Looking Back: Gibson James Doram: One of Danville’s most respected citizens

Published 12:32 pm Monday, January 22, 2018

Gibson James Doram reminiscences what life was like during his life in Danville and Boyle County.

The headline in an article about Doram and his wife’s 55th wedding anniversary, appeared in 1903 in The Advocate-Messenger and called Doram “One of Danville’s most respected colored citizens.” 

Gibson and Ann J. Rowe, were married Dec. 22, 1853, by Dr. John C Young, president of Centre College. The couple were born and reared in Danville and neither has lived elsewhere.

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Known as “Uncle Gib”, he was born in a brick house near the corner of Main and Second streets, on a portion of ground where the old Seminary building stood, in which the first Constitutional Convention of Kentucky was framed and adopted on April 19, 1792.

Gibson rolled type for The Rifle, a newspaper edited more than 60 years ago by James and Sam Dismukes. Gibson attended the funeral of Sam Dismukes, who was the first person to be buried in Bellevue Cemetery.

He remembers when Danville was a mere village, without a (railroad) leading into it, and when there was one railroad in Kentucky, between Lexington and Frankfort. Goods and merchandise were hauled through on big wagons over dirt roads from the two cities.

He also remembers when Danville was in Mercer County. 

He said people in Danville lived on mud roads to have their deeds recorded, when Main Street was what is now known as Walnut, and the post office was on that street in the house occupied by Thomas Y. Shaw, when Captain A.S. McGrorty, a highly respected citizen was a boy clerk in Robert Montgomery’s drug store at the corner of Main and Second streets. 

In early times, Gibson said there was one cistern in Danville on the Weisiger Place on Broadway, and Thomas Mitchell, cashier of the Branch Bank, was the only person that used coal for fuel.

The Sallee farm on Lancaster Pike was worth about $100 per acre and was owned by Henry Baughman, who paid about $15 for it. 

Gibson remembers Danville having two tan yards, one operated by Frederick Yeiser on a lot owned by William Sillman. Yeiser resided in an old log house at the corner of Broadway and First Street, known as the “ark”.

Michael Youse and Ben Prall had a tan yard on the Moore place on Fourth Street.

Several cotton factories and “rope and gabbing” factories were in operation during his time.

John Thorn operated factories on the farm owned by J.M. Sallee; and Dennis Doram ran one on the UBF Hall lot on Walnut Street; Davie Bell, Robert Montgomery, P.G. Rice, Johnathan Nichols and Barkley and Barbee also ran operations.

Gibson said machinery has ruined the picturesque craft. “Literally and figuratively, spinning yarn is a long drawn out process, for a “rope walk” is from 1,200 to 1,500 feet long and the spinner in his work walks backward the entire length of the elongated building.

In Gibson’s day, work of every description was done by hand, very little in the way of machinery had been introduced in “Little Britain.”

He said “men were honest, patriotic and happy in those pioneer days and lived not all of self but for each other, for the betterment of their race and the advancement of civilization.”

The newspaper called Gibson an upright and law-abiding citizen, with a high sense of honor and one of whom it may truly be said,” his word is as good as his bond,” and he has proved himself a trusty friend in a time of need.

When asked what he would prefer as a gift on his 55th wedding anniversary, he responded:

“Gold would be most appropriate to the occasion, but anything that is useful would be equally appreciated.”

Doram family

Gibson was born July 6, 1833, and died on his birthday in 1919. 

He and his wife, Ann (1836-1920), had three children, Dennis (1856-1919), Mary L. (born 1864), and Robert T.

Gibson’s wife was born in the Moore house.

Gibson was a son of Dennis Doram Jr. (1796-1869) and Diadamia Taylor (1810-1883).

Dennis was born on the Indian Queen Tavern, the estate of Thomas Barbee, in Virginia, and migrated to Kentucky with Barbee.

Dennis and Diadamia were married Feb. 15, 1830, in Mercer County (now Boyle). Both are buried in Hilldale Cemetery.

They had 10 children, all born in Kentucky, including Gibson: Josephus (1810-1877), William (born 1820), Thomas Anderson (1837-1912), Martha Ann (1842-1923), Robert Cassius Clay (born in 1846), Susan Bell (born 1857), Sarah C., Diadamia E., and Lucy Jane.