The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Kirkland (L. Clinton) Papers
Collection Number: M244
Volume: 1 cu.ft.
Luther Clinton Kirkland was born on November 19, 1894, on a farm in Jones County, Mississippi, the youngest of ten children born to Elijah Thomas and Samantha Ardella Tucker Kirkland. His parents were successful farmers who raised cotton, sugar cane, vegetable crops, and livestock, and rented out portions of their acreage to tenants and sharecroppers. The Kirklands were Universalists, and Clinton Kirkland received his secondary education at the Southern Industrial Institute, a school in Camp Hill, Alabama, operated by Dr. Lyman Ward, a Universalist minister from New York. On the suggestion of Dr. Ward, he followed his older brother, J. Brackin Kirkland (also a graduate of the Southern Industrial Institute), to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He entered Cornell in 1915 and graduated with a degree in agriculture in 1921. He held various jobs around campus to finance his college education, including service as chauffeur and houseboy in the home of former Cornell president Andrew D. White, succeeding his brother in that post. He also rowed on the Cornell crew. Kirkland's schooling at Cornell was interrupted by military service with the 7th U.S. Infantry Medical Detachment in France and Germany during World War I.
After graduation from Cornell in 1921 Kirkland worked as an instructor in the University's Farm Practice Department for three years. On April 12, 1923, he married Esther Elizabeth "Betty" Brewster, whose cousin had married his brother Brackin two years before. In 1924 Clinton and Betty moved to Adams, New York, where he worked as the foreman of a large dairy and sheep farm. They stayed in New York until the fall of 1926,when they moved south to Mississippi. They purchased some land owned by the Kirkland family and there developed a farm that would be their home for more than fifty years. It was located in Jones County, near the town of Moselle, not far from his childhood home. They adopted two children, a two-year old boy, Bob Britt, in 1929, and a newborn girl, Eleanor Jo, in 1931.
The raising of Aberdeen Angus beef cattle was the major enterprise of the Kirkland farm, but during the Depression Clinton Kirkland sought salaried employment. In 1933 he became a part-time appraiser for the Federal Land Bank of New Orleans. He continued with the Federal Land Bank, sometimes on a full-time basis, until 1951, when he retired to devote full time to farming once again. At this same time they became foster parents of a neighbor boy, Billy Cox, and raised him to maturity.
In 1950 the Kirklands were joined in Mississippi by Clinton's brother and his wife, J. Brackin and Eleanor George Kirkland (Betty's cousin). J. Brackin Kirkland had retired from a career in education and youth work and purchased some of Clinton's land on which to develop a farm. The brothers farmed together for about a decade until both gradually reduced their operations and sold off most of their land. Clinton Kirkland died on January 27, 1979.
Elijah Thomas Kirkland (L. Clinton Kirkland's father) was born in 1854 in Henry County, Alabama. His father, Moses Kirkland, was killed during the Civil War while in Confederate service. Shortly after the war his mother took the family to Mississippi to live with her father, Sherrod Sholar. He had relocated to Mississippi several years before and established a homestead on Tallahala Creek in southestern Jones County. Elijah Thomas Kirkland grew up on his grandfather's farm and in 1878 married a Jones County native, Samantha Ardella Tucker. They established their own farm in southeastern Jones County near the present-day town of Moselle. They had ten children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. Samantha Ardella Tucker Kirkland died in 1933, Elijah Thomas Kirkland in 1937.
Mary Jane Grantham (b. 1851) was the older sister of Elijah Thomas Kirkland. J. Brackin Kirkland (1892-1974) and Charles Hascal Kirkland (1884-1939) were two of his sons, older brothers of L. Clinton Kirkland. Wilson Herrington was a distant cousin of the Kirklands. Martin Van Buren Tucker was the father of Samantha Tucker Kirkland.
Other individuals represented in the collection include Jeff Collins, a lawyer in Laurel, Mississippi, with whom Clinton corresponded during his administration of the E. T. Kirkland estate, and Goode Montgomery, also a Laurel lawyer, who handled financial accounts for E. T. Kirkland.
The papers of L. Clinton Kirkland consist of correspondence, an autobiography, other writings, financial records, deeds, estate papers, and collected family papers, documenting Kirkland's life and work as a farmer in Jones County, Mississippi, and the history of the Kirkland family in the southern Mississippi Piney Woods region. The collection is organized into two major subgroups: the papers of L. Clinton Kirkland himself (comprising approximately half of the material) and family papers he collected (chiefly of his father and mother).
The heart of the L. Clinton Kirkland collection is a handwritten autobiography of 132 pages written in 1978. Almost half of it is devoted to his childhood on the family farm in Jones County, with detailed recollections of farm operations, family life, and community activities in the first decade of the twentieth century. It also contains reminiscences of student days at the Southern Industrial Institute and recollections of military training at Camp Greene (North Carolina), World War I service in France and Germany, and post-war farm work in New York State. It concludes with a brief account of his career as a farmer and Federal Land Bank appraiser in Mississippi. A typewritten transcript is filed with the collection.
Notable items include an eleven-page account of a bus tour to the Pacific Northwest (Box 1, Folder 9); a high school composition book on roman history (Box 1, Folder 10); records of his administration of his father's estate (Box 1, Folder 13-21); and World War I photos (Box 1, Folder 24). Also included is a fifty-six page typewritten document (single spaced) consisting of excerpts from the correspondence between Kirkland and his older brother, J. Brackin Kirkland, 1926-1937 (Box 1, Folder 7). Much of the content pertains to their financial relationship; it was J. Brackin Kirkland who in 1926 sold some of his Mississippi land to his brother for his farm, and they corresponded frequently about payment schedules, personal matters, and the like.
Additionally, there are four letters (1886-1893) to Elijah Thomas Kirkland from his uncle, Josiah Brackin, in Alabama (Box 2, Folder 1); family correspondence concerning Mrs. Kirkland's estate (Box 2, Folders 16-17); an account of a visit back to Alabama (Box 2, Folder 3); a collection of family deeds (Box 2, Folder 6-8); poll tax receipts (Box 2, Folder 11); and other scattered papers and records relating to farming, financial matters, and family matters.
The L. Clinton Kirkland collection is closely related to the much larger collection of the papers of his brother, J. Brackin Kirkland (M15). Included in that collection are several hundred letters written by Clinton Kirkland and his wife to J. Brackin Kirkland, as well as some carbons of letters in return, all dated 1917-1976 (Series II). Most of the letters from which the excerpts cited above were taken are found in that collection. Also included in the J. Brackin Kirkland papers are approximately thirty letters written by Clinton Kirkland during his World War I service in the U.S., France, and Germany (Series II); correspondence of their father, Elijah Thomas Kirkland (Series II); historical material on the family (Series I); and photographs of the family, home farm, Southern Industrial Institute, and Cornell University (Series III). Refer to the finding aid for the J. Brackin Kirkland papers for fuller information.