The inspiration for A Specter of Truth came from my parking spot at the Kimberton post office. Right in front of me was this very old building, now called Kimber Hall. I learned that Emmor Kimber, bought 200 acres of land in 1817, which included this stone house and three other buildings on the crossroads of Hares Hill Road and Kimberton Road. This became the Kimbers’ home and the French Creek Boarding School for Girls. I pictured young girls playing on the hill and in the woods, having lessons in a makeshift classroom, and sleeping dormitory style on the second floor.
Formal education was not typical for girls in 1818, when Emmor and his wife began the school. The Quakers were ahead of their time, and believed in equality for all. I imagined an adolescent farm girl, Lizzie Mitchell, who had a dream of attending the school and becoming a teacher. And I arduously researched what it would take for her to achieve her aspiration.
I found this old lithograph of Kimber Hall on the internet without any credits. It seems strange not to see any parking lot or cars rounding the bend. No restaurant on the side in the addition that Kimber built to expand his school. No condos where the dorms were once located.
Two hundred years have passed. Imagine the generations of people who have lived here, been educated here, laughed and cried here. In fact, Kimber Hall served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Picture the secret comings and goings in the dark of night. The fear of being caught. The agony of leaving loved ones in order to have freedom.
Oh, yes. This old stone building has lots of stories to tell. I’ll bet we could even imagine some of them.