John Kimble of Hampshire County, VA

German Kimmel and Revolutionary Patriot



Most Germans arriving in America before the Revolution came to Philadelphia with intent to settled in Pennsylvania. It was the most accepting of the colonies in regards to allowing them to practice their own religion and transact in their own language.

The situation was different in Virginia. When the colonial governor of Virginia advertised for Germans in Pennsylvania to move south into the western part of Virginia it wasn’t for love of the German people. English Virginians placed Germans on a level with the Scotch-Irish and merely tolerated them. The primary purpose for encouraging settlement by either ethnic group was to provide a buffer between the English and the natives to the west. Virginia policy was that public transactions were in English. Not just the words were in English--non-English names were Anglicized. Settlements with German names were eventually renamed with English names or at least an Anglicized version of the German name. Earlier generations of German Virginians spelled their names one way personally but were recorded with the English variation. Old histories often referred to someone by their name and then their "German" name or "French" name, etc. Most foreigners eventually gave in to using the imposed surname spellings.

The surname Kimble, (Kimbill, Kimball, Kemble etc.) is the English sister to the German Kimmel, (Kümmel, etc.). Their root meaning each evolved from is the same ("royally bold", "brave and bold warrior"...), so any Kimmel wanting to fit in with the English-speaking American society is tempted to use the English variation. And since records keepers tend to hear Kimmel as Kimble naturally anyway (I have friends who call me Kimble today), in those early days when most people couldn’t write, the names of many from the German family would appear differently depending on who was recording it. Even in Pennsylvania the same Kimmel individual could be Cimmel, Kemble and Kimball depending on the record.

So if you want to know how the early Virginian Kimble family members really spelled their name, you need to ignore the Virginian public records (land, tax, military, ‘‘state’’ census) and look at what’s left:

1) Church records. When Carolus Lange of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Frederick, Maryland went on tour serving communion to congregations in the valleys of Virginia in 1767, he stopped at "Southfork." There the communion recipients included Johannes Kimmel–and other German surnames Stihl (Steel), Alth (Alt), Rieger (Regar), Stumf (Stump), Moock (Moak) and Schuck (Shook). The North Mill Creek Lutheran and Reformed Church membership in 1798 included John Kimmel.

2) ‘‘Federal’’ census records. The family is Kimbell in the ‘‘state’’ census records of the 1780s and even the 1820 ‘‘federal’’ census. But in later ‘‘federal’’ census records––which were out of the state’s hands––we find Kimmels in 1830, 1840 and 1850. After that it was Kimble in the 1860 and 1870 censuses, with only one individual recorded as Kimmel in 1880. (What is surprising, though, is that everyone is Kimmel again in 1900!)

3) Transition situations. When Grant County was established, it’s first two Kimble birth records were recorded as Hannah Kimmel, daughter of Nicodemus and Susanna Kimble, and as John Kimmel, son of William and Frances Kimmel. Apparently the "English-only" understanding was overlooked, but not for long. Except for that first month, all Kimbles were recorded as Kimble.

4) Slip-ups. A couple of old marriage records: Samuel Kimmel to Elizabeth Cox in 1825 and Priscilla Kimmell to William Self in 1858. The 1792 (possibly 1793) Hardy Co., VA property tax list gives Adam, Lambert, John Senr. and John Junr.’s surnames as Kimmel.

In all of the records in America it’s extremely rare that a Kimble or Kimball is accidentally written as Kimmel (at least according to the two file cabinets of family documents I have). In this family it keeps occurring in all sorts of records right up to the 1900 census. There’s every reason for a Kimmel to be recorded as Kimble (acceptance into an English-speaking society) and no reason for a true Kimble to be recorded as Kimmel. Any time I come across records referring to a family as both Kimmel and Kimble I know I’ll find Kimmel is the actual name.

We’re dealing with a German Kimmel family eventually evolving into a Kimble family. It appears it wasn’t a sudden acceptance, but bit by bit the old spelling was given up. I place the final acceptance at about the time of the Civil War, but still, the old spelling popped up as late as 1900. If you are looking for the family member who crossed the ocean it will probably be a Kimmel leaving the port of Rotterdam for Philadelphia sometime prior to 1767 when Johannes Kimmel appeared on Carolus Lange’s communion list.



For the DAR application, you had might as well use Kimble, because the lineage is Kimble in public records back to John Kimble. Original family name or nationality won’t matter here. Here are two pieces of information you need.

1) Adam’s link to his father John. From the Hampshire County, West Virginia courthouse at the clerk’s office is a deed in Volume 5, deed #205. It is an indenture signed 3/6/1780 from Thomas Lord Fairfax to John Kimble of Hampshire Parish and County which specifies John’s heirs as Lambert, Michael and Adam, the longest liver of them to inherit the land.

2) John’s entitlement as a Patriot in the Revolution. Order from the Library of Virginia. Public Service Claims, Hampshire County Court Booklet, Reel 3, pages 15 and 16 records the 1782 claim of John Kimble for a gun that was "Lost in suppressing Tories." The record of payment in 1783 for the service appears in Public Service Claims, Commissioners Book III, Reel 5, page 120

Details on the pages of the Kimmel Family Record web site come from the collection of
Timothy W. Kimmel of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  You can contact Tim at

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