Family Graveyard Restoration

This is an update of an earlier post from 2014 with links and additional photos.

Landon surveys the graveyard 1997

In the early 1990’s while visiting Guthrie, Landon came upon the old Kimbrough Family Graveyard, located on the tobacco plantation owned by various Kimbroughs until the early 1900s when it was sold out of the family.

“I was really excited to find something my father’s family knew nothing about, but the task at hand was daunting: the gravestones were knocked over, covered with brush and rabbit warrens made walking hazardous.”

When I saw it, I worried about snakes, myself. I hate snakes. Once it was cleared I agreed to help document what we found.

Bob Kimbrough, (Landon’s father) and his cousin Ben Kimbrough of Clarksville, Tennessee, paid to have the site cleared and the tombstones replaced in their original positions as much as possible. Cousin John Kimbrough agreed to maintain the site. We visited again a few years later and copied down the information about the tombstones and did our best to create a family tree for the people buried there, but that may not appear on the cemetery page. Feel free to email if you’d like what information we do have.

Robert Landon Kimbrough in the Kimbrough Family Graveyard in Guthrie, KY
Robert Landon “Bob” Kimbrough at the start of the restoration of the Kimbrough Family Graveyard

Susan, who at the time was the owner of the house and property, said that someone had found a tombstone or two down by the creek years ago, but didn’t know where they belonged. I fear that vandals likely displaced or took additional tombstones. It is said that there may have been another older graveyard on the property, or more likely it was a slave graveyard. Sadly, other tombstones might have solved some of our family mysteries. The earliest burial date here that can be read is 1830 and the latest 1903.

Posted with gratitude for the late Bob Kimbrough, and very much alive cousins Ben Kimbrough and John Kimbrough. We recently lost Sue Head Kimbrough, widow of Charles, mother of John, and enthusiastic supporter of the restoration. Aunt Sue provided a lovely “B & B” for us when we visited Guthrie. She will be missed!

To see the restored cemetery go to:

Thora Moves West

Thora Moves West

The family of Harry Grover Olson, Landon and Harry’s grandfather, has a history of Scandinavian forebears some of whom made their living from the sea. Could this partially account for Landon’s love of the seashore? More likely carefree summers spent with their grandfather, Harry Olsen, in Newport on the Oregon coast are the cause – although genetics might play a role?

There are quite a few Scandinavians in this branch of the family. In the Norwegian batch of immigrants, Harry Olson’s grandmother, Thora Sophia Olsdatter, was born and married in Christiansand, Vest-Agder. Her first husband, Thorkild Thomassen, seems to have already been committed to emigrating to America, as they married in 1871 and left Norway within months.

Prior to the emigration of this couple, Norway had suffered from serious food shortages, and it was clear that the land available to farm was limited. These years saw Norway lose many of their population, especially the younger generation, to the United States. For example, the 1850 Federal Population Census records about 1,800 persons in the USA of Scandinavian birth – in 1880 there were over 440,000, nearly 250 times larger.

We’re not sure if the Thomassen couple (later Thompson), came through Canada to the US, but the first indication that they had arrived is the birth of their older daughter, Mathilda, in Connecticut in November of 1872. As the family then moved from place to place, Mathilda was baptized in New York City at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in March of 1874. Their second daughter, Sophia, Grandpa Harry’s mother, was born in November 1876 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where the family settled to farm.

The last we know of the family as a unit is in the 1880 Federal Census where they are enumerated near Warrensville, now a suburb of Cleveland, in Cuyahoga County. The name used there is Thomasen and they were born in “Prussia”, likely due to an enumerator’s error. The various spellings and common name complicate finding any other record of the family – or at least finding Thorkild. He disappears from Thora’s life and she and the girls are next found in Astoria Oregon, living with George Pearson, a light (buoy) tender. Although no marriage record has been found yet, George and Thora report in the 1900 census that they have been married for 16 years – since 1884. What happened in the four years between the farm in Ohio and the home in Astoria is still a mystery!

In about 1875, as the Thompsons were on the East Coast, Astoria fisherman discovered that the royal chinook salmon, which frequented the fresh waters of the Columbia River, was one of the best food fishes in the world. This fish was especially adapted to canning, a critical factor in its popularity in the age of little refrigeration. Canning quickly became a major industry, and the population grew from just a few hundred souls to a “metropolitan” city of 6,000.

By the mid-1880s, people were already calling Astoria the fishing capital of the world because of the huge catches of salmon being hauled from the river. In 1874, the first fish cannery opened in town; six years later, there were fourteen canneries; and by 1883, thirty-nine canneries operated along the lower Columbia River. More than 630,000 cases of salmon were packed in 1883, the equivalent of 43 million pounds. History file 7189

It’s during this expansive time around 1884 that Thora and second husband George Pearson, the Thompson daughters, and Hans Peter Olsen, arrive in Astoria. George is listed in the Morning Oregonian in August of 1882 at a hotel. His residence is listed as Astoria. He may have arrived in the city prior to the rest of his family. Hans Peter is a fisherman and joins the substantial percentage of the population that makes their living from the Columbia. More about Hans Peter later.

George himself is still a bit of a mystery. He was born in Norway in 1850 and reported that he immigrated to the US in 1870. A person by that name appears in an immigration list from Ontario, Canada in 1871. Where he ends up after that and how he met Thora remains unknown. It appears that they came to Astoria in about 1884 together, but that is not verified. As mentioned before, no marriage record has been found in Oregon or Ohio for them which leads one to believe they may have been married in another state.

George and Thora settle in Astoria and two additional children are born to Thora: Maybelle in 1887 and Robert George in 1891. In 1900 they are enumerated in the census in Alderbrook, a part of Astoria which included a large population of Scandinavians who were involved in the sea trades: fishing, canning, and packing. They likely built, or had built, their house on Cedar Street. The neighborhood was a bit out of the main part of Astoria, in fact was a separate voting precinct, and was filled with folks who were primarily Scandinavian and involved with the sea in one way or another.

George Pearson worked as a seaman on the tender Manzanita from August 1887 to February 1889. He was then transferred to the Tongue Point Lighthouse Depot as a laborer. Eventually he became the “laborer-in-charge” of several post lights where maintaining buoy lights and cleaning, repairing and replacing equipment were his primary duties. He was on call and maintained a launch to assure that the lights were working at all times. The Depot was near their neighborhood so supported his home location and long service. He served in that capacity for nearly 30 years.

Later photo of a buoy tender

Thora’s oldest daughter, Mathilda, married Bernard Benson in 1890 at 16 with her mother’s permission and gives birth to Edith Victoria in June of 1891. Thora has given birth to Robert George, her first child with Pearson, the January before. Imagine both mother and daughter being pregnant at the same time, even if the overlap was just a couple of months. For various reasons, likely that being one of them, Thora and Mathilda remained close during Thora’s lifetime. Mathilda and Bernard have another daughter in 1892 who died at 3 weeks of age. They subsequently separated and divorced. Mathilda describes herself as “widowed” in the 1900 census, a common fabrication in those days, and her daughter is enumerated with her Pearson grandparents. Mathilda married Charles Oscar Johnson in 1906 and they had a daughter, Myrtle, in 1907. We are pleased to be in touch with some descendants of Myrtle.

The younger Thompson daughter Sophie soon follows with a marriage of her own to Hans Peter Olson who is 16 years older than her. She is just 15, but permission is given by her stepfather, George, who claims she’s older. Hans Peter is a Dane, and a fisherman, who immigrated in 1880. Denmark had avoided much of the land loss and famine that plagued their Scandinavian neighbors, and never lost as great a percentage of its population to emigration. Danes remained a minority in the fishing community, which was dominated by Finns in Astoria. Hans and Sophie’s son Harry is born several months later in 1893. Hans Peter, or H.P., as he is known, buys and sells property in Astoria and eventually arranges for a home for his family in the Alderbrook neighborhood next door to Thora and George.

Thora dies at Mathilda’s home in 1903 of apoplexy – paralysis due to stroke. She dies intestate, or without a will, and George petitions the court in 1906 to administer her estate. He subsequently names pieces of property that appear to belong solely to her. An ongoing question is how she purchased property, or rather with what, unless she had funds from her previous marriage? George and the four children: Mathilda, Sophie, Mabel (or Maybelle) and George inherit from her estate.

George marries a neighboring widow, Bertha Anderson, in 1905. His new wife has two nearly grown daughters to add to the household. Bertha and George have a daughter together, Bonnie, in 1908.

Mathilda’s older daughter, Edith Victoria, marries the rising star in the Astoria Police Department, Edward “Leb” Carlson in a well-attended wedding – likely one of the events of the 1909 season.

Just a year shy of retirement at age 70 George received a commendation for saving a man from drowning. He was named as “Captain” Pearson in his obituary, which appeared on the front page of the Morning Astorian. He lived for several years after his retirement on a generous pension of $652.95 per year and died in 1927 in Astoria at the age of 77. Bertha survived him until 1931.

Photo of the Pearson House in Alderbrook – 2014

In September 1908, Sophie, mother to Harry (now 15) and two additional children born in Astoria, Violet (11) and Thomas (13), moves with her husband and family to Washington State. Her husband, Hans Peter, had been a successful fisherman in Astoria for quite a few years and wished to devote his time to his “oyster interests” on Shoalwater Bay. The family makes their new home in Tokeland where they continue to prosper and become well known in Pacific County into the late 1920s. More on them next.

A Woman of Her Time

A Woman of Her Time

“The fact is, of course, that in real life beauty is not an asset, but a handicap, and the beautiful woman has the least possible chance of attaining happiness, or success, or both.”

Attributed to a well-known Englishwoman in the London Daily Mail 15 December 1921

Life for women in the 1930s was quite different than it is today. Men ran the world, as epitomized by the list of the Newport (Oregon) High School graduating class list in the paper: alphabetical by men and then alphabetical by women! A “woman’s place was in the home” and IF they were not married, the average woman was looking to get married. There were avenues to meet an eligible man, one of the best was college – another was just to be noticed. In this, Sylvanne Olson was no different. Having been blessed with exceptional beauty she was able to have some experiences that most girls her age were not able to have. But what appeared to be a valuable endowment in her youth may not have contributed to her happiness later in life.

The late 30’s to early 40s was the evolution of the bathing suit competition. Due to the figure-hugging nature of these garments, photography eventually evolved into swimsuit photography exemplified by the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Beauty contests also required contestants to wear form-fitting swimsuits. Swimsuit companies, such as Catalina, began to have contests to showcase their wares. These contests were open to young women across the country and their participation was preferred over professional models, likely to create more of a grassroots feel.

During this time, Sylvanne’s family had moved to Newport from North Cove in Pacific County, just north of the Oregon border in Washington. Sylvanne’s father, Harry Olson, was a crab fisherman and he felt that the tax structure in 1936 was more conducive to his business interests on the Oregon Coast, hence the move. Adjustment to the new school and friends seemed to be fairly easy for her and she becomes a member of the high school sophomore debate team, as well as becoming involved with the local Rainbow order, traveling to Corvallis with her fellow members to attend various events. Newport was surely more cosmopolitan than North Cove!

Having settled into life in Newport, Harry was active in Newport boosterism. He was enthusiastic about mounting the First Annual Crab Festival in Newport in 1938 to encourage tourism and introduce the local catch to the uninitiated. His daughter, by then, was known as a local beauty and was chosen as one of the mermaid princesses who served as figureheads for the festival. The number of attendees to the festival vary from 2,000 to 25,000 depending on which account you read. At any number it was quite an event – billed as a free lunch – and people came from as far away as Portland to sample the crab.

Tourism became a sought-after form of revenue and with the new coast highway developed into a real possibility. Sylvanne was also a part of the commercial community and became a swimsuit model for a local dress shop while still in high school.

After high school graduation Sylvanne entered what was then known as Oregon State College (now OSU), joined a sorority and seemed to settle into the academic life. Or perhaps the hunt for a husband. Few records remain of her time there. A note in the Corvallis paper about a fashion parade benefit names Sylvanne as modeling for her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta.

Along the way Sylvanne entered a swimsuit competition and was chosen as one of ten from 4,000 or 40,000 (depending on which article you read) nationwide entries. Can you imagine? The prize for being chosen was a trip to Hollywood. One of the ten young women chosen in addition to Sylvanne was Rosemary LaPlanche, who later became Miss America. Talk about star power! Since the contest was sponsored by Catalina, the girls appear in photos wearing swimsuits as they travel about town meeting lots of famous people and seeing the sights. Sylvanne’s parents accompanied her as chaperones.

NEWPORT, Aug 22 – (Special) – Sylvanne Olson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry G. Olson, has returned home following an exciting ten-day stay in Hollywood, Calif., as guest of the Catalina people. Miss Olson was one of 4000 girls entering a bathing-suit-photo contest,  and was one of the final ten of this number selected as a winner. She met many movie stars during her stay and made numerous trips over Hollywood.

Miss Olson, who was sponsored by the Beatrice Shop, was quartered at the Ambassador hotel, appeared on the Burns and Allen radio program, at the Earl Carroll and Grauman Egyptian theaters, attended a dance in her honor at the Cocoanut Grove and was honored with dinners at Beverley Hills and at the Biltmore Bowl. She also visited Warner Brothers and Universal Studios.

From the Corvallis Gazette 22 August 1940: Bathing-Suit-Photo Contest Girl Home

The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into World War II up ended the lives of many Americans. In the case of Sylvanne it created some interesting opportunities. For reasons we don’t know, other than the call for women to join the war effort, Sylvanne ended up in Dayton, Ohio around October of 1942. We‘re not sure of her job but it apparently put her in proximity with a certain Lt. R. L. Kimbrough.

We’ve not found much about their courtship. Letters from Bob to his father during this time make no mention of Sylvanne. A letter to dad from Bob April 14th, 1943: “evidently sister <his sister Evelyn> has been singing the Blues about my not seeing her which isn’t unusual for women they’re always complaining about something. However I don’t have the time or gasoline to drive about 20 miles for a round trip to see her. I’m not living within the city of Dayton anymore and it’s quite a trip across town to visit”. He asked about home and then in a new paragraph: “My status is as per usual and nothing is available for a report I’m still single, lazy and 24.”

Fast forward a month. Letter of May 15th, 1943: “I saw sister the other night for dinner. She ate with me and the girlfriend. You’ll probably be surprised to hear this news since I’ve never had mentioned any of my female affairs before. Well it seems there’s a certain little girl from Portland OR that I’m very serious about so you’ll probably have a daughter in law on your hands this fall unless one or both of us back out which isn’t likely. She’s working here in Dayton now but is returning to Oregon this summer before we get married. She’s a swell person and I know you’ll like her. I’ll give you more details after our plans are a little more fixed.”

Plans were soon fixed and a date set: August 28. Sylvanne went home, was feted by the community and her family, and returned with her mother in tow to Dayton. It appears to have been a very small wedding ceremony. In addition to Mrs. Olson, Mr. and Mrs. Kimbrough attended from Guthrie, Kentucky; no other family is mentioned. Bob has been promoted to Captain by this time.

After a weekend honeymoon, the couple set up their home in Dayton. It’s doubtful that Sylvanne returned to her job. The next couple of years see juggling rationing and other wartime challenges, although Bob continues to be stationed at Wright Field due to his military assignment. Landon is born in January of 1945.

Eventually Bob is discharged from the military and the family moves to the West Coast to seek housing and employment for Bob. He subsequently goes to work for Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle and works there until the end of his career. Their second son, Harry, is born in 1948. Bob designs and builds their house in the Seward Park neighborhood and lives there until his death in 2009. Sylvanne died at home in 1980.

Sylvanne may have been a victim of her early success. Born a youngest daughter to an adoring father, one could imagine her being spoiled. Being feted for her beauty from the beginning, it could be that it was the primary means for her to measure her worth. Housewifery and motherhood failed to provide that level of attention. Many women have experienced the invisibility of middle age and find other ways to create meaning in their lives. Often alcohol and drugs – usually prescribed by a well-meaning physician –  seem to help to ease the transition, until they become the problem. Her husband was raised in the traditions of the old south where women knew their place and their expectations for the marriage may not have aligned. They both were casualties, in some ways, of their times and the inherent pressures. For Sylvanne, what was an asset in her youth may not have contributed to her happiness later in life.

The Kimbrough Brothers*

“ It takes two men to make one brother.”    – Israel Zangwill

One of the first items of information that we found on the Kimbroughs of Todd County, Kentucky was the will of Meredith Kimbrough, 1794 – 1831. Meredith and his wife, Sarah “Sally” Garth Gaines were married in 1817 in Albemarle County, Virginia soon after the marriage of Thomas Winston Kimbrough and Sally’s sister Susan Garth Gaines. They had no children that survived and Meredith is buried in the Kimbrough Family Cemetery in Hadensville.

Meredith’s will contained some interesting clues to the family of origin of T.W.K., our oldest known ancestor to date.

will crop

Transcription:  <As to my worldly substance I will and positively ordain that all my just debts be paid it is my desire that my beloved wife, Sally Kimbrough, be and remain in quit and peaseble (sic) possession of the whole of my estate personal and real after the pament (sic) of my just debts for her > benefit during her mortal life or widowhood at the death of my wife I will to my brother’s children out of my estate as follows:

To Meredith G. Kimbrough, son of Thos. W. Kimbrough five hundred dollars.

To William L. Kimbrough, son as aforesaid one hundred dollars

To Meredith Kimbrough son of William Kimbrough one hundred dollars

To James Kimbrough, son of Nelson Kimbrough, one hundred dollars

To Thomas Kimbrough, son of James Kimbrough, one hundred dollars

I will that the balance of my estate be equally divided among by Brother Thos. W. Kimbrough’s children. I appoint my brother Thos. W. Kimbrough, my executor and will that what I have left to my Brother’s children remain in the hands of my executor until they become of Lawful age.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the 25th day of June 1831.

Signed: Meredith D. Kimbrough

<Todd County, KY, Will Book C, pages 182 & 183>

So, this tells us that at the time of the writing of this will, Thomas had at least 4 brothers, two sons, and  three nephews. Brothers generally means sons of the same mother or father or both, but to complicate matters, can mean a close associate. We are going on the assumption that these named brothers are blood relations as we have so few clues.

Meredith Kimbrough Tombstone
Meredith Kimbrough Tombstone sited in the Kimbrough Family Cemetery in Hadensville, Kentucky

Meredith appears to have been quite close to Thomas – they married sisters and Thomas and Susan sold property in Virginia to Meredith for $1. It is believed that Meredith and Sally moved to Kentucky to be near Thomas and Susan, perhaps because he knew he was dying. Sally remarried in 1836 to Anderson Miller. *This post is republished due to computer kerfuffles

Back To Texas

Back To Texas

When daughters are on the way from home, be it for the afternoon or a lifetime, a loving mother will disguise her agony with trifles… A mother must ask and be told – Do you have your handkerchief? Is your nose still running? … For a mother not to trot behind a daughter with those questions and concerns is to send a toddling child into the snow with no mittens.

On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon by  Kaye Gibbons

How can one write about a family that seems as though a dark cloud follows them? When first we began researching in Texas for the sons of Thomas Winston Kimbrough who had moved there we had no idea what we would find. It appeared at first glance that the young Kimbrough men had done well for themselves. Both had extensive holdings and a number of slaves each. As I learned more about the families, tragedies began to emerge. Charles Livingston Kimbrough – C.L. – was the youngest son born (1834) to Susan Garth Gaines and Thomas Winston Kimbrough. He lived with or near his parents in Hadensville, Kentucky until he married Mary T. Cromwell of nearby Logan county. C.L. and M.G. “Garth” <his brother> Kimbrough filed a marriage bond for $1250. in September of 1855.

First, a bit about Mary. Her early life appears to have been tumultuous. According to the population census, she and her sister Margaret were living in Montgomery County Tennessee in August of 1850 with their aunt and uncle, Edward and Tennessee Williamson Haskins. In October they are enumerated in Robertson County Tennessee as part of the household of Thomas Williamson, age 61, likely their grandfather. While researching Mary for this post I found that her cousin, Nannie Haskins (Williams), had written a diary that had been curated and edited by personnel at Austin Peay College in Clarksville Tennessee. The diary focuses on her time in the Civil War and gives a dramatic picture of Clarksville during the war and reconstruction. See: The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams: A Southern Woman’s Story of Rebellion and Reconstruction, 1863-1890

Soon after their marriage Charles and Mary moved to Palatine in Anderson County Texas. It’s possible they were encouraged by Charles’ brother George, or G.D., as he was called. C.L. and G.D. are shown as founding members of the Masonic Tyre Lodge that was granted a charter in 1856, about ten years after this small northwest Anderson County community was settled. G.D. and his wife Mary appear near C.L. and Mary in the 1860 census. Soon after their arrival in Texas C.L. and Mary started their family. They farmed in Anderson County and appeared to prosper. One of the children, Alex, born in 1860, doesn’t appear in later documents and likely died as a young child.

The Civil War – or whatever it was called in Texas – arrived on March 2, 1861. It was the 25th Anniversary of Mexican Independence and Texas voted to secede from the Union. Anderson County citizens voted 1500 to 7 in favor of secession. The Kimbroughs were likely in the majority as slaves were a large part of their workforce.

Conscription came soon after and likely to avoid being forced to join the Confederate Army C.L. and G.D. enlisted in the 20th Texas Cavalry, Bass’ Regiment, in 1862. Records show that they both joined up on the same day – March 1, 1862. They each received a $50. Bounty and reported, with their own horses and guns, at Camp Bass, Texas about 80 miles from home, on the 10th of March. They were some of the first enlistees. The Twentieth Texas Cavalry was assigned to the Trans-Mississippi Department and served almost entirely in the Indian Territory where it was confronted by Union forces. At times, it was the only non-Indian Confederate unit operating in the Indian Territory. The Twentieth Cavalry took part in more than thirty various engagements throughout the war in both the Indian Territory and Arkansas, the latter where it served on occasion. Although the enlistment was to last for a year it is unclear how long they served.

The war ended in Spring, 1865. Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. The Civil War was officially over. The Twentieth Texas Cavalry Regiment was included in the surrender of Confederate Indian troops at Doaksville in the Indian Territory. Communication was challenging at the time so many of the outlying districts, for example in Indian Territory where the 20th Cavalry was said to have fought, so skirmishes continued for a time after the official surrender. It’s unknown when they stopped fighting or if the Kimbrough men were still a part of the unit.

C.L. died in August of that year. Did he die of possible wounds or from another cause? Where was he buried? We have yet to determine. What we do know is that he left a will naming his wife Mary as his executrix, and named two children, Thomas L. and Maggie H. as his heirs, with a provision for any additional children born after the will was drawn. The will was written in March of 1862 and Mary was named as executrix several times in the document. For what is likely a legal reason, she was not named by the court to fill that role.

A year after C L.’s death, in August of 1866, Mary filed a petition in the county court requesting homestead and maintenance for her and her now 3 children. Charles Livingston Kimbrough II had been born in 1865. Mary stated that her late husband, despite owning land was very far in debt and she was unable to feed or clothe herself and her children without the sale of estate items. It is difficult to know how Mary was surviving during that time, although her brother-in-law, G.D., who had been named will administrator by the court, still lived nearby.

Attempts by the court to obtain information about the estate to enable closure, were not heeded as late as 1871. G.D. moved to Victoria County, Texas, as did Mary’s father A.H. Cromwell. Mary’s whereabouts are unknown at this point, although it’s likely she returned to Kentucky/Tennessee. G.D. dies in Victoria County without resolving the probate issues.

Riverboat scene

A few years ago I came across a “Mrs. Kimbrough” mentioned in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana paper. The article referred to an accident called the “Fashion disaster” by the media. Unable to figure out who this Mrs. Kimbrough was with a quick search I decided she was likely another branch of the family, so saved the article to read more another day.

When I returned to research this article, I became more and more distressed by what I read. When I learned that this Mrs. Kimbrough was traveling to Palatine, Texas, and returned to Hadensville later, I figured I must have one of “our” Kimbroughs. The story comes together like this:

Mrs. Kimbrough was traveling with her 3 children after Christmas. One could imagine that they were laden with presents and tired after a family visit. They likely boarded the steamboat Fashion at Vicksburg or somewhere south of there and continued south to Baton Rouge. The Fashion carried both cabin passengers numbering around 100, deck passengers from 150 to 200, and about 2600 bales of cotton. It is reasonable to assume they were among the cabin passengers. The children would have been 10, 7 and 3 years old.

It did not seem to be a time for a pleasant river voyage. The Baton Rouge Tri-Weekly Gazette and Comet reported at the time that “We have had bitter cold weather in this vicinity for the past few days. Dark, dismal, rainy, drizzly and freezing, were the compound we have been enjoying by way of variety, and as a contrast to the beautiful and blithesome season which the God of Nature had so unsparingly blessed us with, previously.”

At about 3:30 in the afternoon sparks from the wood fired boiler ignited the bales of cotton that were packed tightly around the deck of the steamer. Carrying cotton and passengers was common practice for river transport, despite fires and other accidents that created loss of life on a regular basis. In 1865 The Sultana, built at Cincinnati in 1863, exploded near New Orleans while carrying Union prisoners released from Confederate prison camps. 1,700 were killed in the worst disaster in steamboat history.

The Fashion’s cargo of cotton began burning despite efforts to suppress the fire. The blaze aided by windy conditions spread rapidly within 5 minutes and panic ensued. Newspaper accounts report a great number of passengers jumped into the water to avoid the flames. One report stated that a woman threw her 3 children into the river and jumped in after them to avoid the flames. Was that our Mary?

Another reported anecdote spoke of the body of a child being brought down to Baton Rouge by a crew member in the Fashion’s yawl. The Daily Advocate of Baton Rouge reported that Mrs. Kimbrough had lost two of her children and that she waited with the body in the expectation of hearing of her remaining child. “The body of the child was taken to the Central house where it was dressed by kind hands for burial.”

This clipping Of Mary’s letter tells the last of the story as far as we know.

Baton Rouge Tri Weekly Gazette and Comet, Saturday Jan 19, 1867

It has been a challenge for me to put all this together as the horror seemed overwhelming. Despite my efforts to learn more about Mary and any surviving children I’ve found nothing of substance, including how she may have coped – or not – after this tragedy. Even 150 years later, the pain shows through.

A Father’s Mystery and an Artist

A Father’s Mystery and an Artist

Sometimes it’s difficult to write blogs that are close to the heart. I have been struggling with a particular tragedy – or rather a series of them – that befell one of the Kimbrough families. In process of research, as always, I found yet another story, also tragic, but not quite as heartrending as my original subject. I’ll recount it first, in hopes of gaining courage to write the other. In both cases perhaps the overriding tragedy is that unlike other Kimbroughs, neither of these families have descendants so it is unlikely they will be written about unless I do. I must thank cousin Martha for getting me to dig deeper into this family and their lives.

The promising young businessman and man about town

The tale starts out well. Kate Stacker, the socially prominent sister of Clay Stacker, Sr, a Clarksville, Tennessee businessman, married Landen Frank Kimbrough in May of 1874.  She was described in the local paper as “one of the loveliest of Clarksville’s young ladies” and her groom as “one of our most industrious and promising young business men”. They were married in the local Episcopal Church, followed by a gathering at the bride’s mother’s home. Male friends gave a reception for them at a local hotel because, as reported by the newspaper: “If they are compelled to lose Land from their sad single circle, they are determined to show that they rejoice in his good fortune, and bear him no malice for leaving them in the vale of bachelorhood”. Gotta’ love the flowery language of the time. Stay tuned for more. Their future looks bright by all accounts.

Landen Frank, or L.F. as he was commonly known, was born in 1852 as part of the large family of Kimbroughs headed by Merideth Garth and Mildred Ann Maria Terry Kimbrough. He had been educated at Kentucky University in Lexington and returned to the Clarksville area to go into business, rather than to farm. He had two older brothers, Tom, who became a physician and married a girl from Nashville, and Judge, who seemed fated to be the farmer. Business was a logical choice.

His early accomplishments appear numerous. In 1872, many of the young men came together and founded the Clarksville Hook and Ladder Company, an all volunteer fire department. In June 1872 L.F. is elected the Secretary of the Hook and Ladder Company.

He is reported to be a clerk in the local Clarksville bank early in 1873. He is named as a bookkeeper at the First National Bank in June of 1877 when he appears with Kate in a description of an anticipated visit to the “Eastern resorts of pleasure”.  He is also described in a partnership,  Beaumont & Kimbrough, an insurance brokerage in a discussion of a fire in April of that year. Two jobs, perhaps? His partner appears to have been quite a bit older, a director at the bank and a prominent member of the business community concerned with tobacco.

1877 proved to be a pivotal year in the life of L.F., Kate and their newborn son, Frank Richmond. In July of that year, Landen is thanked in the local paper by conventioneers who had stayed at his home. His wife isn’t mentioned, and thanks are extended to his mother and his “interesting little sisters”. Alternately, the business partnership was seemingly ill-fated as it was dissolved in August of 1877 – just three years after L.F. had married and settled in Clarksville with his wife.

About 3 weeks later that same year his brother-in-law, Clay Stacker, Jr., published a notice in the paper that “All persons having claims against L.F. Kimbrough will please present them to me for settlement”.   That is the last we hear of him – L.F. disappears. No further record has been found of him. The only mention of Kimbrough – no initials or any further information – is in a February issue of the papers advising that the “Kimbrough cases” are set for later in the month.  So what happened? Perhaps more information will surface later. For right now, after searching many resources, his whereabouts are unknown. No death record is found in the family bible!

His son, Frank Richmond Kimbrough is born in October 1877. No mention of L.F. is found in the life of his son or his wife, including in their obituaries. In 1880, the census lists Kate Stacker Kimbrough as a widow. She and her two-year-old son are living with her mother and the extended family.

Frank Richmond Kimbrough ca 1900

Twenty years later, Kate had died and Frank, or Richmond as he was often known, had begun his career. After Kate’s death in 1893 he attended school at Sewanee College from 1894 to 1896, and then went to New York City to study at the Art Students League. He was a prominent student and alumni of Sewanee and continued to contribute to the college periodicals with amusing quips and art work.

In September of 1898 he went to England to pursue his art under Sir Hubert Herkomer, the most famous living portrait painter of the time. He lived at the home of his mentor, called Lululuand in Burshey, Hereford, England.

Lululuand, named after Herkomer’s late wife

The building housed Herkomer’s studio and an art school. It was designed in the Romanesque style and was nicknamed the “Bavarian Castle” by Bushey residents. One could imagine that young Kimbrough’s life there was rich with possibilities to meet prominent people and pursue his creativity with a wealth of support.

F. Richmond consistently demonstrated his connection and affection for Sewanee with contributions to the college periodicals.His illustrations are scattered through out the period publications.

Sewanee Athletic Souvenir from 1901

An example of his wit appears in the 1901 Cap and Gown. In a want ad format near the back of the publication appears the following:  “F.R. Kimbrough announces that he will introduce a select party of eligible young men into mazes of London Society. Mr. Kimbrough’s intimacy with Burke’s Peerage renders him eminently qualified for the task”. Was this a poke at the numbers of daughters of social climbing newly rich who were being sent to England to find titled husbands?  In another “ad” he described himself as “Artist and Friend to Celebrities, London, Paris and Sewanee”.

He last visited home beginning Thanksgiving of 1901. In April of 1902 he gave a “studio tea” at the home of (now) General and Mrs. Clay Stacker that was reported to be “an elegant affair and a very novel function in Clarksville society” where he showed some of his work to friends and family. According to the newspaper report his work shown was comprised of book cover designs, oil sketches, pencil sketches and water colors.

He returned to England in time for the Coronation celebration. A souvenir badge from the coronation of King Edward VII, on June 26, 1902 carries the following label: From F. Richmond Kimbrough, associate of Charles Dana Gibson. Artist and friend to celebrities, indeed.

One account reports that F.R. contracted a cold at the Coronation Celebration which led to his pneumonia, but the time doesn’t seem right. The Clarksville paper reports that on the Saturday before Christmas 1902, Kimbrough had gone to Harrow Weald Park, in Middlesex County, the home of Mr. John M. Hughes, where he was an “ever-welcome guest”. On Sunday he was taken ill, and when, on the next day, pneumonia developed, his physician called in a specialist from London, and two trained nurses. On Christmas morning he died. In less than 5 days he had passed. His body was carried home to Burshey, by his friends, who were with him when he died. On December 31, funeral services were held in All Saints’ Church, in the West End of London.

As requested in his will, his remains were put aboard a ship and transported to New York where they were met by his uncle, General Clay Stacker, Mr. and Mrs. B. L. Rice, and fourteen of his college friends and comrades, three of whom came on to Clarksville for the services. The remains were transported by train to Clarksville where another funeral service was held. Not an easy task, but Uncle Clay managed to fulfill Richmond’s wish to be buried in Greenwood Cemetery near his mother, as well as serving as his executor.

ATO Memorial window designed by Hugh Elliot
courtesy Sewanee, University of the South

His will contained a large number of bequests and requests. His estate was considerable despite his age, and in addition to family members both his church and the college received funds. The institutions were requested to construct memorial windows in his honor. One window was placed in the Alpha Tau Omega Chapter House and a window was also placed in the Trinity Church in December of 1903. The picture below is thanks to cousin Martha who started it all.

Trinity Church, Clarksville, Tennessee

He is eulogized, as well, in the Cap and Gown 1903 from Sewanee College.

In his short life, and without the support of his father, Frank Richmond Kimbrough made a rather large mark on the world. In retrospect he may have had a large ego, but appeared to live up to many of his aspirations within the time allotted. It’s interesting to muse on what his descendants might have been like.

William – Are you Thomas’ brother?

William – Are you Thomas’ brother?

As the search for Thomas Winston Kimbrough <TWK>’s parents continues, we have collected a lot of information on various Kimbroughs and continue to attempt to stitch together family groups. We will focus on the presumed brothers, based on Mededith Kimbrough’s will. < See the page The Kimbrough Brothers>

Our current subject is William Kimbrough, born in Virginia who ended up in Illinois. He’s the best candidate for a brother so far.


William  J. KIMBROUGH was born circa 1783 in Virginia and he married Susannah WIATT OR WYATT on 18 Dec 1814 in Henry, Virginia. They were married by the Rev. Mr. Patterson, a Methodist Minister, per William’s Military Pension application. He is 13 years older than Thomas, so that may indicate more than one family for the unnamed father.

William shows up in the 1830 Census in Todd County, Kentucky in proximity to TWK. His close neighbor, Young Thomas, is a signer on the will of TWK’s brother Meredith.  So far,  we cannot find a son for him named Meredith, which is a way to identify him from the will.  They do have a son, James M., noted in one of the censuses, but that appears to be James Monroe. At the time of Meredith’s will in 1831, the couple had been married for 17 years, surely long enough to have had a son whose name was Meredith. The following biography that was posted on Find A Grave <Memorial# 74654025> reports 14 children, so perhaps there was a son that’s not named in any of the records we surveyed. A biography of one of William’s sons, also William, is cited below and includes his birth in Todd County in 1830. In the following generation, a son is named Meredith.

Here’s the excerpt and the source:

William and Susan (Wyatt) Kimbrough, natives of Virginia, whence they removed to Kentucky at an early day. The father engaged in farming in Todd county until 1834 when he brought his family to Hancock County, Illinois, settling in Carthage township, where he purchased a farm of forty acres east of the city of Carthage. 


He built there a log cabin and began the development of the property. He lived there for some years and afterward sold the farm, removing to a larger farm which he rented.

Kimbrough Wm Brother Land record 1840

A number of years later he took up his abode in Carthage, where he lived retired, his death occurring there when he was eighty-six years of age. He was a member of the Baptist church and a democrat in political views. A public-spirited man, he was an advocate of all that tended to improve and advance the community interests. He was also a prosperous and progressive resident of the county in his day and he was uniformly respected. At the time of the war of 1812 he espoused the cause of his country and served throughout the period of hostilities. His widow, who was also a consistent member of the Baptist church, survived him for a number of years and in their family were fourteen children, who grew to maturity, but William R. is the only one now living. Both parents lie buried in Seckman cemetery in Carthage township. <1907> 1

We’re sure that there were many challenges along the way. Here’s just one of them from 1868 – it could be attributed to either father or son:

Kimbrough fire Quincy_Daily_Whig_1868-12-21_[2].png

pexels-photo-461061.jpegWhen all is said and done, we still don’t know who William’s parents are and whether or not he was Thomas’ brother for sure. Hopefully, as we search for information on all the brothers mentioned in the will a solution to this “brick wall” will present itself. Until then, with any luck some of this information will be helpful to the multitude of descendants of William J. and Susannah Wyatt Kimbrough.




It’s Good to have a Will or Maybe Not

It’s Good to have a Will or Maybe Not

In which we are reminded you can’t take it with you


I was lucky enough to spend several days in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library last month. I also got to attend Roots Tech, which was a lot of fun, and I even took the time to attend a couple classes and learned a few things.

While searching at the Library I found the probate file of William Wallace McMurry on Family Search <Tennessee Wills and Probate records, 1779-2008>. William was the 2nd great grandfather of Robert Landon Kimbrough (1919-2009) Landon and Harry’s late father, and was linked only by family story in our records until this discovery. Robert’s mother was Mary McMurry, daughter of Robert Lee McMurry. Here’s how he is related to WWM:

McMurray Robert Lee ancestors

Reading the probate file created the usual challenges: format, reproduction and handwriting.  This, and other documents that I’ve tried to decipher, drove me to buy Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry. When I was able to make my way through the documents I found a wealth of information about the family. William died intestate in 1850 in Dickson County and at that time had 7 named legal heirs. His wife had predeceased him.

As did all the Kentucky/Tennessee ancestors at that time, William owned at least a few slaves and they were offered at his estate sale as was customary. One of the slaves, Patsy, was mentioned by name and the sale included her 2 month old child. She was purchased by William’s son, J.T. The remaining three slaves were sold to others. Perhaps knowing to whom they were sold will assist others in tracing their ancestors. I am sure there are many untold stories.

McMurry will part slave sale

William Wallace McMurray Jr, eldest son and our ancestor must have taken to heart all the hard work and possible heartache that was entailed in being his father’s executor. He wrote a will on May 7th 1890 and it was probated in 1893 in Todd County Kentucky. It contained an interesting conditional bequest.

McMurry WW Last will and Testament 1890 crop

The question remains: was this a good thing, or a bad thing? Was 125 acres and the “William Old Place” more or less than her 1/7th share of the estate? Family story had it that she was to be “disinherited” if she married Jesse Rollow – she did marry him, by the way – but her brothers got together upon the death of their father and refused to deny her share. More research is needed to figure out what really happened with the land. As far as the marriage went, it appeared to be a happy one and they were married until her death in 1941.

Rollow Sallie McMurry Headstone Rossview


Bibles and Brick Walls

Does every genealogist have a serious brick wall? One they’ve worked on for years? In case you’ve forgotten, Thomas Winston Kimbrough was born according to a source or two, in Louisa County Virginia in 1796. Born to whom is the unanswered question! He married and subsequently moved to western Kentucky around 1819 where he lived until his death in 1868. In our search for T. W. K.’s parents we have become familiar with a wealth of Kimbrough information.  Through investigating multiple Kimbrough families and trying to reconstruct information from burned counties we have come across large number of descendants. We’re hoping by posting information to help others climb over their walls, someone may have the footholds for ours.

The family of Thomas Winston was large and members lived in several Kentucky counties and some in Tennessee. One of the items is the following Bible Record that was found on PERSI. I carefully reviewed the copies of pages we received and transcribed them, as you will see. If you’d like to have copies of the originals I worked with I’m happy to email them to you – they’re too ugly to post.


Transcription of copies of Kimbrough Bible 1820

This Bible was undoubtedly from the family of Meridith Garth and Mildred Ann Maria Terry Kimbrough. Meridith was the oldest son of Thomas and is well documented in a variety of ways. No one mentions his grandparents, however.

Thanks Bob, or how we got so interested in Kimbrough genealogy

My late father-in-law, Bob Kimbrough, known as “Lan” to his relatives, took a trip back to his hometown of Guthrie, Kentucky during the early years of our marriage. I have always been interested in history and when I found that this family had an old house there – a plantation house, really – and some older relatives who still lived near there, I was hooked. Why not investigate the Kimbrough genealogy? It seemed sooo much more romantic than my local folks. It didn’t hurt that each time I searched the various genealogy websites I would find hits on the name – many of which turned out to be related.

So began the quest that’s lasted over 15 years: who were the Kimbroughs? Are the McMurrys related to William Wallace? Are the Bollings descended from Pocahontas? Were the Kimbroughs the only plantation owners in Kentucky that didn’t own slaves? As you can imagine, many of the family legends, like the last one, have turned out to be just that – legends. Can’t say it hasn’t been fun.

As I began another round of sorting information today I came upon some pictures that reminded me of Bob’s pivotal part in our search. He passed away on December 13th, 2009, so as we approach this anniversary I thought it apt to write a bit about him, his history and his contribution to the Kimbrough legacy.

Bob was born on 26 March 1919 in Guthrie, Todd County, Kentucky to Keith Keesee  and Mary McMurry Kimbrough. He was the 3rd son of 5 children and spent his growing up years in Guthrie. His mother died when he was not yet 11. He decided, after high school to attend Georgia Tech in faraway Atlanta, encouraged by his aunt and uncle who lived there. He obtained his engineering degree from there and never looked back. He was Army Air Corps ROTC and entered WW II in 1941.

Here are his orders:

Special Orders to Galveston

Monday, 23 June 1941


436 Post Office Building

Louisville, Kentucky.

June 23, 1941. Special Orders No. 112.

By direction of the President and under authority contained in Public Resolution No. 96, 16th Congress, approved August 27, 1940, second Lieutenant Robert Landon Kimbrough, 0-410941, CA-Res.,(541st CA) Guthrie, Todd, County, Kentucky, is ordered to extended active duty effective June 30, 1941, on which date he will proceed without delay from the place shown after his name to Fort Knox, Kentucky reporting upon arrival to the Commanding General, for temporary duty for the purpose of undergoing final type physical examination. Upon completion of the physical examination, if found physically qualified, he will proceed immediately to Galveston, Texas, reporting upon arrival to the Commanding Officer, for assignment and duty with Harbor Defenses of Galveston.

He will rank from May 20,1941. Unless sooner relieved, he will return to his home from the station where he is then time to arrive thereat on June 29, 1942, on which date he will stand relieved from active duty. The travel directed is necessary in the military service. FD~1325 P 15-06, 15-02, 15-07, 15-13, 15-01, A 1505-01-2. (Reference War Department letter AG 320.2 (12-27-40) M-A-M, January 3, 1941, Subject:

“Allotment of Reserve officers for Regular Army Inactive Units to be activated June 1, 1941”). (Reqn. #112-1941)

 Bob in 1940s

He shared with us one of the other important related turning points of his life – he was NOT sent to Guadalcanal later in the conflict as his engineering skills were needed elsewhere. Otherwise a lot of our Kimbroughs would not exist. The military continued to be a big part of Bob’s life even after discharge in about 1947  from the Air Force as he maintained membership in the Reserves until the mid 1980’s.

Bob spent his post active military career with the Boeing Company and retired from there. After his retirement he did some traveling and on one of his trips he came upon the old Kimbrough Family Cemetery which was originally on the Kimbrough Plantation in Hadensville, Kentucky,  just outside of Guthrie. His original Kentucky forebears were buried there and he wanted to see that it was preserved for future generations. With support from a cousin, Ben Kimbrough and his nephew John, son of his late brother Charles, Bob crafted a plan to restore what tombstones and sites could be found. We got involved in the last stage of the restoration: taking pictures and documenting the burials – as best we could. Our results are seen on the website .

The quest for information to know more about the folks who were buried in the cemetery really drove a lot of the research for a while. We have yet to find out where Thomas Winston Kimbrough and his brothers were raised…but we have hope! I’m sorry that Bob won’t be around to celebrate with us when the brick wall is finally breached, but I’ll imagine him laughing.

RLK on front porch of his childhood home in Guthrie, Kentucky in 2001