Francis Kidney, Wagonmaker and Blacksmith (1837-1908)

Francis Kidney (1837-1908)

Francis Kidney

Obituary in quotes: “Francis Kidney was born in Cleveland, O., March 14, 1837, and died on his farm near Amboy, Ill., May 16, 1908. He was the second son of Orsamus and Betsey Kidney, and one of a family of six children. His father died when he was but a boy. When he was about 18 years of age he came to Illinois with his mother, brothers and sister, and located at South Pawpaw, where he resided for a number of years.”

“He was married to Miss Nancy Eaton in 1858. To them were born ten children, seven sons and three daughters. The youngest died in infancy. The others are living and were with their father to care for him in his last illness. They are Frank Kidney, whose home is at Glidden, Ia.; O.W. Kidney, Minneapolis, Minn.; T.E. Kidney, Mrs. Mary Plant, Harry Kidney and Mrs. Nellie Wilson, Earlville; Mrs. Minnie Braffett, DeKalb; Orris Kidney, Amboy and Vay Kidney of Mendota.”

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Francis and Nancy were stepbrother and stepsister, as his mother (Betsy Herrington Kidney) and her father (Orris Eaton) were married after they’d been widowed.

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“Mr. Kidney was a wagonmaker and blacksmith by trade, and was well-known far and near as his business brought him in contact with many people.”

According to Frank Kidney of Scranton, Iowa, who became owner of the prize, Francis Kidney won a medal at the 1872 Sandwich Fair for the best skeleton wagon–the bare metal structure for a wagon. Frank carried the medal in his pocket for decades, so I suppose the inscription has disappeared. I’d like to check that date, as the Sandwich Fair–the oldest continuing county fair in the state of Illinois–wasn’t established until 1888.

“He left the shop for the farm about twenty-nine years ago, where he labored hard and prospered until six years ago, when he and his wife left their farm northeast of Earlville in care of their son Ellsworth and went to Mendota to make their home and enjoy the fruits of their labors. Being active by nature he decided to once more try farm life, and a short time ago went to live on his farm near Amboy. For several years he had been failing in health, but was not alarmed until March of the present year, when the trouble developed cancer of the stomach. From that time until death came to his release, he suffered intensely.”


“Mr. Kidney was an honest, industrious, energetic and useful citizen, and those who knew him best will miss him most. Besides his wife, children and grandchildren, he leaves an aged invalid mother to whom his death will be a great blow. Two brothers, Benjamin and Elisha, one sister, Mrs. Alison Conn, and a half-brother, Oscar Eaton, who will sincerely mourn him. A host of friends and neighbors sympathize with them in their sorrow. Two brothers Truman and Orlando preceeded [sic] him to the better land. He was conscious of and resigned to his going away, although he would have been glad to stay if it had been so ordered. He made all necessary arrangements for his funeral and burial, and his friends endeavored to carry out his wishes as near as possible. At his request the funeral services were conducted at the Southside church and his body laid to rest in the cemetery near his old home at South Pawpaw.”


Francis Kidney’s wagonmaker anvil made its way to Iowa via his oldest son Frank. Frank’s second son, Guy Walter Kidney, became the next owner, whose younger son, Guy Lowell owned it next. This is how Guy N. Kidney became the owner of his great grandfather’s anvil.


In 1972, Guy and Joy traveled to Indiana and Illinois to visit distant relatives and learn more family history. Olive Kidney Guilda, daughter of Truman Ellsworth Kidney, showed us Francis Kidney’s barn. Joy’s sister, an art teacher, used a picture of that barn to make a pen and ink drawing of it.

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Guy’s son isn’t that interested in owning the heavy piece of family history, so Guy gave it to his brother Vey to haul to his home in Indiana. Vey’s son is in veterinary school. Perhaps the anvil can be a conversation piece in his clinic someday.


Civil War

Note about the Civil War: Francis Kidney’s older brother Benjamin, who was married and had a child, served in the Civil War (Co. K, 75 Inf., Ill. Vol.). Francis was also married and had a child, but did not serve.

Two younger brothers, Orlando and Truman, weren’t married. They both joined Co. D, 34th Inf. of Illinois Volunteers. Truman died of wounds and disease incurred in the Battle of Bentonville, N.C.


  1. What a detailed and wonderful momento for Frances. After reading your post I felt like I knew him personally. I love the pen and ink drawing – another treasure ~ Sharon

    • Thank you. It’s the first one I’ve done on my husband’s side. I worked on the genealogy decades ago and even printed up booklets for relatives, but this blog makes it so handy to keep the stories and pictures together. Having the anvil leave is fairly recent so I still miss having it in a wide hallway where it sat (heavily) on a grandmother’s crocheted rag rug.

  2. Thank you Joy! This is great information and I have always wanted know more about my family. My name is Kris Kidney and Benjamin Kidney was my great, great, great grandfather! I would be great to find out more! (Benjamin Kidney, Henry Kidney, George Kidney, Neil Kidney, Kris Kidney.) I have two daughters, Kayla and Kristen and my only sons name is Konnor Kidney. We live in Chandler, Arizona.

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