Husband: Rev. David Kemper (Kemp) Wood (Fig. R550a)
Father: Lewis Edward Wood [R005]
Mother: Emma (Burger) Wood [R005]
Born: 3/6/1878, “Wood home near Sitlington” [S003]
Died: 1/12/1973 in Solana Beach Cal. Buried at Horeb Baptist church,
    Bath County [S003]

First wife: Eva Beatrice (Houser) Wood (Fig. R550b)
Father: Fermon Houser
Mother: Isabell Beatrice (Miller) Houser

Married: 1908 [S089], 1910 according to Charles Wood (below)

Charles W. Wood [R600] (Fig. R550c)

Second wife: Marian Jean (Thompson) Wood
Born: 1892
Died: 1972. Buried at Horeb Baptist Church, Bath County

(1996) Undoubtedly David Kemper was named for James L. Kemper, the Governor of Virginia (1874-1878) at the time he was born. James Kemper had been a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army, and was “desperately wounded while leading his Brigade in Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg.”

The following account was provided by Charles Wood [R600]. “David Kemper Wood, the firstborn of Lewis Edward and Emma Burger Wood, was born on March 6, 1878 at the old Sitlington place on the Cowpasture River―located about five miles down the river from Nimrod Hall. His mother, very early, began calling him ‘Kemp’ and the nickname stayed with him all his life.

“Kemp liked to tell many stories about his preschool days, when he was given a full range of chores on the farm―feeding the chickens for his mother, helping his dad milk the cows, “slopping” the hogs, and weeding the garden. Later he did his share of plowing, planting, harvesting, cutting hay, etc. Shortly after Kemp was born, other brothers and sisters came along at a rapid pace, so he became very expert at changing diapers. Kemp often mentioned that all the kids were born on the farm, there being no way to get to a hospital. At a very early age, and all through his life, Kemp was an avid fisherman, using a homemade willow branch for a pole and makeshift pins for a hook. For many years fish were plentiful in the nearby Cowpasture River, with worms, hellgrammites, and minnows being the best bait. Kemp walked to a small, one-room schoolhouse about three miles away. All grades were taught by the same teacher.

“One of Kemp’s favorite stories about his childhood was about the time he and his brother Mill were butted, while milking the cows, by their dad’s pet ram, which had won several ribbons at the local fair. Kemp and Mill drove an old railroad spike which they had found into a tree. They then found old pants, shirt, and hat, and nailed these to the tree to simulate a man, with the spike in dead center. The ram charged the figure, butted it, and in so doing, the spike went into his head, killing the ram. The boys were afraid of being found out, and took the dead ram to the bottom of the mountain, where they buried him. Their dad missed the ram at once, and looked high and low for him. Several days later, while resting on the porch in his rocking chair, their dad saw buzzards flying near the mountain. He investigated and found his ram, with the telltale spike hole in his skull. He deduced what had happened, and the boys got the ‘switching’ of their lives!

“Kemp’s father sent him to Richmond University. After graduation, he returned to the farm. At college, Kemp showed interest in reading and studying Biblical history, which led him to attend Crozier Theological Seminary, where he was ordained as a Baptist minister, taking the pastorship of a small church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Subsequently, he met Eva Beatrice Houser, from the nearby town of Easton Pa. Eva was the daughter of Fermon Houser and Isabell Beatrice Miller, both of whom were Pennsylvania Dutch, and spoke this dialect quite fluently.

“Fermon Houser was a motorman, who drove the express trolley running between Easton and Allentown Pa. Eva was only seventeen when she and Kemp were married in 1910. Their only child, Charles Wendell Wood, was born on October 14 1911.

“Shortly after Charles’ birth, Kemp received a call from a small group of Baptists in Philadelphia to help them organize a church. From a small base of only 25 members, Kemp, after eight years of many hardships and deprivations, was successful in dedicating a beautiful stone Baptist church in Overbrook, a suburb of Philadelphia. The Overbrook Baptist Church had over 500 members and Kemp was very proud of his accomplishment. He was a sought-after speaker, greatly admired and respected by the Christian community in Philadelphia.

“At the peak of his success, Kemp was stricken with paralysis of the optic nerve, which caused almost total blindness. The church gave him a leave of absence, with some financial help, while he visited a number of doctors, searching for help. Finally, after about four years and countless electrical treatments, the sight in one eye partially returned. After unsuccessfully trying several different jobs, he returned to live at Nimrod Hall and he and Eva were divorced. She eventually married a Doctor Edward Hemminger, who had taken care of her over a long illness. Kemp eventually found temporary work teaching at a small military school in North Carolina. While there he met and married Jean, moving thereafter [~1950] to a small home in New Bern, North Carolina. In 1972, Kemp and Jean moved to California to be near his son, Charles, and his family. Jean developed Alzheimer’s disease and passed away in late 1972, with Kemp following on January 12, 1973.”

Charles Wood adds the following interesting account. “When our little family was living in Philadelphia and I was about ten years old [~1921], Granddad Lewis Wood came to visit us at 1618 N. Robinson, Philadelphia, for the purpose of tracking down a clue concerning his father’s death in the Civil War. He had heard from somewhere that his father had died a prisoner of war on a little island in the Delaware River just below Trenton, New Jersey, which the Union army used as a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. [Fort Delaware; Fig. R004c.]

“Together with his son, Kemp, and his grandson, Charles, Lewis Edward Wood took off for Trenton and stopped in various little towns in the area, inquiring about Civil War memorials or knowledge of a prison camp on the Delaware. We finally hit the jackpot with information from some old ‘river rat’ who told us there was some kind of monument out on a little island in the Delaware. We rented a rowboat and found the monument he spoke of, dedicated to Captain Francis Marion Wood and his men, who died of typhoid fever while prisoners of war on this island.

“Granddad was very grateful to learn how his father had died. Subsequently, I have read several stories about their hardships and death. The memorial has been refurbished and is now kept up.”

The following enlargements are from [S074] and [S089]. It is obvious from Lewis Wood’s letters to his son that Kemp was the apple of his eye. Lewis spoke to Kemp as an equal, and a partner in running the farm. Kemp was strikingly handsome as a young man, which probably did him no harm in finding a ministry. He became partly blind in late 1924. Letters of the period indicate that he maintained functionality of one eye. He resigned his ministry in early 1925, no doubt because of (or partly because of) this affliction. Without his small but dependable income as a minister and a free manse to live in, Kemp had trouble supporting his family. He tried many occupations, usually without success. Figure R550e recalls one of his stints at that time as a visiting lecturer. (Kemp was something of a regular in New England, having worked summers there while he was a college student. He probably had connections.)

To contribute to the family income, in 1926 Eva trained as a beautician and set up a beauty shop in their apartment. Eva appears to have been a truly exceptional woman. Her letters (Fig. R550f) display humor and a lightness of spirit, even in time of adversity, that none of her Wood in-laws could have come close to.

Kemp was a writer. This web site contains three of his pieces: a description of his boyhood life in the Sitlington Stone House (see
[R521]), and two other articles about Bath County in [R906] and
[R907]. All three are highly polished. The Sitlington Stone House piece is the best reading in this collection. The [R907] tale describes a fishing trip with his son in 1925, after he had lost his livelihood (the other two pieces are undated). I have wondered whether, in casting about for a new profession, he thought he might make a living as a writer, and wrote these pieces for practice or to submit for publication.

Kemp’s later diaries [S074] make his likes and dislikes clear. His main passion was fishing. After that, Nimrod, but the two were closely coupled. He disliked alcohol, Harry Truman, tipping, garlic, and fundamentalist preachers. In fact he disliked the words “preaching” and “preacher,” and preferred to think of himself instead as a teacher. Actually, I believe Kemp was not temperamentally suited to be a Southern Baptist minister. His letters and writings are completely lacking in allusions to the Bible, and religiosity. I think he was channelled into that profession by his father, who was intensely religious. Extracts from Kemp’s diaries appear in [R005], [R021], and [R553].