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Home | Looking Back with Aurore Eaton

Looking Back with Aurore Eaton: Joseph Kidder through the decades and other family notes

September 02. 2013 11:10PM

Joseph Kidder c. 1880 is shown wearing a ceremonial sash from either the International Order of Odd Fellows or from the Masonic orders. 

In the decades following the Civil War, Joseph Kidder of Manchester continued his habit of recording his thoughts in his diary each day.

His comments often remind us that the worries of a person in the 1800s are similar to the worries of today.

In January 1872, when he was 53, Joseph retired from the drudgery of running the general store on Elm Street that he owned with his partner John M. Chandler. One Saturday evening he wrote, "Today I have finished taking stock. We have had very good luck and have succeeded far better than I expected. As one of the proprietors of the 'Old Family Store,' I presume I shall have no more to do with it. I have made arrangements to sell out to Mr. Chandler and suppose he will take possession on Monday morning." On Tuesday, he reflected, "There is such a thing as feeling both glad and sorry. I experience the mixed feeling at the present time and I think it grows stronger and stronger now day by day … But such is life."

By April Joseph was already growing tired of retirement. He expressed, "I am beginning to tire in having no constant business to attend to." A popular orator, he began to keep busy with numerous speaking engagements. He traveled frequently to towns around New Hampshire giving talks on historical, scientific and philosophical topics. These were well attended, as were his promotional presentations on the benefits of joining the Odd Fellows. Joseph was a leader in this fraternal organization, which promoted the ideals of friendship, love and truth.

Joseph enjoyed his life, but bemoaned the fact that he was seldom paid for his efforts. He wrote in 1877, "Oh, how I long for some remunerative employment — work that is agreeable and at the same time compensatory. Constant employment if not too severe and exacting is far better for one than irregular work."

That year he was appointed as president of a small local bank that unfortunately failed within a few months. This was a disappointment, but in 1879 he finally found the type of agreeable work he was looking for, although it is unclear if he was paid. He was named Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows, and given an office in the Odd Fellows building on Hanover Street. Joseph remained in this position until his death on October 29, 1902, at age 83.

Although quite ill in the last weeks of his life, Joseph still found joy in everyday things. A few days before his death, he wrote, "Pure air — that is air with the proper amount of oxygen in it, is essential to heath. Today has been one of the model kind. I took the opportunity to ride to Goffstown in an open trolley. It was delightful, the air bracing and health giving, I think."

Joseph's wife was Sarah Elizabeth Smith Kidder. The couple met while she was studying at the Lebanon Liberal Institute in Lebanon. Sarah was well loved in the community. She took a strong interest in literature, and was an avid storyteller, relating lively tales about her historic hometown of Concord, Mass. She and Joseph were married for 52 years. She died in 1904, and their four daughters continued living in the family home at 107 Myrtle St.

Joseph Kidder was the youngest of three sons of Samuel Philips Kidder and Betsey Stark Kidder. The eldest son was Samuel Blodget Kidder. In his early adulthood he was a river boatman on the Merrimack. He followed in his father's footsteps, becoming the keeper of the locks at the Amoskeag Canal that allowed river boats to bypass Amoskeag Falls. The middle son was John Sullivan Kidder. He was a prosperous store owner and grain merchant. John was the first postmaster at Piscataquog Village, and one of the first police officers in Manchester. He was also a fireman, quartermaster of the local militia and president of the Amoskeag Bank. John invested in railroads, and spent two years in Washington, D,C., operating a hotel. The brothers saw each other frequently, as each was active in the local Odd Fellows and Masonic lodges.


Next week: We take a break from the Valley Cemetery to learn about the Notre Dame de Lourdes Hospital School of Nursing.


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

History Manchester

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