Levi Goddard Kendall (1827-1906)

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Levi Goddard Kendall was born 2 October 1827 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States to Stephen Jennings Kendall (1797-1832) and Ruth Bliss Fisher (1799-1883) and died 20 March 1906 in Baraboo, Sauk County, Wisconsin, United States of unspecified causes. He married Abigail Barrell (1830-1867) 5 July 1852 in Keene, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States. He married Louisa Maria Barrell (1838-1911) 8 September 1868 in Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. Ancestors are from the United States, the United Kingdom.

Childhood (1827-1849)

We do not have primary evidence for Levi's birth - the Boston Vital Records Office does not have a record for him. The date of his birth comes from narratives written near or at the end of his life, and presumably reflect the day that he celebrated as his birthday. The claim that he was born in Boston can be found in the marriage index of his second marriage, in 1871.

It should also be noted that the primary narrative we have of his life (the biography of his son), the information on his early life is quite unreliable. For example, it gives his father as Andrew Kendall; but Andrew was his grandfather. I have been able to find confirmation in census records for some, but not all, of the siblings claimed for him.

Levi's father, Stephen Jennings Kendall, had left his natal town of Royalston and was living in the neighboring town of Warwick when he married Ruth Bliss Fisher. We don't know when he moved to Boston or why. According to Andrew Kendall's will, Stephen's children spent the summer of 1828 living in Andrew's house in Royalston.

When Stephen died in 1832, Ruth moved back to Royalston with her children, presumably living either with her family or one of Stephen's brothers.

Moving West and starting a career and family: 1848-1860

In 1848 or '49, Levi began working for the Vermont & Massachusetts Railroad, initially as a "section man." [1] He was promoted rapidly, becoming foreman in 6 months and baggagemaster 6 months after that[2]. Construction of the V&M RR, which connected Brattleboro, Vt., with Fitchburg and Greenfield, Mass., started in 1845 and was completed in 1850[3]. At the 1850 census he was living in a boarding house in Fitchburg, and listed his occupation as "brakeman."[4]

In 1852, Levi married Abigail Barrell, daughter of Nelson Barrell and Mehitable Jones, in Keene, NH.[5] Abbie was living in Keene,[6] which is across the Connecticut River from Brattleboro, but she grew up in Massachusetts. Indeed, Levi may well have met her in Fitchburg, where her mother was living in 1850,[7] and where Levi was still living at the time of their marriage.[8] Another possibility for their meeting was that she might have travelled regularly on the Vermont & Massachusetts between Fitchburg and Brattleboro. [9]

By 1857, when their son William was born, Levi and Abbie were living in Hoosick Falls, NY[10]. Here Levi was presumably working on the last section of track linking Boston to Troy, NY, the section from Hoosick Falls to the Vermont state line being completed in March 1859 by the Troy and Bennington Company; train service on this route was operated by the Troy and Boston Railroad Company[11].

In 1858 Levi moved to northern Illinois, where he worked on building a stretch of track from Harvard to Rockford for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.[12] In 1860 Levi and his family were living in Caledonia,[13] which is about 2/3 of the way from Harvard to Rockford. The census gives his occupation simply as "Laborer," but William's biography says that he was a "foreman of construction under contractors."

The Civil War

On August 7, 1862, Levi enlisted in Company H of the 21st Wisconsin Infantry; he gave his home as Fond du Lac.[14] He was enrolled as a corporal, presumably because of his age and experience managing work crews.

Just two months later, on October 8, the regiment was involved in the Battle of Perryville in Boyle County, Kentucky, the turning point of the Confederate Heartland Campaign in that state. The 21st Wisconsin had had little time to train - they had to travel more than 500 miles from Fond du Lac to Perryville - and they suffered heavy casualties when the Confederates charged that afternoon. Indeed, more men of Company H died that day - including the captain - than in any other battle of the war.[15] Several men of the company are listed as having deserted that day.

Levi's obituary states that he served for nearly a year, and William's biography states that he fought in the battles of Champion Hills and Murfreesboro, being discharged with a wounded right hand. His application for a Civil War pension also makes this claim. However, the official records indicate that he was one of the men who deserted at the Battle of Perryville,[16] and his pension claim was denied. This raises some interesting questions: did he delay a year before coming home, and fabricate the story of his service to his family when he returned? If so, what did he do during that time? Why did he think that he would succeed in his pension application? To be fair, it is also possible (though unlikely) that the desertion record was an error; but if that were the case, we would expect him to have appealed the rejection of his pension application (he did not).

Widowship and remarriage: 1865-1875

From 1863 to 1870 Levi was a roadmaster on the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad,[17] which ran between Cincinnati, Ohio, and East St. Louis, Illinois. In 1867 the family was living in Vincennes, Indiana, when Levi's wife Abby died. Within a year, Levi was back in Massachusetts for a visit, where he married Abby's younger sister Louisa. We can only speculate how this came about. Perhaps Levi had taken his young son back to Massachusetts to meet his grandmothers and aunts and uncles, and romance spontaneously blossomed. Perhaps the plan for the marriage developed through correspondance after Levi wrote to tell Abby's family the sad news. Maybe Louisa had always been fond of Levi - she was 14 when he married her sister. Or perhaps it was primarily a marriage of convenience - Levi needed a mother for his young son, and Louisa, at 30 years of age, was facing dwindling prospects for marriage.

Railroading in Wisconsin

In 1870 Levi returned the the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, where he first helped lay the company's first steel rails on the line between Chicago and Evanston, IL, before returning to Wisconsin.[18] Bringing 100 men from Chicago, he was "Assistant Superintendent of Construction" on the line between Madison and Baraboo, Wisconsin. He worked in that capacity until the road passed beyond Baraboo and reached "tunnel No. 1", near the present-day town of Kendall.[19] Here he apparently did some adept real-estate trading. This was the start of the "hill section", where an increased grade required extra engines to pull the train, and would require a large roundhouse and extensive railroad facilities. He bought property adjacent to the railroad right-of-way, and subsequently (presumably after the construction of the railroad yards had begun and the value of the site had increased) sold the land to a developer who subdivided the property to create the village that would provide housing and amenities to the railroad workers.

In 1873 he was appointed roadmaster on the Madison division and supervised the laying of track from Elroy to Sparta, as well as subsequently replacing that line with steel rails.[20] From 1889 until his retirement he was foreman of the Baraboo railroad yards.[21]

In the early 1870's he made his home in Baraboo, where he lived for the rest of his life.


Offspring of Levi Goddard Kendall and Abigail Barrell (1830-1867)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Newton Jones Kendall (aft1851-bef1867) 1851 1867
William Beveridge Kendall (1857-1908) 11 December 1857 Hoosick Falls, Rensselaer County, New York, United States June 1908 Janesville, Rock County, Wisconsin, United States Josephine McGary (1863-1932)

Offspring of Levi Goddard Kendall and Louisa Maria Barrell (1838-1911)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Abigail Louisa Kendall (1872-aft1952)


  1. ^ I believe the position describes a person responsible for maintaining a section of track[1].
  2. ^ Memorial and Biographical Record
  3. ^; Poor, 1860, pp. 158-159.
  4. ^ 1850 United States Federal Census, Fitchburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts.
  5. ^ Whitcomb, 1905.
  6. ^ Whitcomb, 1905.
  7. ^ 1850 United States Federal Census, Fitchburg, Worcester County, Massachusetts.
  8. ^ Whitcomb, 1905.
  9. ^ There is now a RR track on the NH side of the river as well - when was this built? Was there a bridge or ferry between Brattleboro and Keene?.
  10. ^ Memorial and Biographical Record. Unfortunately, New York was not keeping vital records at this time; perhaps there is a baptism record at one of the Hoosick Falls churches.
  11. ^ Poor, 1860, p. 318.
  12. ^ Memorial and Biographical Record.
  13. ^ 1860 United States Federal Census, Caledonia, Boone County, Illinois.
  14. ^ Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865. Madison, Wisconsin: Democrat Printing Company. 1914.  Vol. 2, p. 191.
  15. ^ Wisconsin Volunteers, vol. 2, pp. 189-192.
  16. ^ Wisconsin Volunteers, vol. 2, p. 191.
  17. ^ Memorial and Biographical Record.
  18. ^ Memorial and Biographical Record.
  19. ^ Memorial and Biographical Record.
  20. ^ Memorial and Biographical Record.
  21. ^ Memorial and Biographical Record.

Sources and notes

‡ General
  • The Memorial and Biographical Record correctly gives his mother, but gives his father as Andrew Kendall (actually his grandfather). We have a marriage record between Ruth and Stephen; and Levi's second marriage record lists Ruth and Stephen as his parents.
  • Obituary of Levi G. Kendall. The Evening News (Baraboo, WI), Wednesday, March 21, 1906, p. 7.
  • William Beveridge Kendall. Pp. 405-407 in Memorial and Biographical Record and Illustrated Compendium of Biography Containing a Compendium of Local Biography Including Biographical Sketches of Hundreds of Prominent Old Settlers and Representative Citizens of Columbia, Sauk and Adams Counties, Wisconsin. Chicago: Geo. A. Ogle & Co. 1901.
Ω Birth
  • We do not have primary evidence for Levi's birth - the Boston Vital Records Office does not have a record for him. The date of his birth comes from narratives written near or at the end of his life (W.B. Kendall's biography in Memorial and Biographical Record, Levi's obituary), and presumably reflect the day that he celebrated as his birthday. The claim that he was born in Boston can also be found in the marriage index of his second marriage.
₪ Wedding
2 Wedding 2
  • Record is indexed in the Massachusetts VRs
¶ Death


  Bruce Kendall

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