Vaughan Kester was a very popular writer of short stories and novels. He was born in 1869 in New Jersey, the son of Franklin and Harriett (Watkins) Kester. The family moved to Delaware, Ohio, where another son, Paul, was born. A few years later while the boys were young, Vaughan and Paul came to Mount Vernon to live with their grandmother. The boys were educated by tutors in Mount Vernon and in Cleveland. During this period Vaughan also traveled in the West and lived for a short time on an uncle's ranch in Colorado.
When Vaughan was 19 the family moved to Florida. According to Twentieth Century Authors, 1942, young Vaughan loved to dress in his oldest clothes, and "mix and talk with poor whites, himself the soul of simplicity." About 1892 he went to New York City to live, accompanied by his brother, Paul. It is believed that Vaughan had married Jessie Jennings at about this time. He became a member of the staff of Cosmopolitan Magazine and began a full time writing career. His short stories appeared in several of the popular magazines of the period, and in 1901 he published his first novel. He also wrote a series of articles about Dan Emmett for various newspapers and magazines which resulted in the creation of a pension fund for Emmett during his retirement years.
Vaughan Kester spent the rest of his short life in New York, Virginia, and England. He continued to write, mostly short stories and novels. One of his novels, The Just and the Unjust, was set in Mount Vernon ("Mt. Hope"), and was based on the events surrounding an actual murder that occurred here in 1875. In 1926 Fox Films produced a movie, Hell's 400, starring Harrison Ford (no relation to the current actor of that name), based on The Just and the Unjust. Critics have considered his book The Prodigal Judge to be a significant work, revealing manners and customs in the South in the pre-Civil War period.
A severe cold in his boyhood had left Vaughan with a permanent throat disability. A throat operation led to Kester's death in Virginia in 1911 at the age of 42. His last two books were published after his death.
The Manager of the B & A (1901)
The Fortunes of the Landrays (1905)
John O' Jamestown (1907)
The Prodigal Judge (1911)
The Just and the Unjust (1912); movie, Hell's 400, (1926)
The Hand of the Mighty (1913)