Kemble Family

Gouverneur Kemble


Gouverneur Kemble was born January 25th, 1786, in the city of New York, being the eldest son of Peter Kemble, Esq., then the head of one of the old English families of that city. Its members had for several generations been conspicuous in commercial pursuits, Mr. Peter Kemble being himself a merchant in the foreign trade.

Gouverneur Kemble was educated in New York and graduated from Columbia College in 1803. As a young man he was a familiar associate (and, indeed, the intimacy, for the most part, continued during their respective lives) of Washington Irving, Peter Irving, James R. Paulding, Henry Brevoort, Henry Ogden and others, who formed a coterie prominent in the society at that time in New York; and whose frolics at Cockloft Hall (an old family mansion on the Passaic, inherited by Kemble) and elsewhere formed material for many of the whimwhams of Salmagundi.

Early in life he was appointed United States Consul at Cadiz, and during his residence there his attention was attracted to the process of casting cannon as practised by the Spanish government, at that time well advanced in this art as compared with the other European countries.

He acquainted himself with all its details with the view of introducing the art to his own country, and, on his return home, established, in connection with several gentlemen, about the year 1814, at Cold Spring, nearly opposite the military post of West Point, a gun foundry, under patronage of the United States Government, the need of such an establishment having been demonstrated by the recent war of 1812, a charter having been obtained from the State of New York, under the title of West Point Foundry Association.

The obstacles to success were many, skilled artisans being difficult to procure, especially as little aid could be obtained form England, our natural source of supply, by reason of the severe penalties against the emigration of mechanics and artisans then rigidly enforced by the British Government.

Nevertheless the experiment was successful, and in course of time the gun foundry was not only extended and perfected, but the establishment became one of the largest foundries and machine works in the country.

Mr. Kemble continued to be President of the association until the expiration of his charter.

Mr. Kemble took an active interest in politics, being a strong adherent of the Democratic party. He was elected Member of Congress for the district comprising Westchester and Putnam counties, and served two terms during the administration of President Van Buren.

He was also elected a delegate to the convention for the revising of the Constitution of the State of New York in 1846, which perfected the system of government now in force.

Mr. Kemble lived to the advanced age of 89, and died September 18, 1875, greatly regretted by a large circle of friends and by the entire community of the neighborhood in which lived, who regarded him as the father as well as the founder of the village.

Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Further information may be obtained from our reference book "History of Putnam County, New York" by William Pelletreau, as well as from our genealogical records.