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William R McKim, my 3 great-grandfather, is one of my biggest brick walls. He married Sydney Isabella Kilgore on August 24, 1853 in Oberlin, Lorain County, Ohio. They were both enrolled in the 1853-1854 Oberlin Prep. Department, equal to today’s senior in high school.  The document that I have for Sydney showed her classes ended in August 1853.

The two fell in love and were married. Four years later Sydney would die, leaving William to raise their three year old daughter. Four years after that William would be killed at the battle of Balls Bluff in Virginia on the bank of the Potomac River. Elizabeth “Lillie” would be raised by her maternal grandparents. Her grandparents and her grandmother’s family, the Stewarts, were active abolitionists and their houses were a part of the Underground Railroad.

I have 3 small pictures that Lillie kept safe, that I assume are of her parents. She had also tucked drawings that her father had created in the family bible and they hang on the walls of my home. Even with all of this information I still have not found the parents of William. Born in 1832, some where in Pennsylvania, I cannot seem to find him in the 1850 Census and I don’t know his parents names to align him with anyone that does. I know that he was in Oberlin in 1853, because of the copy of the marriage certificate that came with the pension papers from the National Archive. I am also unable to find him in the 1860 Census, although Lillie shows up living with her maternal grandparents.

I can assume the connection to Oberlin for the Kilgore’s was because of the open acceptance of black people. The college shared the same views that the Kilgore family strove so hard to support. Many of the Kilgore children attended Oberlin and some even taught there later in life. Oberlin, Ohio was a “stones throw” across the Pennsylvania line from Mercer.

From what I have read on line in 1853 the petition for marriage would not include the bride or groom’s parents. The National Archives documents that I received for William did not carry that information either. There is a McKim in the Mercer area that could possibly be William’s brother but I have no way of connecting the two together. Where do I look next? Would Mercer have a death record for William, even though he died in the service? There is a headstone for him at the cemetery, would there possibly be information there?


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