Famous Families


DUNCAN GIBSON whose beautiful home is just south of Lexington, KY, on the Harrodsburg Pike, bears two names that identify him with a prominent family relationship, including the Timberlakes, Duncans, Gibsons, Pykes, Harts, and Prestons, all household names in the history of Kentucky. Duncan Gibson is a brother of Mrs. H. G. Foster of Lexington. The old Gibson home where Duncan Gibson resides, representing the family estate, was built in I852 and is an interesting example of the application of the Tudor style of architecture to Blue Grass Kentucky. A lodge crowned with small Tudor turrets guards the entrance, and the house itself stands back from the pike a quarter of a mile. Its builder gave it all the characteristics of the old English period, its rooms being large and high, and it was finished and furnished magnificently. It is at once a home of many important traditions and associations and also a place for the preservation of some of the rare art and furniture which distinguished the old Kentucky homes of the antebellum period.

In the following paragraphs are sketched some of the outstanding figures in this old Kentucky family, particularly those whose lives are not reviewed under other names. Richard Timberlake, son of Richard Timberlake and Lady Frances Harfield, Lady in Waiting to Queen Ann, married Mary Mundane of Virgina. He was steward of Mary and William College of Williamsburg when that was the Colonial capital of the state. With his family he moved to Kentucky in I790, located four miles east of Cynthiana, in Harrison County, and later to a farm five miles from Paris in Bourbon County. His daughter Mary was born in Hanover County, Virginia, December 25, 1776. In 1793 she was married to Daniel Duncan on the Flat Creek farm in Bourbon County.

William Duncan, born in Scotland, April I7, 1672, immigrated to America, January 22, I722, settled in Culpeper County, Virginia, and February 11, I722, married Ruth Rawley, daughter of Matthew Rawley, a native of England, who settled in Virginia in 17I9. Their son, Daniel, born in Culpeper County, was educated in Pennsylvania, and thence went to Bourbon County, Kentucky. He owned and resided on a farm near the Scott County line. Henry Timberlake Duncan, son of Daniel and Mary (Timberlake) Duncan, was born at Paris, Bourbon County, Marcb 20, 1800, and died at Ingleside, Fayette County, in March, 1880. He was educated at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, was a lawyer by profession, and in 1826 married Elizabeth Dunster Pyke, the beautiful daughter of Samuel Pyke, who with his wife, Hannah Orchard Woolley, settled in Paris, Kentucky, about 1800, coming from England. Samuel Pyke was a successful manufacturer of cotton, owning and establishing in Paris one of a dozen mills then existing in the United States. He amassed a large fortune and acquired lands in Kentucky and Illinois.

After several years Mr. and Mrs. Duncan established a residence in Fayette County, near Lexington, on the Maysville and Paris Pike, remembered by their generation as an estate of lavish and rare completeness, known as "Duncannon." A gardener from Scotland, William Bell, was placed in charge to perfect the grounds and conservatory. Henry T. Duncan was a public-spirited man, handsome in appearance, given to generous hospitality. Though more than twenty years younger, he was a friend of Henry Clay, who made him a beneficiary under his will by a treasured ring, Other friends and associates were Daniel Webster, Calhoun, Crittenden, Justice Trimble-a kinsman, Beiijamin Gratz, Allen G. Thurman, G. P. A. Healy, the noted portrait painter, who spent some time at Duncannon in order to paint a portrait of Henrv Clay, which portrait now hangs at Ingleside, the home of Duncan Gibson. The sculptor, Joel T. Hart's first piece of ideal female beauty, Il Penseroso, also adorns Ingleside. Still other eminent personages associated with the generation of Henry Timberlake Duncan were Bancroft, the historian, and James G. Blaine, then a struggling school teacher who spent his holidays at Duncannon, and afterward, at the pinnacle of political success, happily recalled his associations there and the hospitalities shared. Henry T. Duncan was a whig in politics and was liberal and deeply interested in all civic affairs. He became a chairman of the committee to provide a monument to Henry Clay, and gave $10.000 to the building of the memorial. He had an absorbing interest in lands and stock, and from his farm came many kings and queens of the turf, also Southdown sheep, Shorthorn cattle and high bred swine. Many treasures in art and sculpture, including Joel T. Hart's Il Penseroso, books, refinements of social leadership and unusual entertainment gave an atmoshere of culture and enjoyment to all who came in contact with this rarely distinctive home and its family traditions.

The oldest daughter of Henry T. Duncan was Mary Duncan, who was born at Duncannon, November I3, 1838. She was educated under the private tutorship of Dr. Lewis Marshall, a brother of Chief Justice Marshall, in Maplewood Seminary at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and subsequently was a student in Louis Agassiz's School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where an exclusive circle of young ladies was taught by the great naturalist, being in fact the foundation of what is now Radcliff College. From that early environment and training came later the maturity of charm, intelligence, wit and grace which Mary Duncan carried through all her years until her death, at her home at Ingleside, May 22,1910. On September 22, 1859, she was married to Nathaniel Hart Gibson, better known as Hart Gibson, who represents the Gibson family in Kentucky. His name introduces into this story the distinguished lineage of the Harts and Prestons. He was a great-grandson of Col. William Preston of Virginia. The history of these families is appropriately recorded on other pages of this publication. Hart Gibson was born in Shawnee Springs, Mercer County, Kentucky, May 22, I835, third son of Hon. Tobias Gibson, a member of the Legislature of Louisiana, and Louisiana Breckenridge Hart.

Hart Gibson was educated by private tutors at Lexington and in Louisiana, attended Transylvania University and a preparatory school at Northampton, Massachusetts, and in 1855 received his degree from Yale College, now University, following which he studied law at Harvard and philosophy and political science at Heidelberg University. While abroad he had entree to court circles, including in his group of friends von Humboldt and other intellectuals, artists and musicians. On returning to his native land he took possession of his estate, Hartland, near Versailles in Woodford County, a part of the old land grant to Nathaniel Hart and Susanna Preston. For some months be reviewed and read law with George Blackburn Kinkead of Lexington. He was commissioned colonel on the staff of his kinsman, Gov. Beriah Magoffin.

He was commissioned a colonel of cavalry in 1862 by Gen. Kirby Smith. At Murfreesboro he was adjutant general with Gen. A. Burford's Brigade, and accompanied Gen. John Morgan in the Ohio raid, also as adjutant general. For sixteen months he was a Federal prisoner of war, and after his exchange in 1865 was assistant inspector general of the Department of Southwestern Virginia, and surrendered with Johnston in North Carolina. While he was in the Ohio prison Mrs. Gibson sent him in the heel of his newly made boots funds for the use of General Morgan in escaping. President Lincoln never refused Mrs. Gibson a pass into the lines, and though unchronicled, her services for deeds of kindness and generosity, her fortitude and courage, run parallel to those of Colonel Gibson's, who gave to the South all of which he was possessed in valorous acts and material substance, for his entire holdings in Kentucky were confiscated by the Government under the Act of Congress in 1864.

Returning from the war, Colonel and Mrs. Gibson began the rehabilitation of what was left them in Kentucky. In 1867 he represented Woodford County in the State Legislature. In 1870 he and Henry T. Duncan, Jr., his brother-in-law, founded the Lexington Daily Press, the first democratic daily paper in the Blue Grass, and as editor-in-chief and financial supporter he continued for several years. In I879, with his family, he took permanent residence in Lexington, where in the following year, Ingleside, the beautiful country seat formerly owned by the Ingles family of the county, became the home of the Hart Gibson family and continues as such to the present time. Colonel Gibson represented Fayette County in the State Legislature, and was fitly characterized as a Chesterfield in courtesy, a Lexicon in legal lore, and a parliamentarian without a peer. He was a trustee of the State University and secretary of the board; during the absence of its learned president, James K. Patterson, he assumed general direction of University affairs.

The engineering department received from him earnest support, and the choice of the present dean of the department was largely made through the efforts of Colonel Gibson. He was one of the incorporators of the Confederate Veteran Association. Among the diversified interests of his life were agriculture, and sugar planting in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Always a student, linguist, scholar, soldier and statesman, he lived and died a philosopher in the quiet dignity of country life, loving the land his forefathers had aided in developing, adding another name to the history of Kentucky and his family line for intellect, brilliancy as a writer and speaker, with a culture exquisite and rare. Duncan Gibson, first mentioned in the article, is the oldest child of Hart and Mary. (Duncan) Gibson. He was born at Duncannon, was educated by private tutors, was a member of the engineers commission under Hart Vance surveying the Missouri River in 1881, was a member of the assay commission in Philadelphia in 19I7, and for many years has been a farmer and breeder of blooded horses and is manager of the Ingleside estate. He is a man of strong personality and wide information, a brilliant conversationalist and an authority on the historical facts of Lexington and the Blue Grass country. Associated with him is Hart Gibson, Jr. Several famous horses were bred in their stables. Hart Gibson, Jr., was educated by private tutors, and was later a student in Kentucky State College. He was offered a commission as captain in the Remount Department in the World war, but owing to physical disability was unable to serve. He married in I896, Adelia Tozier, the only daughter of their union, Adelia Dtinster, dying in infancy.

The oldest daughter of Hart and May Duncan Gibson was Louisiana Breckinridge Hart Gibson, born at Duncannon. 'She was educated by private tutors and later attended the Kentucky State College. Her first husband was William T. Maxfield, a well known citizen of St. Paul, Minnesota. After several years of widowhood, she was married in 1906 to Friedrich Johannes Hugo von Engelken, of Florida. Mr. von Engelken represented Florida in the American Commission, was sent abroad to study rural credits in Europe, and wrote the minority report for the commission, in which was incorporated the plan for legislation which formed the basis for the Federal Act ,creating the present Farm Loan System. He was appointed director of the mint in 1916, and in that capacity made marked changes and improvements, including the installation of the electric furnaces, saving large sums to the Government in the cost of production. In I9I7 he accepted the appointment from President Wilson as president of the Federal Land Bank of the Third District, and subsequently resigned to accept the office of head of the bond sales department for the Farm Loan Board. Toward the close of the war he was recommended by Secretary Baker as a major of engineers. During the summer of 1919, he was sent to Europe to investigate and report upon the existing economic conditions of Europe. He is a widelv known authority and author of works on economics and finance. Mrs. von Engelken (Louisiana Breckinridge Hart Gibson), who has filled the office of secretary to her husband, is a practical farmer, of versatile accomplishments, widely traveled in Europe and the Orient. She is a member of the Colonial Dames, Daughters of the American Revolution, and was vice regent of Kentucky at the time of her marriage and earlier regent of the Lexington Chapter. She is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and did great service in work for the World War in Columbia, South Carolina.

The youngest daughter of Hart and Mary Gibson was Mary Duncan Gibson, born at Lexington, educated privately and in the Kentucky State College. She married while very young her first cousin, Tobias Richardson Gibson, a son of General Randall Lee Gibson, United States senator and member of Congress from Louisiana, who was born at Spring Hill, Woodford County, Kentucky in 1831, elder brother of Colonel Gibson. Tobias R. Gibson was born at Spring Hill, Woodford County. They were married August 8, I893, and for some years dispensed the characteristic hospitality of their family at their country estate, "The Elms," on the Harrodburg Pike, now the Pythian Home. Subsequently they lived near Alexandria, Virginia, and now in Washington City. Their daughter, Mary Duncan Gibson, born May 17, 1899, was married January 31, I920, to James Russell Wirt Robinson, of Virginia, a member of the Cabell family of that state and a graduate of the Boston School of Technology. Randall Lee Gibson, the second child, was born at The Elms in Fayette County, February 12, 1903, was a student in the military academy at Staunton Virginia, and is now in Washington and Jefferson College, Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth Dunster Gibson, second daughter and fourth child of Hart Gibson and Mary Duncan Gibson, was born at the home of her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. H. T. Duncan, in Lexington. She was privately educated, and at Sayre Institute at fourteen, entered the State University, remaining four years, studied music under R. de Roode. Her early ambition was for a career in music. On June 6th, 1889, at Ingleside, she became the wife of Harrison Gardner Foster, of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Mr. Foster, son of Hon.Addison Gardner and Martha (Weatherbee) Foster, was born at Wabasha, Minnesota, March 8, 1866. He descended from Reginald Foster, who settled at Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1638. The Weatherbees were a colonial family of New Hampshire. The feudal stronghold of the Fosters was Bainborough Castle, still standing in the north of England. Harrison G. Foster was reared at St. Paul and from the public schools of that city entered a preparatory school in New York to prepare for West Point. His ambition for a military career was stimulated largely by association with the family of Gen. John Gibbon, the great Indian fighter. He gave up his idea of West Point and subsequently prepared for Yale University. He left college to enter business in 1888, in the following year married and lived at St. Paul, and in November, 1890, removed to Tacoma, Washington. His father had organized what was at that time the largest lumber mills in the world at Tacoma, and Harrison G. Foster took a successful part in the wholesale distribution and shipping of lumber and shingles to the eastern markets. He also became prominent in the republican politics of the new state, and was largely instrumental in making his father United States senator in 1899. After eleven years of active association with politics and business in the northwest, he returned in 1901 to Minnesota as eastern representative of the St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Company. In I912 be became vice president of the company and returned to Tacoma. After twenty-five years of great activity in business and civic affairs, Mr. Foster decided to rest, and in 1916 left the Pacific Coast and returned to St. Paul. When America entered the war with Germany both his sons offered their lives to their country and soon afterward Mr. and Mrs. Foster came to Lexington and established their residence at 124 West Second Street. Mr. Foster is a thirty-second degree Mason, a Son of the American Revolution and a member of the Society of Colonial Wars, and was a delegate to the State Republican Convention at Louisville in I920.

Mrs. Foster, going with her husband to the Far West, co-operated with him and took the part of leadership in many ways in the new State of Washington. She was a charter member and president of the Ladies' Musical Club of Tacoma, was one of the founders and organizers of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the State of Washington, and in that state and elsewhere has been prominent in the organization, having been a delegate to national conventions and serving on state and national committees. She was a member and historian of the Colonial Dames of Washington, is a past officer in the Dixie Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy, and participated in all initial work of distinction as well as literary contributions, in which her talents are versatile and in demand. After suffrage was granted women in Washington, she served as an official of the Pierce County Woman's Democratic Club, and was secretary and treasurer of the National Council of Women Voters, participating in two conventions at San Francisco and Cheyenne, Wyoming. She was vice president at large of this organization, representing 4,000,000 women. She was elected delegate of the Third District of Washington to the National Democratic Conventioii at St. Louis in 1916, and was one of the two women members on the Notification Committee to Vice President Marshall in that year.

In Kentucky Mrs. Foster was secretary of the Lexington Chapter of the Kentucky Equal Rights Asqociation, under Miss Laura Clay, is a member of the Lexington Chapter, U. D. C., vice regent Bryan Station Chapter, D. A. R., member of the Kentucky Colonial Dames, Filson Club of Louisville, Historical Society of Kentucky, was a delegate to the State Democratic Convention in 1920, and a member of the State Central Committee during the campaign of that year. She was elected in the Convention of 1919, War Mother for Kentucky. She received a request from Washington City driving the World war to organize the Navy League in Minnesota, which was done, and a record of this transaction is included in the historical archives of that state. As one of Kentucky's eminent women, it is not inappropriate to repeat the following tribute paid her recently:

"Mrs. Foster is a most blended likeness of her father, the late Col. Hart Gibson and of her mother, Mary Duncan Gibson. From the one has been perpetuated in her unusual mental capacity - philosophy and ideals - while from the other the feminine qualities of grace, charm of manner, dignity, magnetism, and an inspiring mother in the growth and development of her children.

"Mrs. Foster's early married life in the far west, at a time soon after Washington became a state, awakened in her that which inspired her forebears in the development and establishment of Virginia and Kentucky. The experience of these constructive days, so far from the centers of affairs and from her native heath, and inspired by the romance of industry and pioneering, brought to her the diversified interests of the development of a new country, and in always being a student of history and political economy, together with an inborn alertness and sense of psychological insight, at once impressed her personality upon the hearts and minds of the then handful of pioneers who had migrated west and had settled in and about Tacoma. Being by natural inheritance possessed of the rare quality of leadership, gift of language and direct reasoning, she was forced to be recognized by those with whom she came in contact as an unusual woman with unusual ability. Through her sense of duty to her children and the demands for the making of a home for them and her husband, her efforts along the lines of municipal and state development were restricted, notwithstanding her opinion and advice were often desired and solicited.

"This experience brought to her a force, earnestness, intensity and directness which one attributes more to man. Seldom does the sense of loyalty which Mrs. Foster possesses come to woman or man, and with her convictions she has never sacrificed a principle or belief for friendships or kind thought. Everyone who comes within her presence is inspired by her charm, grace and force of character-'always ready to help those in need of spiritual enlightenment, and to add that little indescribable something which encourages man or woman to attempt and to accomplish. With all this her cultured appreciation of art and music has given her the ability to see and know the beauty of life and accomplishment and, with her personality and association, to vest in others hope and belief."

Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Foster have three children, Capt. Hart Gibson, Addison Gardner and Elizabeth Dunster Duncan Foster. The older son was born at St. Paul, September 2, 1890, was educated under private instructors and in public schools at Tacoma until I903, when he entered St. Paul Academy, from I907 to 1910 was a student in Philips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, and of the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University from I910 to 19I3. He is an industrial chemist by profession and was chemist of a cement plant in Washington from 1913 to 1916. He entered the First Officers Training Camp at Fort Mever, Virginia, May 14, 1917, as a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, was commissioned second lieutenant, August 15th and assigned to the Three Hundred and Thirteenth Field Artillery. He sailed for France, reaching Bordeaux, June 8, 1918 where be underwent intensive training, but on August 9th was ordered home to be promoted and aid in training new divisions. He was commissioned first lieutenant, dating from July 30, 1918. and was with the Twenty-eighth Field Artillery at Camp Funston, and November 2, 1918, was commissioned captain and given command of Battery E. He received his discharge February 8, 1919, and March 11, 1919, accepted a commission as captain in the Field Artillery Officers Reserve Corps. Captain Foster is now a resident of Paintsville, Kentucky, engaged in the gas and oil resources of Eastern Kentucky.

The second son, Addison G. Foster, 2nd, was born at Tacoma, March 21, 1894, was educated privately, attended St. Paul Academy, the Hotchkiss School at Lakeville, Connecticut, and Philips Academy at Andover, and subsequently continued his education under a private tutor, Arthur Gunlogsen, famous scholar and comparative philologist in Washington state. From 1915 to I9I7 he was a student in the Law School of the University of Kentucky, and left during his senior year to enter the service of the Government from Kentucky. In April, 1913, he was appointed delegate at large from the State of Washington to serve on the commission sent to Europe for the study of co-operative rural credits, marketing and producing societies in the various countries. In August, I9I7, he entered the Second Officers Training School, was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry and reported for duty with the One Hundred and Fifty-ninth Depot Brigade at Camp Taylor, Louisville. He was ordered to the third class of Small Arms Firing School at Camp Perry, Ohio, was an instructor at Camp Grant, Illinois, in the Infantry Officers Training School to be organized and was assigned to the Third Company, First Battalion. He was promoted to first lieutenant of infantry, January 24, 1918, and was recommended for a captaincy. August 6, 1918, he married Louise Campbell, daughter of J. Wheeler Campbell, of Paducah, Kentucky, and they have one son, Addison Gardner Foster III, born July 1, I920.

The only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Foster is Elizabeth Dunster Duncan Foster, born at St. Paul, April 28, 1905. She was educated under the same private instruction given her brothers, also in the Annie Wright Seminary at Tacoma, the Mrs. Backus School for Young Women in St. Paul and is now a sophomore in Hamilton College at Lexington. She is a member of the First Presbyterian Church.

by The American Historical Society, 1922

Researched and Written by Mario de Valdes y Cocom

discussions | blurred racial lines | audio stories | june's family tree | bi-racial portraits | how to search family trees | readings | reactions

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation