Another side of Eliphalet Kimball

It looks to me like Eliphalet Kimball remained as obscure a figure to most of his peers as he is to us today—right up until the end of his life. And then, curiously, he developed a sort of notoriety, but one entirely unconnected to his writings on anarchy. Kimball seems to have spend most of his adult life in New Hampshire. It appears that he was born in 1799 or 1800 in Orford, NH, and the published works I’ve found all originate from west-central New Hampshire, or over the border in Vermont—except for one which seems to mark a short stay in Jersey City, New Jersey. He seems to have been a doctor, as was his father.

There’s not much in that to explain Kimball’s emphasis on his military skills, but it turns out that there’s more to the story. Kimball was a veteran of the Texas War of Independence, and it was this fact which loomed large at the end of his life, giving him a widespread notoriety. When he died in 1890, short notices of his death appeared in newspapers scattered across the United States—all of them treating him as a sick, impoverished veteran. The New Orleans Daily Picayune published a more lengthy obituary with a number of interesting details.

Eliphalet Kimball, Hartford, Ct.
Hartford, Ct., Jan.6.—A man was buried in this city whose life has, in many respects, been a remarkable one. Eliphalet Kimball was born in 1800. In early life he left his home and enlisted in the army of the young Texas republic. When independence was achieved he continued to serve the state by translating the old Mexican laws from Spanish into English. For ten years, he has lived in this city in extreme poverty, for his health had given way, and his age prevented his doing any work. Charitable people provided him a room and the necessities of life.
Recently it was thought that the state he had served in its infancy might wish to do something to ease the burden of his declining years. At the suggestion of a Texan official he wrote a statement of his service in Texas, coupling with it a recital of his destitution among strangers, and a petition for relief. The Texas legislature ignored the request. Inquiries from influential sources here of Governor Ross of Texas elicited the explanation that “in the multiplicity of their doings the legislature had entirely overlooked the claims of Eliphalet Kimball.” Another petition, sent two years ago when Texas had over a million dollars surplus in her treasury, was equally unsuccessful. In November last a final personal appeal was made to Governor Rooss by Stephen A. Hubbard, managing editor of the Hartford Courant, in which the governor was assured that every Texan dollar sent to the dying veteran should have a Yankee dollar to keep it company. The governor’s reply was that under the Texan statute pensions could be granted only to veterans resident in the State.
Mr. Hubbard, accordingly in the columns of the Courant, made a personal appeal to the people of Hartford over his own name, setting forth the facts of the case, In a few days dearly $250 came to the relief of the soldier. Mr. C. L. Edwards, a member of the Dallas, Tex., bar, sent some money which he had personally collected having read in the papers of the case.
On Wednesday last Kimball died, and he was buried yesterday, the flag of the old Texas republic being placed across his breast. The response to Mr. Hubbard’s appeal was sufficient to give him during his last illness a nurse, to provide a suitable grave and casket for him and to defray the funeral expenses and to furnish a headstone. Remarks were made at the funeral by the Rev. John S. Kimball, General S. E. Chamberlain, Mr. Jas. C. Bacon and Mayor John C. Kinney.

“Necrology.—Eliphalet Kimball, Hartford, Ct.,” The Daily Picayune (New Orleans) 53, no. 348 (January 7, 1890): 1. 

Eliphalet Kimball the anarchist himself published a short account of some of his life experiences in The Boston Investigator, which seems to pretty clearly connect him to the Eliphalet Kimball who died in Hartford. It took the form of an atheist testimony, and focused on his experiences during the cholera outbreak in New York City.

Mr. Editor:—In the great cholera in New York, 1832, the clergy abandoned their flocks and fled from the city. Little has ever been said about it, but the fact ought to be known. It shows how little confidence they have in religion. I speak now from knowledge, for I was there myself most of the time, while the disease was raging. I was living in New Hampshire when the cholera broke out in New York, and learning from the newspapers that three or four hundred were dying daily in the city, I took the stage and went there to assist in taking care of the sick.—The same day I reached the city, I went into the Park Cholera Hospital and remained there nursing the sick until the disease abated, which was several weeks. Towards morning I had little sleep. If almost overcome with fatigue, I dared not sit down, because I would instantly drop asleep in spite of all my exertions to keep awake.
It was trying to a constitution not in good health, and I feel the effects of it now. My life was saved by strict temperance in eating. I have always through life practiced total abstinence from spirits, distilled and divine. By the way, spirit distilled from grain has done much less harm that spirit distilled from god. While I was in the Hospital, no clergyman ever visited to my knowledge, no prayer was ever made there, and no Christian came to talk religion with the sick. The Protestant clergy were missing from the city, and the churches closed. As to myself I was a decided Atheist then, as I am now. I felt resigned and firm. None of the attendants in the Hospital, nurses, or physicians, appeared to be religious persons. The Catholic clergy, however, stood their ground like men and did all the good they could. Fourteen of the Sisters of Charity came on from Baltimore to act as nurses. Several of them died of the pestilence.
I could say I have been through war, pestilence, famine, and flood. In the Texan Army I suffered famine and ate rats. I could say with Paul, “Three days I was in the deep.” In Texas I had the congestive fever and was given up to die. Through all those trying scenes, I never knew what it was to have a doubt or fear with regard to religious subjects.
On a voyage from Texas to Baltimore was a fellow passenger name Parker. He was a bigoted religionist. During a violent storm that occurred, he appeared very uneasy and agitated; was up all night, fussing about and watching the weather. He appeared to be the most religious man on board, and most afraid to die. As to myself the storm made but little difference with me. I was ready for whatever might happen, and had what sleep I needed.
A good mind is all that can give true support in prospect of death; and no man, of course, can ever have a good mind who was born without it, as a great part of religious people were to my certain knowledge.
Eliphalet Kimball
East Concord, (N. H.,) Oct. 30, 1862.

Eliphalet Kimball, “Reminiscences,” The Boston Investigator 32, no. 26 (October 29, 1862): 105. 
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.