John F. Kempton


Compiled by John W. Quist


      John Fairfield Kempton was born on March 11, 1839 in Farmington, now Franklin County (then Kennebec County), Maine. (1)  His father, Henry Kempton, was born on May 9, 1806 in Farmington. (2)  On December 17, 1829 in Farmington, he married Louisa Wright, who was born there July 6, 1811. (3)  They were the parents of five children:  Henry (c.1831), Louisa (c.1833), Miranda J. (c.1836), John (1839), and Sarah (c.1842). ­­(4)  The parents and four children came “by team” to Sunbury, Delaware County, Ohio in about 1839. (5)  Henry, their father, died on March 1, 1848 and was buried in Sunbury Memorial Park. (6)  On February 12, 1852, (7) their mother, Louisa, married a widower, Oliver C. Wilson (1811-1872). (8)  Louisa died on June 9, 1860 and was buried in Sunbury Memorial Park. (9)

      At the age of fifteen, John began working at the cabinetmaker’s trade.  Three years later, he went to Michigan and worked the iron mines.  In the fall of 1859, he engaged in the sawmill business at Condit, Delaware County with Henry Wilson and Joseph B. Mathews (husband of his sister Miranda), until he entered the Army. (10)

      On June 10, 1860 in Delaware County, John married Mary Elizabeth Decker who was born at Sunbury on March 25, 1836.  Her father, Moses Wilson Decker, was born in 1790 in Wantage Township, Sussex County, New Jersey. (11)  He was a carpenter, cabinetmaker, and millwright.  During the War of 1812, he was a soldier and later a pensioner of that war.  On April 15, 1815, he was made a Lieutenant of the New Jersey Militia. (12) 

      In Monmouth County, New Jersey on February 1, 1815, he married Charlotte Coykendall who was born in born Sussex County on January 10, 1801.  Moses and Charlotte had nine children:  Opera (born in 1815), Sallie (n.d.), Katherine (“Kate”) (1823), Martha (1826), Susan Adeline (1828), Mary Elizabeth (1836), Harriet (“Hattie”) (1836), John P. (1839), and James P. (1841). (13)  In 1820, Moses, Charlotte, and daughters, Opera and Sallie, came in wagons to Kingston Township, Delaware County.  Moses held several offices in the township:  clerk (8 years), postmaster (17 years), and Justice of the Peace (6 years).  The Deckers were early members of the Presbyterian church, of which Moses was an Elder for many years. (14)  He was the architect and builder of the Presbyterian church in the center of the township known as the “Old Blue Church” (destroyed in 1974), as well as the Methodist Episcopal church. (15)  Moses also started the first temperance society in the township. (16)  In 1864, the family moved to Delaware. (16)  Charlotte died in Delaware on December 31, 1866 and Moses in Kingston Township, Delaware County on January 5, 1881.  Both were buried in Sunbury Memorial Park. (17)

      John and Charlotte had five children:  Hattie (born in 1862), Frank Francis (1865), Fred E. (1866), Harry Orvel (September 27, 1869), and Bert (1875). (18)

      On August 25, 1862, John F. Kempton enlisted at Sunbury as a Private for three years’ service in Delaware County’s Company D, 20th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment (20th O.V.I.). (19)  We do not know the date of his joining the regiment in the field.  If in September, it would have been at Bolivar, TN. The next actions involving the 20th were General U.S. Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign (November 2-January 10, 1863), Memphis, TN (January 26), Lake Providence, LA (February 22 until April), the Battle of Port Gibson, MS (April 25-May 1, 1863), Battle of Raymond, MS (May 12), Battle of Jackson, MS (May 14), Battle of Champion Hill, MS (May 16), Vicksburg, MS siege and assault (May 18-July 4), and duty at Vicksburg (July-February 1864).  On January 1, 1864, the regiment “veteranized,” which means they reenlisted.

     The next action was the Meridian, MS Campaign (February 3-March 2). (20)  It was during this campaign that John lost his voice from exposure to the elements.  He was unable to speak for three years afterward, but did not take one day off from duty. (21)  During the months of March and April, the men were on furlough.  When they returned to duty, they moved to Clifton, TN and then marched to Ackworth, GA (April 29-June 9).  They were involved in the long Atlanta, GA Campaign from June 9 until September 8, including actions at Marietta, GA and Kennesaw Mountain, GA (June 10-July 2), the Siege of Atlanta (July 22-August 25). (22) 

      On July 22, John and Company D were taken as prisoners of the Confederates.  Only John and another soldier escaped by breaking from the guards and running through four lines of the enemy while under the fire of both armies.  He was detailed at the end of July to service for one week in the division hospital at Atlanta.  He was also detailed for one week as a wagon master at division headquarters. (23)  We do not know what, if any, action John saw before his discharge.  The 20th O.V.I. was involved in the following actions:  the Battle of Jonesboro, GA (August 31-September 2), operations against General John Bell Hood in northern GA and southern AL (September 29-November 3), General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” (November 15-December 10), Siege of Savannah, GA (December 10-21), Carolinas Campaign (January-April 1865), and surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston and his armies near Durham, NC (April 26).  They moved to Washington, D.C., via Richmond, VA (April 29-May 20), and participated in the Grand Review of the Armies (May 24). (24)  After participating in 41 engagements, (25) John was discharged at Washington, D.C. (26) on May 31 by order of the War Department. (27)  In August 1865, John applied for a U.S. government pension as an “invalid” veteran of the War. (28 In 1883, John was receiving $8.00 per month for “aphonia [i.e., inability to speak] and dis[ease] of lungs.” (29)  In the 1890 Veterans Schedule, he reported suffering from “lung disease and loss of voice.” (30)

      John returned home in 1865 and was engaged for about three years in the jewelry business with his brother-in-law, John P. Decker, at Delaware.(31)  (John Decker was a veteran of the 15th U.S. Infantry, (32) but not a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.).)  John Kempton and family then moved to Sunbury, where he was engaged in the jewelry business and in the sales and repairs of sewing machines.

      The Kemptons were members of the Methodist Episcopal church. (33)  In August 1882, the Lawrence A. Myers Post Number 252 of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was formed in Sunbury and John was a charter member.  He held at least one office:  Adjutant (1883). (34) 

      Mary E. died on March 4, 1898 and John F. on October 18, 1904.  Both were buried in Sunbury Memorial Park. (35)

Compiled by John W. Quist
Delaware, Ohio
July 20, 2011



1  “John Fairfield Kempton.” Rodriguez & Kysar Family Tree, (online)
“Henry Kempton.” Comstock-MacDonald Family Tree.; this tree has the
      birthdate as May 8, but the tombstone has May 9
“Louisa Wright.” Comstock-MacDonald Family Tree.
“J.F. Kempton.” History of Delaware County and Ohio.  O.L. Baskin & Co., Chicago,
     1880; page 685; approximate dates from 1850 U.S. census for Berkshire Township
6  Sunbury Memorial Park records. Sunbury, Ohio
“Louisa Kempton.” Ohio County Marriages, 1790-1950, (online)
“Oliver Wilson.” Ohio Death and Burials, 1854-1997.
Footnote 6
10  Footnote 4
11  “Moses Wilson Decker.” Rodriguez & Kysar Family Tree
12  “Moses Decker.” History of Delaware County and Ohio.  O.L. Baskin & Co., Chicago,
       1880; pages 621-622
13  “Mary Elizabeth Decker.” Rodriguez & Kysar Family Tree
14  Footnote 12
15  Ibid, page 572
16  Ibid, page 622
17  Footnote 6
18  “John F. Kempton.” Comstock-MacDonald Family Tree.
19  “John F. Kempton.” U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles,
20  “20th O.V.I.” (online)
21  The Military History of Ohio. H.H. Hardesty, Publisher; New York, 1886 (with special
       section for Delaware County); page 310
22  Footnote 20
23  Footnote 21
24  Footnote 20
25  Footnote 4
26  Footnote 21
27  “Kempton, John F” Twentieth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company D, Official
       Roster of the
Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1961-1866, Vol.
       II, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1886, page 698
28  “John F. Kempton.” Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934
29  “John F. Kempton.” List of Pensioners, Ohio, Delaware County, The Executive Documents
        Printed by
Order of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the
        Forty-Seventh Congress, 1882-’83
. Vol. V-Part 3, page 85
30  “Kempton, John F.” 1890 Veterans Schedules,
31  Footnote 4
32  Footnote 12; page 622
33  Footnote 4
34  “Myers Post, No. 252.” The Military History of Ohio. H.H. Hardesty, Publisher; New
      York, 1886 (with special section for Delaware County); page 326
35  Footnote 6

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