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120 years of the Giffords

One of Vero’s earliest pioneer families is still giving back to the city it helped create

Fannie Penny, the teacher at the school in the Oslo settlement, married F.C. Gifford in 1900. Fannie was a native of Canaveral, Florida, the daughter of a ship’s captain who traveled the world and chose Florida as his home.

Fannie Penny, the teacher at the school in the Oslo settlement, married F.C. Gifford in 1900. Fannie was a native of Canaveral, Florida, the daughter of a ship’s captain who traveled the world and chose Florida as his home.

In honor of our 20-year anniversary, we’ve pulled 12 favorite stories from our archives to share with you each month. This one remembering the Gifford family appeared in our March 2008 issue. —Editor

Anyone who is casually acquainted with the history of Indian River County is familiar with the Gifford name. Even our newest residents are aware of the Cox-Gifford-Seawinds Funeral Home and of the town of Gifford to the north of Vero Beach. In our area and beyond, the Gifford name is associated with service to the community and a pioneer spirit. The reputation is well-deserved, for the story of the Gifford family is a fascinating one.

It was William Gifford who first brought the family to the American colonies in 1647 when he sailed from England and settled in Massachusetts. Several generations later, in 1792, John Gifford and his wife Cynthia Kimball traveled on horseback from their home in Connecticut to Randolph, Vermont, where they settled on a spot that has forever after been known as Gifford Hill. Among their nine children was a son named Friend Gifford, who was born in 1802. His unusual name was to lend itself to one of Vero’s most prominent citizens.

In 1827, Friend Gifford married Armida Smith and the couple produced five children, among them sons John, Horace and Henry. Their grandson John Pearl Gifford, born in 1871, graduated from Dartmouth College Medical School and became a surgeon. So distinguished was his medical career that the hospital in Randolph is to this day named Gifford Medical Center. John Pearl’s grand-nephew and namesake was to become the first native of Vero Beach to earn a medical degree.

It was Friend and Armida Gifford’s son Henry (“H.T.”) who introduced the family to Florida. He had married Sarah Jane Woodworth and was serving as sheriff and selectman (a New England term for a city council member) in Royalton, Vermont, in 1887 when he was advised by his doctor that a warmer climate would benefit his health. Leaving his wife and younger children at home, H.T. set out on a trip to Florida with his 20-year-old daughter Nettie Mae.