Select Gilbert Miscellany


Here are some Gilbert stories
accounts over the years:


Gilberts in England and France


Gilbert is a surname that occurs in both England and France.
The English presence is larger.  The
Gilbert numbers today probably run about 30-35,000.
The name was earlier a name of the west
country.  But it has since spread to
London and the southeast and to the Midlands.
The Gilbert numbers in France are about 15-20,000 today.
The name is most noticeable in western
France, from Brittany to Bordeaux with a sizeable number in Vendee.  Philippe Gilbert has come from there and has
written about the dark side of its history.
Danielle Gilbert, the daughter of a wartime Resistance fighter
Auvergne, made herself a successful French TV personality in the 1970’s.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s Picture

in his Worthies
of Devon
concluded his account of Sir Humphrey Gilbert in the

noble knight’s lively effigies are yet remaining in his
grand-nephew’s house at Compton – the one hand holding a general’s
and the other is laid on the globe of the world; Virginia is written
over; on
his breast hangs the golden anchor, with the pearl at peak; and
underneath are
these verses which may supply an epitaph:

you may see the portrait of his
Who for his country’s honor oft did trace,
Along the deep; and made a noble
Unto the growing fame, Virginia.
The picture of his mind, if you do crave
Look on virtue’s picture and you have it.’

This description probably flatters him.
The latter part of Gilbert’s life was spent
in a series of failed maritime expeditions, the financing of which
his own fortune and a great part of his family’s.  He
did not venture to Virginia.  He did
establish an English base at
Newfoundland in 1583, although he was lost at sea on the return voyage.

Gilbert’s mottoes, quid non?
not?”) and mutare veltimere sperno (“I scorn to change or to
fear”) indicated how he chose to live his life.  The
writer A.L. Rowse later described him as

“Gilbert was certainly an
interesting psychological case, with the symptoms of disturbed
personality that
often go with men of mark.  He was
passionate and impulsive, a nature liable to violence and cruelty, but
also intellectual
and visionary, a questing and original mind with the personal magnetism
went with it.  People were apt to be both
attracted and repelled by him, to follow his leadership and yet be
of him.”


W.S. Gilbert’s Family Background

of W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame came originally from
Hampshire.  Gilberts could be found at
Shipton Bellinger in Hampshire since the early 1500’s.  William
Gilbert, the son of
Thomas and Mary Gilbert, was born nearby at Over Wallop in 1746.  The family fortunes were in decline at that
time and William departed for London in search of his own fortune.

In 1768, at
the age of twenty two, he set himself up as a grocer amidst the slums
Westminster.  Twenty years later, after
the completion of the Blackfriars Bridge, he saw a better future south
of the
river and moved his business to Blackfriars.
He prospered and was able to retire to the country, and let his
William take over, in 1803.  But William
did not live much longer.  He died in
1805.  Neither did William junior.  He died of TB in 1812 at the age of 32, the
same disease having taken his wife away in 1810.

William had provided some
financial security for his son William, although he had to wait for it.  In the interim, he travelled in his early
years and became a surgeon in the Navy.
Later he could spend his time as a gentleman and a writer.  The first child of he and his wife Anne, born
in the clean air of Hammersmith in 1836, was W.S. Gilbert.


The Gilberts’
Indian Ordeal

In April 1780 the Gilbert family in
Byberry, about 15 miles outside Philadelphia, was surprised early one
at their log cabin by a party of eleven Indians.  Those
captured were the elderly Benjamin Gilbert, his wife Elizabeth, six of
sons and daughters, as well as four other workers on the farm.

They were taken to an Indian village some ten
miles away where they were bound in captivity in the traditional Indian
manner.  They were then moved onwards and
beatings “until their enemies grew weary of this cruel sport.”

Later they endured
the pain of separation.  Benjamin the
elder, his wife and son Jesse were surrendered to Colonel Guy Johnson,
commander of the Fort Niagara garrison where they had come.  They were then sent further north to
Montreal, much of it by boat.  During the
voyage Benjamin died, but his wife, showing great fortitude, managed to
make it
with their son to Montreal.  They
remained captives there.  However, they
did learn with joy of the release of some of their family.

Eventually, in August 1782, they were able to
take their leave of Montreal and, after an arduous journey of 36 days,
to Byberry

Reader Feedback – German
Gilberts in

When the German Gilberts came to
Pennsylvania, they settled in Gilbertsville, Pa and established
the German
Lutheran Church there.

I was wondering if the German Gilberts are related to the
English Gilberts.  I haven’t been able to find the link to the
Gilberts. I’m from the German side.  My
mom was a Gilbert from York, Pa.  Joseph
Henry Gilbert was her grandfather.

Lois A. Pollock (

Johan Conrad Gilbert,
Fraktur Artist

Johan Conrad Gilbert, an immigrant from Hoffenheim in
Germany in 1750, was at various times in Pennsylvania a tailor, a
and a fraktur artist.

was in fact an artist who produced a number of drawings in color
(German Fraktur) on laid paper, some with texts or other writings.  The first Easter Bunny in America has been
attributed to him.  This drawing is in the
Abby Rockefeller Folk Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia.

hundred years after Conrad made the
Fraktur, the fourteen photographs of his work were presented in the
Journal of
the PA Society.  All of the photographs
suggest that the originals are still in good condition


Gilbert, United Empire Loyalist

Gilbert was
a descendant of the early English emigrant Matthew Gilbert, one of the
of the New Haven colony.  According to
family tradition, Isaac enlisted in the British Navy during the
Revolutionary War.   He himself stated
that he was a sergeant in the New England regiment, the Queen’s Rangers.

After the war ended, he settled in St. John,
New Brunswick where he remained just a little too long to receive a U.
Loyalist land grant in the new province of Upper Canada (Ontario).

1800 or 1801, he came to the Long Point
settlement with his family and settled in what became the Woodhouse
township.  They had arrived there up the
lake shore in small boats and landed at Port Ryerse. For
several years following the Gilbert
settlement there was a trail leading through the woods from the home of
Samuel Ryerse to the log cabin of Isaac Gilbert which was often
by the old pioneers and their families.

Gilbert was a quiet,
unobtrusive man, and a staunch Loyalist.
He died in 1822 in his 80th year.
His wife Mary had died on the same day of a lingering illness.  It was said that Isaac, aggrieved and weary
with watching, had rested in his chair and within an hour had passed
too.   His son Isaac had been a
in the Norfolk militia during the War of 1812 and was a charter member
of the
first Woodhouse municipal government.


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