Sarah Thompson Kaemmerling Fund

TYPE OF FUND:  Field of Interest                                 DATE ESTABLISHED:  September 2005 

PURPOSE:  According to the decedents wishes for “institutions and associations engaged exclusively in charitable, educational or scientific activities for the promotion of science, health, education, good citizenship and the well-doing and well-being of mankind”.

DISTRIBUTION:  Upon the recommendation by the Grants Committee and approval by the full Board of Directors of TCF.  Preference given to requests from the Canaan Valley / Davis / Thomas areas of Tucker county. 

VARIANCE POWER:  If, in the judgment of the TCF Board of Directors, the restrictions and conditions of the fund become unnecessary, incapable of fulfillment or inconsistent with the charitable needs of the community, the TCF Board of Directors maintains the right to modify the terms of this fund.

FUNDING:  $136,000 from the estate of Sarah Thompson Kaemmerling. 

BACKGROUND:  Sarah Maude Thompson was the only daughter of Dr. Albert and Mary E. Blake Thompson of Norway, ME and later Philadelphia, PA.  Dr. Thompson practiced dentistry in Norway prior to moving to Philadelphia before the turn of the century.  They had two children, Frank E. Thompson (1861-1897) and Sarah Maude Thompson (1874-1957).

Dr. Thompson joined his brothers who were businessmen engaged in the lumber business and came to Davis, WV in the late 1800’s.  They formed the Blackwater Lumber Company that bought out the first major lumber producer, Jacob Leathers Rumbarger.  The Blackwater Lumber Company was succeeded by the Thompson Lumber Company.  The Thompson’s were the leading producers of lumber in the Canaan Valley and surrounding area during the boom times.  The Thompson’s benefited the young town of Davis in many ways including building businesses and providing employment.

The Thompson’s sold their holdings t the Babcock Lumber and Boom Company, in its heyday.  The Babcock Lumber prospered for many years until the available lumber producing lands played out.  Albert Thompson and his brothers bought real estate including coal lands in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, mining property in Colorado and other properties in Maine, Washington and New Hampshire.  Frank E. Thompson, age 35, was mortally wounded in a gun fight aboard a train, by Robert Ward Eastham on March 18, 1897 and died March 20, 1897 in Cumberland, MD.  After the trial and sentencing, Eastman managed to escape and was not recaptured.  The crime is documented in Homer Floyd Fansler’s History of Tucker County.*

According to a letter written by Maude Thompson Wakefield, cousin of Mrs. Kaemmerling, and companion of her later years, the young Maude Thompson was a talented and serious musician.  She graduated from the New England Conservatory and later taught there.  She also traveled extensively in Europe studying music and voice.

After the death of Frank Thompson in 1897, Maude gave up her musical career to stay at home with her parents.  She learned the business trade from her father and managed his estate and holdings the remainder of her life.  She married rather late in life to Retired Admiral Gustav Kaemmerling of the U.S. Navy.  Admiral Gustav was chief engineer on the U.S. Navy Ship Olympia which saw action at the battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American War.

She took care of both her parents and her husband through long, ultimately fatal illnesses, according to Mrs. Wakefield.  Mrs. Kaemmerling managed the family business interests from her residence in Philadelphia.  Mrs. Wakefield writes, “Cousin Maude was a cheerful woman, serious but with plenty of humor about her…Her home life was simple but well ordered…She was at her breakfast table at 8 a.m. fully dressed and ready to conduct the day’s business.”  She believed in sharing and helping people.  She endowed the town of Norway, ME with a public library which was dedicated in 1938.  Mrs. Kaemmerling was a very modest person who chose to do her charity work in private.  Mrs. Kaemmerling died March 28, 1957 in Philadelphia.

In her will, Mrs. Kaemmerling directed that the bulk of her estate should be distributed ultimately to institutions and associations “…engaged exclusively in charitable, educational or scientific activities for the promotion of science, health, education, good citizenship and the well-doing and well-being of mankind,” according to an article written at the time of her death, in the Philadelphia Inquirer.