Kimberly, Helen Cheney (1843-1931)

The life of Helen Cheney Kimberly naturally divides into three chapters: girlhood, womanhood, and full maturity. She was born May 19, 1843 in Defiance, Ohio. Her father and mother were in Ohio because of her father’s interest in the construction of the Erie Canal. Helen was educated in Toledo. James Cheney with his wife and children moved to Logansport, Indiana where he opened a bank. John Kimberly and Helen Cheney were married on November 1, 1865. Marriage took them to Neenah, Wisconsin where they lived until they started coming to Redlands for winters, in 1899. The Kimberly’s had two sons and five daughters. J. A. Kimberly was a key figure in the founding and development of a great paper company, Kimberly-Clark. The Kimberly’s made Redlands their permanent home in 1906.


Mrs. Kimberly was a pioneer in the fostering the potential of women. In Wisconsin her special cause was the teaching of domestic science. She found her allies in the Federation of Woman’s Clubs. Together they funded the establishment of a chair of domestic science at Milwaukee’s Downer Women’s College and the construction of Kimberly Hall for the domestic science department.


Seeking refuge from the Wisconsin winters, the Kimberly’s occupied various homes in the residence district in Redlands. The marriages of their daughters were completed here: Lulu (Lucy) Manville Kimberly to Clinton J. Curtis in 1901, Nancy Evans Kimberly to George Edwin Bergstrom in 1903, and Mary Emma Kimberly to Elbert Walker Shirk in 1905. By late 1905 the Kimberly’s purchased Cornelia A. Hill’s chateau on Prospect Knoll and began furnishing and decorating their new home as well as continuing the landscaping of the property.


Mrs. Kimberly flung herself into the work and affairs of the Redlands Contemporary Club. She founded an organization for high school age girls, in which, on Saturday morning sessions, are taught parliamentary law, current events and social graces. The popular and prestigious organization continues today as Kimberly Juniors. With her interest in music she helped Grace Mullen finance the concerts in the Redlands Bowl in the difficult early days. Helen Cheney Kimberly died in Redlands on February 24, 1931 nearly 88 years of age.


[Source: Kimberly Crest Biographical Sketch of Helen Cheney Kimberly, Revised October 1986.]