Carol W. Kimball, Groton's first Town Historian, had an ability to dig exhaustively and explore with a passion. She was considered by many to be full of knowledge, humanity and talent, and responsible for painting a vivid, yet accurate depiction of local history like no other.
Born Carol H. Williams May 18, 1916 in New London, Kimball grew up next to the Quaker Hill School, which she attended before graduating from Chapman Technical High in New London and Willimantic State Normal School.
She lived during the depression era, but attended college on full scholarship and survived on one dollar a week due to her family’s resourcefulness. While studying education, she enjoyed hiking, playing tennis and going out to 10-cent coffee with college mates.
In 1939, she met Burton Kimball of Scotland, and they married at the First Baptist church in 1939. She wore a white organdy bridal dress originally worn by her grandmother. She and Burton lived a short time in Scotland where she taught school, then moved and eventually built a home on Allyn Street in Mystic.
Kimball was an elementary school teacher at Mystic Academy, and agreed to teach history. She discovered that not a single text was published on Groton’s history, and took on the task.
“Some of the most enjoyable times I spent with Carol occurred when she, Marilyn Comrie and I were organizing our two pictorial history books about Groton,” says Groton Town Mayor and Town Historian Jim Streeter. “She would frequently state she felt she was not contributing her fair share into the books. In reality, she was the major contributor…”
Although Kimball retired from teaching in 1976, she was crowned Town Historian of Groton, published several books and wrote a weekly historical column for The Day.
"Historic Glimpses and Remembering Groton are our two most popular Carol Kimball books," says Patience Banister, co-owner of Bank Square Books. "If you want to know about the history of this area, she was the queen.”
Kimball, who studied under historian Eva Butler, dug into local archives to dust off buried tales of New London County’s past. Maritime topics were a favorite, and at one time Kimball wrote shipwreck stories for Yankee Magazine.
A member of the Daughters of The American Revolution and the Mayflower Society, Kimball was also affiliated with Mystic River, New London County, Stonington and Noank Historical Societies. To house the research of Eva Butler, Kimball helped open and direct the Indian and Colonial Research Center in Old Mystic.
Reverend Stacy Emerson, of the Union Baptist Church, remembers Kimball as a gentle and gracious spirit. She and her husband, Burton Kimball, were parishioners for more than 50 years. According to Reverend Emerson, Carol Kimball would call the church weekly to find out about births, deaths and marriages, and would send a card to those in need as a way of supporting the community.
Her mind was sharp, but her health eventually deteriorated, prompting her to step down from her duties as town historian. Having lived a rich and hearty life, she died in 2010 at age 94.
“I visited Carol at Fairview just a few days before she passed, and at this late stage in her life she still discussed, with enthusiasm and authority, some aspects of history I was researching.” says Streeter.
“There is not a day that goes by when involved in local history project that I don’t think of Carol and wish she was sitting next to me providing or verifying a local historical subject.”