Mary Jane Foster was Really a Kimbleton

Mary Jane “Foster” was the first wife of Andrew Jackson Phalen and the mother of my great-grandfather, John Henry Phalen. She was my great-great-grandmother.

On most, if not all, of her children’s death records, her name is provided as “Mary Jane Foster.” Finding her parents based on this was like pulling teeth from a live bear but I kept at it. The mystery – and the solution – lay in her marriage record to Andrew J. Phalen in Putnam County, West Virginia. In it, the license is issued for Mary Jane Kimbleton. Why the surname Kimbleton if, in fact, she was a Foster? The marriage of Mary Jane Kimbleton and Andrew J. Phalen took place at Foster’s. Here’s a snip of license:

But let’s take a closer look at the clerk’s certificate. That gets us down into the weeds where there are more details we can use. First and foremost, the birthplace of Mary Jane Kimbleton: Monroe County, West Virginia. (Monroe County is WV now but back then, the whole of WV was Virginia).

Now we have two clues: 1 – a surname: Kimbleton; and 2 – a birthplace: Monroe County. Please bear in mind that while I work the evidence, I do it with a grain of salt, so to speak. I’ve found that all records are subject to error: Its what the clerk/recorder heard or thought he heard; Its what the ancestor believed or had become accustomed to; Or it was an outright lie – such as age. After all, who was going to do a background check in those days? However, in the above document, I don’t have any reason to believe there was any fabrication of details; Mary Jane was already pregnant and the nuptials were necessary and if not whole-heartedly desired.

Finally, where the couple married holds yet one more clue and this is in the Minister’s Return: “At Foster’s.”

Ok, I’m on the case. When you go back through the Putnam County Census for this time frame, you won’t find a Kimbleton family but you will find William A. Foster living in the same township as the Phalen family. William A. Foster also married in Putnam County, on 2 January 1867 to one Mary A. E. Hedrick. He’s 28 years old though; this couple could not possibly be Mary Jane’s parents. Ah, but here’s our clue: William A. Foster’s birthplace is also Monroe County!

So, I had to dig deeper, checking the census records as I moved backward in time and anything else I could find online to locate William A. Foster’s parents and, hopefully, his connection to Mary Jane Kimbleton.

After several hours, I discovered Grigsby Foster in Monroe County in the 1850 Census with an Aston Foster. By 1860, he is in Kanawha County where his Post Office is “Kanawha Salines” with a son William A. Foster, the same age, give or take, as Aston Foster as well as a daughter, Mary J: That puts the family near Malden. Then finally, William A. Foster in Putnam County in 1870 with Mary Annie Hedrick and children. So was Grigsby Foster the father of Mary Jane?

Notice in the 1850 Census for Monroe County that Grigsby has a daughter, Louisa, a little older than William Aston Foster. Louisa was born 23 January 1836 in Monroe County; Mary Jane was born 1 May 1850 in Monroe County, the youngest family member. But Louisa married John H. “Ablin” 3 October 1855 in Monroe County, so you’ll not find Louisa living the household of Grigsby Foster in 1860 Kanawha County.

Note, however, that the status of John H. “Ablin” is given as “widowed” in the marriage record. He’s aged 33 from Franklin County, VA. Louisa is 19 years old. You’ll find John H. “Kembleton” in the 1860 Monroe Census counted in the household of James Harvey as a day laborer. I couldn’t find Louisa in this census.

My perspective on this information – taken as a whole – is that Louisa Foster and John Henry Kimbleton were the parents of Mary Jane. It explains why Kimbleton is provided as Mary Jane’s surname on the marriage license to Andrew J. Phalen. Louisa got pregnant and had Mary Jane at a very young age, probably shy of being 15 years old. Mary Jane was raised in the Grigsby Foster household as more or less a sister to her own mother who, eventually, married John Henry Kimbleton, in 1855. It apparently was no secret to Mary Jane that Louisa was her mother and that William A. Foster was her uncle but for some reason, it was decided that Mary Jane would continue living with the family of Grigsby Foster. But why would she if her parents are finally married?

It would be remiss of me not to include some history of John H or John Henry Kimbleton. I’m quite suspicious of him although I’ve nothing to base it on – other than he was married three times in 13 years.

His first marriage, to my knowledge, occurred in Franklin County, VA to Margaret Robbins 17 January 1848. I can’t find a death record for her and probably never will as this was before the State mandated vital record keeping. His second marriage was to Louisa Foster in Monroe County 3 October 1855. Louisa bore John H. two more children after their marriage: Anna Elizabeth (1856) and John Henry Kembleton, Jr (1857). And then Louisa died sometime in 1860. I know that because on 23 May 1861, John Henry Kimbleton, Sr married his third wife, Lucretia Ganoe in Monroe County. Again, he’s widowed.

I did the math: 1861 minus 1848 is 13 years, with 1848 being the year of the first marriage and 1861 being the year of the third marriage. While my suspicions of John Henry Kimbleton may be totally unfounded, it makes me wonder what kind of man he was. Why didn’t Grigsby Foster force John Henry Kimbleton to marry Louisa when he first learned of her pregnancy in 1850? Why did Mary Jane stay with Grigsby Foster and family when they left Monroe County and moved to Kanawha rather than live in the household of her parents, Louisa and John H. Kimbleton? The bottom line is John Henry Kimbleton had very bad luck with choosing hearty wives.

In summary: I believe Mary Jane “Foster” was actually Mary Jane Kimbleton; her parents were Louisa Elizabeth Foster and John Henry Kimbleton, Sr.; that Mary Jane was raised by Grigsby Foster and wife Mary Ann King, migrating with the family from Monroe County, to Kanawha County, then Putnam County with her uncle, William A. Foster. Yes, Mary Jane could have lied about her surname in order to get married but why would she when her uncle (or brother) William could have easily have given the court permission for her to marry Andrew J. Phalen.

I’m convinced that the scenario presented is accurate but I could be very wrong. It is highly possible that Mary Jane was the youngest daughter of Grigsby Foster. The question still remains: Why did she give her last name as Kimbleton for the Clerk to record if, indeed, she was a Foster?

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