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Joyce Kilmer: FAQs and Fancies


 
Frequently Asked Questions

#1: Are you related to Joyce Kilmer?
 
Answer: Yes! My father Kenton Kilmer was Joyce Kilmer's oldest son.
 
#2 Am I related to Joyce Kilmer?
 
Answer: Try an Internet Search, beginning with Find A Grave.
Remember that it is not enough to find a matching name.
Check the dates and close relatives to make sure it's the same person.
I've known some very intelligent and well-educated people to forget that part.
My family believed we were descended from British royalty until I discovered
that the "Rosamond Clifford" my grandmother had found in our
family records lived centuries later than Henry II's mistress.
 
Descendants of Peter (Kulmer) Kilmer (this is the male line)
 
1 Peter (Kulmer) Kilmer 1785 - 1847
    + Mary Pulver
    2 Alexander Kilmer
    2 William H. Kilmer
    2 [1] Harriet Kilmer
      *2nd Wife of Peter (Kulmer) Kilmer:
      + Mary Poultney 1790 - 1878
    2 Charles Kilmer 1812 - 1886
      + Angelina Hubbard 1814 - 1836
      *2nd Wife of Charles Kilmer:
      + Mary Ann Langdon 1810 - 1881
        3 Oliver Amerman Kilmer 1838 -
          + Ellen Hotchkiss
            4 Arthur Kilmer
            4 Albert Kilmer
        3 Martha Loraine Kilmer 1841 - 1842
        3 Charles Henry Kilmer 1843 - 1916
          + Mary Sawtelle
        3 George Luther (Langdon) Kilmer 1845 - 1934
          + Emma Born
            4 Edine Kilmer c. 1872 - 1957
        3 Frederick Barnett Kilmer 1851 - 1934
          + Annie Ellen Kilburn 1849 - 1932
            4 Anda Frederick (Andy) Kilmer 1873 - 1899
              + Rebecca Ellen McLean
                5 Eleanor McLean Kilmer 1898 -
                  + Lewis Sceva 1893 -
                    6 Martha Sceva
                    6 Nathaniel Sceva
            4 Ellen Annie Kilmer 1875 - 1876
            4 Charles Willoughby Kilmer 1880 - 1880
            4 (Alfred) Joyce Kilmer 1886 - 1918
              + Aline Murray 1888 - 1941
                5 Kenton (Sinclair) Kilmer 1909 - 1995 (my father)
                5 Michael Barry Kilmer 1916 - 1927
                5 Deborah Clanton Kilmer 1914 - 1999
                5 Rose Kilburn Kilmer 1912 - 1917
                5 Christopher Kilmer 1917 - 1984
    2 Catharine Kilmer 1814 - 1877
    2 Maria Kilmer 1817 - 1884
 
Joyce's mother was Annie Ellen Kilburn. Her known paternal ancestry dates back several generations to Thomas Kilburn, who was born and died in England. Annie's mother was Ellen Curtis Smith; her maternal grandmother was Hulda Curtis.
#3 a): My uncle/local government official/newspaper (etc.) says that Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees" was inspired by the tree located at (your spot here). Is it true?
 
#2 b): My uncle/local government official/newspaper (etc.) says that Joyce Kilmer was in (your location here) when he wrote the poem "Trees." Is it true?
 
Answer: According to my Dad, Joyce Kilmer's eldest son Kenton, Joyce was writing about trees in general, not about any particular tree. Joyce was living in Mahwah, New Jersey, at the time he wrote the poem (February 2, 1913). Dad wrote: "It was in an upstairs bedroom... which served as Mother's and Dad's bedroom and also as Dad's office.... The window looked out down a hill, on our well-wooded lawn - trees of many kinds, from mature trees to thin saplings: oaks, maples, black and white birches, and I don't know what else." Memories of my Father, Joyce Kilmer, 1993, by Kenton Kilmer.
I don't actively discourage the legends, because they encourage environmental passion, but I also value accuracy, so I've provided the facts as I know them.
 
#3: Where can I find the music for the poem "Trees?"
 
Answer: "Trees" was written as a poem, not as lyrics. Many composers have attempted to set it to music, with varying success. By far the most popular song written using Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees" as lyrics is the one by Oscar Rasbach. There are many recordings of the Kilmer/Rasbach "Trees" still readily available.
The Kilmer/Rasbach song "Trees": Sheet Music for Voice and Piano
 
#4: Where can I find more information on Joyce Kilmer?
 
Answer: For resources on Joyce Kilmer, including his collected works, please visit Rising Dove Bookstore. Please do not rely on information published elsewhere on the internet, newspaper articles, etc.; they are often full of misinformation. The poem "Trees" is frequently misquoted. The reference I almost always use is John Covlel's book "Joyce Kilmer, A Literary Biography." It's available through Inter-Library Loan. Wikipedia.org is also a good source.
 
#5: Did Joyce Kilmer have Irish blood?
 
Answer: Joyce himself claimed to have Irish ancestry on both sides. I can't prove his claim. His father was mostly German and English, his mother mostly English. Smith and Curtis may be Irish names (see above). His passionate love for Ireland and the Irish is obvious, so we may say he was Irish by adoption. See chapter 14 of
Memories of my Father, Joyce Kilmer.
 

Fancies


Fancy #1: Joyce Kilmer was a woman.
 
Correction: This would have greatly surprised his wife! He was born "Alfred Joyce Kilmer," Joyce being a family name. He dropped the first name in both his personal and literary lives. We do honor to his wishes by leaving the "Alfred" off.
 
Fancy #2: Joyce Kilmer is buried in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
 
Correction: Joyce Kilmer is buried in Oise-Aisne Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France. There is a picture of the Kilmer Family Cenotaph in Elmwood Cemetery, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. Although there was at one time some discussion of bringing his remains back to his homeland, Joyce Kilmer was
never buried in the United States. The photo at the bottom of the same page shows Joyce Kilmer's tombstone in Oise-Aisne Cemetery.
 
Fancy #3: Joyce and Aline had two children when Joyce entered the war.
 
Correction: Which two? They had five children, three of whom lived to adulthood. Four of their children had been born when the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917 - Kenton, Rose, Michael, and Deborah - and Aline was pregnant with their fifth. Christopher was born on September 21st, 1917, just a few days after Rose had died of cholera on September 9th. Joyce's mother records his last goodbye to the family on a Sunday in October shortly before Joyce left for France.
 
Fancy #4: Joyce Kilmer was a saint.
 
Reservation: Joyce would have been horrified to think anyone would suppose he had achieved "heroic sanctity" during his lifetime. He was a spiritual beginner, a man of high ideals who loved his Creator, and expressed those sentiments in his literary works. He was a patriot who gave his life in service to his country. In the sense that all of us who seek the truth and strive for the good are saints, yes, I would agree that he was a saint.

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