Dr. Elias Frost set up his medical practice in Meriden in 1808. We are fortunate that he kept a journal over much of his life as we learn much about this town and its early residents from it. He begins in Meriden with these words, “I commenced boarding with him [Daniel] on Sabbath Day June 26, 1808 turning out my horse in his pasture back of the meeting house board $1.50 per week and horse .25C per week.” Daniel, he said, “was at times liberal and at times the reverse – what he thought was right everyone must conform to it. He knew his wealth and managed it by encouraging young persons in setting out in life if they pleased him well ….”
Frost convinced Joseph Kimball to have his portrait drawn and had offered to pay for it himself. He made the same offer to Joseph’s nephew Daniel at a cost of $140, but he refused. “It was of no use; he liked money better than the fine Arts. Brought up in old fashioned times, he considered that taking of Portraits was a small business and not of any importance; so I found it among all the hardy first settlers of the town, with but very few exceptions. Of Hannah Kimball, Frost said she was “… a superior woman and a fine mind … a capital house keeper … and a very pious woman… She knew her husband was rich and it never was any object for her to trouble herself about boarding anyone. Both her husband and herself had a higher object in view to make Meriden a place for an Academy and wished to have a physician who would be likely to make the place more noted and respectable.”
Daniel’s outright gift of $6000 and the promise of the residue from his estate ensured that Union Academy would be established in Meriden, but this wasn’t his only gift to the Academy. He also donated a portion of his property on The Hilltop for the First Academy, not surprisingly, across the church green from his own home. Much of the building material and actual construction of the Academy, came from his own hands. Chester B. Jordan, class of 1866, a former Governor of New Hampshire (elected 1890), wrote in the February 1903 issue of The Kimball Union, “My father was present when Hon. Daniel Kimball was building the first academy. He said the old gentleman was hauling stone with his old mare hitched to a stone-boat, and laying up the foundation with his own hands. He endowed it living and dying.” The building was dedicated on January 9, 1815, and instruction began the next day. “The number of pupils present, says the first Principal, [Otis Hutchins 1815-1819] was the Scripture number, seven.” Any student records from the earliest years have been lost over time; it wasn’t until the first catalogue printed as a Broadsheet in 1819, that the names of 19 ladies and 85 gentlemen who attended KUA could easily be found. Through enquiry and research for the first school directory published in 1880, the names of six graduates from the first class, 1816, plus five non-graduates and four women’s names who were present but not listed as graduates, are known to us.
Daniel didn’t have long to enjoy his Academy on The Hilltop. While away on a trip to Northern Vermont, “he was seized with an affection of the lungs accompanied with fever.” He sent for his wife and Dr. Frost to come for him as “he was very anxious to see his home again.” They did, but he died soon after on February 17, 1817. In Daniel’s will, it states, “I order will and ordain and do hereby give and bequeath the whole of the residue of my estate both Real and personal where ever it may be found to gather with my Wife’s dower in my real Estate after her decease to the Trustees of Union Academy as a permanent fund, the Interest of which to be appropriated as follows viz One hundred and fifty Dollars yearly towards the Support of a Calvinistick Preacher of the Gospel of the Congregational or prisbyterian order … and the remainder of said interest and the above sum when not called for … to be appropriated for the Instruction of pious Young men for the Ministry to have and to hold the same and every item to the above use and purposes forever.”
Daniel Kimball’s financial affairs were intertwined with those of his business partner, John Bryant, and that created a great hardship for the young institution for it was not until 1922 that his bequest, listed at $34,193.47, came into the hands of Union Academy. In their August 5, 1823 meeting, the trustees, as empowered by Section 13 of the charter “… once to alter the name of the Union Academy by prefixing thereto the name of the principal donor …” gratefully renamed the school Kimball Union Academy.
Next time: Dr. Elias Frost, his life in Meriden