Relatives of Kidder family to honor Nevada County railroad museum |

Relatives of Kidder family to honor Nevada County railroad museum

John Flint Kidder
John Hart | The Union

Relatives of the Kidder family, who are largely credited as the first family of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad in the Grass Valley area, are gathering today to honor that branch of their family tree.

John and Mia Renshaw and their family will host their private annual gathering today at the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum.

John Flint Kidder, a New Yorker and civil engineer, superintended construction of the Narrow Gauge Railroad between 1875-76, said Ron Kapper, secretary of the museum.

“It was the lifeline for this county,” Kapper said, noting the train made possible travel to Colfax, where the Transcontinental Railroad would in turn go to the coast.

After construction, Kidder stayed on to oversee the railroad until 1901, when he died at 71 years old.

His widow, Sarah Clark Kidder, became the first woman railroad president in the United States, and some claim the first in the world, Kapper said.

Her tenure between 1901 and 1913 was marked by the railroad’s greatest prosperity, Kapper said.

She brought about high dividends, debts paid and notable technical improvements.

“They made a lot of profit in that time,” Kapper said.

Kidder also funded her grand nephew’s education — John Renshaw’s father.

“Without her financial help, my dad would not have been able to go to medical school,” Renshaw said.

“He was the kind of doctor that went out and did house calls. He was always available on weekends, and I don’t remember any holiday when he wasn’t making rounds at the hospital or to houses.”

Every generation of the Renshaw family grew up with the legend of the first woman in the world to run a railroad, Renshaw said.

“They learned as children the importance of giving back to one’s community,” said Mia Renshaw. “After all, the Kidders were their prime examples of giving and sharing.”

The Rennshaws Foundation honors John Renshaw’s departed sibling and his children by supporting a different charity each year. Two years ago, they discovered the Narrow Gauge museum.

“We want to benefit the museum because they are doing such a great job,” Mia Renshaw said. “We’re amazed and pleased all these volunteers are putting in all this time to make it an asset to the community.”

The museum has a number of exhibits showcasing various Kidder artifacts, such as remnants of their mansion.

As part of their visit, the Renshaws will present the museum with an undisclosed donation and family historic photos of John and Sarah Kidder, they said.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call (530) 477-4236.

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