Friday, June 22, 2012

Ezbai Kidder (1787-1880)


   Today's article is a return to profiling an oddly named political figure from my own home county of Chautauqua, New York. Back in March of this year a number of local oddly named politicians were profiled and since that time its become sort of a tradition to profile a strangely named county politician every month or so!
   The political figure profiled today is Mr. Ezbai Kidder, a resident of Massachusetts who became a pioneer figure in our county's history. Although his status on the "political radar" is quite low, Kidder served as Township Supervisor of two separate towns (Carroll and Kiantone) in Chautauqua County, and lived to the advanced age of 92. Information on Kidder is somewhat lacking, but a few genealogical websites and local histories mentioning him will certainly help with his article here! One of these "local histories" is a small write-up that appeared in our local paper (the Jamestown Post Journal) in 2001 that gave a remarkable amount of insight into Kidder's life (including many of the facts contained herein.) This newspaper article also yielded the portrait of him shown above.
   Ezbai (also spelled Esbai) Kidder was born in Dudley, Massachusetts on December 1, 1787, the son of Samuel and Zilpha Bacon Kidder. Ezbai and his family relocated to Wardsboro, Vermont shortly after his birth and after the death of Samuel Kidder in 1805, Ezbai spent his adolescence looking after his mother and five siblings.
   Kidder eventually left Vermont in 1813 and removed to Kiantone in Chautauqua County, New York. He returned to Vermont that same year and in 1816 resettled permenently in Chautauqua (or to be more precise, the town of Carroll.) Once settled, Kidder purchased a substantial amount of land from the Holland Land Company for $372.89 and throughout the succeeding years built a farm that eventually grew to over 330 acres!
   On November 14, 1824 Kidder married Wardsboro,Vermont native Louisa Shearman and this union eventually produced four children: Samuel Ezbai (1828-1889) Olive Adelaide (1826-1912), Lucy Annette (1820-1877) and Laura (1834-1862). The majority of the sources mentioning Ezbai Kidder give note that he was a carpenter, and John Philip Down's History of Chautauqua (Volume III) states that "in addition to clearing, cultivating his own acres, he did a great deal of carpenter work in Kiantone and Carroll, erecting many of the frame houses and barns in his section."

     This roster of Carroll Town Supervisors appeared in the History of Chautauqua County, Volume III.

   In addition to being a carpenter and farmer, Kidder was also an aspirant for local public office. At the first Carroll Town meeting (held on March 6, 1826) he was named as the Commissioner of Highways and later served a term as Overseer of the Poor. In 1838 Kidder was elected to a one year term as Supervisor of the town of Carroll and nearly two decades later (in 1854), the settlement of Kiantone was split from the village of Carroll and Kidder was elected as that town's first Supervisor (again serving a one year term). Research has also shown that as far as political faith was concerned, Kidder was "originally a Whig" and "afterwards became a Republican." It is also interesting to note that Ezbai's son Samuel and grandson George also were elected to terms as Kiantone Town Supervisor (the former serving from 1886-87, 1890 and the latter serving from 1910-1917).
   Although details on this obscure man are somewhat lacking, Kidder is mentioned in Butler F. Dilley's Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Chautauqua County as being a prominent member of Jamestown's Congregational Church during his later years, and he is listed as dying at age 92 on March 3, 1880. Kidder's long life had spanned from before the signing of the U.S. Constitution to the administration of our 19th President, Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893). Kidder was preceded in death by his wife Louisa (who had died on November 13, 1867) as well as two of his daughters.
   On June 18th I made a point to seek out the gravesite of Ezbai Kidder in Jamestown's Lake View Cemetery, and after some searching, his resting place was located. And now some photos from the trip!!


  Ezbai is buried in the Kidder family plot which also contains the graves of his wife, mother, daughters Laura and Lucy, and son Samuel. No mention is given on Kidder's gravestone as to his status as a pioneer Chautauqua County resident, which is quite disconcerting when one considers his long career as a early county public servant!




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