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Gambel Family Papers

Identifier: Coll-311

This collection contains family reminiscences and letters, expense ledgers, marriage certificates, and a few business documents. The primary content consists of letters exchanged between the three brothers, William, Thomas, and David dating between 1839 and 1877.


  • 1808-1993
  • Majority of material found within 1840-1877


Condition Description

Letters are brittle and inks are seeping through. Iron gall ink is fading or causing erosion.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.


2.50 Linear Feet


These papers provide a glimpse into the lives of three brothers born during the early decades of the 19th century.

Biographical / Historical

William Gambel (1808-1877) was born in Ireland to parents Thomas Buchanan and Margaret Gambel. After emigrating to North America, Thomas Sr. took up “shipping”, but was impressed into English naval service prior to the war of 1812. After Thomas Sr. was discharged from the English Navy, he joined his family in Baltimore, Maryland. William’s brothers Thomas (b. 1818) and David (1825-1874) were born in Baltimore. While in Cincinnati William joined a company of volunteers destined for Texas by way of New Orleans. He served as a lieutenant in the Texas Revolution and later settled in San Patricio County, Texas and was appointed county judge. David Reed Gambel authored letters from New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Austin, San Antonio, and Live Oak; it appears that he moved to Texas in the 1850s. David fought in the Civil War as a Confederate soldier and later made a living as a house and portrait painter. He created a picture titled “The Defense of Corpus Christi” about the bombardment of Corpus Christi during the Civil War for an acquaintance who later gave it to the Blucher family. The picture is now housed in the Charles F. H. von Blucher collection in this archive. The second-born son, Thomas, remained in his birthplace of Baltimore where he served as a policeman and was made an honorary member of the Independent Greys. Thomas had four children:William D. (b. 1847), Sarah K. (b. 1858), George (b. 1861), and Thomas B. (b. 1849 ?). Ruth Dodson authored an account of William and David Gambel, which was published in the Frontier Times.


Organized into three series: Series I: Biographical Records, Series II: Correspondence, Series III: Artifacts

A niece, Sallie, grouped various letters together and wrote summaries of the letters on a corresponding envelope. The summaries were not consistently accurate and did not always reflect the contents of the letters with which they were stored, but each envelope has been filed with one of the letters to which the envelope refers in order to preserve a sense of Sallie's organization. The letters have been separated according to author and arranged chronologically.

Geauga County Public Library created two transcripts for William’s autobiography and his letter announcing David’s death. They have been filed next to the original documents.

Condition Description

Letters are brittle and inks are seeping through. Iron gall ink is fading or causing erosion.

Guide to Gambel Family papers
Amanda King
May 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Repository

6300 Ocean Dr.
Unit 5702
Corpus Christi TX 78412 United States
361-825-5973 (Fax)