Windham Life and Times – December 6, 2019

A Surprising Episode

meserve home

The Meserve home in Windham NH, located on the “Turnpike” which was electrified by a generating station in the mill across the street installed in 1890. Windham may have been home to the first electric generating station north of New York City.

Introduction to William F. Meserve: Windham Inventor

Over the next few weeks I will be presenting a series of articles about one of Windham’s most fascinating residents from the past: William F. Meserve. Mr. Meserve was part of a generation of people like Edison, Tesla, Ford, Davidson, and the Wright Brothers, that seized upon an idea, followed through on its creation and transformed America. They were individualists who often worked alone or in small companies with no corporate structure or government grants.  Many never achieved financial success of acclaim, but there work influenced others and brought about the miracle of the modern world. It is claimed by his daughter, that the first electrical generating station north of New York City was located right here, at the Meserve Mill in Windham NH. The following account I believe is from his daughter Grace Meserve.

“It was mid summer of 1917, the United States had declared war on Germany and school seemed less important than the war effort. I had decided not t go back to school in the fall when I chance to meet a man who was very active in YMCA work. We talked for several hours and his sincere interest on my behalf persuaded me to change my mind He suggested I attend a new Boston Technical School, which I ultimately did. I went home and prepared to discuss the day’s events with my parents and make plans for the fall.”

“When I told them what had happened and the name of the man I had met, they both exclaimed, ‘What a coincidence!’ and then explained that back in 1901 they had met his father and mother in a very odd circumstance and both joined in relating the following episode.”

My father owned and operated a large job mill located in Windham, New Hampshire – about half way between Boston, Massachusetts and Concord, New Hampshire—on the old Stage Coach Road. As they used to say in those days, ‘This road was laid out  as the crow flies.’ The road bed itself was composed of twisting sandy ruts that skirted around large ledge formations or a ‘mud hole’ as it is called, and seemed never to dry out except in mid summer. The hills were steep and many times it was necessary for all of the passengers in an automobile to get out and push in order to make the top of the hill. It also required a great deal of skill, on the part of the driver, to negotiate these wagon trails, but the ever present challenge spurred them on.”

The mill included water and steam power to operate a complex of individual facilities, including saw mill for logs – edgers – planers and various wood working machines – wooden and cardboard box shop—shingle mill – stone grist mill for grinding corn and barley for farmers and a cider mill for grinding their apples. There was also a carriage shop for repairing wagons, etc. My Dad was a real genius with so many talents that he was true to the Meserve Coat of Arms whose motto reads AU VALEUREUX C EUR RIEN IMPOSSIBLE (To the strong heart nothing is impossible.) and the word ’impossible’ was not in his dictionary.”

“One summer day, as he was operating the board saw, he looked out to see an automobile come to a grinding halt on the sandy hill directly opposite from where he was working. A very well dressed couple emerged and appeared frustrated at their predicament. It was obvious that they were people of means – dressed as they were – he, in his duster and gloves and she, with her duster and veil. Typical tourists!”

The good Samaritan that Dad was sent him out to offer his help. They were city folks and looked rather dubious that out here in the country anyone would be able to fix their new Cadillac – the one cylinder model. My Dad looked it over – located the trouble and told them he could fix it but that it would not be ready until the following day. They expressed doubt but he assured them by explaining that he had been building automobiles and trucks since 1896 and took them to his shop – just over the hill. There they saw a new 2 ton steam truck that he had just built for the Pemberton Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts.”

“He invited them to spend the night at his home and they accepted. Dad took them to his house to meet my Mother and, to their surprise, they found themselves in a large modern home that Dad had built the year before. As they were taken to the guest room, they were astounded to see steam radiators for heating. This was incredible out here in the country. The steam was piped from the mill boiler. This whole picture was out of focus and growing more fantastic by the moment. When they were shown where to turn on the electric lights in their room, they were speechless. They were still using gas lights in their city home. Dad had built the generator that ran it by a water wheel back in 1890. It furnished lights f0r his mill – a Witch Hazel factory nearby – and three houses. In 1889  dad, a young man of 18, had attended the Mechanics Fair in Boston, where the Edison Company of New York had on display a small generator lighting one electric light. He was intrigued and purchased a book they were selling on the subject of electricity. From this book, he was able to develop this light plant – the only one north of New York City.”

“The guests were taken to the living room to relax while supper was being prepared. ‘What a lovely piano you have – may I try it?’ ‘Of course – make yourself right at home.’ She sat down and began to play and it was obvious that she was an accomplished pianist. Dad spoke up and said, ‘I play the violin a little and after supper we can have some music.’ Mother said that their was a look of anguish came over her face – apparently at the thought of accompanying a country fiddler at Turkey in the Straw or Irish Washwoman. However, she did her best to hide her feelings and remarked that would be fun…”

Unfortunately, page four is missing, so we don’t know how this story ends. This may have taken place in 1902 since Cadillac began production in that year. “The first Cadillac automobiles were the 1903 Model built in the last quarter of 1902. These were 2-seater “horseless carriages” powered by the reliable and sturdy 10 hp single-cylinder engine developed by Henry Martyn Leland and built by Leland and Faulconer Manufacturing Company of Detroit, of which Henry Leland was founder, vice president and general manager. Reformed as the Cadillac Automobile Company in August 1902, it began manufacturing the runabouts and named them ‘Cadillac’ after the city’s founder.”

meserve-cadilac

The 1902 Cadillac was almost identical to the Ford Model “A” with the exception of the engine. It was manufactured in the abandoned Ford Motor Plant.

“Cadillac was formed from the remnants of the Henry Ford Company. After a dispute between Henry Ford and his investors, Ford left the company along with several key partners in March 1902. Ford’s financial backers William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen called in engineer Henry M. Leland of Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Company to appraise the plant and equipment in preparation for liquidating the company’s assets. Instead, Leland persuaded the pair to continue manufacturing automobiles using Leland’s proven single-cylinder engine. A new company called the Cadillac Automobile Company was established on 22 August 1902, re-purposing the Henry Ford Company factory at Cass Street and Amsterdam Avenue. It was named after French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who had founded Detroit in 1701. Cadillac’s first automobiles, the Runabout and Tonneau, were completed in October 1902. They were two-seat horseless carriages powered by a 10 hp (7 kW) single-cylinder engine. They were practically identical to the 1903 Ford Model A. Many sources say the first car rolled out of the factory on 17 October; in the book Henry Leland—Master of Precision, the date is 20 October; another reliable source shows car number three to have been built on 16 October. Cadillac displayed the new vehicles at the New York Auto Show in January 1903, where the vehicles impressed the crowds enough to gather over 2,000 firm orders. Cadillac’s biggest selling point was precision manufacturing, and therefore, reliability; a Cadillac was simply a better-made vehicle than its competitors.” Wikipedia

 

 

 

Windham Life and Times – December 14, 2018

Windham and the Summit

Mattie Clark Part 1

The “Old” Summit House that Mattie Clark from Windham, managed for many years.

Can you imagine a time when visitors could take the Cog Railway to the summit of Mount Washington, take in all the spectacular scenery and most extreme weather conditions, and enjoy it all while staying in well appointed accommodations there. Such was the world of the Summit House, a popular hotel that graced the summit of Mount Washington from 1873 until it was destroyed by fire in 1908.

For many years, a Windham native, was at the very center of this enterprise and was the popular manager of this well loved landmark. Miss Mattie Clark began working at the Summit House starting in 1884. Prior to that she had worked for the Profile House. When the hotel was destroyed the proprietors began providing accommodations in the rustic, stone, Tip-Top House, with Mattie Clark as manager. Finally, when the New Summit House was built in 1915 she again was put in charge. In the winter, she was employed by the Ormond Hotel in Florida, whose owner credited her with much of its success.

Miss Clark was a remarkable woman for the time; independent, and highly skilled, who died with a very sizable estate.  William Harris in the Exeter Newsletter of August 25, 1899 says, “Miss Mattie A. Clark of this town holds the responsible position of manager and housekeeper of the Summit House on Mount Washington. Among the Clouds thus speaks of her in a recent issue: ‘Miss Mattie A. Clark, who first became connected with the Summit House in 1884, and who has so successfully managed if for several years past, is the manager this year, and that is saying quite enough to assure the Summit visitors of first class treatment. Both here and in Ormand Florida, where she is superintending housekeeper, Miss Clark has made the most enviable reputation, and is known as one of the most capable woman hotel managers in the country.’ ”

My interest in Mattie Clark and Mount Washington was rekindled by Tim Lewis, who has done a remarkable job chronicling the exploits of the men and woman who worked on the Cog Railway, and on and around Mount Washington. He is doing additional research and he recently wrote me because he is looking for a photograph of Mattie Clark, so that he can put a face to the well known name. Much of what is presented here came from his incredibly in depth research.

“Putting a hotel on top of Mount Washington was no easy task. A casual observer would speak of  the Summit House as a three story wooden structure, with accommodations for one hundred and fifty guests. Were he of  an inquiring disposition he would learn that it is built in the most substantial manner possible, of  huge timbers bound by iron bolts, enabling it to withstand the fiercest storms of  winter, that the main building cost $56,599.57, not including freightage; that the lumber and materials, 250 train loads, used in its construction weighed 596 tons; that the thirty-three carpenters employed upon it, handicapped by storms, erected the frame and accomplished its ‘boarding in’ only after many delays – at one time able to work but one-half  day during a storm which lasted nine; that it was first opened to the public in 1873, and numerous other facts of  greater or lesser interest. It is said that transportation facilities are such that 10,000,000 people could breakfast at home and reach the White Mountains before retiring. To you one and all the Among the Clouds sends greetings, urging you to visit Mount Washington and learn for yourselves just what enthusiasm that writer felt who told of  a ‘warmest welcome in an inn.’ ”

Among the Clouds – Sat, Aug 13, 1904

Martha A. “Mattie” Clark was the middle child of  three born February 11, 1852 to Joseph S. and Deborah Armstrong Clark in Windham, New Hampshire. Mattie’s parents were Joseph-Scoby Clark and Deborah Elizabeth Armstrong the daughter of Joseph Armstrong. They lived on the Archibald farm in Windham. Mattie’s only sibling who lived to adulthood was a brother, Burnham who was born October 16, 1849 and who died fighting in the Civil War,  March 22, 1865.

Hopefully someone who reads this may have a photograph of Mattie Clark for Tim Lewis.

 

Windham Life and Times – November 23, 2018

Whittier Homestead Haverhill MA

Well, as I’ve researched this subject, I have felt like I was on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and its appropriate that I now come full circle back to the beginning. John Greenleaf Whittier was a poet and author who lived in the nearby town of Haverhill. He is one of the most important observers of early 19th century New England and it inhabitants. He broke from the Puritan’s ideals, seeing them as dull and gray while exhibiting a grimness of which he had no desire to be associated. He like Thoreau, rejected the emphasis on the pursuit of heaven and saw the incredible richness and beauty of natural world at hand.

It is from Whittier that we have the best glimpse of the Scotch-Irish and their way of life in southern New Hampshire. In fact, his first poem was published in Robert Dinsmoor’s book of poetry. He was also a keen observer of the Native American and saw them as a lost people who once had inhabited the natural Eden of America.  Therefore, it was incredible to find, in his Prose Works, Volume II, a chapter about New England fairies, entitled, Charms and Fairy Faith.

 

Up the airy mountain,

Down the rushy glen,

We dare not go a hunting

For fear of little men.

Wee folk, good folk,

Trooping all together;

Green jacket, red cap,

Gray cock’s feather.”  ALLINGHAM

 

“…In our cities and large towns children nowadays pass through the opening acts of life’s marvelous drama with as little manifestation of wonder and surprise as the Indian does through the streets of a civilized city which he has entered for the first time. Yet nature sooner or later vindicates her mysteries; voices from the unseen penetrate the din of civilization….”

“But in the green valley of rural New England there are children yet; boys and girls are still to be found not quite overtaken by the march of the mind. There, too, are huskings, and apple bees, and quilting parties, and huge old fireplaces piled with crackling walnut, flinging its rosy light over happy countenances of youth and scarcely less happy age. If it be true according to Cornelius Agrippa, ‘a wood fire doth drive away dark spirits,’ it is nevertheless, also true that around it the simple superstitions of our ancestors still love to linger; and there the half-sportful, half-serious charms of which I have spoken are oftenest resorted to…”

“Fairy faith is, we may safely say, now dead everywhere,—buried, indeed,—for the mad painter Blake saw the funeral of the last of  the little people, and an irreverent English bishop has sung their requiem. It never had much hold upon the Yankee mind, our superstitions being mostly of the sterner and less poetical kind. The Irish Presbyterians who settled New Hampshire about the year 1720 brought indeed with them, among other strange matters, potatoes and fairies; but while the former took root and flourished among us, the latter died out, after lingering a few years in a very melancholy and disconsolate way, looking back to their green turf dances, moonlight revels, and cheerful nestling around the shealing fires of Ireland. The last that has been heard of them was some forty or fifty years ago in a tavern house in S——, New Hampshire…”

“It is a curious fact that the Indians had some notion of a race of beings corresponding in many respects to the English fairies. Schoolcraft describes them as small creatures in human shape, inhabiting rocks, crags, and romantic dells, and delighting especially in points of land jutting into lakes and rivers and which were covered with pine trees,  (The exact description of the dwelling place of Tsiennetto.) They were called Puckweedjinees, —little vanishers.”

“In a poetical point of view it is regretted that our ancestors did not think it worth their while to hand down to us more of the simple and beautiful traditions and beliefs of the ‘heathen round about’ them. Some hints of them we glean from the writings of the missionary Mayhew and the curious little book of Roger Williams. Especially would one like to know more of that domestic demon, Wetuomanit, who presided over household affairs, assisted the young squaw in her first essay at wigwam-keeping, gave timely note of danger, and kept evil spirits at a distance—a kind of new-world brownie, gentle and useful…”

“Not far from my place of residence are ruins of a mill, in a narrow ravine fringed with trees. Some forty years ago the mill was supposed to be haunted; and horse-shoes, in consequence, were nailed over its doors. One worthy man, whose business lay beyond the mill, was afraid to pass by it alone; and his wife, who was less fearful of supernatural annoyance, used to accompany him. The little old white-coated miller, who there ground corn and wheat for his neighbors, whenever he made a particularly early visit to his mill, used to hear it in full operation,—the water-wheel dashing bravely, and the old rickety building clattering to the jar of stones. Yet the moment his hand touched the latch or his foot the threshold all was hushed save the melancholy drip of water from the dam or the low gurgle of the small stream eddying amidst the willow roots and mossy stones in the ravine below.”

“… The strange facts of natural history, and sweet mysteries of flowers and forests, and hills and waters, will profitably take the place of the fairy lore of the past, and poetry and romance still hold their accustomed seats of the circle of home, without bringing them the evil spirits of credulity and untruth. Truth should be the first lesson of the child and the last aspiration of manhood…”

In an odd coincidence, I had decided to write about Whittier last week, and this weekend I had a need to travel to Newton NH. My navigation took me through an obscure corner of Haverhill, that I’ve never been to before, on the New Hampshire border, and low and behold, there was the Whittier homestead.

 

Windham Life and Times September 28, 2018

Commuter Bus Crash

Route 28 Windham. September 25, 1961

9-25-61-WINDHAM NH– Smoke pours from fiery wreckage of a passengerless commuter bus and a truck that collided and burst into flames. Driver of the bus, Albert Trombly, 22, son of the owner of Trombly Motor Coach Lines, died instantly. Driver of the truck was hospitalized for shock, The vehicles collided on Route 28, Windham.” This bus route was established with the end of passenger service on the B&M railroad. In a related story published in the Union Leader in January 15, 1936 Windham was protesting the proposed bus line route. “Town Left Off Route; Will Meet B&M Official on Thursday. A group of interested citizens, led by Town Clerk John E. Cochran, has finally succeeded in having a representative of the Boston and Maine meet with the people in town to discuss grievances against the railroad in the proposed removal of passenger service on the Manchester-Lawrence branch of the Boston and Maine line. The meeting is to be held in the Town Hall Thursday, January 15, at 2:30. The present intention of the railroad is to omit Windham entirely in making out the new bus schedule to supplant the train service. The proposed router is along Rockingham Road, which will take  in every depot along the line except Windham. The group which will meet with Mr. Pearson, the representative of the railroad, wishes to have the bus leave the present route at City Point, pass through Windham Depot, and thence via Indian Rock Road to Canobie Lake Depot. This will benefit the residents of Windham much more. All citizens interested in such change in route are requested to be present at the mass meeting on Wednesday.” It appears from the crash location that the bus route remained on Route 28 rather than traveling on Indian Rock Road.

 

Windham Life and Times – March 23, 2018

Memorializing Windham Veterans

1898 and Beyond

On the left are the minutes of a meeting held on August 30, 1898 concerning the installation of marble plaques in the Nesmith Library reading room. It was a time of heightened patriotism in America with the Spanish American War having recently come to an end. “Voted …that a committee of three be chosen to ascertain the names of all soldiers who went from this town to the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, The Mexican War and the War of the Rebellion, array the same upon suitable tablets, and cause the same to be erected in the Library Building when completed.”

     Of course, more wars would follow, with the need to erect new marble plaques. The photograph above shows both the original plaques and the new one which commemorated the service of the veterans of World War Two. The plaque for World War Two memorialized the names of 79 Windham men who had served including Wilbur Tarbell who was the only casualty from town in the war. Bob Armstrong can be seen at left.

 

Windham Life and Times – January 16, 2018

Avoiding the Civil War Draft

RICH MAN’S WAR, POOR MAN’S FIGHT

I grew up with the blood and guts of the Vietnam War playing in full color on our television during dinner time. Walter Cronkite solemnly intoning the body count: 10,132 North Vietnamese dead or wounded, 207 ARVN troops dead or wounded and 3 American dead or wounded. Of course, I exaggerate, but not by much. With numbers like these how could we possibly lose, but lose we did. This was my childhood Civil War, it was just fought half-way around the world, to make it safe for democracy.

The draft and draft dodging were a huge topic during the Vietnam War. Many young Americans burned their draft cards and went to Canada to avoid going to Southeast Asia. On a family vacation, to Ausable Chasm, I remember seeing  burned draft cards in the rocks. Of course, during Vietnam, the rich man’s sons procured college deferments, which kept them out of the fighting, until the end of the war. When these provisions changed, the war ended pretty quickly. I still remember my brother getting his number in the mail, and it was low and caused a lot of foreboding, because he was going, except for the luck of the war coming to an end.

Well it seems that draft dodging was a part of the Civil War, more than 100 years before Vietnam. Again, it was the son’s of the rich who could afford the loop-hole of buying a substitute. I came upon this subject when reading Morrison’s History of Windham. “In 1863, the quota of the towns not being filled as promptly as was desired, a draft was made; and at a meeting of the town, Sept. 5, 1863, it was voted ‘to pay a bounty to all of its citizens who are, or who may be drafted into the services of the United States, or who procure substitutes under the calls of the President to put down the rebellion,’ the sum of ‘two hundred and seventy-five dollars to each citizen so drafted, or who procures a substitute.’ The money was to be paid after the soldier was mustered into the service. The selectman were chosen as a committee to carry the vote into effect and to hire (borrow) money at a vote ‘not exceeding six percent,” to pay said men. Nine men were drafted, and seven of them sent substitutes.”

This seems, really incredible to me, of the nine men drafted in Windham in 1863, only two actually joined the troops to fight in the war.

The website, http://www.thecivilwaromnibus.com, explains the civil war draft and substitution nicely, in an article entitled, “Hired soldier, Substitutes During the Civil War.”

“When the Civil War began, there was no shortage of able bodied men who volunteered for service in both the U.S. Army and the Confederate Army. Eager to show their patriotism, convinced that their cause would be victorious in a matter of months at the most, men gathered in cities and towns throughout America to form volunteer regiments, clamoring to assist in the war effort.”

“However, by late 1862 and early 1863, the patriotic fervor that had characterized the war effort early on was wearing thin in both the Confederacy and the United States, and finding men to replenish the armies of both nations was becoming difficult. Those who wanted to serve were already engaged; those who did not had either refused to serve, or, having volunteered and found the experience to be much more arduous than it seemed at first, had deserted or refused to re-enlist. This necessitated instituting a draft to choose men for service, and, in both the North and the South, the practice of hiring substitutes to serve in the place of those who were called and did not want to serve.”

“Long before the United States began the draft process, the Confederate Congress had allowed men to forgo service in the Confederate Army if they met certain occupational criteria – criteria that mostly exempted owners of large plantations or other enterprises, leading to the phrase “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” to describe the Confederate war effort. Southern men who did not meet exemption criteria but whom were otherwise able to fight often hired substitutes to serve for them. Yet by 1863, exemptions were outlawed in the Confederacy, where men willing to fight were becoming too scarce to exempt from service. This practice was just beginning, however, as it traveled north.”

“When the draft laws – known as the Enrollment Act – were first placed on the books in the United States in 1863, they allowed for two methods for avoiding the draft – substitution or commutation. A man who found his name called in the draft lotteries that chose men for mandatory service could either pay a commutation fee of $300, which exempted him from service during this draft lottery, but not necessarily for future draft lotteries, or he could provide a substitute, which would exempt him from service throughout the duration of the war.”

“With the Enrollment Act, the Civil War truly began to be known as a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight throughout the entire nation. The $300 commutation fee was an enormous sum of money for most city laborers or rural farmers, and the cost of hiring a substitute was even higher, often reaching $1000 or more.

In small towns where the potential loss of their entire population of able-bodied men became an imminent possibility, taxes and other means were raised in order to pay commutation fees, and, as commutation was outlawed, substitutes. These “bounties,” as the fees were called, would pay substitutes in lieu of townsmen.”

“The practice of hiring substitutes for military service took hold quickly in the North, becoming much more widespread than it had ever been in the South. For one thing, there was a much larger pool of men to draw from; immigrants that flowed into the ports of the North, even in a time of war, provided a large number of the substitutes hired by those who did not wish to serve. As the duration of the war lengthened, African-American soldiers, who’d thus far been only nominally accepted by the U.S. Army as viable soldiers, also became part of the pool of potential substitutes; many of the recruitment posters from the time explicitly solicit African-Americans for substitution.”

“Although the hiring of substitutes seems mercenary, and in many cases, resulted in the desertion of the substitute, many who went to war as hired men went because they were unable to enlist through the regular channels. This included the recent immigrants who were anxious to fight for their new country, and, importantly, the African-Americans who found going to war as substitutes the only way to fight for their freedom. For these men, the war was indeed a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight,” but from the perspective that poor men were more willing to fight for the possibilities they saw in their country.”

http://www.thecivilwaromnibus.com/articles/133/hired-soldiers-substitutes-during-the-civil-war/