Hudson’s elementary students and those familiar with Hudson History are aware of the significant work Kimball Webster achieved when he researched and documented his History of Hudson. Published in 1913 his book is considered THE reference for the history of our town from 1673, when we were a part of Dunstable, MA until 1913. This week we look at the life of Kimball Webster and his family.
Kimball was a 7th generation descendants from the immigrant John Webster. John came from Ipswich, Suffolk County, England to Ipswich, MA where he was made a freeman in 1635. Before settling in the Pelham/Hudson area in the mid-1700’s the Webster family moved from Ipswich to Newbury and then to Haverhill. Kimball’s dad, John, was born 1791 in Pelham; his mom, Hannah Cummings, was native to Nottingham West and born here 1794. They were married in August 1815. John sold his Pelham farm in 1841 and moved to Amherst, returning to the area soon thereafter. He purchased a farm on Wason Road in Hudson; where he remained for 20 years. By Kimball’s own records he had 12 siblings. Kimball was the 7th child and the 3rd son of this large family. John Webster was known for his honesty, great energy, and industry which enabled him to care for his large family and himself and Hannah in their later years. ;
Kimball was born November 1828 in Pelham and educated in the schools of Pelham and Hudson. Having grown up as a farm boy he was used to hard work.
In 1849 at the age of 20 1/2 he left home and became one of the California Pioneers. Having heard of the great gold discovery in California, he traveled to Independence, MOi where he joined a company of 28 men, outfitted with pack mules and horses, to travel to CA. The trip across the continent took 6 months with many hardships along the way. During his travels he kept a journal which he published in book form as “Gold Seekers of ’49”. He did work in mining for a short while, then in 1851 went to the Territory of Oregon where he worked at and became a deputy surveyor. In 1854 he returned to New Hampshire via the Isthmus of Panama. In the next few years he was employed as a surveyor and worked for the Bodwell Granite Co. in Vinal Haven, Maine. By 1857 he returned to Hudson, married Abiah Cutter of Pelham and they settled on a portion of his great-grandfather Cumming’s farm.
Professionally Kimball was a surveyor and an engineer with 50 years experience tracing old lines and boundaries and finding lost landmarks. In this he was considered an expert. Politically he was a Democrat; serving the town as selectman and as a member of the school board. On two occasions he served on a committee to re-appraise property in town. In 1881 he chaired the committee responsible for building the new iron bridge across the Merrimack to Nashua; and a member of the committee in 1909 when it became necessary to replace that bridge with the concrete bridge. He served in the state legislature and he was a Justice of the Peace for about 50 years. Fraternally he was the first Master of Hudson Grange and served the grange at the county and state levels.
Kimball Webster was the right person (he had a knowledge of engineering and a kean interest in history), at the right place (living on one of the earliest settlements in town that of his Cummings line) and at the right time (many of the early pioneers were available for him to learn from). At first he had no thought of writing a comprehensive history of his town; rather he set himself out to collect materials, to copy significant portions of the ancient records, document recollections of early settlers, and record records of cemeteries, with the idea that someone, sometime could and would such a history.
In 1884, D.H. Hurd was canvasing the county for material to be compiled and published for the History of Hillsborough County. Mr Hurd suggested that Kimball prepare a 20 page history of Hudson. This he did (actually expanded to 25 pages). Perhaps this activity acted as a stimulus for him to attempt the more ambitious work of the History of Hudson 1673 to 1913.
From the Historical Society collection we share two photos of Kimball Webster. The first a painting copied from a daguerreotype taken about 1853. The second, and perhaps the image we more closely associate with Webster was taken later in his life and appears in the front matter of his History of Hudson.
Kimball and Abiah had 10 children; 3 boys and 7 girls. Of these only 5 girls survived into adulthood. They had 2 sets of twins who died young and one daughter Latina Ray who passed at the age of 22. Each of the surviving 5 daughters married into families which are known to us today.
Their oldest, Lizzie Jane (b:1858) married Horace Martin. Their family of one son (Kimball Webster) and one daughter (Ina) lived in Hudson.
Next was Ella Francis (b:1859) who married Frank Walsh, they moved to Nashua.
Then came Eliza Ball (b: 1862) who married Charles Leslie of Hudson. They had one son, Eugene. As an adult Eugene occupied the house of his grandfather, Kimball, on Webster Street. Eugene served on the Board of Directors for the newly organized Historical Society in the 1960’s.
Julia Anne (b:1867) married John Abner Robinson and they lived in the Robinson Homestead on Robinson Road (now Old Robinson)Hudson on Robinson Road. Julia shared her father’s interest in history and assisted him with the editing and marketing of the history.
Mary Newton (B:1869) married George H. Abbott, Their family consisted of three sons (Clayton, Kenneth, and Roland) and one daughter, Marjorie. Members of this family and their descendants reside in Hudson to this day. Many of our readers remember Abbott’s Dairy on Derry Road.
The Abbott Family has placed a number of Kimball’s works at the Historical Society. Among them are his 1849 journal while traveling to California, notes on some Hudson houses built in the 1800’s, vital records which he copied from the ancient town records, and details of various estates that he settled. From the Martin and Leslie families are some of his household items, some native relics found along the Merrimack, and the painting of made from an 1853 Daguerreotype while he was in Oregon.
Our third photo shows the 5 daughters of Kimball and Abiah (Cutter) Webster taken C1920 on the front porch of the Robinson Homestead on Old Robinson Road. In the front row from the left are Julia Anne, Mary Newton, and Eliza Ball. In the second are Lizzie Jane and Ella Francis (order not certain). If any of our readers can assist with this identification please contact the society at 880-2020 or HudsonHistorical@live.com and ask for Ruth.