Bullitt County History

Henry Frederick Kalfus, M.D.

On 17 Jan 1946, Mrs. J. R. Holsclaw, the Hebron correspondent to The Pioneer News, wrote a letter to the "Point of View" column of The Courier-Journal regarding a letter she had that was written by Dr. H. F. Kalfus of Shepherdsville to her Uncle B. B. Ball who lived in Arkansas.

Dr. Kalfus' letter was dated 1 Jan 1838, but the postmark indicated it was mailed on 2 Jan 1839. The following is quoted from that letter.

"Your letter informs us of your intention to postpone your visit. You were certainly right in so doing. You could not have reached here without incredible difficulties. The Ohio River is entirely frozen over from its source to its mouth, the thermometer for some time past standing at from 5 to 10 below zero. Louisville is destitute of groceries, as no boats have been able to pass up for the last three months, and no prospect at present of any change. We have the appearance of almost a Russian winter."

Then, in her "Hebron Activities" column in The Pioneer News in September 1946, Mrs. Holsclaw wrote the following.

"I got in touch with [Dr. Kalfus'] daughter [Anna Kalfus Spero] in Berkley, California, and his granddaughter [Italia Hollingsworth] has most graciously given me these interesting facts which I am sure will be appreciated by all the older inhabitants of this county and especially of Shepherdsville."

The following is the information that Dr. Kalfus' granddaughter shared.

Dr. Henry Frederick Kalfus

Henry Frederick Kalfus was born April 14, 1832 in Shepherdsville, Ky., in the house that was later called the Coombs House. He was the son of Henry F. Kalfus, Jr., and Matilda, daughter of Cuthbert Harrison, of Bardstown, Ky. Matilda Harrison was the sister of Dr. Burr Harrison, also of Bardstown. His paternal grandfather, also named Henry F. Kalfus, was born October 4, 1756 and on September 17, 1792 in Mercer Co., Ky., he married Ann Fisher of Culpeper, Va.

Henry F. Kalfus attended Hanover College in Indiana but was called home on the death of his father in 1852. He began his studies in medicine in his native town and practiced there for five years. H had his office in him home on 53 acres in Long Lick Valley which had been a part of Old Meadow Acres, a nine hundred acre tract owned by a Mr. Shepherd. Bought in 1846, it was three miles from Shepherdsville. They named the little farm "Meadow Home," although it was lettered in the colored plat with the deed as New Meadow Acres. To this home on June 7, 1854 he brought his bride Elizabeth Virginia Birkhead, the only child of Dr. Joseph Forman Birkhead and Matilda Ann Birkhead (nee Shadburne). Dr. Birkhead graduated from the University of Louisville in 1834 and began his practice that year in Shepherdsville.

Dr. Kalfus continued to study and in 1860 he graduated from the Kentucky School of Medicine, receiving at the same time a diploma from the medical department of the University of Louisville.

Military Record

Dr. Kalfus was commissioned a Captain of the 32nd Regiment 1st Brigade of Militia of the State on May 13, 1853 by Lazarus W. Powell, Governor of Ky. On November 21, 1861 he took the oath as Captain in the Ky. Volunteer Militia, Co. D, 15th Infantry. He served with distinction in every way and saved the life of Col. Pope, his commanding officer, by dressing his wounds under fire on the battlefield and carrying him to safety. His promotion to Lieutenant Colonel on January 1, 1863 was refused by Major Kalfus and he tendered his resignation giving as one of his reasons that he did not wish to fight white men to free the colored race. His conviction had been growing that a physician had no business killing his fellow men even in battle. His resignation was refused and he was dismissed from the service.

In 1863, he was the Democratic candidate for State Treasurer on the Wickliffe ticket which was defeated by the bayonet. He was arrested along with the other candidates and sent to Irving Block Prison, Memphis, Tennessee. There he was paroled and given the freedom of the city to practice his profession until he was freed in an exchange of prisoners.

After the War

Dr. Kalfus settled in Louisville where he opened his office in his home. He bore the reputation of being an earnest, energetic and able physician, and held a high position in his profession. His office for many years was at 732 Second Street, opposite Gray.

In 1883, he was the Secretary of the Board of Regents of the Kentucky School of Medicine in Louisville. His records show that he was still a member of the board at the time of his death. The Resolutions of Sympathy passed by the Board of Regents at their meeting, October 30, 1890, were signed by A. Barnett, President, and John H. Leathers, Secretary. He was medical examiner for many lodges, an Odd Fellow and a Mason.

Newspaper clippings give me the information that he was the seventy-eighth victim of the tornado of March 1890, in which he was severely injured while at Falls City Hall attending a meeting of the Jewel Lodge of the Knights and Ladies of Honor. He died October 26, 1890 and was buried in our family plot in Cave Hill Cemetery after a funeral service from his church, the Broadway Methodist, conducted by the Rev. Dr. Rivers.


Dr. Kalfus' widow died on April 29, 1912 in Goldfield, Nevada. There were three children. The list of descendants:

1. Anna Frederika, born April 15, 1855, Shepherdsville, Ky.
2. Joseph Leland, Sept. 26, 1856, Shepherdsville, Ky.
3. Lily Dale, Sept. 20, 1861.

No. 2 Joseph Leland Kalfus followed railroading and mining and married (1) Eliza Italia Evans (born Nov. 20 '56) on Sept. 22, 1886 at San Jose, California; (2) Sarah E. Thomas on Sept. 30, 1914.

Joseph Leland Kalfus died at the Masonic Home, Decoto, California of Jaundice on January 3, 1929. He left no descendants.

No. 3 Lily Dale Kalfus married Dr. George W. Smith of Paris, Texas on December 20, 1882. She died of jaundice May 21, 1884, leaving no heirs.

No. 1 Anna Frederika married (1) James Silas de Jarnette (born Sept. 10, 1854) on March 28, 1887 at Louisville, Ky.; (2) Schuyler C. Spero (born Sept. 28, 1870) on Sept. 17, 1896 at San Jose, California.

By her first marriage she had two children:

1. Henry Kalfus de Jarnette, born March 9, 1889 at Louisville, Ky., died June 22, 1914 in Nevada, unmarried.

2. Lillian Italia de Jarnette, born Feb. 22, 1891 at Louisville, Ky., married William Wiley Hollingsworth on Sept. 2, 1917 at Oakland, California. Dr. Hollingsworth had a Ph.D. degree and was not a medical doctor. He died Jan. 2, 1928 at Gainesville, Florida, where he was a professor at the University of Florida. Two children - A. Jenieve Eloise Hollingsworth, born at Washington, D.C. Sept. 23, 1918; B. William Wiley Hollingsworth, born at Berkeley, California on August 31, 1923.

As to professions, Anna Kalfus Spero has been a teacher, poetess, writer and newspaper woman. Her two children were both lawyers. I have been in addition and still am a registered social worker with hospital experience in World War I; my daughter, Jenieve Eloise is with a department of the U.S. Govt. as a Marketing Specialist. She is a nutritionist, food chemist an a teacher. My son, William Wiley, is at Georgia Tech taking engineering as his education was interrupted by his war service. I am practicing and teaching in the field of income tax and property law.

Anna Kalfus Spero was 92 when she died on 1 May 1947 in Berkeley, California. Her daughter Italia was a practicing attorney until less than a year before she died at the age of 91 on 23 Sep 1982 in San Jose, California. A fine athlete in her younger years, in college she was active in women's crew and fencing competition, and was a member of the basketball team that won the state title. She was a founder of the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco.

Additionally, Henry Frederick Kalfus, the third generation by that name, is described below from two separate sources. While they are quite similar, each contains useful information about Dr. Kalfus.

The first is taken from The Biographical encyclopædia of Kentucky of the Dead and Living Men of the Nineteenth Century (Cincinnati, J.M. Armstrong, 1878, page 495).

KALFUS, HENRY FREDERICK, M. D., was born April 14, 1832, at Shepherdsville, Bullitt County, Kentucky, and is of German extraction. His mother was a sister of the distinguished Dr. Burr Harrison, of Bardstown, Kentucky. He received a good education, which he finished at Hanover College, Indiana, in 1852. He studied medicine in his native town, and after practicing five years, graduated, in 1860, at the Kentucky School of Medicine in Louisville. He also received a diploma from the medical department in the University of Louisville. He was Democratic candidate for State Treasurer, in 1864, on the Wickliffe ticket, but was defeated.

At the commencement of the civil war, he recruited a company for the Fifteenth Kentucky (Union) Infantry, and, for gallant conduct in the battle of Perryville, was promoted major, and was subsequently promoted lieutenant-colonel and colonel. After the battle of Stone river, being dissatisfied with the war policy of the Government, he resigned his commission, and, after spending some months in Canada, at the close of the war, returned to Louisville, and engaged actively in the duties of his profession.

He is an earnest, energetic, able, and successful practitioner, and occupies a fine position in his profession. Religiously, he is associated with the Methodist Church, and is prominently identified with some of its charitable institutions. Dr. Kalfus was married in 1854, and has three children—two daughters and one son.

The second comes from Kentucky: A History of the State, (Perrin, Battle, Kniffin, 8th ed., 1888, Jefferson County).

HENRY F. KALFUS, M.D., was born in Shepherdsville, Bullitt County, Ky., April 14, 1832, and is of German extraction. His mother was a sister of the distinguished Burr Harrison, of Bardstown, Ky. He received a good education, which he completed at Hanover College, Indiana, in 1852. He studied medicine in his native town, and after practicing five years, graduated at the Kentucky School of Medicine, Louisville, in 1860; he also received a diploma from the medical department of the University of Louisville. He was a candidate for State treasurer in 1863, on the ticket with Hon. Charles A. Wickliffe, but was defeated. When the civil war broke out he raised a company for the Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry (Union) commanded by Col. Curran Pope, of Louisville. He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and then to colonel. After the battle of Stone River, being dissatisfied with the conduct of the war, he resigned his profession. He is secretary of the Board of Regents of Kentucky School of Medicine, and has held the position for several years. Dr. Kalfus has two children living--Joseph L., now of California, and Mrs. Anna D. Jarnette, of Florida.

Dr. Kalfus' father was Henry F. Kalfus, Jr., and his mother was Matilda Harrison Kalfus. He married Elizabeth Virginia Birkhead in 1850 in Bullitt County, and they had three children: Anna, Joseph, and Lily. Dr. Kalfus died on 26 Oct 1890.

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 28 Aug 2021 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/kalfus3.html