John Kimball by J. N. McClintock
A stranger in Concord is at first most impressed by its natural
beauties, enhanced by the foresight of the fathers of the town. Nature
and art are rarely combined. Beautiful shade trees are on every hand, as
they are in many other of the favored cities of the Union. Concord is
distinctively attractive in its perfection. The roads and streets are
carefully graded; the bridges are substantial and elegant structures;
the system of water supply, gas-works, and sewers, unseen, is excellent
and complete; the school-houses are appropriate and ornamental; the
private and public buildings are well built and neatly maintained; the
fire department is exceptionally fine; the property of the city is
discretely acquired, and well cared for; the policy of the city is at
once progressive and liberal.
To no one man can be given the credit of accomplishing all these
satisfactory results; they are the fruits of unity of purpose of the
many, guided by a large, public-spirited policy dictated by a few. To no
one, however, is the city of Concord more indebted for its material
advancement and internal improvement, during the first quarter century
of its municipal existence, than to its esteemed citizen, Hon. John
Kimball. The name is a household word in Concord. It conveys a meaning
to the present generation peculiar to itself. It is the name of a man
who, springing from the sturdy yeoman and artisan stock,—from the
people,—has won his way, by tireless industry, unblemished integrity,
sterling honesty, and sound good sense, to positions of responsibility
The Kimball family is one of the oldest in New England. It sprang from
1. Richard Kimball, who, with his wife, Ursula, and seven children, left
their home in the mother country, braved the dangers of a stormy ocean,
landed on the inhospitable shores of an unbroken wilderness, and
commenced a new life, deprived of the comforts and luxuries of
civilization, but blessed with political and religious liberty. He came
from the old town of Ipswich, county of Suffolk, in the east of England,
sailed on the ship "Elizabeth," and in the year 1634, at the age of
thirty-nine, settled in Ipswich, in the Bay colony. The next year he was
admitted a freeman, which must be accepted as evidence that he was a
Puritan in good standing. He was the father of eleven children, and died
June 22, 1675. From this patriarchal family most of the Kimballs of New
England can trace their descent.
2. Richard Kimball, son of Richard and Ursula (Scott) Kimball, was born
in England, in 1623, and was brought to this country by his parents, in
childhood. He was a wheelwright by trade; married Mary Gott; was the
father of eight children; settled in Wenham, Mass., as early as 1656,
and died there May 20, 1676. The mother of his children died September
3. Caleb Kimball, son of Richard and Mary (Gott) Kimball, was born in
Wenham, April 9, 1665. He was a mason by trade; was the father of eight
children; settled for a time at Exeter, N. H., and died in Wenham,
January 25, 1725. His widow died in Wenham, January 20, 1731.
4. John Kimball, son of Caleb and Sarah Kimball, was born in Wenham,
Mass., December 20, 1699. He settled on the land purchased by his father
in Exeter, N. H., and married Abigail Lyford, February 14, 1722. She was
the mother of six children, and died in Exeter, February 12, 1737. He
afterwards married Sarah Wilson, of Exeter, September 18, 1740. They
were the parents of nine children. The fifteen children of John Kimball
were all born in Exeter.
5. Joseph Kimball, son of John and Abigail (Lyford) Kimball, was born in
Exeter, January 29, 1730. In early life he married, and was the father
of two children, but was left a childless widower in a few years. He
afterwards married Sarah Smith. They were the parents of nine children.
In 1793 he removed to Canterbury, and settled on a farm just north of
Shaker Village. In early life he was stricken with blindness, and never
looked upon the town of Canterbury, and never saw six of his children.
He died November 6, 1814. His wife died March 1, 1808.
6. John Kimball, son of Joseph and Sarah (Smith) Kimball, was born in
Exeter, November 20, 1767; married Sarah, daughter of Benjamin Moulton,
of Kensington, November 21, 1793; moved to Canterbury, February 17,
1794, and settled on their homestead near Shaker Village, where they
resided nearly sixty years. They were the parents of nine children. His
wife died April 30, 1853. He died February 26, 1861, reaching the good
old age of more than ninety-three years. He was well known throughout
central New Hampshire, and did a large business in buying wool.
7. Benjamin Kimball, son of John and Sarah (Moulton) Kimball, was born
in Canterbury, December 27, 1794; married Ruth Ames, daughter of David
Ames, February 1, 1820, and settled in Boscawen in the spring of 1824,
on the farm known as the Frost place, High street. In 1830 he removed to
the village of Fisherville, where he died July 21, 1834. He was an
active and influential business man. In 1831 he erected the dam across
the Contoocook river, and the brick grist-mills standing near the stone
factory. He took an active part in all that was essential to the general
and religious welfare of the town. In March preceding his death he was
elected to represent the town in the legislature, but his health was so
impaired that he was not able to take his seat.
8. John Kimball, the subject of this sketch, the son of Benjamin and
Ruth (Ames) Kimball, was born in Canterbury, April 13, 1821. In infancy
he was taken by his parents to Boscawen, where in early youth he had the
educational advantages which the district schools of the town afforded.
He enjoyed the privilege of attending the Concord Academy only one year,
after which he was apprenticed with a relative to learn the trade of
constructing mills and machinery. On attaining his majority, in 1842,
his first work was to rebuild the grist-mill near Boscawen Plain.
Afterward he followed the same business in Suncook, Manchester, Lowell,
and Lawrence. In 1848 he was employed by the directors of the Concord
Railroad to take charge of the new machine and car shops then building
at Concord. He was appointed master mechanic of the Concord Railroad in
1850, and retained the position eight years, when he relinquished
mechanical labor for other pursuits. As a mechanic, Mr. Kimball
inherited a great natural aptitude, and has few superiors. His sound
judgment and skill were in constant requisition in the responsible
office in the railroad service he held for so many years; and the
experience and training there acquired have been of great value to the
city and state when his services have been demanded by his
In 1856, Mr. Kimball was elected to the common council of the city of
Concord. In 1857 he was re-elected, and was chosen president of that
body. In 1858 he was elected a member of the state legislature; and was
re-elected in 1859, serving as chairman of the committee on
state-prison. From the year 1859 to the year 1862, Mr. Kimball served
the city of Concord as collector of taxes and city marshal. In 1862 he
was appointed, by President Lincoln, collector of internal revenue for
the second district of New Hampshire, including the counties of
Merrimack and Hillsborough, and held the office for seven years,
collecting and paying over to the treasurer of the United States nearly
seven millions of dollars.
In 1872, Mr. Kimball was elected mayor of Concord, and was re-elected to
this honorable and responsible office in 1873, 1874, and 1875.
Immediately after Mr. Kimball assumed the duties of this office a severe
freshet either carried away or rendered impassable five of the seven
bridges spanning the Merrimack and Contoocook rivers. The work of
rebuilding these structures devolved immediately upon him, as
superintendent of roads and bridges. The Federal bridge and the bridge
at Fisherville, both of iron, are monuments of his progressive ideas.
During his administration the system of water supply from Long pond was
carried on to successful completion, and the purest of water has since
been at the command of every citizen. This work required a large sum of
money, which was so carefully expended that no one has felt the burden
save as a blessing. The fire department was invested with new dignity by
the city government during those years. The firemen had their demands
for appropriate buildings fully satisfied, and are proud, as is the
whole city, of the beautiful central fire station and other buildings of
the department, which compare favorably with any in the country.
Aside from his mechanical skill, Mr. Kimball long since won the enviable
reputation of an able and successful financier. In 1870, upon the
organization of the Merrimack County Savings Bank, he was elected its
treasurer, and has held the office ever since. To him, for many years,
have been intrusted the settlement of estates, the management of trust
funds, and the care of the property of widows and orphans. As treasurer
of the New Hampshire Bible Society and Orphans' Home, he has given to
those institutions the benefit of his financial experience.
For the benefit of the city of Concord, the mechanical skill and
financial ability of Mr. Kimball were fully exercised. During his term
of office as mayor he was one of the water commissioners, ex officio,
and president of the board in 1875. He was subsequently appointed a
water commissioner, in 1877, for a term of three years; re-appointed in
1880, and has been president of the board since his first appointment.
Upon the death of Hon. Nathaniel White, Mr. Kimball was elected
president of the Concord Gas-Light Company, having held the office of
director for several years. What little credit is due a member of the
constitutional convention of 1876 is his. He represented the fifth ward
in Concord, and served the convention acceptably as chairman of its
The demand for a new state-prison, in union with the philanthropic ideas
of the age, culminated, in the year 1877, in an act of the legislature
providing for a new state-prison, and granting for the purpose a very
moderate appropriation, hedged in by every possible safeguard. The
governor, Benjamin F. Prescott, with the advice of his council,
immediately upon the passage of the law appointed three commissioners to
carry into effect the provisions of the act. Mr. Kimball was chosen
chairman of the board. Upon these commissioners has devolved the duty of
constructing the massive pile of buildings known as the new
state-prison, commodious for the officers, humane and comfortable for
the inmates, acceptable to the authorities and the people, and within
the limits of the appropriation. In the autumn of 1880 the structure was
appropriately dedicated to its future uses, by fitting ceremony. Col.
John H. George, of Concord, delivered the address, and in closing
"It is a matter of further and warm congratulation that its
erection has been intrusted to a competent commission; that good
judgment and intelligent investigation have characterized the
plan; that no corrupt jobbery has polluted its construction; and
that for every dollar expended a fair and honest result has been
obtained. And in this connection it is but just to say that the
fitness and labors of the chairman of the board especially
should receive public recognition. To the successful performance
of the duties of his office he brought unusual mechanical skill
and large experience in the construction of public works."
In 1880, when the Manchester & Keene Railroad was placed in the hands of
the court, Mr. Kimball was appointed, by Chief-Justice Doe, one of the
trustees. In November, 1880, Mr. Kimball was chosen a senator from
district number ten, and upon the organization of the legislature in
June, 1881, he was elected to the office of president of the senate, in
importance the second office in the state. As presiding officer, he is
dignified, courteous, and impartial. He carried to the position a fund
of information, a wealth of experience, controlled by sound judgment,
and strong convictions.
Politically, Mr. Kimball is a Republican. For fifteen years, since 1863,
he has been treasurer of the Republican state committee. With him right
takes precedence of policy. It takes no finesse to know on what side he
is to be found. In his dealings he is upright, has confidence in himself
and in his own judgment, and it is hard to swerve him. He is frank and
free in his general intercourse, bluff and often brusque in manner, but
never discourteous. He is a man of large and progressive views, and
actuated by the most conscientious motives. His character for integrity
is without blemish, and as firmly established as the granite hills.
In 1843 he joined the church at his old home in Boscawen, and ever since
has affiliated with the Congregationalists. For many years he has been a
member of the South Congregational church of Concord. He is eminently a
man of affairs,—of acts, not words. His reading is of a scientific
character, varied by genealogical and historical research.
In person, Mr. Kimball is of commanding presence and muscular figure,
inclined to be spare, but of apparently great physical powers. In
private life he is a devoted friend, a kind neighbor, an esteemed
citizen, and a charitable, tolerant, self-reliant man.
In early manhood, May 27, 1846, Mr. Kimball was joined in marriage to
Maria H. Phillips, of Rupert, Vermont. Their only child, Clara Maria
Kimball, born March 20, 1848, was married June 4, 1873, to Augustine R.
Ayers, a successful merchant of Concord. Five children—Ruth Ames, John
Kimball, Helen McGregor, Joseph Sherburne, and Josiah Phillips—have
been born to them.