Biography of Hugh S. Gamble

Hugh S. Gamble, a prominent citizen and successful businessman from Yankton, South Dakota, is an honorable representative of an old and respected family. Born in Ireland, he inherited remarkable qualities of intelligence, keenness, and optimism. Despite facing serious impairment of his eyesight, he persevered and achieved remarkable success in business. Alongside his thriving career in real estate, insurance, and money lending, Gamble actively contributes to the development of his community. He serves on the board of trustees of Yankton College, is a dedicated member of the Congregational church, and has rendered valuable service to the Republican Party. With a loving family and an enduring spirit, Gamble’s life is a testament to resilience and dedication.

Hugh S Gamble
Hugh S Gamble

HUGH S. GAMBLE.— The family of which the subject of this review is an honorable representative is an old and respectable one, and the name is not only widely and familiarly known throughout South Dakota and other states, but has also become distinguished in the annals of the national government. Hugh S. Gamble, prominent citizen and representative businessman of Yankton, is a native of Ireland and inherits, to a marked degree, the intelligence, keen mental alertness, broad sympathies, and optimistic temperament for which the best class of his nationality has for centuries been noted. His father, Robert Gamble, was born in County Down, Ireland, July 5, 1812, grew to maturity in his native isle, and on reaching manhood’s estate engaged in the pursuit of agriculture, which calling he followed in Ireland until 1846. In that year, he brought his family to the United States and settled in Genesee County, New York, resumed farming, and made that part of the country his home until his removal, in 1862, to Dodge County, Wisconsin, where he spent the remainder of his life, dying there on June 1, 1893.

In many respects, Robert Gamble was much more than an ordinary man: intelligent far beyond the average and possessed of excellent judgment and superior business ability, he not only managed his affairs well and accumulated a comfortable fortune but made his presence felt among all with whom he associated. He was a zealous Congregationalist, exemplified his religion in his relations with the world, and always stood for what was correct in manhood and honorable in citizenship. In politics, his family presented a striking anomaly in that he was an earnest and uncompromising Democrat, while all his sons became equally zealous and determined in their allegiance to the Republican Party. Some ten or twelve years prior to his death, Mr. Gamble turned his farm and business affairs over to his son William and spent the remainder of his days in honorable retirement.

Jennie Abernethy, who became the wife of Robert Gamble, was born in County Down, Ireland, July 21, 1809, and departed this life at her home in Wisconsin on the 16th of November 1880. She bore her husband seven children, of whom the following survive: James, a resident of Fox Lake, Wisconsin; Hugh S., the subject of this sketch; Isabella, who married L. B. Bridgeman and lives in Vermillion, South Dakota; Hon. Robert J., United States senator from South Dakota and one of the state’s distinguished public men, whose biography will be found on another page of this volume; and Margaret, wife of S. C. McDowell, whose home is at Fox Lake, Wisconsin. Hon. John Gamble, one of the deceased members of the family, became prominent in the public affairs of South Dakota, and at the time of his death, August 14, 1891, was representing the Yankton district in the United States Congress. He was a leading Republican politician, a statesman of acknowledged ability, and bore a distinguished part in shaping the policy of his party and in contributing to its success. He was recognized as an influential factor in his adopted state, made an eminently creditable record in the honorable legislative body to which he was chosen, and in the private walks of life acquitted himself as an upright, conscientious man who consecrated his gifts to the benefit of his kind and made the world better for his presence. The mother of these children, Jennie (Abernethy) Gamble, was a woman of sterling qualities, generous and self-sacrificing under all conditions and circumstances. Her education was superior to that of most of those who had superior advantages to hers. She was from childhood a Christian of pronounced character. She was an active member of the Presbyterian church in her native land, but not finding a church of that denomination in the locality where they located in the United States, she placed her membership in the Congregational church, with which she remained affiliated until her death. Though true to her membership in this church, she was a broad-minded Christian whose noble actions sprang from a pure and unselfish heart and extended far beyond the limits of dogmas. The impress left by her on her immediate family was notably marked. The leading characteristics of her offspring have ever been marked by the true nobility of character, intellectuality, and Christian lives they have ever led.

Hugh S. Gamble was born June 26, 1843, in County Down, Ireland, and spent his childhood in close touch with nature, amid the quiet scenes and wholesome discipline of the home farm in New York state, the family having removed to this country when he was about three years old. Industry and thrift appear to have been the characteristics of the family, and the subject’s early training was such as to foster correct habits and lead him while still young to lay his plans for his future. At the proper age, he entered the public schools near his New York home, where he received the major part of his educational training, but owing to serious impairment of his eyesight, he was obliged, greatly to his regret, to discontinue his studies when about ready to enter upon a college course. This affliction, which came upon him in early life, proved not only a source of much suffering and bodily distress but also interfered very materially with his future course of action as it prevented him from carrying to successful issue many cherished plans and served to blast hopes as dear almost as life itself. Notwithstanding his ailment and the many sacrifices he was compelled to make in consequence thereof, he did not become misanthropic but continued ever to look on the bright side of things and make the most of his opportunities. Actuated by a spirit of beautiful and lofty optimism, he bent all his energies in the direction of self-improvement, prepared himself for life’s practical duties, and coming to Wisconsin when a lad of nineteen years, found in that state opportunities for advancement such as could not have been obtained in the land of his nativity.

In 1872, Mr. Gamble associated himself in the lumber business with his brother James, and during the ensuing eleven years, the firm thus constituted operated quite extensively in Monroe County, Wisconsin, also in various other parts of the state, and met with encouraging financial success from their undertaking. Dissolving the partnership in 1883, the subject came to Yankton, South Dakota, with the interests of which growing city he has since been quite actively identified and to the material growth and prosperity of which he has greatly contributed. Since locating at Yankton, Mr. Gamble has devoted his attention to real estate, insurance, and loaning money, in all of which lines he has built up a large and lucrative business and won a prominent standing among the city’s enterprising and successful men of affairs. In addition to extensive and steadily growing interests, he has extended his operations over a large part of the state and now numbers among his patrons men in nearly every well-settled county of the commonwealth.

While zealous in the prosecution of his business affairs and financially successful far beyond the majority of his contemporaries, Mr. Gamble has not been unmindful of his duties to the public as a citizen. As indicated above, he has encouraged all legitimate agencies for the development of the city’s commercial, industrial, and general material interests, lends his influence to enterprises for the intellectual and moral welfare of the community, and wholeheartedly co-operates in any undertaking that promises good to his fellow man. He is a friend of education and has been serving on the board of trustees of Yankton College for twelve years. Mr. Gamble is a communicant of the Congregational church and has been one of the trustees of the congregation worshiping in Yankton. As mentioned earlier, he is a zealous Republican and has rendered valuable service to his party. His involvement in politics is not driven by personal motives or an ambition for public or official honors, but rather by a deep-seated faith in the principles of the Republican Party.

Considering the great disadvantages he faced and the inconveniences caused by his impaired vision, Mr. Gamble’s success in business and other endeavors has been remarkable, to say the least. From 1861 to 1872, his eyesight was so painful that he could not be in places with bright light, thus confining him indoors for eleven long years. Denied the privilege of reading, it is both strange and admirable that he did not despair or become pessimistic due to his condition. Like the apostle Paul, however, he was able to endure his affliction. Despite the suffering and inconvenience it caused, his impairment likely served as a discipline that taught him the sweet lesson of patience and how to gracefully accept the mysterious workings of providence over which humans have no control.

Mr. Gamble entered married life in 1880 when he was united in marriage with Miss Eva Weed from Fox Lake, Wisconsin. They have a beautiful home and a charming family circle, which currently consists of themselves and four children. Unfortunately, one of their daughters, Margaret, has passed away. The surviving children are Jennie, Hugh S. Jr., Edith, and James W. All of them are students, with the older ones pursuing their studies at Yankton College and the younger ones attending public schools in the city. Mrs. Gamble, born on April 2, 1852, in Ticonderoga, western New York, accompanied her parents when they moved to Fox Lake, Wisconsin, at the age of three. She received her education in the public schools of Fox Lake and graduated from the female seminary in the same town. She has been a member of the Congregational church since her early life and has actively participated in all church work since reaching adulthood. Mrs. Gamble is highly regarded for her character and is greatly loved and respected by all the good people within her circle of acquaintances.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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