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Joseph Kibler (1801-?)

Harriett Whissen (1811-?)

There are records of many Kibler families living in eastern Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Valley at the end of the eighteenth century. However, we have not yet been able to place Joseph in any of them. There were also many Whissen families there.

Joseph and Harriett Whissen were born in Shenandoah County, Virginia. They were married there on 10 February 1829.

Shortly thereafter, they moved to Licking County, Ohio. This is known since the 1830 census of Harrison Township lists him there as a family of one male and one female, both age between 20-30.

Joseph Kibler appears in the 1870 census, now living in Pokagon, Michigan at age 69, farmer, with wife Harriet, age 59. Both state their birthplace as Virginia.

Also appearing as the next listing is James Kibler, his youngest son age 26 and his family. James was born in Ohio.

Joseph and Harriett had five children, probably all born in Ohio:

   Andrew Jackson Kibler  1831-1908   m. Mary Gale
   Julia Kibler                       m. John Murphy
   John Kibler
   Joseph Kibler
   James Kibler           1844-?





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Andrew Jackson Kibler (1831-1908)

Mary Gale (1838-1920)

From the census records, it appears that Andrew Jackson Kibler moved to Pokagon Township, Cass County, Michigan from Ohio before 1860. By 1870, his brothers Joseph and James had followed.

Elizabeth Wooster Singer remembers anecdotes about her great-grandmother, Mary Gale:

Like Mary Raiza in Pokagon, Mary Gale kept a boarding house. Apparently in a small community, if you were a good cook and set a good table, that was what you did. I remember my grandmother, Lizzie Kibler, saying that when she was in labor having my mother Joe went to get Mary Gale to come and help. She couldn't come until she'd finished the boarders' breakfasts. By then it was almost too late!

Andrew Jackson Kibler and Mary Gale were married when she was 19 years old. My grandfather Joseph Kibler was born in 1859. Her only other child was Clyde Kibler, born about 12 years after Joe. Clyde and his wife May and their daughter Helen lived in Dowagiac. I remember our families getting together several times a year and entertaining each other for dinner

Just before Mary Gale moved out of her big house--the boarding house--she asked my mother to come into the pantry and take anything she wanted. The pantry was a whole room, lined with shelves and dishes. This would have been about 1910, after my mother was married.

Mother said she just froze. It seemed like such wealth. She said she didn't want anything. "You want your milk glass hen and chicken, don't you?" Mary Gale asked. And that was the only thing my mother took!

There were two children:

   Joseph Kibler  1859-1935  m. Elizabeth Phillips
   Clyde Kibler   1871-?

Mary Gale died at age 82 in 1920. She and Andrew Jackson Kibler, who died 1908 are buried in Sumnerville Cemetery.




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Joseph Kibler (1859-1935)

Elizabeth Teresa Phillips (1865-1954)

Elizabeth Wooster Singer remembers her grandparents:

My grandpa used to read to me literally by the hour. How I loved it! "I know those books by heart," he'd say wryly.

Of course, since they lived with us in the big house in Dowagiac, he often had little choice with his avid little listener. He usually did whatever my grandma wanted him to do. A dear man. A very quiet and private person.

He was born in the village of Sumnerville, Michigan and grew up there.

He came from a family of farmers, and he was an expert hunter and fisherman. There was a snapshot of him taken in 1910 with a group of young brothers-in-law whom he'd taken out hunting. Each holds a huge Canadian Goose. To find such birds in the vicinity of Dowagiac in 1910, you really had to know where to go.

As a boy, one summer he picked berries, and saved every cent to buy his mother (Mary Gale) a Majolica pitcher. It cost him $2 and what a beautiful thing it was - - another treasure we lost in the Bradbury fire in 1980!.

Joe was a shy boy who grew up into a quiet man. He used to tell my mother, "Never say anything unless you can add to the conversation."

He didn't get to go very far in school, though he loved the literary classics. In country school with classes organized by ability, he remembered always reading with the big boys. Once at home when we were all trying to place where the expression "sound and fury" came from, he spoke up: "Why, you all ought to know that--'Full of sound and fury', signifying nothing. It's from Shakespeare." And he promptly quoted the play, the act and the scene it came from.

He was an excellent and painstaking carpenter and cabinetmaker. He built the first bungalow in Cass and a number of other houses, most of them still there.

And there is the all-hardwood house on Main Street in Dowagiac that he built with loving care for my grandmother. But they only lived in it a few years before selling it to her sister, Anna who had just been widowed and wanted it badly. I know he would much rather they had remained in their own home, for he loved to be home. But my grandmother wanted to be with all of us. My mother was her only child; my brother and I were her only grandchildren. She had come from a large family, and she felt my mother needed help looking after us. And it was a beautiful big old house with plenty of room for everyone. It was where she wanted to be, and he could deny her nothing.

There is a time-yellowed calling card printed in script "Miss Lizzie Phillips." How proud she must have been of it! Probably it was a gift from one of her brothers after he was out working and earning his own money. She once said when they'd come back home and want her to wait on them--as in a German family the girls always waited on the boys--and she'd say she was too busy or she didn't want to they'd often offer to give her a quarter. "Then," she said, "I'd just fly around to fix whatever they wanted. You just don't know how much a quarter was in those days."

Those days would have been the early 1880s since she was married January 20, 1885.

Actually, it was just a month after her 20th birthday. The oldest of 13 children, and with several of her brothers leaving home and getting jobs, she'd felt rebellious for a long time. But her parents felt they needed her help at home to cook for their boarding house and to help with the younger children. This was a stand-off.

"He was always asking me to marry him," she told me. "So one day I just said yes."

Of course they had to elope.

And it was January 20 in the midst of a Michigan blizzard, but Joe Kibler came for her with a horse and buggy. She always laughed and teased him that when they came to the minister's house he carried in her through the drifts. But after the ceremony, he let her walk back to the buggy. For over a year her parents didn't speak to her.

Lizzie and Joe went to live in Sumnerville, a village not far from the village of Pokagon--and not on the railroad like Pokagon. Her dream was to live in Dowagiac. But they homesteaded out to the Dakotas to try their luck.

One winter was enough.

She was still only 20 when he drove her into the local blacksmith to have all her teeth out. She remembered the long trip back, how the wind screamed over the prairie. She knew then it was back to Sumnerville for them.

They'd been married four years when their little girl was born. She was premature, but she lived a week. The next year another baby girl came--Nita Blanch Kibler. And Lizzie got her wish. I don't know how they did it, but they moved to Dowagiac when Nita was a week old.

By the time Nita was 17 and graduated from high school, Joe and Lizzie owned the big all-hardwood house on Main Street and the Crawford Store and an ice cream and candy business. It had been a long journey.

Always the Phillips family had top priority with Lizzie. Her greatest happiness lay in entertaining them, cooking for them, and taking them out for meals. And all of them loved coming to see her. I think her brothers and sisters all considered her their best friend.

As she grew older, everyone who knew her marveled at her youthful appearance, her strength and energy, her interest in everything. Many older people are like this now, but she was ahead of her time.

Joe died in 1935, and Lizzie in 1954. They were married just over 50 years.




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Nita Blanche Kibler (1889-1971)

Lyell John Wooster (1886-1967

She always hated her name. "Nita" came from a book her grandmother Mary Gale was reading just before she was born. The heroine "Nita" was so admirable a character that Lizzie, Mary Gale and Joe all agreed on the name.

Growing up as an only child, with a mother from a family of 13 children, myriad good wishes were centered on Nita. Never did she miss a day of school; she remembered putting snow on her head so she could go to school with a severe headache. And she had piano lessons. And she had many books, all her own. A whole shelf of them.

And she had two kittens whom she named "Beanie" and "Oyster" for her favorite things to eat.

Cecil (Hubbard Mosher) was her best friend always. And Cecil still used to come over to see her in the afternoons sometimes--even though Cecil had ten children. I'd come home from school and there Cecil would be paying a call, bringing along her pre-schoolers.

Mary Lee -- heiress of the Round Oak fortune and occupant of the stone mansion on High Street --was another good friend although she was a year younger. Nita remembers as the happiest time in her life once when a carnival was in town. She and Mary Lee were riding down Front street in Mary's pony cart as the carnival was setting up. As they passed the Round Oak office building a man ran out and handed them each a string of tickets for the rides. Another man dashed up and laid a box of candy in each of their laps. She said as they rode on down Main Street it seemed like sheer heaven. She was about ten. I like to think of her that way.

In 1890 she was a year old. So in 1899 when the turn of the century was ahead, the Lee family gave a New Year's Eve party in their stone mansion, and every child in town was invited to welcome in the new century.

She remembers seeing Lyell Wooster at that party--a 13 year old. Each knew who the other was, but they'd never been introduced. They really didn't meet until she was in high school and he was working at the Drill Press to earn money to go to University of Michigan.

By the next fall he'd saved the money, and was college-bound. They had dated through the summer, and were now in love. His mother had asked him to spend his last evening at home with her. Nita was dismayed. Then he reassured her, "She always goes to bed by 9 o'clock. I'll climb out my window and be at your house by 9:30."

And he was.

But, he was on the train to Ann Arbor the next day.

They wrote to each other all year. In the spring when the locust trees were in bloom their fragrance brought Nita back to him so vividly that he wrote and begged her urgently to come to U. of M. for spring semester.

And she did. Her parents could see that there was no one else for her, and bowed to the inevitable. In Ann Arbor they became engaged.

That same summer, back in Dowagiac his two older brothers had returned from Lewiston, Idaho where they had been prospecting for gold. Lyell decided to throw in his lot with them and go West.

By autumn his enthusiastic letters had influenced her parents to go out West, bringing Nita with them. They traveled by train to Lewiston and were seeking opportunity through land speculation, rather than panning for gold. They found Lewiston to be crowded, noisy and busy like most boom towns in the West. It was not for them.

Lyell and Nita were married November 30, 1908 in Lewiston, Idaho at the home of his Aunt Esther who had been married to Charles Wooster, son of John Edward Lacey Wooster, who was very important locally.

But the gold bug eluded them as it did so many others, and by 1910, Lyell and Nita were back in Michigan.

The story of their life together is continued in the Lyell Wooster section of the Wooster page of this history.





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Updated 4-8-03