Jacob William Gibbons was born in Charminster, Dorset, England on 10 October 1875, later being baptised on 7 November the same year.
He was the son of Jacob Gibbons (1843-1896) and Kezia Gibbs Record (1845-1902), both Dorset natives who had married in Charminster on 22 May 1871. One of ten children, his siblings were: twins James Henry and Edward George (b. 1871), Richard (b. 1874), Elizabeth Mary (b. 1877), Agnes Mabel (b. 1880), Alfred Ernest (b. 1882), Herbert John (b. 1884), Frederick Charles (b. 1887) and Walter Record (b. 1890).
His father worked as a farm labourer and gardener in the Dorset County Lunatic Asylum and this is where Jacob appears to have been born and where he first appears on the 1881 census, still listed there on the 1891 census and then described as a domestic assistant to the gardener (his father).
He was married in Wareham, Dorset in 1898 to Lottie Jane Puckett (b. 1875), a native of Tolpuddle, Dorset, and the couple settled in Studland, Dorset and had five children as of 1912: Annie Clara (1900-1988, later Mrs William J. Strong), Edith Kezia (1902-1979, later Mrs Grant), William Henry (1905-1960), Freda Mabel (1907-1980, later Mrs Henry E. Sales) and Jeanie Lottie (1911-1985, later Mrs Edward A. Sales).
The family appear on the 1901 census as visitors to the home of a Mr Thomas Fox and his family in Gotham, Edmondsham, Dorset and Jacob was then described as unemployed. He and his wife would later run a lodging House, Harbour View, in Studland and they appeared at that address on the 1911 census, their baby daughter Jeanie being only three days old and as yet unnamed. It is believed Jacob may have also worked as a gardener.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 4 April 1912, Gibbons gave his address as Harbour View, Studland Bay, Dorset. The Titanic was his first ship, a sea journey he later said that was for the improvement of his health, and as a second class steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
On the night of the sinking, Gibbons later related:
"The shock was very slight, and to this fact I attribute the great loss of life as many of those aboard must have gone to sleep again under the impression that nothing serious had happened. When I got up on deck the boats were being lowered away, but many of the passengers seemed to prefer sticking to the ship. I helped some of the passengers into boat No. 11, including two little children. Before doing this I had scanned the deck for others but could see nobody about... I saw one lady covered in furs complaining that she had several more left behind. She had a mascot in the shape of a little pig which played a tune and she would not leave the ship until she had secured her treasure...
We drew away from the Titanic in charge of Mr. Wheat another steward and when about half a mile away saw her sink. The cries of those onboard were terrible and I doubt whether the memory of them will ever leave me during my lifetime, it has been denied by many that the band was playing but it was doing so and the strains of "Nearer my God to Thee" came clearly over the water with a solemnity so awful that words cannot express it..."
Gibbons was himself rescued in lifeboat 11. Following his arrival in New York aboard Carpathia he sent a telegram to his family on 20 April 1912 with a simple message:
"Saved, well, Daddy"
It is not believed that Jacob returned to work at sea and it is thought he continued to run his guesthouse and work as a gardener on the side and he and his wife had another child, their son Arthur George (1916-2000).
Jacob Gibbons, photographed during the first world war.
During WWI he served with the British Red cross in France, following which he worked in Canada for the Canadian Pacific railway. Upon his return to England he continued to run his guesthouse Harbour View. Widowed in 1955, Jacob himself lived for another decade and passed away on 27 February 1965. His ashes were scattered in the cemetery of Studland Methodist Church where a stone was erected to his memory in 1999 by his granddaughter Sue Stares:
IN MEMORY OF
SURVIVOR OF THE
TITANIC DISASTER 1912
10.10.1875 - 25.2.1965
Jacob still has many descendents living in Dorset. His last surviving child Arthur died in 2000 aged 84. In 2014 a postcard sent by Jacob from Titanic to his family was sold at auction and fetched £87,000.
References and Sources
Bournemouth Echo, April 1912, A Swanage Man's Story of the Disaster
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Hermann Söldner (ed.) (2000) RMS Titanic: Passenger and Crew List 10 April 1912-15 April 1912. ä wie Ärger Verlag.
[?] Advertiser, 10 June 1999, p.5, Titanic Survivor Memorial
Articles and Stories
Bournemouth Echo (1912)
Chicago Daily News (1965)