Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 4, 2008

Obama pays visit to ancestral property

While Kempton may be the smallest Indiana town Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has visited, the Tipton County hamlet is the only one he could possibly call home.

Saturday, the Illinois senator, along with his wife Michelle and their two daughters, visited his ancestral home in Kempton. Now owned by Shawn Clements, the house was built on property owned by Obama’s great-great-great-great-grandparents on his mother’s side, Jacob and Catherine Dunham.

When he climbed off his campaign bus, Obama approached and introduced himself to Clements.

“We walked around the house [with his family] and talked about the house and his family. He was interested in its square footage and some of the dates when it’s thought it was built,” the independent contractor related. “He wanted to know about his ancestors who lived here before they went to Kansas.

“He wanted to know about the land. We stood and overlooked the land they owned. He wanted to know if the house had any additions. He was pretty curious about how the house looked in its original state.”

If Obama would win the Democratic nomination and the general election, he would be the second U.S. president to visit the house.

“Apparently, Grover Cleveland spent the night here,” Clements explained. William Riley Dunham, who built the house, served in the Indiana legislature as a Democrat and had a son named after the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

“We talked about the family, how they were farmers, principals, teachers, doctors. They went to Indiana University, Purdue. They were a genuine Indiana family,” Clements said.

Clements realized Obama’s connection to his house late last year after learning of research into Obama’s family tree and reading a story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The paper printed the family tree with pictures of the Dunhams, and then I started looking at the deeds,” he said.

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