A Family Mystery...

Dateline: 12 April 2015

An envelope addressed to Herric C Kimball, circa, 1925.
There is no "k" at the end of his first name.

In August of 1987, Marlene and I drove up to Fort Fairfield, Maine to visit with both of my grandmothers, and other kin. Marlene was pregnant with our first child. It was a 12 hour drive. I can remember that vacation because I kept a journal in those days. I remember we had a little pickup truck, and on the way home it was packed high and tight with all manner of “Kimball” stuff.
Part of my objective with the trip was to learn more about my Kimball roots. My grandmother, like all grandmothers, had a lot of family knowledge, and she was more than happy to share it with us.  Among a lot of other things, I learned that my grandfather, Dr. Herrick C. Kimball (who I am named after), was actually given the name of Herric (with no k on the end) by his parents, but he later changed his name to Herrick. 

Herrric Kimball (on left), circa 1919 (17 years old) 
with his friend, Neil Powers.

I asked my grandmother why my grandfather had changed his name. She didn’t know. No one alive knows. It is something of a family mystery.

I’ve written here before about how my grandfather Kimball was born in 1902 and grew up on a potato farm in northern Maine. He did not come from a family of means, but he was clearly intent on making something of himself. He graduated from high school in 1918 at 16 years of age. He then attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where, once again, he graduated early. Then he went to Western Reserve University College of Medicine in Ohio, from which he graduated in 1925.

My grandfather, circa 1923, in the medical school "Cat Lab"
(click picture for a larger view)
(Dr. Magnus Ridlon, pictured at right, was his best friend)

My grandfather was an MD, FACS. The acronym means, Medical Doctor, Fellow American College of Surgeons. He practiced medicine and surgery in his hometown of Fort Fairfield for 38 years. He also established a hospital in the town. 

Dr. Kimball was the county medical examiner for 17 years. He was medical advisor to the selective service board. He was a delegate to the 1956 Republican National Convention (they nominated Dwight Eisenhower for a 2nd term). He was 51% owner of the local Rexall drug store (with a lunch counter in the front). He was vice president of the local bank, chairman of the board of trustees for the local library, and a director of the local utility district. 

My grandfather died at only 64 years of age. I suspect he may have worked himself to death. And he took the reason for changing the spelling of his name to the grave with him. But I have a theory…

The Herrick’s Almanac above was published by “The Proprietors of Dr. Herrick’s Family Medicines.” Near as I can determine, Dr. Herrick’s almanacs were published from 1867 to 1920. For a family medicine company to publish an almanac for 53 years, they must have had a large customer base and readership. I suspect my grandfather, Herric, was well aware of Dr. Herrick’s almanac. And I believe that this almanac was what influenced my grandfather to change the spelling of his first name.

As for the Herrick’s Almanac of 1889, it is a very interesting read. I have scanned the whole book and it is now available as a PDF download at Agriphemera.comClick Here to learn more about this unique bit of American medical history.

Dr. Herrick C. Kimball

My grandfather was not the only Herrick C. to practice medicine. An interesting side note to this family-name story is that my grandfather's best friend in medical school, Dr. Magnus F. Ridlon (pictured in the cat lab above), named his son, Herrick C. Ridlon, and he grew up to be a Dr. (his 2003 obituary is HERE).

As I understand it, the two friends decided in medical school to name their firstborn sons after each other. But my grandfather did not name his son (my father) Magnus F. Kimball. Perhaps my grandmother did not like the name. In any event, my father's middle name is Ridlon, after Dr. Ridlon.


Sheila Gilbert said...

This message got me to thinking, and I did a search. Do you have a copy of your grandfathers School Yearbook? Well, one page of it.
I do!! 1922 Bowdoin Bugle. Even has a photo of him. Would you like a copy? It's 1:24 a.m. so I can't copy the entire thing, but can send you the one of his page.
Biology Club! I will let you know if I find more. Bless, Sheila

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Sheila,

Yes, I would love to have a copy of that page. 1922 would be four years of college at Bowdoin. So it doesn't look like he graduated early. Interesting. My grandmother told me he did, and I wrote it in my journal. Another little mystery. Thank you, Sheila.

Sheila Gilbert said...

I also have his BIRTH CERTIFICATE! and a few other things I think you will like.
I just sent them to you. Let me know if you can open them.

Herrick Kimball said...


I got them. Wow. Thank you very much!

Jane said...

I have never commented on a blog, but if this works, I can add a little to the legend. The story I heard was that my father's ( James Kimball, born 1931) father, Leroy Kimball, stayed home and worked on the farm so that his brother, Herrick, could go to college and medical school. Leroy died when my dad was 14. In honor and memory of his brother, Leroy, Herrick then put my father, James, through college at Bowdoin (Class of '53). And, this part is not legend, I graduated Bowdoin in 1983 (Jane Davis Kimball) and my son, Christopher Kimball Warren is a sophomore, Class of '17!! I really enjoy reading the family history--thanks for sharing. And thanks to Carolyn for the FB pages!!!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hello Jane,

I'm glad you took the time to relate that little bit of family lore here. I have a vague recollection of hearing it before. I met your father once (it may have been on the 1987 trip) when he came to dinner one night at my grandmother Kimball's house. It was the only time I ever remember eating in the formal dining room.

All the best,

Herrick II

Herrick Kimball said...

Well, thanks again to Sheila for sending the census records of 1920 and 1930, along with a "record of live birth" and a Bowdoin Biology Club photo with my grandfather in it.

They are interesting documents, and I'm going to add some details here for anyone who might be interested, family in particular, especially any future Kimballs that follow me, assuming that this internet continues to work for another generation.

First, the 1920 census indicates that the Kimball farm on Presque Isle Road was owned by Elizabeth Kimball, my grandfather's mother. She was 44 years old. Her husband, Leverett, had evidently died by 1920.

Other members of the family are son Leroy (21 years), son Herrick (17), daughter Helen (17), daughter Marion (13), and Elizabeth's mother, Jane Savage (77).

Note to cousin Jane above... I assume you were named after your great grandmother?

Leroy's occupation is listed as manager. It would appear that, at 21 years old, he had much of the responsibility of operating the farm.

But there is another brother, Eugene (24), who is married to Thelma. They are a separate household and live next door. Eugene is a farmer too.

Herrick would have been at Bowdoin during this census. It's interesting to note that his name is spelled as Herrick (with a k on the end). But his Bowdoin yearbook spells his name as herric.

Herrick Kimball said...

In the 1930 census, Herrick Kimball (27) is living on Forrest Avenue in Fort Fairfield. He is renting a home for $20 a month and his two sisters, Helen and Marion, are living with him.

Herrick's occupation is a physician. Helen is a bookkeeper at the bank, and Marion is a teacher at the public school.

Once again, the census spells my grandfather's name as Herrick (with the k). I'm sure he would have changed his name by then.

My grandfather's "Record of Live Birth" is something of a conundrum to me. His birth date is 3/16/02 and his name is Herrick (with a k). However, the date that the record was filed with the clerk is 7/3/40, which is 38 years after my grandfather's birth.

Also, there is a space on the record of birth to indicate if he was a twin. He had a twin sister, but this is not noted on the form.

There is a blank for "name, address and title of person reporting this birth." It's fuzzy and hard to read but it looks like it says "aunt Jalle S. Foster, Fort Fairfield, Maine."

Jane said...

Thanks for all this great info, Herrick and Sheila! I was named "jane" after my mother's mother. I never knew that Elizabeth's mother was named "jane" too--how cool! But my middle name, "davis" was a family name--from Myra Davis- I think that was Elizabeth's mother's name? I am getting confused! Anyway, I gave the middle name Davis to my daughter, Kate, and my son has the Kimball family middle name so the family tree moves forward!

StephNB said...

Dr. Kimball was my grandmother’s doctor and delivered my Dad, who was named Herrick. I heard wonderful things about Dr. Kimball!!