Successful businesswoman Sallie E. Gibbs was born Sarah Elizabeth Smith in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on October 18, 1844 to Mary Washington (Ledbetter) and Thomas Jefferson Smith. Her parents operated a large plantation, and she received tutoring from age four until she went to the Greensboro College for Young Ladies at the age of fifteen. There, she received a general liberal arts education and a strong Methodist Episcopal spiritual foundation.
In 1859, Sallie's parents moved their household goods and slaves to Texas. She accompanied them on the journey before returning to Greensboro to complete her studies. She graduated in 1863 as valedictorian of her class and moved to Texas after the Civil War in 1865. By that time, her parents operated a prosperous plantation near Plantersville, Montgomery County. Shortly after her return to Texas, Sallie met Sandford St. John Gibbs, a widower and successful Huntsville merchant, and the two wed in January 1866. During the next twelve years, Sallie gave birth to six children: three sons and three daughters.
After Sandford's death in 1886, Sallie assumed control of his assets and over the next 32 years transformed S. Gibbs & Co. (later Gibbs Bros. & Co.) from a mercantile business into one of East Texas' leading financial, land, and timber enterprises. With son Wilbourn and businessman Adair Wynne, Sallie established Gibbs National Bank in 1890. Until retiring in 1917, she played an active role on the bank's board of directors. Sallie died on May 27, 1918 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. During her life, she was active in the Methodist church and in area educational institutions. Her success in business was for many years reflected in the large Queen Anne-style home she and son Wilbourn built on this site in 1895.