1763, now in the Registry of the Consistorial Episcopal Court of Wells, contain no devise or bequest of Freehold or Leasehold property, and that the Administration of Elizabeth Biggs, (Gibbs ?) of Frome, granted by the Consistorial Episcopal Court of Wells in 1762, was sworn under £300. And I hereby further certify that the Consistorial Archidiaconal Court of Wells and the Consistorial Episcopal Court of Wells are the only two Courts where the Wills can be proved or the Letters of Administration to the effects granted of persons dying at Frome or the immediate neighbourhood thereof, and that on reading over the Wills of the said Ann Gibbs, Edward Gibbs and John Gibbs, my impression is that neither of these died possessed of any considerable property. Witness my hand this 23rd day of September, 1847.
E. PARFITT, Dep. Reg.
I afterwards searched at the Prerogative Office, Doctors’ Commons, in London, for ‘wills and administrations of individuals by the name of Gibbs, who died in Somersetshire. (For if a Gibbs dying in Frome had left stock in the Bank of England, his will or administration could be found at the Prerogative Office, in London.), Notwithstanding I searched the records for several years before as well as after this large property was said to have been left by William Gibbs, I could find no letter of Administration granted on a Gibbs estate from Somersetshire and only one will of a Gibbs from Somersetshire. This was the will of “William Gibbs, and was recorded 1804. He devised his property to his sons and daughters. I also examined the History of Frome in Collinson’s Somersetshire, but could not there find the name of Gibbs mentioned. After having completed the before mentioned investigations I was fully convinced that this report of property in Frome, belonging to the Gibbs’s in U. S. A. was wholly without foundation.