Our Folk – Resource Materials
Grandfather Maj. Wilbraham Kimball
Grandmother Deborah Bourne Kimball
(James Melvin Kimball – 1934)
Very little has been handed down concerning the lives of my Kimball grand parents. Grandfather was born in Wells, Me. In 1778 and was married in 1804. For a short time, about 1812-13, the family moved to Jay Me., but probably returned to Wells in 1814. One of their sons. Wilbraham, was born in Jay. Grandfather learned the trade of ship-carpenter and by 1817 we know that he was building vessels at Wells as a master builder. Between this year and 1830 he build thirteen small vessels, schooners, brigs and sloops.
He may have built other vessels at a later date, but I have no information concerning them. There is a tradition that be built a vessel at Hingham, Mass., but there is no proof of it. That he was a man of prominence in the community is shown by the fact that he was appointed Major in the Militia, the appointment coming from Mass. As Maine was not then a State.
The first son, Ivory, was born in 1805 and the last one, George, in 1826. The old K. farm was about three miles back from the ocean. When I first visited Wells as a boy there were no shipyards there and I do not know just where they were located. In 1826 he built a brig in Kennebunk, but later (1830) he build a schooner in Wells. In 1845 a Family Reunion was held in Kennebunk and Uncle Israel read an original poem on the occasion.
Another one was held, this time at Wells, when as before, Uncle Israel composed and read an appropriate poem. This Reunion was in 1847. At that one Uncle Sam’l surprised them all by getting married. (See Judge I. G’s book.). A letter that had been preserved, written by my father from Woburn in 1848 to his father, is directed to Kennebunk, showing he was living or working there at that time. According to Uncle Israel’s poem, Uncle Stephen had taken the old Wells homestead as his home by 1847.
Grandfather retired about this time and went to Woburn to live with his sons there. My mother, who saw much of grandfather Kimball in his last days, said he was a kindly and somewhat reserved man as she remembered him.
Ten fine sons, all reaching manhood, all reflected honor on their parents who must have been energetic and resourceful as well as of devout Christian character;.
Judge I. G. K. says, in his biography, that each boy, as he grew up in the old house, was taught to help his mother in cooking and other work in the house in the absence of daughters to render such assistance.
They were worthy sons of worthy parents
(J. M. K.)
The Ten Kimball Brothers
Excerpts from a sermon preached at the funeral of Rev. Ivory Kimball, by Rev. U. Balkam at Edgecomb Me. July 1853:
“As he whose obsequies we are met today to celebrate often said as he lay for so many weeks upon the bed of his gradual decline, his views, much more his feelings, could not be expressed by language. It is some twenty five years since he consecrated himself to faith and prayer to God.
“This whole period, we may safely say, was one of continuous preparation for a high place in heaven. Twenty six years ago, at the age of twenty two, he left his secular callings, and with small means went to Bangor, to spend some years in preparation for the work he had chosen. It was in this preparation season, that he impaired his constitution and prepared the was for being cut off in the midst of his days. He went from the Seminary an invalid. His constitutional vigor was gone. An unusual paleness even then had come over him, consequently the nineteen years of his ministry have been a conflict with disease.
“Frequently, and for years at once, he was obliged to leave the work he loved so well. It was only his ambition to preach the Gospel. He came to this place, as you know, after some years or retirement from his work. He was then comparatively well. But the labor was too great for him. We know now that for a long time there had been a wasting of his strength. He had the greatest energy of will, and he preached until you saw him fall in his place. His seraphic speech at our County Conference, more than a year ago, has often been adverted to since. He stood on the Mount and his face shown. He was a godly man. A man of prayer.
“In his early ministry he felt the most painful anxiety for the fruits of his preaching. But he came afterwards to put off this solicitude and rest in quiet repose and cheerful hope. You have seen the life and witnessed the death of your minister. How impressively he preached from his dying couch, you cannot forget. That all should enter into the glory that he was his great desire”
(Sketch of the life and labors of Ivory Kimball taken from a pamphlet containing his funeral sermon preached by Rev. Mr. Balkam of Wiscasset, Me. July 27, 1853. Printed in Bath, Me.)
Appendix (page 16)
“Mr. Kimball was born in Wells 1805. He was converted at the age of twenty one, under the ministry of Rev. Jonathan Greenleaf, of that place. He was settled in Limington in Oct. of 1834, the year of his graduation at Bangor. He labored with that people five and a half years. His work was prepared in the revival of religion, and many were gathered into his church.
“In 1840 he was employed by the church and society in Elliot. During his ministry of two and a half years in this place there as some religious interest, and some were brought into the fold of the Great Shepherd. In 1843, he removed to Lyndboro’ N.H., where he was installed in December. Here he anticipated spending his days, and often remarked to his beloved people that “he expected to lay his body there with them”. But it was ordered otherwise. He was here smitten with the fatal disease which terminated his life. After struggling with it a long time, he was obliged to close his labors and retire to his father’s house to die as all his friends supposed. But he rallied, and was able to preach occasionally during his sojourn there. His health seemed quite confirmed when he was called in the providence of God, as we all felt, to labor with this people. How he lived, and labored, and died, here, you know, dear sir. I might enlarge much on this meager sketch of one spoken of, but I forbear. Truly yours, S. P. K.”
(Edgecomb, July 1853. Evidently written by a parishioner of his last church at Edgecomb. J. M. K.)
His education was obtained at Bowdoin College and Bagor Theological Seminary.
He married Sarah Poor who survived him 6 years.
Uncle Stephen, the second oldest brother, was born in June 1807. He was sell along in years when I used to visit him in Wells in my boyhood days.
His life was spent on the old Kimball farm. He possessed a lovely personality and was a man of deep religious faith. He was a deacon in the Wells Cong’l Church for many years. His first wife, Caroline Cole, died in 1864 so I do not remember her, but his daughter, Lizzie, who married George Littlefield, was living at the time of my first visit to Wells with my father. I remember best a visit I made to the old home in 1876. Uncle had then married Aunt Sarah (Strout) and her son Frank was living there.
Cousin Sadie, the daughter of this second marriage, was a small child. Aunt Sarah was a very pleasant and cheerful woman. She liked to give young folks a good time. Uncle Stephen always began the day with a family worship. He lived what would not be considered a simple and uneventful life, rarely going away from home. As the farm provided the family living he handled little ready money. Aunt Sarah was a Methodist, having married a M. E. minister for her first husband. She attended a small M. E. Church at Maryland Ridge, a mile or so from the farm. The distance to Uncle’s church on the “lower road” was about three miles. Aunt Sarah used to call Uncle S. “the blessed old deacon”. Cousin Lizzie had died and Geo. Littlefield had married Hulda – a fine Christian woman, for his second wife.
A visit to Wells always included a day or two down to Geo. Littlefield’s at Cole Corner on the road to Kennebunk. There was a dense pine woods opposite Uncle Stephen’s house. Frank Strout and I roamed these woods and made trips to Wells Beach. I recall riding down in Uncle’s Ox team once in the night to get sea-weed to spread on the land, and how each fork-full glowed with a phosphorescent light. These are among the pleasantest memories of my childhood. Frank Strout and I formed a friendship that lasted thro his life.
After Uncle Stephen’s death by paralysis in 1889 at Wells, Aunt Sarah and her two children moved to Portland where she lived to be over ninety. I corresponded with her until a short time before her death in 1920 at Portland. Frank lives in Portland having now retired and Sadie lives in Florida. (Frank died in Portland Mar 1933)
Isaac B. Kimball
Uncle Isaac, the third brother, was born in June 1809. He was a large, stout man with one of the pleasantest smiling faces I ever saw. He came up to South Boston when a young man and married. His occupation was a Police Officer. In those days Boston had Americans for policemen. It was said of him that he was so large and strong that he could take an offender in each hand and slap them together. He had three children, George, Mary, and Meda and their home was out at City Point, So. Boston, a delightful place in those days.
When we visited them we enjoyed the view of the shipping that passed in and out of the Harbor, which was in plain sight from their dining room windows. Cousin Geo. Would hire a row boat or one with a sail and we had grand times sailing about Dorchester Bay or visiting some of the islands of which Ft. Independence was the nearest.
Cousins Mary and Meda had married before the family had left So. Boston, but George remained a bachelor until late in life. He was a favorite with all the relatives. His favorite indoor game was dominoes. Uncle Isaac, when an old man, went to visit Uncle Stephen in Wells and while there he met with an accident that took the sight of one eye. Unlike the other brothers, he was not affiliated with any church. He was a kindly and loveable man. Aunt Catherine died before my remembrance, Uncle used to come out to Woburn occasionally. Cousin George was a veteran of the Civil War. He was in the 5th Mass. Regt. Which was the same one father was in. Late in life he married a maiden lady named Hattie. They lived at Northampton Mass. Where he died of old age. Cousins Mary and Meda lived in the latter part of their lives in Stoughton. The latter died there in 1928. Uncle Isaac died in Apr, 1894.
Uncle Israel, the fourth oldest of the Kimball brothers, w as bon in Jan 1812. He was a graduate of Bowden College as was Uncle Ivory. He married Clara Bragdon and made his home in Portsmouth, N.H. where he taught in the Academy on Islington St.
When the children were young the family lived down by the Harbor, but Uncle later bought a fine house and extensive grounds out at the west end of town on Islington St. which is still in the family. It is now owned (1929) by Cousin Clara Chapman the last survivor of the family.
The children consisted of two sons and four daughters all of whom married except Sarah. About the time of the Civil War, Uncle Israel went to Washington and got a position in the Internal Revenue Department. Which he held up to his death. He had charge of the revenue on tobacco. The family, for many years, lived in Washington winters and in Portsmith summers.
Uncle was a sufferer for may years from asthma, from which complaint he got relief by smoking good tobacco. He was an ardent Republican in politics as were, I think, all his brothers. He lived to sing and he had a fine baritone voice
The old Portsmith house was most hospitable and all the relatives loved to visit there and were made welcome. Memories of days passed in e excursions to the neighboring beaches and evenings of fun and music cluster around the old home in summer time.
Uncle and other members of the family often used to come out to Woburn over a Sunday on their journeys back and forth between Portsmith and Washington. They usually went to Uncle Wm’s house and on Sunday afternoon our family, with Uncle John and Aunt Emily, would all meet at Uncle Williams for a reunion and family sing. Aunt Mary, who sang alto, or J. M. K. would preside a t the little old melodian.
Uncle Israel did in 1890 of old age.
Uncle Wilbraham was the fifth in age of the brothers. The following sketch of his life was written in Jan 1929 and given to me by his only surviving child, Cousin Jennie Kimball, now living is Washington:
“Wilbraham Kimball was born Mar 24 1814 at Jay Me. (now known as Ea. Dixfield). He married Ann Hatch in June 1842. I have been told that in running to a fire he became overheated, took cold and asthma s et in from which he never recovered. He suffered to terribly that in 1845 he left his wife and little boy with her parents while he searched out a place where (he) could breathe. He found it in Ft. Wayne Ind. His wife and little boy (I. G. K.) joined him there the next year in 1841.
He was a farmer by profession but he suffered so from asthma he was not able to manage a farm and in 1850 he secured a position as toll-gate keeper on the plank road between Ft. Wayne and Lima.
The tool-gate was 2 ½ miles from the city limits and there he spent a number of happy years. A year or two before his death he moved to a tollgate at the opposite end of town but did not live there very long. He took cold, congestion of the lungs set in and he died June 3 1870.
He had a beautiful Christian character. His bible was always open on his desk and he loved to repeat favorite passages, many of which he knew by heart. I never saw him angry or even irritated in my life. He left behind him only the beautiful memories of a lovely Christian life.”
As I do not think Uncle Wilbraham ever came to Woburn to visit in my time, I, of course, have no personal recollection of him. Two of his children, Cousins (Judge) I. G. and Jennie, used to visit in Woburn, and I visited them in Washington in 1888and some years later. Another son, Israel, lived in the West and I do not recall ever seeing him. There was an infant son who died. (See book “Recollections from a Busy Life” by Judge I. G. Kimball)
Uncle William was the sixth of the brothers. He was born in Aug. 1816. He came to So. Boston when a young man and from there he moved to Woburn in a short time. There he married Mary Huse of Lowell. He was a tinsmith and worked at the bench many years for Leonard Thompson, the hardware man, on Main St., Woburn.
Uncle Wm and Aunt Mary were both large, stout people and were well matched. They owned a cottage on Johnson St. where they lived until they left Woburn to go to Wilton, N.H. in 1883, on account of Aunt Mary’s health, on Uncle’s retirement from business. During the last few years of his work, he built a shop on Union St. where he carried on the stove and tinware business.
He built two houses to rent on Union St. which he left to his daughter Mary at his death. Father build all these buildings for him. Both Uncle Wm. and Aunt Mary were good singers and were members of the choir of the Cong’l. Church many years. They were great friends of Dr. Eph. Cutter. They sang in the first Peach Jubilee in Boston in 1869. Uncle sang bass and Aunt Mary alto. She was always nice to us children and she liked to give boys a good time. I often used to go up on Saturday nights to enjoy the baked beans that always graced the table, with pepper sauce! Their house was headquarters for visiting relatives from out of town.
I have spoken often of the Sunday sings in my sketch of Uncle Israel. When he was there the songs included his bass solo “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep”, the old “Coronation” with its stirring chorus, “Hallelujah”, &c. “What Ship is This” and “Tell me My Secret Soul”, “Sound the Loud Tumbrel” were the great favorites and always had a place on the program. In the early days, when we had church service in the afternoon and morning both, we went up after the afternoon service. In the ‘70s Uncle and Aunt became croquet fans and often played the game on their lawn by lantern light.
In 1883 they removed to Wilton and Uncle built a house there that was his home until his death by old age (88 years) in 1904. Mary, the only child living, married Everett Barrett of Wilton. Aunt Mary died after a few years in Wilton and Uncle was left, a lonely old man, away from his friends, in a comparatively strange country. As he retained his property in Woburn he came down once in a while as long as he was able to, and visited at our house.
He outlived my father by twelve years. Uncle Wm. was a true disciple of Isaac Walton. He used to go on fishing trips to Magalloway and other Maine Lakes and streams with two or three boon companions when he lived in Woburn. He lived an active and honorable life and was a well known and respected citizen of Woburn for many years. His daughter Mary died at Wilton in Jan. 1923 at 59 years of age.
Benjamin H. Kimball
Uncle Benjamin was born in 1818 and was the seventh brother. He came up to Woburn and married Sarah Folsom. He worked with his brothers George and Samuel at carpentering. After marriage, he lived for a while on Academy Hill and ran the Academy Boarding House for pupils of the Warren Academy. He removed to Ft. Wayne Ind. before the Civil War where he lived the rest of his life. His children were Will, Laura, Mary and Addie, now all dead. He attended the Presb. Church in Ft. Wayne that Uncles Wilbraham and Sam’l attended, and sang in the Choir. He visited Woburn late in life but I did not see him as I happened to be out of town during his visit.
As is the case of the other two brothers who went to Ft. Wayne to live, I have no remembrance of him, but do remember his children. Cousin Will lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. where I visited him some years ago. Uncle Benj. Died in 1889 of catarrh. Judge I. G.’s book tells of him and his family in their Ft. Wayne home.
Cousins Laura and Mary never married. Laura was a talented woman and taught school. She compiled a cook-book that had a large sale the proceeds from which she donated to the church. Both sisters had the Kimball gift of song. Cousin Addie married a man named Howard and raised a family. I remember a visit she made to Woburn with some wide-awake boys. I have now lost track of them.
John Patten Kimball
Uncle John Patton was the eighth brother. He was born in Mar. 1821. He came to Woburn when a young man and learned the trade of carpentering with his brothers Ben.., Sam., and George. During the Civil War he had a room at our house on Mt. Pleasant St. and kept bachelor hall. This was the house in which I was born and it was built and owned by father. Uncle John occupied the N.W. chamber where he “kept house” cooking his meals &c.
He was a very religious man and loved to sing sacred songs. While father was away in the army in ’62 and ’64, we felt safe with Uncle John in the house. We could hear him singing or reciting scripture in his room. He was a very modest and retiring man. (I wonder what he would have thought of the present age – 1934!) When in the middle life he married Emily Skelton of Burlington, who was a maiden woman of about his age. She, too, was of a highly religious nature.
He bought a small cottage on Lawrence St, Academy Hill, with a little land. He build a shop for carpenter jobbing near the house. He was a member of, and a constant attendant, at the Cong’l Church, and later in life was made a Deacon of the church. He bought land on Mt. Pleasant St. and was building a house to rent there in the summer of 1879, when he was taken sick and died of dysentery. (July 29 ’78) Aunt Emily only survived him a few weeks. Most of their estate went to the Cong’l Church.
We all dearly loved Uncle John. His was one of the most nearly perfect Christian lives I ever knew. I used to go up the hill to see Uncle John and Aunt Emily frequently during the last few years of their lives.
Samuel W. Kimball
Uncle Sam, the ninth brother, was born in Nov. 1823. He came next to father in age. He, too, came up to Mass. when a young man and went to carpentering with his brothers for a short time in Bedford, then to Woburn. He married Eliza Drew of Dover N.H. He left Woburn when his children were small went to join his brothers Wilbraham and Benj. In Ft. Wayne Ind. Here he gave up carpentering and devoted his life to the profession of music.
He organized and taught singing schools and led the choir of the Presb. Church in Ft. Wayne. He was a member of the original “Kimball Bros. Quartette” when they gave Mass. towns before the war and also in Portsmith N.H.
This complete the brief sketches of the lives of father’s nine brothers. While far from a satisfactory narration, it may serve to give a general idea of Father’s family to their grand and great-grand children.
In the light of the present day, we wonder how so many sons could have so successfully overcome the obstacles of limited education and opportunity and have all made an honored place for themselves in t he world.
George - youngest of the ten Kimball brothers was born in Wells Me Oct. 4 1826.
He lived as a boy on the old K. farm there. When he was about twelve years old the family moved to Jay Me. for a short time. When still a young man he left Maine and came up to Bedford Mass., and a little later to Woburn, where three of his brothers had settled and were at work carpentering. He worked with them and thoroughly learned the trade. Benjamin was married, but Sam’l. was single.
At Woburn he met and married (1849) Maria Melvin of Concord, Mass. who had left her home to be a while with her sister Eliza (Gage) and to find employment in that town. At the time of his marriage father was twenty-three. Four children were born to them, one, a little girl died in infancy. Just before the out-break of the Civil War, he had started in the business of carpentering for himself. Father and mother were both ardent Anti-slavery advocates. Father, who had a fine high tenor voice, sang in the K. Bros’ Quartette at Anti-slavery meetings and in concerts &c. at a time when men who held these opinions were considered fanatics by the wealthy and official classes.
In the fall of’62 a company was formed in Woburn to go to war, which father joined by enlistment as a volunteer. He served in Co. G. 5th Mass. Reg’t. for Nine Months service, mostly performed at Newbern No. Car. He later (in 1864) again enlisted in the same Regt’ and Co. for 100 Days service in Md. at Ft. Mc. Henry, Baltimore. IN both cases he was taken from the ranks and put in charge of men to build barracks and hospital buildings.
He left at home behind him a wife and three young children to go to war. He was the only one of the brothers who went to the was, tho several of his nephews saw service. One, Geo. A. form So. Boston serving in the same Regiment.
After the war he resumed the carpentering business in Woburn and up to the time of his death which occurred from bilious disorders in Sept 1892, he build a great many houses, shops, and other buildings including a M. E. Church in Woburn. His building operations were also extended to the neighboring towns of Winchester, where he did a big business in building expensive houses, and towards the last of his life to West. Medford. A visitor to Woburn and Winchester today will find many buildings that are monuments to his handiwork. He always had the reputation of getting a house “framed, raised and boarded in” a little quicker than any other builder in town. He employed a fine lot of skilled workmen who were very loyal to him.
He had a beaming continence and a loving disposition. His pung in winter was always covered with children. He loved animals, particularly horses and cats. We always had two of the former and from two to ten of the latter around the barn. His favorite color for a cat was yellow. He always had a kind word of greeting for young or old, rich or poor.
He was converted in the great revival of ’57 and joined the Cong’l Church of which he was a constant attendant thro life. In middle life he sang in the choir. Father never used liquor as a beverage or tobacco in any form. He was a consistent worker in the cause of Total Abstinence. For many years when Woburn had “Local Option” on the Liquor question, he used to devote his time gratuitously on election day in work at the Polls in the cause of Temperance and to help carry the city for “No License”. In the language of today, he was a life long “dry”.
In the home he was a bountiful “provider” not only of the substantials of good food, but I have often known him to bring home a half peck of peanuts from Boston. AN abundance of apples, pears and small fruits grew on the place.
Tho father’s early education was very limited he was so successful in self education that he never appeared illiterate. He was surpassed by none of his brothers in the skip and energy with which he conducted his business. Merchants and humble laborers of Woburn have stopped me on the street months after his death to pay tribute to his character and worth. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” He died, comparatively young, at 66. Ten noble men who were a credit to their day and generation, and of these my father was the smartest, handsomest and best!
(See “Old Woburn Days” by J. M. K for full account of father’s service in the War. Army letters, &c.)
(Of the three children who grew up, Geo E. and Jas M. are living 1934. Sister Clara or “Caddie”, the best of the three, died in Washington at 77 years of age in Jan 1927.)
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