Windham Life and Times – January 14, 2022

Windham’s Native Sons

The Brothers John and Thomas Nesmith

    The Nesmith brothers, John and Thomas, were two of Windham’s most successful native sons, making a fortune speculating on and investing in the mill cities of Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts. The two brothers grew up with a full exposure to business as their father John Nesmith was a local merchant in Windham.

     John Nesmith (the father) was born on March 29,1762 and lived on the family homestead in Windham which consisted of over 400 acres. He succeeded his father on the homestead in town, and with him lived his aged mother. The original house was  “a roomy old place, consisting of 17 rooms, with a store attached, and a large hall connected with it, which was a famous place for balls and dances in ‘ye olden time.’ A respectable assortment of goods was kept in the store, and a good business done. Mr. Nesmith was successful as a business man. He had just returned from Newburyport, where he had purchased goods, when he was taken with his last sickness, of which he died in a few days, at age of 44 years. His death occurred February 20, 1806, leaving a widow and nine children.  John would have been thirteen at the time of his father’s death, and Thomas would have been eighteen. Luckily for the family, the matriarch, Lucy Martin Nesmith, “possessed remarkable business abilities” which her sons inherited. “Though lame, and obliged to use a crutch, she was able to perform more than most of women. Her portrait is now in the possession of descendants, pictures a face beautiful in expression and of strongly marked character. With the aid of her sons she carried on the store for a few years, until her second marriage to Deacon Daniel McKeen, November 4, 1820. She took her two younger children with her to her new home, the others remaining on the homestead with the grandmother. After the death of Deacon McKeen, November 4, 1820, she returned to her old home, where she remained till near the close of her life.”

     Thomas Nesmith was the favorite of his grandmother, who after the departure of his mother became the head of the Nesmith household in Windham. Morrison says, “Being named for his grandfather, he was especially dear to the heart of his long-widowed grandmother. With whom much of his early life was spent. His education was such as could be obtained from the district schools, and the high school, now Pinkerton Academy, in Derry, taught at that time by Mr. Samuel Burnham.”

     ‘His father dying at the age of forty-four, leaving a family of nine children, his mother decided to continue the store which her husband had operated in one of the rooms of their own home. In this additional labor she had the assistance of her older boys, and here Thomas remained until about 1810, when he went into business for himself.”

     Morrison continues, “The importation of linen in those days being altogether inadequate to the demand for it, the thread, as well as cloth was spun and woven in various households throughout the country towns. Through this home industry, Thomas thought he saw a way to lay the foundation of a fortune. Buying a horse and one of those primitive two two-wheeled carts then in use, he collected thread, carried it home to his grandmother to color, and his sisters to make into skeins; then took it with the cloth to Lynn, and other large towns, where it found a ready sale. By this means, at the end of a few years he had accumulated six thousand dollars, and could engage his business somewhat. He hired a room, in 1815, of Robert Clark, near the meeting-house in Windham, in which he opened a store with his brother John, with whom he associated as long as he remained in active business. During this period of life he took an active part in the affairs of Windham, and acted as town clerk in 1821.” Six Thousand dollars was a small fortune in the early 19th century, earned with intelligence, hard work, perseverance and overcoming  adversity while trained by the example of his father and remarkable mother.

    “In 1822, Mr. James Nesmith took the Windham store, and the brothers Thomas and John, removed to Derry, occupying the old store of Patterson & Choate, now a dwelling-house. It was during this period of his life that Mr. Nesmith met Lucinda Fay, whom he married May 20, 1832. She was then in Derry as principal of the Adams Female Seminary, and was a woman possessing a fine, strong religious nature, as well as much personal beauty. She was the daughter of Winslow and Betsey (Colburn) Fay, and was born in Lebanon, N.H., June 12, 1810, and was educated at Miss Grant’s school in Ipswich, Mass.” (For those of you keeping up and who are good at math, she was 22 years younger than Mr. Nesmith, he being 44 and she 22. I guess, sometimes, money can buy love…)

     “ Mr. John Nesmith after this went into the commission business in New York City, where he was soon joined by Thomas, but they remained there only a short time. The Livermore estate in Lowell was advertised for sale, (150 prime acres) and the brothers decided at once to purchase it and live permanently in that city. (Belvidere Historic District) Mr. Nesmith was never afterwards connected with any active business outside his own private affairs. What Mr. Nesmith’s special characteristics were, may be told by an old friend and neighbor: ‘To great diligence, he through life added sound judgement and forethought, which produced very remarkable results of gain with small percentage of loss. He accumulated a large estate, but only by regular business transactions. He defrauded no man and left no enemies. His integrity was not questioned and his moral and courteous bearing made him a pattern man in business affairs, a good citizen and neighbor, a gentleman in social life.’ When he went to Lowell, manufacturing corporations and city institutions were just  assuming tangible forms.  He was a member of the city government the first two years of its existence, and helped forward many enterprises that were struggling into being. 

Windham Life and Times – January 7, 2022

Windham Native Sons: Milton A. Clyde

    Most of us in town remember the Clyde family because of the pond named after them on their farm which has now become open space. Many sons and daughters of Windham families left town to make their fortune in the wider world. Milton A. Clyde (1816-1875) was one of those people and his rags to riches story is the stuff of the American dream in the nineteenth century.  He became rich building railroads.

The  firm  of  Stone  &  Clyde  took numerous  small  contracts  for  stone-work  on  the  road  west  of Springfield, and,  on  the  completion  of  the  road  to  Albany,  Mr. Clyde  located  in  Springfield,  and  contracted  to  fill  an  old meadow  east  of  Main  Street,  where  the  Boston  &  Albany freight-yard  and  side-tracks  are  now  located.  Stone  &  Clyde then  took  a  contract  for  grading  on  the  Hartford  &  Springfield Railroad,  and  in  1843  they  contracted  for  the  stonework on  that  railroad.  Mr.  Clyde  was  connected  with  the building  of  the  Niagara  Falls  &  Buffalo  Railroad.  In  1853-4 he  built  the  Hampshire  &  Hampden  Railroad  from  Westfield to Northampton.

     About  this  time  he  became  associated  with  Sidney  Dillon, now  president  of  the  Union  Pacific  Railroad,  under  the  firm name  of  Dillon,  Clyde  &  Co.,  and  from  that  time  till  his  death Mr.  Clyde  was  the  working  manager.  This  firm  was  one  of  the greatest  contracting  companies  in  the  United  States.

     One  of  their  earlier  operations  —  a  most  profitable  one,  too— was  the  “great  fill”  on  the  Lake  Shore  Railroad  between Cleveland,  O.,  and  Erie,  Pa.  Afterwards  they  were  engaged  in similar  operations  on  the  New  Jersey  Central  Railroad.  The firm  of  Dillon,  Clyde  &  Co.  were  also  heavy  contractors  on  the still  unfinished  portion  of  the  Boston,  Hartford  &  Erie  Railroad between Waterbury and  Fishkill,  on  which  they  were  engaged for  several  years.  Some  years  ago  Mr.  Clyde  built  the  first Hartford  reservoir,  and  recently  the  firm  of  Dillon,  Clyde  &  Co. built  the  Connecticut  Valley  road  from  Hartford  to  Saybrook. They  also  built  the  Rockville  branch  of  the  Providence  &  Fishkill road  and  the  Springfield  &  Providence  Railroad  from  Providence to  Pascoag,  R.  I.,  in  which  Mr.  Clyde  was  a  director.

“Work on the project (the New York Central from Grand Central station.) began in fall 1872. The first contract was awarded to Fairchild and Ward and the Watson Manufacturing Company for the section between 45th Street and 49th Street. The preexisting track level in this section was maintained as the streets crossed over the line via iron bridges. The project north of 48th Street was completed by Dillon, Clyde & Company, which submitted the winning bid of $6,395,070 (equivalent to $138,151,000 in 2020). The contract for the project had been awarded on August 1, 1872. The contract for the section between 79th Street and the Harlem River was awarded to them on November 11. On January 14, 1873, the contract for the work between 49th Street and 79th Street was awarded to Dillon, Clyde & Company, which provided the only bid lower than that expected by the New York City Board of Estimate. The contract called for the project’s completion in two years. This section had been put up for bid, but since none of the bids were satisfactory, the bidding process was reopened.” Wikipedia. The Clyde house, 33 Pearl Street, Springfield MA., was modest considering Mr. Clyde’s wealth.
 

But  the  great  work  of  Mr.  Clyde’s  life  was  the  tunneling  and building  of  the famous  underground  railroad  in  New  York  City for  the  New  York  &  New  Haven”,  New  York  Central  &  Hudson River,  and  the  Harlem  Railroads,  from  the  Grand  Central  depot at  Forty-second  Street,  to  the  north  end  of  Manhattan  Island,  a distance  of  some  eight  miles.  The  greater  part  of  the  excavation was  made  through  solid  rock,  of  width  sufficient  to  accommodate the  tracks  of  all  the  roads,  and  from  twenty  to  forty  or  fifty  feet in  depth. The  contract  price  for  this  great  work  was  $15,800,000 while the  extras  swelled  the  sum  to  16,000,000.  The  success  of  this enterprise  was  very  largely  due  to  Mr.  Clyde’s  wonderful  executive ability,  which  was  ever  the  marked  feature  of  his  life.  It was  a  common  remark  among  contractors,  that  Mr.  Clyde  could do  a  job  cheaper  than  any  other  man  in  the  United  State of  an  iron constitution,  he  spared  neither  himself  nor  his  men in  carrying  out  his  enterprises. While  superintending  this  work  he  took  a  severe  cold,  which prostrated  him  with  congestion  of  the  spine,  which  terminated fatally.  While  engaged  upon  a  contract  on  the  Fall  River Railroad  (now  Old  Colony),  he  met  the  lady  whom  he  married four  years  later. He  married  Caroline-Valentine  Read,  of  Fall  River,  Mass.,  Jan.30, 1848.  She  was  b.  at  Fall  River,  March  20,  1825,  and  was  the daughter  of  Joseph-E. and Sybil Valentine  Read.  She  now  res. in  Springfield,  Mass. Mr. Clyde’s grandson, Milton Clyde Long died on the Titanic when it sank. His obituary in Railroad Age noted that, “Mr. Clyde leaves a widow and two daughters, who will probably inherit a handsome fortune.”

This all rather interesting considering the large stone causeway in Windham known as London Bridge, was located on the Clyde property. The question becomes whether the Clyde family was responsible for its construction?

Windham Life and Times December 31, 2021

Where are we headed and who is leading us?

     Best Wishes for 2022. Hopefully, we will still be allowed to laugh. From George Carlin (1931-2008), prophetic words for out times, “They’ll get it all from you sooner or later ‘cause they own this %@#$ place. It’s a big club and you ain’t in it. You are not in the big club. By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Good, honest, hard-working people: white collar, blue collar, it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on…”  

     (Snow Scenes from Searles Castle.)

Windham Life and Times – December 24, 2021

My Christmas in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Another Christmas is here again, so I began musing about the toys and traditions that were Christmas for us in the 1960’s-70’s. If you grew up then you’ll remember the Marx plays sets: Fort Apache, the gas station, the Flintstones set and of course those beloved World War II plastic soldiers. We loved the solider sets because we could play with them in our sand pile during the summer blowing the soldiers and tanks up with fireworks in a gale of smoke and fire and sand, which we imagined was pretty close to real life battle. Damn that was fun; and me and my brother still have all our fingers. Imagine that!

   Of course, the tree had to be thoroughly modern and adorned with copious amounts of lead tinsel to brighten it up. 

     My favorite Christmas present ever, was the year (1970), that I got my Honda CT 70. I had saved from working all summer and had half the cost. My parents covered the rest and I had my beloved bike for Christmas.  I was in eighth grade and that bike meant freedom to me. It let me travel the woods and wood roads all over Windham. Never got that much “trail play” though… I wonder where she hung out?

Windham Life & Times November 19, 2021

Windham Real Estate 1970’s-80’s

Incredibly Low Prices…Extraordinarily High Interest Rates

Just a silly notice because the last time I did this, somebody  thought the homes were for sale: THESE HOMES ARE NOT ACTUALLY FOR SALE. They are from old advertisements of our listings that were for sale with astoundingly low prices in the 1970’s  –  90’s. In the early 1980’s interest rates topped out at about 18%, because Federal Reserve Chairman Volker was trying to tame run-away inflation. Remember President Ford’s WIN campaign? Whip Inflation Now! It was totally ineffective and inflation lasted into the early 1980’s.

Windham Life and Times

Gurry’s: The Place for Windham-Salem Folks to Eat, Gossip and Joke

Gurrey’s as they say, “was a local institution.” My dad used to take me there as a kid, and I found the place and the people we met there both fascinating and entertaining. The place had changed it looks by then. How could they make all that food, right in front of you, in such a small kitchen?! And I learned about a lot of interesting subjects there listening to the men’s banter as they ate. You see, Gurry’s, was really a place for the local working men to eat. We always seemed to run into George Armstrong. I loved that guy; his laugh, and the stories he could tell, while constantly trying to keep his pipe lit. And there where jokes and people who were really good at telling them and others who just weren’t. Whatever happened to the art of telling a joke. Is life just not funny anymore or have we lost our sense of humor as a nation. Some were masters. Maybe that’s why we don’t tell jokes anymore; because you can’t hate when you’re laughing, especially at yourself. Seems like we all take ourselves way to seriously. Everybody is on a mission, rather than a casual stroll through the incredible moments that unfold in such a wonderful life. You know we probably won’t get a second chance, and even if we do, all that sleep-walking and angst is sure to affect our karma… impacting our next life. God forbid I come back as an ox, a beggar or a fly. I just hope I’m laughing still

Windham Life and Times – November 5, 2021

The seal of Thomas Jefferson with the Rebellion to Tyrants Motto

“Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God”

The title to the piece was a motto proposed after July 4, 1776, by Benjamin Franklin to be placed on the great seal of the United States. It shows that Franklin understood, that tyrants, never desist, until they are forced to quit. Franklin captured a sentiment that ran throughout the revolutionaries fighting to shed a system of government that viewed them as “Subjects” rather than free men with the right of self governance. The American constitution was set up to not only establish, but also to protect the rights of its people.

   The bible teaches that, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 1 Corinthians 7.23. William Penn said, “Those who will not be governed by God, will be ruled by tyrants,”  and the Psalms teach that “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. Psalm 118.9

   Today, carefully listen to the pronouncements of our government officials. Human “rights” have been replaced by “privileges,” granted to us at the whim of the state. “You now need a government pass, Citizen, to buy, sell, travel or work.” When I was young, my brother was tormented by a bully at his kindergarten. The people who ran the kindergarten wouldn’t make the problem cease; so my parents taught my brother how to fight. My poor brother was a gentle soul, who simply wanted to live in peace among his kindergarten class mates. But he reluctantly learned to fight. One morning, my mother pulled up to the kindergarten and as my brother went to get out of the car, she said, “remember Gardner, punch him in the nose.” My brother, dutifully left the car, found the bully and punched him in the nose. That was the end of my brother’s torment. And to a more important point, it was the end of the torment the bully was bringing to the other children who were also oppressed. My brother is a lot like many of us: we want to just be left in peace until our peace is taken away. Franklin is saying, “we obey God when we fight tyranny of any and all kinds.”

     After the revolution in Russia, the bourgeoisie was allowed to continue in existence for a period of time. The state needed them. They suffered indignities like having the Communist Party force them into housing and supporting strangers in their homes. Finally, the charade ended and many of the middle class in St. Petersburg, were rounded up and made to work on building canals in freezing temperatures with only hand tools or even just their hands.  Most died there, struggling to build canals to nowhere.  

     America today seems to resemble China during the Cultural Revolution, more than it does what was once the United States; or Winston Smith’s, “Minute of Hate” from the novel 1984. And just as in China and Russia, it is the middle class, and the intellectual ideals of freedom and human rights that are under attack in America today. Tyrants hate individual freedom because they cannot control it. There are plenty of tyrants and bullies ready to point their fingers at whom we should hate; whom we should denigrate and marginalize. We are better than this! We should be lifting up, not tearing down. My master commands that, “He without sin should cast the first stone.” And as Abraham Lincoln so elegantly said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” which is taken from Mathew 12:25. Christianity has always called us to be our better selves; to love one another. Sometimes however, gentle, loving kindness has to be defended by might.      

    The second amendment has nothing to do with hunting or self-defense; it is in the constitution so the people can defend their rights against a tyrannical government. A gun allows a person to punch the government bullies in the nose. It gives the citizens power to resist the tyrants, just as our founding fathers envisioned. And that is why some political leaders are so intent about confiscating guns. They want the tyrants to be given free reign over you and the ones you love. They can only succeed if you are disarmed and put at their mercy. The “Auld Gun” protects us from tyranny.

    Robert Dinsmoor, the Rustic Bard, wrote a poem filled with veneration to the old family gun. It is written in a way that gives the gun personification.

The Auld Gun

…Nae Dinsmore arms would never surrender…

For them, I was a bold defender…

When master brought me to this land,

I aye stood charged at his right hand;…

Against Dinsmore!

My hail was death, at his command,

With thundering roar!

    Morrison says, “Robert Dinsmoor…owner of the gun, was an immigrant from Ireland in the year 1730. He settled in that part of Londonderry now Windham.” He was one of Windham’s first three selectmen in 1742. “He was one of the first commissioned officers of the Train Band in Windham, N.H., and had the command of militia at (fort) No. 4, now Charlestown N.H., in the time of the old French and Indian War… The old gun seemed to have a charmed life. It passed from its original owner, Robert, to his eldest son John, who was one of the leading men in town—-town clerk, moderator, selectman, delegate to the Provincial Congress at Exeter N.H., in 1775, a justice of the peace, an elder in the Presbyterian Church. (and a slave-owner) He married Martha, daughter of Justice McKeen and was blessed with 12 children…  John Dinsmoor’s grandson, John Bell Dinsmoor, inherited the “Auld Gun.” He was born in Ripley New York, and lived in Kansas and Missouri from 1859 to 1861. He enlisted in Company I-9th N.Y. Calvary, as a private in 1861.” John, the slave owners grandson, fought for the Union and the freedom of the slaves in the America. He became a Lieutenant and Provost Master of the Calvary.

The slave system in the Americas was tyranny on a grand scale. Slavery was enshrined in the laws of nation states which clearly illustrates the point that not all laws are just, simply because they have become the law. Martin Luther King stated the following about unjust laws:

One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
April 16, 1963

    “…In August 1791, after two years of the French Revolution and its repercussions in [Hispaniola], the slaves (in Haiti) revolted. The struggle lasted for 12 years. The slaves defeated in turn the local whites and the soldiers of the French monarchy, a Spanish invasion, a British expedition of some 60,000 men, and a French expedition of similar size under Bonaparte’s brother-in-law. The defeat of Bonaparte’s expedition in 1803 resulted in the establishment of the Negro state of Haiti which has lasted to this day…” Los Angeles Times Op-Ed by Howard French Oct 10, 2021. They never would have succeeded without having had guns.       

    “Without weaponry, the slavocracy could not have enslaved the Haitian population in the colonial plantation system. The same guns that had been used to oppress and exploit enslaved Haitian laborers, however, became tools in the hands of those who self-emancipated by fighting for freedom. Armed with weapons and organized to fight in its own national and class interests, the Haitian Revolution militarily defeated the armies of the colonial slavocracy.” Workers World: https://www.workers.org/2013/01/6347/“

While there was no revolution of slaves in America as such, there were other actions taken by both whites and blacks to resist the tyranny of slavery. One of the finest, most noble, as well as elegant, was the simple yet heroic act of “self emancipation.” Blacks broke “the law” and courageously ran away from their masters and the unjust system the slave-owners had created. They separated themselves from the tyrants in an act of obedience to God. Whites all over the northeast also broke “the law,” for it was illegal to assist run-away slaves. The federal government enforced the law and federal agents rounded up run-away slaves. Thousands of African Americans travelled the underground railroad to freedom and hundreds of whites acted as advocates and helpers in their escape…all broke the laws and rebelled against tyranny. They all were American hero’s; they said enough.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, most eloquently describes the senselessness of a lack of action and acquiescence to tyranny.   “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

Open your eyes, don’t you see yet? The mandates, the firings, the insults, the virus, the fear, contrived shortages, the hysteria, the destruction of the middle class, the dangerous vaccination of children with experimental substances, the constant propaganda, has nothing to do with a very weak boogey man called Covid-19: It all has to do with controlling your mind with fear so you will accept tyranny. They are moving forward with the Plan and you do not even feel the chains and manacles as they are being placed around your hands, legs and neck. If you do not resist, what is coming is human slavery on a scale and with a horror, never before experienced on earth. Some people prefer servitude but as for me “give me liberty or give me death.” Resist. Do not comply.

Workers World: https://www.workers.org/2013/01/6347/“