John Gibson was the second territorial governor of Indiana, depending on who's creating the list. Historians typically label Gibson as Indiana Territory's second governor, though he only ever was acting governor.
The Democratic-Republican served Sept. 17, 1812, to March 3, 1813. He was Indiana Territory's territorial secretary, 1800 to 1816, its entire existence.
Gibson took over as acting governor when Gov. William Henry Harrison left Indiana to fight in the War of 1812. During his brief period in office, Gibson oversaw the move of the territorial capital from Vincennes to Corydon. He also deployed militia to protect settlers from hostile Indians still smarting over their loss at the Battle of Tippecanoe.
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Gibson sometimes is credited as Indiana Territory's first governor because he got to Vincennes shortly after Indiana Territory was established in 1800, six months before Harrison, the appointed territorial governor, made it to the western outpost. During that time, Gibson conducted a census of Indiana Territory (4,875 free whites; 135 slaves), appointed officers for the territorial militia and selected county officials.
Gibson returned to his home state of Pennsylvania after Indiana achieved statehood in 1816. No authenticated portrait of Gibson is known to exist. The image with this article depicts Indiana Territory in 1812 during Gibson's tenure as acting governor.
Gibson, who was born May 23, 1740, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, lived in Vincennes. He was a soldier and a businessman in addition to his Indiana Territory duties. He died Apr. 10, 1822 (age 81) and was buried in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.