A Journey From Salem to Fresno

Each and every ancestor among the branches of your family tree embarked on an incredible journey. Whether it was 90 years or 20 years, it was an individual life filled with fire and spirit, dreams and decisions. Reflecting on my own life, the emotions of living are true today as they were long ago. Joys, excitement, laughter, tears, loss and love. These feelings that we all are currently experiencing, our ancestors felt years ago in the past. A true genealogist strives to know the details. Even the smallest of these components are vital to our research. All of these details quickly become tiny pieces of a riveting puzzle, a life story, a journey. Join me as I share the incredible journey of Catherine Gibbins(1810-1898) and her daughter, Joyce Osborne(1850-1939).

A Journey:

Salem, NC


Fresno, California

Catherine Gibbins began her journey on a cold wintry day in February during the year of 1810. She was born to parents who resided in the new community called Friedland. Located in present day Forsyth County, North Carolina, Friedland was associated with the Moravian settlements of the piedmont area. The household was filled with excitement as the first cries were heard. The first born to the parents of John Christian Gibbins(1778-1841) and his wife Magdalena(1784-1871), baby Catherine was welcomed to the world with great rejoicing. The name, Catherine, was exceptionally tender to Magdalena as she reflected upon her own mother’s name. Catherine Hein(1763-1827), Catherine’s grandmother resided in the same little community and most likely was in attendance at her birth.

Winter in North Carolina

During the early years, Catherine was surrounded by her grandparents, Jacob(1761-1844) and Catherine Hein. She was raised to follow the Moravian faith and abide by the traditions set forth by her ancestors. The little family quickly grew with the addition of 3 little sisters. Christina in 1811, Elizabeth and Susanna in 1814. The girls were soon joined with Thomas Frederick in 1816, the first son of John and Magdalena Gibbins. Four more children were added, namely William(1819), Joseph(1821), Maria(1822) and little Sallie(1826). The home was nestled within the quiet countryside community containing approx. 2,000 acres total. Each family maintained 200 acres with 30 acres reserved for the church. Daily prayers, house duties and singing of the old hymns in German were just part of their daily routines. Catherine was most likely fluent with both German and English languages, but German was only spoken at church. Lovefeasts, sermons and all singing engagements were spoken in German until the onset of the Civil War.

Headstone For Joseph Gibbins


When Catherine was 12, her brother, Joseph, died quickly at the age of 17 months. He was buried in the boys section of the community cemetery called, GOD’s Acre. The loss of Joseph must have been heartbreaking for the family. They would have followed the Moravian practices of funeral and burial. Everyone in the family and the community acknowledged that Joseph was no longer suffering and was forever in heaven where tears are no more. Just two years later, Thomas Frederick also died at the age of 7, just weeks away from his 8th birthday. He too was laid to rest not far from little Joseph. The loss of Joseph and Thomas changed the family as all deaths do. Each family gathering would be different and play time for the children was forever changed. The family endured these painful memories by concentrating on their faith and their love for one another.

As the years rolled by, Elizabeth and Susanna were both enchanted with the prospects of marriage. John Smith(1812-1881) became a new member of the church and after a year offered his request to marry Elizabeth Gibbins. The church elders discussed the matter and then after reaching a decision, presented the request to young Elizabeth. She accepted and Catherine with Christina and Susanna helped to make the proper preparations for the wedding day. The date was set for Saturday, October 12, 1833 and the early autumn breezes were gently stirring as the ceremony was carried out at the little community church. Susanna was next to be married. She married David Swaim(1809), whose family was among the first settlers in the area.

Typical Wedding Dress Circa 1833

Catherine, now a grown woman, became a single sister in the community and began conducting various services for the church. She often sat with small children and attended the elderly like the Schneider family who lived in Salem. Salem was located approx. 15 miles from Friedland. Catherine was living in Salem when she received the news of father’s death in 1841. She quickly traveled back home to assist with her mother and the various duties associated with the funeral. Magdalena went to live in Salem after the death of her husband, John. She resided with other older “sisters” of the church while Catherine and Christina returned to Salem as well and conducted their normal daily routines. The church elders moved a new family into the former Gibbins home and all of the belongings of the family were quickly dispersed. Neighbors, friends purchased items from the estate and the most precious of these were inherited by Catherine and her remaining family.

Headstone of John Gibbins 1778-1841

During the spring of 1849, an old friend arrived in town, John Richards (1805-1878). He had moved to Indiana in order to help establish a new Moravian settlement called Hope. John returned to Salem to inform the community of his wife’s death. Mary, John’s wife was very well known to everyone and a close friend to Catherine Gibbins. John personally visited Mary’s parents and provided the awful details of her death. He also visited the church elders and brought them up to date with the progress of the new community. Catherine knew John and Mary Richards well from childhood memories of long ago. The church elders suggested that John take a new wife back with him to aid in the building of the new community and to care for his two young boys. John left his two children in Indiana with friends. Walter and Frances Richards, ages 12 and 9 were now missing their mother and their father. The little community of Hope were reassuring them both that their father would return home as quickly as he could. The elders suggested Catherine Gibbins as the new wife for John Richards and John agreed. The proposal was then sent to Catherine who didn’t know what to do. She thought about leaving her mother and sister, Christina. The other siblings were married with families of their own and Catherine’s heart was heavy with the decision. I’m sure with encouragement and strong advice, Catherine, at the age of 38, accepted the proposal with happiness and sadness all at once. The couple was married on Thursday, January 25, 1849 in a small ceremony performed in the church of Salem among her family and friends.

Even though it was in the middle of winter, John was determined to get back to Indiana and his children. Now Catherine was going too. So, in March of 1849, they set out for western skies against the blustery winds of early spring. They crossed the Appalachian Mountains into Tennessee, crossed into Kentucky and discovered the open grasslands and warm sunshine. They finally arrived in Indiana and were counted among the 1850 census in Morgan County on September 10th. Catherine soon received a letter stating that her sister, Christina was married to Adam Butner(1811-1861) and was traveling to Indiana. Catherine was thrilled at the news and soon the sisters were celebrating life on the frontier for a short while. After an extended stay, Christina and Adam traveled further to Bartholomew County. They settled there, a distance of 70 miles from John and Catherine’s home.

Marriage of Christina Gibbins & Adam Butner

August of 1851 brought the arrival of a daughter, Joyce Fredricka Richards. Catherine was 41 years old when her daughter was born and John greeted her with joy. Joyce was baptized with the Moravian faith and life was busy and extremely happy in the little house. A few years later, John and Catherine removed themselves from the Moravian church. The reasons why for this action are unclear, but they are not associated with the Moravians after this time period. By 1860, the boys, Walter and Frances were on their own, traveling with new adventures while Catherine and daughter, Joyce were content on going to school and daily routines. Joyce would help to teach her mother how to read and write, a task that Catherine always wanted to accomplish. While Catherine would teach her daughter about herbs and their medicinal uses. These techniques were passed down to Catherine from her grandmother, Catherine Hein and her mother, Magdalena.

September of 1871 brought news from Salem, North Carolina. A letter arrived giving the news to Catherine about the death of her mother on the 16th. The 16th was also her mother’s birthday and she died early morning at the age of 87. She lived a long life filled with love and admiration from her family and friends. Magdalena Hein Gibbins is buried at the same cemetery as her husband thirty years before.

By 1876, Joyce had grown up into a beautiful woman and fell in love with William P Hobson. The wedding ceremony was held Thursday, June 22, 1876. I’m not sure what William Hobson was doing these first years of marriage, but he was away from home often. The couple lived not far from Catherine and John until 1878. John became ill and died soon after on August 14th, 1878. He is buried in Hamilton County, Indiana. Catherine mourned for him and once again her life was changing with a new chapter beginning. Joyce moved in with her mother at this time and was expecting a child in the coming months. William Hobson simply disappears during 1880 and no longer lives at the residence. Records have yet to reveal themselves if William died or if he and Joyce decided to end their marriage. But time keeps moving forward as the spring gives way to summer. Joyce gives birth to a girl during the early summer of 1880, naming her Carrie Hobson. Joyce has began her medical profession by this time as well, serving the community as an eclectic physician.

Selecting Herbs for Eclectic Physician Practice

The definition of an eclectic physician-one who practices botanical methods with herbs and physical therapy techniques. This practice was filled with botanical remedies that heightened during the late 1870’s to the mid 1880’s. This was part of Joyce’s legacy passed down from generation to generation.

1880 Census of Hamilton County, Indiana

After the birth of Carrie Hobson, Joyce and Catherine moved to Arkansas. They traveled the dusty roads to Clay County and a small community called Corning. Joyce supported her daughter and mother by providing medical services to the local community. The botanical method was at it’s peak during this time period and many people believed in using natural medicines. Joyce would travel all throughout Arkansas while Catherine cared for her grand-daughter, Carrie. Joyce met a man named John William Osborne in the spring of 1892. John was formerly from Kansas and settled in Clay County, Arkansas that year. The couple fell in love and were married on April 20, 1893. John was 53 and Joyce was now 41. Carrie was 13 at the time while Catherine was 83. Carrie and her grandmother were very close as they spent many days together while Joyce was working.

Marriage License of Joyce Hobson & John Osborne

Joyce maintained her state license in Arkansas while her new husband was making plans to move further west. As the spring of 1898 arrived, Catherine became ill and by July she was facing death. With her family around her on Wednesday, the 27th, Catherine closed her eyes for the last time. Grand-daughter, Carrie was with her. Now, 18, she had grown to a beautiful woman and mourned the loss of her grandmother for years to come. Joyce was devastated and thought about burying her mother in Indiana next to her father. But, she made plans to bury Catherine in the Corning Cemetery.

Corning Cemetery Clay County Arkansas

John Osborne insisted that the family continue with their plans on moving to California and during the spring of 1899, the family departed for western skies. Joyce recalled the memories of her mother when she left North Carolina during the spring of 1849, over 50 years earlier. Catherine often recalled the trip to Joyce, Carrie and anyone who would listen to the story. The wagon now was filled with a few of those precious items from long ago and new memories as they continued onward. They arrived in Fresno sometime during July and settled in. Joyce continued to practice and work while maintaining her state license in Arkansas. It seems she may have contemplated the idea of returning at some point. But Joyce and her family stayed in Fresno, California.

Physician License for Joyce Osborne in Arkansas

During the year of 1902, Carrie set her wedding date and soon she became the wife of John K Smiley. Carrie continued her education and became the assistant head librarian for many years at the Fresno Library. Joyce continued her practice until the year she died in 1939. Like her mother, Joyce had witnessed many events and many changes in her world. New technology had arrived at every corner and the wagons were no longer allowed on city streets in Fresno. Joyce is buried in Belmont Cemetery, Fresno County, California. A simple headstone marks her grave, but nothing there resembles the fascinating life she lived.

Headstone for Joyce Fredrica Richards Hobson Osborne

Catherine Gibbins Richards did not follow tradition when she named her daughter. The name Joyce derives from an English origin meaning lord and Fredricka originates from German meaning power and ruler. The name was very different from the naming patterns from within her family’s past and it certainly did not follow tradition with the Moravians. Nevertheless, Joyce embraced her name in more ways then one. She truly was a remarkable person by achieving skills that other women of the day would not attempt. With her mother’s help, Joyce provided for her family for years prior to marrying John Osborne. Her and Catherine both endured many storms along the way. This article is dedicated to them and their personal journey through the path of life.

Fresno California As It Appeared in 1939

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my 4th great Aunt Catherine Gibbins Richards and my 1st cousin, 5 times removed, Joyce Fredrica Richards Hobson Osborne. If you are connected to this family, please let me know. I have so many more details on Catherine and her relatives all through the years. My sources for this article are listed below. I hope each of you find the details of your ancestor’s lives and wish you well with your research.

Enjoy Your Journey !!


  • Friedland Moravian Church Graveyard Register Published 1989 no publisher listed or copyright-pages 14, 59, 72 and 97.
  • Southern Moravian Archives of Winston-Salem, NC notes dated 1990 in specific to Friedland and Salem during 1810 through 1849-card catalog manual search notebook 4 pages 14 thru 21
  • North Carolina State Archives Marriages of Stokes County notes dated 1990 manual search and copies
  • Hamilton County, Indiana census records of 1880-photo copies courtesy of microfilm #0435711
  • Clay County, Arkansas Register of Deeds-photo copies courtesy of microfilm#0752249
  • Fresno County, California Land Deeds, Census Records and Marriages-email correspondence dated 1991 and online search courtesy of 2019
  • Belmont Cemetery photo courtesy of Belmont Cemetery, Fresno County, California 2019
  • Fresno County photo courtesy of Diane Logan taken at railroad depot in 1939 (Joyce Osborne was living near the depot just prior to her death)
  • Small misc. sources and photos are personal property of Carol Fuller of Piedmont Trails
  • For more information about Eclectic Medicine, click the following links: History of Eclectic Medicine, Eclectic Medicine 1825-1939 and Llyod Library & Museum.

4 replies »

  1. Thanks for this story. William Gibbins, brother of Catherine Gibbins Richards, is my 3rd great-grandfather. Do you have any clues about the connection of John Christian Gibbins, my 4th great-grandfather, to Pennsylvania? I know there’s a lot of history about the Gibbins family in that state. But I don’t know how to connect the dots if John was indeed born there (which I’ve seen suggested without proof). Right now he’s a brick wall for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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