Captain James S. Gibson
When Janet and Alexander Munro arrived in 1890 Bainbridge Island had an exceptional mix of people, and the Munros’ neighbors ranged from mill workers, farmers and loggers roughing out a living to the ‘well-to-do’ who sought out Island life. The ten Munro kids were raised with working class values while rubbing elbows with the upper echelons of their neighborhood like the Stanleys, Todds, Seattle School Superintendant E.S. Ingraham, and the Seattle Rainier Club members who inhabited Westwood in the summers; and perhaps their influence rubbed off. One upper crust neighbor was Captain James S. Gibson and his influence certainly changed the course of Munro life.
In 1905 Captain Gibson and his family moved to Seattle where he soon formed the International Stevedore Company. At about the same time, the Gibsons acquired 18 acres immediately north of the Munros and built a beautiful summer home on the beach. At the time there was no landing or dock on that stretch of the beach, and passengers and goods were landed at a float in front of the Lindquist home where the Point White Community Dock stands today, or you simply rowed out and met the boat. Captain Gibson and his wife Corrinne Masson Gibson wanted a little more convenience and they financed the construction of the original Gibson’s Landing. The pier was located immediately in front of the Hansen home or perhaps on the property line between the Hansens and Munros, and it became a regular stop for the boats of the mosquito fleet. Now neighbors were converging in front of the Munro property to catch the boat or pick up supplies they had ordered. Duncan and Bill Munro saw an opportunity and built a general store. Shipyard workers travelling to Bremerton and high school kids headed to Queen Ann caught the boat at Gibson’s Landing. It was an actual ‘point on the map’ until well after World War II; and the people who travelled through, the access it provided and the opportunities it created helped mold and perhaps elevate the Munro family. So who was Captain James Spaulding Gibson? Clarence Bagley’s History of Seattle (Volume 3) printed the following biography in 1916:
CAPTAIN JAMES S. GIBSON
Seattle with its splendid harbor offers a profitable field for the successful conduct of important navigation interests and kindred lines of business. Captain James S. Gibson is now at the head of the International Stevedoring Company as president and general manager and has made his home in Seattle since 1905. For more than thirty years he has been connected with the coast country of the northwest. He was born in Mobile, Alabama, September 7, 1856, a son of James S. and Antoinette J. (Powers) Gibson, the former a native of Alabama and the latter of New York. The father is descended from Scotch ancestors who figured prominently in connection with the military history of the land of hills and heather. The mother is a direct descendant of Aneke Jans, a native of Holland, owner of the Trinity church property on Broadway in New York. For many years James S. Gibson was a southern planter and at the time of the Civil war he served in the Confederate army.
His son, Captain Gibson, one of a family of seven brothers now scattered in different parts of the world, completed his education in the University of Mississippi at Oxford with the class of 1874 and was engaged in the cotton classing business thereafter until 1879. He went to sea from Mobile in the Trans-Atlantic cotton trade, shipping before the mast, and in 1884 came to the Pacific coast, taking command of the ship Spartan, engaged in general trade. He afterward commanded the ships Beividere and America and the barks J. D. Peters and Colorado. Retiring from the sea in 1896, he settled in British Columbia, at Chemainus, and was United States consul for that district from 1897 until 1905. He was also president of the Vancouver & Victoria Stevedoring Company and was surveyor for the San Francisco board of underwriters. His important business connections brought him into close association with the development and material upbuilding of the coast country. In 1905 he removed to Seattle, where he conducted business under the name of the Washington Stevedoring Company. In 1908 he bought out the firm of McCabe & Hamilton and consolidated the Washington Stevedoring Company with the newly acquired interests under the name of the International Stevedoring Company, of which he is now the president and general manager. He has other business interests, is the owner of valuable real estate in British Columbia and has important gold mining properties in Alaska Captain Gibson has visited all parts of the world and possesses intimate and interesting knowledge concerning the history, manners and customs of various countries and people. His life has been fraught with many varied experiences. In 1886 he lost his ship Beividere, which went ashore where the Valencia was lost on the west coast of Vancouver Island. In 1880 he was shipwrecked in the Bay of Fundy when on the ship City of Brooklyn, of which he was the third officer. He has had other minor experiences of like nature and there are few phases of life at sea with which he is not familiar. That he possesses marked executive ability and administrative power is indicated in the successful conduct of his present business interests.
On the 26th of November, 1884, at East Orange. New Jersey, Captain Gibson was united in marriage to Miss Corrine M. Masson, her father being Captain Thomas L. Masson, of Essex, Connecticut, who passed away in 1893. The latter was one of the commanders of the Trans-Atlantic ships. Mrs. Gibson’s brother is the editor of Life, and she comes of an old New England family of French descent that was represented in the Revolutionary war. Our subject and his wife have a son and daughter, namely: Thomas Masson, who is an architect of Boston; and Mildred, of Seattle.
In his political views Captain Gibson is a democrat but not an active party worker, although he has made a few trips east on public missions in connection with the port and shipping interests of the northwest. He is president of the Puget Sound Shipping Association, is a member of the Alaska Bureau of the Chamber of Commerce and is a member of committees on insular and foreign commerce. He naturally takes the deepest interest in questions of this character and has done much to further a general knowledge of conditions relating to shipping and has promoted the welfare of the city through his wisely directed efforts for improvement along those lines.
Mr. Gibson is a thirty-second degree Mason, belonging to Vancouver Consistory at Vancouver, British Columbia, to the Knight Templar commandery at Victoria, British Columbia, and to Gizeh Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Victoria. He is also a member of Port Townsend Lodge, No. 317, B. P. O. E., and the Independent Order of Foresters. In clubdom he is a well known figure, holding membership with Rainier, Seattle Golf and Country, Arctic, Transportation, Rotary, Press and the Seattle Yacht Clubs. He is also a member of the Automobile Club and the Pacific Highway Association and has a life membership in the Washington State Art Association. He is a member of the Chamber of Commerce of Seattle and is well known through business and social connections elsewhere, holding membership in the Union Club of Tacoma, the Union Club of Victoria, the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and the Vancouver Club. In a word, Captain Gibson is a well known figure in the northwest because of the extent and importance of his business activities, because of the prominent part which he has taken in the development of navigation interests, because of his active association with important fraternal organizations and clubs. His varied experiences, teaching him the lessons of life, have made him a broadminded man, liberal in his opinions. Progress has been his watchword and he is the advocate and champion of advancement not only along business lines but in those connections where the intellectual and aesthetic natures are fostered and where social amenities obtain.
James and Corinne Gibson called their little corner of the waterfront ‘Snug Harbor’ where they spent summer months and long winter weekends. The Gibson home was beautiful and inviting – one of several stunning homes in the Crystal Springs neighborhood. Captain Gibson planted a number of trees from around the world in his yard, and three remain today (see more on these historic trees below). The Gibson home also boasted a beach-side pavilion and double tennis courts on a point west of the Gibson and Pratt properties. Daniel Lincoln Pratt was the Gibsons’ neighbor to the north. His granddaughter, Anne Vining Dennon, recalls the Gibson home from her childhood:
When the Gibsons owned the home, they built and shared the tennis courts together with my grandfather which was at the south end of the beach point on both Gibson and Pratt property, and many Sunday morning tennis matches took place with their Westwood friends. Great times. The pagoda which I used to roller-skate in was used for parties and dancing. That is where my father (Maurice “Mose” Vining) put up a basketball hoop. We lived in the summer cottage which my father built on the north side of my grandparents. As summer residents we had many wonderful childhood baseball, kick the can and basketball times on the beach by the old tennis courts. That would have been with the Munros, Hansen, Warberg, Davis, and sometimes Walganski kids.
Before Gibsons Landing was constructed, John and Duncan Munro, young teens at the time, would meet the family and their guests at the float and bring them to shore. Other neighbors like the Warbergs would help with gardening and cooking while the family was in residence. Corrinne Gibson would often send a postcard ahead to let them know when she was arriving:
The Gibson’s also traveled extensively and would send greetings from destinations like Hawaii or London. In January of 1913 Mrs. Gibson sent the below postcard to Mary Munro from Algiers. It appears they were travelling on a steamship in the Cunard Line.
In 1917 Mildred Gibson married stock broker Prescott Oakes. The 1930 federal census finds them weathering out the depression years at Crystal Springs with their two sons, Gibson and David. Sometime later the Gibson home became a rental. In the late ‘40s or early ’50s James and Georgia Walganski lived there with their three children, Susan, Mike and Barbara, and the Walganskis became woven into the fabric of Crystal Springs.
There were three little homes adjacent to the Gibson home – one on the south side and two on the north. For many years these were simple one room cabins without running water or other amenities – four walls and a bed. They perhaps housed strawberry pickers during the season. After World War II the little houses were expanded and improved. Newlyweds Dale and Jeanne Fox moved into the neighborhood in 1948, first renting one of the north cabins. Then in about 1950 they moved to the south cabin, the ‘Scalloped Shake House”, with daughters Penny and Becky. In 1954 the Fox family moved a little farther north when they purchased the Kahlke/Williams house. Dale and Jeanne lived out their lives there – wonderful neighbors. Their daughters, Penny Fox Lamping and Becky Fox Marshall have both raised their families on this little slice of Crystal Springs.
One of the most enduring memories of the Gibson home was the poison oak that entrenched itself on the beachfront bank just south of the tennis courts. Countless neighbor kids from Sally Warberg to Steve Davis came across it while retrieving baseballs ~ and they suffered mightily. At one point a team of dads ganged up and tried to eradicate it – without much luck – and Jim Walganski lives in infamy for trying to exterminate it by setting fire to the bank.
By the late 1960s, the old Gibson home was in ruins and inhabited by a colorful communal band. The older Munros would grimace, grit their teeth and caution the kiddos: ‘Don’t wander up the beach. Hippies. Stay clear of the Hippies.’
The original Gibson’s Landing was destroyed in a storm in about 1934. At that time independent boats still stopped at Gibson’s Landing. George Munro and Gordon Dunn (next door neighbors and brothers-in-law) both travelled by boat to their jobs at the Puget Sound Naval Ship Yard in Bremerton, together with other family members and neighbors.
George Munro had the pier rebuilt immediately to the north of the old pilings, charging a small toll to catch the boat at the new Landing until the construction costs were covered.
In about 1940 the state purchased land from the Lindquist family and built a substantial dock where the Point White Community Dock is located today. The pier was full width to accommodate car traffic. The ferry Rosario, operated by the State of Washington, carried twenty cars and stopped at Point White from 1940 to 1950.
The Agate Pass Bridge opened in 1950 connecting the Island to the Kitsap Peninsula for the first time, and auto boat service in the Crystal Springs neighborhood came to an end. Passenger boat service remained for many years, and the Carlyle was the primary boat to serve Point White.
Captain Gibson’s accomplishments continued well after the date of the biography cited above. In 1918 he accepted a commission in the United States Naval Reserves, and sixty-two years old Lieutenant Commander Gibson took the carrier West Alesk to France. There he oversaw the offloading of supplies supporting allied troops. After the war he returned to a very active life, including serving as President of the International Stevedoring Company, vice president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Steamship Company, president of the Seattle Rainier Club and regional director of President Warren G. Harding’s National Committee on Unemployment. In 1921 he traveled to Tokyo with a delegation of Seattle businessmen to discuss trade with the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce. He died in 1922 while serving as chairman of a committee sent to Manila, Philippines, to study trade problems.
Excerpt from The Marmon News, April, 1919, The Sextet That Has Played Its Part Well:
“Among the distinguished new owners of Marmon cars on this page are three Pacific Coast men of prominence. At the extreme upper left is shown Captain J.S. Gibson who now commands a first-class Marmon. Following the seas for many years, Captain Gibson volunteered his services to the nation at the declaration of the war and was accepted in the naval reserves and given the title of Lieutenant-Commander on June 15th. He sailed out of Elliot Bay in one of the Seattle built boats, West Alsek, and arrived in New York in record time. He was then sent to France, and was given command of unloading American supplies. When the war was finished, the Captain felt that he had earned a rest, and he is now taking it along highways and byways of the coast in his new Marmon. …”
The three historic trees pictured above were planted by Captain Gibson in 1905 or thereabouts. They include a Japanese Spruce that arrived on a clipper chip with Captain Gibson from Japan and a Tri-colored Beech that is believed to have come from Boston as a seedling on a sailing ship. The origin of the Big Leaf Maple is less clear, but for many years it had a small tree house platform and was the favorite climbing tree for the neighborhood kids. Ralph Munro, Mike Walganski and many neighborhood kids had fun in that tree.
Inscription on the Figurehead Plaque:
This figurehead is from the clipper ship “America.” She was built in 1874 at Quincy, Massachusetts by Deacon George Thomas. Her original owners were Thayer & Co. of Boston. In 1887 she was put in the Pacific coasting trade and was wrecked on San Juan Island in the year 1914. The “America” has some notable voyages to her credit. Namely, from New York to San Francisco in 89 days and from San Francisco to Liverpool in 102 days. Captain J.S. Gibson, at one time her commander, records that this figurehead was a source of much pride to him, that it had many times in many ports been remarked upon as being one of the most artistic figureheads that ever graced the bow of a ship and there is probably no other on an American vessel that has been mentioned so many times in public print. It is carved from a solid white pine log. This is erected by me to commemorate a beautiful sentiment in ship building now becoming a lost art. Figure donated by Captain James Griffiths.
– Rosario 1916, Robert Moran
Please also see the Biography of James S. Gibson (‘The Chesterfield of Pacific Coast Shipping Men’) in Railway and Marine News: (1911), Volume 9, Page 10, In the Public Eye at:
This article was written by Elizabeth Munro Berry for ClanMunroBainbridge.com, October, 2019. Contributors include: Sally Warberg Dunn, Stephen Davis, Ann Vining Dennon, Penny Fox Lamping, Bob Jayne, Reid Hanson and Ralph Munro.