Simeon Beauford Gibbons was born near what is now Shenandoah, Virginia (Page County) on May 25, 1833, a son of Samuel and Christina Miller Gibbons (a descendant of Valley pioneer, Adam Miller). Though he spent the first eleven years of his life in and around the iron-ore industry-based village in which he was born, after his father sold his interest in the business, “Sim” and his family moved to the village of Mundellsville (known mostly, today, for the site of “Willow Grove Mill”), near Luray.
He left Mundellsville to matriculate at the Virginia Military Institute in 1848, attending with other Page Countians, Hiram Jackson Strickler and William Overall Yager. Gibbons graduated (civil engineering) in 1852 (ranked 7th out of 24), and returned to Page County, where he taught school near “Hudson’s” just across from “Willow Grove”.
About 1854, Gibbons moved to Harrisonburg, where he joined with Samuel Shacklett in the mercantile business. In 1855, Simeon married Shacklett’s only surviving daughter, Fannie, who died less than a year later.
During the years leading-up to the Civil War, Gibbons also joined the Rockingham Union Lodge #27, A.F. & A.M, and served on the Board of Visitors for VMI (1859-1860).
Gibbons was an active participant in the prewar militia in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, and served initially as captain of the Harrison Valley Guards, which was organized in July 1859. Gibbons was present with his company at the hanging of John Brown, in Charles Town, Virginia (West Virginia), on December 2, 1859. On November 25, Gibbons wrote about the days leading-up to the event…
After being ordered and counter ordered by about a dozen pompous officials for several hours I was at last assigned quarters. I nearly broke myself down in running, from one official to another to obtain something to eat for my mess and at last had to buy some butter, crackers and bacon and cook it ourselves. Nearly five hundred troops were thrown in here yesterday without any notice having been given. I was directed to procure board for my men at 50 cents a day, if I preferred it to rations. So we are boarding now. As for lodging we throw straw on the floor and wrap our blankets around us. The men are well and in fine spirits. No fight is contemplated but some seem anxious to. I do not know how long my company will be kept here. I think my company will compare favorably with any country company that is here. There are five volunteer companies here from the cities. There will be near 1500 troops here on the day of the execution. No visitors are admitted to Brown’s room. 21 of my men were on guard last night. I pitied the boys and asked General Taliaferro to spare them last night as they were up the night before. He replied, ‘I have not been to bed for five nights.’ I said nothing more on the subject. We took in a son of Col. Abbert of Woodstock as drummer. He is a little fellow only 7 years old and plays as well as any drummer on the ground. He is the center of attraction. Our trap band is the only one here. The flags flying from the various “Head Quarters” and the cannon stationed about on the streets give this place quite a military appearance. Tell father and everyone not to come here on the day of the execution as I do not believe the hotels can accommodate them. In haste.
Your affectionate son,
Simeon B. Gibbons.
In January 1861, he was made colonel of the 4th Regiment Virginia Volunteers, which, along with his with his old company, included six more from Rockingham County. The 4th Regiment left Harrisonburg for Harper’s Ferry on April 18, 1861, and prior to June 1, 1861, was merged with more companies to form the 10th Virginia Infantry, which Gibbons continued to command as colonel. The 10th was accepted into Confederate service on July 1, 1861.
Three of Simeon’s brothers, William, John, and Alfred, also served in the Confederate army.
William, who had matriculated at VMI in July 1860, was detailed as drillmaster in Richmond and Harper’s Ferry, drilling both Co. K, 10th Virginia Infantry (the “Page Volunteers” from Page County), and Co. K, 1st Tennessee Infantry. Meanwhile, with the bulk of the Gibbons family having moved to Rome, Georgia after selling “Willow Grove” in 1860… John enlisted in Co. A (the “Rome Guards”), 8th Georgia Infantry.
Ultimately, John would be the first casualty of the Gibbons family, dying of typhoid (or pneumonia) in Centreville (though another account claims Middletown), Virginia, on the same day in which his regiment was initiated in battle at First Manassas, July 21, 1861. He was the last Gibbons family member interred in the family plot near “Willow Grove” (his grave is currently unmarked; the stone is believed to have been destroyed by cows after the fence deteriorated over the years).
Less than 10 months later, “Sim”, while leading his regiment up Sitlington’s Hill, near McDowell, Virginia, was struck by two bullets to the forehead. The wounds were clearly mortal, but members of his regiment rushed the colonel to the rear. Serving as Simeon’s orderly at the time, William Gibbons arrived by his brother’s side, just after Sim had died.
(Thirty-three second video of the McDowell Battlefield. At frame 14.3, I point out the general area in which Gibbons received his mortal wound)
Simeon was buried in the Shacklett family plot in Woodbine Cemetery, Harrisonburg, Virginia. His grave is next to that of his wife, Fannie.
*More to follow in separate biographical sketches about William and Alfred, as well as sketches about VMI classmates Yager and Strickler.