Winston Churchill Ran For Governor Of NH And Owned A Summer White House
by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr. Weirs Times Contributing Writer
One evening back in the 1970’s I was visiting in the home of one of the villagers in East Randolph, Vermont when he picked up a book and handed it me. He thought I might be interested in reading it. “You can have it”, he said. “ I’ve read it.”
I took the book, briefly examined it, and, though I saw nothing that made a particular impression upon me, I was grateful for his generosity, and took the book home with me, also being one who seldom turns down something of value offered to me that’s free, and being mindful that you can’t judge a book by its cover or its title. From time to time since then the book has been moved from one house to another and from one room to another, remaining unread by me. Recently, while reading about the Winston Churchill who ran for Governor of New Hampshire twice, and lost twice, I noticed that he had written a novel entitled The Inside of the Cup, a title that brought back memories of a book that was given to me years ago, a book, that would have opened up opportunities to discuss the Christian faith and the social gospel movement with my friend, Cliff Cornell, if I had read it.
All that is written to introduce you to “the other Winston Churchill”, not the British statesman who became more famous, but the New Hampshire resident who ran unsuccessfully for Governor of the state as a Republican in 1906, and again on the Progressive Party ticket in 1912. About this time of the year in August of 1917, Churchill went to Europe as a member of the Bureau of Naval Intelligence, a position he had been appointed to after volunteering to help the military at the beginning of World War I in 1917. He had graduated from the United States Naval Academy and received his war assignment after writing to the then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Col. Churchill had become an editor of the Army and Navy Journal after graduating from the Naval Academy and wrote newspaper articles during the war. He was the managing editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine for a short time before concentrating on his writing career.
This “other”, not so well-remembered Winston Churchill shared some of the same interests as the British Churchill, and preceded him in fame. Both men served in the military, both were authors and painters, and both were involved in politics. The two were acquainted with each other, and while they were still rather young (the American Churchill three years older). Winston from England wrote to Winston in America offering to use the name, Winston Spencer Churchill, to identify his writings, though it was soon revised to just using the initial “S” instead of Spencer. This was agreed to by the American who apparently did not have a middle name. He had been born in St. Louis, Missouri on November 18, 1871, but moved to Cornish, N.H. in 1899 and took up residence in a mansion built for him which he named Harlakenden House after his wife, Mabel Harlakenden Hall, whom he married in 1895. This New Hampshire resident was a best-selling author who acquired fame before Winston S. did, but it is said that by the time of his death in 1947 his fame had faded .
Churchill’s involvement in politics seemed to arise from his desire to bring reform to the state of New Hampshire and the political climate of that time, though he faced some ridicule for even entering the race. He was backed by the Republican Party Lincoln Club which was formed to “inaugurate a wave of reform in the Granite State”, and chose Winston to be their spokesman. Foremost among the proposed reforms concerned an effort to reduce the influence of the Boston and Maine Railroad upon New Hampshire’s legislature, which Churchill and his followers believed that, through lobbying, controlled the appointment or election of the most important offices in the state. He particularly wanted to ban the B.&M. Railroad from giving free train passes to members of the legislature, believing this to be a form of bribery. Col. Churchill’s campaign cry was “to put the government of New Hampshire into the hands of the people where it belongs.” He asked the Lincoln Republican club to take a stand against interference of any corporation in the politics and government of New Hampshire. A campaign spokesman said “We don’t propose to buy newspapers or to get behind the barn to buy votes, but we will get out a lot of literature, organize thoroughly in every city and town, and we will get a good vote…”. Though acknowledging the candidate’s success as an author and the appeal of the reforms he promoted, the Laconia Democrat took a dim view of Winston Churchill’s run for Governor, predicting that it would be “regarded largely as a joke.”
Their editorial claimed that he was “largely unknown in New Hampshire” though he had served in the state legislature, that “his boom” began at a fish and game banquet, he did not have long-term residency in New Hampshire, was not “adapted to public life”, was a proprietor of a hotel which took out a liquor license, and belonged to an organization (The Lincoln Club) whose leading man “is a Democrat any way”. The prediction that Churchill would be an “also ran” came true as Mr. Charles Miller Floyd was selected as the Republican candidate for Governor and he won the election. Later, becoming a follower of Teddy Roosevelt, Churchill ran for Governor again in 1912 as a member of the Progressive Party and, again, was unsuccessful. The Republican progressive movement led to the use of the primary system for elections in New Hampshire.
A U.S. president’s summer vacation home is often referred to as the summer White House whether it is white or not. Winston Churchill’s Harlakenden House was used by President Woodrow Wilson as his summer residence from 1913 -1915. The building burned in 1923 and the Churchill family moved to Plainfield, New Hampshire.
Churchill didn’t become Governor but he did make an impact on the lives of others.