Thomas Kimball Messersmith

20 Sep 1834 - 21 Feb 1914

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Thomas Kimball Messersmith

20 Sep 1834 - 21 Feb 1914
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Family legend tells that Thomas Kimball Messersmith was well-known in Missouri as a sharpshooter. One story tells that when he entered a 'turkey shoot' contest, the sponsors offered to give him a turkey right up front if he would not enter a contest, so that everyone else would have a fair chance. H

Life Information

Thomas Kimball Messersmith


Cedar Fort Cemetery

W 200 S
Cedar Fort, Utah, Utah
United States


May 30, 2011

R and N Englestead

April 3, 2020


May 30, 2011

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Family Legends about Thomas Kimball Messersmith

Contributor: trishkovach Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago

Family legend tells that Thomas Kimball Messersmith was well-known in Missouri as a sharpshooter. One story tells that when he entered a "turkey shoot" contest, the sponsors offered to give him a turkey right up front if he would not enter a contest, so that everyone else would have a fair chance. He became acquainted with Samuel Clements (Mark Twain), presumably while still in Missouri, and eventually joined Twain and 2 other men in partnership in a silver mine in Carson City, Nevada. The story holds that each of the 4 men thought that the others--who they believed actually knew something about mining--ought to take control of the operation, but since no one did, the partnership went bust and the foursome ended up selling the mine to another group... who, of course, ended up striking it rich with the wealthy veins of silver found there. After the mining deal fell through, Thomas Kimball came to Utah, where he met and married Mary Louisa. Further family tradition holds that he was affiliated with the army, who was camped at Camp Floyd, and that Mary and her mother were both employed by the army as laundresses. These stories have yet to be verified, but they are interesting!

Tom (Sawyer?) Smith

Contributor: trishkovach Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago

I heard another story today that falls into the category of family legend--stories which might well be true but have yet to be confirmed by any evidence other than the longetivity of the story itself. It is well known (in the family, at least) that Thomas Kimball Messersmith of Cole County, Missouri, had a bosom buddy in his youth by the name of Samuel Clements, aka Mark Twain. The story holds that the two boys tried on at least two occasions to set off together into the world to seek adventure, fame, and/or fortune. The first time they were apprehended and returned to their families. The second time they were rather more wily, and succeeded in making good their escape. Perhaps at this time Thomas Kimball Messersmith began using the surname Smith instead--maybe to disguise the trail of their running away? At any rate, the two boys made their way from Missouri to the south along the Mississippi River until they finally arrived at New Orleans. We think that after a time they headed west to California and Nevada. After parting ways much later in life in Nevada, Tom ended up in Utah, close to the depot where Johnson's Army was stationed to the south of the Salt Lake Valley. The world knows what became of Samuel Clements. Here's where the family legend fits in: Samuel/Mark Twain wrote his wonderful stories based on autobiographical experiences. Could it be that Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer's epic travels along the Mississippi were inspired by Samuel's early trip with his friend, Tom Smith? Unless Samuel Clements documented his sources somewhere yet to be discovered, I don't suppose we'll ever really know the truth of it, but I for one am willing to claim Tom Sawyer to be the fictional incarnation of my 3x Great-grandfather, Thomas Kimball Messersmith!

Friend with Mark Twain

Contributor: trishkovach Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago

Grandpa's father, Thomas Kimball Messersmith was a boyhood friend of Samuel Clements fame. He lived in Tavun, Missouri which was near Hannibal, Missouri. They had lots of fun playing as childhood friends. Mark Twain portrayed one of his characters in his book based on Thomas. The character was LeVan from the book Peck's Bad Boy. Samuel Clements and Thomas Messersmith ran away from home together and changed their names to Tom Smith and Mark Twain. They even bought a mine together, but left it and someone else stole the mine rights and made millions. They parted when Thomas joined the infamous Conner's Army, the Indian Killers . They traveled to Fairfield to Camp Floyd.On the way, Thomas saved Commander Connor's life by shooting an Indian and he himself came close to death, but the bullet barely grazed his moustache. His large black moustache was always lopsided after that. The young picture is Mark Twain at the age when he ran away with Thomas. Thomas Kimball Messersmith lived west of the old Lehi Fifth Ward Church. He married Annie Otterson.

A Legendary Journey by Reyn Bowman

Contributor: trishkovach Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago

From a vista in the center of San Francisco known as Twin Peaks, you can look down on a spot in the Mission District with the Bay glimmering to the east. For a few years in the early 1860s this was known as Camp Alert, a race track-turned-Union Cavalry training facility. I’ve always wondered how Thomas K. Messersmith, one of my maternal great-great grandfathers, who was a fourth-generation Southerner and native Missourian came to enlist to fight for the Union and train there, so far from home. Tracing genealogy is a journey, often beginning by tracking down documentation for family legends. But even when found, each revelation usually still leaves a loose end or two, that once tied open yet another revelation. By the 1860 census, my great-great grandfather, a few weeks shy of 26 years old, was bunking with two other miners who were well into their 30s, T.H. Wilson from Virginia and N.F. Scott from Maryland. They were living in a boarding house in Virginia City, Nevada which was then a part of Utah Territory and the site of the Comstock silver discovery only a few months earlier. I doubt he came out to the California Gold Rush a decade earlier because the census then shows him still at home in Missouri. But Virginia City had not only been named by Southerners, it was a hotbed at the time for secessionists who were gloating at having defeated a proposal for statehood because it included a prohibition of slavery. My great-great grandfather had somehow formed a friendship with Samuel Clemens, who was a year younger and yet to adopt his famous pen name “Mark Twain.” Because they were born and raised in very different parts of Missouri, I suspect they had formed a bond once Twain arrived in Virginia City with his brother, probably as much over as shared prowess for playing cards as briefly sharing a mining claim. These fragments can be pieced together from references in collections of Twain’s letters from that time, which also confirm that my great-great grandfather would often be referred to be “Smith or M. Smith,” a truncation of his last name, Messersmith, just as his father did and my great-grandfather Ralph would later do. This discredits another family legend that the truncation was the result of discrimination during World War I, although Ralph used Messersmith up until at least his WWI draft registration. My great-great grandfather gave up on mining around the time he crossed paths with Twain or shortly thereafter and headed up and over the Sierra Nevada’s and down to Stockton to enlist for the Union on October 3, 1861. Interestingly, Twain had already served a two week stint with a Confederate militia back in Missouri and still had Southern sympathies at the time. This and the dissention back in their home state must have led to some interesting conversations between the two Missourians. The California into which my great-great grandfather rode had been in deep turmoil since a deep spit the year before in the Democratic Party, which had resulted in the election of President Abraham Lincoln with just a third of the vote. Rampant secessionist conspiracies had compromised local militias and more than a few law enforcement official, especially in Southern California, leading to public demonstrations by both sides. At the same time, regular Union Army units were being withdrawn to the east and several new Union regiments of California Volunteers were being enlisted to protect communications and critical ore shipments needed to fund the war effort from sabotage and attack. My great-great grandfather made a conscious decision which to my prior understanding was contrary to his both native state and his friends. But digging further I have learned that it was me that was very much misinformed. It took me a while to track down that he initially enlisted in Company A of the Third Regiment which was an Infantry unit, but that didn’t jive with family legend that he was Cavalry. Nor did the date of that unit’s arrival in Salt Lake and its various assignments align with the date and place he eventually mustered out of the army at the end of his tour. Finally, I found a small reference in one military citation that read, “see Company L Second Regiment Cavalry.” After being outfitted at the Benicia Arsenal, he may or may not have participated with Company A in the Bald Hills uprising that ended at Fort Baker before being transferring to Cavalry. It is more probable that he was moved to Cavalry training in San Francisco almost immediately. A hint is provided in one of Twain’s letters, dated May 17, 1862, where he asks another friend to send a pair of Spanish spurs hanging back in his office out to my great-great grandfather. Between late that summer and early fall, with Cavalry training at Camp Alert behind him, at least a part of my great-great grandfather’s company in detachment with another had joined Col. Patrick Conner in Stockton. From there, along with 1,000 other Cavalry and Infantry, they moved in phases over the Sierra Nevada’s and out into the Great Basin along the Overland Trail. They rode first to Fort Churchill about 30 miles east of Virginia City and then proceeded on to secure Fort Ruby, near, coincidentally, where two other of my great-grandparents would drive stagecoach a few decades later. Eventually, they based at Camp Douglas (later re-named Fort Douglas,) a newly created installation on a bench of the Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City, where, again coincidentally, my father would be inducted into the army during WWII. From there, my great-great grandfather’s Cavalry company would deploy to protect wagon routes in mountain valleys to the west where they were under constant attack. This was all during the period when the Pony Express was phasing out and the first Transcontinental Telegraph was being completed along a major freighting corridor to the east carrying bullion and supplies for the war effort. It is hard to relate just how broadly and intensely these facilities were under attack during the Civil War from warring bands of Paiutes and Shoshone-Bannock peoples, stretching in a “T” up the Upper Snake River Valley to what would become my birthplace eight decades later. So I will insert this link as background. Because so much of the family legend surrounding my great-great grandfather’s Union Cavalry experience has now been documented, I have no doubt that one day I will find verification of another part. As the story has been passed down, the scar through his trademark mustache was the result of deflecting a Shoshone arrow that would have struck Colonel Connor. My initial skepticism, at least of this particular hand-me-down family legend, has repeatedly proven groundless so far. When digging into family history it helps to remember that legends are traditional stories regarded as historical but unauthenticated, usually because those details have been lost as the stories were passed down. My great-great grandfather was notoriously quiet and solitary, spending weeks at a time herding sheep up into several of valleys along the Oquirrh Mountains where he had once patrolled near the end of his stint as a Cavalry trooper, including Rush Valley where attacks were especially frequent. (Another, Cedar Valley, where he settled, is shown above.) He became a Mormon and spent the remainder of his days alongside the very Overland Trail he had help protect as a means to hold the Union together never revealing what I now know of how he came to choose that side. But in researching this blog, I think that has become clear. Missouri, it turns out, may have had a very vocal population who had migrated from slaveholding states but by the time of the Civil War, while a neutral border state, it was firmly Unionist in sentiment. It had its share of secessionist scheming. But given the opportunity to vote for secessionist candidates to a convention, it overwhelmingly instead voted for Unionist representatives who voted 99-1 against secession and 70-23 against solidarity with Southern slave states. Most telling about my great-great grandfather’s decision is that those fellow Missourians who enlisted to fight for the Union outnumbered those who enlisted to fight for the Confederacy by nearly 4-1 (110,000 to 30,000.) Mystery solved at least for my great-great grandfather. Unfortunately, far too many Americans are still fighting that war. Originally posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 on the author's blog.

Life timeline of Thomas Kimball Messersmith

Thomas Kimball Messersmith was born on 20 Sep 1834
Thomas Kimball Messersmith was 6 years old when Samuel Morse receives the patent for the telegraph. Samuel Finley Breese Morse was an American painter and inventor. After having established his reputation as a portrait painter, in his middle age Morse contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs. He was a co-developer of the Morse code and helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy.
Thomas Kimball Messersmith was 25 years old when Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species. Charles Robert Darwin, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors and, in a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.
Thomas Kimball Messersmith was 35 years old when Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, breaking away from the American Equal Rights Association which they had also previously founded. Susan B. Anthony was an American social reformer and women's rights activist who played a pivotal role in the women's suffrage movement. Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17. In 1856, she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.
Thomas Kimball Messersmith was 43 years old when Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a machine that can record and play sound. Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman, who has been described as America's greatest inventor. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. Dubbed "The Wizard of Menlo Park", he was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention, and is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.
Thomas Kimball Messersmith was 51 years old when Louis Pasteur successfully tests his vaccine against rabies on Joseph Meister, a boy who was bitten by a rabid dog. Louis Pasteur was a French biologist, microbiologist and chemist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of diseases, and his discoveries have saved many lives ever since. He reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His medical discoveries provided direct support for the germ theory of disease and its application in clinical medicine. He is best known to the general public for his invention of the technique of treating milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination, a process now called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of bacteriology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch, and is popularly known as the "father of microbiology".
Thomas Kimball Messersmith was 64 years old when Spanish–American War: The Treaty of Paris is signed, officially ending the conflict. The Spanish–American War was fought between the United States and Spain in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to US intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. American acquisition of Spain's Pacific possessions led to its involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately in the Philippine–American War.
Thomas Kimball Messersmith was 71 years old when Albert Einstein publishes his first paper on the special theory of relativity. Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.
Thomas Kimball Messersmith died on 21 Feb 1914 at the age of 79
Grave record for Thomas Kimball Messersmith (20 Sep 1834 - 21 Feb 1914), BillionGraves Record 5437 Cedar Fort, Utah, Utah, United States