‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Actress Descended from Leader in Underground Railroad

Harriet MacGibbon 1928 and 1962

Harriet E. MacGibbon as a stage actress in 1928 and later as Mrs. Drysdale in 1962. Her great-grandfather, Dr. Elizur Deming, was an Indiana abolitionist.

By James Pylant
Copyright © 2006, 2017—All rights reserved
Do not post or publish without written permission

“Those dreadful hillbillies!”

Mrs. Drysdale, the haughty, snobbish wife of banker Milburn Drysdale often complained of her neighbors, the Clampetts, on the 1960s television series, The Beverly Hillbillies, warning her husband “not to mingle with them until I’ve had a genealogical check run.” 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 descended from a noted New England family, lived in Beverly Hills, and a maid served her family, who had mention in the “Blue Book.” In true Drysdale fashion, the actress’s wedding announcement name-dropped her prominent great-grandfather. In fact, that ancestor played a vital role in bringing freedom to the enslaved more than a decade before the Emancipation Proclamation.

Harriet E. MacGibbon’s 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), an art historian and expert on French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin.1 Her second marriage came in 1942 in San Francisco to Yale graduate Charles Corwin White II. “The bride is the daughter of the late Dr. Walter P. MacGibbon of New York and a great-granddaughter of Dr. Elisha Deming [sic] of Indiana,” read an announcement of the privately held ceremony.2 He died 25 December 1967 during her years on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962—1969).

The spelling of MacGibbon was something of a theatrical affectation, for the actress’s family spelled their surname McGibbon. Harriet Elizabeth McGibbon was born on 5 October 1905 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, and died on 8 February 1987 in Los Angeles, California.3 After attending a dramatic school, she went to New York where she tried convincing theatrical agents that she could play any role given to her. “They didn’t believe me then,” she recalled. Finally, she was given a part in Beggar on Horseback and toured in many large cities in the East including Boston.4

The 1910 federal census listed Harriet E. McGibbon, age four (born in Illinois), in the Chicago household of her parents, 38-year-old Walter P. McGibbon, “Physician & Surgeon,” a New Yorker by birth, and his wife of nine years, Gertrude, age 44, an Indianan. Mrs. McGibbon, according to the enumeration, was the mother of one child. Living with the family were two boarders: Forrest A. McGibbon, a 30-year-old store worker, and Malcolm McGibbon, a 22-year-old advertising solicitor. The McGibbon boarders were both New Yorkers. The family’s Swedish servant is also shown in the household. Two years later, the Chicago Blue Book reported that Dr. Walter P. McGibbon resided at 5539 Madison Avenue.

A decade earlier, Walter McGibbon, physician, is found on the 1900 census in Chicago, boarding in the Holland Hotel in Hyde Park. Single and 28 years old, his birth is given as April of 1874, and New York is his birthplace and that of both parents. Meanwhile, future wife Gertrude L. Crary was living in Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana. The month and year of her birth was given in the census as December 1864; however, her age was incorrectly listed as 25.5 On 28 November 1900, Dr. McGibbon and Gertrude Crary were married in Tippecanoe County,6 two years after his graduation 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.

Gertrude L. Crary, who would become Harriet MacGibbon’s mother, was born on 1 December 1863 in Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, to Giles Frank Crary and Ann Elizabeth Deming.7 She died in the same place on 28 January 1919.8 Her parents were married in Tippecanoe County on 20 November 1861.9

Ann Elizabeth Deming was born in Lafayette on 1 February 1842 to Dr. Elizur Deming and his wife, Hester. She died in Lafayette on 27 November 1895.10

Dr. Elizur Deming (pictured), the son of Elijah Deming and Phebe Ruland, was born on 4 March 1798 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.12 On 7 July 1818 he married Hester Carpenter in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.13 The physician brought his family to Indiana in 1830,14 and began his medical practice in Milford and Chillicothe before moving to Lafayette four years later. Deming was often overtaxed, especially during the cholera epidemic of 1832, when he had little rest.15 At the founding of the Indiana Medical College at La Porte, he accepted the chair of Materia Medica. In 1841 Dr. Deming was elected to the state legislature—the only public office he held due to voicing his controversial anti-slavery beliefs.16 According to family historian Judson Keith Deming, the physician-turned-lawmaker became a strong Abolitionist and assisted runaway slaves.17 His name is recognized by the Ohio Historical Society as a “leading Underground Railroad agent.”18 In 1852 Dr. Deming was appointed professor of general pathology and clinical medicine at the State University of Missouri.19 He died on 23 February 1855 in Lafayette.20

The McGibbons

Born in Cannonsville, Delaware County, New York,21 to Forrest Laing McGibbon and the former Harriet Rose McLaury on 9 April 1872,22 Dr. Walter Peter McGibbon took pride in his Scottish ancestry. In a biographical sketch, he provided the publishers with details of his family background:23 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.24

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 33, was a farmer. His wife Harriet, age 34, are shown with five children: Cora, 14; Milton, 10; Walter, seven; Jennie, 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 76-year-old Scotsman named Henry Ralph.25

A decade earlier, the newly-wedded Forrest and Harriet lived in the home of his father, a prosperous farmer. Walter McGibbon, 49, held $10,000 in real estate and $3,000 in personal property. The household included Nancy B., 53; Forrest L., 23, a farmer; Harriet B., 24, keeping house; Cora, four, “at home,” and Walter Ralph, 12, attending school; Saphrona Moore, 24, a domestic, and Chs. S. Hathaway, age fourteen, “at home.” All were New York natives.26

Forrest Laing McGibbon 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.27

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.28

In 1880, Gertrude, age 16, and Frank, age 13, appear in the household of G. F McCrary, a 50-old dry goods merchant and New York native.  His wife, Annie, 37, 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 25-year-old maid made her home with the family.29


  1. “Kane Services to be Tuesday,” Omaha World-Herald, 4 April 1977, p. 28.
  2. “The Wedding of Harriet MacGibbon,” San Francisco Chronicle, Sun., 17 May 1942, p. 35, which states her full name was Harriet Elizabeth MacGibbon.
  3. Harriet MacGibbon-Kane entry, line 7, List of United States citizens, S. S. Borinquen, sailing from New York, N.Y., February 7th, 1935, arriving at Port of San Juan, P.R. February 11, 1935, “Puerto Rico, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1901—1962,” online database with images (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 April 2016), listing her birth as occurring in Chicago, Illinois, on 6 October 1905. In an interview in “Plays and Pictures,” The Boston Herald, 27 May 1928, Harriet MacGibbon stated that she was born in Chicago. Harriet MacGibbon memorial, no. 6325, online database with images (www.findagrave.com : accessed 6 April 2016), includes a photograph of a mausoleum marker which states: “Harriet M. White, Oct. 5, 1905—Feb. 8, 1987.” Harriet MacGibbon White entry, “California, Death Index, 1940—1997,” gives the same vital dates, Illinois as birthplace, and Los Angeles as place of death. “Macgibbon” is listed for the father’s surname and Crary for mother’s maiden name.
  4. The Boston Herald, 27 May 1928.
  5. This garbled entry gives her age as 25, yet records her birth in Indiana has having occurred in December 1864 (making her 35). Rather than being the head of a household, Gertrude was probably a resident of the Stockton House, as shown for her Frank Crary on the same page. He was born in May of 1865, also in Indiana. Both were born in Indiana to a New Yorker father and an Indianan mother.
  6. “Indiana Marriages, 1780-1992,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XFJP-2Z9 : accessed 5 April 2016), Walter P. Mcgibbon and Gertrude L. Crary, 28 Nov 1900; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 872,058.
  7. Gertrude Crary entry, “Births and Baptisms from the Register of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1837—1898, Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, A—E,” online database (www.rootsweb.com/~intippec/StJBirthA_E.thm : accessed 7 June 2006), listed her parents as Giles F. and Annie B. or E. Crary.
  8. Gertrude Carry Mcgibbon [sic] entry, “Indiana Death Index, 1882—1920,” online database, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 6 April 2016), citing City, Indiana, City Health Office, Lafayette. The source of this record is the book CH-11L on page 19 within the series produced by the Indiana Works Progress Administration., Indiana Words Projects Administration. Also, Gertrude Crary McGibbon memorial, no. 56,808,569, online database with images (www.findagrave.com : accessed 6 April 2016), includes a photograph of her grave maker in Spring Vale Cemetery (Lafayette, Indiana) with the inscription: “GERTRUDE C. MCGIBBON, 1863—1919.”
  9. “Indiana Marriages, 1780-1992,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XFJN-TPN : accessed 5 April 2016), Giles F. Crary and Anna E. Deming, 20 November 1861; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 872,052.
  10. Judson Keith Deming, Genealogy of the Descendants of John Deming of Wethersfield, Connecticut (Dubuque, Iowa: Mathis-Mets Co., 1904), p. 300, states “Anna Elizabeth Deming, b. 17 Feb. 1842; m. 22 Nov. 1861 Giles Frank Crary, and d. 27 Nov. 1895 in Lafayette, Ind.”
  11. Ibid., p. 166.
  12. Ibid., p. 299.
  13. [Anonymous], Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe County, Indiana (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1888), p. 652.
  14. Deming, Genealogy of the Descendants of John Deming of Weathersfield, Connecticut, p. 299.
  15. Ibid., p. 299.
  16. Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe County, Indiana, p. 652.
  17. Deming, Genealogy of the Descendants of John Deming of Weathersfield, Connecticut, p. 299.
  18. Elizur Deming portrait description, item no. OHS: AL03009.tif, OhioPix, online database with images (ohsweb.ohiohistory.org : accessed 6 April 2016).
  19. [Anonymous], Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe County, Indiana (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1888), p. 652.
  20. New Albany Daily Ledger (New Albany, Indiana), Tues., 27 February 1855, states: “Dr. Elizur Deming, an old and well known citizen of Lafayette, and a prominent member of the masonic fraternity, died in that city on the 23d inst.”
  21. Walter P. McGibbon entry, History of Homeopathy Biographies, online http://www.homeoint.org/history/bio/m/mcgibbonwp.htm, downloaded 24 May 2006.
  22. Charles C. McClaughry, Genealogy of the Mac Claughry Family: A Socto-Irish Family Originally From Galloway, Scotland, Appearing in Ireland about 1600, and Emigrants to New York in 1765 (Anamosa, Iowa?: no publisher, ca. 1913), p. 181.
  23. History of Homeopathy Biographies, online (http://www.homeoint.org/history/bio/m/mcgibbonwp.htm).
  24. Walter Peter McGibbon entry, Scots and Scots Descendants, online (http://www.chicago-scots.org/clubs/History/Names-McD-Mu.htm), downloaded 24 May 2006.
  25. Forrest McGibbon household, 1880 U.S. census, Delaware County, New York, Tompkins, ED 82, SD 4, p. 413A, dwelling 90, family 92; NA microfilm T9-0823.
  26. Walter McGibbon household, 1870 U. S. census, Delaware County, New York, Tompkins, p. 466, dwelling 20, family 19; NA microfilm M593-924.
  27. McClaughry, Genealogy of the Mac Claughry Family: A Socto-Irish Family Originally From Galloway, Scotland, Appearing in Ireland about 1600, and Emigrants to New York in 1765, p. 181.
  28. Ibid., pp. 119-120.
  29. Gertrude Crary household, 1900 U.S. census, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, Lafayette, ED 101, SD 10, sheet 14B, p. 128, dwelling 318, family 341; NA microfilm T623-405.