Windham Life and Times – February 19, 2021

Our black residents from an earlier time, lay buried in unmarked graves, in a quiet corner of the Cemetery on the Hill. Now might be a good time to recognize them

Early Black History in New England

Slavery in Windham NH (Part I)

    Beside the wall on the Cemetery on the Hill in Windham, in the south-east corner, in unmarked graves, lie the remains of Windham’s early black residents. I am probably one of the few people who is aware of their resting place. They had names like Jeff and Pomp and most were owned as slaves. Some were literate, all were hard-working and capable, entrusted with important tasks, and by their very presence here contributed much to the early town of Windham. They rest from their labors in the same ground as the Dinsmores, Morrisons, Parks, Cochrans and others, but only the African American’s resting place remains unmarked.  It has always been my hope and wish that the town would see fit to erect a granite monument in this unmarked space, to preserve the memory of these important African Americans. It would be an appropriate way of showing that black lives do matter in Windham. As Leonard Morrison so elegantly wrote in his history of Windham, in 1883; “In the grave they find perfect equality, which they never found when living. In its unbroken silence there is no distinction between white and black, bond or free, cultured or ignorant, and the quietness of peace resteth over all.” As I will show in the coming weeks, many African Americans were far from “ignorant” and some could write more eloquently than most whites during the same time period.

     Morrison explains that, “this town had never been largely populated with colored people. Near the commencement of the present century, a family of negroes lived in a house which stood on the road from George Copp’s house, over the hill to Isaac Emerson’s. Rose, Pomp, and Jeff, three negroes, lived in town. Rose lived at Squire John Dinsmoor’s (the John Kelley place), (the brother of Robert Dinsmoor, the Rustic Bard).  Jeff died at Squire John Nesmith’s (Horace Berry’s place). When he went to church he did not go inside, but sat on the porch. Pomp died in town. They were all buried in that part of the original cemetery on the hill, in the southeasterly corner, near the highway.”  According to a Windham census from 1773, there were 13 slaves in Windham in 1773. 

“In New England of 1776, 2.3% of the total population was African. This compares to the middle Atlantic states where 12.4% of the population was African and in the deep South where 39.2% of the population was African.” While the numbers are much lower in New England, there still was a large black presence and many of that population were slaves. Diversity in Colonial Times, April 21, 2008.

     According to Leonard Morrison, “Slavery was never legalized, or established by authority of law in New Hampshire; but as it existed in other colonies it crept in here, was tolerated, and regulated by law, so that Indian and negro servants or slaves were owned and held as property.* They were taxed as other property. In 1728, each negro, mulatto, or Indian slave being male was assessed at 20 pounds; each woman slave was excluded…Rev. Nathaniel Bouton, D.D. compiler of the Provincial and State Papers of New Hampshire, thinks that by the adoption of the first and second clause of the Bill of Rights in the constitution of the State, virtually and in effect slavery was abolished in New Hampshire.”

     “In 1775 the number of ‘negroes and slaves for life’ in New Hampshire was 657; in 1790, six years after the adoption of the Constitution, 158; by 1800, 8; by 1810, 0; in 1830, 3; and 1840, 1,—mistake of census taker.

     “While such is the history of the institution in the State, we shall have brief notices of its existence in Windham. Allusions are occasionally made of ‘slaves’ upon the reords of the town. In 1767, there were four slaves in town; in 1773, there were thirteen, five males and eight females. September 15, 1775, the number of negroes and slaves for life were thirteenth.”

     “In 1785, Windham voted the use of pew 36 in the church for negroes, if their masters would pay rates.”  I wonder in old Jeff was ever invited in, felt comfortable enough to enter, or had a master willing to pay for his pew so that he could abandon the porch and make his way inside the house of God to pray?

Windham Life and Times – February 12, 2021

The Austin house and barn in the snow,

The Night Before a (hoped for) Snow Day Ritual

   So after reading last weeks article about the death of the beloved snow day, my wife reminded me that our kids used to wear their pajamas inside out when going to bed in order to force the snow gods to deliver for them. So it seems that there is a snow-day tradition that I was clueless about. On a night before there is a chance of snow, you wear your pajamas inside out and put a spoon under your pillow. The Western version of the rite also requires that you to flush an ice cube down the toilet. The Old Eastern rite requires that you wear your pajamas inside out and backwards. Hopefully, we will soon be able to enjoy these simple, heart-warming, snow-day customs again soon! The photograph is of the Austin place on a “snow-day.” Range Road, Windham

Windham Life and Times – February 5, 2021

Tell Me It Isn’t So…Remote Learning Ends the Snow Day?

So I’ve heard a rumor about something that tears at my heart, and clouds my mind with sadness and depression, because of its colossal awfulness! Is it really true that the utter joy of contemplating the Snow-Day has come to an end; destroyed by the ability to learn remotely. SAY IT ISN’T SO! What kind of evil people, would conspire to take away the Snow-Day from the children of New England.

    This is what it says on “The Windham School District will be implementing virtual learning days in place of delays and/or cancellations due to inclement weather (or any other reason schools may be closed). The Superintendent will make the decision to revert to a virtual learning day and communicate to all parents via SchoolMessenger, social media (Facebook and Twitter), and local new stations once the decision is made.” That’s pithy way of describing your soul crushing order, Mr. Superintendent. This is worse than having to write: “I will not throw snowballs” a hundred times on a chalk board. Which I never had to do by the way. “K-2 Full Remote Only Students will continue with their regular daily learning remotely via live zoom sessions as they already do. Pre-K-2 In-Person Students will be provided with virtual learning packets to receive credit for the school day. 3-12 Students will be reminded to bring home their 1:1 device and will continue their regular daily schedule remotely via live zoom sessions.” Ugh! This is the very reason I’m a Luddite. (…a person opposed to new technology or ways of working.) You see what technology brings in its wake…nothing but sadness for the Children! Do you know how much I learned being free during a Snow-Day? A lot! Stuff I could never have learned in a class room or in front of a horrid screen.

    Seriously, is nothing sacred anymore? A Snow-Day is a right of passage. Its also a child’s human right. How can a child ever grow up normally, without the possibility of those beautiful, white, ice crystals setting the world right and the kids free; from books, schools and teacher rules! The whimsical chance of getting out of homework or an exam. “Virtual Learning Packets,” Mr. Superintendent, Let the Children Play!

    And speaking of snowflakes. Did you see the guy in New York who has taken the highest resolution photographs of snow flakes yet? His name is Nathan Myhrold and he has developed a camera that captures snowflakes at a microscopic level never seen before. They’re gorgeous and they can’t be seen while doing no stinking remote learning in front of a screen. You have to catch them on your tongue.


By Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,   
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,   
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost   
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,   
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,   
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,   
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.   
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,   
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,   
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,   
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School   
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,   
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,   
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,   
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down


In the winter it’s every kids dream,
As snowflakes begin to appear,
That suddenly there’ll be a blizzard,
And they’ll cancel school for the year.

Though most kids are willing to settle,
And I am inclined to agree,
They could merely close school for one day –
One day off would be just fine with me.

A day free from all forms of homework,
A day without science or math,
When you leave all your schoolbooks at home
And run out the door with a laugh.

A day full of sledding and cocoa,
And snowmen who wear dad’s old clothes,
No writing out boring equations
After lunch when you’d rather just doze.

A snow day’s a day meant for lounging,
Where idleness isn’t condemned,
A day where you sleep in till lunchtime,
A day that you don’t want to end.

And if you are truly quite lucky,
The snow will continue its flight,
And you’ll spend the afternoon hoping
The next day will be just as white.

~ Barbara Vance

Windham Life and Times January 29, 2021

Crows, Eagles and Red Tail Hawks

An Active Time for Our Local Avian Friends.

    It has been a very active time for the birds in Windham and the surrounding region. There has been a Red Tail Hawk hanging around Cobbett’s Pond Road. Donna at Howie Glynn’s also has pictures of this bird near the store. A Bald Eagle has been active over Cobbett’s Pond over the past several weeks, (which means he/she is on Canobie as well). I saw the eagle flying above the lake on Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. An eagle was also spotted by my son Isaac fishing in open water in front of my parents house. There were also four crows strategically stealing parts of the fish that the eagle had so nicely caught for them. And speaking of crows; the great gathering of crows along the Merrimack River in Lawrence will soon be coming to an end. Thousands of crows, return to the same spot on the Merrimack every year to socialize in their giant crow party.

   Brian Mertins, on says, “Given that crows are so much smaller than eagles, you might be tempted to think eagles would be more dominant…But if you’ve ever watched a group of crows wildly chasing and dive-bombing an eagle through the sky, you know it doesn’t always work that way! Eagles are sometimes seen as royalty of the bird kingdom, so why would a smaller bird like a crow put their life in danger and chase the much larger and threatening eagle? Why do crows chase eagles? Crows do this to protect their nest site from possible danger. They will also steal food from eagles in places where their feeding territories overlap. Of course, to really understand why Crows are able to get away with such a risky behavior, we need to do more detailed comparisons of crows and eagles. This is a way to gain deeper insights into the lives of two incredibly fascinating birds. So let’s take a look at the unique behavior of crows and how their social intelligence gives them anthem the edge against larger predatory birds like eagles….Eagles are relatively defenseless against large gangs of crows. In places where their territories overlap, it’s quite common to see Eagles swooping down to catch a fish, only to have it snatched away by a group of crows. Without any other Eagles around to help in the fight, there’s often no other choice but to go back and catch another meal. You can find the full article at

A spectacle of crows similar to the one that takes place annually along to Merrimack in Lawrence-North Andover MA.

   My wife Kristie bought me just one, really great Christmas present this year; “Gift of the Crows” by John Marzluff and Ton Angell which I recommend.

In an Eaglet Tribune article: “So many crows. So many questions” published on January 28, 2020 we learn the following about the crow gathering in Lawrence: “It’s a bone-chilling sunset in January and 15 men and women, their boots anchored to the snow-covered riverbank, are taking in a spectacle. They watch 15,000 cawing crows breaking into smaller groups and “leap frogging” among trees. Why this knocking around in cliques before settling in for the night — all together — at a final roosting spot along the Merrimack River? Christian Rutz, a biology professor visiting from St. Andrews University in Scotland, wonders about this. And why do the Lawrence crows, on occasion, switch to a new overnight roosting spot? And, more broadly, what brings the crows here? The Lawrence winter roost has been going on for decades, back to the 1980s, says Craig Gibson, a Roman Catholic chaplain at Lawrence General Hospital and dedicated crow watcher. In late fall, the birds start migrating here. Before daybreak they take wing with a few friends and explore locations within about a 20-mile radius. At sunset they return to Lawrence….” Eagle Tribune So Many Crows, So Man Questions

“For decades, the city has hosted a significant winter crow roost. The winter crow roost consists of mostly American Crows, along with a smaller number of Fish Crows. Typically, an hour before sunset, the crows gather in smaller pre-roost groupings. These pre-roost (staging) locations may change on any given night. The crows then converge about a half hour after sunset, into a final roost location. For many years, the final roost location had been along the south side of the Merrimack River, by the New Balance building complex. Over the winter of 2017-2018, and 2018-2019, the final roost location changed many times.  Since October 2020, the roost has continued along the Merrimack River by the New Balance building. The size of the winter roost typically grows from an initial group of 2,500 in October to almost 10,000 crows in January and February!” For more information on where to spot the crows in Lawrence go to

In an article published in Mass Adubon on March 15, 2018 William Freedberg writes: “Every night between November and March, a steady trickle of American Crows pours through the skies of Lawrence and Andover, MA. The trickle quickly becomes a stream. Soon, a deluge. Crows spread from horizon to horizon as they fly together to their communal roost. The number of crows varies every year, but there can be as many of 12,000 or 15,000 at a time…”

“As some of the world’s most intelligent birds, what could American Crows be up to at these roosts? Traditional theories dictate that crows roost together for safety or warmth, or use communal roosts to be able to select mates from a larger pool of candidates. But hungry crows also follow better-fed birds from the roost in the morning, suggesting they are seeking out productive feeding sites, and that roosts can facilitate cooperation. Some roosts are furthermore located strategically near feeding sites, such that crows can grab a reliable snack when they leave for the day and when they return at night.”

“Thousands of crows gathering together in the same place every night make easy pickings for predators like Great Horned Owls. As a result, American Crows gather at a secondary location, or “staging area,” before continuing on to their real roost after nightfall. American Crows will further confuse predators by changing the location of the staging area, or even the roost itself, every few nights. Some human observers confuse these staging areas for the actual roost, not knowing the roost is several hundred feet to several miles away— unless they stay after dark to watch the crows move a second time.”

“The American Crows in Lawrence are surprisingly wide-ranging when not at their roost. Pellets they cough up have revealed saltmarsh snails, telling us that they forage at least as far away as the New England coast. Some of the birds are seasonally migratory, and spend the breeding season far to the north on the St. John’s River in Canada…”

A red tail hawk on Cobbett’s Pond Road, Windham NH.

Windham Life and Times – January 22, 2021

Winter Fun at Community Beach

Cutting Ice for next Summer on Cobbett’s Pond

This group of guys are cutting ice on Cobbett’s Pond at Community Beach, but I really can’t explain why the man in the foreground is dipping his face in the icy water? Carolyn Webber was kind enough to share this photograph with me a few years back.  At the time of this photo, ice was still used to refrigerate food and drinks during the summer months.

Windham Life and Times – January 1, 2020

The Shields Place. An abandoned farm in Windham NH. Baldwin Coolidge photograph. Courtesy of SPNEA

We often Don’t See the Change Engulfing Us Until it has Passed.

Often times, we don’t even realize the merciless change that is impacting us until we look back upon it from the distant future. The people in the photograph are sitting by the once productive Shield’s farm that was abandoned sixty years prior to their rediscovery of it in the 1880’s. The past owners just walked away, and nobody took their place. In New England at the turn of the Nineteenth century (1800’s) the industrial revolution and the opening of vast amounts of productive farmland in the Mid-west caused the exodus. Why stay eking out a living on a rugged New England farm, when opportunities beckoned from other places. People simply left. They left for better opportunities elsewhere. Morrison says, “A change commenced at the death of Parson Williams, Nov. 10, 1793, and the removal of the church, 1798, though the population remained nearly the same till 1824. The farms were not so well tilled; the farmers did not keep so many horses and cattle. A spirit of unrest seemed to brood over the people; they were waiting for a change and it came at last. About this time, rumors were afloat that a great city would be built at the falls of the Merrimac. This was at the commencement of what is now the city of Lowell, MA. Men from Windham were employed in the construction of the dam and canal, and earned considerable money. When those who remained at home saw how much more easily money was made there than by farming, they grew restless and dissatisfied, and soon all the younger men were gone…”  Argentina was the richest country in the world at the turn of the twentieth century. Soon after, as a result of revolution, populism and socialism, this prosperous country was changed into a perennial basket-case of hyper-inflation, poverty and dictatorship. Just like today, people and businesses are leaving places like California and New York. Why struggle with no hope, facing a declining quality of life and pay exorbitant taxes at the hands of autocratic state officials when there are better opportunities elsewhere? New Hampshire has in its most recent past had advantages that drew people here. Hopefully, we don’t lose what has made this state competitive and attractive to so many. 

Windham Life and Times – December 25, 2020

Boston & Maine Right of Ways in the 1920’s and 30’s. Windham Junction.

When Windham had Railroads

These interesting photographs show the railroad system in Windham just before the discontinuance of passenger rail service by the B&M Railroad in the 1930’s. If you’ve walked on the Windham rail trail you will recognize the top two photographs of Windham Junction. Below left is the station in West Windham which became Anderson Station. It was a originally a station house for the Nashua and Rochester Railroad, which crossed the Boston and Maine Railroad at Windham Junction. Bottom right is Canobie Lake Station. The nemesis that slew the railroads is pictured in the form of the automobile being used by the surveyor for the Boston and Maine Railroad.

Crossing of the B&M and former Nashua and Rochester Railroad
West Windham Station was renamed Anderson to prevent accidents caused by the”2″ Windham Stations
Canobie Lake Station on the Windham-Salem town line.

Windham Life and Times – December 18, 2020

Jupiter and Saturn. Saturn is shown with his sickle eating his child is the basis of the grim reaper. Notice how he appears more of a “fallen angel or watcher rather than a God. That is because he was a Watcher who brought forth the Titans, the Giants of old. Jupiter with eagle & lightning who overthrew Saturn. He represents the new age which will dawn at zero degree Aquarius on 12-21-2020. Their planet namesakes with meet to confront each other again in the night sky of 12-21-20. They are pole opposites in terms of their natures as reflected in the inversion of 12 and 21 in the date of the conjunction.

The Great Convergence of Jupiter and Saturn 122120

Well, to be honest, I’m always on the look out for bad juju and maleficent forces heading our way. It’s a bad habit I picked up when I was very young, when people like Hal Lindsey, and other fear mongering “pseudo-prophets” were running loose during the 1970’s saying the “End Times” were right around the corner. By now you have heard the buzz about “The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter” on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2020. It is truly an incredible portent in the night sky which will have the appearance of Saturn and Jupiter merging as one. These two giant planets will be leaving Capricorn, the goat, the SNL Church Lady’s foil; the symbol for the Maleficent One himself and dawn in Aquarius. The conjunction will take place at 0 degree Aquarius. Is this the same dawning of Aquarius made famous by the Fifth Dimension in March of 1969? Maybe this is a good sign? “A common position expressed by many astrologers sees the Age of Aquarius as that time when humanity takes control of the Earth and its own destiny as its rightful heritage, with the destiny of humanity being the revelation of truth and the expansion of consciousness, (transhumanism?) and that some people will experience mental enlightenment in advance of others and therefore be recognized as the new leaders in the world.” Wikipedia. ( I wonder what will happen to the laggards?)

     This is the description from “Jupiter and Saturn are closing in on their great conjunction on the day of the solstice, December 21, 2020. At their closest, they’ll be only 0.1 degrees apart. They’re already amazing! Start watching them now. Astronomers use the word conjunction to describe meetings of planets and other objects on our sky’s dome. They use the term great conjunction to describe meetings of the two biggest worlds in our solar system, mighty Jupiter and the glorious ringed planet Saturn. The next great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be on the day of the solstice: December 21, 2020. Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions happen every 20 years; the last one was in the year 2000. But these conjunctions aren’t all created equal. The 2020 great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226! On December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will be only 0.1 degree apart. Some say the pair will look like an “elongated star” on that date.”

   “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky,” Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University, explained in a statement last month. There’s still another holiday connection at work here, beyond a simple coincidence of timing. Some astronomers, dating back to Johannes Kepler in the 17th century, have conjectured that the Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men to Jesus Christ’s birthplace in the Bible was a conjunction like the one set to appear later this month — although likely one involving different planets. Saturn and Jupiter began appearing close to each other this past summer, but this spectacle of proximity will be clearest beginning in mid-December. Look for them low in the southwest in the hour after sunset. And on December 21st, the two giant planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart — that’s about the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length!” NASA explained earlier this month.”

    “So Saturn (Cronus) in Greco-Roman mythology was the son of Uranus and Gaea. He lead his brothers and sisters, “the Titans,” in rebellion against their father who Saturn had castrated and killed. Saturn then became the king of the gods and married the Titan Rhea. Saturn was a ‘jealous god” and he especially feared and hated his children. In order to prevent them from doing what he had done to his own father, he ate his children as soon as they were born. Saturn (Cronos) is usually pictured with a sickle in his hand and often represents time and death.

     Astrological Saturn has always been associated with the law. “Gnostics have identified Saturn with the God of Early Scripture, whom they regarded as a tyrannical father, obsessed with rigid enforcement of the law. There is a symbolic link between Saturn…through the use of Saturday; Saturn’s Day…” Saturn’s function is contraction, which gives Saturn (called since ancient times “The Greater Malefic”) (causing or capable of causing harm or destruction, especially by supernatural means), a somewhat polarized role against Jupiter (called “The Greater Benefic”) (beneficent or kindly), in astrology. In Vedic astrology Saturn and Jupiter are considered natural neutrals, but under closer relations become enemies….Similarly, Saturn is considered cold (slow) and dry (separate) whereas Jupiter is considered warm (speedy) and moist (inclusive). Where there is light Saturn brings darkness, where there is heat Saturn brings cold, where there is joy Saturn brings sadness, where there is life Saturn brings death, where there is luck Saturn brings misfortune (and sometimes heavy consequences for bad judgment or mistakes), where there is unity Saturn brings isolation, where there is knowledge Saturn brings fear, where there is hope Saturn brings skepticism and stalling. However these effects are not always negative. Saturn’s properties of contraction and “crystallization” are said to create solidness in the world and give lasting form to everything physical and principle…”

     “In ancient Roman religion and myth, Jupiter or Jove was the king of the gods, and the god of sky and thunder. He is the equivalent of Zeus in the Greek pantheon. Saturn swallowed his children Neptune, Pluto, Ceres, Juno and Vesta. When Ops realized that she was pregnant with Jupiter, she had the baby secretly and moved to Crete, giving a stone wrapped in baby clothes to Saturn for him to eat. Saturn believed he had eaten Jupiter but Jupiter was saved. After Jupiter was raised by his mother, his destiny was to overthrow, Saturn, as revenge for all he had done to his brothers and sisters in the past. When Jupiter grew up, he made Saturn vomit up all of the children he had swallowed. All the brothers and sisters joined forces and overthrew Saturn. Then, with the help of the Cyclopes and the Hundred-handed Giants, they declared war on Saturn and the other Titans. Jupiter finally defeated the Titans and they were imprisoned in Tartarus. Jupiter and his brothers divided the universe into three parts, Jupiter obtaining the heavens, Neptune the sea and Pluto the underworld. This is how Jupiter became the king of the gods.” What will the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn portend for Earth? Probably nothing, but we’ll soon find out! The Great Conjunction