Volume 4 , Number 12, Summer 1973
THE KIMBERLING FAMILY
No name in Stone County history has become more widely known than that of Kimberling. Early settlers to todays tourists knew the Kimberling Crossing, Kimberinig Ferry, and the Kimberling Bridge over Table Rock Lake, the name will be carried to the four winds.
I have always loved the Kimberling country. I spent two of the happiest years of my life one-half mile above the Bridge, living in the ramshackled but historic old Thomas farmhouse. Otto Ernest Rayburn, editor and publisher of Ozark Guide magazine, lived some of his happiest years here, too. He built a little cabin on a mountain back of the Thomas Place, called it Hideaway, and nurtured his first consuming love for these Ozark hills.
He knew the Kimberlings, the Turners, the Hammers, the Thomases and the Whites. Like myself, he found this country good for a weary soul - something about it that words can't explain. But good. Real good.
Nathaniel Kimberling came to this good land from Franklin County, Arkansas, when it was disposed of by the Indians. He was a native of Tennessee. He was a great hunter and skilled marksman. Many bear fell before his unerring aim.
He was married in Stone county to the daughter of John Birchfield, an early settler, and owner of a good farm on James River. Nathaniel and Nancy (Birchfield) Kimberling became the parents of fourteen children, as follows: Caroline, who married James Mays; Benjamin; California A.; Eliza, who married Jesse Gardner; Peter; John P.; Rebecca; James J.; Melissa; Sophia; three that died in infancy; and William W. Kimberling, who gave the name to the world.
Four of the sons, including William W., were soldiers in the Civil War. The latter fought in the Battle of Wilson Creek at Springfield, chased bushwackers all over the Ozarks, and followed General Price throughout the State of Misouri.
In 1870 he located permanently on the South side of White River. In conjunction with farming, he operated the Maberry Ferry that crossed the river here on the Wilderness Road. For one term he held the position of postmaster at Radical.
Shortly after the Civil War he had married Miss Phoebe A. Cox, daughter of John Cox, and sister of Judge Cox who became prominent in civic and political affairs in Stone County.
To this union was born the following children: John; Nancy, wife of Thomas F. Biles; Susan, wife of William Biles, William W.; Lula A.; James H.; Charles B.; Fredrick; Nettie; Bessie; Myra; Columbus: and Mirtie May.
Fred Kimberling of the above children has lived to see the coming of Table Rock Lake and the mighty steel structure that proudly bears his name. He has seen the wilderness receed and the modern world start to move in. Already things are beginning to happen up and down the lake from his old home near the bridge. The Wolfe Brothers Construction Company of Golden City are building a big utlra-modern court; M. L. Strohm has construction going at Gobbler Mountain; Bert Montgomery's Sportsmen's Club is swinging into gear; L. O. Magers has started construction at the Hoot Owl Cabin; Mays (D-X) Oil Company interests of Oklahoma are represented with two beautiful new homes and an air-strip; Indian Hills Development of Springfield's Bissman Realty is on the move; Gebhart and McAlexander of Kansas City have already spent nearly $20,000 at Shore Acres; and just over the hills on Ance Creek is a beautiful $50,000 modern court completed by J. B. Johnson, formerly of near Kansas City. This beautiful court is now open.
These are only a few of the developments started where Nathaniel Kimberling hacked the initial clearing in the White River wilderness. Coney Island. Vista Haven. John Q. Hammons. These are the pioneer names you hear around Kimberling Bridge in 1958.
Today, I can't find but a few foundations stones of the old Thomas Place where my little son, Johnny, was born only six years ago, Rayburn would be lost where he found the peace he wanted after World War I; for Hideaway is but a memory.
The new is replacing the old at the bridge, but it is still the good country, and the name of Kimberling pioneer, hunter, settler - will be there long after the new of today has become the tarnished and old of tomorrow.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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