Researching obscure 19th Century Baseball Clubs has become somewhat of an addiction and the Leisure of Philadelphia has proved to be one tough cookie.
Not a single box score to be found while scouring the old reliable ‘Clipper’.
With only a photograph and a bunch of names on a newspaper clipping, I began the not-so leisurely research adventure that you’re about to read.
Levis M. Gibson was the Club Captain. He is the guy you see on the right wearing the Leisures uniform and from now on, the focal character of this post.
Wait, Club Captain?
Yes. According to the March 9, 1867 edition of the Clipper, the Leisures held a meeting where Gibson was elected for that role.
Gibson and eleven others, were also elected to occupy administrative positions on the Club.
Frederick Gerlach, a Philadelphia Tobacconist, and J. Bates were the Club delegates at the Tenth Annual NABBP Convention held in New York on December 12, 1866.
Levis, misspelled Louis in the notice, was also elected to be part of the Club’s Investigating Committee.
Levis Matlack Gibson was born in Philadelphia in 1844, the youngest of four children from the relation of Joseph Kemp Gibson and Catharine Sheppard.
By 1850, the Gibson’s were living in Deptford, New Jersey where Joseph worked as a Shoe Maker with the help of his 15 year old son Franklin.
Joseph Gibson died in 1858, leaving Catharine in charge of young Levis.
1860 Census records show that he was still attending school in New Jersey while her mother and sister Emma were working as seamstresses. The total value of the Gibson’s state at the time was $200 with no owned Real Estate.
And then came the Civil War…
Levis, now a 17 year old, enrolled with the 6th NJ Infantry Regiment, Company I on September 10, 1861.
Private Gibson was discharged on May 31, 1862 at Budd’s Ferry, Maryland on the account of disability.
During that period, the 6th NJ Infantry Regiment took part in fierce engagements like the Siege of Yorktown and the Battle of Williamsburg.
Less than 3 months had passed and Levis was again wearing an Union uniform, this time with the 3rd New Jersey Infantry Volunteers. On the account of disability, he was discharged on February 25, 1863 at Convalescent Camp in Alexandria, Virginia.
From August 27, 1862 until Levis’ discharge, the 3rd NJ Infantry Regiment took part in the following battles, all of them between Maryland and Virginia: Manassas, Chantilly, Crampton’s Pass, Antietam and Fredericksburg.
Treasury vouchers confirm that his payments between 1861 and 1863 were collected by his widowed mother.
The winter of 1864 arrived and Gibson found himself, yet again, enrolled, this time with the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment (160th PA Volunteers).
On June 16, he deserted from Camp Cadwalader, only to be apprehended eleven days later and restored to duty with loss of pay and allowances.
The now 21 year old Gibson was mustered out with Company A of the 160th PA on July 18, 1865.
Even though this Regiment only participated in minor skirmishes in the South, it helped pursue Confederate President Jefferson Davis!
Thanks to his Civil War Veteran card file, the distinctive features shown in the photograph can be confirmed. Levis was the same 5’6″ skinny blue-eyed guy with brownish hair that approximately two years later posed for photographer George H. Williams at his 910 Market Street studio in Philadelphia.
Gibson married Catharine Anne in Philadelphia on March 26, 1868.
A year later, their first child, Joseph Kemp, died 6 days after being born.
In 1870, Levis was working as a store clerk, living with wife Catharine and taking care of his 59 year old mother, just like he did while supporting her during war time.
On September 15, 1870, Levis Frederick Gibson, the couple’s second child was born. He went on to become a Telegraph Operator in New Jersey.
A third child, William Ramsay, was born on March 20, 1873.
Levis Matlack Gibson died of Phthisis Pulmonalis (Tuberculosis) almost 3 years later, on January 14, 1876. He was 32.
Originally laid to rest in Philadelphia’s Machpelah Cemetery, his remains were transferred to Graceland (North Mount Moriah) Cemetery when Machpelah Cemetery was closed by local authorities in 1895.
Even though Graceland Cemetery has been abandoned for years and most of the gravestones have disappeared, a cemetery volunteer has seen Levis’ marker still standing and has promised to take some pictures, which hopefully will be added to this post in the near future.
Ok, if you’re still here for more on the Leisure B.B.C. and didn’t click away yourself with all the War, Tuberculosis and Cemetery talk, there’s some good news and some bad news…
Good news is that I was able to find another mention on the Leisures, this time involving their President Louis C. Zornow.
Bad news is that it was on an obit published on the May 7, 1867 edition of the Philadelphia Public Ledger.
ZORNOW – On Saturday, 4th instant, LOUIS C. ZORNOW, son of Mrs. Josephine Zornow, in the 23d year of his age. The relatives and friends of the family, also the Adelphi Lodge, No. 22, I. O. of O. F.; the Leisure B. B. C.; the members of Fairmount Engine Company, and the members of the 95th Regt. P. V., are respectfully invited to attend the funeral, from the residence of his mother, 416 North Eleventh street, this afternoon, May 7, from 2 to 3 o’clock.
The 23 year old President of the Leisures had died, just two months after the Club’s election meeting.
Cause of death: Consumption, also known as Tuberculosis.
Did the passing of Zornow cause the disbandment of the Leisures?
Not many (if any) matches must have been played that early into the 1867 season. The lack of any mentions about the Club after that date, makes me believe that with Zornow’s death, the Leisures just faded away.
But what about the rest of the Club members?
Not a single link to Baseball or the Leisure Club, although I could go on for another 1000-word post with more Civil War and genealogical information, but I bet you won’t be coming back for more.
Oh, by the way, the title of this post is an homage to one of my favorite PC games from the late 1980s.