Who was Daniel Kimball? Why did he want a school to be established on his property in Meriden? The answer may have its origins as early as the 1630s when thousands of people crowded onto small, wooden ships hoping for a better, freer life in the New World. Daniel’s ancestors, Richard and Ursula Kimball and their six children are listed as passengers on the ship Elizabeth that set sail on April 10, 1634, from Ipswich, England, destination the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Soon after they arrived, Richard bought six acres of land in Cambridge, MA; on May 6, 1635, he was declared a free man and the family moved to Ipswich, MA, where they prospered. When Richard died in 1675, he left his heirs property valued at 737 pounds 3 shillings and 6 pence.
In 1769, 135 years after the ship Elizabeth sailed from England, 16-year-old Daniel and his parents and sisters left their home in Preston, CT, and, with the same pioneering spirit as their ancestors, travelled by foot and canoe up the Connecticut River Valley to Plainfield, NH, a town that had only recently received its charter (1761). His father Benjamin purchased 750 acres of land from the original town proprietors in and around the village of Meriden located in Plainfield. He built a house near the Meriden Covered Bridge and a gristmill below it and became fully involved in the life of the young town. Benjamin was elected town moderator, selectman, and treasurer and was one of the founders of the Meriden Congregational Church, giving a portion of his land on The Hilltop for that purpose.
Daniel, at age 23, enlisted as a Patriot in the army on February 6, 1776, five months before independence was declared. He went to Quebec, where he attained the rank of Sergeant, and then on to Ticonderoga and, in 1778 “… he received a commission as ensign, from Gov. Weare. In 1780, he was adjutant at West Point and Fishkill, and … went to the relief of Royalton, at the time of the massacre there.” After Daniel’s death in 1817, his war diary was found among his papers; although it was said he could barely read at age 16, he had gained some ability as we see here. The original diary found its way many years ago to the archives of the Veterans Administration in Washington, DC, but we have photocopies of it in the Kimball Union Archives. Here are a few entries exactly as written by Daniel.
April 19 we was alarmed and Puraded at 4 oclock and then dismissed went home and Ensn Webster brung up his gun and it went of on the half bent and shot on mans head of as he lay in the way
April 21 Sunday Last night Uriah Curtis was put under gard for getting drunk and firing of his gun in the house and we had twenty yorkers under gard for tring to desert the camp and the worst men ever I saw
April 22 Monday 1 sgt and 1 private on Gard today we had no bread and very hungary it is reported that Boston is took today Capt Weights Battery was opened 2 cannon found by the river
In 1777, Daniel married Hannah Chase, a member of the prominent Chase Family, who were early settlers of Cornish, NH. Her two brothers graduated from Dartmouth College along with many other male Chase relatives. Hannah was a teacher before and after marriage and both she and Daniel used their resources to help and guide young people of the village who were in need. They had no children of their own. Daniel inherited his father’s substantial property and greatly added to it through his own efforts. Not only was he a farmer, he owned a general store next to his home from which he and his partner traded local produce as far away as Boston and returned with needed supplies for the local population. He also served the community as both a representative and a senator in the State Legislature and locally as town clerk, selectman, and Justice of the Peace, and according to one writer, all “… before he was 30 years old.”
Having grown from a 16-year-old, uneducated pioneer to a wealthy and influential 60-year-old man, it is not surprising to learn why this farmer, with the blessing of his wife, attended the 1812 meeting in Windsor, VT. Principal Richards wrote that the Academy, having been established by the Council “… was christened by this body with the name of Union Academy – it being the offspring of the united churches of New England; Its location was to be determined … by the highest offer of pecuniary benefactions. Woodstock, VT, Orford, N.H., and several other places made liberal offers. But Hon. Daniel Kimball, of Meriden, N.H., arose in the council and said that God had blessed him with a liberal fortune, but with no natural heir to inherit it. He recognized the providence of God in this movement, and was ready to pledge the institution six thousand dollars for immediate use, and the bulk of his property at his decease. This offer by this noble man … being most gratefully accepted, determined its location in Meriden, N.H.”
Next time: Daniel Kimball builds the First Academy on his land on The Hilltop.