Benjamin A. Kimball
The Granite Monthly
Pages 343 to 354
By H. C. Pearson
When Benjamin Ames Kimball passed away, at his summer home in Gilford, in the morning of Monday, July 25, 1920, the city of Concord and the state of New Hampshire lost their first citizen. In a few weeks he would have completed eighty-seven years of a life as distinguished for its usefulness and honor as for the long period of its active accomplishment, extending to the very end.
The tributes to Mr. Kimball's memory, which followed his death, came from all classes of people; from those to whom he was, first, the loyal and helpful friend; from the representatives of religious, educational and philanthropic institutions, in whose direction and support he had been a tower of strength; from his associates in the various lines of business in which he had been so successful; and from those who appreciated fully the great value of his public service, both as a railroad executive and as an agent of the commonwealth.
Said General Frank S. Streeter in a newspaper interview: "It is no exaggeration to say that Concord owes more to 'Ben" Kimball than to any other single citizen in its entire history...... His great public service entitles him to an enduring monument in the affection and memory of his fellow citizens."
Similar appreciation was voiced in the editorial columns of the state's leading newspapers and was evidenced by the distinction of those who came from all parts of the state and from Boston and New York to attend the simple funeral service at the home in Concord on the Friday following his death. And, a little later, when Mr. Kimball's last will and testament was filed for probate and its philanthropic content became known, there was further expression, public and private, in praise of the qualities of mind and heart which had combined in planning such benefits for future generations.
Benjamin Ames Kimball was born in Boscawen, August 22, 1833, the son of Benjamin and Ruth (Ames) Kimball, and the descendant in the eighth generation of Richard Kimball, who arrived in Ipswich, Mass., colony in the ship, Elizabeth, in 1634. The branch of the family to which Benjamin A. Kimball belonged removed to New Hampshire, at Exeter, about 1720, and in 1788 his great-grandfather, Joseph Kimball, became a resident of Canterbury. There the family remained, one of the most active and prominent in the town, until 1824, when Benjamin Kimball crossed the Merrimack river to Boscawen; dammed near the Contoocook river near the town line between Boscawen and Concord; and erected there in 1831 a brick building, which still stands, for use as a grist and saw mill. He was a leading citizen of the community, and was elected to the Legislature in the March before his death, on July 21, 1834.
He had married February 1, 1820, Ruth, daughter of David and Phebe (Hoit) Ames, and after his death the widow went to Concord with her two sons, little Benjamin and his older brother, John, afterwards mayor of Concord and styled in the city history, "the most trusted man in Concord."
Benjamin A. Kimball attended the schools of Concord and the Hildreth School at Derry in preparation for Dartmouth College, which he entered, as a member of the Chandler Scientific Department, with the class of 1854. He earned the degree of Bachelor of Science, with high honors, upon graduation, and in 1908 his alma mater conferred upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts. Mr. Kimball was the permanent secretary of his class and in that capacity had recorded the passing of all its members, with one exception.
The class at graduation numbered 61, of whom the best known, in New Hampshire, were General John Eaton and Colonel Daniel Hall, but whose general average of success in life and distinguished service was unusually high.
Mr. Kimball served as a member of the Board of Visitors to the Chandler Scientific Department from 1890 to 1895, and when, in the latter year, he began his long and valuable service as a trustee of the college, one of his first concerns was the complete merger of the C.S.D. with the college proper. During his quarter of a century as trustee, Mr. Kimball served on the finance committee of the board, much of the time as its chairman, and in this capacity his great business ability and experience were of inestimable benefit to the college in the days of its wonderful growth and expansion.
The wisely generous provisions in his will for his college showed him in death as in life a loyal Dartmouth man, ever desirous of promoting the best interests of the institution.
Returning to Concord after his graduation at Hanover, Mr. Kimball entered the employ of the Concord railroad shop, of which his brother, John, was master mechanic. After two years as a draftsman he became superintendent of the locomotive department and made the plans from which the Tahonto and other famous locomotives of the early days of New Hampshire railroading were built. He had himself become master mechanic, when in 1865 he resigned from the service of the railroad to become one of the founders of the firm of Ford and Kimball, manufacturers of car wheels and other iron and brass products. Throughout the remainder of his life he continued his connection with this substantial and successful Concord industry, widely famous for the high quality, maintained through so many years, of its output.
But his interests soon began to broaden. In 1873 he was chosen a director of the Manchester and North Weare Railroad. In 1879 he succeeded the late Governor Onslow Stearns as a director of the Concord Railroad. In 1895 he became president of the Concord and Montreal Railroad, formed by the consolidation of the Concord and Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroads, and so continued until within the past year, the Concord and Montreal was merged into the Boston and Maine system.
At that time Mr. Kimball became the director of the Boston and Maine and held that position at the time of his death. he was also president and director of the Pemigewasset Valley Railroad, Mount Washington Railroad, New Boston Railroad and the Nashua and Acton Railroad.
It would be hard to over estimate the importance of Mr. Kimball's work and the degree of his influence in railroad matters in New Hampshire. The present homogeneity of our state system is largely due to him, to his far-seeing intelligence and to his persistent efforts in the direction of consolidation, co-operation and improved service.
In an editorial tribute to his memory, Hon. James O. Lyford points out that "From almost the beginning of his railroad activity Mr. Kimball was a strong advocate of a New Hampshire system of railroads, owned and operated within the state. If his advice and that of Col. John H. George had been followed, the old Concord Railroad would have leased the Lowell Railroad when it could have been leased at five per cent or less, and thus have secured terminal facilities in Boston. The consolidations that later took place would have thus been with the Concord Railroad as the parent road. The Boston and Maine railroad subsequently leased the Lowell Railroad at a much higher rate. With the Concord Railroad having terminal facilities in Boston the history of the Northern New England railroads might have been different than it is."
He was one of the first to comprehend the magnitude of the possible development of New Hampshire as a state of summer resorts and summer homes, and for that purpose, as well as for the benefit of the farms and factories of the state, he brought about the construction of various branch lines and extensions without which the Granite State could hardly have won and merited its title of the Switzerland of America.
The position of Mr. Kimball in the railroad world was of especial benefit to his home city of Concord, as shown, first, by the construction in 1887 of the spacious and handsome passenger station, one of the architectural ornaments of the capital; and, second, by the retention here and the very great enlargement of the railroad shops, which, with a thousand men employed, are now Concord's chief industry.
For more than thirty years President Kimball's private office in the southwest corner of the second floor of the passenger station building was the center of New Hampshire activity, accomplishment and influence to a greater extent than any other one room in the state.
Mr. Kimball's business connections were not only those of the railroad executive and the successful manufacturer. He was a trustee and president of the Concord Savings Bank during its existence and at the time of his death was a trustee of the Merrimack County savings Bank and a director and president since 1884 of the Mechanicks National Bank, succeeding in that capacity the late Josiah Minot.
In 1885, when foreign insurance companies withdrew from New Hampshire in protest against our "valued policy" law, and it became the duty of public-spirited citizens to form mutual companies to meet the needs of the situation, Mr. Kimball was an incorporator and a director of the Manufacturers and Merchants Mutual Fire Insurance Company.
He was also one of the founders, a director and president of the Cushman Electric Company of Concord; and president and director of the Beechers' Falls Company at Beechers Falls, Vt., and of the Concord Light and Power Company.
In spite of the demands of his various business activities, Mr. Kimball found much time to devote to the public service, not as a politician seeking office, but as an influential citizen promoting the welfare of his city and state.
A Republican in politics, Mr. Kimball was a member of the State House of Representatives in 1872, and was a delegate to three conventions, those of 1876, 1889 and 1902, to propose amendments to the constitution of the state. He was an alternate delegate to the national convention of his party in 1884 and a delegate-at-large to the convention of 1902. In 1884 he was elected to the executive council. Higher political honors he steadfastly declined, though they could have been easily gained by one of his power, influence and following.
But in far less than the usual degree does the list of the offices he held comprehend the extent of his public service. In bringing about the construction of a city water system in Concord, for instance, he was a prominent factor. He had much to do with the fruition of the Fowler Public Library plans. He was one of the commission which produced the excellent city history. His was a large share in the satisfactory location of the Concord federal building and in the enlargement of the state house. Governor Moody Currier delegated to him the choice and preparation of the site for the statue of Daniel Webster in the state house yard. He was commissioner from New Hampshire to the convention at Philadelphia, December 2, 1886, which arranged the program in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the adoption of the federal constitution on September 15, 16 and 17, 1887.
To some of us the three most important buildings in Concord's beautiful civic center, the state house, the state library building and the home of the New Hampshire Historical Society, seem, in a way, monuments to Mr. Kimball. In 1863, while he was a young man, he had a part in the hard fight which Concord had to wage in order to retain her position as the state capital. Fifty years later, in 1913, Manchester renewed the attack and of Concord's successful defense at this time Mr. Kimball was the chief in command. Against his determination and resourcefulness, the invaders never had a chance, powerful and predacious though they were.
One of Mr. Kimball's best weapons in this battle he had himself provided twenty years before when his influence secured from the legislature without a vote in opposition an appropriation for the building to house the state library and the supreme court, and when a commission, of which he was the active member, had completed the construction of the spacious and handsome edifice thus authorized. No stronger argument for retaining the state capitol in Concord could be imagined than this sister structure which owed its existence to Mr. Kimball's initiative and insistence, and which had proved itself so necessary and useful a part of the state government plant.
Across North State street from the state library, lies the beautiful building of the New Hampshire Historical Society an achievement in the art of architecture unequaled in the state and unexcelled in the nation, one of many munificent gifts by Mr. Edward Tuck of Paris to his native state. Mr. Tuck has had no closer friend in America than Mr. Kimball nor one in whose good judgment he had greater confidence. Mr. Kimball had long been a member of the Historical Society, interested in its work and aware of its needs. He was its president, 1895-7, and chairman of its building committee in 1907. Through him and the late William C. Todd of Atkinson, Mr. Tuck was first interested in the need of the Society for an adequate home.
Judge Charles R. Corning, now president of the society, tells of these facts in a recent publication and after recording Mr. Tuck's favorable decision in the matter, continues;
"Mr. Kimball now became an important person in planning and directing the great scheme, as Mr. Tuck called it. Fortunate, indeed it was to the donor and to the society that Mr. Kimball assumed control of the work from the beginning and continued in charge until its completion. Into this agreeable undertaking he entered with a full heart. Endowed with accurate architectural tastes, strengthened and enriched by long and varied experience, much reading and observation, Mr. Kimball was the ideal man for the work in hand. In intelligent and thorough method of preparation, attention to details, calm judgment and sound sense, few men in New Hampshire have been his equal. Here in Concord the railroad station, the state library, his Main street residence, attest the measure of his taste to the principles of attractiveness and usefulness in construction."
The Concord residence to which Judge Corning refers, the most spacious and elaborate dwelling in the city, stands amid extensive and beautiful grounds on South Main street, and its furnishings include many valuable paintings and objects of art chosen by Mr. Kimball during his frequent trips abroad. Between this residence and their summer home, "The Castle," in the town of Gilford, looking across the Broads of Lake Winnipesaukee, Mr. Kimball and his family divided quite equally their time. The Castle is one of the most striking and best known summer places in the lake country and the magnificence of the view from its eminence above the waters of Winnipesaukee is unsurpassed.
Mr. Kimball married, January 19, 1861, Myra Tilton, daughter of Ira and Rhoda (Ames) Elliott of Sanbornton. Their only child, Henry Ames Kimball, was born in Concord, October 19, 1864; was associated with his father in business; married, November 17, 1904, Josephine B. (Atkinson) Goodale, of Nashua; and died May 4, 1919, Mrs. Benjamin A. Kimball and Mrs. Henry A. Kimball are the surviving members of the household, to whom the sympathy of a great number of friends went out in full measure on the occasion of their bereavement.
Mr. Kimball was a member of the South Congregational church in Concord and a generous supporter of its work, as well as of many other good causes, including the New Hampshire Orphans' Home at Franklin of which he was a trustee. Kind of heart and quick in sympathy, his personal charities were as quietly carried into effect as they were many in number.
While in college Mr. Kimball was a member of the Vitruvian society which later became the Alpha Omega chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He was one of the oldest members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He was one of the oldest members of White Mountain lodge, I.O.O.F., his membership having begun in 1856, and since 1899 he had belonged to the American Social Science Association.
Railroad offices and banks, in Concord, and the building of the New Hampshire Historical Society were closed on the afternoon of Mr. Kimball's funeral, and cars upon the street railway ceased operation for a minute at the hour of the opening of the service. Rev. Dr. Harry P. Dewey of Minneapolis, Minn., Mr. Kimball's former pastor at the South Congregational church in Concord, conducted the service, which was held at the home on South Main street, with burial in the family lot at Blossom Hill cemetary. Veteran employees of the Ford and Kimball plant acted as carriers and the honorary bearers were President William J. Hustis, Vice-president William J. Hobbs and directors Walter M. Parker and Alvah W. Sulloway of the Boston and Maine Railroad; President Ernest M. Hopkins, Frank S. Streeter and Albert O. Brown. trustees with Mr. Kimball of Dartmouth College; United states Senator George H. Moses and Henry W. Stevens, William K. McFarland, Arthur H. Britton, Dr. George M. Kimball, Dr. Charles P. Bancroft, Edward K. Woodworth, Harry H. Dudley, Benjamin W. Couch, John B. Abbott and Luther W. Durgin, all of Concord.
A few days later, Mr. Kimball's will was probated and it was seen that it disposed of his estate in a manner indicative of his life and character.
It provides for Mrs. Kimball such income as she may desire during her lifetime, together with the use of the real estate and articles of personal property.
It carries many legacies in the form of annuities to relatives, friends and employees.
The administration of the estate is left to three executors, Hon. Harry H. Dudley, Hon. Benjamin W. Couch, and Benjamin K. Ayers, all of Concord, who are instructed to pay Federal and State inheritance taxes out of income "in order that the principal of my estate, which is ultimately devoted to charitable purposes, may not be depleted by reason of such tax assessments."
The net estate after administration is devised to the Mechanicks National Bank as trustee of two trust funds, one of which, the "Henry A. Kimball Trust," consisting of the property which Mr. Kimball recently received under the will of his son, is established as a memorial to Henry A. Kimball, the income from which is devoted to annuities to relatives and friends and to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission, South Congregational Society, New Hampshire Orphans' Home, Margaret Pillsbury General Hospital, New Hampshire Memorial Hospital Association, Concord Public Library, New Hampshire Historical Society and Young Men's Christian Association.
The other trust established is the "Benjamin A. Kimball Trust" which carries the main part of Mr. Kimball's estate.
Under this trust are annuities for life to relatives, to friends and to employees, and many permanent annual and quarterly legacy payments to be made to various institutions.
For Dartmouth College is provided an annual income of $6000 "to be used to establish and maintain a professorship in Dartmouth College, for the study adn teaching of the science of administration, to be known as The Benjamin A. Kimball Professorship of the Science of Administration, the object and function of which professorship shall be constantly to keep in contact with, and to interpret in the class room and through publications, the best procedure in administrative theory and practice, whether exemplified in the management and control of corporate industry or private enterprise, or appearing in governmental functions and practices of nations and their municipal sub-divisions. While I wish and intend that a part, at least, of this work shall be incorporated into the College curriculum, in order that it may be of the widest possible influence in directing the minds of college men to the importance of the study of administration as a science, I also wish that the work shall be identified with and supplement the specialized work of the Amos Tuck School of Administration and Finance, in accordance with the ideals expressed in the letters of donation of its founder, Mr. Edward Tuck, who early saw the benefits to the derived from the application of trained minds to such problems."
The College is also to receive $4000 annually "to be used by them in amproving and increasing the efficiency of the methods of teaching offered at Dartmouth College in all its departments, to the end that its students shall receive such mental training and discipline as will best develop their powers fro useful and distinguished service in society; and believing that the college, with a student body not exceeding fifteen hundred, including all its departments, iwll best accomplish its ideals, I direct that no part of said payment shall be used for increasing the physical plant of the college other than for books and apparatus especially adapted to, and required for the accomplishment of the special object herein provided for."
The college also will receive one quarter of any surplus income which may accumulate in this trust.
The New Hampshire Memorial Hospital takes $250 yearly to maintain a free bed to be known as "The Myra Tilton Elliot Kimball Free Bed" and one quarter of the surplus income to the trust.
The Concord Public Library will receive $1000 a year for general maintenance and one quarter of the surplus income of the trust.
The New Hampshire Historical Society will receive $1000 annually for general maintenance, $250 a year to aid in the maintenance of the museum of the Society to be located in the old Society Building on North Main Street, one quarter of the surplus income of the trust, and various art treasures which Mr. Kimball had from time to time collected during his life time.
The Margaret Pillsbury General Hospital takes an annual payment of $1000, to be used for its general maintenances and $200 each year for the support of a free bed to be used for indigent persons.
The Concord Female Charitable Society will have an income from the trust of $100 a year in memory or Mr. Kimball's mother, Ruth Ames Kimball, and a like amount will be received by the New Hampshire Centennial Home for the Aged.
To the South Congregational Church and the Young Men's Christian Association is given $200 a year for their general purposes, and to the New Hampshire Orphans' Home at Franklin the sum of $300 a year.
The Boscawen Church Society will receive $200 a year.
Mr. Kimball's substantial and well appointed house, with its stable and garage, and its spacious grounds are given to the state of New Hampshire for use as a Concord home for the Governor of the State, this devise being as follows:
"I give, bequeath and devise my homestead, real estate, land and buildings, in said Cocnord, together with the furnishings and other articles of personal property in and about the premises, not herein otherwise disposed of, unto my wife, Myra Tilton Elliot Kimball, for her use during the term of her natural life, and, upon her decease, I give, bequeath and devise said real estate, together with such articles of furniture and other household articles as shall be selected for this purpose by my Executors unto the State of New Hampshire, for use as a Governor's Mansion, to provide a suitable residence in the Capital of the State for future Governors. This devise is made upon the condition that it be formally accepted by the state by written stipulation with my executors providing for the future care and upkeep of the buildings and the grounds. If at any time in the future the state should abandon the use of said property as a Governor's Mansion, or should fail to keep the same in suitable repair and condition to the satisfaction of my trustee, then said property shall revert to my estate to become a part of the Benjamin A. Kimball Trust herein created."
In such wise and beneficial ways Mr. Kimball provided that the fortune which his ability had amassed should bear annual fruit of usefulness and helpfulness in the years to come and should keep his memory deservedly green in the city and state he loved and served so well.