Dateline: 22 June 2007
Last year I blogged here about my great, great, maternal grandmother Josephine Jordan and her 1892 diary. Something amazing happened as a result. Descendents of Josephine Jordan, cousins I never knew, contacted me. But it was not just hearing from these long lost kin that was so special. The most remarkable thing was the story they told of God’s influence in our family. It was a clear answer to the prayers of Grandma Josephine, as expressed in her diary.
With that whole series of events in mind, I’m pleased to tell you that, once again, I’ve heard from another relative that I never knew existed, and I am being blessed by the experience.
My newfound relative is from my father’s side. The Kimball side. It so happens that we are second cousins, once removed. My great grandfather Leverett Gaylon Kimball was a brother of my newly discovered cousin’s grandfather, Franklin Tyler Kimball.
To preface what follows, I need to tell you that my Kimball family history has never been very clear to me. I know and recall many family members from my mother’s side of the family, and from my grandmother Kimball’s side (the Towles), but the Kimball side is a different story. It has been pretty much a mystery. But that is no longer the case.
My cousin, who happens to live in Canada, informed me that “Richard Kimball is our common ancestor who was born in MA in 1764 and who came to New Brunswick c.1770 with his family and settled in the area near Fredericton, N.B. where his descendants remained until some moved up the St. John river to Carleton County for a couple of generations and then eventually back into the States c.1890.”
I am named after my grandfather, Dr. Herrick C. Kimball. My grandfather died when I was eight years old so my recollections of him are murky and that is too bad. I would love to have known my grandfather Kimball better because, from everything I’ve heard, he was a remarkable man and a highly respected doctor. My grandfather actually founded the hospital in Fort Fairfield, Maine. This is what my cousin wrote of my grandfather:
“Your grandfather, the good doctor, is credited by our family with saving the life of our father back in the mid-forties when he was a patient in his Fort Fairfield hospital. I remember meeting Dr. Herrick in his hospital during that period of time, though I was but ten years or so old. He had a good bedside manner!”
When I recollected to my cousin that I thought my grandfather had a brother who was a Pentecostal minister he responded:
“You're right about Herrick's half-brother Gene Kimball. I well remember him and as a boy, I heard him preach more than once. He had what used to be called a "hell-fire and brimstone" type of delivery. Political correctness wasn't one of his strong suits, but he could sure draw a crowd. He and my father were great friends.”
Then my cousin mentioned to me that his brother Carroll Kimball of Fredericton, New Brunswick, compiled a book of Kimball family history back in 2000. I expressed an interest in the book. He told me he had one extra copy and would send it. I offered to pay for it. He very kindly declined my offer. The book came today. I’ve just spent a couple of hours perusing “Descendents of Richard & Sarah Kimball.”
From the book I have learned some things about my great grandfather and great grandmother that I never knew, and I’d like to tell you about them.
My grandfather's father, Leverett Kimball (b. 1867 in New Brunswick) was a potato farmer and he was married three times. His first wife died less than a year after they married. They had no children.
Leverett’s second wife was Edith Savage. Within a year of their marriage Edith gave birth to twins. Three days later, she died. According to an article from the Fort Fairfield Beacon, “the little babies are strong and healthy.” Yet, according to the family book, one of the twins died young. The surviving twin, Eugene, grew up, farmed for a few years, then became the Pentecostal minister.
Three years after the death of Edith, Leverett married her sister, Elizabeth Savage. They had five children. My grandfather, Herrick, was born in 1902. He had a twin sister, Helen. I vaguely remember Helen. I remember as a little boy thinking that she and my grandfather didn’t look at all alike for being twins.
I can read a lot of sadness into the life of my great great grandfather, Leverett. His first two wives died. He was left to raise twin babies, one of which then died. He was a farmer and I do not suppose he was a particularly prosperous one. Then, to make the story even sadder, in 1910, at only 42 years of age, Leverett got pneumonia and passed away.
He left Elizabeth with five children and she was pregnant with another. The oldest, Gene was fifteen. My grandfather was eight years old. The baby would be born two months later. It was a boy and Elizabeth named him Leverett Gaylon. But little Leverett would live only five months.
Eight years later, at the age of 16, my grandfather graduated from Fort Fairfield High School. I know this because I have his 1918 class ring. With grit and determination my grandfather went on to work his way through Bowdoin College, then Case Western Reserve medical school. He returned to Fort Fairfield where he became a successful and beloved small town doctor. He died, sitting in a chair in the kitchen of his home, at 63 years of age.
I once asked my Grandmother Kimball why my grandfather decided to become a doctor. She told me that his mother was sickly and bedridden in her later years. She said he wanted to help people like his mother. And that is exactly what he did.
But there is something more to this story of my family that I learned from Cousin Carroll’s family history book. There were a couple of little clues into the kind of people that Leverett and Elizabeth were. Clues that, for me, take the sting out of the sadness I read in their history.
An article in the Fort Fairfield Review newspaper (2 March 1910) titled “Death of L.G. Kimball” reveals that, in addition to being a farmer, Leverett was a member of the Fort Fairfield Free Baptist Church. But, more than that, the article states, “Mr. Kimball had been working particularly hard this winter, especially with meetings held in the Mission in Caribou,” and, “About a year ago, Mr. Kimball was licensed to preach … and since has been a power in evangelistic work.”
So, today I discovered that my great grandfather was a farmer/preacher!
Then, of my great grandmother, Elizabeth, who never remarried after Leverett’s death, and who passed away in 1930, I read in her obituary that “She was a great student of the Bible” and “a long time teacher at the Methodist Sunday School.”
While many would glance over such bits of information, not giving them much more than a passing thought, those small bits speak volumes to me about my long gone forbears. To know that both of my great grandparents were Christians, strong in their faith, is to know that, regardless of the difficult trials they experienced in this earthly realm, their faith in Christ sustained them. It is the same faith that will sustain me to the end. I pray that it will sustain my children and grandchildren, unto many more generations.