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David E. Kimble
Published profiles and documents

David E. Kimble and Minerva Jane Bozarth Kimble

Kimbles and Kimballs, Mount Vernon-area pioneers

Skagit River Journal research about
David E. Kimble and where he settled

      We have been corresponding with Judith Oldham, a great-great-granddaughter of David E. Kimble, since 1999 and she insists that Kimble has rarely been given credit as staking the original claim as a settler in the future area of Mount Vernon. She presents evidence that makes her case very strong. Almost all the various history books and articles that address early settlement credit Jasper Gates and Joseph Dwelley credit because those two men staked claims on the acreage that later composed the nucleus of the city. We prefer to not get involved in the arguments about who was the "first" anything. Instead, we present the evidence as we find it, refer you to the sources and let you decide. We have learned by sad experience that settlers and their families made claims about being the first this or that and then we discover a newspaper from the time that disputes such a claim. You can read many details of Kimble's life in the sources we excerpt below, but first, we want to review the evidence as to where Kimble staked his claims and lived from 1869-70 until his death in 1908.
      Regardless of whether he was first to settle or not, we do know from Kimble's own words that he staked a claim on Feb. 3, 1869, and traveled all the way to Olympia to file the papers. He said that he rowed upriver in a canoe and found the lower of two logjams that choked off further travel by boat. He may have come alone that first time or with a few of his neighbors from Whidbey island who joined him the next year in actually living near the logjams. Kimble decided by December that year that he wanted to settle where he staked his claim and in April 1870 he and his neighbors and their families arrived by sternwheeler to begin building cabins as the weather began to clear that spring.
      We do not know the exact acreage and its borders, but from his description, other writers have assumed that it was centered on the west side of the river at what is now Edgewater Park. I respectfully disagree with the assumption that his claim centered on what became West Mount Vernon. That area seems to have been the claim staked by Kimble's fellow Whidbey island neighbor, Augustus Hartson. I base my opinion on several sources, including Kimble's biography in the 1906 book, Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties. There on page 528 he says his claim was "right at the lower end of the historic log jam which blocked higher navigation by any kind of a boat." That log jam was at the southwest corner of Section 19, Township 34, Range 4. The bend of river was south of that in Section 30, and because of the bend, a slough later named Britt's slough ran due south from the jam, through Sections 30 and 31, and curved west, back to the river.
      Earlier in the same 1906 book, the lower jam is described as "beginning at the old Kimble homestead below Mount Vernon and extending up the river to a point about opposite the present Kimble residence, a distance of perhaps a mile. Researcher Tom Robinson believes that the later Kimble home in Mount Vernon proper was where the Interurban depot and later the Vaux Pharmacy stood at the foot of the revetment on the northwest corner of Kincaid and First streets. Robinson thinks that the border between the claims of Jasper Gates and Kimble was roughly at what was later platted as Pine street.
      Another tantalizing hint about the original Kimble home was in the third issue of the Skagit News newspaper of March 18, 1884, when editor William C. Ewing reported that "near Skagit City, burning of D.E. Kimble's 'old house on the island' removes one of the county's old landmarks." How we wish he had not assumed that readers would know that location. At first we inferred that "the island" meant Fir island but now we wonder if he meant an island that was formed between the Skagit river, below the jam, and Britt's slough. A third possibility was a small island in the river just north of where it splits to become the north and south forks, but that seems unlikely. We really need more family memories to nail down that location.
      Starting in 1875, J.J. Conner shipped coal ore down the river in canoes and after it was portaged around the two log jams, it was loaded onto the sternwheeler Chehalis at the bank below the jam next to Kimble's house. And in either 1873 or 1876, Harrison Clothier taught a three-month term at the area's first school, which was conducted in what is variously described as Kimble's barn, log stable or a shack at the bend. Finally, we have another tantalizing but confusing hint in Kimble's story of an Indian sham battle from the 1906 book: "Just opposite the old Kimble home, separated from it by a narrow, short slough, a low, sparsely timbered and partly cleared point jutted out into the river." This obviously refers to Britt's slough, but does that place the Kimble home east of the slough? This story will evolve as we get more information from newspapers of the period and correspondence from pioneer descendants. We hope that, by the time we post our own profile of David E. Kimble and family in the winter of 2005, some reader will produce a clipping, letter or diary item that will clear this all up. In the meantime, below you will find several published pieces on Kimble and his family.
      Update Sept. 21, 2004: Historian Deanna Ammons found a letter from D.E. Kimble to the Skagit News newspaper in Mount Vernon, dated Dec. 30, 1884, in which we finally learn when his family joined him on the new homestead. "Your humble writer with his family landed on the Skagit, Feb. 5, 1871." This indicates that although he staked his claim on Feb. 3, 1869, he probably maintained a base on Whidbey Island until two years later. You can read his whole letter and another of that same year from his neighbor, Mrs. S.C. Washburn, at this Journal website.
      Ammons also found another fascinating detail about Kimble's life that has never been referenced before. She found a column in the Sept. 16, 1884, issue of the Skagit News. For the first time ever, we learn that he moved to Canada for a considerable period of time. A Mr. T.E. Turner wrote: "[New] Westminster" is situated on the banks of the Fraser river, a nice place for a town. In Westminster we met Mr. David Kimble, an old settler on the Skagit, now residing ten miles from Westminster, down the north arm. Mr. Kimble has a large crop and gardens with vegetables till you can't rest." He could have lived there until at least 1888, or maybe even longer. We are still searching through more records. We hope a reader will have a document that will explain this move further.

Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties
[Published 1906, pages 527-28]

      David Everett Kimble, a pioneer among pioneers, one of the real forces in the reclamation of the Skagit valley from its primeval wilderness, is the honored citizen whose life we shall here seek to concisely portray. Upon the old homestead in Mt. Vernon, surrounded by peace and plenty, amid the scenes of his most noteworthy labors, he is passing the declining years of a long, useful life.
      Aaron Kimble, the father of David, was a pioneer of the middle west, into which he entered as a lad of twelve from his native state, New Jersey. In Ohio, he learned the plasterer's trade and there lived until 1832, when he removed to Parke county, Indiana. From Indiana he went to Missouri eight years later and resided until his death in 1846. Nancy (Snodgrass) Kimble, his wife, was born in 1812, a native of Virginia, and there lived with her parents until they went to Ohio. In that state she was married. She survived her husband forty years, living in Missouri until 1870, then joining her son at Mount Vernon with whom she lived until the grim reaper overtook her.
      Five of their children are dead also: Vina, Joseph, John, Aaron, Newton, and Mary; the remaining three are Mrs. Martha Clifton, Mrs. Clarinda Gates and the subject of this sketch. He was born May 5, 1828, on the old farm in Fayette county, Ohio, but received his education and arrived at man's estate in Missouri. In 1861 he took up his residence in Illinois, but lived there only a year, next going to Indiana, where he ran a saw-mill engine for a time. Returning to Illinois in 1863, he followed teaming in Cass county until he came to the Pacific Coast.
      The trip across the plains with his family in 1868 was filled with the usual dangers and hardships incident to such a trip. Arriving at Puget sound, Mr. Kimble immediately joined his wife's folk on Whidbey Island and resided nearby for several months. At that time what is now Skagit County had barely a score of white setters and the Skagit Valley was entirely unoccupied except by a number of white men with Indian wives, living on the delta.
      Into this Wilderness Mr. Kimble plunged and February 3, 1869, staked out the claim which is now his home. This place was the furthest at that date and right at the lower end of the historic logjam which blocked higher navigation by any kind of a boat, thus preventing the settlement of the inland region. As the most isolated settler in the county, Mr. Kimble passed through a great many interesting pioneer experiences. The Gates, Gage, and Kimble families settled near each other about the same time, shortly after the claims were taken in 1869, being the first white families on the Skagit. However, settlement on the river was extremely slow until the removal of the jam in 1878 and the founding of Mount Vernon just above the Kimble place about that year.
      Mr. Kimble was united in marriage to Minerva Jane Bozarth in Indiana, Christmas Day, 1862. She comes of a well-known pioneer family, her father having been Urvan E. Bozarth, who settled on Whidby Island in 1852 [actually sometime between 1854-58]. He was born in Kentucky in 1827, but left the Blue Grass state at the age of seventeen to live in Missouri.
      His death occurred on Whidby island in 1870. Mrs. Elizabeth (Rice) Bozarth was a native of Missouri and there reared and educated. The Bozarth family is prominent in the early history of Whidby Island. Mrs. Kimble was born February 2, 1845, and reared by her grandparents, with whom she lived until her marriage.
      [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.]
      A large family has been the fortune of this union: Balzora born August 15, 1863 (deceased); Edward, March 18, 1864, a well-known resident of the lower valley; Charles W. , September 20, 1866 (deceased); Minerva Elizabeth, January 24, 1869; Nancy B., October 30, 1870; Joseph, December 25, 1872; Ida, January 6, 1875; Zenia, April 29, 1876; George, March 8, 1879; Harry, July 11, 1881; Anna, October 9, 1883; and Rufus, January 5, 1886
      The family are members of the Baptist faith. Mr. Kimble is a Democrat, but of late has not taken as active an interest in politics as when he was younger. He has served upon the local school board and in many other ways shown his public spiritedness and a desire to bear his responsibilities as a good citizen. The Kimble ranch of seventy acres well improved and having upon it more than 1,000 bearing fruit trees is a high testimonial to its owner's thrift and taste, and it is appropriate that he and his wife should now be enjoying the fruit of their long, weary labors as pioneers of that community.

Letter from David E. Kimble, Dec. 15, 1906
Kimble descendant Judith Oldham transcribed this letter
sent from David E. Kimble to his grandson George Kimble
of Toledo, Ohio, in 1906:

Mt. Vernon, Washington
December 15, 1906
Well, Dear Grandson:
      I will try to answer your kind request. I was born in Fayette County, Ohio, May 5, in the year 1828. My family moved to Indiana when I was five years old, and lived there until I was in my 13th year. Then we went to Missouri when that was a wilderness. I lived there until the War. Then persecution drove me from home, and I became a rambler. I went from place to place. Finally I went to Indiana. There I met and married Minerva Jan Bozarth who has shared my hardship for nearly 40 years. We left Illinois in 1869, and came to Washington, and settled on the place where we now live. [He does not mention his first two wives and he confuses 1869 with 1868.]
      We settled here when there were only 16 (settlers), including me, in the county, and narry a white woman. We were surrounded by all sorts and sizes. I was a sample William Penn. I made my friends and I never had any trouble. We had hard times, and ups and downs, (but) we have always worked hard and pulled together. We have never had a quarrel in all these 45 years. We have a good home and are enjoying life as well as two old folks can. We are both enjoying good health.
      Now, for my father. He was born in New Jersey in 1803, and went to Pennsylvania, and from there to Ohio, where I was born. He was loaned out to learn a trade. He served his time. He was a Brick and Stone Mason. He died in Missouri in 1845. He had two brothers, Moses and Nathan. One was a tanner, and the other was a hatter.
      My grandmother on my father's side was a niece of Martha Washington. She was a Rose. Your Aunt Polly Snodgrass was a Kimble, and she named her first girl after my grandmother, and the name has come down to the fifth generation.
      My mother's side are of German descent. My mother was born in Virginia in 1812. Her maiden name was Snodgrass. She was the daughter of Joseph and Catherine Snodgrass. My grandmother's maiden name (on mother's side) was O'Neal. My aunts on mother's side went from Ohio to Kokomo, Indiana. One of them married James Will, one married a Pogue Pitzer, and the other married Henry Pitzer.
      This leaves all well, hoping this will find you all the same. Please excuse me for not answering your first letter, as you did not give me your address. As I wrote all I can think of, I will close. Hoping to hear from you soon.
      — D.E. Kimble
      Judith Oldham notes: Research shows David's maternal grandmother was a Katherine Gish, and not an O'Neal, as he says in the letter. This discrepancy remains a mystery to be solved. Perhaps he just erred.
      Ed. note: David apparently glossed over some of the negative aspects of his life in Missouri, especially with his first two wives. For details of that time pre-1862, see this Journal website: http://www.stumpranchonline.com/skagitjournal/WestCounty/MV-SW/Pioneer/KimballCharles.html

Chehachos All: The Pioneering of Skagit
[Pages 26-27, a 1973 book still available at LaConner Historical Museum]
      The Skagit River was blocked by log jams above and below the present site of Mt. Vernon. A party scouted the river in 1869; D.E. Kimble, Jasper Gates, Augustus Hartson, Charles Washburn, Isaac Lanning, and William Gage selected a spot just below the lower jam. In [April] 1870, they chartered the little sternwheeler Linnie for $50.00 to bring them, their families, and their household goods from Whidbey Island to their new homes. Joseph Dwelley and Jasper Gates took up claims where Mt Vernon now stands.
      This group is credited with making the first white settlement so far up the river, though Mr. Kimble reported that when he came there were 16 men with Indian wives already in the valley below them along the north and south forks."
      The way in which men prepared to bring their families to this remote area was described by the grandson of one of the settlers, Ralph C. Hartson, writing in 1950. {His grandfather was Augustus Hartson.}

      The claim that Grandpa Hartson decided on was on the west side of the river, and just below the jam that closed off river navigation from that point on upstream. A portion of this jam lies today below a growth of Alder trees on the west side of the river. (now Edgewater Park}
      The first move was a clearing for the new log cabin and a garden plot. Many fine logs went up in flames that would be remembered (and later regretted) in later years when they would have been useful, and then the stump ranch was increased to make a little room for a barn. Then the woodsmen's tools were gotten out, shakes were made for the roofs, logs cut and shaped for the cabin, beams, planks, and joists for the floors, window frames made and necessary furniture manufactured, all in readiness for the coming trip of the small streamer that was to ferry the families to the claim.
      After the well-built cabin was finished, the next thing to think of was the barn. Everyone was busy cutting to size logs for framework and joists and rafters. It was a common practice to fasten the larger pieces together with wooden pegs. Keep always in mind that nails were a scarce commodity, and those that were used were the old style cut nails, not the wire nails of today. With everything all ready, invites went out for the barn-raising bee. This went off like clockwork, and the willing hands soon had a frame up that began to look like a barn. Then, to wind up the day, after a light supper, there was a "christening" barn dance and genial get together. It took some artist to dance on the average barn door of those days. Grandfather had the floor laid before, and had done a good job of it"

      Oldham note: The school in the new settlement, according to the above report by the Skagit County Historical Society, was "three months long, and held in the Kimble barn".

[Pages 70-71]
      The first civic event on record for Mount Vernon was the Fourth of July celebration in 1877 [which marked the advent of the town]. On a spring day Clothier, (some say English,) and John Lorenzy, a man over 60 years old, were standing on the river bank looking at a beautiful cedar tree, six feet in diameter at the base, and rising straight as an arrow for more than 200 feet, Mr. Lorenzy proposed to climb the tree, cut off the limbs and the top and convert it into a flag pole. Others thought it too dangerous, but he succeeded in doing it in spite of the swaying of the tree in the wind, cutting it off about 140 feet above the ground. [John Lorenzy and his wife, Blanche, later built the Brooklyn Hotel in Mount Vernon in the 1890s, the Mountain View Hotel in the boom days of 1890 Hamilton, and invested in land in the town of Mountain View, which later became Clear Lake.]
      Clothier and English furnished the material to make a 24 by 36-foot flag. The DAR placard posted by the flag when it was placed in the [Skagit County] Court House, states that Mrs. Charles Towne cut out the stars, and that Mrs. Minerva Kimble, Mrs. Clarinda Gates, (youngest sister to David) Mrs. Dennis Storrs, Mrs. George E. Hartson, Mrs. J.F. Dwelley and Mrs. Jonathan Schott sewed the flag on Mrs. Gates sewing machine, while Mrs. McNamara and Mrs. Papin prepared and served their lunches. The flag and flagpole by the river became the center of the Forth of July celebration, which ended with a picnic at the Kimble farm in the spruce grove. The flagpole remained the pride of the town for fourteen years until it was burned, together with most of the buildings, in 1891."
      Oldham note: A 1906 History of Skagit County [see above] states that Grandma Brice helped sew seams. This is Nancy Snodgrass, mother to David Kimble. D.E. Kimble attended the founding meeting of the Skagit County Pioneers Association, in Skagit City, Skagit County, Washington, on June 6. 1891. Fifty-nine individuals registered as founding pioneers and settlers of the area.

Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties
An Indian Sham Battle, pages 474-75

      Comparatively few white men, now living, have enjoyed the opportunity of witnessing Indian inter-tribal warfare, and hardly less rarely have white men witnessed sham battles among the red men, yet David E. Kimble, a well known pioneer of Mt. Vernon, has seen both at his place on the Skagit in early days. It appears that "Jim", a "Stick," or Skagit River Indian, was foully murdered in the summer of 1874 at Utsalady by the "Salt Waters". The affair caused intense excitement among the "Sticks," who forthwith commenced preparations to go on the warpath. The killing of an Indian was not an incident of rare occupancies, for these tribal attacks were to be counted upon as customary diversions from the routine of hunting, fishing, and sleeping; nevertheless each "mimaloose" only recalled the past with renewed bitterness and desire for revenge. In these sanguinary conflicts, the sound, or salt water, Indians [Puget sound] very often came out ahead, but neither tribe won complete victories, and the warfare dragged along in Indian fashion. At times in the conflict, pitched battles of considerable magnitude were fought, then the struggle would again relapse into mere individual encounters, but it never ceased entirely until the whites became so numerous that undisturbed battle grounds could no longer be found. To this day the sound Indians look down upon their inland brothers, while the river dwellers have an utter contempt for the clam diggers of salt water. [To this day, there are two reservations, one at Swinomish, across the slough from LaConner, and the other northeast of Sedro-Woolley, on the hill between the old Northern State Hospital campus and the vanished town of Cokedale.]
      On the occasion of Jim's death, Thomas Cranney, the Utsalady mill owner, on whose property the murder took place, sent word to the Sticks to come and get the body. "Shookum Charlie", a chief of the tribe, with one hundred warriors was found by the messenger encamped at the ranchere near Campbell's store at Skagit City. A pow-wow followed in which all the head men participated and which was still in progress when sentinels came rushing in to report the arrival of the enemy. There was no mistake, for swiftly the Dearden war canoes came round the bend and set toward the ranchere. War cries, shrill, blood curdling, ringing with frenzy, rent the silence of those unsettled solitudes, alternately chilling and heating the blood. Full sixty half naked, painted Camanos manned their marvelous canoes. The quick rhythmic stroke of the paddles, the stroke shortening as the scene of the battle was approached, sent the high prowed boats through the water by leaps. As they neared the shore, paddles were replaced by weapons of all sorts and styles, the coxswain alone retaining his to guide the speeding canoe. The most casual onlooker could observe at once how wonderful was the skill of these savage boatmen, how delicately responsive to their slightest touch the long, narrow shell, and how perfectly graceful and at ease their movements.
      Bravely, the Sticks met the attack from behind trees, brush, hillock, and grass. With an exultant yell, the attacking boatmen swept up the bank, poured out a Olly, disembarked and rushed to the attack. The Sticks took the offensive the moment the enemy landed and with whoops and yells rushed at the Camanos. Rifles cracked, shot guns roared, pistols blazed forth the fury of the combatants, clubs and missiles were hurled back and forth, but the battle was but for a moment. The Sticks had never recovered from their surprise, could not withstand the fierceness of the Camanos' onslaught, and soon began a slow retreat into the woods, endeavoring to lure on the foe. The foe divined their game, however, and having accomplished its object successfully, rushed to the waiting canoes as it had come up, giving expression to its exultation in prolonged yelling.
      Several Sticks had joined their forefathers in the happy hunting grounds, among them one nearly blind, shot down by a boy in revenge for the supposed death of his father at his hand of the lad's father. It was noticed that two or three Camanos fell from the canoes in the attack, but so far as is known they were only wounded. Before the sun went down that night the defeated, chagrined Sticks had gathered together their dead, and over the bodies of the fallen heroes were chanting the last sad dirges. Shortly afterward, wrapped in their brightest blankets and supplied with food, clothing and trinkets, the deceased braves were carefully laid away in favorite canoes placed high in the branches of the nearest "mimaloose" grove. Thus the first and tragic part of the incident was closed and Mr. Kimble returned to his peaceful task of homebuilding as though nothing of moment had occurred.
      A month later "Skookum Charlie" leading an immense band of Sticks, gathered from far up and down the river, appeared at the Kimble cabin. The warriors were dressed and armed for fighting, fierce in expression and aggressive in movement. It was plain that they meant business. Mr. Kimble had just returned from at trip to the post office and store at La Conner, an arduous journey in those times, and one seldom made. The haughty chief came to the point, after the customary exchange of civilities without which no Indian chieftain ever proceeds seriously, with a request for temporary use of Mr. Kimble's land for "cultus mamma poo" purposes. In plain English the Skagits wished to fight a sham battle on the ranch, probably because they had used that ground in former days before the white man's advent and for the further reason that being partly cleared, it permitted for more maneuvering than was possible in the woods. Furthermore, it is evident that the Kimble place was regarded as a species of neutral zone. The sham battle was not a diversion for these Indians, a mere play. Its purpose was to convey a challenge to their enemies, as reports of it would be carried by special messenger to the coast, with descriptions of its skill, fierceness, length and other details important in judging of its true significance.
      Just opposite the old Kimble home, separated from it by a narrow, short slough, a low, sparsely timbered and partly cleared point jutted out into the river. Here the warriors made headquarters. The battle was fought in three parts, or rather, repeated Three times, with brief impassioned addresses after each part by "Skookum Charlie" and leading braves. These savage orators spoke from the stumps with much impressiveness, much feeling. There was eloquence in their bodies, in the eye, which needed not the interpretation of vocal language to convey its meaning to the spellbound Kimble family who watched the scene from the cabin. The battle demonstration consisted of wild rushes from out the woods, the firing of guns, fiendish yells and whoops, beating of war drums, and to some extent, the production of physical distress. It was a picturesque affair, strange, interesting, weird, typically Indian in every way."

Kimbles and Kimballs, Mount Vernon-area pioneers

Story posted on August 1, 2001, and last updated on Sept. 10, 2004
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