John F. Kimbley

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John F. Kimbley, M. D., Surgeon-General of Kentucky, one of the oldest physicians and most substantial citizens of Owensboro, was born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, September 24, 1823.

His father, Frank E. Kimbley, a native of Louisville, went to Muhlenberg County in 1792, and there married Elizabeth Valandingham, a member of a distinguished Virginia family. They had six children, of whom the subject of this brief biography was the youngest.

John Kimbley (grandfather), a Hollander, emigrated to the United States some time prior to the Revolution, in which he did faithful service for his adopted country. His coming to Kentucky was at a very early date, as may be inferred from the fact that he was a resident of Com Island, below Louisville, and assisted in the cultivation of the first crop of corn ever produced in Kentucky.

Dr. Kimbley was educated in private schools in Muhlenberg County. When twenty years of age he began the study of medicine at his home, and subsequently attended a course of lectures in St. Louis, and practiced medicine for some time before finishing his professional studies in the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, from which he was graduated in 1849. He had established a good practice in Daviess County before taking the course in Philadelphia, which he resumed with increased confidence and success upon his return. He had accumulated considerable property, including a large number of slaves, before the beginning of the Civil war, and lost heavily as a result of that conflict.

He was a strong Union man and volunteered his services to help put down the rebellion. He was appointed surgeon of the Eleventh Kentucky Infantry, and during the three years and four months of active service in the field, he held various positions of rank in the Cumberland and the Ohio and Tennessee divisions and was one of the chief surgical operators on every battlefield in which his command was engaged. He received the highest commendations of his superior officers for faithful and efficient service. He served as medical director of the Cavalry Corps under Brigadier General Sturgis, whose order relieving him from duty in that command was as follows:

“Headquarters Cavalry Corps,

“Paris, Kentucky, April 9, 1864.

“The Eleventh Regiment Kentucky Volunteer Infantry having been permanently detached from this command and J. F. Kimbley being surgeon of that regiment, he is hereby relieved from duty as medical director of the Cavalry Corps and will report to his regiment commander for duty. The general commanding cannot, however, thus summarily sever his official connection with Surgeon John F. Kimbley without expressing his deep regret for the necessity which compels him to lose from his staff so estimable a gentleman, and one who has administered the medical department with so much energy, zeal, and ability.

“By order of Brigadier-General Sturgis.” His service in the army was a heavy sacrifice personally, and the loss of his slaves by the emancipation proclamation—which showed no partiality for Union men together with other losses incident to the war, rendered it necessary for him to begin at the bottom to rebuild his fortune. He soon recovered his valuable practice and has held his high position in the profession and in the confidence of the people, and after more than thirty years of peace he can look back over the past without regret for the gallant part he took in the war or for the temporary loss which it entailed. He became a Republican at the outbreak of the war and heartily supported every measure of that party during the struggle and in the disquietude of the days of reconstruction, and although firm, positive and outspoken in his political views, he is highly respected for his fidelity to his convictions and honesty of purpose. Dr. Kimbley is now well advanced in years, but his interest in and his devotion to his profession have never waned. He is still a diligent student of medical science, and readily adopts the new discoveries which promise relief to the suffering, but is not easily carried away by new and untried doctrines and methods. He is a member of the Kentucky State Medical Society and of the Daviess County Medical Society and is a subscriber to the leading medical periodicals of the day. He is a member of the Filson Club, and a valuable contributor to the history and early reminiscence of Kentucky through that society of honorable citizens of the state. Dr. Kimbley’s life has been wholly devoted to his profession, and his remarkable success and the high position which he enjoys are due to his faithfulness to his patrons, his industry, energy and zeal in the arduous labors of the family physician.

His first wife was Emily C. Windsor, a native of Kentucky, who died in 1852. His second wife was a Mrs. Stout, who was his companion for six years and died in 1860. His present wife was Mrs. Sarah Ray Stubbins, a daughter of ex-Governor Ray of Indiana, whose classical education was received in Oxford (Ohio) Female College and in Europe, where she gave particular attention to the study of the German and French languages. She is a lady of unusual literary attainments and has imparted much of the large fund of information of which she is possessed to her sons, who, after careful study in private schools, she accompanied to Europe and assisted them in the study of foreign languages.

Hugh Kimbley, the eldest son of Dr. and Mrs. Kimbley, is studying medicine in the University of Louisville. Frank R. Kimbley, their second and youngest son, is in the class of ’97 in Yale College. They are exemplary young men, of more than ordinary intelligence, who attained distinction in their classes. Dr. Kimbley has seen something of the world himself, having traveled extensively in this country and visited Europe several times. He is now surgeon-general of Kentucky, with the rank of colonel, on the personal staff of Governor Bradley.

Source: Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. John M. Gresham Company, Chicago, Philadelphia, 1896. Courtesy of the Daviess County Bicentennial Committee