Gibsons provide a bridge to future

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 16, 2003

The Pike County community has given more to Billy Gibson than he can ever repay.

His wife, Jean, feels the same.

So, neither of them have any reservations about donating land valued at $50,000 to the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.

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"It's just the right thing to do," Gibson said. "Not to do so would be to go against nature. This is something we wanted to do and something that we needed to do."

Gibson's mother, Beulah R. Gibson, set the precedent for donating land to the museum. In 1970, she sold about five "seed" acres to the museum for a paltry $100.

So, when the museum wanted to expand to include the wetlands area which belonged to Billy and Jean Gibson, the coupled did hesitate.

They willingly and graciously deeded 9.95 acres, that included wetlands and highlands, to the museum.

"This is a beautiful area with streams, cypress trees and aquatic plants," Gibson said. "The museum was already using part of the land for a nature trail and they had built an observation


into the wetlands and we agreed to that. But, we decided that we would donate the land to the museum so that everyone could use it, enjoy it and learn from it. We wanted our community and beyond to participate in the use of it."

Plans for the area include expanding the nature trails and building a walkway

across the entire wetland area.

"There will be a hatchery for aquatic life and people will be able to come out and the wetland area and also the highlands that surround it," Gibson said. "We are as proud of this museum as anyone can be. It began as a vision. Curren Farmer had a vision and he and Margaret hard to make it a reality. If it had not been for Curren and Margaret Farmer, there would be no museum here today."

Gibson said Farmer approached landowners with his vision of a museum of pioneer history and they responded.

His mother, the J.T. Brantley estate, Robert Dunn, Wiley Sanders and Henderson Timberland.

"All of them deeded land to the museum, but it was Curren Farmer's vision and his determined effort that made it happen.

Gibson and his brother, the late Russell Gibson, were director's on the museum's first board. His brother, Gussie, was director of the museum for several years and his niece Charlotte is the present director.

"Our family has been involved with the museum since it opened," Gibson said. "This is one of Pike County's treasures and we are proud to be able to make a donation that will provide for future growth and enhance its programs."

The land donation is not the first sizable donation the Gibsons have made to the museum.

They donated their entire Indian artifacts collection, also valued at $50,000, to the museum several years ago.

"All of the artifacts in the collection are one-of-a-kind," Gibson said. "They were all collected in Alabama. We were surface collectors; we never dug for artifacts for fear of disturbing or destroying something of such great historical value."

The Gibsons donated the collection because it, too, was the right thing to do.

"Jean and I wanted to share it with others, not keep it locked away to ourselves," Gibson said.

Gibson's family has always been connected to the museum and to Pike County. He and his wife want to strengthen that connection and the best way they can do that is to look out for the interest of other people. They do that though donations that will make a difference - donations that will benefit the Pike County community for generations to come.