The Scottish-American Roots of
Harriet MacGibbon (“Mrs. Drysdale”)
By James Pylant
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"Those dreadful hillbillies!"
Mrs. Drysdale, the haughty, snobbish wife of banker Milburn Drysdale often complained of her neighbors on the popular television series, “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The blue-blooded Bostonian Margaret Farquhar Drysdale was portrayed to perfection by veteran stage actress Harriet E. MacGibbon. Not unlike Mrs. Drysdale, Harriet MacGibbon’s maiden name was Scottish, she lived in Beverly Hills, and a maid served her socially prominent family, who had mention in the "Blue Book."
The spelling of MacGibbon was something of a theatrical affectation, for the actress’s family spelled their surname McGibbon. Harriet E. McGibbon was born in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, to Dr. Walter Peter McGibbon and the former Gertrude L. Crary.1 The 1910 Census shows thirty-eight year-old Walter P. McGibbon, "Physician & Surgeon," was a New Yorker by birth. He and wife, Gertrude, age forty-four, an Illinois native, and daughter Harriet E., age four, born in Illinois, living in Chicago. The McGibbons had been married nine years, and Mrs. McGibbon was the mother of one child. Living with the family were two boarders: Forrest A. McGibbon, age thirty, a store worker, and Malcolm McGibbon, age twenty-two, an advertising solicitor. The McGibbon boarders were both New York natives. The family’s twenty-five year-old Swedish-born servant, Evelynn M. Nelson, is also shown in the household.2 Two years later, the Chicago Blue Book reports that Dr. Walter P. McGibbon resided at 5539 Madison Avenue.3
Walter McGibbon, physician, is found on the 1900 Census in Chicago, boarding in the Holland Hotel in Hyde Park. He was twenty-eight years-old and single. His birth is given as April of 1874, and New York is his birthplace, and that of both parents.4 That same year he married Gertrude L. Crary of Lafayette, Indiana, two years after graduated from Hahneman Medical College and Hospital of Chicago, with a degree as a medical doctor. McGibbon came to Chicago in 1895 after spending two years at Princeton, studying comparative anatomy. The a son of Forrest Laing McGibbon and the former Harriet Rose McLaury, he was born in Cannonsville, Delaware County, New York,5 on 9 April 1872.6
Harriet MacGibbon’s father seems to have taken pride in his Scottish ancestry. In a biographical sketch, he provided the publishers with details of his family background:7
His paternal great-grandparents, of clan Buchanan, came from Glasgow, Scotland, to America. In the maternal line he also is of Scotch descent but his more immediate ancestors came from parish Cloubrouey, County Longford, Ireland.
Dr. McGibbon, once an attending physician at Cook County Hospital, specialized in diseases of the ear, nose and throat. He was a member of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.8
The 1880 census shows Walter McGibbon, as well as his brothers Forrest and Milton (both of whom boarded with Walter and Gertrude in 1910), in the household of their father, Forrest McGibbon, in Tompkins, Delaware County, New York. The senior Forrest McGibbon, age thirty-three, was a farmer. His wife Harriet, age thirty-four, are shown with five children: Cora, age fourteen; Milton, age ten; Walter, age seven; Jennie, age three; and four month-old Forrest. The three oldest children were "at school." All of the members of the household were native New Yorkers, except for a seventy-six year-old Scotsman named Henry Ralph.9
A decade earlier, the newly-wedded Forrest and Harriet lived in the home of his father, a prosperous farmer. Walter McGibbon, age forty-nine, held $10,000 in real estate and $3,000 in personal property. The household included Nancy B., age fifty-three; Forrest L., age twenty-three, a farmer; Harriet B., age twenty-four, keeping house; Cora, age four, "at home," and Walter Ralph, age twelve, attending school; Saphrona Moore, age twenty-four, a domestic, and Chs. S. Hathaway, age fourteen, "at home." All were New York natives.10
Forrest Laing MacGibbon and Harriet Rose McLaury the paternal grandparents of actress Harriet MacGibbon had married on 1 September 1869, at Liberty, New York. He was born on 27 November 1846 in Cannonsville and died in June of 1892. His parents (as shown in the 1870 census) were Walter Peter McGibbon and the former Nancy Brice Russell. Harriet Rose McLaury was born on 19 March 1845 in Monticello, Sullivan County, New York, to Joseph Hamilton McLaury and the former Jane Hannah McClaughry.11
Joseph Hamilton McClaughry was born 3 August 1810 in Kortright, Delaware County, New York, and died on 26 August 1895 at Monticello, Sullivan County. His parents were John Reid McClaughry and the former Margery Rose. He and Jane Hannah McClaughry were married 12 March 1834. She was born 30 May 1810 at Kortright, to John Burrhus McClaughry and Mary Hannah.12
Gertrude L. (Crary) McGibbon Harriet MacGibbon’s mother was living at Stockton House, in Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, at the time of the 1900 census. Employed as a domestic, she was born in December of 1864 in Indiana to a New York father and an Indiana mother. Her age is given as twenty-five, rather than thirty-five.13 Also living at Stockton House was Frank Crary, age thirty-five (born in May of 1865, also in Indiana). His parents’ place of birth is identical to that of Gertrude.14
In 1880, Gertrude, age sixteen, and Frank, age thirteen, appear in the household of G. F McCrary, a fifty-year-old dry goods merchant and New York native. His wife, Annie, age thirty-seven, keeping house, was born in Indiana to a Massachusetts father and a Pennsylvania mother. Children Gertrude, Frank and Judson Crary (age three) were Indiana natives. A domestic servant, Elsila Vaughn, age twenty-five, born in Maryland made her home with the family.15
Harriet E. MacGibbon acting career started after leaving Knox School in Cooperstown, New York. Although she was preparing to attend Vasser, Harriet opted to study at New York City’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts. At age nineteen, she began her long-running stage career on Broadway. She was married twice. Her first marriage to William R. Kane, from whom she was later divorced, produced one child, William MacGibbon Kane (born 2 February 1933 and died 2 April 1977). Her second husband was Charles Corwin White, II. He died 25 December 1967,16 amidst her years on "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1962-1969). She died at age eighty-one in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, California on 8 February 1987.17