The Other Gibbs Branch
In the mid-1800s, Elecs and Clark Gibbs came to Hinckley where they set up a mill on Ridge Road north of Hinckley where the river crosses. There they had a water-powered grist mill and blacksmith shop. When Elecs returned from fighting in the Civil War, he met a neighbor girl whose name was Green. He married her and went to live on the Ridge where she lived.
In 1870, Charles G. Gibbs was born at Hinckley Ridge. Two years later, the family came to live in Brunswick on newly acquired land on what is now Center Road west of Brunswick center.
The 80-acre farm had a creek running through and the family home was built that year near the road in the middle of the farm, now located just east of the East Brunswick Professional Center. The home still stands though it has been remodeled and additions made since then.
Charles met and married Mary Lantsbury from Carlisle Township in Lorain County. Leonard Gibbs was born in 1907 when the family was living near the center of town where the telephone company is now located. In 1916, grandpa Elecs died and the family moved into the Gibbs family home.
Elecs and Charles farmed the land for many years. They were the first property owners in the area to utilize drain tiles to move water from the fields. Charles was the first in the area to plant sweet clover, coming from his interest in bees. He kept several beehives throughout his life.
He was the first in the area to use an electric fence. Leonard recalls that his dad kept pigs on the farm - all nice and tidy inside a neat little fence to the amazement of other farmers. He became a franchised dealer for the fence, and when he would visit the county fair, he would set up a small, electrified pen for a pig to the delight of fairgoers who had never seen such a thing. And it sure helped sell the fences.
Leonard and his brother Alvin grew up in the neighborhood where they were born. They attended elementary school in the building at 1246 Pearl Road which is now a pizza shop, and high school in the first part of the South House middle school as they began to centralize school facilities. He graduated in 1926.
He married the late Laverne Dunn (daughter of John) and built a home on the family farm, across the creek. He and his dad built the charming little home where he and his wife Esther now live. Brother Alvin moved to Columbus where he lived until a few years ago. He now lives in Sun City, Arizon.
After graduation, Leonard worked for R. W. Strong and then in Cleveland for the Cleveland Talking Machine Company, distributor of Victrolas and records, in the shipping department.
"Then came hard times," Leonard said, as he recalled trying to make a go of it during the depression.
"I came back home and began farming," he said. He started small and gradually grew as a dealer in dressed chickens and eggs. He had a retail route in Cleveland and only missed two Saturday delivery dates in 25 years on the route. He remembers his customers with fondness as he dropped eggs and dressed poultry at their doors.
"If I didn't sit down with them for a few minutes and visit, they would be upset," he said. At one home he would knock and walk in. If the lady wasn't in, there would be a note on the kitchen table with the order and instructions, "Lock the door when you leave."
In 1942, Gibbs was appointed township clerk and was elected to that post in 1944, 1948, 1952 and 1956, serving until 1960. He began that work when Walter Reutter retired from that job. Then in 1950, "The township trustees decided we had to have zoning, so I was appointed zoning inspector."
By the 1950s, business was starting to decline so Leonard was looking for some part time work. They needed school bus drivers, so in 1955 he became a bus driver and drove until 1970. He also served a few months as a trustee to fill an unexpired term until illness forced him to resign. When the Old Phoenix Bank opened, Leonard worked there as a custodian and retired in 1972.
"Brunswick has grown so fast, I even get lost," he chuckles. He noted getting lost trying to cut through Eagle Oakes from Substation Road just recently. "I can remember driving up Center Road and never seeing another car all the way to Brunswick. Maybe one would pass me...and maybe not. Now I have trouble getting out of my own yard."
Leonard wonders what his father would say if he saw Brunswick the way it is today.
Leonard talks about his joint venture in the East Brunswick Professional Center. "Paul Munyon came to me one day and talked about this plan for a professional office complex. I guess you could say I was land poor at the time. I thought to myself that dad would have been proud of something like this on the old farm - so we got together and this is what happened," he proudly notes.
In the lobby of the center is a display case of Indian artifacts found on or near the family land. While his dad was farming, he would discover arrowheads and ax heads and other handmade stone tools.
His father was always a great whittler, Leonard explained. In 1941, Charles broke both legs in an auto accident and took to whittling nearly full time. A board displaying a variety of his work hangs in the Gibbs' living room and shows fantastic woodworking ability. It also sports several prize ribbons, the first one in 1939 from the Columbus Hobby Show; a second in 1941 from the Cuyahoga County Fair and one from a 1946 Brunswick Garden Club show.
Chains whittled from one long piece of wood; rattles made from a single piece of wood with a perfect little ball rattling around inside; forks and other utensils all beautifully handworked are delight to see.
A proud name, Gibbs. With a proud tradition in Brunswick.