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Home | Looking Back with Aurore Eaton

Aurore Eaton's Looking Back: Joseph Kidder, newspaperman and merchant

August 05. 2013 6:57PM

On a gentle slope to the south of Pine Avenue in the Valley Cemetery, a little beyond the Sage family plot, is a prominent granite monument that marks the resting place of Joseph Kidder.

Joseph was born in Manchester in 1819. His father Samuel P. Kidder came to Derryfield (later named Manchester) in 1794 to work as a clerk for Samuel Blodget, who was in the early stages of building a transportation canal to bypass Amoskeag Falls on the Merrimack River. When the canal was completed in 1807, Samuel Kidder was put in charge of the locks, a job he held until his death in 1822. His wife was Betsey Stark, a granddaughter of Revolutionary War General John Stark.

At the end of 1840, when he was only 21 years old, Joseph published his own newspaper in Pembroke, New Hampshire, the People's Herald. He produced only four issues before selling the paper in February 1841 to Joseph C. Emerson, the publisher of the Amoskeag Memorial. Emerson changed the name of his paper to the Manchester Memorial and People's Herald and hired Joseph Kidder as editor. He resigned in January 1842 and in April of that year he partnered with William H. Kimball to establish the Manchester Democrat. Within a few months, Joseph had sold his interest in this paper. In July 1845, he became editor of the Manchester Saturday Messenger. He stayed in this job until November 1847, when the paper was sold.

On January 24, 1851, a new paper, The Union Democrat, emerged as a voice for the Democratic Party of Manchester. Joseph Kidder was on the committee that established this publication. In 1861, the paper's name was changed to the Manchester Union. When new owners took over in January 1863, the paper again became The Union Democrat. The paper changed hands again almost immediately. On March 1, 1863, the reincarnated newspaper began publishing as the Manchester Daily Union. This was the beginning of the New Hampshire Union Leader's 150 year history.

In about 1848, Joseph began working in his brother John S. Kidder's store on Elm Street, which sold dry goods, hardware, flour, grain, cheese and other supplies. He became co-owner of the business, and was later a partner in another general store on Elm Street. By 1870, Joseph had retired from the mercantile business, and in 1877 he became the Grand Secretary of the International Order of Odd Fellows, which owned a building on Hanover Street. Joseph had joined this benevolent fraternal society in 1845 and was completely devoted to the organization. The Odd Fellow name is said to have originated around the time of its founding in 17th century Britain as a charitable organization. During this era of poverty and hardship, a person who wished to provide aid and comfort to the needy was apparently considered to be odd.

Joseph Kidder served as Grand Secretary of the I.O.O.F. in New Hampshire until his death on October 29, 1902. He was known affectionately as the "Grand old man of New Hampshire Odd Fellowship." The monument was erected in 1903 by the I.O.O.F. to honor Joseph's many years of faithful service. On the front of the monument is carved a three-link chain and a stylized tent. The links of the chain represent friendship, love and truth. The tent represents the Encampment order of the I.O.O.F., which strives to abide by the principles of faith, hope and charity. In his job as Grand Secretary, Joseph published many articles about the order's activities for local and state newspapers.

On August 23, 1838, at age 19, Joseph Kidder began keeping a diary, which he called "A Manuscript Journal." He started with his "Preparatory remarks and suggestions." He wrote, "Ours is a world subject to every variety of change which the prolific and inventive mind of man can imagine — yea more." His "remarks" ended with "A good resolution…Revolved that not a single day 'shall pass unheard by' without noting down facts and occurrences which have fallen under my own immediate observation and experience." Joseph wrote faithfully in his diary every day until his death in 1902. He would fill 67 journal books, which are now kept in the archives of the Manchester Historic Association.

Next week: A Valley Cemetery Story – Joseph Kidder's diaries show Manchester as it was. .

Aurore Eaton is executive director of Manchester Historic Association; email her at


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