The sons of Bowes John Gibson, the Horn family, and the East India Company

In my first post about my newly-discovered ancestor Bowes John Gibson, brother of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth nee Gibson, I noted that he was listed in contemporary trade directories as an auctioneer, in the service of the East India Company. I’ve since discovered that at least two of Bowes John’s sons followed him into the service of the Company, both of them in a military capacity and both achieving high rank.

'The East India Company' by Thomas Rowlandson, 1808

The East India Company was an early joint-stock company, initially formed for trading with the East Indies, but ending up trading mainly with India and China. Apparently the Company eventually ruled large areas of India, ‘exercising military power and assuming administrative functions, to the exclusion, gradually, of its commercial pursuits’.

George Milsom Gibson, born in 1782, was Bowes John Gibson’s eldest surviving son by his first marriage to Elizabeth Hendly. I’ve been unable to find out whether George was married or had any children. In fact, the only record we have for him is a note of the inscription on his grave at Vizagaptam, India, which reads as follows:

Sacred to the memory of Major George Milsom Gibson Commandant 1st batt. 2nd Reg. N.I. who departed this life 5 May 1814 Aged 33 years

‘N.I.’ refers to the Madras Native Infantry. Vizagaptam or Vizakhapatnam is a major seaport on the south east coast of India; in the eighteenth century it was a district in the Madras Presidency of British India. In September 1804, British and French squadrons fought the naval Battle of Vizagaptam off the harbour.

Madras Native Infantry at Battle of Assaye, 1803, by J.C.Stadler, 1815

George’s younger brother, John Thomas Gibson, who was born in 1785, also served in India. We know more about his personal life, in part because he married the daughter of a famous father. On 20 February 1811 John married Henrietta Elizabeth Horn at the church of St George the Martyr, Queen Square, Bloomsbury. Both John Thomas’ father, Bowes John Gibson, and Henrietta’s father, Charles Frederick Horn, were witnesses. Charles Frederick Horn was a German-born musician and composer who became a music teacher in the Royal Household. His astonishing rags-to-riches life story, which includes an account of how he met Henrietta’s French-born mother Diana Arboneau Dupont, can be read at Wikipedia.

Charles Edward Horn, brother-in-law of John Thomas Gibson

The memoir of Charles Frederick Horn’s son, Charles Edward (also a musician and composer), includes a number of illuminating references to the Gibson family. For example, the author writes of how he ‘left my apartments in Rathbone Place and again joined my father at 25 Queen Square, in consequence of my sister’s marriage [on 20 April 1811] with my old schoolfellow J[ohn Thomas] Gibson, then a lieutenant only in the Indian Army, and then leaving with Major Gibson for Madras for they had [had] residence at my father’s house.’

From this, we learn that John Thomas accompanied his older brother George Milsom to India after this marriage. Elsewhere, we discover that George as well as John were at school with the younger Charles Horn: perhaps this explains how John met his future wife? Earlier in his memoir, Charles recounts how he was ‘sent back to school, which had been changed from the Pratt Street day school to South Lambeth as a weekly boarder, and where the only boys I became attached to was (sic) George and John Gibson – the latter afterward became my eldest sister’s husband – and Henry and John Laing’. Later, we read that (Dr.) Henry Laing ‘became the instructor and master of my sister’s children upon her first visit to England after being with her husband in India 10 years, and her second son, Dockley Gibson, being educated for a clergyman, married the daughter of John Laing. Thus we all schoolfellows became afterward related by the marriages of my sister’s and the Laings’ children’.

Fort St George, Madras, built by the East India Company

We know from his will that John Thomas Gibson rose to the rank of Major General in the service of the East India Company in Madras. From other family trees at Ancestry, it would appear that some or all of his and Henrietta’s children were born in India. They were: Louisa Grace (born 1812), Mary Emma (born 1815, died 1817), John James (born 1816), Charles Dockley (born 1818), Edmund (born 1819, died 1821), Thomas Wheatley (born 1823, died 1884), Henrietta Elizabeth (born 1824, died 1900), Matilda (born 1827, died 1828) and Edward Samuel (born 1829).

John Thomas Gibson died in Madras in 1851. From his will, it would appear that his son John James followed him into the army, rising to the rank of Captain, but predeceased his father. As mentioned above, another son, Charles Dockley, entered the Church. At least one daughter, Louisa Grace, married into the military: her husband was Captain George Briggs of the Corps of Madras Artillery.

Footnote on Rev Charles Dockley Gibson

I’ve just found the following biographical note about John Thomas Gibson’s son:

CHARLES DOCKLEY GIBSON was the son of Major-General J. T. Gibson, of the Madras Army. He graduated B.A. from St. John’s College, Cambridge, in 1841, and proceeded M.A. in 1847. In 1848 he was appointed a Company’s Chaplain. He served at St. George’s Cathedral, 1849-57; Masulipatam, 1859-61; Fort St. George, 1862-65 and 1866-68. It was his father who built the small Church at Kotagherry. He was removed from Fort St. George, in 1868, for a neglect of duty, of which the General Officer Commanding made complaint; and he died the following year at Calicut.

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