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.




Ancestor Charts

Since it has been a long while since I posted, I thought a quick ancestor summary could be helpful. Here’s a fan chart of Bob (Robert Landon Kimbrough)’s ancestors, in hopes of catching a cousin or two. We continue to research in the background, but despite retirement it always seems we’ve just not quite solved “that” mystery – whatever it might be. rlk-fan

In this blog we have left out Bob’s wife’s family: an equally colorful group of characters soon to be added: a group of immigrant Scandinavians, Danes, and Germans. Despite the appearance of a lack of facts, we have spent nearly as much time on this crew as on the Kimbroughs. With one look at the surnames, however, you will understand some of our problem. Sylvanne’s grandparents were nearly all immigrants. The fortunate part of this family is that they settled in Oregon and Washington, closer to us than Kentucky or Virginia so easier to research. Sadly, the frontier nature of the area has created some record gaps. We’ll just keep looking and create some posts about them as well.


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.

Family Graveyard Restoration

In the early 1990’s while visiting Guthrie, Landon came upon the old Kimbrough Family Graveyard, now located on another’s property.

“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.”

Landon surveys the graveyard 1997

Landon surveys the graveyard 1997

When I saw it, I worried about snakes, myself. I hate snakes.

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. 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. http://www.kimbroughgenealogy.com/kimbrough/cemetery/cemetery.html 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 in Hadensville, Todd County, Kentucky

Susan, the current 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 it may have been 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.

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 serving.in 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 http://www.kimbroughgenealogy.com .

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