Sunday, August 13, 2017

Searching for Aunt Abbie

I’m pleased and proud to introduce Julia DiMunno, my daughter, as my first guest author.  I owe Great Aunt Abbie Kimber a debt of gratitude for piquing Julia’s interest in our family’s history. Thank you Julia for sharing Aunt Abbie’s story.

Greetings family and friends. My interest in Abigail Kimber began in March 2017. That was when I, just beginning to develop an interest in our family tree, shyly offered to record some of the Kimber letters for my mother. If any of you have been reading my mother’s blog for any length of time, I’m sure you know all about the Kimber letters--a series of letters written amongst the Kimber sisters and their mother, Keziah dating from 1848-1865. They offer a poignant snapshot of life among one family. After my offer, my mother’s immediate response was “You can be the voice of Aunt Abbie in her diary”. Great, I thought, but who’s Aunt Abbie?

Aunt Abbie, I learned, was my fourth great grandaunt, her sister Charity Kimber Clark being my direct ancestor. Over the next few weeks I read and recorded her diary, which ranged from September 10, 1864 to November 30, 1864. I lent my voice to her words and hopefully, I did her justice. I must confess, in the process, I developed a tenderness to this ancestor of mine. When the project was over I asked what became of her and was shocked at the answer. We do not know what happened to Aunt Abbie. We do not know when or where she died, or where she is buried. How could this be? Albeit she was unmarried and childless--a sprig on a larger family tree--she lived, and was an integral part of a family. She could not have simply vanished, a lone woman forgotten in the pages of time. My quest became to find her.

Let me first tell you a little about her. Abigail Lucy Kimber was born April 22, 1822 in Unionville NY. She was one of nine sisters born to Benjamin and Keziah Kimber. She was the only unmarried sister and was often sent from home to home to care for ailing family members. She spent most of her time between Orange County, NY and Bradford County, PA. This must have been a trying task at times. She was there to care for sister, Julia Ann Kimber Elston, in the months leading up to her death. Alongside her mother Keziah, she helped care for little nephew Ephern Doty, sleeping beside him in her own bed before he slipped away. In father Benjamin’s later years, it was Abbie who sat vigil at his beside watching his every breath. One diary entry from October 23, 1864 reads “It don’t seem as if I can live it he don’t”.

Aunt Abbie was not without her own problems. According to notes believed to be from Winifred Drake Ridall (Granddaughter of Jane Kimber and Moses Seely) “she had a great disappointment. A man wanted to marry her but she would not marry him unless he accepted the [Jones ?] children, which he refused”. The handwriting here is in the margin and difficult read, but I believe it refers to the Jones children (the children of deceased sister Susan Kimber and Caleb Jones). She may have had her own physical ailments as well. In one of the Kimber letters sister Sarah Kimber Mackney writes that she is going to send Abbie medicine to see if it helps. In another, Keziah refers to Abbie’s only being able to sit up in bed a little and needing a litter to travel in. When she was caring for Julia Ann, Abbie fell ill suddenly and the family thought that she could “not liv no time”.

Reading through the Kimber letters and Aunt Abbie’s own diary one can see evidence of what we now know as depression and anxiety. She makes multiple references of her gloominess and her nerves. One diary entry from November 14, 1864 reads: “O how pleasant death looks to me--it will relive my poor throbbing heart and this poor weak body of mine that knows no rest”. She was but 42 years old when she wrote this. I have no doubt that Benjamin’s death in 1866 exacerbated these feelings.

In 1874 at the age of 52, Aunt Abbie was admitted to the New York State Homeopathic Hospital in Middletown, a mere few weeks after it opened. This hospital was the first of its kind, offering a more gentle approach to the mentally ill. Likely living with Jane and Moses Seely in Troy, PA at the time, they would have heard about this new hospital from their Orange County relatives. I believe they were watching and waiting for this hospital to open in hopes that it could help her. One year later, according to the NYS 1875 census records, Abbie is still there and listed as “insane”. Thanks to the work of Mrs. Kathryn Decker Osburn (granddaughter of Phebe Kimber Decker) we know that Abbie was discharged from the Homeopathic hospital on March 23, 1876 and that her condition was “unimproved”. Kathryn even went a step further by writing to the NYS Department of Health and the Office of Vital Statistics searching for a date of death on Abbie. Her queries were answered stating that no records were found.

My search began where Winifred’s and Kathryn’s left off. My instincts told me that she may not have strayed far from Middletown after her discharge. She would have been about 54 years old by then, and after spending two years in the state hospital she may not have been well enough to travel back to Bradford County. I searched the 1880 census records for the remaining Kimber sisters and, as suspected, could not find Abbie with any of them. So then I began to look among the extended family, paying close attention to the Orange County relatives. Had one of the younger generation taken her in? After all, she had helped care for enough of them in her lifetime. I searched the 1880 census records for nieces and nephews hoping to find Aunt Abbie among them. This was no easy task, as my ancestor Charity alone had 12 children. I grew more disheartened with each search. A nagging thought formed in my mind--what if no one took her in? What if she was too far gone or hard to handle? Could she have gone to a home for destitute women?

I was still in the midst of searching among the Clarks, Deckers and Elstons, when, on a whim I did a Google search for the Orange County poorhouse. I was directed to’s Census of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses, an index I didn’t even know existed. Lo and behold-- there she was. Miss Kimber was admitted to the Orange county poorhouse on March 22, 1876 at the age of 54. According to her admission form, she was admitted after spending 2 years “at Middletown”. Among the other demographic information,we learn that she was temperate, status of dependence was insanity, she was unable to perform labor, and that she “would remain” at the poorhouse. A single line at the bottom of the form gives us a tiny glimpse of the woman. It reads “this woman is noisy and fretful”.

I was elated to have found her, but dismayed to have found where she was and it led to further questions. I assumed that Aunt Abbie died in the poorhouse, but I can find no evidence of it. I believe that she died between 1876 -1880. I have been unable to find any more records for the Orange County Poorhouse, neither at the state or local level. Our local Orange County Genealogical Society holds the records for those buried in the old poorhouse burial ground, but alas, those years are missing and she is not among their other records. “Find a Grave” searches have yielded no results, as have searches for death notices or obituaries in local papers.

There may be another alternative. According to the notes of Winifred Drake Ridall, her mother, Isabel Seely Drake, thought that Aunt Abbie might have been taken home to Bradford County. She writes: “I know that she died before or about the time of my mother’s marriage, which was December 30, 1875 at Fassett, Pa. Grandfather lived at that time on the left hand side of the road after leaving Fassett on the way to Gillett, about opposite where the church now stands (1936). I do not know how long before this date he lived there. Mother told me that her aunt was in the state hospital in Middletown for some time, but she was taken out and brought to their home”. Her timeline is a little off. We know that Abbie was alive and still in the state hospital in 1875 and that she lived to see at least the first few months of 1876. But is it possible that she was taken out of the poorhouse and brought home to Jane and Moses? So far I have found no records of any death notices in the Pennsylvania newspapers and “Find a Grave” searches have yielded no results.

So family and friends, we have now arrived at our brick wall. Any information or suggestions are most welcome. I would love to know when and where she died. Above all, I would like to stand before her grave, place a bright bouquet of flowers on it and say “You were not forgotten”. Who knows, maybe with your help the next time you hear from me, it will be under the title of “Finding Aunt Abbie”

~ Julia DiMunno (4th great grandniece of Abigail Kimber)

Louis Galliac

Friday, August 4, 2017

Staunton Light Infantry in 1840

Recently I posted David McFall Born and Reared in Augusta, Virginia describing my 3rd Great Grandfather David McFall’s July 4th, 1849 celebration. Captain McFall and the Mt. Solon Artillery led the day’s parade accompanied by the Mt. Crawford band.  

Nine years before, Great Grandfather served as a private with the Staunton Light Infantry. The Staunton Spectator’s article “Staunton Light Infantry 63 Years Ago” dated Friday, March 6, 1903, published a muster roll of the unit. It was discovered 63 years after the event by the proud Spectator Staff. 

Private David McFall was soldiering and the same year teaching school. See Captain David McFall’s Teaching Days.

Take a look and see if you can find your Augusta County, Virginia men among the Staunton Light Infantry comrades.

A transcription of the article follows the image. 

Staunton Spectator & Vindicator,  Staunton, Virginia  Friday, March 6, 1903
Staunton Spectator & Vindicator,
Staunton, Virginia
Friday, March 6, 1903


Staunton Spectator & Vindicator, Staunton, Virginia
Friday, March 6, 1903

Staunton Light Infantry 63 Years Ago.

   We have found among the papers of the first editor of the SPECTATOR the roll of the Staunton Light Infantry, bearing date January 1840 Kenton Harper, captain. It is interesting to see how many of the young men of 63 years ago from Staunton, were, 21 years afterwards, brave soldiers in the war between the States or distinguished in political and civil life subsequently. On this roll some of the old men of today will recognize their fathers, others their grandfathers, and other relatives. It is curious to note in the military companies then there were in each, two 1st lieutenants and two 2d lieutenants. The roll of officers for 1841, also before us, shows that M. G. Harman had been promoted from the ranks to 3d sergeant. Our esteemed fellow townsman, Mr. Harman J. Lushbaugh, is the only surviving member of the company, so far as we are aware of.
   Kenton Harper, capt.; Matthew Blare, 1st lieut.; John H. Ast, 1st lieut.; Murrill Cushing, 2d lieut.; Robert W. Stevenson, 2d lieut.; John Carroll, 1st sgt.; Wm. Peters, 2d sgt.; Nicholas K. Trout, 3d sgt.; Charles T. Cameron, 4th sgt.; Alex McD Cowan, 5th sgt.; John B. Baldwin, 1st cor.; Robt. G. Bickle, 2nd cor.; Jas. Landridge, 3rd cor.; Elijah Calvert, 4th cor.; Jacob K. Stribling, 5th cor.; John D. Stevenson, 6th cor.  Privates—James F. Patterson, Nathaniel B. Long, Judson McCoy, Robt. H. Kinney, Matthew McKever, Wm. Carroll, Wm. B. Johnson, Wm. Crawford, Wm. G. Sterrett, Wm. Chambers, John Dudley, Henry Bare, John Crawford, Jas. A. Forbes, Sam’l E. Clarke, Henry Taylor, Jacob N. Rhoads, Benj F. Points, John Grandstaff, John T. Arnall, David McFall, Daniel Fishburn, James Bickle, David J. Fox, John Trayer, Jacob Sheets, John Harman, Archibald Davis, A. D. Wrenn, Samuel Laughlin, Geo. W. Fuller, Francis Huff, Wm. P. Hall, Warwick W. Hamner, Elisha Curry, Jas. S. Graham, Harman J. Lushbaugh, Vincent T. Cooper, Samuel C. Charlton, Wm. Blackburn, Wm. W. Murry, Magness W. Stribling, H. Jouett Harrow, Thomas Eskridge, John K. Moore, Thos. W. Murry, Michael G. Harman, Wm. Martin, John Forbes, Robert Eskridge, John Fisher Jr., Jacob Long, Addison Fleisher, Hugh W. Sheffey, Osburn Welling, Andrew Robertson, Augustus Garber, Chesley Kinney, F. T. Geiger, James Forbes, John B. Watt, Jessy Forbes, Sohn S. Smith, John Donaho, Wm. Fuller.  Musicians Wm. Suthers, Valentine Teoffer.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Captain David McFall’s teaching Days

The front page of the Staunton Spectator and Vindicator published a piece called “Recollections of Bygone Days – An Interesting Bit of History – Old Days in Augusta – Many Familiar Names and Places, Etc.” Friday, July 31, 1903. The author, only identified as E. L. H., recalled David McFall’s teaching days in Augusta County, Virginia.

3rd Great Grandfather’s student reminisced:

            “A few years later in 1840, I was again a school boy near the valley turnpike, the school-house at this time was an old dwelling house converted into a school room on the farm formerly owned by the late Daniel Sheffey, and stood nearly opposite the present residence of Mr. Samuel Parkins. The teacher was the late Capt. David McFall, father of Hamilton McFall, of Mt. Solon.   A better teacher was not in those days, and cannot be surpassed in these.”

In 1840 David McFall was a single man about 21 years old. To know more about Great Grandfather, see my last post David McFall Born and Reared in Augusta, Virginia.

To read “Recollections of Bygone Days – An Interesting Bit of History – Old Days in Augusta – Many Familiar Names and Places, Etc.” in its entirety on the Library of Congress web site, click here.

Source: Chronicling America, Staunton Spectator and Vindicator (Staunton, Va.)
July 31, 1903, Image 1

My Ancestry
3rd Great Grandfather David McFall and wife Catherine Todd
2nd Great Grandfather James Addison McFall and wife Radie Maria Harman
Great Grandmother Flora Belle McFall and husband Daniel Franklin Joseph
Grandfather James McFall Joseph and wife Lucy Leora Clemmer
My Father

Saturday, July 22, 2017

David McFall Born and Reared in Augusta, Virginia

Today I’d like to write about 3rd Great Grandfather David McFall. He was born about 1819 in Augusta Co., Virginia, a son of Thomas McFall and Nancy Hall. He married Catherine Todd July 28, 1842, and they became the parents of Margaret Jane, Hamilton B., James Addison, Stuart B., and David Chambers McFall. David McFall died March 20, 1854, 35 years old.

Thanks to the Augusta Historical Society and Anne E. Kidd’s obituary excerpts, I learned David was a member of the International Order of Odd Fellows at Mt. Solon, Augusta Co., Virginia.

     Mr. David McFall, a worthy member of Mt. Solon Lodge, I. O. O. F. died at his residence in Mt. Solon on Thursday last. (29 March 1854)
     Tributes of Respect. Mt. Solon Lodge No. 110 I. O. O. F. Mt. Sidney Lodge No. 119 (12 April 1854)
     David McFall died in the village of Mt. Solon, in this county . . . the 22nd of March, leaving a fond wife and five infant children . . . his parentage was poor but respectable . . . born and reared in Augusta. (10 May 1854)
     The funeral of Capt. David McFall will be preached on the second Sabbath in August . . . at the Methodist Church in Mt. Solon, by Rev. R. D. Chambers. (26 July 1854)
                        [Augusta Historical Bulletin, Vol. 17, Fall 1981, No. 2
                         Obituaries, Staunton Newspapers, by Anne C. Kidd]

Earlier in the week, I explored Google Books looking for my 3rd Great Grandfather’s association with the group. The search led me to page 673 of “Proceedings Grand Lodge of Virginia, 1837-1859, I. O. O. F.” published in Richmond, Virginia by Macfarlane & Fergusson:


You’ll find Grandfather among the Mt. Solon brothers petitioning a lodge for their community.

Anne C. Kidd’s notes referred to Great Grandfather as Capt. David McFall. How did he come by that rank? After changing my search parameters at Google Books, I found a 4 line snippet telling how Capt. McFall read the Declaration of Independence in front of a holiday crowd. The title of the book “Life Under Four Flags in North River Basin of Virginia” mentions the North River which runs along Mt. Solon.

The author of the work, C. E. May, published his book in 1903. McClure Press out of Verona, Virginia reprinted Clarence Edward May’s edition in 1976.

Librarians have always been good to me. I’d like to express my gratitude to Doug from the Augusta County Library in Fishersville, Virginia and thank him for sending me the pages I needed from C. E.  May’s book. What a genealogical treat to read how Great Grandfather celebrated July 4th in 1849. Mr. May captured the essence of the day when he wrote:

            “Mt. Solon demonstrated its importance as a community center in 1849 by staging a July 4th celebration which featured a military review, a parade, addresses and a banquet followed by toasts. First, the Mt. Solon Artillery, commanded by Captain David McFall and escorted by the Mt. Crawford Band, marched a short distance from town where they were met by the Mt. Solon Cavalry. Artillery Captain McFall welcomed the cavalry in an address, and Cavalry Captain J. N. Erwin responded appropriately. The cavalry was then escorted into town.
            A procession of the military and citizens was then formed under the direction of Captain Joseph F. Hottle, marshal of the day. This procession proceeded to a grove near the town. Arriving in the grove, Dr. C. Rush Harris, president of the day, called the holiday crowd to order; whereupon, Captain McFall read the Declaration of Independence. Then Chapman Johnson, Esquire, of Staunton delivered an address remembered more for its length than its content. It was an hour and a half long.
            After Mr. Johnson’s address, the procession reformed and marched to the house of Reuben Bryan, Esquire, where a sumptuous meal was spread for all. Following the meal, many toasts were drunk, all of which lauded the heroes of the Revolution, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the framers of the constitution, the union of states, the army and navy, the early heroes of the Republic, an unfettered press and the ladies—“God bless ‘em!” This celebration ended late in the afternoon; and the participants went home replete with rich food, strong whiskey and fervid oratory. Besides Dr. Rush, the organizers of the celebration were David Griffith, Daniel M. Harden and J. Howell Blakemore.”
                        [Source: Life Under Four Flags in North River Basin of Virginia, 2nd edition 1976, Clarence Edward May; McClure Press; pages 331-332]

Page 333 let me know Great Grandfather belonged to the Mt. Solon Methodist Episcopal Church joining in 1854.

More details emerged about his I. O. O. F. membership on page 335, and I quote the author:

            “IOOF Lodge, number 110, was organized in Mt. Solon about the same time as the Masonic Lodge or earlier. Captain David McFall was noble grand of the Lodge in 1854, the year in which he died. Funeral services for him were conducted in the Mt. Solon Methodist Episcopal Church by the Reverend R. D. Chambers the second Sunday in August. His personal property, including a storehouse, was sold August 23, 1854, by John Erwin and Preston Todd, his executors. The second floor of the storehouse was the Mt. Solon IOOF meeting hall.”
                        [Source: Life Under Four Flags in North River Basin of Virginia, 2nd edition 1976, Clarence Edward May; McClure Press; page 335]

Do you have a McFall connection? Let me hear from you.

My Line
3rd Great Grandfather David McFall and wife Catherine Todd
2nd Great Grandfather James Addison McFall and wife Radie Maria Harman
Great Grandmother Flora Belle McFall and husband Daniel Franklin Joseph
Grandfather James McFall Joseph and wife Lucy Leora Clemmer
My Father

David McFall's Ancestry