Mahlon Gibbs Farm and Limekiln

Mahlon Gibbs was probably born in Lower Makefield. In 1824 a woman named Hannah Gibbs was brought to the almshouse with her five children and died shortly thereafter. The managers of the almshouse often indentured indigent children out as servants for a period of years. Other male children might be apprenticed out to learn a profitable trade, but with children from the almshouse this was rarely the case. Usually they were used as farm laborers. Girls were usually just trained to learn the “mysteries of housewifery.”

Some researchers claim Hannah was Lenape and the children’s father was black. It was common at this time to treat black indentured servants worse than white servants and to keep them for far longer terms. Hannah’s son Mahlon was indentured to Moses Eastburn, Sr. Contrary to other farmers with indentured servants, Moses treated Mahlon well and gave him a good education. It is to Moses’ credit that Mahlon was able to buy a farm in Solebury after the end of his indenture. He also probably learned the lime burning business on the Eastburn farm, and the farm he purchased was on Aquetong Road near Lower York Road and contained a limekiln. He was listed as both a farmer and a lime burner on the censuses. It is clear that the form of servitude experienced by Gibbs is dramatically different than that experienced by an indentured servant under Moses Eastburn’s grandfather Samuel.

Mahlon was apparently an enthusiastic supporter of the Union leaders in the Civil War, naming one son Lincoln and another Ulysses S. Grant. Two of his sons later lied about their age to join the army as teenagers. He named another son after Anthony Benezet a famous Quaker abolitionist.

Mahlon was also involved in the Underground Railroad. He took in Perry Helmsley, one of the fugitives that escaped from Maryland with Samuel Scott. On the 1850 US Census, Helmsley appears in the Gibbs household, using his assumed name and claiming he was born in Pennsylvania.

This picture is of the limekiln across Aquetong Road from the Gibbs property.

Limekiln across Aquetong Road from the Gibbs farm; Gibb's limekilns must have resembled this

Limekiln across Aquetong Road from the Gibbs farm; Gibb’s limekilns must have resembled this