Windham Life and Times – February 15, 2019

An Afternoon at the NH Historical Society Museum

The notorious, brilliant, womanizer, Benjamin Thompson, depicted in a painting with his wife, daughter and slave Dinah. He would soon abandon his American wife. One of the beautiful signs at the New Hampshire Historical Society, was a J. Stickney tavern sign from Concord, NH. The beautiful sign depicts the Indian Grand Sachem King Phillip, also known by his native American name of “Metacom or Metacomet.”

My wife is on a quest to find cheap things to do close to home…and thank God for the Hippo, because it really is the guide to what is happening in New Hampshire. This past Saturday, she took us to Concord for a nice lunch at the Barley House and a trip to a sign exhibit taking place at the New Hampshire Historical Society Museum.  The signs were great, but there were many other interesting things on display. My favorite was “White Mountains in the Parlor: The Art of Bringing Nature Indoors,” which included many works by the White Mountain School painters. There were several paintings by Benjamin Champney whose name has become synonymous with the White Mountain art of the nineteenth century. The landscapes of the mountains were sweeping and beautiful. There was also a well attended lecture taking place about how the railroads influenced New Hampshire and the grand hotels of the White Mountains.

One of the oil paintings that fascinated me was  “Benjamin Thompson’s Farewell.” by Daniel G. Lamont. What was interesting to me is that it is a rare visible example of how prevalent slavery was in New Hampshire. The caption states “Painted from memory, this paining was commissioned by Sarah Thompson, Countess Rumford, showing her parents Sarah Walker Rolfe Thompson and Benjamin Thompson, in a British army uniform, seated at a table in 1775. A loyalist, Benjamin Thompson is about to leave his family with British military forces evacuating New Hampshire. Sarah Thompson as baby is held by the Thompson’s African-American slave, Dinah, standing in the background…”Little did I comprehend what I didn’t know until I came across the book, “Sex and the Scientist, The Indecent Life of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. (1753-1814) In it we learn more about the importance of Dinah in the life of Sarah Thompson.”

“…This would not be the paternal aunt to whom she went when she was four but a female slave in the household name Dinah, who became Sally’s surrogate mother, spoken of with lifelong affection. And who had fairly exclusive care of her. This a slave nurtured the child and also smoothed over things for her. All her life, being sensitive, Sally had the need to go to someone to perform this same function and give the emotional support the enslaved black woman had provided. By the time Sally had the wistful family portrait painting, in which her mother and father were placed in the foreground and Dinah held her infant self, the America South was sentimentalizing slavery, which fed into Sally’s nostalgia and the artist’s stereotypical plantation mammy depiction so at odds with the parents, who look like cutouts of New Englanders.”

Thompson had met his wife in Concord NH. “Apprenticeships in the importing trade and the study of medicine, too, absorbed much of his young life until at the age of 19 he became a schoolmaster in Concord (earlier called Rumford) N.H. There he met and married a wealthy widow, Mrs. Sarah Rolf, who was also the daughter of Reverend Timothy Walker. In this position of influence, young Thompson met Governor Wentworth of New Hampshire who was impressed enough to name him Major in the 2nd Provincial Regiment.” After this painted scene, Thompson would sail back to England and abandon his wife and child in America. He would eventually reconcile with his daughter Sally  (Sarah?).

On Saturday, March 9, 2019 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Genealogy Workshop: The Scots-Irish in New England.

“Three hundred years ago, in 1719, a group of sixteen Scots-Irish families established a settlement in Nutfield (later Londonderry), N.H. They were part of a wave of Scots-Irish immigration to New England that would bring thousands of people to the New World. In New Hampshire, the Londonderry settlement became a jumping-off point for what was essentially a Scots-Irish invasion in the eighteenth century.  Join us for a day-long program with special guest speakers from the Ulster Historical Foundation from Belfast, Ireland, to learn more about the history of the Scots-Irish and conducting genealogical research on Scots-Irish families. Time will also be set aside for Q&A and for some tips on overcoming brick walls in your research. In addition, the Society will present for viewing—for one day only—the Shute Petition, which initiated the Scots-Irish exodus to New England.” Space is limited, and registration is required. The cost is $75 for New Hampshire Historical Society members and $125 for nonmembers. The day we were there new memberships were being offered for $34.99 or half price.

 

 

Windham Life and Times – January 4, 2018

Windham and the Summit

View of the Hotel Ormond, where Mattie Clark worked in Ormond Florida. Ormond Beach would become the winter home of John D. Rockefeller along with other noted residents.

Part 4—Mattie Clark and Ormond Florida

Mattie Clark’s employment at the Summit House on Mount Washington only lasted through the summer months. In the winter she was employed at to Hotel Ormond in Ormond Florida. Mattie Clark’s ties to Ormond, Florida, were through John Anderson. Anderson was of Scots-Irish descent as was Clark. Anderson’s family were pioneers in Wiscasset and later at Windham, Maine starting in the late 1600’s. John Anderson’s youth involved many adventures in and around the White Mountains…” “As mentioned earlier, John Anderson’s father (Samuel) was the organizer and leader of the movement resulting in the building of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad through the heart of the White Mountains. This was previously considered an incredible feat until accomplished by his father’s brother, John Farwell Anderson, Chief engineer (John’s uncle). General Samuel Anderson was president of this road up to the time of his death, in 1905.”

John Anderson was an early settler in Ormond, Florida where he owned and developed citrus plantations and later with his business partner Joseph Price, railroads and hotels. The connection with Mattie Clark must have begun with Anderson’s hotels and railroad in the White Mountains. “By this time, Anderson and Price had formed a partnership and were planning activities in New Hampshire during the summer season and in Florida during the winter months. The Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad was nearing completion in 1875 through the Crawford notch. Consequently, several hotels in the area were being designed and built, or expanded to accommodate rapidly increasing tourism in the White Mountains. The tourist activity in the White Mountains continued and by the mid 1880’s certainly inspired Anderson and Price to look into the possibility of a North-South railroad through Volusia County, Florida, and consideration for a hotel to accommodate guests during Florida’s mild winter months. The caveat was that Anderson and Price would be almost guaranteed year-round patronage by owning and managing hotels in both the north and the south… The first section of “The Ormond” hotel was constructed in the summer of 1887. Eventually Henry Flagler would purchase the hotel.

Pier on the Halifax River.

Of course, Mattie Clark was a manager at this hotel. She also owned a cottage on Orchard Lane in Ormond Beach known as the “Coacoochee” Cottage in the Santa Lucia Plantation. A brochure describes it this way; “Heavily laden with oranges and grapefruit, Santa Lucia Grove is in plain view from the veranda or front windows of the Hotel Ormond…The shell walk under the grape arbor upon the high river bank along the front of the orange grove an easy and most enjoyable stroll, particularly in the morning, when the red birds, mocking birds and blue jays are making merry a mong the orange trees, and in the dense foliage of the glossy green bays, and squirrels are chasing through the tops of oaks. The vine arbor is the scuppernong grape, the wine grape of Florida…On the walk you encircle the orange grove, passing when nearly back to the hotel, the luxurious log camp, ‘Coacooche’ pronounced Coa-coo-chee, the Indian name of the ‘Little Wild Cat,’ the great Seminole chief who lived, loved and made savage war along the Halifax and Tomoka Rivers.” At his death, John Anderson left Mattie Clark $500 in his will, stating that, “I give and bequeath to Miss Clark – Mattie A. Clark, of  Windham Depot, N. H. – to whose never-flagging interest and untiring efforts is due much of  the success I have had in my hotel business, $500, and I would also have sent to her the knitted afghan which she has made for me and in the possession of  which I have had much comfort and satisfaction.”  John Anderson, His Life and Times in Ormand Florida. Ronald  L. Howell.

 

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 – May 11, 2018

Bette Davis and Chick Austin

Bette Davis greets fans at the Windham Playhouse

SHE ATTENDS WINDHAM PLAYHOUSE IN 1948

In 1948, Bette Davis agreed to attend one of Chick Austin’s performances at the Windham Playhouse.  You might wonder, as I did,  how Austin and Davis had formed their friendship. In Magician of the Modern, Eugene Gaddis details their relationship. “When Chick Austin arrived in Los Angeles, he was Paul Byk’s guest in one of the poolside cottages at the Garden of Allah, the former residence of the Russian actress and silent film star Alla Nazimova. It had become a popular resort hotel for writers like Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Christopher Isherwood, and W.H. Auden, along with artists, musicians, and movies stars. In 1943 Hollywood and New York were the two most stimulating places to be for anyone involved in the arts, and the Garden was a prime location for a meeting place. Chick already had friends in the film world—John Houseman, Virgil Thomson, Ruth Ford, Tonio Selwart, and George Balanchine among them—and Helen’s brother-in-law Willie Graff was in the movies. Chic soon had a large circle of acquaintances. Bette Davis, with her New England background, developed and immediate rapport with him…Chick soon bought a house on Miller Drive in the Hollywood hills overlooking the city, where he could throw his own parties. ‘It was always an event if you went to Chick’s.’ Angela Lansbury remembered, He always had an incredible mixture of people.’ He reverted to his premarital habit of using every dish in the house and never cleaning up. When a friend asked him how he coped with the mess he replied, ‘Oh, Bette Davis comes in once a week and does dishes…” In 1946, Austin was appointed head of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota Florida. “After a brief stop in Hartford, he dashed back to Hollywood to give a birthday party for Bette Davis. When he found out that one of the actors from ‘Tis Pity, Paul Geissler, was planning to visit a friend in Mexico, he invited Geissler to accompany him to Hollywood first to help with the party. Chick decided that nothing less than a total redecoration of the house would do. He borrowed paintings, furniture, and silver from Adolf Loewi to create the perfect setting for his guest of honor, and the  party was one of his most dazzling.” In 1948, Ruth Ford’s brother Charlie with Pavel Tchelitchew, Bette Davis, Tonio Selwart, and his wife Isa visited Chick in Sarasota.

“He was now more of a celebrity in the museum world than ever, but as soon as Bette Davis told him she would attend the opening of Laura  at the Windham Playhouse that summer, he became once again the starstruck movie fan. He rushed to Boston to buy designer clothes for the leading lady and went all out on the set. At the last moment, Chick’s idol sent word that she could not come after all, but would attend the opening of the next play, Voice of the Turtle. Chick was so determined to impress her that, two days before Voice of the Turtle started rehearsal, he announced that he was bringing a professional company from New York to perform it. The summer actors were incensed, but when Miss Davis did appear, radiating charm, they all sat at her feet at Chick’s party in Uncle John’s.”

Despite Austin’s flamboyant and extravagant lifestyle, his true love was his theater and home in Windham.  He is buried on the Cemetery on the Hill.

 

Windham Life and Times – May 4, 2018

My Grandfather’s Barn

Cutting Pine Trees with My Brother

For those  of you who have lived in Windham for a while, you’ll remember my grandfather’s barn, that stood on a small rise, across from his field-stone house on Route 111. I loved to crawl around in that old barn because it smelled so cool, and because there was always some treasure to be found inside. It was quite beautiful with its field-stone first floor and shingled, gambrel second floor. As a kid, I always fantasized about turning it into my house someday. That was not to be. The reason the pine branches are on the roof in the photograph, is because  the large pine grove behind the barn had just been cleared to make way for what would eventually be the Woodland Ridge office building, which was developed by my dad, George Dinsmore. I can still remember clearing those massive 100 foot pine trees with my older brother and a friend of his, without much of any supervision. We were high school aged. We almost killed ourselves; but we didn’t, and we became more confident in our own prowess. That’s what being young and “privileged” got you, as you were allowed to prove your own worth, back in the day. Today, boys are required to follow rules they were never meant to obey. A life worth living is a risk. Can a safe space ever provide a substitute for the bold adrenaline rush? I will always remember as my brother and I watched in awe, as by our own young hands, massive old pines, first cracked and hissed, and then whooshed, before they hit the ground with a glorious, loud thud.

 

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/