• Category Archives Not So Long Ago
  • Colonists & Indians -A Historian’s View Of NH In 1871

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    “Out with the old and in with the new” says the old New Year’s adage with much that is reasonable behind it.
    It is not always wise to be rid of the old, however, and that includes old books. I almost passed on the opportunity to read from a book published in 1871 that I found in the local library titled “The Merrimack River” until I discovered that it was as much about the people and events that could somehow be connected to the river as about the river and its tributaries. The author, J.W. Meader, presents a view of New Hampshire, from his perspective, of a New Hampshire we never knew because we weren’t here.
    Of the Merrimack River Meader contends “As a great natural feature, the Merrimack…surpasses all others in the harmonious blending of the useful and the beautiful…, it is from its source to its mouth, literally a vast system of mill-privileges with excellent water power, materials and conveniences for dams, and an ample and unfailing supply of water. The amount of manufacturing along this stream is not equaled by that of any other river in the world… ”.
    Concerning the early settlers, the Puritans, Meader expresses the opinion that they left the old country because they were unable to persuade their countrymen to believe as they did, not because they were the victims of religious intolerance and became the religious intolerant when they settled in America. Both opinions are probably true; they were both victims and perpetrators of intolerant behavior.
    Rev. John Wheelwright and his flock, who bought land from the Piscataqua River to the Merrimack River from the Indian Chief Passaconaway and his association of chiefs, after banishment by the Puritans, went “to the wilds of New Hampshire” and settled in Exeter with his followers. Here, says Meader, they established “…the first genuine democratic form of government ever established in America.”
    The prominence of witchcraft in New Hampshire as well as Massachusetts in the latter half of the sixteen hundreds was viewed as a “delusion” by author Meader, though supposed witches in New Hampshire suffered the consequences, though not as severely as in the neighboring State. Meader had much to say about the life and acts of the Indians, indicating that when the white man discovered the Merrimack he found a prize, a prize with “dusky barbarians” on it in “primitive canoes”. He said “ Here on this river’s brink, civilization and barbarism met, – light and darkness, – day and night struggling for the mastery; and who could doubt the result?”
    And “Civilization found this beautiful river…”. Opinions like that may sound discriminatory, but they also help us to understand the thoughts behind people’s actions and reactions. Those called “stalwart and hardy pioneers” were also the “exterminators” of the red man. But the native inhabitant of New Hampshire did not leave without a fight, even though many may not realize how perilous it was in New Hampshire, when the Indian feared extermination and the pale-face feared the death-dealing raids of the Indians. When much of the land above Concord was “unexplored and entirely unknown” by the white man the native Americans gathered around New Hampshire’s big lake and at other locations surely not realizing that in the coming days both they and the colonists would both be fighting for their survival. The not so long ago historian (1871) drew a picture in words of the white man struggling for survival in the wild country of New Hampshire inhabited by wolves, bears, wildcats, moose, and deer, along with the American Indians, who, if there were more of them and they were better organized the progress made by the colonists would “…have been greatly impeded, if not altogether stopped.”
    The people of the tribes “would often swoop down upon the scattered settlements as swift, sudden, and unexpected as the hawk, …..families awoke at the dead of night to hear the fearful war-whoop, to see their homes enveloped in flames, and the deadly tomahawk and the dreaded scalping knife gleam in the light of the burning building.” But the white man fought with his own determined and savage acts of violence against the Indian. “A price was set upon his toplock the same as on the wolf, and other wild animals, only much higher, and the more daring and adventuresome among the population turned their attention to the hunting and scalping of Indians.”
    The most famous of the Indian hunters was said to have been a Captain Lovewell of Dunstable, who gained particular notoriety for capturing a group of ten Indians in what is now the town of Wakefield and marching into Boston with their scalps on poles, only to lose his own life in another hunting venture.
    The stories of cowboys and Indians in the western parts of the United States are probably better known to New Hampshire residents than the conflict between colonists and Indians in our own localities as immigrants from across the sea and began a new nation. In his book about the Merrimack River, Mr. Meader tells some of their stories. I should point out that book writer Meader also wrote that “…the North American Indian possesses, and often displays, in his nobler nature, those higher excellences and sublime qualities which adorn and embellish the human character.” The result of the conflicts between the Colonists and the Indians the Indian was that for the most part the Indians were “out” and the Colonists were “in”.
    “ The Merrimack River” is a book about other people who came to New Hampshire, including Shakers and Quakers, Presbyterians and Catholics, and others along with information about the scenery, landscape, and wildlife of New Hampshire while including developments along the Merrimack. Books like this, though full of a writer’s biases, as are many of today’s books, should not be thrown out, because the discerning mind can glean knowledge and wisdom from them as they tell the stories of a New Hampshire we never experienced.


  • The Witch’s Brew Mystery Woman Unmasked – Part II

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    >>Click to read PART ONE of this two part column <<

     

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    The results of investigative reporting may not be welcome to those who prefer that the identity of the alleged witch be kept a mystery, but even perhaps the earliest printed account of the story admits that Granny Hicks of New Hampton, though perhaps looking like a witch and having some peculiar habits and some unexplained insight, was not really a witch.
    If, however, the person(s) who identified the supposed witch as one Esther Prescott Hyde was correct the story is still full of unsolved mysteries. We still do not know how Granny Hicks (or Esther Hyde) knew who the five young masked men who destroyed her cottage were and how she could correctly prophesy how each would die. We do not know when she came to live in New Hampton and where she went after the destruction of her home. We do not know how she could live in the same town as a son and grandchildren with the townspeople not knowing of the connection. And other questions persist. Esther Prescott Hyde died in 1817 at the age of 64 and her body was buried in the New Hampton village cemetery in the Prescott family lot. This fact does not match the tale told by some that Granny Hicks was never seen or heard from again in New Hampton after her house was demolished. Some think that her death occurred in the same year that she lost the house. Her gravestone identifies her as the wife of John Hyde, but with no indication that he is buried near her.
    No mention is made of her first husband, John Prescott, but her son, John, and his wife, Elizabeth Nichols Prescott are buried beside her. Also in the lot in front of the three previously mentioned is a smaller gravestone marking the graves of two of Esther’s granddaughters, Esther and Sarah Prescott.

    The tombstone of Esther Prescott Hyde who died in 1817 at the age of 64 and her body was buried in the New Hampton village cemetery.

    Aunt “Est” and Aunt Sa, as they were called turned the Prescott house on Main Street into a Girl’s Boarding House for young ladies attending the New Hampton Literary School and developed a reputation for a high-quality housing establishment.
    These granddaughters of Esther Prescott Hyde, the alleged witch, were portrayed as follows by newspaper editor E.C. Lewis : “The Prescott girls were universally loved and admired. Shrewd, bright, quick witted, natural nurses, hard workers, sharp of tongue, and close at trade, they were generous and public spirited.” Sarah died in 1885 and what was called the “great fire” of 1887 destroyed the boarding house and two other buildings. The land was sold to Judge Stephen Gordon Nash who had a public library which was named for him built at that location; the library continues to serve the town to this day.
    It would appear that land in New Hampton given to Esther Prescott Hyde by her father on the banks of the Pemigewasset River became the home of one or more of her grandchildren.
    My investigations lead me to believe that John and Elizabeth Prescott’s oldest son Rufus, and the youngest, Perrin, settled along the river. Prescott family history records state that Perrin was “… a farmer, residing with his family of six, in New Hampton, N.H.” Indications are that Rufus was also a farmer cleared land next to his brother’s property on land previously owned by their mother, father, and grandmother (Granny Hicks).
    In finding a record of statistics concerning Granny Hicks (correctly Hyde) and her siblings (the Rollins family from Epping) with the dates of their births and deaths the date of death of Esther alone is missing, indicating that her ties with the family in her later years were not close. Moving on, though, let me mention two of “the witch” of New Hampton’s great-grandchildren who served in the Civil War. Perrin Prescott and his wife Susanah’s oldest child, Rufus, was born in 1833. It is thought that he attended a one-room school located on his father’s property, failed his Aunt Sarah’s efforts to enroll him in the N.H. Academical and Theological Institute after he told the headmaster he didn’t care for his son and became a travelling salesman. He served one hundred and nine days in the Union Army with the Sixth Volunteer Regiment of Massachusetts, fought in the battle of Winchester, Virginia in 1864, was promoted to corporal and guarded rebel prisoners in Delaware.
    Rufus’ brother, John Francis Prescott, served for three years in the 12th New Hampshire Volunteer Regiment, beginning as a private and also being promoted to corporal. According to “THE PRESCOTT MEMORIAL” he was a “brave and intrepid soldier” who participated in seven battles, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Fort Royal, Port Waltham, Drury’s Bluff, and at Cold Harbor on June 1 and 3 of 1864. Young John Prescott was wounded on the field of battle at Cold Harbor and “…lay on the field from 5 o’clock A.M. , to 8 P.M., when he crawled back to his own lines.” In November of 1864 Prescott was captured and spent 96 days in the awful Libby Prison. He wrote of the conditions at the prison saying that “ we suffered incredibly from cold, hungers, and filth “, and “ It is impossible to give an adequate description of our sufferings while in prison; a great many were frozen to death, being so weak from starvation that they could not walk to warm themselves. I have walked all night, many a night, to keep from freezing.”
    So there is a little of the information I have found about the brew, or maybe I should say “brood” of the witch of New Hampton, who was not really a witch at all, but is still a person of some mystery.
    Was she the quiet woman who gave the children gifts and was adored by them, or did they throw sticks and stones at her as one version of her life tells us. Was she alienated from her family? Did she and John Hyde have any children? Those and many other questions still persist if Esther Prescott Hyde really was the person called Granny Hicks and the Witch of New Hampton.


  • The Witch’s Brew Mystery Woman Unmasked – Part 1

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    I have read several versions of the story about the so-called witch of New Hampton, New Hampshire and have written about her, but my curiosity concerning this reportedly reclusive and mysterious woman who lived in the 1700’s and early 1800’s led me to a search for more information about her. So I use the word “brew” here in the sense of what she brought about. She was commonly called Granny Hicks, though that was reportedly not her real name.
    She lived in a house near the Pemigewasset River in a cottage which some authors claimed she built herself. Supposedly nothing was known about her family or where she came from before living in New Hampton. Her appearance, habits, and anti-social behavior , along with unusual events that took place in town led some to label this lonely woman as a witch. When the wife in a neighboring home who was asked for some yarn by Granny Hicks so she could finish darning her sock refused to comply, she thought she detected a look of revenge in Granny’s eyes. The next morning a woodchuck appeared on the neighbor’s doorstep or in the hallway of the home, depending on which version of the story you read. Anyway, there was speculation that Granny Hicks had turned herself into a woodchuck by the means of witchcraft..

    Picture of Esther Hyde’s granddaughter’s (Esther and Sarah) gravestones.

    Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • Homecoming Day Came To Stay In New Hampton

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    An immense bonfire on Shingle Camp Hill in the town of New Hampton lit up the sky on a Saturday night in the summer of or near 1910 as it announced the beginning of the Old Home Week celebration.
    A local newspaper reported that “This welcoming beacon could be seen for miles around and was only one of several which could be seen in adjoining towns.”
    The citizens of the central New Hampshire town were said to be among the foremost to enthusiastically invite former and present residents to gather together to enjoy the fellowship of each other and to renew old acquaintances. All day services on Sunday at the Dana Meeting House were said to be “…perhaps the most impressive observances of old home week in the State.”
    The church building is now nearing twice the age it was when the following was written about it, but the observation about that Sunday of old was “Around this historic building cluster a multitude of fond reminiscences for the older generations. It was built in the year 1800 on the range of hills between New Hampton and New Holderness – now Ashland – and its interior, with the high pulpit and square pews, has been kept unchanged.” The morning service on that Sunday was mainly for the children and was conducted by the Rev. Mrs. Tracy.

    Ed Huckins, 96, who has attended all of New Hampton’s Old Home Days held during his life-time shown with his daughter, Judy.

    After the morning service Sunday School classes were held with people gathering in large groups where they “discussed the lesson in the grand old democratic way.” An hour of social time followed Sunday School with lunch baskets being opened to provide physical refreshment at mid-day. Dr. O.H. Tracey was the speaker for the afternoon service when he preached to a large audience about “…the old New England home and what it stood for.” When he finished his sermon he invited the deacons, who were seated in the deacons pew which was (and still is) located in front of the high pulpit facing the congregation, to follow “ an old fashioned custom” of making a few remarks. Deacons Kendrick Smith, Joseph P. Sanborn, William R. Dearborn and D.W. Waite responded. Deacon Smith noted that he had taken part in services in the church more than 70 years previous and that Elder Perkins, whose picture was on the wall, use to end his sermons by saying “Brothers and sisters, there is liberty.” Not to be done with old customs, the service didn’t conclude until many of those present “…gave testimony to their religious homes , and the good this particular church had done.”
    The Old Home Week continued on Wednesday at the Old Institution section of town with a large crowd gathering for a day of “sociability and entertainment.” Continuing their old-fashioned ways the report was that “An old-fashioned dinner with its first and chief course of baked beans was served on the long tables in the grove and among the family gatherings near by. After dinner the people assembled on the highest part of the ground to listen to stories of former and present residents, before the President of the affair, Fred W. Sanborn, introduced the speakers, Deacon Kendrick Smith, Hon. Joseph Walker, (Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives) , Richard Pattee, Rev. C.C. Horst, and Rev. O.H. Tracy. The Bristol Cornet Band entertained the crowd with music throughout the day which concluded with a musical event at Chapel Hall featuring violin and piano soloists and singing of several sprano solos by Miss Elsye M. Wallace of Rochester and Boston.
    Let us now revisit the event in 1908.
    “New Hampton, Aug. 22- One more red letter day for New Hampton and Old Home day, 1908, has passed into history.”
    That was the opening sentence of a newspaper article in the year stated, which continued to tell the readers that, though the weather that August morning “…did not look propitious” people left their homes and headed for the Old Institution location in the town to enjoy that year’s Old Home Day. As it turned out there were only a few sprinkles of rain on that day and those who attended apparently did enjoy the two main activities, eating and listening to speeches by well-known dignitaries.
    The eating came first as the patriotism of the group was marked by the presence of three American flags. One flew over the grove, which was “ looking at its best”, another was across the main entrance, and the third was owned by David Taylor, but draped over the Pike family table around which were seated thirty-six family members and friends. Presiding members of the Pike family were Mrs. Myra (Pike) Taylor, Mrs. Martha (Pike) Sanborn, and Mrs. Eunice (Pike) Howard. Attendance was obviously great for that 1908 event as tables were set up for 300 people and were “ …filled and reset several times.”
    Dr. Austin S. Bronson, president of the society introduced the speakers: Kendrick W. Smith, Prof. Fred W. Wallace, Rev. Dr. Arthur Gordon, Richard Pattee, Rev. Mr. Patten, E.W. Gilbert of California, E.J. Cheever, Moses F. Merrow, Prof. H.W. Brown, Prof. Moulton, and Mr. Dixon. The newspaper write-up of the event says of the speakers, “They all had some good thing to say about New Hampton” , and adds that resident Milton Whitcher gave a reading “…which was appreciated by all.” I wonder about that last statement after all those speakers.
    By the way, those speakers, back in 1908, were said to be of the opinion that a town history ought to be written, and the reporter observed that “It is very evident that Old Home Day has come to stay at New Hampton” , as indeed it has, and I must add that my neighbor, Edwin Huckins , has been in attendance at each Old Home Day held in New Hampton during his 96 years of living here, including the most recent one in this year of 2017.


  • Winston Churchill Ran For Governor Of NH And Owned A Summer White House

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    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.

    Winston Churchill

    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. Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • Last Race At Belknap Was The Greatest

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    It was at the end of the 99th lap of the 100 Mile National Championship Motorcycle Race at the Belknap Recreation Area in Gilford, New Hampshire, and 19 year old Jody Nicholas, who started strong and had led all but two of the laps around the race track, and was still up front when suddenly “…his machine slid from under him and he was spread-eagled on the pavement…” and his veteran racing opponent George Roeder, who had been closely pursuing him throughout the race, sped by him to become the leader.
    This event was the last national championship motorcycle race to be held at the Belknap Recreation Area and, in the opinion of my Dad, Ray Smith, who wrote about the 1963 race in a June, 1964 article, it was the greatest race ever run there.
    The motorcyclists have come to the area as part of the organized Gypsy Tours in 1917 and the races began at the Belknap Area in 1938 and continued until that last one in 1963.

     

    Jody Nicholas led the 1963 race all but two of the laps around the race track, and was still up front when suddenly “…his machine slid from under him and he was spread-eagled on the pavement…” Nicholas was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, returned to racing afterwards, wrote for motorcycle magazines, and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.

    I wasn’t there for the first or the last of those championship races, but did attend a few in between. I remember being in the car with family members as my Dad drove up to the entrance to the recreation area on race day and we approached the ticket sellers, and the sense of satisfaction, and perhaps privilege by association, as my Dad revealed his “press card” as a reporter of the event and we were allowed to enter without paying.
    I didn’t know the drivers or much about motorcycles in general or the rules of the race, but there was excitement in the air with the sound of roaring engines and the thrill of seeing the racers zoom around the track in their effort to travel faster than anyone else.
    The 1938 race was 200 miles in length, while the 1963 one was 100 miles. That first national championship in 1938 was won by Ed Kretz. But what was it about the last race at the Belknap Area that made it so great? According to my Dad , “It had everything.” The weather was perfect with millions of acres of sunshine, the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, and the wind blew briskly from the west. People came out in numbers large enough to make it the largest crowd ever with 20,000 viewing the 100 mile race and a total attendance at all events of 32,000. It was a safe race with no accidents requiring the use of ambulances on the race track or in the area as a whole. It was also the greatest of all the races because of who was in attendance, again, according to my Dad, “They were all there.”
    Former Laconia Mayor and publisher of The Laconia Evening Citizen, E.J. Gallagher, who was involved in bringing the national championship motorcycle race to the area in 1938 was there, as was Fritzie Baer, manager of the Belknap Area, and easily recognized in his red hat. County Commissioner Joe Smith was there, of whom it was said that without him there would have been no Belknap Recreation area. Big names in motorcycle racing like Hank Miller and Floyd Cramer were there, along with many sportswriters and photographers.
    I am going to give some special attention to a motorcycle man who was there in 1963 who obviously had gained great respect from those who knew him. His name is Bill Schietinger, the president of the New England Motorcycle Dealers Association, and described in the 1964 news article as “quiet, modest Bill Schietinger, bellweather of New England cycle fans under whose guidance a quarter-century of racing history was written at Belknap.” Bill was also present at the initial race at the invitation of the then Mayor of Laconia, E.J. Gallagher in 1938 and at each one through that 1963 competition. Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • New Hampshire Red Men & Odd Fellows

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    “The Union”, the Manchester, NH newspaper of 1906 reported on the activities of the Red Men of New Hampshire in the Spring of that year.
    You might be surprised to learn that a new tribe known as Squamtum, No. 47, was said to have been organized in East Jaffrey with a charter membership of 35. Chief of records was J.D. Donahue, chief of wampum was G.H. Williams and keeper of wampum was Charles N. Wilson. The Watatic tribe of Winchendon did the degree work with Grand Sachem Joseph L. Wiggin and Grand Chief of Records Harrie M. Young instituting the tribe. The report informed the reader that “At the conclusion of the work corn and venison were served.” Other tribes mentioned in the article were the Skitchawang of Claremont, the Contoocook of Hillsborough, the Massapatanapus of Goffstown, the Massasoil of Portsmouth, and the Agawam of Manchester. The Contoocook Tribe was scheduled to adopt a class of “twelve palefaces” on May 29th.

     


    A second surprise might be in finding out what the Red Men were all about was that none of them were “red”, but all were indeed palefaces, or white.The fact is that the Society of Red Men or the Improved Order of Red Men is not a Native American organization, but a fraternity which grew out of the patriotic movements associated with the American Revolution, particularly the Sons of Liberty. It was a group of men calling themselves the Sons of Liberty that, on December 16, 1773, dressed themselves in the attire of Mohawk Indians and dumped 342 chests of English tea into Boston Harbor. During America’s struggle for independence there were a number of secret societies that were formed to promote freedom, following the example of the Sons of Liberty. In the year 1813 several of these groups came together at Fort Mifflin, near Philadelphia, Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • It Happened In The Month Of May

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    As you know, the month of May can bring to the New Hampshire landscape a variety of weather from cold and snow to the sweltering-like heat of a summer’s day along with the expected springing to life of leaves and grass and the fulfillment of its promise to provide us with flowers, bees and black flies. The month of May has also provided us with persons and events that have made it an exciting time to think history.
    It was on May 8, 1945 that the Germans officially surrendered and the fighting of World War II ended in Europe. Many celebrated that day as VE Day or as Victory in Europe Day. New Hampshire places of business helped to celebrate the occasion with special messages in advertisements placed in newspapers.


    Willey’s Express announced that “Victorious Allied Troops marched toward the capital of Germany today. The Nazi regime has been crushed. With occupation of the country rapidly approaching completion, the allied war councils moved immediately to mop-up Japan.” Alcide Paquette sporting goods store on Canal Street placed an ad depicting a family listening to the radio and hearing the news that “Germany Surrenders!” The ad asserted that “ Again man will live away from dictatorial domination of those who sought to enslave all of mankind. For all this, we give thanks to our fighting American boys, who again have proved to the world that democracy and the love of liberty conquers all obstacles.” General Mills, with an office in Laconia, NH proclaimed “Honor and Glory to our Fighting Heroes. You are the men to whom we owe our lives and our happiness.” Levasseur’s Men’s Shop on Main Street in Laconia pictured the Statue of Liberty and stated that the victory in Europe increased the beauty and stature of “The Fairest Lady in the Land.” Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • ‘Doc’ Smith – State Veterinarian

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    After reading about the life of Robinson W. Smith, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, I am struck with wonderment as to how the busy and accomplished animal doctor could add so many other activities to his life. Dr. Smith was born in Meredith, New Hampshire on May 18, 1891. He was the son of Joseph F. Smith, a successful farmer in Meredith and a travelling salesman for the American Woolen Company, and Isabelle Robinson Smith. His schooling included attending the local elementary schools , the New Hampton Literary Institute, and the Chicago Veterinary College in Chicago Illinois, graduating with the class of 1915.
    After receiving his degree Dr. Smith came back to New Hampshire and began his veterinary practice in Laconia which proved to be the start of a long and impressive profession. His accomplishments included serving as Belknap County Agricultural Agent from 1917 to1920, followed by becoming an employee of the State Department of Agriculture in Concord in September of 1920 where he was made Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture and Agent in Marketing, and the appointment on July 1, 1921 to be State Veterinarian by the Commissioner of Agriculture, Andrew L. Felker. That appointment was approved by Governor Alfred O. Brown and the Governor’s Council.

    The horse, with Dr. Smith as the driver, was named Elmer Gentry who placed in the money in 54 0f 57 starts. Doc Smith was the driver in 52 of them.

     

    Dr. Robinson W. Smith

    Dr. Smith was not able to serve in World War I because of medical reasons , a situation which led to his involvement with the state extension service. He was married to Ruth Hull , daughter of Charles and Florence Hull of Meredith, on June 25, 1918. During his prep school days at New Hampton Robinson W. Smith was the quarterback of the football team during the years of 1907, 1908, and 1909, and continued playing football during his college years as a half-back.
    As the first State Veterinarian in New Hampshire, in a position he held for over 40 years, Smith established a reputation throughout the United States as a knowledgeable and skilled doctor. He was recognized as an authority on the control and eradication of contagious and infectious diseases of domestic animals. His involvement in professional organizations included being a member of the United States Livestock Sanitary Association as part of its Executive Committee, a member and director of the National Brucellosis Committee, and a director and member of the Executive Committee of Livestock Conservation, Inc. with its offices in Chicago. Under his leadership New Hampshire received national recognition in June of 1960 as a brucellosis free state. The Doctor was one of the organizers and a past president of the New England Veterinary Medical Association as well as a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He also served as the State Chairman for Veterinarians Procurement and Assignment Service during World War II, and was on the National Advisory Committee to the Selective Service.
    In his younger years as the county agricultural agent, Dr. Smith travelled extensively around the countryside, driving his Model T Ford in summer and relying on his horse and sleigh in the winter. He is reported to have routinely travelled through the snow with his horse and sleigh to meet with groups of farmers on winter evenings, instructing the attentive audience on how to keep up with the times with improved agricultural methods.
    Participating in an activity which he described as “a sideline and a hobby” Doc Smith was well-known for his involvement in harness horse racing, both as an owner of trotters and pacers and an official of the sport. Licenses issued by the United States Trotting Association gave him the authority to serve as an official starter and presiding judge anywhere in the United States. Often, though, he would drive his own horses at tracks in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. He served as the Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the New Hampshire Fairs Association of which he was instrumental in organizing in the year 1928, and was a Director of the Plymouth Fair.
    And, as if all that wasn’t enough for the ambitious veterinarian, Dr. Smith was involved politically in the city of Laconia. He described himself as a “staunch Republican”, following the example of his Father, and served as a City Councilman for three years and Mayor of the city for a record of eight years. For at least twenty years he was a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
    So, not so long ago, Dr. Robinson W. Smith made significant contributions to the well-being of not only the Lakes Region, but to all of New Hampshire and the other states of the country, having visited most of them in his campaign to eliminate brucellosis in cattle. His brothers also left their mark on the history of our state, but their stories will have to wait for other articles.


  • 1950s Progressive Production Of Wood Pulp And Paper

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Berlin, New Hampshire, in the state’s north country, has been described as the city that trees built because it had its beginnings as a sawmill and was built around the lumber business. In the year 1956 the Brown Company of Berlin was New England’s largest producer of pulp, paper and paper products and announced in the spring of said year that it was expanding its hardwood purchasing program. This was good news for owners of woodlands because it meant that they would have a market for tree species such as oak, maples, birches and beech as well as the softwood trees like pine and spruce, though the change to hardwood was probably because of the decreasing supply of softwood trees. The Brown Company spokesman indicated that this could help in woodlot management because the owners could profit by thinning their trees with the increasing demand for hardwood pulp.
    Probably many people do not know that paper made from wood is a process that has been around for less than 200 years. Before wood, used rags were a main source of paper-making material, but in 1838 two men, not in contact with each other, were influenced by the idea of making paper out of trees. Friedrich Keller in Germany started thinking about ways to make the idea a reality and in 1845 filed for a patent for a process that made wood pulp into paper. A year earlier, in 1844, the experiments of a Canadian, Charles Fenerty, resulted in successfully processing wood into paper.

    A crane using a sling to unload a truck at the Brown Company in Berlin.

    A hundred and twelve years later the Brown Company in the city that trees built was promising good times for the people of northern New England as it prepared to increase pulpwood production to supply the demand for increased paper and paper products with new equipment . Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • Marie Paul Joseph Roche Ives Gilbert de Mottier Marquis de Lafayette’s Visit To NH

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer
    His official name seems to have no end, but he is known more commonly and more simply as Lafayette by those who remember him, and he is also sometimes referred to as America’s forgotten hero.
    Lafayette was a young French aristocrat who was supportive of the American cause to be independent of England and, at great risk to himself came to this country to help as a leader in the Revolutionary War. This “Citizen of Two Worlds” or “Hero of Two Worlds ”, other labels applied to him because of his acts of valor in America and in his native France, visited New Hampshire in June of 1825 during a return trip to the United States which included visits to all 24 of the States which comprised the country at that time.
    In his June visit Lafayette travelled from Massachusetts to Concord, NH, then to Portland, Maine and back to Concord, before continuing west in New Hampshire and into Vermont. He was in the United States at the invitation of President James Monroe in consultation with Congress 40 years after the Revolutionary War and was greeted with many accolades as he moved from state to state.

    George Washington and Lafayette on horseback at Valley Forge.

    In his book about Lafayette, published in 1879, A.A. Parker mentions a meeting with Rev. Dr. Dana on his way to Concord and a visit with him to a ladies school run by a Miss Grant. I wonder if this was the Rev. Dr. Dana from New Hampton who served as a physician, preacher and teacher and for whom the Dana Meeting House where he preached is named. Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • When A Newspaper Built Houses

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    It is not unusual for a local newspaper company to report the news concerning a building project in the community it serves, but it is exceptional for the media to be doing the building project unless it involves its own facilities. Nevertheless, during the depression years of the 1930’s The Laconia Evening Citizen conducted its own home building program in an apparently successful effort to help stimulate the local economy.
    Begun in 1935 under the leadership of the newspaper’s owner, Edward J. Gallagher, a plan was established to build ten “Model Homes” over a period of time in different areas of the city which would provide jobs for local laborers, a home for a local family, and encourage others to build nearby.
    The national unemployment rate in 1935 was 20.1 percent and the New Deal under President Roosevelt was begun along with the Work Progress Act to provide jobs for millions of Americans.

    One of the model homes built by the Laconia Citizen beginning in 1935.

    Those who were working in the United States in 1935 had an average income of $1,600.00 a year. A new house on average cost $3,450.00 and those who rented payed an average of $22 a month. The ground-breaking for Laconia Evening Citizen Model Home One took place on June 15, 1935 on Belknap Street with the then mayor of the city, Walter E. Dunlap as the contractor. Financing for the first and the following nine model homes was provided by the Laconia Building and Loan Association, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the Association, E. Harrison Merrill said of the project after the sale of the third home: “This is a remarkable contribution to community progress on the part of our daily newspaper since in every instance erection of other homes has been stimulated by the fact that the Citizen goes ahead and does it.” Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • 1923 NH Legislature… “Lots Of Fun But No Laws”

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    It was the year that Robert Frost’s book of poems titled “ New Hampshire” was published, the Laconia Car Company manufactured its last railway cars, and Governor Brown signed a bill giving the University of New Hampshire its name. It was also the year that the legislature was to work on tax reform in the State, but news editor and soon to become New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, Hobart Brownside Pillsbury, indicated that the tax reformers had lots of fun but produced no laws during their January to May session in the year 1923. In the January issue of The Granite Monthly magazine an article titled “A Program for Taxation ” by Raymond B. Stevens declared that “The most important and difficult question before the coming legislature is the question of taxation.” He maintained that New Hampshire’s “…system of taxation is antiquated, and entirely inadequate for modern conditions.”

     
    The Democrats, who controlled the House of Representatives, through its State committee chairman, Robert Jackson of Concord, declared that their branch of the legislature had been one of the most successful in the history of the State. The Republicans, who controlled the Senate, felt that they should be congratulated for keeping what they considered to be the radical ideas of the Democrats from becoming law. Hobart Pillsbury wrote on April 21st that since New Year’s the Legislature had “… accomplished a good deal, although no bill has been passed yet that amounts to anything. None will be passed, no matter how long the session lasts. This, however, is satisfactory to all concerned.”
    Pillsbury obviously believed that legislators could accomplish as much sometimes by defeating proposed legislation rather than passing it, and could have fun doing it. So maybe we can have fun pondering what the tax reformers in the House of Representatives proposed that the opposition Senators rejected. The majority leader in the Senate was Republican Leon D. Ripley and the Democrat Ovide J. Coulombe of Berlin was the minority leader. The House passed a bill to eliminate the poll tax for women, but the Senate defeated the bill on party lines, 13 to 8, leading Pillsbury to observe that the action meant “…that the fair sex will not be prohibited from enjoying the pleasure of equality with men in paying a poll tax.” The poll tax had to be paid to allow a person to vote. Another House supported bill was to impose a one cent tax on gasoline along with a bill to establish a highway fund into which would be deposited all fees and taxes related to automobiles. Another tax bill passed by the representatives, but not by the senators, involved inheritances. This was a flat rate tax with heirs divided into three classes with different rates applied. The first class was direct heirs with a two percent tax levied upon them. The second class was referred to as collateral heirs, like brothers or sisters, who were to be taxed at six per cent, and the third class was to be other collateral heirs, who would be assessed a ten per cent tax. An additional inheritance tax bill was passed which made the state a collateral heir, which Pillsbury described as “…sort of a second cousin, twice removed…” that would be entitled to a certain percentage of estates above $50,000. Taxes on savings bank deposits were cut by one-third in an effort to encourage the New Hampshire banks to increase their dividends which were lower than those in Massachusetts which, it was claimed, held fifty million dollars of money belonging to New Hampshire residents.
    In 1923 if you owned an automobile you were thought to be rich, so legislators looked for ways to raise money through fees and taxes on the owners and to pass regulations to control the use of vehicles. Efforts were made to pass a bill introducing compulsory insurance on automobiles. The House of Representatives passed a bill placing mandatory jail sentences on drunken drivers. No fines were to be assessed and no jail sentences could be suspended. The first conviction for the drunken driver was a sixty day jail sentence and the repeat offender would be sent to the state prison for six months and lose their driver’s license for one to three years. Hobart Pillsbury’s comment about this proposed law was that “It was argued that if this bill could pass there would be no need of compulsory insurance, because an automobile is dangerous only when there is gasoline in the car and whiskey in the driver.”
    As the legislators of New Hampshire adjourned their 1923 session in May, the first of the politicians who were preparing to run for President of the United States in the nation’s first primary was beginning his campaign. His name was David S. Beach and he was from Connecticut. Mr. Beach seemed to think that he could save the country and the world from financial disaster and spread the wealth around, but he also advocated abolishing state governments which would mean that there would be no need for state governors or legislators. Mr. Pillsbury insisted that such a candidate would not find support in a state like New Hampshire where “All the inhabitants … outside of the state prison, and some of them inside, hope someday to sit in the Legislature unless they have already done so…”.
    Maybe Mr. Anderson, who felt that there was unequal taxation and large amounts of wealth that escaped taxation, had a more favorable response to Mr. Beach’s plan to share more of the wealth of the nations between individuals.
    One victory for the Democrats in 1923 was the appointment of one of their own, Rev. Ora W. Craig as the state commissioner of law enforcement, which, according to Mr. Pillsbury, meant that he was the commissioner of prohibition. He had several deputies who secretly worked under him, and the common opinion was “When a stranger invades a quiet New Hampshire community , he is assumed to be a prohibition deputy until proven otherwise.”

    Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr. lives in New Hampton.


  • Saving Daylight In New Hampshire

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    Daylight Savings Time, though perhaps never considered a major political or social issue, seems to have always been a controversial idea, particularly when we realize that we mere humans cannot change the amount of daylight so we try to adjust our schedules to get the most out of what is given to us, verifying that we usually prefer light over darkness.
    Having lived at different times in several different states, my observation is that some people seem to handle the change from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time and vice versa more easily than do others. As the Pastor of a church in rural Pennsylvania, I was surprised to find that during the period of Daylight Savings Time a husband and wife among my good parishioners used different timepieces. The husband refused to change from Standard Time based on his belief that Daylight Savings Time was the Devil’s time. The Mrs. set her clock ahead one hour at the prescribed time in the Spring, so when the clock on her side of the bed read 8:00 o’clock, the clock on his side of the bed read 7:00 o’clock. They arrived at the church building on Sunday mornings together in the same car, but he was there at 8:30 and she at 9:30.

    Ohio Clock in the U.S. Capitol being turned forward for the country’s first daylight saving time in 1918. Daylight Savings Time has been a controversial subject over the years. This year the New Hampshire legislature is considering going to Atlantic Time year round. Writer Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr. looks at the history of Daylight Savings Time and more this week.

    Continue reading  Post ID 3058


  • A NH Child’s Winter In The 1940’S

    NotSoLongAgo_Blog

    by Robert Hanaford Smith, Sr._DSC2528
    Weirs Times Contributing Writer

    In past columns I’ve written about scenes from my childhood during the spring, summer, and fall, so it seems advisable now to share some of the winter experiences while we are still in the season.
    New England country roads with dirt (sand and gravel) surfaces became sledding trails for the boys and girls of my era. Actually those I played with called it sliding. We used sleds, with an occasional toboggan or traverse, but we went sliding on the roads and in the fields when the conditions were right. Our sleds were of the flexible flyer variety with metal runners and frame underneath wood slats with a wood handle for steering. Packed snow on the hills of a dirt road surface as the result of being run over by car tires became a good place to use our sleds. The limited vehicle traffic travelled our Dana Hill Road at slow speeds and if we met one on a ride down the hill we simply turned into the snow bank beside the road for a quick stop. There were times when our school recesses became sliding times as we took our sleds up the hilly road a quarter of a mile or more and slid down to the schoolhouse where the teacher had stopped traffic heading up the hill. The town sanding dump truck was not a welcome sight for us. In those days the bed of the truck was lifted to let the sand slide out, sometimes assisted with a man with a shovel at the back of the truck. Slippery roads meant that it was time to get out the tire chains for cars and trucks. If the conditions were right in the hay field below our house, meaning a crusty surface strong enough to support sled and child, we would slide there after school. Sometimes the sleds runners would break through the crust and stop abruptly, with the rider continuing to slide by himself on the snow.

    Robert Hanaford Smith’s oldest brother, Raymond,Jr. who had the nickname “Skip”, with his sister Virginia (now Virginia Haas) who being the only girl was called “Sister”.

    I have experienced the inevitable facial scrapes and bruises from those episodes. Large pieces of cardboard were found to be safer substitutes for the runner sleds under certain conditions. The eastern side of our field provided a steeper but shorter hill for sliding, but we had to maneuver between the apple trees and there were saplings along the edge of the field. One Christmas I had received some new lumberjack style heavy wool winter trousers with black and red checks and wore them as I slid down the hill among the apple trees,into the clear at the bottom of the hill, continuing into the saplings beyond which stopped me. Somehow, maybe from a nail from the sled, my new trousers sustained a large tear in them. I cried as I returned to the house, knowing that my parents weren’t going to be pleased with what I had to show them. I wasn’t hurt; the crying was to exhibit remorse, and maybe it did hurt a little, but I escaped the application of any additional pain applied as punishment.


    My boyhood winters were not all play, there were chores to do, such as sawing and splitting wood, filling the kitchen and sitting room wood boxes morning and evening, feeding, watering and bedding the animals, cleaning out the tie-up, and shoveling snow after the storms, washing dishes, and sometimes hanging up wet clothes to dry. If the weather was thought warm enough they were hung outside even in winter.I do recall times when I found my union suit (longjohns) frozen stiff on the clothesline.
    I had siblings, so we shared the chores, and sometimes they were related to our 4-H projects. One of my memories is that of mixing grain and warm water in a pail in our kitchen and feeding the pigs twice a day. By the way the tie-up was that section of the barn where the cattle were tied up and spent a good part of the winter. Cleaning it meant shoveling the manure out of an open window onto the manure pile in back of the barn. In the barn yard there was a concrete water receptacle for the cows which was in a wood enclosure. We used an axe to cut through the ice which sometimes built up considerably during the winter months. Milking the cow was another of the jobs that we boys had to learn to do, along with separating the cream from the milk and operating the churn to make butter.
    A lot of activity took place in and around the barn. One winter’s day I discovered a red fox curled up in the snow behind the barn sleeping and decided I would find a way to kill it, so I found a brother (maybe two) to help me dispatch it. We found a long wooden pole and plotted to sneak up to the fox and whack it on the head with the pole, hoping that would kill it. (I remembered visiting our neighbors in past years, the Leslie Smith family, and walking through a shed with multiple fox and probably other animal pelts.) On approaching we realized that the animal was not sleeping, but already dead. The dead fox was taken to Leonard Huckins who skinned it for us, so we had our own fur pelt, which the last I remember was stored in a bureau drawer.
    We slept upstairs in unheated bedrooms on rope beds with cotton filled mattresses and on the really cold nights soapstones were heated on the wood stove, wrapped in newspapers, and used as foot-warmers. After school I sometimes visited the cellar to grab an apple to eat while I read about a famous person in one of the orange covered book series by a publisher I don’t remember and/or listened to a radio adventure program such as “Sky King” or “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon”. Saturday nights we ate beans for supper and sometimes had leftover beans for breakfast on Sunday morning, and maybe bean sandwiches for lunch on Monday. Of course, Saturday night was bath night when the galvanized metal tub was brought out and placed on the kitchen floor beside the stove with its’ water reservoir where enough hot water was available. On Sunday evenings, after the Sunday afternoon church services at the schoolhouse, we popped popcorn on the stove which was eaten with milk with perhaps a sour pickle on the side. If the static on the radio wasn’t too bad we listened to “Amos and Andy”, “George Burns and Gracie Allen”, “Jack Benny” and “Our Miss Brooks”. And I must not forget school, since that dominated weekdays from nine a.m.to three p.m. The black chalkboards and the squeal of the chalk writing upon them, the desks with the built in inkwells to supply ink for our pens before the ball-point ones arrived, the long settees used for group activities and guests to sit in, the wood stove with the circular medal enclosure around it, and the making of valentines for every pupil during craft times are all part of my memories. There was a contest for the best valentine, but everyone knew that Peter Emmons would be the winner, not because he was the teacher’s nephew, but because he was the most artistic person in school.
    So there is a quick sketch of my childhood in winter though much more could be added. I have some closing advice to the sledders, though. Be careful and don’t take foolish chances. Know where your sled will stop before you start and never try to slide under a barb-wire fence, it’s not worth the risk, even though some have successfully kept their heads low enough to survive that stunt.

    Robert Hanaford ,Sr. lives in New Hampton.