Known and loved by many residents of Laurel County as “Grandma Pennington,” Elizabeth Katherine “Kitsy” Graham Pennington was born on Oct. 16, 1837 in Lee County, Virginia, a daughter of Henry Graham and Mary Russell Graham.
She lived the last several years of her adult life in Laurel County, and was very well known in the area. She died here on June 19, 1921, and is buried in the A.R. Dyche Memorial Park in London.
Like many women of her era, “Grandma” Pennington’s life was defined in great part by the men around her.
In fact, her greatest claim to fame was that she was the mother of five sons, all of whom were doctors. But we’ll come back to that in a minute.
Her husband, Edward Mitchell Pennington, was a Civil War veteran who enlisted with the Confederate Army on Sept. 16, 1861 and served with Company A, 21st Virginia Infantry and Company A, 64th Virginia Infantry during the war.
Edward was a son of Elijah B. Pennington and Sarah Elizabeth Jones Pennington. He was born on February 24, 1832 in Lee County, Virginia. He and Kitsy were married on Oct. 1, 1858 in Lee County.
The couple had five sons (all of whom were doctors, as mentioned above) and two daughters (one of whom died in infancy).
The family was living in Union County, Tennessee, at the time the U.S. Census was taken in 1900, but had relocated here in Laurel County some time before Edward’s death on Dec. 28, 1905.
One of their sons, Dr. Henry Vincent Pennington (Dec. 29, 1869 – Oct. 15, 1944), had already moved to London in May of 1891 after earning his medical degree from the University of Tennessee. It is probable that he encouraged his parents to move to Laurel County a few years later because their children had all left home and the aging couple had no one to care for them.
Edward, in fact, was ill for several months before his death, and his obituary said he died at the home of his son, Dr. Henry Vincent Pennington.
Henry was noted as a “pioneer surgeon in Southeastern Kentucky.” He also founded Pennington Hospital in London in 1907, the only hospital between Knoxville, Tennessee and Lexington, Kentucky at the time. The hospital was purchased in 1946 by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and renamed Marymount (Our Lady of the Mountain).
“Grandma” Pennington’s four other sons also made names for themselves as men of medicine.
Dr. Evan B. Pennington (Nov. 17, 1859 – March 11, 1954) became a dentist and set up his practice in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. James Reece Pennington (Jan. 18, 1865 – Feb. 4, 1940) was also a dentist. He practices mostly in Nicholasville and Richmond, Kentucky.
Dr. Patton Abraham Pennington (Feb. 16, 1867 – March 24, 1961) of Louisville, held degrees in both dentistry and medicine.
Dr. Madison K. Pennington (May 12, 1875 – April 8, 1921), of London, was a dentist and business man. He died young, only 46 years old, and “had spent half his life fighting for his health,” according to his obituary.
“Grandma” Pennington outlived her husband, her youngest son and both of her daughters: Emiretha (Emma) Pennington Campbell (Nov. 5, 1861 – May 30, 1916) and Hattie B. Pennington (1879 – March 2, 1882).
According to her obituary, she was “a life-long and devoted member of the M. E. Church, South, and up to the last insisted on being taken to church and filled her place in the services, hers being a beautiful Christian character.”
She died “after a long illness” at the home of her son, Dr. Henry Vincent Pennington, on June 19, 1921, and now rests next to her beloved husband, four of her sons and many other family members in the A.R. Dyche Memorial Park in London.