Windham Life and Times – March 10, 2023

PRESCO: Presbyterian Couples Club Performs South Pacific.

From Rural Oasis: “The Presbyterian Couples Club better know as Presco Club was formed in 1958 to fulfill the need for an adult organization at the Presbyterian Church. The first club meeting which featured a slide show by Lige Coakley, who discussed his world travels, was attended by the club’s original members: the Clifford Marshalls, George Armstrongs, Fred Stevenses, Frank Sandbergs, Edward Herberts, Russell Lamsons, Leo Roots, and Arthur Brunts. Clifford Marshall was elected the first president.” Through suppers at the Town Hall and variety shows this group raised money for a new heating system in the church and a new church hall.

Windham Life & Times – March 3, 2023

The original Armstrong Homestead is still standing today on Londonderry Road.

The 300th+ Anniversary of Settling in Windham

The Armstrong Family has been in Windham since 1722

    The Armstrongs have always liked to boast that they got to “Windham” before the Dinsmores, which just might be true. However, the old records are also just a little murky.

     The Armstrong family sailed to America from Northern, Ireland as part of the great 1718 Ulster migration. They followed the Rev. James McGregor and with other families went to Maine. Three Armstrong brothers, with wives, were on the ships. “We know certainly that several brothers named Armstrong landed on Richmond Isle near Falmouth, the old name for Portland and Cape Elizabeth, and founded families. James Armstrong and Mary his wife brought with them an infant son Thomas. John Armstrong and his wife brought an infant son James. Both children were born in Ireland in 1717.”

    Robert Armstrong was also one of the party who landed in Falmouth, but he went to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and then to Londonderry…“The core of the company that settled Londonderry, New Hampshire, in April 1719, consisted of eighteen men with their families,—namely Robert Armstrong, Rev. James McGregor, James McKeen, etc. etc.” According to L.A. Morrison, “Robert Armstrong was one of the original proprietors of Londonderry, (*which comprised Windham, Derry, Londonderry and parts of Manchester), on June 21, 1722. There was a ‘home lot and 2nd division’ laid out to him, Dec. 21, 1722, and in the charter of the town it was provided, ‘That the Proprietors of each share shall build a dwelling-house within three years and settle a family therein.’ The fact that he owned this land after the three years would imply the conditions had been met.”

” Interestingly, James Armstrong (Windham Robert’s brother) had been made a Lieutenant by July of 1722, in the Company under the command of Col. Thomas Westbrook. John Dinsmoor, was also in this company from July to December 1722, having been conscripted as a guide after he had been captured by Indians earlier that year. So old Ulster friends, John Dinsmoor and James Armstrong served together in this military company in Maine.

    “Whom Robert Armstrong married, or when he died is not known. He is undoubtedly the ancestor of the Armstrongs in Windham. Tradition says that the emigrant ancestor, of Scotch blood, emigrated from Northern Ireland, bringing two children with him. One died on the passage, which he buried in ‘the deep, deep sea.’ He often alluded to this painful experience as the greatest grief of his life. This could not have been John Armstrong, as he was born in 1713; came to America when a boy, and his oldest child was born in Windham; Sept 8, 1738. It must have been Charter Robert Armstrong, the proprietor, who was here with the first settlers in 1722, who lost his child on the passage, leaving an only son, who was John, of Windham, 9 years of age in 1722, If stronger evidence is needed, it is found in the fact that Charter Robert Armstrong’s Christian name has cropped out in successive generations, and is now honorably born by a living representative in Windham”

      Robert’s son was Deacon John Armstrong  who was a weaver. He was born in 1713 near Londonderry, Ireland and emigrated when young. He lived on the Armstrong “homestead” which is still standing on Londonderry Road, settling there previous to 1738. The current house was built about 1762. He was a Selectman and a moderator. He was a “trustworthy and respected” citizen and active in the Presbyterian church. He had eight children including David, who was born June 11, 1747. He succeeded his father on the family homestead. He signed the Association Test in 1776, was a surveyor and constable. He married Elizabeth Hemphill, January 8, 1775. They had twelve children. She died January 2, 1839 and he died June 21, 1836.”

The Armstrong Homestead in the Range was originally owned by Alexander Park, whose daughter Alice married Robert Armstrong in 1803.    

“Robert was born on April 6, 1779. He married July 28, 1803, Alice, daughter of Alexander and Sarah (Maxwell) Park. As there were no sons in the family he became a son to Mr. Park, and resided on the farm with his wife’s parents in Windham Range. She died there November 10, 1830; he died there August 21, 1849. (This is the Armstrong farm that is now the Common Man.) This was one of the old “Range” farms that were laid out between Cobbett’s Pond and Canobie Lake which had water frontage on both.

    A photograph of the Armstrong farm frontage on Cobbett’s Pond taken form the neighboring property.

His son Robert was born in February 21, 1812 and succeeded his father on the original homestead of the Park family. He married Mary B, Emerson. “A farm not naturally abundant has been made to yield abundant harvests…” They had four children including George F. Armstrong who succeeded his father on the farm.

The Victorian era home built by George F. Armstrong. These photographs were taken when Alex Ray was converting the barn into the Common Man Restaurant. The thing I remember most about that barn is the night the race-horse Drill-Rod was born, and my mom and I stopped by to see him… right there about where the first floor window is located.

     According to Rural Oasis, George F. Armstrong built the newer (white) Victorian home on the property and his sisters then occupied the original homestead followed later by Maurice Armstrong from 1926 through 1945. George and Dorothy Armstrong occupied the homestead until 1957 when it was sold to the Foden family. The Armstrongs developed camp lots on their farm on the shore of Cobbett’s Pond and on Canobie Lake along what is now West Shore Road.

Maurice’s sons, George and Robert lived in Windham and operated businesses here. Bob ran an excavating business and developed a section of Woodvue Road on Canobie Lake. George and his sons operated a well drilling company for many years and also had race-horses. They were harness racing horses and George’s son Alan was often the driver of the sulky. I sill remember riding in the back of the bronze Chevy wagon, Dot at the wheel, nobody wearing seat belts. I also remember the night we were visiting at George’s home on Range Road, when a car driven by one of his sons went flaming by, at what seemed at the time, to be over 100 miles and hour (and possibly on its side, but my memory is foggy).

Gilnockie Tower home to the Armstrong clan on the Scottish Borders.

    The Armstrong family are descended from the fierce, Scottish border clan, whose fortress was Gilnockie Tower that is located between Canonbie and Langholm on the River Esk. Originally known as Hollows Tower, it was built in 1520 by Johnnie Armstrong, who was the famous Scottish outlaw or “reiver,’ who raided across the border in England.

Chronicles of the Armstrongs

Armstrong Beach and the rustic concession stand.

Armstrong Beach was operated by the family many years. My grandparents leased the concession stand one summer. It was one of five, public bathing beaches on the pond. According to Rural Oasis, “At one time this brook was the boundary between Dunkan and Armstrong Beaches and their was a dispute between the properties. “When Bill Ayer, owner of John Dinsmore’s farm on Indian Rock Road, sold his lake property in he 1930’s to George Dunkley of Salem for a public beach the question of correct boundaries arose. Dunkley’s deed read to the brook. Maurice Armstrong owner of the already established Armstrong Beach, claimed the line was several feet to the west of the brook. A bitter dispute, followed by legal actions with many witnesses, proved the brook was the legal boundary. Like the Hatfields and McCoys, George Dunkley and Maurice Armstrong harbored bitter feelings for the rest of their lives.” Apparently, long after, dead fish would go flying across the brook onto the opposite properties in a subtle war of attrition.

George Dunkley sold Dunkan Beach to Jeannette and Bob Comtois in 1966. They improved the property and in the spring of 1971 they decided to sell the property. George Dinsmore and George Armstrong who were good friends, decided to buy Dunkan Beach and combine it with Armstrong Beach and formed Castle View, Inc. In 1974, due to other business pressure George Dinsmore sold his share.

I worked at Dunkan Beach during the several summers that my father was involved in the operation. It was a very interesting place on a weekend afternoon. Parking was always packed on sunny days, 5 dollars on Sunday, and it was all cash. We used to sell hundreds of vinyl blow up rafts each day which would often return with tears when they popped. “Sorry no refunds.”

One day the place was packed and there was a near riot over an accusation of a rape having occurred on the raft. After things cooled down the two families involved were drinking beer together in the afternoon sun. Another day, somebody called in that a bomb had been planted in the pavilion. We called the Windham chief of police to the scene. Old Willis Low arrived, pipe billowing smoke, and he said to my father; “George, if we announce over the loud speaker that there is a bomb, there will be a stampede out of here, and people are sure to be hurt or even die. So my advice to you is that we forget about the whole thing and see what happens.” Nothing happened!

One day there was a couple hitting it pretty hot and heavy, laying on a blanket on the beach. So the decision was made to send out George Armstrong to get things under control. He stood there, stammering, “Miss! Sir! We don’t allow this on the beach!” “It is a family beach.” They totally ignored him and kept at it. George slunk away and we all had a good laugh.

The clientele changed and the era of public bathing beaches came to an end. The Armstrong family decided to build a function hall on the property which they have successfully operated for a number of years. The Armstrongs still own and operate Castleton on Cobbett’s Pond. I was thinking of having an open bar at my wake, I wonder if Castleton would host it? They could prop me up in a corner and my friends and relatives could toast my trip into the netherworld. I’m only slightly kidding!

Maurice Armstrong’s car at the “Robin’s Nest” on Route 28 in Windham.

“The Great Race.”

The Robin’s Nest was the local drinking establishment favored by Windham folks. People would meet there to have a beer and swap stories. So you know how when you’re drinking with your buddies, things can sometimes get out of hand? For example, I have heard recently how two local real estate developers, at a local bar, almost came to fist-a-cuffs over who was worth the most.

Anyway, George Dinsmore Sr. and Maurice Armstrong were having drinks at the Robin’s Nest. Somehow, the subject of which one of them could run faster came up in conversation. Everyone in the bar joined in the debate, egging the contestants on. Soon the dispute became heated, no doubt lit by the drinks. It was decided that the only way to settle the matter was for the whole crowd at the bar to go outside and conduct a race on the busy, state highway, Route 28. Wagers were made, the two forlorn and “slightly” inebriated runners were lined up and a race course designated. Bam! Off they went. Imagine what the motorists on Route 28 must have thought! I really don’t know who won, if anybody, but I know the Armstrongs are bound to claim it was Maurice…who won.

When I was a kid, I used to sit enraptured listening to my dad and George Armstrong talking at my house. They would be smoking and drinking beer, hatching plots, talking business deals, gossiping and laughing…I remember the laughter the most! Keeping the pipe lit was always a challenge…but good friends…I’ll never forget them together.

Happy 301st, to the Armstrongs!

Windham Life and Times February 24, 2023

The 300th Anniversary of Settling in Windham

Top: A view from the John H. Dinsmore farm. Near this spot, haying one hot summer day, young Samuel Dinsmore, told his father William, he didn’t want to be a farmer, but wanted to go to Dartmouth college instead. He eventually became governor of New Hampshire.

The Dinsmore Family has been in Windham since 1723.

300 years is a very long time for one family to call a place home. Most people move on, looking for better opportunities, or just different scenery.  John Dinsmore came to America as part of the Ulster migration of 1718. In the winter of 1719, he left his fellow Scots-Irish companions, and used his skills as a  stone mason to find work building foundations, fireplaces and in construction of Forts for  the proprietors in Maine.  He was captured by Indians near the fort at St. George, Maine. When warfare between the British, and Indians  began in 1722, he abandoned his house in Maine and rejoined his friends from Northern Ireland here.  At the town meeting on March 5, 1723, it was agreed to grant him 60 acres in a section of then Londonderry NH, which is now Windham. He built a stone house on the property and was joined by his wife and children;  Robert Dinsmoor and Elizabeth Hopkins. John Dinsmoor, or “Daddy” as he was known to fellow townspeople, lived to the age of 99 and died in 1741. The foundations of the farm still exists.

   Matt Dinsmore at the ruins of the Dinsmoor-Hopkins Farm near the old Nashua & Rochester railroad line. The foundations of the house and barn are still located on the property and there is an apple tree that blooms in the woodlands.

Robert Dinsmoor, also a stone mason, was born in 1692 and died in 1751 in Windham. He was one of Windham’s first three Selectmen and was instrumental in the establishment of the town in 1742. After the town was founded, the Dinsmoor family was granted several thousand acres of land including the peaks of Jenny’s Hill and Dinsmoor Hill, where Searles Castle is located today, running to the shore of Cobbett’s Pond.  Portions of this land are still owned by my parents today.

  Robert’s son William was born in Windham on May 9, 1731. When his father’s farm was divided, the “Jenny’s Hill” place so called, consisting of 1,400 acres came to him by the drawing of lots. He married Elizabeth McKeen and built a house and barn on the south side of Jenny’s Hill and planted an orchard.  He and his wife had 12 children. He died in 1811.

The Poets Farewell to the Muses

Robert Dinsmoor, The Rustic Bard

Andover’s Steeples there were seen,

While  o’er the vast expanse between,

I did with wonder gaze;

There as it were beneath my feet,

I viewed my father’s pleasant seat—

My joy in younger days.

There Windham Range in flowery vest,

Was seen in robes of green,

While Cobbett’s Pond from east to west,

Spread her bright waves between.

Cows lowing, cocks crowing,

While frogs on Cobbett’s shore,

Lay croaking and mocking

The bull’s tremendous roar…

…Farewell sweet scenes of rural life,

My faithful friends and loving wife,

But transient blessing all…

     Robert Dinsmoor was born on October 7, 1757 and died March 16, 1836. He was widely known as the “Rustic Bard,” which was the name under which he submitted his poetry to local papers. He fought in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Bunker Hill. “He was a most genial companion, very fond of society…and maintained a large correspondence.” His first wife was his “beloved” Mary “Polly” Park who died giving birth to their twelfth child. On New Years Eve 1801 he married his second wife Mary (Davidson) Anderson.

The Poems of Robert Dinsmoor, The Rustic Bard

      Robert Park Dinsmoor was born in 1797 and lived on the farm formerly owned by his father on Jenny’s Hill. He married Sally Gregg. They had ten children together and he died August 28, 1861 and she died March 15, 1877.

    John H. Dinsmore, my great grandfather, was born on June 3, 1840 and he occupied the farm owned by his father and grandfather. He married Adrianna Black, the daughter of Gardner and Nancy Black. He erected a new house and barn on his property in 1877 and demolished the old family home. Gardner Road in Windham is named for Adrianna’s father.

Adrianna Black Dinsmore standing in front of my grandfather’s stone house on Indian Rock Road. George Dinsmore Sr. with his daughter Dorothy and George and Edith Dinsmore.

My grandfather, George Dinsmore almost escaped the clutches of Windham. He moved to Wyoming with his new wife, Edith Johnson, but they eventually returned to Windham where he built a beautiful stone home with his own hands, overlooking Cobbett’s Pond.

   The “Wyoming” a camp on Cobbett’s Pond owned by George Dinsmore Sr. and named in honor of the place that always lived large in his heart. It is said that he once shot a whisky bottle out of the hand of a resident that lived across the pond from this very porch.

George and Edith Dinsmore had three children (John, Dorothy, and George) including my dad George Dinsmore Jr (Jigger). My father was in construction, assisted by his wife Marion (Mackenzie) who he met because her family had a camp on Cobbett’s Pond. Their companies built many homes and commercial buildings in Salem and Windham. My father was a selectmen for two terms in the late sixties and served on the planning board. They are now 91 years old and have been married for over seventy years.

The tall tales of George Dinsmore Sr. were well known around Windham. He normally would light upon somebody new to town and begin his story. He often told tales of his grandmother, Sally (Gregg) Dinsmore. The one I remember from childhood is this one:

How Cobbett’s Pond Came to Be

My grandmother was a hardworking woman, and her pride and joy were her watermelons which always won awards for their size at the country fair. She grew her watermelons on the side of the hill on her farm overlooking the broad valley below. One summer, she decided to use a secret formula to make the melons grow large, fat and juicy. And the watermelons grew. And grew. AND GREW SOME MORE! Soon they were so big, they were taller than my grandmother and she became alarmed they would roll down the hill and be ruined. So she devised a plan. She had her husband build large wooden braces to hold the giant melons in place. One day grandmother was out hoeing weeds in her watermelon patch and she accidently hit one of the braces. Well, that was a huge mistake and the giant watermelons, shining in the bright sun, began to roll down the hill toward the valley below. Well grandmother went ass over teakettle, rolling down the hill along side the giant watermelons. When the watermelons hit the valley below, they literally exploded filling it with water. Poor grandmother would have drowned too, if she had not been able to latch onto one of the giant seeds and paddle herself to shore. And that my friends is how Cobbett’s Pond came into being!

George and Marion Dinsmore and their grandson Isaac Dinsmore

So why did I decide to stay in Windham? Tradition I guess, but there is more to it than that. Windham was also a great place to start a family, a business and it’s also a great location just 30 or so miles from Boston. And when I was able to purchase an acre and a half of land and a cottage overlooking Cobbett’s Pond for $155,000, in 1985, it was a done deal. I will always be grateful to Sue (Binns) Alosky for helping me find my place on Cobbett’s and for introducing me to my wife, Kristie; her cousin. Every day, I find a reason to be happy that I live in Windham, overlooking the lake and Dinsmoor Hill and knowing my son Isaac now lives in town as well. Maybe, 300 years, isn’t that long of a time after all!

John H. Dinsmore gathering hay

L.A. Morrison’s History of the Dinsmoor-Dinsmore Family

The following is from L.A. Morrion’s introduction to the second edition of Robert Dinsmoor, The Rustic Bard’s poetry. It verifies the early records of Londonderry that John Dinsmoor arrived here in 1723.

Maine, where there was an English fort, and while engaged in building a house for himself was taken captive by a band of Indians and carried away a prisoner. I have not been able to find any historic account of his settlement, or attempt to settle at that place, save that given by the Rustic Bard in the first edition of his poems, and I give it as the family tradition thus authenticated by his own pen : “The Indians had appeared quite friendly to him while so engaged in preparing himself a house, often visited him, and called him and themselves in their broken English ‘ all one brother,’ till one day they surrounded his unfinished cabin, with a war- whoop said, ‘ no longer one brother, you go Canada/ and he went with them, and was kept with them three months. The chief’s name was John, and his prisoner was made his body servant. One day when the chief was called away to a council of war, the prisoner was accused by two squaws of having been seen on a point of land near the shore in conference with some Englishmen, and although the edge of the St. George’s River, at the elbow, and a blockhouse at a short distance, having a large area between, enclosed by palisades and capable of receiving 250 men.” In Eaton’s Annals of Warren, Me., published years ago, is the following: “In 1719-20 two strong block- houses were erected, and the old trade house, which was situated directly in front of the spot, where the residence of the late General Knox now stands, was remodeled, being made a sort of fort.” The site of General Knox’s mansion was occupied in 1898 by the station of the Knox and Lincoln railway, at Thomaston, Me It was at Thomaston, Me , that Fort St. George stood. It was there that John Dinsmoor landed when he came to America. It was there he built his house, and while shingling it was captured by the Indians. The chief was still absent, he was condemned to be burned. He was bound to a tree, the fatal pile of wood made around him and that instant to be fired, when providentially the chief returned and commanded the execution delayed till he could enquire into the truth of the charge, alleging, if true, their tracks could be seen, as the ground there was sandy. The charge was soon proved to be false, and he, was reprieved. The last three days he was with them they traveled almost night and day, a great part of the time on k a dog trot,’ carrying their canoes with them. When they had a river to cross, as soon as the chief was in the boat it was the prisoner’s duty to push off and jump in after, and having just performed that duty at a certain river, the chief who had resolved to set him at liberty forbade him. He pleaded for liberty to step in, but the chief said, ‘ you much honest man John, you walk Boston.’ He replied, ‘ the Indians will kill me.’ The chief then told him how and where he could find a cave in a rock where he must lie three days and in that time the Indians would all be past. He gave him some bears’ grease and nuts, saying, ‘ Indians and French have all this land, you walk Boston John, then take English canoe, walk your own country. You much honest man John.’ He then took his solitary way and found the rock as he had been told. When he had lain there three days and nights, and seen the Indians, tribe after tribe, pass, till they had all gone, he arose from his cave and thought he must die of hunger, but by chance, or rather by Providence, he found some cranberries which supported him till he arrived at Fort George. From thence he got a passage to Boston, and from there he visited his old friends and countrymen in Nutfield. They had all been acquainted with him in Ireland. For the respect they had for the man, and perhaps moved by the narration of his perils and sufferings, the proprietors of Londonderry made him a gift of one hundred acres of land, and confirmed it by deed to him and his heirs forever. He was a mason by trade and built himself a stone house.” This appears to have been in 1723. After that he sent to Ireland for his wife and children, but they did not reach him in his new home till 1730. Neither tradition nor family records had handed down to the Rustic Bard, the Christian or sir-name of his maternal great-grandmother, and so far as my enquiry in the family extends, which comprehended every family of lineal descent up to 1883, I was not able to find the name, till during the current year the untiring research of Hon. Leonard Allison Morrison found that honest John had verified the appellation given him by the Indian chief, by his last will and testament, made Oct. 6, 1736, proven Jan. 4, 1736-7, now in the Probate Records Office of Rockingham County at Exeter, N. H., (as every honest man should, by providing for his widow) had answered our enquiry by calling her Hannah. John and Hannah had two children who came to this country, a son and daughter. The son Robert had married in Ireland Margaret Orr, and his sister Elizabeth married John Hopkins, and the wife and daughter with her family went to live in the stone house built by the husband and father on the land given him by the proprietors, and it is well authenticated that they continued to live as one family till the death of John the father, and that thereafter his widow, Hannah, lived till her death with the daughter Elizabeth, which facts go to show that the Bard was not warranted in his conclusion that the wife of John who came to this country was a second one, that had blessed him, for, genealogy rarely shows daughters falling in love with step- mothers. Robert Dinsmoor, the grandfather of the Rustic Bard, was evidently no ordinary man. We find him reaching the Londonderry Colonists in 1730, from whom he obtained title to a large tract of valuable land in the original town of Londonderry, which was near the tract deeded by the Colonists to his father, on which he built himself a residence, and which has been owned and occupied as a home- stead by his descendants till the present day. His eldest son, John, married the daughter of James McKeen, who, as chief man among the Colonists, came from Ireland in 1718, selected the Londonderry tract of land for settlement, then called Nut- field, and his daughter Elizabeth married James McKeen, Jr. Upon the organization of the town of Windham, under grant of charter from the provincial government of New Hampshire, this Robert Dinsmoor was named as Chairman of the three commissioners therein appointed to organize the town in 1742. His son William, born May 9, 1731, was the father of Robert, the Rustic Bard. He married Elizabeth Cochran, granddaughter of the same Justice McKeen, and settled on a part of his paternal acres which, then a primeval forest of oak and pine trees, awaited the axe of the pioneer man, whose strong arm should level the forest and compel a hard reluctant soil to yield the fruits necessary to support a christianized civilization. By lot, the father, Robert, divided his lands between his three sons, who lived to manhood. John, the eldest, drew that part which extended northerly toward Londonderry. Robert, Jr., drew the homestead, which occupied a commanding view of the country east and south, and in later years has been honored by a view of the once-renowned Boston and Concord Turnpike, and in still later years by the Lawrence and Manchester Railroad, and has had that rare attraction which has held spellbound to it the family name from generation to generation, known and honored for the intelligence and Christian vir- tues of its occupants that has made the spot a beacon light to the passing ages. The younger son, William, the father of the Rustic Bard, drew by the same cast that portion of the domain which embraced “Jenny’s hill,” a mound of sixty acres or more from which can be seen the Monadnock in New Hampshire and the Wachusett in Massachusetts. The land extended and embraced, in part, that charming lake, now surrounded by its beautiful farms and wood-capped hills, two and one-half miles long by one-half mile wide, and called ” Cob- bet’s pond ” from the fact that the colonial government in Massachusetts, which never owned a foot of land near it, granted it with five hundred acres of land to a minister by that name, Rev. Thomas Cobbet, in Ipswich, Essex County in Massachusetts, and thereby shows how unfortunate it is to get a bad name when young. But the very air of that place seems to have been poetic, as I find in the History of Windham a beautiful and touching tribute of affection to the memory of his deceased brother by the Bard’s father, found in a letter to his sister, that has escaped the ravages of the tooth of time by the thoughtful care of the historian and is given a place here as a meed of honor :


Windham Life and Times February 10, 2023

Ancient Windham Artifact

I was thumbing through William Goodwin’s book, “The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England” and came across this photograph of a ancient porridge spurtle from South Windham, NH. Godwin believed than the old stone structures and bee-hives found all over New England were constructed by Culdee Monks from Ireland. “Epicurious Magazine” says that, “The most awe inspiring kitchen tool in existence is the spurtle. That is if you ask Scotland’s competitive porridge cooks (yes, that’s a thing).”

     The Culdees (Irish: Celili De, lit, “Spouses of God”) Were members of ascetic Christian monastic and eremitical communities of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England in the Middle Ages. According to Swiss theologian Philp Schaff, the term Culdee or Ceile De, ot Kaledei, first appeared in the 8th century. While ’giving rise to much controversy and untenable theories…” but according to Fracois Boniface, the Culdean Church was founded in the 2nd century…” “In Scotland, Culdees were more numerous than in Ireland: thirteen monastic establishments were peopled by them, eight in connection with cathedrals.”  “As historian A.J. Wylie explains in his History of the Scottish Nation, Vol. III., “The 12th century, particularly in Scotland and Brittany, was a time when two Christian faiths of different origins were contending for possession of the land, the Roman Church and the old Celtic Rite. The age was a sort of borderland between Culdeeism and Romanism. The two met and mingled often in ‘the same monastery, and the religious belief of the nation was a mumble of superstitious doctrines and a few scriptural truths”. Wikipedia

     Apparently these monks travelled to North America before the Vikings; “What further proof of Irish Culdee Monks in America is available? One place to look is the Norse sagas. They state that the Irish reached America before Leif Ericson. The Norse sagas are stories of daring deeds, indeed, boastful recounting. It doesn’t seem reasonable to suppose the Viking story tellers would credit the Irish with being in America before their great hero Leif Ericson…unless it were simply undeniably true.”

  “One Norse sage tells of a Viking named Ari who was baptized by Christian priests in America. Further, the Icelandic sagas refer to a place on the American mainland as Great Ireland. They also mention seeing white men dressed in robes, carrying lighted torches and chanting hymns that disappeared into a hole in the ground.”

   In Windham, there were three additional stone chamber similar to the ones shown above near Canobie Lake; and they were destroyed when interstate 93 was built in the 1960’s. Since this spurtle came from South Windham, it may have come from the area of these three ancient stone chambers. Photographs of Windham chambers were held at Mystery Hill for a number of years but have now disappeared. The Kolbrin or Bronzebook of Britain are salvaged manuscripts known as the Coelbook stored in Glastonbury Abbey…  According to legend, ‘The Culdees’ or Celtic followers of Christianity brought these texts to south-west Britain by Joseph of Arimathea in the 1st century AD. Where the spurtle has gone is a mystery.

Windham Life and Times – February 3, 2023

Windham Auctions – Social Events and Business Transactions

Its amazing the difference in these two Windham auctions. The photograph above was of an auction of Northland Farm in the late 1920’s. The two photographs below are of an auction in about 1902, on the Merrill Farm, which was located on North Lowell Road. Less than twenty years separated the events, yet the Merrill Auction features horses and buggies and the Northland Farm auction shows automobiles and people in almost “modern” attire. How the world did change in just 20 years.

Windham Life and Times – January 27, 2023

Windham Junction

Windham Junction was a bustling place at the turn of the last century. The scene is dominated by the chimney at the Seavey Mill which was a saw-mill and cider-mill. . The porch of the general store can be seen near the tracks along with the water tower and station. Seems that some businessmen from Boston wanted to build shoe mills here and were told in no uncertain terms by local townspeople they were no welcome in Windham. The shoe mills were built in Derry NH instead.

Windham Life and Times January 6, 2023

The Battle for Speaker of the House – The 34th Congress 1855-57

The election of the Speaker of the House is normally a mundane affair, settled in back offices by party functionaries. The selection never seems to bring the best to power but instead places the person who can deliver the most pork and prerequisites to the  party members. All I have to do is to bring up the name of “Weeping” John Boehner to prove my point, and why was he always weeping anyway. Oh, maybe being a drunk is another prerequisite for the job.

     In many ways the Speakership election of 1855, resembles our own time. We have become a totally corrupt and divided nation. And whether you have a religious belief or not we are being judged for our own feckless deceit, and we’re just too vapid to see it. In 1855, the nation was also divided and being torn apart at the seams by the issue of slavery. The Whigs were very much like today’s Republicans. The Whigs eventually became irrelevant as voters chose to form new political alliances. Here is some background from Britannica:

     “The “Whig Party, in U.S. history, major political party active in the period 1834–54 that espoused a program of national development but foundered on the rising tide of sectional antagonism. The Whig Party was formally organized in 1834, bringing together a loose coalition of groups united in their opposition to what party members viewed as the executive tyranny of “King Andrew” Jackson. They borrowed the name Whig from the British party opposed to royal prerogatives. Jackson had shattered the National Republican Party (our current democrat party) with his victories in 1828 and 1832. His war against the Second Bank of the United States and his opposition to nullification in South Carolina, however, allowed Henry Clay to bring fiscal conservatives and southern states’ rights proponents together in a coalition with those who still believed in the National Republican program of a protective tariff and federally financed internal improvements. Members of the Anti-Masonic Movement merged with the Whigs after the demise of the Anti-Masonic Party in the mid-1830s. Allied almost exclusively by their common dislike of Jackson and his policies—and later by their hunger for office—the Whigs never developed a definitive party program. In 1836 they ran three presidential candidates (Daniel Webster, Hugh L. White, and William Henry Harrison) to appeal to the East, South, and West, respectively, attempting to throw the election into the House of Representatives. In 1840 they abandoned the sectional approach to nominate the military hero William Henry Harrison. The subsequent contest was devoid of issues, Harrison winning on the basis of incessant electioneering by his supporters in the “log cabin” campaign.”

    After capturing both the White House and Congress in 1840, the Whigs were poised to become the nation’s dominant party and to enact Henry Clay’s nationalistic program. Harrison died within a month of his inauguration, however, and his successor, John Tyler, proceeded to veto major Whig legislation—including re-creation of the Bank of the United States. Clay, the nominee in 1844, lost the election when he misgauged the popularity of expansionism and opposed the annexation of Texas. By the late 1840s the Whig coalition was beginning to unravel as factions of “Conscience” (antislavery) Whigs and “Cotton” (proslavery) Whigs emerged. In 1848 the party returned to its winning formula by running a military hero—this time Zachary Taylor—for president. But the Compromise of 1850, fashioned by Henry Clay and signed into law by Millard Fillmore (who succeeded to the presidency on Taylor’s death in 1850), fatally estranged the Conscience Whigs from their party. Again turning to a former general, the Whigs in 1852 nominated Gen. Winfield Scott. The North and South had become so polarized over the slavery issue that the Whigs were no longer able to make a broad national appeal on the basis of “unalterable attachment to the Constitution and the Union.” Scott collected just 42 electoral votes as many southern Whigs flocked to the banner of the states’ rights oriented Democratic Party. By 1854 most northern Whigs had joined the newly formed Republican Party…”

     The history of the Whig Party resembles the total divide in the Republican Party today. The conservative rank and file are sick and tired of electing candidates who promise smaller government and more freedom but whom upon election, and upon being shown the keys to the money pit, totally ignore the people who elected them. My prediction is 1.7 trillion, Pork Barrel, Mitch McConnell and other “main-stream” Republicans are causing the party to self-destruct. You can only be disrespected by a party for so long, before you as a supporter decide to change course.

   “Traditionally, each party’s caucus or conference selects a candidate for Speaker of the House. “In the 19th century, there was a 13-month lag between the election and swearing-in of a new Congress; consequently, the class of 1854 did not convene on Washington, D.C. until December 1855, leaving ample time for incoming members to jockey for support. “There are about thirty modest men who think the country needs their service in the Speaker’s chair,” quipped Ohio congressman Timothy Day, and “to get rid of this swarm of patriots will take time.” Out of this pack, two lead contenders emerged: Lewis Campbell, a former Whig from Ohio, and Nathaniel Banks, a former Democrat from Massachusetts. Both men left much to be desired: Campbell was a late-comer to the anti-slavery cause and, according even to his friends, “too impetuous and imperious” to unite the many factions that comprised the anti-Nebraska coalition. Banks, on the other hand, was a notorious flip-flopper who privately admitted to a close friend that he was “neither … pro slavery nor anti-slavery.” A colleague observed that Banks “is very ambitious & has always left the impression on my mind that he was not ‘nice’ as to how he ‘stayed himself up’—so [long as] he stood. I deem him cold-hearted and inclined to be scheming & sinister.” (And this, from one of his supporters.)…When House clerk John W. Forney initiated the first roll call on December 3, 17 anti-Nebraska candidates drew votes, depriving the frontrunner, Campbell, a majority. It ultimately took multiple ballots and two months—as well as the coordination and intercession of leading ex-Democrats like Galusha Grow, ex-Whigs like Edwin Morgan, and Know Nothings like Schuyler Colfax—to secure the requisite number of votes for the victorious Nathaniel Banks. While there was as yet no organized anti-slavery opposition, the delicate negotiations that placed Banks in the Speaker’s chair ultimately provided a foundation for the following summer, when the anti-Nebraska coalition formally branded itself the Republican Party and nominated John C. Fremont to carry its banner in the 1856 presidential election”

     “In the aftermath of the 1854 fall campaign, Abraham Lincoln, then a former one-term congressman from Illinois, grappled with the meaning of this confusing new political landscape. When a close friend inquired as to his political allegiance, he replied, “This is a disputed point. I think I am a whig; but others say there are no whigs.” Though a holdout, Lincoln—the first Republican president—ultimately switched his allegiance and, indeed, his political identity to the new Republican Party.”