Filed Under Huntsville

Gibbs Brothers and Company

Gibbs Brothers and Company is reputedly the oldest continuously operating family business in Texas that still resides on its original site. The business was established by Thomas Gibbs and Gardner Coffin in 1841 on the Huntsville town square. The pair purchased the lot on which they built their store from Huntsville's first resident Pleasant Gray.

After Coffin died in 1844, Thomas convinced his brother Sandford St. John Gibbs, who had left Texas after their father's death, to return to Huntsville and go into business with him. In 1847, Sandford paid $500 for a half interest in the company, which he and Thomas named T. & S. Gibbs. The brothers replaced the original log cabin that had served as a mercantile store with a new two-story, wood-frame building.

In the 1870s, Thomas moved away from Huntsville for health reasons, and Sandford bought his brother's interest in the business, renaming it the S. Gibbs Company. In the back of the store, Sandford kept a large, iron safe, and local businessmen and planters began to deposit their money there for safekeeping. Sensing an opportunity to develop a financial enterprise, Sandford soon opened a bank in the rear of the store.

After Sandford's death in 1886, his widow Sallie took over the business. A native of North Carolina and graduate of the Greensboro College for Young Ladies, Sallie had the old wood-frame business razed and replaced with a new brick structure.

With her son's assistance, Sallie is credited with developing the Gibbs business from a minor mercantile operation to a leading financial, real estate, and timber enterprise. In 1890, she worked with her eldest son and several influential Huntsville business leaders to organize Gibbs National Bank, which became First National Bank in Huntsville in 1922. Sallie retired from the business in 1917 and died a year later.

Audio

History of Gibbs Brothers and Company Cheryl Spencer of Sam Houston State University's Newton Gresham Library relates the history of the Gibbs Brothers business. Creator: Courtesy Sam Houston State University Newton Gresham Library

Images

Gibbs National Bank The Gibbs opened a bank in 1890. They had previously loaned use of their store safe to customers. Creator: Courtesy Walker County Historical Commission
Model of the original Gibbs Brothers building Source: Walker County Treasures
Thomas Gibbs The co-founder of the Gibbs Brothers' business. Source: Walker County Historical Commission
Sandford St. John Gibbs After Gardner Coffin died in 1844, Sandford St. John Gibbs returned to Texas to go into business with his brother Thomas. He bought a 50 percent interest in the store, and, in 1847, the brothers formed the company T. & S. Gibbs. Creator: Courtesy Walker County Treasures
Sandford and Sallie Gibbs Source: Walker County Treasures
Sandford St. Johns Gibbs and family, 1880. Standing: Sarah Sandford, Alice Lena, Wilbourn Smith, Mary Alla. Seated: Sandford St. Johns Gibbs, Luteola, Sallie E. Gibbs, Thomas Clifton, James Phillip. Source: Walker County Treasures
Sandford St. John Gibbs home, built in 1855. Source: Walker County Treasures
Gibbs Brothers Store The Gibbs family operates the oldest business in Texas. This photo was likely taken in the late 1800s after the deaths of Thomas and Sandford St. John Gibbs. Gibbs National Bank would have been located to the left of this building. Notice that the sign above the door reads "Gibbs Brothers and Company." Creator: Courtesy Walker County Treasures
Inside the Gibbs Store Customers shop in Gibbs Store in the late 1800s. The Gibbs boasted as clients local notables including Sam Houston and Henderson Yoakum. Creator: Courtesy Walker County Treasures
Gibbs National Bank Interior Wilbourn Gibbs and his mother Sallie opened the Gibbs National Bank in 1890. The $50,000 used to capitalize the bank was provided almost exclusively by the Gibbs family. Source: Walker County Treasures
Post card of Gibbs home. Built by Sallie Elizabeth Smith Gibbs 1895-1896. Located on the southeast side of Avenue M and 11th Street, the home faced north and was considered by many to be "Huntsville's Palace." The house was torn down in 1950. Source: Walker County Treasures

Location

Metadata

Tracy Lewis, “Gibbs Brothers and Company,” East Texas History, accessed September 28, 2022, https://easttexashistory.org/items/show/21.