Sunday, August 31, 2014

52 Ancestors: #34, Chester F. Kirk, Part 4: Veterinarian and Horse Racer

Mary (Hodsdon) and Chester Kirk, 1906
This is the fourth installment of "another story or four" about my paternal grandfather, Chester F. Kirk. This one is about Chester's fifth and last wife, his sixth and seventh children, and his veterinary and horse-racing activities. Although I said at the end of Part 3 that the next (and intended last) installment would be titled "Chester F. Kirk, Part 4: Grandfather," when I actually came to write it I found there was a lot more to the second half of Chester's life than I had anticipated, and decided to split it in two.

At the end of Part 3: Veterinary Surgeon, Chester's fourth wife, Cora Grover, had divorced him in 1896. His two oldest children, Hazel and Kenneth, were by now probably living with their grandparents, Silas and Sarah Kirk, in Freeport; at least, that's where they were in June 1900.1 Chester continued his veterinary career, which by 1900 had taken him to Andover, Oxford County, Maine, where he was enumerated as a boarder in the household of Fred Russell. His given marital status of "Wd" (widowed), though technically accurate, does seem to gloss over the two subsequent divorces.2

1900 U.S. census, Andover, Oxford County, Maine, Chester Kirk in Fred Russell household
Stillborn Kirk, 1902
Presumably it was while Chester was living in Andover that he met Mary Milliken Hodsdon, the second daughter of Marchant and Kate (Rand) Hodsdon.3 True to form, the now 43-year-old Chester appears to have swept 18-year-old Mary off her feet. Did she – or her parents – know about his previous four marriages, his liaison with Nellie Crosman, or his two children living in Freeport? I haven't yet found a marriage record, and the 1910 census claimed they had been married for only 7 years,4 but it's clear that Chester and Mary got together by mid-1901 (and probably earlier) and moved to Lewiston, where on 8 March 1902, Mary had a stillborn child, an unnamed boy.5 I say "probably earlier," because the record of the stillbirth clearly states that this was her second child. I can only assume she had had a previous unreported stillbirth, because there is no record of an earlier child.

Mary finally had a living child the following year: Cecil Mortimer was born 25 June 1903, just one day before Mary's sister Sadie (Hodsdon) Hall gave birth to her first child, Ellen.6 But two years later, disaster struck, when Cecil died from meningitis on 9 Nov 1905.7 Devastated by the loss, they would not have another child for 12 years.

First cousins Ellen Hall (left) and Cecil Kirk, born one day apart, ca June 19048
In the meantime, the family underwent a series of transitions. In 1905, Chester's mother Sarah died in Freeport,9 where Kenneth was still living with his grandparents. (Hazel's whereabouts are unknown.)10 Within a year, Silas moved to Lewiston to live with his son,11 bringing Kenneth back to his father and stepmother. The augmented household soon shrank back to the still-childless Chester and Mary – first Silas died in 1909,12 then Kenneth married Anna Slauenwhite in 1910 and moved out13 – before Mary's widowed mother Kate (Rand) Hodsdon came to live with them around 1912.14

1910 U.S. census, Lewiston, Androscoggin County, Maine, C F Kirk household
Throughout this decade, and beyond, Chester quickly gained prominence as a veterinarian in the Lewiston community, so well-known that the frequent newspaper items about incidents in which he was involved nearly always referred to him as simply "Dr. Kirk." As early as 1904, the Lewiston police department called in Dr. Kirk to treat an apparently poisoned patrol horse (it recovered).15

Lewiston Daily Sun, 12 Mar 1904, p. 8     Lewiston Daily Sun, 17 Mar 1904, p. 8
In 1906 he testified for the plaintiff in a lawsuit over the sale of a lame horse ("Dr. Chester Kirk ... stated that he believed the horse when he saw him to be worthless.")16 In 1907 he opened an office and veterinary hospital on Canal Street,17 which would remain a fixture in the city until around 1920.

Lewiston Daily Sun, 12 Feb 1907, p. 8, col. 2
And when, in 1909, two unattended hack horses strayed into the path of an "electric car" (street car) on Main Street, the collision killing one instantly and injuring the other "so badly ... that it was necessary to shoot the animal," it was "soon put out of its suffering by Dr. Kirk who was summoned, in the hope of saving the life of the injured horse."18

His veterinary skills weren't all that Chester was known for around Lewiston: Dr. Kirk was also a leading member of the Lewiston and Auburn Driving Club (which held its meetings at his Canal Street offices19), driving horses in the ice races held routinely on the frozen Androscoggin River – or, as it was known in this context, the "Androscoggin Speedway."20

Lewiston Evening Journal, 14 Jan 1907, p. 3, excerpt

This 1914 photo, published in 2000,21 probably shows Chester and Sable Prince winning the first heat of the "Class A" race that day. (Sable Prince only came in third in the remaining three heats, and Via Mala was second in all four, so the race was won by another horse not pictured here.)22

Lewiston Sun Journal, 19 Feb 2000, unnumbered back page
Chester's affinity for racing may have been behind his apparent reputation for being something less than a cautious driver. A 1987 newspaper article delineating the history of the local Chamber of Commerce – written by his daughter Geneva – mentioned in passing that around 1906 the Chamber asked the city to remove a fence around the park after "Dr. C.F. Kirk and a runaway horse had mowed down part of it."23

Of course, in the early days of the century, horses were for much more than sulky races, with carriages and sleighs being primary modes of transportation. Chester is pictured here with his wife Mary in 1906 in a horse-drawn sleigh, probably out on a pleasure ride.24

Chester and Mary Kirk, Jan 1906, "Ice track on river West Bates St." The horse's name, alas, is unknown.
As 1917 dawned, Chester and Mary were approaching 60 and 35, respectively, and their long childless interlude was coming to an end.

To be concluded (no, really!) in Chester F. Kirk, Part 5: Father and Grandfather

(Note: This post is in response to Amy Johnson Crow's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge at No Story Too Small.)

Unless otherwise specified, all newspaper articles were accessed as digital images in the Google News Archive (, mostly during August 2014.
  1. 1900 U.S. Census, Cumberland County, Maine, Freeport, ED 42, sheet 12-A, dwelling 261, family 281, Silas Kirk household; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 9 Dec 2010).
  2. 1900 U.S. Census, Oxford County, Maine, Andover, ED 177, sheet 4-A, dwelling 83, family 85, Fred Russell household; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 Dec 2010). Of course, it's possible that the information came from Fred Russell or his wife, who might have been unaware of the divorces. On the other hand, the accuracy of the September 1857 birth date argues that Chester himself was the informant, as the Russells would likely not have known such a detail unless they knew Chester well enough to also know that he was divorced several times over.
  3. While I haven't determined any direct connections between Chester, the Russells, and/or the Hodsdons, Fred Russell was a harness maker, as was both Walter Rand (Kate's son who was living in the Hodsdon household in 1900) and Harrie P. Hall (who would marry Mary's sister Sadie Hodsdon in late 1901); and they may well have worked together. In any case, a veterinarian in a rural area like Andover would be likely to become acquainted with all the local farmers and their families.
  4. 1910 U.S. Census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 18, sheet 16-B (handwritten, overwriting 17A), p. 3547 (penned), dwelling 173, family 236, C F Kirk household; digital images, ( : accessed 30 Aug 2014). 
  5. “Maine Vital Records, 1892-1922,” database and digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 Aug 2014), Stillborn (male) Kirk birth, 8 Mar 1902. The birth records of her later children all ignore the stillbirth(s) and are reported as her 1st, 2nd, and 3rd children.
  6. Ibid., [Cecil] Kirk birth, 25 Jun 1903, and Ellen Hall birth, 26 Jun 1903.
  7. Ibid., Cecil M. Kirk death, 9 Nov 1905.
  8. Photo of Ellen Hall and Cecil Kirk, about 1 year old, ca June 1904, Kirk-Murphy Family Collection, privately held by the author, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Provenance of this print from a scan is uncertain, but it may have been provided by Ellen's daughter, Jean Constantine Noyes, to her second cousin Marshall Kirk (Chester's grandson). The subjects were identified for Marshall by his aunt Geneva Kirk, though which baby is which was not clear; by comparison with other photos in the collection, though, it appears that Cecil is on the right.
  9. “Maine Vital Records, 1892-1922,” Sarah C. Kirke death, 1905.
  10. Six Towns Times, Cumberland Globe, Yarmouth Gazette & Freeport (Maine) Sentinel, 2 Jun 1905, Freeport Sentinel section, "Week's Doings" column, p. 6, col. 2-3, obituary and funeral notice for Mrs. Sarah C. Kirke. The last paragraph reads, "Much sympathy is expressed for Mr. Kirke and Master Kenneth in their loneliness. They will remain in the old home [at Porter's Landing], where they will be sure of kindly ministrations of neighbors and friends." The record of Hazel's 1907 marriage to John Clark lists her as a bookkeeper and residing in Lewiston, so she may have been working and boarding in Lewiston by the time of her grandmother's death. She could even have been living with her father; frustratingly, there seem to be no extant Lewiston directories between 1901 and 1910.
  11. "Silas Kirk," Lewiston Daily Sun, 10 May 1909; the obituary states that Silas "came from [Freeport] to live with his son about three years ago."
  12. Ibid.
  13. “Maine, Marriage Records, 1705-1922,” Kenneth A. Kirk-Anna A. Slauenwhite marriage, 1910. Oddly, although Kenneth and Anna were married on 4 April in Dover, NH, the 1910 census (nominally as of 15 April) lists Kenneth as single, in the Kirk household in Lewiston – and Anna Kirk as married, in the Slauenwhite household (her father's) in Monmouth, but without Kenneth. So apparently they weren't yet living together. Possibly Kenneth had not told his parents yet (the marriage in Dover rather implies that they eloped), or else the census informant was not one of the Kirks; the latter seems quite possible, as their ages are all incorrect and Kenneth is said to have been born in Maine. There were two lodgers in the household, who may have been the culprits. Kenneth did have his own household in the 1912 city directory.
  14. “Andover Obituaries”, transcriptions, Robert A. Spidell, Andover, Maine ( : accessed 28 Apr 2012), “Kate (Rand) Hodsdon, 1885-1940” obituary, ca Oct 1940, citing “Obituary from an unidentified and undated local newspaper”.The obituary states that "Since the death of her husband, Mrs. Hodsdon had lived in Lewiston with another daughter, Mrs. Mary Kirk, until six weeks ago..."
  15. "Patrol Horse Poisoned," Lewiston Daily Sun, 12 Mar 1904, p. 8. Also, 17 Mar 1904, p. 8, item in Police News column about the horse's recovery.
  16. "Not a Valuable Horse But It Causes a Trial," Lewiston Daily Sun, 28 Sep 1906, p. 2.
  17. Lewiston Daily Sun, 12 Feb 1907, p. 8, col. 2, local news item about Dr. Chester Kirk's purchase of a Canal Street property. The office would have been no more than a 15-minute walk (0.6 mile) from the Kirks' home at that time on Elm Street.
  18. "Hack Horses Killed," Lewiston Daily Sun, 12 Nov 1909, p. 8.
  19. "Ice Races Friday," Lewiston Daily Sun, 29 Dec 1914, p. 7; also "Driving Club to Meet," 20 Dec 1915, p. 8; "First Ice Races Friday," 4 Jan 1916, p. 6.
  20. "The Ice Track Opens: Crowds Out at Lewiston," Lewiston Evening Journal, 14 Jan 1907, p. 3.
  21. "Looking at the Past," Lewiston Sun Journal, 19 Feb 2000, unnumbered back page. The names of the horses and drivers, as well as the Feb 1914 time frame, all match the news article cited next, so it's almost certain that this is one of the heats in that race, if not the first. The original photo, provided to the newspaper by Chester's daughter, Geneva, is now privately held in the Kirk-Murphy Family Collection.
  22. "Earl King Winner Over Via Mala and Sable Prince," Lewiston Daily Sun, 21 Feb 1914, p. 9.
  23. Geneva Kirk, "Brief History of the L-A Chamber of Commerce," Lewiston Daily Sun, 31 Mar 1987, p. 20.
  24. Photo of Chester and Mary Kirk in horse-drawn sleigh, Jan 1906, Lewiston, Maine, in Geneva Kirk photograph album, Kirk-Murphy Family Collection. The photo probably came originally from Mary Hodsdon Kirk's collection. The caption, "Jan. 1906 Ice track on river West Bates St" appears to be in Mary's hand.

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