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 and prominence.


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 2, 1672.

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 fellow-citizens.

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 finance committee.

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 said:—

"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.