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  • Jeff Kidd

Friends to the end: The story of David Kendall and Lewis Frank Templeman

I'm not sure how David Kendall and Lewis Frank Templeman met, only that they grew up only a few miles apart in rural Rowan County, Ky. Neither do I know many details of their lives or deaths, except that friendship and fate bound them in ways both sweet and tragic.

David was my great-great grandfather and Lewis my 4G uncle. For decades, their families lived near each other — they are listed on adjacent pages in the 1860 census and one page apart in the 1870 enumeration.

By 1870, David's mother, Elizabeth Epperhart Kendall, is listed on that year's census form as a farmer with no male her age in a household that also includes five children. David, 9, is the middle child. His father, Jesse, is not listed — he was killed in 1863 while fighting for the Confederacy.

Meanwhile, Lewis, age 7, is the second-youngest of seven children in the household of Enoch and Miriam Templeman.

The Templemans' oldest child is Rhoda, who is 20 in 1870. In two years, she will marry Isaac Lewis, and in four years, they will have a daughter and name her Miriam Frances Lewis, for her maternal grandmother.

Miriam eventually marries her Uncle Lewis' friend, David, even though he is 15 years her senior and even though she is just 13 at the time. The ceremony takes place March 24, 1887, in Isaac Lewis' home in Rowan County, Ky. In fact, it is a double ceremony: Lewis Frank Templeman marries Eliza Ann Elliott, as well.

Thus, Lewis and David are not just best friends; they become in-laws, sharing a wedding anniversary and signing as witnesses to each other's marriages.

By 1992, Lewis and Eliza have four children. David and Miriam have one child, my great-grandmother Nora Ellen Kendall, born in 1889. (She is shown in the inset photo, sometime in the 1920s with two of her children, Allie Wilburn Williams and my grandmother, Leona Olive Williams.)

Sadly, both families would lose their patriarchs on the same day, in the same accident.

The two were digging a well on June 20, 1892, when Lewis hit a pocket of gas. David jumped in in an attempt to save his best friend. Instead, they both perished, presumably by asphyxiation.

Their families buried them side by side in Ditney Ridge Cemetery in Morehead, Ky. They share a headstone (which records an incorrect date of death for Lewis.)

Both wives remarry. Eliza has seven more children by second husband Esau Jent. She dies in 1961 and is buried in Ditney Ridge Cemetery, with her own marker. Miriam marries John Fleming Parker, and they have a child, Allie Howard Parker, born in 1896.

Like her husband, however, Miriam's life ends prematurely. She dies on Christmas Eve, 1897 and is just 23 years old. My great-grandmother and her half brother remain close throughout their lives, but at this point, they are separated and Nora raised by her maternal grandparents.

Miriam, like Eliza and their first husbands, are buried in Ditney Ridge Cemetery, though she does not share a stone with David.

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