Windham Life and Times – February 17, 2017

A Winter Field



I seem to be napping more this winter, the sweet surrender, giving into the impulse to close my heavy eyes…only for a second, then clap, clap, clap… as somebody appoints themselves as the guardian of my private slumber. And the dreams, the dreams have been coming fast and furious, a torrent; fantastic dreams, of places that are falling down and places that seem so similar but distorted, a dystopian world, the longing to correct some wrong, or simply to find peace, in the frenzy of searching and never finding in the watches of the night.  So in the height of mid-winter nocturnal whiteness, a poem or two, inspired by an old newspaper clipping from 1982. “Peaceful Setting. Tranquility abounds in this field off Lowell Road in Windham, N.H. The unused hay-rake and barn in the background seem to be waiting for warmer days and busier times.”

Conceit And The Hay Rake: A Rural Patriarchy.

John Kinsella, “The Silo”

The hand can but suggest, there’s no touching

the subject—conceit and the hay rake have so much

in common when nothing’s left to the imagination:

in the absence of confession, the camera aside,

depth of field obscuring the intentions, details

catch in the fangs of the hay rake, old and fractious,

trapped in its rusted skin and chipped nail polish.

Carpe Diem it seems to say sarcastically, Carpe Diem.

Treading carefully, you continue to prompt: consider

the light, it may be in your eye but I need it over

my shoulder; consider your beauty, wheels that are

solar systems, a solidity that defies the scrap yard.

So ready! But what is this you’re saying? Discordia

Concors? Okay, don’t smile, but consider anyway.

A Dream Within a Dream

Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

This much let me avow:

You are not wrong who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,

In a vision, or in none,

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand–

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep–while I weep!

O God! can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?


This poem is for my wife, who always sees her morning “murder” of crows as a welcome sight. Just for reference, a flock of crows is known as a “murder” of crows.

“This more poetic term for a flock of crows can be traced back at least to the 15th century, when it was recorded as a murther of crowes. Murther is a variant of Middle English murthre ‘murder,’ though the “th” sound had begun to be replaced with a d around 1300 C.E. There are several theories as to how this particular term came about, but all of them have to do with the supposed behavior of crows. For instance, crows are scavengers and therefore often seen feeding on rotting bodies of various sorts. Survivors of wars have described how the battlefields were covered in black as crows (and ravens) came down to eat the dead. Another theory hearkens back to old folklore which told of groups of crows essentially holding court over members of their flock that had committed offenses. If they decide against the “defendant” crow, then the rest of the flock swoops down on it and kills it. There are legends outside of the Germanic culture that relate to crows being judges over people as well, and how their appearance is an omen of death.”

Crows in Winter

By Vivian Smith

“An Island South”


They’ve come at last these wild crows,

The snow is heaped both fresh and hard,

To sit upon the silent tree,

That drew the wind into the yard.


Magic birds from long ago,

why have you come to visit me,

wearing still your gallows clothes?

Once you knew the hangman’s tree.


But know; I see you merely stare

Alone, ahead. There is no sun.

The sky is grey and without shape;

So was the world when just begun,


and from the stones another bird

Flaps to the tree and shakes, ignored,

His shabby, cracked , and tired wings;

He’s angry, full of spite and bored;


And through the winter calm there runs

His shallow, broken, strident cry.

Heraldic birds and birds of dreams,

Strips of rock and storm-filled sky,


and they stare and crouch, indifferent;

their eyes are deadened with distrust.

The new snow falls and spirals down

Gently falling—where it must.





Windham Life and Times – February 10, 2017

Mystery in Stone

Windham NH stone beehive on Beacon Hill Road

Windham NH stone beehive on Beacon Hill Road


There are hundreds of mysterious stone structures found throughout New England. There is no one consensus about who built them or why. The most famous stone structures, locally, can be found at Mystery Hill, in North Salem. It is argued by some that these were built as root cellars for the early settler’s, or by others that they were built by the Native Americans. The most interesting conjecture was by William Goodwin, who believed that they were built by Celtic Culdee monks, long before the advent of the Norsemen. He outlines all his theories in his book “The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England.” There is even a researcher who believes that they were built by a lost colony of the Knights Templars and that they are connected to Oak Island in Nova Scotia. Steven Sora’s book is “The Lost Colony of the Templars: Verrazano’s Secret Mission to America.

Windham too, is home to these structures. Butterfield Rock in Windham, looks exactly like a huge, megalithic Dolmen  similar to those found in Europe, that were constructed between 3,000-7,000 B.C. Then there is the nicely preserved beehive structure that is located on Beacon Hill Road in Windham. Large stone slabs make up the roof and the floor. NEARA created a site report for this structure. There are over 800 of these stone structures scattered throughout New England. The question then becomes how, why, when and by whom were they built?

If you ever feel that you want to travel down the rabbit hole surrounding these mysterious stone structures, then head online to the New England Antiquities Research Association website at: The photographs are fascinating and you’ll spend an hour or so with your mouth wide open, just wondering why these stone structures exist in New England.  If this isn’t strange enough, check out Ancient Origins at You’ll learn about the cover-up of the Smithsonian and other prestigious archeological research institutions. It seems that these institutions had an agenda and they did not like what was being found in the ground, because it did not back up their theory of origins.  Why were the skeletons of real giants, with red hair, double rows of teeth and six fingers, showing up in large numbers in ancient Indian burial mounds? Did they build the megaliths? Why was is said of Passaconway, one of the most famous Native American sachems in New England, that he was extremely tall, had red hair and could perform magic. Of course, we know what ancient alien theorists would say, don’t we. Well here’s what I say, human beings understand less than 1% of the reality of existence . Most of human perception is acquired from outside of us, through bits of information over time, that creates a personal narrative loop in our minds, that feels perfectly rational, but much of which is simply false. The truth about ancient origins is beyond our current understanding and if we could know for sure, I think it would be much stranger than fiction. Its in admitting our unknowing, from inside,  that truth is found. Wow, I feel much better, and totally liberated now!

A huge Megalith? Butterifield Rock in Windham NH. The work of glaciers or something else?

A huge Megalith? Butterfield Rock in Windham NH. The work of glaciers or something else?

Returning to Windham, the biggest mystery surrounds the stone chambers destroyed by the construction of Interstate 93 in the 1960’s. NEARA created a Site Report and interviewed Andy Griffin, the owner of the land on February 8, 1965.  In the report it is noted that he has photographs of the structures. The report states “I did not know anything about this site nor was I told anything about it by Mr. Eltson, until I found the above mentioned ‘Mystery Hill’ questionnaire while refiling Mystery Hill information. I called Mr. Griffin on 2/3/65 and obtained the following information on sheet 2 of this report.”

  • “The (two) Beehives were completely destroyed for construction of new Interstate Route 93.
  • There were 2 (two) Beehives plus 1 large rock with inscriptions on it. He saved the large rock by having it bulldozed out of the way. It is still preserved on his property (Griffin Park). (Note-This jives with a story I was told in the Winter of 1963 by Bill Morrill of Chester, N.H., who had operated the bulldozer that moved the rock.)
  • There was one other large rock or roof slab that had many drill holes on it. It wasn’t saved and it along with the other stuff is now under the North bound lane of Route 93.
  • Mr. Griffin took about 6 pictures (colored) before the Site was destroyed.
  • In 1959 (sometime after the questionnaire was filled out) he took Mr. R Elston (then Manger of Mystery Hill) along with some tall lanky professor and his son to see the Beehives on a very rainy evening. (Note-I was never informed of this).
  • The professor told him that it wouldn’t do any good to try to have them saved seeing as how they couldn’t save the large Site in Mass. To make room for Route 495. (Note—this Site must have been the Hill of Cairns, in Bolton, Mass.) The site in Mass. Included many Beehives (note-This is questionable).
  • There is still another oddity on this property and that is some sort of built-up earth work like a small watershed.
  • Mr. Griffin told of seeing a book in the Lawrence Library concerning caves in New England. The book stated that the North Salem structures were the largest and should be surrounded within 3 or 4 miles by many single structures.
  • Mr. Griffin lives on Route 111A (Range Road) (about 1 mile from the Jct. of 111A and 111) (Near Route 93 interchange.)
  • Has a lane between house and barn, down this lane about 1/2 mile is the rock he saved. It now rests on another slab.
  • The Rock Slab with the markings on it that he saved is about 18’ x 3’ x 4’ and it was once part of the entrance of one of the beehives. It was one of the bottom rocks.
  • This particular beehive was badly damaged, so much so that the front roof slab was on the ground next to the above mentioned slab.
  • He, Elston, and the Professor pulled moss off from the roof slab, and found a series of round drill holes. The professor said that some early Colonialist tried to use the rock for something else, and gave up.
  • The rock with the markings actually has only one marking and it is a “V” shaped wedge mark across the top.
  • The pictures he took are 35 mm slides and he will try to find them for me to have copied.
  • The Professor was very angry in that he would need about 6 months to excavate the structures and wouldn’t be able to come back until about 2 weeks. By then, it was to be destroyed.
  • I asked him again if the Hill of Cairns at Bolton Mass. had beehives on it. The professor had told him that it did.”

Note: On February 20, 1965, I went to Mr. Griffin’s property and found the slab with the “V” marking. I took three pictures each of B&W and colored.   R.E. Stone, February 24, 1965.

The following is the description of the site the Any Griffin wrote on the Mystery Hill questionnaire: On the west shore of Canobie Lake we have a location which seems as if it might have some connection with your caves. It appears to be a single hut with large stones similar to your type. It is a considerable distance from any building and on the side of a hill. It appears as though the large stones have been hauled some 300 feet or more to the present site. If you care to take a look at the location you may contact me at Murdock 3-1217. A.J. Griffin.

Of course, there was one other stone structure like these in Windham. It was on Butterfield Rock Road. It was destroyed when Chestnut Street was built in the 1980’s. We came upon it on a Boy Scout hike, when I was a kid. Meetinghouse Road was still a dirt path through the woods and Butterfield Rock Road was even rougher and narrower. The stone structure was built into a hill, was quite large, and was in kind of an open meadow at that time.



Windham Life and Times – January 27, 2017

100 Years Ago in Windham

Frank Ayer's Cottage about 1898 as shown in the Granite Monthly.

Frank Ayer’s Cottage about 1898 as shown in the Granite Monthly


“WINDHAM, January 23.—Fishing through the ice at Cobbett’s Pond has been largely engaged in this winter. One pickerel 25 inches long is reported.”

“Frank H. Ayer, who recently died in Nashua, leaving a large estate and no immediate family, was the owner of ‘Pioneer Cottage,’ the first summer camp on Cobbett’s Pond, which he and others built in the spring of 1886.” (Died January 12th)


     Frank Hamilton Ayer was born in Nashua N.H., June 21, 1857. His parents were Francis Brown Ayer, M.D. and his wife Anne Marie (Baldwin) Ayer. His boyhood passed in his native city and his preparation for Yale was completed at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. From the time of graduation until 1891 he was connected with the Nashua Bobbin and Shuttle Company, of which he was at one time president and treasurer. In the latter year he retired from the above company and became the Eastern representative of the Ironton Door and Manufacturing Company, of Ironton, Ohio. In 1905, he relinquished his position and entered upon the real estate business in Nashua, largely in connection with his own investments and his interest in the development of Nashua. He was an enthusiastic golfer and built the first golf course in New Hampshire. He denies having ever indulged in extended travel, or having engaged in politics or any other avocations which offer themselves to the average citizen, and leaves it to be inferred that he has limited his activities exclusively to his business and family affairs. He married January 26, 1887, Ellen Frances Batchelder, daughter of Orison and Anne Maria (Clark) Batchelder of Manchester, N.H.. They have no children. “He hated sham and was a scornful critic of the bootlicking of his day and generation.” His wife died in 1910. History of the Class of Eighty, Yale Alumni Weekly


      The Nashua Bobbin and Spool Company is a long-established industry. Of its origin and progress in earlier times we have already written. It has supplied mills in every part of the country. Within a few months it has been reorganized with Frank H. Ayer, president and treasurer; G.H. Hatch, clerk; and Ira Cross, superintendent. It makes bobbins, spools and shuttles for all kinds of textile fabrics,–cotton, woolen, silk, linen, hemp and jute; also rollers for skates and other kinds of wood-work. The works are located on Water Street. The floorage of the shops is nearly three acres, and its business this year one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and in good times twice that amount. White birch and maple are material for spools and shuttles, but of late dog-wood and persimmon are shipped from North Carolina. History of Nashua NH.


Windham Life and Times – January 20. 2017

Roadside Nostalgia

The Bea's on Route 11o in Methuen, Atomic Subs in Salem

The Bea’s on Route 110 in Methuen, Atomic Subs in Salem


Maybe its because I’m writing this at lunchtime and I haven’t eaten, I don’t know, but I’ve been overcome by a wave of nostalgia for the foodie heaven of my childhood. I know this isn’t exactly “Windham History” but if you lived in this town in the fifties, sixties and seventies you were familiar with these iconic road-side places.

Atomic Submarine was located on Route 28, in Salem, where the Burger King is today. According to they opened on 1965 and remained at the same location until 1984. The shop opened in the former VW dealership. The reason this place is so important to me, is not because of the food. You see, right next door there was a slot car place, where my brother and I used to hang out for hours on end.  One Saturday, we had our cars on the track as usual, when some kid came in yelling, “The Rolling Stones are next door at Atomic Subs.” And it was true. As I remember it, they were driving a van behind which they were pulling a trailer with their equipment. I confirmed this memory with my brother who was four years older at the time and for whom a Rolling Stones sighting was much more an impressive event. I remember eating the subs there. According to they offered a sub called the “Atlas” that was three feet long. Bill Littlewood and his wife Marge eventually owned 20 stores in the area and there was talk of going national but it soon all came to an end because of a dishonest book-keeper or so the story goes.

When I think back on the cutlet sandwiches that we used to get at Bea’s, my mouth begins to water. You remember how the huge cutlet, hung 3 inches beyond the roll. Legend has it that the family started making sandwiches from their tenement kitchen in Lawrence. I remember the Lawrence store on Broadway very well. The inside was gleaming stainless steel and mirrors. When I was a kid, I was totally intrigued by the mirrors, because they were  huge and on opposite walls, so they produced an unique optical illusion, with me descending into infinity and beyond. My grandfather, in the midst of a heart attack, asked to stop and get a Bea’s cutlet sandwich before they took him to the hospital. They were really that good!!!


With the new Ray Kroc, “McDonalds” movie hitting theaters, it is appropriate to remember that New England’s first fast food restaurant was Howdy Beef Burgers. The one in Salem looked just like the one pictured. The chain was started by William Rosenberg, who also owned the Dunkin Donuts chain. They were hugely popular, probably because they were fast and cheap, unlike today. And the fries were really great, also unlike today, when all fast food fries pretty much suck. You could get a burger, incredible fries and a coke for just 37 cents.


Of course, before Howdy Beef Burger there was the A&W Root Beer on Route 28, where they took your order and hung the tray on the side of your car.  There was also “Joes” which had great food and was always packed. As a kid, I remember waiting in line to get into that place!  I went for the red Jello and whipped cream which I was allowed to have if I ate my meal. And who could forget Findeisen’s ice cream stand. Chocolate marshmallow ice cream, under the willow trees by the Spicket River.  I really need to go and eat lunch… but I’m just now remembering the nice older Italian lady who used to serve me incredibly delicious meatball subs after high school, at “Gateside,” across from Canobie Lake Park…OK, OK, I’m off to lunch!!!



Windham Life and Times – January 12, 2017




Ben and Josefa Markewich owned Castle Hill Farm in West Windham. It was one of the largest farms in town, running along both sides of Castle Hill Road and up Mount Ephraim  to where Heritage Hill and Bennington Roads are located today.   They ran a successful dairy farm which at one time had more than 65 cows, during the 30’s and 40’s. Josefa is shown above with the cows in front of her house. Winter brought different chores to the farm, like cutting ice for the household refrigeration and milk.




Windham Life and Times – January 6, 2017

Leaving Ireland

The Blight of Emigration Statues, are located on Derry Harbor, Northern Ireland. The man moves resolutely ahead, while the woman and child look back toward what’s being left behind.

The Blight of Emigration Statues, are located on Derry Harbor, Northern Ireland. The man moves resolutely ahead, while the woman and child look back toward what’s being left behind.


Leaving is such a revolutionary act! Staying in the place where you were born, among friends and relatives, and living within the scenery that has greeted you day in and day out is the easy path. The hard way, the path not taken by many of us, is to simply leave. To leave everything behind and to begin life anew.

A recent BBC article calls the Reverend James McGregor, the Moses of his Scotch-Irish flock, who lead his humble congregation to the promised land of America. “He was a veteran of the Siege of Londonderry and in 1701, Mr. McGregor, who was a fluent Irish speaker, became the pastor of a small Presbyterian church in Aghadowey. In 1710, the synod gave him the privilege of preaching in Irish. At that stage, Presbyterians were not allowed to hold office, teach or to conduct most civil ceremonies such as marriages and funerals. In early summer of 1718, Mr. McGregor and the major part of his congregation set sail for Boston on the brigantine Robert. The group consisted of about 200 people, primarily from 16 families and ranging in age from babies to an elderly couple aged 90.”

“The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland holds the session minute book for Aghadowey congregation, 1702-61, that covers the period when the Rev McGregor was minister of the congregation. The session minutes reveal the level of poverty in the area as illustrated by the increasing number of named poor people receiving assistance from the church recorded at almost every meeting of session up to and beyond 1718.  This was undoubtedly due to a succession of poor harvests, a downturn in the linen industry and high rents. The congregation struggled continually to support their minister in stipend, corn, a farm and lodgings to the extent that when McGregor left in 1718, he was owed two years stipend amounting to £80.  Clearly, economic conditions played a significant factor in the decision of many to emigrate. (Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland.) 


Presbyterian Church in Aghadowey, Northern Ireland

     Still even with the poverty and oppression, it would have been easier to stay, and many of the family members of those that left, did stay behind in Ireland. McGregor, gently prodding his congregation, to leave, promising as a group, they would be able to take on the wilderness with God’s help.

On the eve before embarking, Rev. McGregor gave a sermon, the manuscript which was preserved and related by Edward Parker in his History of Londonderry. “His discourse was from the appropriate words of Moses, when conducting the chosen tribes to the promised land: ‘If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.’  In the application of the subject of their emigration, he states the following as reasons of their removal to America. 1. To avoid oppression and cruel bondage. 2 To shun persecution and designed ruin. 3. To withdraw from the communion of idolaters. 4. To have the opportunity of worshiping God, according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of the inspired word.”

Here is the account from Morrison’s, Among the Scotch-Irish: “On a certain September morning, in the year 1718, a cavalcade, in which women and children, whose dress and bearing bespoke the farming class, might have been seen leaving Aghadowey by the Derry road. In the cavalcade were a number of old-fashioned wheel-cars, with their low, solid wheels and broad bottoms, upon which were piled provisions, wearing apparel, and household effects. Accompanying the procession and acting as guide, philosopher, and friend, was a clergyman in the prime of life, and dressed in the simple garb of the Presbyterian ministers of that period. The clergyman was accompanied by his son, a boy of eight summers, whose name is now accorded and honored place in the national biography of the Great Republic of the West. As the cavalcade wends it way along the road, the people are ever and anon casting regretful looks at the waving fields of golden corn, the green valleys, and the wooded hills now assuming an autumnal brown, of their native parish.”

“The cavalcade is a band of emigrants, of about 100 families, on their way to Derry, there to embark for the Western World. The clergyman is Rev. James McGregor, second minister of the Presbyterian congregation, of Aghadowey, to which all the families belonged, and who accompanied them to America. The reasons which induced theses people to leave their native land and undertake a voyage across the Atlantic, which in those days was tedious and full of hardships, and to face the uncertain prospects of new settlers, were partly religious and partly agrarian. Being Presbyterians, they were subjected to the unjust and insulting provisions of the Test Act, under which it was penal for a person of their persuasion to teach a school or to hold the humblest office in the State. Then again, at the time of the Revolution, when a considerable part of the country lay waste, and when the whole framework of society was shattered, land had been let on lease at very low rents to the Presbyterian tenants. About 1717-1718 these leases began to fall in, and the rents were usually doubled and frequently tripled. Hence farmers became discouraged, and a number of them belonging to Aghadowey formed the design of emigrating to America, where they would be able to reap the fruits of their own industry.” Other Scotch-Irish on other ships joined them. The Robert landed in Boston, the 14th of October, 1718.

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