Author: Laurie L. Kearney
For approximately two years, Harriet (Tidd) Kittredge, served as an assistant matron at the Dorchester Industrial School for Girls. The school’s annual reports issued 1853-1858 mention they were staffed by a Matron and a Teacher, but in the 1859 Annual Report they included an additional employee: an Assistant Matron. This was also the year the school moved into their new building in Dorchester. Although not named, this new Assistant Matron was most likely Mrs. Harriet Kittredge, as she was listed in this role in the 1860 census. How she got the job—whether through advertisement or through recommendation—we may never know, but having raised her own children, she may have been ready for the challenge of helping to care for upwards of thirty girls.
Harriet (Tidd) Kittredge was born in Charlestown, New Hampshire on March 17, 1810 to Ebenezer Tidd (1764-1849) and his wife Hannah Thompson (1782-1824). She was the second of three children born to this couple. Ebenezer and Hannah were natives of Woburn, Massachusetts but very shortly after they married in 1807, they moved to Charlestown, New Hampshire to a farm purchased by Ebenezer in 1797. It is here that Harriet was born and grew up along with her brother and sister.
On February 1, 1831 Harriet married Stephen Kittredge. He was born on February 22, 1807 in Packersfield, New Hampshire (now Nelson, NH) and was the son of Joshua Kittredge (1761-1834) and Beulah Baker (1768-1827). Stephen grew up on his father’s sprawling farm and helping in his father’s sawmill, but like his brother, he eventually learned the art of furniture making, which was how he made his living. Harriet and Stephen became the parents of four children: George H. (1832-1868), Surviah B. (1834- 1877), Frederick (1836-1838) and Frank S. (1840-1904).
When Stephen Kittredge died October 30, 1839 in Alstead, NH, he left Harriet with two small children and one on the way. By 1850, Harriet and her children had moved to the city of Concord, New Hampshire, where they were renting a house. Harriet appears to have taken in five women – two sets of sisters – as boarders. Harriet does not list an occupation in that census; in fact, the census taker did not list any occupation for any women listed in the Concord census. It appears that Harriet’s residence was near the center of town, as her neighbors were ministers, clerks, shoemakers, carpenters, even the sheriff, and an occasional farmer, indicating Harriet’s neighborhood may not have been a large agricultural area. Because there is not an occupation listed for Harriet, we do not really know how she supported herself and her children. In addition to renting rooms in her house, Harriet may have supported her family by working in one of Concord’s mills, or taken on small jobs available in this larger town. She moved to Massachusetts in the late 1850s, perhaps to take the job in Dorchester, as she does not appear in the Massachusetts census of 1855.
Harriet came to the Dorchester Industrial School for Girls around 1859, as an Assistant Matron.
Here she lived and worked with the girls. She likely assisted the Head Matron, Mary Daüble, and the teacher, Mrs. Sophia (Kittredge) French, with teaching the children skills such as cooking and other general housekeeping skills, so that one day they could find a good position as servants. We know the girls had daily chores to perform from the School’s 1873 annual report, so Harriet would not have performed all the household duties; she may have had cooking responsibilities, as the secretary’s notes say she was “in the kitchen department.” Each job the girls performed was also a lesson in housekeeping and also would have taught responsibility.
By the end of 1860, however, it appears Harriet had grown frustrated with her position at the school. Remarks in the secretary’s record book on December 4, 1860 note:
“The subject of a change of Matron in the kitchen department was then discussed. Mrs. K had become irritable with the children – careless about her cooking and there was evidently a want of harmony in her intercourse with the others. Her increasing years & a failing in health rendered a change necessary. Mrs. May, Miss Parkman, and Miss Parker were appointed a Committee procure a successor to Mrs. K. Mrs. Prentis was afterwards added to the committee.”
On February 2, 1861, “. . .Mrs. Kittredge was informed her services would not be needed after March 1,” and notes from the following meeting state Mrs. Kittredge left the school on the 26th of February. Interestingly, this dismissal also coincides with the dismissal of her niece, Sophia (Kittredge) French.
Harriet most likely remained briefly in Boston area, before she remarried and moved away. In 1865, she was living in Boston with her two sons, George and Frank, in the home of her nephew Edward L. Kittredge. Edward was the brother of Sophia (Kittredge) French. Edward was a successful provisions merchant, and it appears Harriet’s sons may have worked for him, as their occupations are listed as “clerk.” However, within eighteen months Harriet married for the second time to
William Edway Bellows (1806-1886) and moved to Climax, Michigan. It is most likely, William and Harriet knew each other from childhood, as they both grew up in Charlestown, New Hampshire. In 1836, William E. Bellows and his first wife and three of their children moved from New Hampshire to Climax, Michigan. Edward and his first wife were the parents of eight children and in 1864 William was widowed. It is not known how William and Harriet reconnected; perhaps they courted through letters or perhaps Harriet had gone to Michigan to visit her sister, Hannah (Tidd) Blood, who lived 55 miles away in South Haven, MI, which may have provided an opportunity for the couple to reconnect. According to Bellows genealogy, we know the couple married in December of 1866. William and Harriet are listed in both the 1870 and 1880 censuses and Harriet
records her occupation as “Keeping House.” William Bellows had an extensive farm in Climax, MI, in 1870, its value was $18,000 and was over 500 acres. The Bellows Genealogy states he was a “capable man of business, energetic and industrious, as well as temperate and frugal, he accumulated considerable property and became one of the most well-to-do farmers of the vicinity.” Here, Harriet no longer had to do the hard housework. It is likely she was able to enjoy being the lady of the house.
It is nice to think that in her waning years, Harriet was able to find some comfort and rest with her second husband in Michigan, because it seems she worked hard her most of her life to support herself and her children, and she also experienced a lot of sadness too. When Harriet passed away in her ninety-first year, she had buried two husbands, three of her four children, and four of her seven grandchildren. These four grandchildren were the children of Harriet’s daughter, Surviah, who all died during the diphtheria epidemic in New Hampshire of 1878.
After William’s death, Harriet returned to New Hampshire around 1891, where she lived as a boarder in the home of William and Hattie Morrill, in Nashua.
William and Hattie had been married for seventeen years and did not have any children together. William was a boat builder originally from Salisbury, Massachusetts, who relocated to Nashua around 1882 (soon after he had divorced his first wife). Hattie was a lifelong resident of New Hampshire and had been widowed twice before she married William. Harriet (Tidd) Kittredge Bellows died February 28, 1901 in Nashua at 18 days shy of being 91 years old. She is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery of Nashua, NH, with her son George.