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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit.

Covers from British Columbia to Puget sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan. An evolving history dedicated to the principle of committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Charles Kimball/Kimble
First white child born in Mount Vernon
recalls old days on his 70th birthday

But why is he Charlie Kimball when he was born Kimble?

Updated Sept. 8, 2004 at the end of the story: the answer to the confusion of the
Kimble/Kimball name and David E. Kimble's wayward life pre-Washington territory

Mount Vernon Herald, June 6, 1947, p. 6
      A pair of red top leather shoes that came all the way from San Francisco by boat was just one of the incidents that was outstanding to Charlie Kimball when he was a boy during the early days of Mount Vernon.
      In those days, all the kids went barefooted the year around and shoes, well, they just weren't heard of. So, when the old stern wheeler chugged up to the landing on the Skagit river at Mount Vernon that day, it was an excited youngster that seized a square package, opened it up and later pulled on a new pair of shoes — nice red-topped ones with steel plates on the toes.
      That small incident and many others not so small were told by Charlie this week as he celebrated his seventieth or sixty-ninth birthday — he's not sure which — at his home on Virginia street in this city.

First white child
      Charlie can truly class himself as a pioneer settler of Mount Vernon. He was the first white child born in this city, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Henry Kimball. That memorable date was June 1, 1877 and Charlie first saw the light of day in a cedar shake one-room cabin where the bus depot is now located. [In 1946, the bus depot was located in what is now the empty parking lot south across the street from the old Carnation Creamery building].
      "There wasn't much there then," he related, "a couple of shacks on the river bank, a wharf and Ed English's general store. I remember we used to shoot ducks in a big pond right about where the ice plant is now. Deer? Why, I remember when every kid that went to the small school near where the city hall is now, used to carry a hunk of jerked venison in his pocket to chew on during classes."

Indian "warfare"
      Probably the most exciting event during the boyhood days of Charles Kimball occurred one afternoon when the family had moved to a new location about a mile south of town. Charlie's father had used several Indians in his employ to help clear land it seems that on this particular day, they had gotten hold of some "fire water."
      The Kimball family, who were all in the house at the time, were suddenly aware of the fact that shots were being fired at the house. Upon investigation, Father Kimball announced that "they were being attacked."

Grabs own musket
      Not one but several of the Indians were firing round after round of shot at the Kimball home. Charlie remembers his father grabbing the musket off the wall and returning the fire through the windows. As for Charlie, he scampered out of the house with his own musket in his hand and a powder horn around his neck.
      He found refuge behind some stumps. Lacking paper for wadding, he used dry leaves, stuffing them in the gun and then pouring powder in. He got off several shots but fortunately, neighbors hearing the disturbance, came to the aid of the Kimballs and the Indian uprising was soon quelled.
      "I was scared for a while!" was the way Charlie put it.

Logging Bees
      Entertainment back in those days was not much, the pioneer resident stated. Folks were too busy clearing land and building homes to have much time for frivolity. There were occasions, however, when the settlers did get together for a good time. Notable among these were the "logging bees" when neighbors would pitch in to help some individual in land clearing and then gather around a huge pile of burning stumps and logs at night. Then there would be singing and maybe a square dance in a nearby barn, plus refreshments served around the fire.
      Charlie recalled, too, that there were horse races at LaConner those days and many of the youngsters and older folks tramped the river road through thick, black mud to attend the affair.
      Construction of the Kimball farm house below Mount Vernon was an event never to be forgotten. Timber for the house, believe it or not, was transported by Charlie's father from Utsalady by canoe. Several long and laborious trips were necessary and the sight of Mr. Kimball paddling up the Skagit with several timbers crosswise on the canoe must have present quite a picture.
      The history of the Kimball family's settlement in this area dates back to David Kimball, grandfather to Charlie Kimball. He came west from Cleveland, Ohio, during the days of the civil war. He first settled on Whidby Island where he later married.
      [Ed. note: Originally named in 1792 for a member of Captain George Vancouver's crew of the ship Discovery — Joseph Whidbey, the island was named Whidby on a map drawn by Captain Charles Wilkes in 1841 and that became the dominant spelling for more than a century. The original spelling took hold, starting in the 1960s. Actually, as you will read below, this was David E. Kimball, who came west after the Civil War from Illinois, where he married three times.]
      The Kimball family has been synonymous with the history of Skagit county. Three of the original family, Charlie, Willie and Nide [or Ide] are still residents of this area. A sister, Mrs. Mabel Hutchinson, is now residing in Sitka, Alaska.
      As for Charlie Kimball, he said yesterday that he thinks he will continue to make Mount Vernon his home.
      "I was here when there was nothing but trees, Indians and mosquitoes," he said, "I've seen the town grow from a couple of shacks and a store on the river bank to a busy little city and it's still home to me. "Ain't much sense in leaving now," he added.

Ed. note:
      Charles W. "Charlie" Kimble married Emily Jane Andis Gilpin on Dec. 23, 1937, in Mount Vernon, he died in Mount Vernon in 1952. Charlie Kimball confuses us about his last name, and never explains why he was Kimball in 1946 after being born Kimble. We note on 1925 and 1941 Metsker maps that property almost side-by-side near the Skagit bend below Mount Vernon is posted to both C.H. Kimble and C.H. Kimball. Charlie's father was Charles Henry Kimble or Kimball, married to Clara Ford. Below, we will try to answer this mystery.

Update 2004: Kimble vs. Kimball

      The story is certainly correct on one key assertion. Charlie was the first white child born in Mount Vernon, on June 1, 1877. That date was especially memorable because it was just one month before Mount Vernon was born as a city on the Fourth of July. But he was not born as the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Henry Kimball. His father's name was Charles Henry Kimble, the third child of David E. Kimble and his second of three wives, Rebecca (Wortman) Kimble. But for some reason, Charlie, the subject of the story above not only spelled his last name as Kimball but claimed that this was also the spelling of his father's last name. Why?
      Well, that is quite a story and it was a mystery to not only us, but also Kimble descendants. We have been asking the question of every researcher that we have found over the past five years. Then the answer popped up during research by a person who answers many historical questions, the diligent keeper of Clear Lake history records, Deanna Ramey Ammons. While exploring real estate and wills in Mount Vernon and at the regional archives in Fairhaven, she found the last will and testament of David E. Kimble. It is the proverbial smoking gun. We will present first the actions by father David that led to his son Charles Henry changing his name, and then we will share the results of our research about the family.

David E. Kimble's will
      On Jan. 10, 1905, David E. Kimble executed his final will, which was witnessed by attorneys E.C. Million and J.P. Hauser. From the second paragraph on, you learn that David's very large family had its dysfunctional elements:
      It is my wish that after my death my body be given a Christian burial, and I especially request that my son Charles Henry Kimble [underlined] be not permitted to look upon my body or to in any manner particpate in the funeral ceremonies over the same.
      I request that all my hones and just debts be paid same and except any claims that may be had or held against me by Charles Henry Kimble or his wife, Clara Kimble or any claims in which they have in any manner ever held or claimed to have any interest of any kind whatsoever, and as to such claim, I direct that my property should be claimed by my heirs as exempt.
      I devise and bequeath unto my son Charles Henry Kimble one cent.

      He then goes on to bequeath to his other children by Rebecca one dollar. He nominates his third and current wife, Minerva Bozarth Kimble, as executor and the balance of the estate is bequeathed to her and the surviving members of their 12 children. David E. Kimble died on May 2, 1908, three days short of his 80th birthday and Minerva presented the will to the Superior Court in Mount Vernon sometime after that date.

The tale of two families with one common father
      You can read a more compete story of David E. Kimble at this website. The basics are that he was born on May 5, 1828, in Fayette county, Ohio, moved with his family to Missouri as a teenager and then moved to Cass county, Illinois, as a teen. That first period in Illinois is very hazy. There he met a woman named Catherine [maiden name unknown], in about 1846, and hey had a child together in 1847. They may have married, but there is no record for it. In the 1850 federal census, David is listed as head of a household back in Scotland County near his widowed mother's farm. Slim family records indicate that Catherine died sometime in 1852. David may have abandoned Catherine or vice versa; that would not be the only time he did so.
      From Oldham's research, we find the next record of David in 1850 when he was back in Scotland county, Missouri, where Aaron and Nancy still lived. That is when he met, wooed and married Rebecca Wortman. She was born on Oct. 22, 1826, in Ohio, the daughter of Rev. David and Rebecca (Paxton) Wortman. Over the next few years, David established a 200-acre farm in Adair county, Missouri. When the civil war broke out, the family was located between neighbors who had sympathies both ways and guerillas staged raids in the area. Oldham says that "family legend has it that David E. Kimble deserted both the Union and the Confederate Armies" during the war. And it was during the war that the trouble began that led to his son Charles Henry Kimble being cut out of the will.
      The last of David and Rebecca's seven children, David E. Kimble Jr., was born on Oct. 12, 1862, in Scotland County. David, the father, was apparently serving for one side or the other in the war by that time. Oldham says that David's son John recalled a story from when he was very young that his father hid his guns in a stump on the farm when he hid from the Army. He hid himself in the home of his neighbors, Urban and Elizabeth (Rice) Bozarth. They had a 16-year-old daughter, Minerva Jane, born in 1845 in Missouri, and she got pregnant by David while he hid with them. That child, Balzora Kimble, was born on Aug. 15, 1863. By then, David had deserted both the Army and his second wife, Rebecca and he and Minerva had moved back to Cass county, Illinois, where David had lived before with his first wife, Catherine.
      After David and Minerva moved to Washington territory in 1868, David did not communicate with Rebecca and his children in Missouri until 1906 when he wrote to one of his grandsons — Judith Oldham's grandfather Jesse. At that time, David glossed over the abandonment and move, in an attempt to save face by claiming that he was driven out of Missouri to "avoid persecution." In the family tree, David is said to have married Minerva on Christmas day, 1862, in Indiana after they moved again. But Oldham questions this because there is no record of either a divorce from Rebecca or the marriage to Minerva. In fact, Oldham suspects that David may not have actually married Minerva until after all 12 of their children together were born.
      Sometime after David moved away from Missouri, Rebecca had David declared dead and married a Reverend John Smith. That was not the end of bad news, however, for hapless Rebecca. As Judith Oldham notes, "Then the truth surfaced that David was still very much alive, and the good Reverend left Rebecca as well." Rebecca died on Nov. 11, 1910, in Lucas county, Ohio. The Smith couple had a son together, Talma Smith, who became an attorney in Toledo, Ohio, and his children staged a "Rebecca Wortman" reunion sometime in the 1940s. They did not invite the Kimble descendants, so we can see how long the grudge lasted within the extended family. We know that after working as a sawmill engine operator in Indiana for a year, David moved Minerva and the baby back to Cass county, Illinois, where they lived until they moved to Washington in 1968. Urban Bozarth had moved to Whidbey island sometime after his wife's 1854 death in Missouri and before Dec. 19, 1858, when he married Mary Ebey on Whidbey.
      Urban went back to the Midwest in 1868, just long enough to gather together the families of some of his children. By that time, Minerva and David had three children together and she was pregnant with her fourth. They all traveled west as what his great-granddaughter Irene Windish describes as a "gypsy band" in an emigrant rail car on the Central Pacific railroad. Minerva told Irene that she dressed as a gypsy and told fortunes for cash when they layed over in small towns; she was pregnant with Irene's mother, also named Minerva. On Feb. 3, 1869, David E. Kimble filed a claim on a piece of land centered on what is now Evergreen Park in West Mount Vernon, but he seems to have eventually settled in 1870 somewhere between the south part of town and Kimble's Bend, the horseshoe bend of the river that marked the south end of the southern of two log jams that choked the river until the early 1880s.
      We do not know when Charlie's father, Charles Henry Kimble — who was born in Missouri in 1856, moved to Washington. He may have come along with the Kimble-Bozarth party in 1968 at age 12 but that is unlikely. We know that he was here in Skagit county in 1876 because that is when he married Clara Ford, who arrived here with her parents at age seven on April 14, 1870, when a whole group of families from Whidbey island moved by sternwheeler to stake claims in the Mount Vernon area. If you think this story is slightly confusing, you will love Clara's 1943 memoirs where she spells the last name of her husband Charles and her son Charlie as both Kimble and Kimball. Because of the way that David spelled son Charles Henry's name in the 1905 will, we assume that his son had not yet changed the spelling of his name. Or had they been fighting for years and David just refused to use the new spelling? More mysteries to be solved and we hope that readers can help with memories and documents and, we hope, photos of the family.

Kimbles and Kimballs, Mount Vernon-area pioneers

Story posted on May 14, 2002, and last updated on Nov. 15, 2004
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