Houghton Gibbs, Nantucket Chief of Police

Houghton Gibbs

Houghton Gibbs, Chief of Police of Nantucket, died at his home on Orange street early last Sunday morning, after a comparatively brief illness. His passing removes a personality long familiar to both islanders and summer visitors, a man highly esteemed by all, who had clung to his job when his health and strength warned him to retire to the quiet of his own fireside, but who remained active almost to the very end and virtually “died in the harness,” as he wished. As Chief of Police, Mr. Gibbs was probably better known than any other town official of Nantucket, especially to the summer visitor, to whom he had each year been a familiar figure, usually on duty at the corner of Main and Federal streets, but always on duty, in spite of increasing years. He first went on the police force in 1910, when he served as officer in ‘Sconset during the summer months. In 1913 he became chief of the department, a position for which he was well qualified, and he held the office until the time of his death with the exception of the years 1930 and 1931. The fact that each year he was tendered the highest vote for constable, (without exception) was an expression of his popularity among the voters and the high regard which they had for him. Prior to joining the police force in 1910, Mr. Gibbs followed various pursuits and at one time served as caretaker on Pesque island. He also made a trip out to the Pacific coast, but conditions out there did not appeal to him and he soon returned to Nantucket. At one time he conducted a livery business and also brought one of the discarded Fifth Avenue busses to the island, which he used for a time in carrying passengers to and from ‘Sconset, as well as to the beach. The deceased was born on Nantucket, May 1, 1861, the son of Thomas and Mary Gibbs. His boyhood was spent on island farms, his parents making their home in Quaise and Polpis at different periods. When the Polpis road was re-located in 1884, Houghton Gibbs and his brother David were among the young men who labored at the wage of $1.00 per ten hour day, and gave the town full value for the money. Mr. Gibbs was twice married. He is survived by his second wife, who before her marriage was Miss Annie Elizabeth Hayes of Somerville, to whom he was wedded October 16, 1913. He also leaves a daughter by a former marriage, now resident in California.

Funeral services were held in St. Paul’s Episcopal church Wednesday afternoon at 2.30 o’clock, conducted by the Reverend Samuel Snelling. There was a large attendance of townspeople who came to pay their last respects to one who had for so many years been a familiar figure about town and was held in high esteem by all. In the course of his remarks, Rev. Mr. Snelling said:

“It is fitting that a few words should be here said in regard to the loss to this town by the departure of our friend and brother, Chief of Police Gibbs. What the town thought of him is shown by a public mark in his honor, the flags at half-mast, and business suspended for two hours today.

We have known him for a long time. Day after day, year after year, we have seen him at his post of duty; and always found him the same—a man who could be relied on, prompt in the work assigned to him, kind, helpful, friendly. He was everybody’s friend. A good citizen who loved our town, we shall miss him sadly.

It means much when we can say of a man who had lived seventy-four years, that he left a good record and a host of friends. It means much when we can say that he was through his long career kind, honest, reliable, faithful to duty. Such was our friend, Gibbs.

We have come together now to show our esteem and affectionate regard. Just as we go to the railway station, or to the dock of a great ocean liner, to say Goodbye—which means ‘God Be With You’—and to express our good will and best wishes to one dear to us who is starting on a journey; so we have come here to say ‘Goodbye, all blessings go with you,’ to our friend and brother who has started on his journey into that near unseen world which surrounds us, where the doubts and difficulties of this earthly life are set right, and where there are opportunities of glorious service, with unending progression from strength to strength, from glory to glory.”

The remains were escorted to the Prospect Hill cemetery by the entire roster of local police officers including Lawrence K. Mooney (sergeant), Arthur R. Callwitz, Franklin Stuart Chadwick, William Henderson, Jesse 11. Eldridge, Arthur B. Tunning, Lincoln E. Lewis and Theodore Newcomb. State Officers Jones and Barnsley also took part in the escort. The pall-bearers were John H. Bartlett, William R. Morris, William Holland, Lester Hull, Eugene Perry and James T. Worth. The entire roster of town and county officials attended.

There was a wealth of floral tributes, including a number of set pieces, among which was one from the town officials, another from the police force, and also one from the chauffers.

The Inquirer & Mirror, September 1, 1934, page 2.

Lila Gibbs

Houghton Gibbs was the brother of Lila Gibbs who married her 1st cousin, Albert Gibbs. She died at 24 years old (1902) of Tuberculosis as did her mother and father before her, leaving behind daughters Helen age 4 and Marriott 1 month. Houghton had Albert and his 2nd wife Annie arrested for abuse of Helen when she was 6 years old. Soon after they moved off island. Helen returned to Nantucket from Providence, R.I. where she was working in a printing office and married Oliver Fisher. She often spoke of the abuse from her stepmother.

The Inquirer & Mirror, June 29, 1895, page 4

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