The first Baron Kirkby was John Taillebois, who came with the Conqueror, and who died without issue, the barony passing to the family of his brother, Gerard. In 1272 John Kirby was made keeper of the Great Seal, and soon afterward Bishop of Ely. In 1322 another John Kirkby (also written Kirby), was created Bishop of Carlisle. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries there were several families of Kirkbye and Kirbys living in various parts of England, as is shown by the visitations of Essex, Leicestershire, Yorkshire, etc. The Kirby names usually found in those visitations are: Richard, Roger, William and John, all Norman names. These are the names usually met with among the early Kirbys of New England, and this circumstance suggests the idea that the New England Kirbys were of Norman origin. Some effort has been made to trace their ancestry in England. The baptism of Michael Kirby, son of Humphrey, Sept. 22, 1622, found in one of the recovered sheets of the lost register of St. Maryís Church, in Warwick, England, shows that there were Kirbys living in that vicinity in the early part of the seventeenth century. It is possible that the ancestors of the New England Kirbys descended from Sir John Kirby, whose daughter Matilda married William Beauchamp, the first Earl of Warwick of that family (see "Visitations of Yorkshire," p. 245.) The arms of the Kirbys were as follows: Argent, two bars, gules, on the canton of the second a cross moline ("Visitations of London," p. 40).
There is a suggestion of good family descent in the provision made by John Kirby of Middletown in his will, that two portions should "not be sold out of the blood," but should "pertain to some of my children or childrenís children to the end of the world." This singular provision, especially its peculiar wording, is not easily intelligible without the pre-supposition that the testator was conscious of descent from a family of English gentry, and so was both proud of his "blood," and familiar with the entail of landed estate.
In 1818 Elisha Kirby of Middletown, Conn., Capt. Ralph Smith, of Haddam, Conn., and others, compiled a genealogical table of the first five generations of the descendants of John Kirby of Middletown. The manuscript copy belonging to Elisha Kirby fell into the hands of his grandson, Samuel H. Kirby, of New Haven, who published the same in 1890 under the title of "Kirby Family," a pamphlet folio of twelve pages. The "Kirbys of New England," from which this article is entirely drawn as far as the foregoing introduction goes, as well as the genealogy of Thomas H. Kirby, was begun with the purpose merely of correcting some errors in the "Kirby Family" and of bringing it down to date. This work is one of the best of the excellent genealogies that have appeared in the last decade. From it is learned that there is good reason for the belief that the Litchfield Kirbys are nearly related to those of Middletown, and some reason to believe that the descendants of Richard Kirby of Sandwich are also related to the Middletown Kirbys. That John Kirby of Middletown is the brother of Joseph Kirby of Hartford, the ancestor of the Litchfield Kirbys, is rendered highly probable by the discovery that the only surviving son of the former was known as Joseph Kirby, Jr. Besides this indication there are others which are significant for, as John of Middletown named his son Joseph, Jr., so Joseph of Hartford named his only son John. Both also came from Warwickshire, England, and both were at Hartford near the time of its first settlement. Nor should the tradition preserved in both families, that the founders of the Middletown and Litchfield families were brothers, be left altogether out of the account. There is some reason for the belief that John Kirby of Middletown was the brother of Richard Kirby, of Sandwich, Mass. In summing up the origin of the Kirbys we find that while the name was of Danish origin, they were among those Danes who invaded and conquered Normandy in ancient times, becoming Norman French, and then came in the year 1066 with William the Conqueror to England and emigrated to New England in 1635.
Among the passengers of the "Hopewell," Thomas Babb, master, registered Sept. 11, 1635, as about to sail from the port of London, England, was Jo. Kerbie, aged twelve years. On the list of inhabitants of Plymouth, Mass., between sixteen and sixty years of age, who were enrolled in August, 1643, as able to bear arms, is the name of John Kerby. The Hartford records contain the following entry: "Elizabeth Keerbe, daughter of John Keerbe, was born eighteen, of September, one thousand six hundred forty-six." It is believed that all of the above-mentioned records refer to one and the same person,, who afterward was known as John Kirby of Middletown, Conn. John Kirby came from Warwickshire, England, for there is a deed of property made by him Sept. 3, 1654, to Richard Lord of Hartford, Conn, and recorded in manuscript copy of First Book, Colonial Records of Connecticut, pp. 272, 273, said property consisting of a house and land and situated within the bounds of the township of Ronnigton, in Warwickshire, England, which indicates that he was a native of that county.
Before April, 1645, John Kirby had become a resident of Hartford, Conn., for on this date it is recorded that "John Kirby and Seth Grant contracted to herd the Hartford cattle for a stated price payable at their houses in corn, pease, etc., on their demand." In 1647 he lived in Wethersfield, Conn., and that year recorded the "ear marks" for his cattle. Having joined the company for settling the planting grounds at Mattabesett, he became a resident of Middletown, Conn., some time between December, 1651, and Jan. 16, 1654, and remained there until his death. His lands in Middletown, which were recorded to him in the Town Book, Jan. 10, 1655, were located on the north side of the rivulet at "North Society," now the town of Cromwell, Conn. His homestead farm was situated in the extreme western part of the present town of Cromwell, on the bend of the river Mattabesett (Little River) where it turns and runs southeast. The bridge over the river just above the bend is called the Kirby bridge at the present time. Below the bridge is a small, but picturesque and wooded island. The house, the foundations of which are still to be seen, stood on higher ground, sloping gradually to the river, and here John Kirby, the first of the American line of which we write, lived, accumulated a good estate and reared a numerous family. He was made a freeman by the General Court of Connecticut at a session held in May, 1654. He died in April, 1677, leaving a will made on April 6th, and an estate valued at 551 pounds, the inventory of which was dated on the 27th of the same month. This was a good estate for those days. John Dwight of Dedham left, in 1661, an estate inventoried at 506 pounds, yet he was esteemed the wealthiest man in Dedham save the minister. It was even a large estate for Middletown.
The inventory enables us to form some idea concerning John Kirbyís house, as well as his mode of living and his domestic arrangements. It is evident that the house was a one-story dwelling, containing three rooms, viz.: the "dwelling room," which also seems to have served for the kitchen, a small bed-room above the cellar, and a lean-to or "low room," and the chamber, or garret, was not divided into apartments. From such ancient houses as have survived even to the beginning of the present century, it is easy to form a still closer idea of the house and its interior appearance.
It faced south, as all the early dwellings did, and the chimney, which projected outside of the frame, was on the west side. By so building, two objects were secured which our forefathers deemed essential. The rays of the sun at noon, or at dinner time, shone on the side of the building and the living room was on the sunny, or warm, side of the house. It was, as we have said, of one story, and the chamber, or garret, projected on the east side over the lower portion. It was not built of logs, as is often erroneously supposed the houses of all the first settlers were built, but of hand-sawed, or hewn, planks, an inch and a quarter in thickness, and the frame was constructed of heavy timber. The seams in the boarding were filled with clay, and the floor was fastened to sleepers laid on the ground even with the lower edge of the sills. The thatched roof (or perhaps the curb roof of shingles), windows with small diamond-shaped glass, set in lead, and the slate door with a wooden latch, and string, complete the external picture of the dwelling. Entering at the southeast corner one was obliged to step over the sill, the entry floor being a foot lower than the thresh-hold. In the entry was a ladder, or rude stair, leading to the chamber or garret. The great room, or dwelling room to the left occupied the whole of the west end of the house proper, and was about 18x16 feet in dimensions. The chimney projected into the room with no finishing boards around it. The fireplace was seven or eight feet wide and four feet deep, with an oven at the south end, and the mantel was five and one-half feet high. The hearth was laid with flat stones taken from the fields. The heavy sills projected into the room and formed low seats on three sides. The small glass windows were without curtains; the furniture consisted of a few rush-bottomed chairs, two tables, together with a "small table" and the kitchen utensils, the great pot, skillet, spit and frying-pan. On one side of the room were two large trencher shelves on which was displayed the pewter of the family, and which provided room for other things, such as the "Nine Bibles," which make an interesting item in the inventory, for the paternal as well as the religious feelings of John Kirby are displayed in this his endeavor to provide a Bible for each member of his numerous family. The bed-chamber above the "cellar," so spoken of because the floor was elevated a foot or more to give greater depth at this point to the cellar beneath it, occupied the northeast corner of the house. One had to mount by steps on the east side of the dwelling room in order to enter it. It was so low in the walls that a tall person could not stand upright in it and the bed must have occupied most of the space. At the time of the inventory, however, it seems to have been used merely as a store-room, for, the bed is absent. It contained, among other things, the movable cupboard or buffet, and the arms of the family, two guns and swords, only two guns now, for the eldest son, John, only a few months before had been killed by the Indians. The "low room" or lean-to, on the north side, probably ran the whole length of that side of the house, and at the eastern end was the pantry with its trap-door leading to the cellar. It was used evidently at the time of the inventory as a bed-room, as well as a convenient place in spring for spinning. It contained a bed, a trundle-bed and three spinning wheels, one for "woolen" and two for "linen," for there were several daughters. In the cellar were four barrels of cider, still left from the winter store and twelve pounds of tobacco. There was a pipe, too, up-stairs, all of which clearly evinces that John Kirby, although he had nine Bibles, had also some human infirmities. In the "chamber" or garret there was a bed, with its "furniture," i. e., everything that belonged to the bed, including curtains and valances. The iron chest, also, with its goodly store, seems to have been kept there, and upon the floor were spread the seed, corn, wheat, rye, barley and maize, for further planting. Some of the corn, however, had already, April 27th, been put into the ground.
We have endeavored to describe the house and home of John Kirby, the settler, as it appears from the terms of the inventory taken at the time of his decease. If, in addition, we picture to ourselves the house as standing on rising ground, overlooking the clear and willow-fringed Mattabesett, not more than twenty rods away, and which, turning in its southern course and flowing eastward, sparkles beside, as well as before, the door of the dwelling, while beyond the river there rises the noble outline of Mount Lamentation and of many other distant elevations, we shall be able to form some conception of the homestead of the forefather of the Middletown Kirbys and of the beauty of its situation.
Concerning the wife of John Kirby, nothing is positively known except that her name was Elizabeth, that she married (second) Abraham Randall, of Windsor, Conn., outlived her second husband, and died after 1697. It is believed, however, that her name was Elizabeth Hinds, that she was the niece of Sarah (Hinds) Cheplin, wife of Clement Cheplin of Bury St. Edmunds, County Suffolk, England, and afterward of Wethersfield, Conn., that she was born in Bury St. Edmunds, and accompanied, or followed, her aunt, to Wethersfield, Conn., and was married to John Kirby before 1645.
The terms of John Kirbyís will show that his wife Elizabeth must have been a woman whose husband could safely trust her, for he left her the possession and use of all his estate during her life. And that she was worthy of such confidence is evident from her relinquishment of the estate so bequeathed to her, "that she might not he destitute of a comfortable subsistence," to her children after her second marriage. She married a second time, Oct. 27, 1681, Abraham Randall, of Windsor, Conn., son of Philip Randall, of Windsor, Conn., the son of Philip Randall, of Dorchester and Windsor. Mr. Randall died Oct. 2, 1690, in Windsor, and she returned to Middletown. In April, 1697, she had become a resident of Wethersfield, and probably died there.
The children of John and Elizabeth Kirby were Mary, born in 1644, probably in Hartford, Conn., married Emanuel Buck; Elizabeth, born Sept. 8, 1646, in Hartford, Conn., married David Sage; Hannah, born March 2, 1649, in Wethersfield, Conn., married Thomas Andrews; John, born Dec. 18, 1651, in Wethersfield, Conn., was killed by Indians, in 1676, on the road between Wethersfield and Middletown; Eunice, born Dec. 18, 1651, in Wethersfield, Conn., twin with John, died in 1677, unmarried; Esther, born in 1652, in Middletown, Conn., married Benajah Stone; Sarah, born Jan. 16, 1654, in Middletown, Conn., married Samuel Hubbard; Joseph, born July 17, 1656, in Middletown, Conn., married Sarah Markham; Bethia, born Feb. 14, 1658, in Middletown, Coun., married John Andrews; Susannah, born May 3, 1664, in Middletown, Conn., married Abraham Crittenden; and Abigail, born March 6, 1666, in Middletown, Conn., married David Robinson.
Joseph Kirby (2), son of John, the only surviving son of John and Elizabeth Kirby, was born July 17, 1656, in Middletown, Conn. It is the family tradition that he was a wheelwright by trade, and this may account for his frequent change of residence. He resided in Middletown until after May, 1684. The following January he had become a resident of Southampton, L. I. In Town Records of Southampton, L. I., p. 113, is an abstract of deed from "Joseph Kirby of Middletown to Maj. John Howell of Southampton, of 320 acres of land in Middletown, Conn., bounded north by Sergeant John Warner, south by Samuel Hubbard, west by Elizabeth Randall, east by undivided land, which was bought of Elizabeth Randall, May i8, 1685." By November, 1687, he had returned to Middletown, Savage says, though we know not on what authority, that "he went to Carolina, but at the end of some years came home poor, and had a lawsuit with the other heirs about his fatherís estate." It is certain that he was a resident of Milford, Conn., from July, 1706, until after June, 1708, and that in 1706 and 1707 he had a law-suit with his brother-in-law, Alexander Rollo, and David Robinson over the distribution of his fatherís estate. The records of the court of assistants, book 2, pp. 72-75, state that May I, 1707, Joseph Kirby appeared to prosecute this appeal. It was taken by him from the distribution of his fatherís estate by the probate court to the court of assistants. In this suit Joseph Kirby appeared as his own attorney, conducted his case, and the appeal was practically sustained, the original distribution of the probate court being somewhat changed. An interesting fact connected with the recording of this suit is that he is twice recorded therein as Joseph Kirby, Jr. That he was engaged in the practice of law at this time is shown both by the circumstance that he appeared as his own attorney in the above suit and by the record of his admission to the Bar in 1709, under the law of 1708. In May, 1708, a law was enacted by which attorneys must be formally admitted to practice in the courts of law. The earliest admitted attorneys of Hartford county and of the state were Richard Edwards of Hartford and Roger Wolcott of Windsor, and in the same year Capt. John Wadsworth and Capt. Thomas Wells were both admitted, and in the following year others were admitted, among these being Joseph Kirby, Jr., of Middletown, the latter being the first one of his township.
Joseph Kirby was married (first) Dec. 10, 1681, in Wethersfield, Conn., to Sarah Markham; the names of her parents are not certainly known and there is some doubt as to the correctness of her name. Mr. Kirby was married (second) Oct. 17, 1704, in New Haven, Conn., to Mary Plum, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Norton) Plum, of Milford, Conn. The date of her death is not known, but she outlived her husband, who died Dec. 2, 1711, in Middletown, aged sixty-five years. Joseph Kirbyís children by his first marriage were: Elizabeth, born Feb. 20, 1683, married James Brown; Sarah, born Aug. 10, 1685, married Samuel Baldwin; Deborah, born March 27, 1688; John, born Feb. 16, 1691, married Hannah Stowe; Mary, born June 10, 1693, married Benoni Stebbins; Joseph, baptized June 9, 1695, died young; Bethia, born about 1698, married Nathaniel Sanford. The children of the second wife were: Joseph, baptized July 17, 1706, died Dec., 1725; Susannah, baptized in December, 1706, died unmarried in 1733; and Margaret, born Sept. 2, 1709, married Capt. Nathaniel Wooster, of Oxford, Connecticut.
John Kirby, son of Joseph, was born Feb. 16, 1691, in Middletown, Conn., and inherited a third part of his fatherís estate, to which he added, purchasing of his sisters their share in the estate, and also lands which had formerly belonged to his grandfather, John Kirby. He resided on, or near, the grandfatherís homestead in that part of Middletown, which until 1851 was called Upper Houses, and now is the town of Cromwell, where he became a large land-holder and influential man. His name is found in the list of taxable persons in North Society in 1715, and he was a member of the Second Church, organized Jan. 5, 1715. From the tenor of his will it would appear that he was a careful and conscientious man and given to detail and accuracy in business. He died in Middletown, April 25, 1760, aged sixty-nine years.
John Kirby was married March 3, 1718, in Middletown, to Hannah Stowe, born Feb. II, 1696, daughter of Thomas and Bethia (Stocking) Stowe, of Middletown, and she died March 7, 1780, aged eighty-four years. Their children were: Joseph, born January, 1719, married Esther Wilcox; John, born Sept. 26, 1720, married Lucy Norton; Hannah, born in April, 1723, married Solomon Sage; Daniel, born in October, 1724, married Lucretia Porter; Sarah, born July 19, 1726, married Solomon Savage; Mary, born in December, 1727, married (first) Amos Johnson, (second) William Parmelee; Thomas, born Dec. 2, 1729, married Lucy Stocking; Bethia, born in December, 1731, married Daniel Stocking; Susannah, born Feb. 8, 1734, married Benjamin Bulkley; Jonathan, born in 1736, married Lucy Burgess; and Elizabeth, baptized Sept. 24, 1738, married Dec. 22, 1762, Joseph Tracy, of Middletown, Connecticut.
Thomas Kirby, son of John, was born Dec. 2, 1729, in Middletown Upper Houses, and was married Nov. 26, 1755, to Lucy Stocking, born June 10, 1737, daughter of Elisha Stocking by his first wife, Rachel Ranney. Thomas Kirby was a farmer, and lived in that part of Middletown which is now a part of Cromwell, where he died July 29, 1810, his wife surviving until Nov. 28, 1818. Their children were: Giles, born in 1756, died Aug. 7, 1776; Abel, baptized Feb. 26, 1758, died Nov. 5, 1775; Lucy, born Sept. 23, 1760, married William Hamlin; Thomas, born Feb. 7, 1762, married (first) Rebecca Hamlin, and (second) Jane Bower; George, born May 5, 1764, died at sea, Oct. 18, 1778; Zebulon, born Feb. 25, 1766, married Louisa Gibson; Reuben, born Sept. 5, 1768, married Molly Butler; Samuel, born Feb. 16, 1771, married Abigail Sage; Mary, born Jan. 10, 1773, married Ralph Smith; Grace, born Jan. 17, 1775, married Oct. 11, 1837, as his third wife, Miles Merwin, of Durham, Conn., and died Aug. 13, 1856, leaving no children; Giles, born June 16, 1777, married Lucy Spencer, and Betsy, born July 7, 1779, married April 3, 1816, as her second husband, Elisha Treat, of Middletown, Conn., and died July 8, 1861, leaving no children.
Zebulon Kirby, son of Thomas, of Stockbridge, Mass., was born Feb. 25, 1766, in Middletown Upper Houses. At first he followed the sea, and was a captain on a schooner in the West Indies trade. While on a voyage to these islands, he contracted yellow fever, from which he recovered, but thereafter abandoned a sea-faring life. In May, 1803, he removed with his family from Middletown to the Berkshire Mountains, buying a place about a mile and a half west of the village of Stockbridge, Mass. This property he subsequently sold and purchased a farm on the west margin of the mountain lake of clear, deep water, one mile wide and two miles long, at the upper end of the Stockbridge valley, in full view of the village of Lennox. It was an attractive farm to reside upon, and the family still retains it. Mr. Kirby was married May 3, 1795, in Middletown, to Louisa Gibson, born March 21, 1772, daughter of John and Joanna (CrowFoot) Gibson, of Middletown and Stockbridge. He died Aug. 16, 1821, at Stockbridge and his wife Aug. 24, 1853, and both were buried at Middletown, Conn. Their children were: John, born March 24, 1796, married Lucy Shepard; Timothy, born Nov. 16, 1797, married Amelia Metcalf Hose; Zebulon, born Nov. 7, 1799, married Anna M. Bordhardt; Louisa, born Sept. 28, 1801, married Sept. 18, 1854, John Dresser (as his second wife), and died March 27, 1872; Martha Gibson, born July 4, 1803, married John Dresser; Thomas, born Dec. 25, 1804, married Sarah H. Tomlinson; George, born June 7, 1806, married Clarissa L. Tracy; and Elizabeth, born Oct. 26, 1808, died unmarried, Aug. 31, 1829.
Thomas Kirby, son of Zebulon, was born Dec. 25, 1804, in Stockbridge, Mass. When eighteen years old he removed to Richmond, Ind., and from there to Dayton, Ohio, but in 1830 he settled at Mustertown, now Muncie, Ind., where he entered into business. He was married July 15, 1832, to Sarah Hickman Tomlinson, born Feb. 8, 1814, in Guilford county, N. C., daughter of Judge John and Dolly Hill (Beville) Tomlinson, of Richmond, Ind. He died Aug. 14, 1879, in Muncie, Indiana.
Judge John Tomlinson was born May 29, 1789, and died April 16, 1853. He married Dolly Hill Beville, born May 9, 1786, died Sept. 18, 1873, daughter of Hezekiah Beville, of North Carolina, born May 27, 1744, and Anna, his wife, born April 1, 1745. Judge Tomlinson moved from Guilford county, near Gainsborough, N. C., in 1828, and settled in Richmond, Ind. His children were: Nancy A., born Oct. 12, 1809, married John Taylor; Philip Hill, born Dec. 7, 1811, died Dec. 13, 1824; Sarah Hickman, born Feb. 8, 1814, married Thomas Kirby; Gilla Scott, born Jan. 10, 1816, died May 10, 1845, married Jacob Powers; and Amanda Allen, born Dec. 11, 1817, died Nov. 11, 1865, married a Shoemaker. The children of Thomas and Sarah Kirby were: (1) Thomas Hickman, born Oct. 8, 1834, married Anna S. Cassady. (2) Martha Ann, born Nov. 20, 1836, married April 8, 1875, Americus H. Hamilton, of Muncie, Ind., born Jan. 16, 1844, and had one child, Frederick Kirby, born Jan. 11, 1876. (3) John Marvin, born Nov. 6, 1839, married Mary F. Putnam. (4) Elizabeth, born Oct. 6, 1841, married Nov. 8, 1866, Julius Andreas Heinsohn, born June 10, 1837, in Neuhaus, Germany, and present proprietor of the "Kirby House" at Muncie, Ind. Their children are: Sarah Anna, born May 30, 1868, in Muncie, married June 1, 1898, John James Hartley, of Muncie; and Thomas Kirby, born March 17, 1871, in Louisville, Ky., married in Milwaukee, Wis., Mary Josephine Sprankle, and has one child, Robert, born March 6, 1894, in Muncie. Mrs. Heinsohn is regent of the Paul Revere Chapter of the D. A. R. (5) Sarah Jane, born June 24, 1843, died July 4, 1875. (6) George, born Dec. 6, 1844, married Kate M. Whipple, and they have these children: Wilson W., born Sept. 13, 1867; Marion E., May 11, i869; Louisa, Aug. 24, 1872; and John Marvin, April 8, 1878. Thomas Kirby died Aug. 14, 1879.
THOMAS HICKMAN KIRBY, son of Thomas, was born Oct. 8, 1834, in Muncie, Ind., which was at that time but a hamlet. He attended a subscription school which was kept by Mrs. Ethel, the mother of Nathaniel F. Ethel of Muncie. The Ethels were one of the pioneer families of Muncie and lived on the present corner of Main and Franklin streets, where they owned a large frame house. Thomas H. Kirby was only about three years old when he began attending this pioneer school. His father lived nearly a mile away and the child would be taken by him on horseback through the woods to Mrs. Ethel, who taught him the alphabet and also to read. After this he attended several district schools, some of which were kept in log cabins. As soon as he was old enough he spent the summers working on the farm, but attended school when possible in the winter time. He remained at home until he was about twenty-five years old, and then made a trip to Illinois, where, after engaging in some speculation, he returned to his home until the spring of 1860, when he went to Boston, where he shipped on board the fishing-schooner "Moonlight," under Capt. Nathan Blanchard, of Swampscott, which is a part of the old town of Lynn. They fished off Boston Harbor for the city market for a time, and he then shipped before the mast on the whaler "Chanticleer," a fore and aft schooner, under Capt. Silas Young. The whaler sailed for the channel ground and the gulf stream in search of sperm whales, cruised off the Bermudas, and although they were bound for the Azores did not go so far. They captured five sperm whales and some black fish, which also produce a considerable amount of oil, and after a four monthsí cruise they returned to Boston. This novel experience Mr. Kirby enjoyed. The officers were strict disciplinarians, but treated the men civilly and while rough sea-faring people, were just in their attitude to the sailors. Mr. Kirby spent the winter of his return- 1860-61-on the farm.
Click here for the remainder of this biography.