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John G. Johnson

GIBSON, FENTON MERCER (?–?). Fenton M. Gibson, early Texas attorney, soldier, newspaper editor, and public official, is thought to have been from Tennessee. He enlisted in the Texas army on December 25, 1835, and was transferred by order of James W. Fannin, Jr., to the marines and commissioned a captain. As a crew member of the Invincible, Gibson was involved in the capture of the United States brig Pocket and was aboard the Invincible when it was captured by the United States sloop-of-war Warren. Gibson was one of five men who signed an affidavit to establish a claim against the United States for damages to the Invincible in the incident. While being held prisoner on the Invincible, Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna was guarded by Gibson and his marines. For his services Gibson received a first-class land certificate of one-third league. In November 1836 he was informed that his services were no longer required; he filed a claim for pay from November 1, 1836, through December 25, 1837, claiming that the terms of his enlistment required he hold himself ready for service at any time. The claim was denied.

On May 24, 1838, Gibson was appointed chief justice of Galveston County. He resigned on March 25, 1839, to become judge of the district court and in 1840 was recorder for the city of Galveston, a position he resigned on October 17, 1840. He married Anne Corban Beale on October 26, 1840, and shortly thereafter moved to Richmond in Fort Bend County, where he established a law practice. With his brother-in-law, Robert Harper Beale, Gibson joined the Somervell expedition and continued on to Mier as quartermaster. He was captured, survived the Black Bean Episode, and was one of the last prisoners to be freed. After his release he returned to Richmond, where he continued to practice law and edited the Richmond Recorder from 1852 to 1854.

Politically Gibson appears to have had little success or respect. In 1838 he was accused of appealing to a drunken mob to force the resignation of an election judge in Galveston, during an election in which 204 votes were cast by 100 legal voters. Evidently Gibson thought he was an intimate friend of Mirabeau B. Lamar, but a letter of 1857 to Lamar from José A. Quintero states, "Gibson continues to be one of the shining lights of the now defunct K[now] N[othing] party. He is still swindling some fair one out of his share of `bed and board'."

The 1850 census lists his wife and two children but not Gibson. He lived in Austin after 1855. He was married a second time to Mrs. Susan DuBose of Houston on June 30, 1859. In 1858 Gibson and William M. Shepherd, another Mier prisoner, announced that they were writing a book on the Mier expedition. A part of this was published by the Dallas Herald (see DALLAS TIMES HERALD) on January 26, 1859, but the book was evidently never completed or published. In 1859 Gibson was secretary of the Union-Houston Know Nothing party and on April 21, 1860, was one of many individuals listed as vice presidents of a meeting at the San Jacinto battleground to put Houston's name for president. On July 4, 1876, he read aloud the Declaration of Independence at a celebration in Mexia. Gibson was a Mason and a founding member of two lodges in the Republic of Texas.

Clarksville Northern Standard, April 9, July 4, 1859. Dallas Herald, September 29, 1858, January 26, 1859. James M. Day, Black Beans and Goose Quills: Literature of the Texas Mier Expedition (Waco: Texian Press, 1970). Linda Ericson Devereaux, The Texas Navy (Nacogdoches, Texas, 1983). Carolyn R. Ericson and Frances T. Ingmire, comps., First Settlers of the Republic of Texas (2 vols., Nacogdoches, Texas: Ericson; St. Louis, Missouri: Ingmire, 1982; Printed first by Cruger and Wing, Austin, 1841.). Joe E. Ericson, Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836–1846): A Biographical Directory (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Llerena B. Friend, "Sidelights and Supplements on the Perote Prisoners," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 68–69 (January 1965-April 1966). Galveston Civilian and Gazette, July 12, 1859. Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). George Haugh, "History of the Texas Navy," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 63 (April 1960). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Joseph Milton Nance, ed., Mier Expedition Diary: A Texas Prisoner's Account by Joseph D. McCutchan (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978). C. T. Neu, "The Case of the Brig Pocket," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 12 (April 1909). Telegraph and Texas Register, February 3, October 9, 1837. Houston Wade, Notes and Fragments of the Mier Expedition (La Grange, Texas: La Grange Journal, 1936). Clarence Wharton, Wharton's History of Fort Bend County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1939). E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, John G. Johnson, "GIBSON, FENTON MERCER," accessed July 15, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgi03.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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