Col. Robert Howard Gamble (1815-1887)

Portrait: oil on canvas; artist unknown. Collection of Anne Selden Yellott, Harrisburg, Pa. (the subject's great-great granddaughter.)


Col. Robert Howard Gamble (#4) was born in Grove Hill, Bottetourt County, Virginia in 1815. His father was Robert Gamble, (#3) son of Captain Robert Gamble (#2) of Revolutionary War fame; his mother was General James Breckenridge's "accomplished and beautiful" daughter Letitia (who spurned the heavy-handed overtures of Captain Meriwether Lewis, and married instead Robert Gamble). Captain Robert Gamble in turn was the son of Robert Gamble (#1) who came from Londonderry to America in 1735 and settled in Augusta County, Va.

In 1826 Robert Gamble (#3) brought his family to Florida in 1826, and there established the Welaunee plantation in Jefferson County, Florida. Next door was his brother John Grattan Gamble's Waukeenah plantation. There is another Robert Gamble (#3.1) (son of John Grattan Gamble; the pictured Robert Gamble's first cousin) who established a sugar plantation on the Mantee River, famous as the postwar refuge of Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of the Confederacy. That house is now part of a public park. (cf.

The depicted Col. Robert H. Gamble (#4) starting at about age 18, assisted his father in managing the family cotton plantation at Welaunee. As well as farming he was an active investor promoting Florida's growth, and was instrumental in building the first railroad in Leon County as well as the railroad from Tallahassee to Jacksonville now part of the S.A.L. system.

In politics Robert H. Gamble was a Whig until the Whigs merged with the Democrats after the Civil War. He opposed secession but sided with his native state when the time came, and fought as Captain of Gamble's Artillery at the Battle of Olustee. After the war he was commissioned Comptroller of the state in 1868. He subsequently declined the offer of the candidacy for governor.

"But it is for Col. Gamble's services in the Reconstruction period which followed the war and so sorely tried the hearts of our people that Florida owes him her greatest debt of gratitude," reports a paper on the Gambles in the Florida Historical Society. According to oral tradition in the Gamble family, at one point Yankee carpetbaggers invaded Gamble's office intending to loot the Florida state bearer bonds. Gamble held them off at pistol point.

Robert Gamble's first marriage was to Miss Martha Chaire, by whom he had four children, one of whom was Robert Grattan Gamble (#5), who was in turn Lt. Robert Gamble's (#6) father. His second wife was his cousin Angelica Wirt Robinson of Baltimore (they married in 1871). The Gambles were members of St. John's Church in Tallahassee; they supported the founding of the Tallahassee public library, and she founded the Florida Chapter of the Colonial Dames.

Robert H. Gamble (#4) died in 1887 and is buried in Tallahassee.