by Susan Taylor Block
A view at Nemours Wildlife Foundation, 2015. (Photo by Susan Block)
James Hathaway Kidder, former owner of a portion of Nemours Wildlife Foundation, was the son of Edward Hartwell Kidder and Mary Leona Hathaway Kidder. He was born September 12, 1869, in Brooklyn, but had ties to Wilmington, North Carolina. His paternal grandparents, Edward and Ann Potter Kidder, lived there, at 101 South Third Street (now razed). His maternal grandparents’ residence was close by, at 120 South Fifth Street. Historically, it is known as the Hathaway-Boney House.
“Jim” Kidder attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., near the Kidder’s ancestral home of New Ipswich, N.H., from 1885 until 1888. A spirited sportsman, he was on the school’s first Halcyon team. In 1892, he graduated from Harvard where he was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club. Then he attended classes at the University of Heidelburg, in Germany. Jim worked in Boston for several years before moving to New York where he was employed by the investment firm of Frankie, Thompson, and Robb. He married Mary Clark Avery, a widow who, at that time, lived in New York, Chicago, and London. As a couple, things did not go well for them.
St. Paul’s School’s first Halcyon Team. Jim Kidder sits on the front row, far left. (Courtesy of St. Paul’s School)
Conventional work did not suit Jim Kidder. He left his framed credentials hanging on an office wall while he made his way around the world, hunting and fishing. A born collector, he purchased the finest of equipment money could buy. He had a penchant for medieval armor and weapons, too, and they adorned his residence. In time, Jim turned his love of hunting into a passion to preserve wildlife – particularly in Alaska. He had hunted with many famous people, including Theodore Roosevelt, and the Prince of Wales, who would be crowned Edward VIII in 1936, but it was creatures that he adored.
(Below: James Hathaway Kidder, as depicted by an artist for the Rockland County Times, August 10, 1902.)
A portion of the James Hathaway Kidder Collection.
In 1902, Jim presented his extensive collection of bear skins and skulls to the United States Biological Survey, in Washington, DC. Dr. C. Hart Merriam termed it “the most splendid contribution to the study of Alaska bears ever made by one person.” Mr. Kidder used his platform to discourage skins merchants and hat makers; the cruel and the thoughtless from further eradication of Alaska’s animal population. He continued to work for hunting limits that would increase numbers of species that were dwindling rapidly. Yet he was quick to defend the hungry and serious providers of food: He excused “those who hunt to supply communities with meat.”
James Hathaway Kidder (right) with his guide and a very big bear – and his beloved Stereek. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)
Jim was a member of the famous Boone and Crockett Club, and served on the club’s executive, finance, and big game measurements committees.While hunting in the Kadiak Islands, Jim Kidder shot a new species of bear, soon to be known as a Ursus Kidderi Tundrensis, or the Kidder Bear. Kidder bears are ferocious, live only in Alaska, and are quite small. At least one replica of a Kidder bear still exists in Wilmington. On a much larger scale, Mr. Kidder also killed the largest Kadiak bear ever shot in Alaska. A Wilmington cousin, Margaret “Peggy” Moore Perdew, traveled to Washington to view the bear which was exhibited temporarily.
Jim and Helen Kidder at Green Point, 1937. (Gadsden-Kidder Collection)
By 1922, Jim Kidder was living at Green Point Plantation in Yemassee, SC. He owned Brookgreen Gardens briefly, but settled in at Green Point where he razed a dilapidated older residence and built a new one that was void of ostentation and heavy with comfort. His views of grass and water were filtered through light that made the greens and blues appear as if they are flecked with a bit of gold dust.
He met Helen, the love of his life, at a party in Yemasee. She had not wanted to attend the event, but changed her mind at the last minute. Friends introduced them, and they proceeded to get along famously. After they married, Jim and Helen adopted a young girl, Louise, whose parents could not raise her. Little Mary Louise Kidder grew up with the wonders of Green Point all about her.
Helen holding Mary Louise Kidder. (Kidder-Gadsden Collection)
To be continued….
New York Times, April 8, 1909. Julie T. Houk, Director of Publications, Boone and Crockett Club. Kidder Family Collection. St. Paul’s School Alumni Records. Harvard Alumni Records. Adolphus Washington Greely, Handbook of Alaska: Its Resources, Products, and Attractions; New York, 1909. Rockland County Times, August 16, 1902. Author’s interviews with Kay E. Merrill (Nieuport Project, Nemours Wildlife Foundation), Margaret Moore Perdew, Charles Stockell, author of “The Restless Ones,” (Beaufort Magazine, February 1975),the late Mary Louise Kidder Gadsden, Ann Kidder Gadsden Shimer, and James Christopher Gadsden.