Dateline: 9 February 2009
Since I began blogging here almost four years ago, I have learned a lot about my family history that I never knew before. Kin from branches of my family have found me after reading essays I’ve written here, like What My Grandmother Did For Me.
My heritage is largely Scotch & Irish and, as I noted in my essay, My Puritan Roots, English. It was a real delight a couple years ago to receive the gift of a Kimball family history book from my newfound Canadian cousin, Reg Kimball, that was compiled and published by his brother Carroll.
All my life I have known my kin to be from Northern Maine but it turns out that the roots and branches of Kimball and Philbrick (my mother’s maiden surname) family trees crisscross back and forth between Maine and Canada.
Most recently is was my pleasure to hear from a hitherto unknown cousin, Donna, who lives in British Columbia, and sent me the picture above of our common relation, William Clifton Kimball. Donna received the photo from her Aunt Kathleen who is now 96 years old.
William Clifton Kimball was Donna’s great grandfather and he was the brother of my great grandfather, Leverett Gaylon Kimball (who I wrote about HERE). What that means is that Donna’s grandfather, Wendell Lee Kimball, and my grandfather, Dr. Herrick C. Kimball, were first cousins. And if I’m looking at this right, that would make my father, Dr. Philip R. Kimball and Donna’s father, Harry Lee Kimball, second cousins. And so Donna and me are third cousins. (someone set me straight if I’ve got this cousin thing wrong).
As an aside, I would like to note that the father of Leverett and William was Jedediah Kimball of New Brunswick. Great, great “Grandpa Jed” died of a heart attack at 70 years of age, in 1892. He had no will. His widow, Eliza, made an application to the probate court that states in part, “...Jedediah Kimball, late of the Parish of Wakefield, in the county of Carelton, aforesaid, Yeoman, departed his life on or about....”
That little quotation out of an obscure legal document is of particular interest to me because I have long had a real respect for Yeomen of the past. In fact I’ve written of them in my Deliberate Agrarian book (see sidebar at right) and in blog essays here. Now, lo and behold, I’ve discovered that I am the descendent of a bona fide Yeoman (and there were many others). I have the DNA of Yeomen in me. Now it all makes sense.
There is a story about William Clifton Kimball but before I tell it, I need to introduce you to William’s wife, Bertha Jane. Here’s a picture of Bertha:
Bertha Jane was born in Blissville, New Brunswick, Canada in 1855. William was born in Jacksontown, Carleton County, Canada, in 1853. They had three children. According to cousin Donna, “William farmed sugarbush and potatoes” as did his brother Bird (Burdon Hannibal Kimball) and Lev (Leverett, my great grandfather). Both brothers had left Canada and settled in Fort Fairfield, Maine, which is where both my parents are from.
That old picture of William shows a healthy, handsome young man. I particularly like his tousled hair. Was that the style of the time? Or was that an insight into William’s character? I have studied the picture of William, trying to find features common to the both of us. I think it may be the forehead. My son James says it's the definately the chin and ears. My son Robert says it's the eyebrows. Marlene says that my hair flips up like that sometimes. If my grandmother were still alive, she would be able to tell me for sure. Grandmothers are good at that sort of thing.
William and Bertha Jane both endured significant hardship in their lives. Bertha lost a leg to gangrene when she was eight years old. William died of Tuberculosis when he was only 37. He left his farm to his son, Wendell Lee (Donna’s grandfather) and Bertha lived there until she died at 96 years of age in 1951.
Donna’s Aunt Kathleen (the woman from whom these pictures came) grew up with her grandmother Bertha in the house and called her “Oldie.” Bertha related to Kathleen that “William was so sick with TB that she had to tie him to the plow lest he fall over whilst she led the horse through the fields.”
Of that recollection, cousin Donna wrote me the following: “What a poignant picture that conveys, a dying man plowing a field, led by a young woman with only one leg! One has to admire the strength and determination of these people. Life was truly hard and if one did not work, one starved.”
So there is the story of William Clifton Kimball
It is difficult for people of this day and age to fully comprehend stories like that. There were few conveniences in the rural frontier of the late 1800s. That must have been tough. But there was no graduated state and federal income tax either. That must have been nice. For more complete historical and cultural perspective, I invite you to read the introduction to my blog, Diary of an 1892 Farmer’s Wife.