1877-1933 (Junior College 1922-33)
Since my wife is from Caldwell County, I have more connection to Kidder Institute than to any other closed college. I have eaten a Kiwanis breakfast held in the building, and I have eaten a ham supper there, part of a community fund raiser. I own a copy of Wagner’s Parsival bearing the old Kidder Institute and Junior College stamp. The Caldwell County Historical Society provided early photos of the campus and connected me with the Kidder Museum. Returning to Kidder in 2010, I stood atop a “No Trespassing” sign in a drizzling rain to photograph the building. In 2011 I visited the museum.
Kidder, MO, a village of 270 people, was settled by people from New England (Note the sailing ship in the school logo) who valued education; thus it was called the “Athens of Caldwell County.” The original school in Kidder was the Thayer College and High School (1871-76), created by Nathaniel Thayer. Classes began in a vacant store building while a new building was completed. Frank Shaw reported that the curriculum was largely preparatory and the pupils were mostly local, but that some of the out-of-town boys lived on the upper floor of the new school. In 1876 the school was foreclosed. It reopened in 1877 as Kidder Institute, under the auspices of the Congregational Church of Missouri. In 1884 G. L. Ramsey became director, raising the school to a stable position. He was succeeded by G. W. Shaw, who directed the school until his death in 1932. A Junior College division was added in 1922. The school closed after Shaw’s death. In 1934 the campus became Shaw Memorial School, the public elementary and high school for Kidder.
The Kidder Park Board has created a small museum containing Kidder Institute artifacts. Photos show that students were strong in music, performing Pirates of Penzance in 1929.
Bricks and Mortar
Kidder Institute outgrew Thayer Hall, and in 1910 a new limestone administration building was constructed. Thayer Hall was then renovated as a dormitory and dining hall. In 1927 a chapel with stained glass windows and walnut benches was added on the west side of the administration building. In 1943 Thayer Hall was razed. In 1981 the public school was removed, and the campus was sold to the City of Kidder. After renovation, it became home to Thayer Learning Center, a Christian-based boot camp for troubled youth ages 11-18 from across the country. That facility closed following a lawsuit for the death of an inmate. The present campus occupant is listed as White Buffalo Academy, but buildings stand empty. They have recently been purchased by a family from Gallatin.
Postcard image of Old Thayer Hall with its distinctive clock. (https://www.cardcow.com/439051/thayer-hall-kidder-institute-missouri/) accessed 1-22-2017.
The Administration Building of Kidder Institute in 2010. The addition just visible on the left is the 1927 chapel. The message above the door is from Proverbs: “Incline thine ear unto wisdom and apply thine heart unto understanding.”
The Kidder Museum contains an old Kidder Institute pennant. It appears to be black or perhaps navy blue or even purple with a stylized “KI” in pink. However, the museum keeper said that she had seen an old black and gold Kidder Institute basketball uniform. Dr. Shaw's granddaughter remembers that the colors were blue and gold.
College Football Data Warehouse shows that the Institute played football in 1931 as a junior college— games gainst Graceland College and Wentworth Military Academy . Kidder was part of a Northwest Missouri Junior College conference in basketball, but we have no results of games played. Newspaper accounts show a baseball game against Chillicothe Normal School, a forerunner of Chillicothe Business College. The start and finish of the game was determined by the train schedule between the towns
The 1927 Kidder Institute girls' basketball team. Image from the "Kidder, Missouri Remembered" website, used by permission.