Windham Life and Times – June 11, 2017

Eastern Illustrating Company


According to, At the Edge of Megalopolis, Shadow Lake was a “fair sheet of water hidden among the hills,” when surveyor Theophilus Satchwell discovered it in the 1600’s. It was known as Satchwell Pond while the area was claimed by Haverhill. The lake aquired its native American name of Hitty-Titty Pond when Salem became a town. Douglas Weed in his Images of America Salem says that the name was changed to Shadow Lake in 1913. I am guessing that the change had something to do with the “Shadowland” recreation area which was developed on its shore. Shadow Lake lent itself to better marketing for cottages and a lake resort than did Hitty-Titty, primordial name or not. Shadowland included a store, a beautiful beach and a large dance-hall which hung out over the water on piers. People have been asking me for more history of Shadow Lake and I was so happy to find these beautiful photographs of the pond. Shadow Lake, like Canobie Lake is shared, as is their history, with our good neighbors in Salem.


Windham Life and Times – April 13, 2017

Eastern Illustrating Company

Clif’s Place, Windham NH Courtesy Penobscot Marine Museum


Clif’s Place is a store and gas station that sprang up on Route 28 to serve the growing number of “auto tourists.” In another photograph of this location, Charles A. Dow Sr. was the proprietor and he offered camping grounds for auto tourists, overlooking Seavey Pond. This building is now a church. Courtesy of Penobscot Marine Museum.

Another photograph of the same spot by a different postcard publisher.

Windham Life and Time – March 9, 2017

100 Years Ago In Windham

The Upham Cottage on Left. North Shore Road, Cobbett’s Pond

Benjamin N. Upham Drops Dead

“WINDHAM, March 13, 1917— Benjamin N. Upham, of Dorchester, Mass., who has a summer cottage on Cobbett’s Pond, in which he took great interest, dropped dead on the street near his home in the storm of Monday evening, the 5th. He had long been connected with the Youth’s Companion, having charge of the premium department. Which, was quite a specialty with this popular paper. For some years, Mr. Upham was a deacon in the Ruggles Street Baptist Church  in Boston. He was a man whom it was good to know.” W.S. Harris 

Francis and Edward Bellamy

Benjamin Upham’s brother James, had a large role in the creation of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Many patriots today, might be interested to know that, “The Pledge,” was written in 1892, by Francis Bellamy, a former Baptist minister, and an employee at the Youth’s Companion. (There has been a long running historical debate about who actually wrote “The Pledge,” with Upham’s family providing evidence that he actually did. However, today the authorship of the pledge is generally ascribed to Bellamy.) Both Bellamy and Upham were  “Christian Socialists.” Before joining the Youth’s Companion, Francis “was forced out of his Boston church for his socialist sermons, including topics like ‘Jesus the Socialist’ and a series of sermons on ‘The Socialism of the Primitive Church.’ ” Edward Bellamy, was Francis Bellamy’s cousin and also a socialist, who wrote Looking Backward, a utopian novel set in the far distant year 2000. “Bellamy’s vision sees the social ills of society cured by making America into a regimented worker’s paradise where everyone has equal incomes, and men are drafted into the country’s industrial army at the age of 21, serving jobs assigned by the state. Bellamy used the term “Nationalism” rather than “Socialism” as the descriptor of his governmental vision. He made this calculated move, to prevent a negative impact on sales of his novel and to better influence political ideas. Bellamy’s book inspired a political movement of “Nationalists Clubs,” and Francis Bellamy, author of “The Pledge,” was a founding member in Boston.      “The Pledge” would have been seen as an anathema to the founders of America, who felt that all of the rights of the government, only had legitimacy when they flowed from the rights of the individual, not the other way around.

    So where does James Upham fit in the picture? It was his job to generate revenue through the sale of premiums at the Youth’s Companion. According to Wikipedia, “In 1891, Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of the Youth’s Companion, hired Bellamy to work with Ford’s nephew James B. Upham in the magazine’s premium department. In 1888, the Youth’s Companion had begun a campaign to sell American flags to public schools as a premium to solicit subscriptions. For Upham and Bellamy, the flag promotion was more than merely a business move; under their influence, the Youth’s Companion became a fervent supporter of the schoolhouse flag movement, which aimed to place a flag above every school in the nation. Four years later, by 1892, the magazine had sold American flags to approximately 26,000 schools. By this time the market was slowing for flags, but was not yet saturated.  In 1892, Upham had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas to further bolster the schoolhouse flag movement.

The magazine called for a national Columbian Public School Celebration to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition. A flag salute was a part of the official program for the Columbus Day celebration to be held in schools all over America.”

The Pledge was published in the September 8, 1892, issue of the magazine, and immediately put to use in the campaign. Bellamy went to speak to a national meeting of school superintendents to promote the celebration; the convention liked the idea and selected a committee of leading educators to implement the program, including the immediate past president of the National Education Association. Bellamy was selected as the chair. Having received the official blessing of educators, Bellamy’s committee now had the task of spreading the word across the nation and of designing an official program for schools to follow on the day of national celebration. He structured the program around a flag-raising ceremony and his pledge.”

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Students saying the “pledge” with the “Bellamy salute,” which looks very similar to the NAZI salute.

“For years the Pledge was accompanied with the “Bellamy salute,” a gesture invented by The Youth Companion’s marketing man, James B. Upham. In Bellamy’s own recollection, upon reading the pledge for the first time, Upham had snapped his heels together, raised his arm at half mast, and enthusiastically roared his support.” Of course, with the similarity to the NAZI salute, American politicians opted to change the salute to the more politically correct, hand over the heart, in 1942.

Benjamin Upham’s cottage was located on the North Shore on land leased from William Harris.  James Upham died in 1905, but his children visited the cottage. Both James Upham and Benjamin Upham worked in the premium department of the “Youth’s Companion.”

Windham Life & Times – February 24, 2017

100 Year Ago in Windham | W.S. Harris | Exeter Newsletter

A tall stone wall divides a field on Dinsmoor Hill, Windham with Canobie lake in background.

A tall stone wall divides a field on Dinsmoor Hill, Windham with Canobie Lake in background.


“WINDHAM, February 27.— Among the books lately added to the town library is ‘North of Boston’ by Robert Frost, who was known to some in town when he lived in Derry and was a teacher at Pinkerton Academy. These writings have a certain picturesque flavor and a crude rhythm, but probably we are too far from Boston culture to understand what is gained by stretching the definition of poetry sufficiently to cover writings like these.” I looked through “North of Boston” to find a poem, and I must agree with Will Harris that much of it is a little boring and idyllic, but in “Mending Walls” there is perhaps something worthwhile to be found. It is especially relevant in showing what has been lost over the past 100 years, where now it seems that for many Americans, that walls of all kinds should be torn down. The poem shows the wisdom of borders and separation, and how the division line actually brings those that are separated by it closer together, because of the security of knowing the rules of the divide and because on each side of the wall, one has the freedom to privately live life as one wishes, without being subjected to the meddling of others. It seems, “the poet,” Robert Frost advocates for their destruction. Have his ideals won?

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned

!’We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,

One on a side.  It comes to little more:There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.

‘Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn’t it

Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.’  I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself.  I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’




Windham Life and Times – February 17, 2017

A Winter Field



I seem to be napping more this winter, the sweet surrender, giving into the impulse to close my heavy eyes…only for a second, then clap, clap, clap… as somebody appoints themselves as the guardian of my private slumber. And the dreams, the dreams have been coming fast and furious, a torrent; fantastic dreams, of places that are falling down and places that seem so similar but distorted, a dystopian world, the longing to correct some wrong, or simply to find peace, in the frenzy of searching and never finding in the watches of the night.  So in the height of mid-winter nocturnal whiteness, a poem or two, inspired by an old newspaper clipping from 1982. “Peaceful Setting. Tranquility abounds in this field off Lowell Road in Windham, N.H. The unused hay-rake and barn in the background seem to be waiting for warmer days and busier times.”

Conceit And The Hay Rake: A Rural Patriarchy.

John Kinsella, “The Silo”

The hand can but suggest, there’s no touching

the subject—conceit and the hay rake have so much

in common when nothing’s left to the imagination:

in the absence of confession, the camera aside,

depth of field obscuring the intentions, details

catch in the fangs of the hay rake, old and fractious,

trapped in its rusted skin and chipped nail polish.

Carpe Diem it seems to say sarcastically, Carpe Diem.

Treading carefully, you continue to prompt: consider

the light, it may be in your eye but I need it over

my shoulder; consider your beauty, wheels that are

solar systems, a solidity that defies the scrap yard.

So ready! But what is this you’re saying? Discordia

Concors? Okay, don’t smile, but consider anyway.

A Dream Within a Dream

Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

This much let me avow:

You are not wrong who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,

In a vision, or in none,

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand–

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep–while I weep!

O God! can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?


This poem is for my wife, who always sees her morning “murder” of crows as a welcome sight. Just for reference, a flock of crows is known as a “murder” of crows.

“This more poetic term for a flock of crows can be traced back at least to the 15th century, when it was recorded as a murther of crowes. Murther is a variant of Middle English murthre ‘murder,’ though the “th” sound had begun to be replaced with a d around 1300 C.E. There are several theories as to how this particular term came about, but all of them have to do with the supposed behavior of crows. For instance, crows are scavengers and therefore often seen feeding on rotting bodies of various sorts. Survivors of wars have described how the battlefields were covered in black as crows (and ravens) came down to eat the dead. Another theory hearkens back to old folklore which told of groups of crows essentially holding court over members of their flock that had committed offenses. If they decide against the “defendant” crow, then the rest of the flock swoops down on it and kills it. There are legends outside of the Germanic culture that relate to crows being judges over people as well, and how their appearance is an omen of death.”

Crows in Winter

By Vivian Smith

“An Island South”


They’ve come at last these wild crows,

The snow is heaped both fresh and hard,

To sit upon the silent tree,

That drew the wind into the yard.


Magic birds from long ago,

why have you come to visit me,

wearing still your gallows clothes?

Once you knew the hangman’s tree.


But know; I see you merely stare

Alone, ahead. There is no sun.

The sky is grey and without shape;

So was the world when just begun,


and from the stones another bird

Flaps to the tree and shakes, ignored,

His shabby, cracked , and tired wings;

He’s angry, full of spite and bored;


And through the winter calm there runs

His shallow, broken, strident cry.

Heraldic birds and birds of dreams,

Strips of rock and storm-filled sky,


and they stare and crouch, indifferent;

their eyes are deadened with distrust.

The new snow falls and spirals down

Gently falling—where it must.





Windham Life and Times – February 10, 2017

Mystery in Stone

Windham NH stone beehive on Beacon Hill Road

Windham NH stone beehive on Beacon Hill Road


There are hundreds of mysterious stone structures found throughout New England. There is no one consensus about who built them or why. The most famous stone structures, locally, can be found at Mystery Hill, in North Salem. It is argued by some that these were built as root cellars for the early settler’s, or by others that they were built by the Native Americans. The most interesting conjecture was by William Goodwin, who believed that they were built by Celtic Culdee monks, long before the advent of the Norsemen. He outlines all his theories in his book “The Ruins of Great Ireland in New England.” There is even a researcher who believes that they were built by a lost colony of the Knights Templars and that they are connected to Oak Island in Nova Scotia. Steven Sora’s book is “The Lost Colony of the Templars: Verrazano’s Secret Mission to America.

Windham too, is home to these structures. Butterfield Rock in Windham, looks exactly like a huge, megalithic Dolmen  similar to those found in Europe, that were constructed between 3,000-7,000 B.C. Then there is the nicely preserved beehive structure that is located on Beacon Hill Road in Windham. Large stone slabs make up the roof and the floor. NEARA created a site report for this structure. There are over 800 of these stone structures scattered throughout New England. The question then becomes how, why, when and by whom were they built?

If you ever feel that you want to travel down the rabbit hole surrounding these mysterious stone structures, then head online to the New England Antiquities Research Association website at: The photographs are fascinating and you’ll spend an hour or so with your mouth wide open, just wondering why these stone structures exist in New England.  If this isn’t strange enough, check out Ancient Origins at You’ll learn about the cover-up of the Smithsonian and other prestigious archeological research institutions. It seems that these institutions had an agenda and they did not like what was being found in the ground, because it did not back up their theory of origins.  Why were the skeletons of real giants, with red hair, double rows of teeth and six fingers, showing up in large numbers in ancient Indian burial mounds? Did they build the megaliths? Why was is said of Passaconway, one of the most famous Native American sachems in New England, that he was extremely tall, had red hair and could perform magic. Of course, we know what ancient alien theorists would say, don’t we. Well here’s what I say, human beings understand less than 1% of the reality of existence . Most of human perception is acquired from outside of us, through bits of information over time, that creates a personal narrative loop in our minds, that feels perfectly rational, but much of which is simply false. The truth about ancient origins is beyond our current understanding and if we could know for sure, I think it would be much stranger than fiction. Its in admitting our unknowing, from inside,  that truth is found. Wow, I feel much better, and totally liberated now!

A huge Megalith? Butterifield Rock in Windham NH. The work of glaciers or something else?

A huge Megalith? Butterfield Rock in Windham NH. The work of glaciers or something else?

Returning to Windham, the biggest mystery surrounds the stone chambers destroyed by the construction of Interstate 93 in the 1960’s. NEARA created a Site Report and interviewed Andy Griffin, the owner of the land on February 8, 1965.  In the report it is noted that he has photographs of the structures. The report states “I did not know anything about this site nor was I told anything about it by Mr. Eltson, until I found the above mentioned ‘Mystery Hill’ questionnaire while refiling Mystery Hill information. I called Mr. Griffin on 2/3/65 and obtained the following information on sheet 2 of this report.”

  • “The (two) Beehives were completely destroyed for construction of new Interstate Route 93.
  • There were 2 (two) Beehives plus 1 large rock with inscriptions on it. He saved the large rock by having it bulldozed out of the way. It is still preserved on his property (Griffin Park). (Note-This jives with a story I was told in the Winter of 1963 by Bill Morrill of Chester, N.H., who had operated the bulldozer that moved the rock.)
  • There was one other large rock or roof slab that had many drill holes on it. It wasn’t saved and it along with the other stuff is now under the North bound lane of Route 93.
  • Mr. Griffin took about 6 pictures (colored) before the Site was destroyed.
  • In 1959 (sometime after the questionnaire was filled out) he took Mr. R Elston (then Manger of Mystery Hill) along with some tall lanky professor and his son to see the Beehives on a very rainy evening. (Note-I was never informed of this).
  • The professor told him that it wouldn’t do any good to try to have them saved seeing as how they couldn’t save the large Site in Mass. To make room for Route 495. (Note—this Site must have been the Hill of Cairns, in Bolton, Mass.) The site in Mass. Included many Beehives (note-This is questionable).
  • There is still another oddity on this property and that is some sort of built-up earth work like a small watershed.
  • Mr. Griffin told of seeing a book in the Lawrence Library concerning caves in New England. The book stated that the North Salem structures were the largest and should be surrounded within 3 or 4 miles by many single structures.
  • Mr. Griffin lives on Route 111A (Range Road) (about 1 mile from the Jct. of 111A and 111) (Near Route 93 interchange.)
  • Has a lane between house and barn, down this lane about 1/2 mile is the rock he saved. It now rests on another slab.
  • The Rock Slab with the markings on it that he saved is about 18’ x 3’ x 4’ and it was once part of the entrance of one of the beehives. It was one of the bottom rocks.
  • This particular beehive was badly damaged, so much so that the front roof slab was on the ground next to the above mentioned slab.
  • He, Elston, and the Professor pulled moss off from the roof slab, and found a series of round drill holes. The professor said that some early Colonialist tried to use the rock for something else, and gave up.
  • The rock with the markings actually has only one marking and it is a “V” shaped wedge mark across the top.
  • The pictures he took are 35 mm slides and he will try to find them for me to have copied.
  • The Professor was very angry in that he would need about 6 months to excavate the structures and wouldn’t be able to come back until about 2 weeks. By then, it was to be destroyed.
  • I asked him again if the Hill of Cairns at Bolton Mass. had beehives on it. The professor had told him that it did.”

Note: On February 20, 1965, I went to Mr. Griffin’s property and found the slab with the “V” marking. I took three pictures each of B&W and colored.   R.E. Stone, February 24, 1965.

The following is the description of the site the Any Griffin wrote on the Mystery Hill questionnaire: On the west shore of Canobie Lake we have a location which seems as if it might have some connection with your caves. It appears to be a single hut with large stones similar to your type. It is a considerable distance from any building and on the side of a hill. It appears as though the large stones have been hauled some 300 feet or more to the present site. If you care to take a look at the location you may contact me at Murdock 3-1217. A.J. Griffin.

Of course, there was one other stone structure like these in Windham. It was on Butterfield Rock Road. It was destroyed when Chestnut Street was built in the 1980’s. We came upon it on a Boy Scout hike, when I was a kid. Meetinghouse Road was still a dirt path through the woods and Butterfield Rock Road was even rougher and narrower. The stone structure was built into a hill, was quite large, and was in kind of an open meadow at that time.



Windham Life and Times – January 27, 2017

100 Years Ago in Windham

Frank Ayer's Cottage about 1898 as shown in the Granite Monthly.

Frank Ayer’s Cottage about 1898 as shown in the Granite Monthly


“WINDHAM, January 23.—Fishing through the ice at Cobbett’s Pond has been largely engaged in this winter. One pickerel 25 inches long is reported.”

“Frank H. Ayer, who recently died in Nashua, leaving a large estate and no immediate family, was the owner of ‘Pioneer Cottage,’ the first summer camp on Cobbett’s Pond, which he and others built in the spring of 1886.” (Died January 12th)


     Frank Hamilton Ayer was born in Nashua N.H., June 21, 1857. His parents were Francis Brown Ayer, M.D. and his wife Anne Marie (Baldwin) Ayer. His boyhood passed in his native city and his preparation for Yale was completed at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. From the time of graduation until 1891 he was connected with the Nashua Bobbin and Shuttle Company, of which he was at one time president and treasurer. In the latter year he retired from the above company and became the Eastern representative of the Ironton Door and Manufacturing Company, of Ironton, Ohio. In 1905, he relinquished his position and entered upon the real estate business in Nashua, largely in connection with his own investments and his interest in the development of Nashua. He was an enthusiastic golfer and built the first golf course in New Hampshire. He denies having ever indulged in extended travel, or having engaged in politics or any other avocations which offer themselves to the average citizen, and leaves it to be inferred that he has limited his activities exclusively to his business and family affairs. He married January 26, 1887, Ellen Frances Batchelder, daughter of Orison and Anne Maria (Clark) Batchelder of Manchester, N.H.. They have no children. “He hated sham and was a scornful critic of the bootlicking of his day and generation.” His wife died in 1910. History of the Class of Eighty, Yale Alumni Weekly


      The Nashua Bobbin and Spool Company is a long-established industry. Of its origin and progress in earlier times we have already written. It has supplied mills in every part of the country. Within a few months it has been reorganized with Frank H. Ayer, president and treasurer; G.H. Hatch, clerk; and Ira Cross, superintendent. It makes bobbins, spools and shuttles for all kinds of textile fabrics,–cotton, woolen, silk, linen, hemp and jute; also rollers for skates and other kinds of wood-work. The works are located on Water Street. The floorage of the shops is nearly three acres, and its business this year one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and in good times twice that amount. White birch and maple are material for spools and shuttles, but of late dog-wood and persimmon are shipped from North Carolina. History of Nashua NH.


Windham Life and Times – January 12, 2017




Ben and Josefa Markewich owned Castle Hill Farm in West Windham. It was one of the largest farms in town, running along both sides of Castle Hill Road and up Mount Ephraim  to where Heritage Hill and Bennington Roads are located today.   They ran a successful dairy farm which at one time had more than 65 cows, during the 30’s and 40’s. Josefa is shown above with the cows in front of her house. Winter brought different chores to the farm, like cutting ice for the household refrigeration and milk.




Windham Life and Times – March 5, 2015

100 Years Ago Today in Windham NH – W.S. Harris Reporting in the Exeter Newsletter

Albert Farmer Pre-Cut House in West Windham NH

Albert Farmer’s Pre-Cut House in West Windham NH

WINDHAM , March 2. — Albert W. Farmer’s house at West Windham nears completion and presents a fine appearance. This is one of the ready-made houses, the materials coming from Bay City, Mich., every timber and board cut for its place, and only needing to be put together according to the blue-print plans. Mr. Farmer and his son and H.Y. Gilson, who are doing the work, are enthusiastic over this way of building a house, and say there is a great savings in expenses, the materials for the whole house costing under $1,300. This house stood until a few years ago, on Haverhill Road, on the right, just before the intersection with Mammoth Road.

Aladdin Homes Catalog from 1914 Showing Model Selected by Albert Farmer

Aladdin Homes Catalog from 1914 Showing Model Selected by Albert Farmer

“The Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan was one of America’s most long lived manufacturers of mail-order, “kit homes.” Begun in 1906 by two brothers, Otto and William Sovereign, the family-owned firm continued to manufacture houses until 1981. Over the firm’s long history it sold over 75,000 homes to both individual and corporate customers.” There slogan was “Built in a Day.”

From Wikipedia: “Aladdin quickly expanded to become one of largest mail-order house companies. By 1915 sales surpassed $1 million. In 1918 Aladdin alone accounted for 2.37 percent of all housing starts in the United States, around 1,800 homes. The company’s greatest success came from sales to industries which constructed company towns around new plants, mines and mills. The town of Hopewell, Virginia was largely developed by the DuPont Company using Aladdin homes. In 1917 Aladdin shipped 252 houses to Birmingham England, for the Austin Motor Company who built Austin Village to house workers for munitions, tank and aircraft manufacture during World War I”  

Windham Life & Times – February 19, 2015

The Great Snow of 1717

A woodcut depicting the Great Snow of 1717

A woodcut depicting the Great Snow of 1717

So you think we’ve got a lot of snow this winter? This is nothing compared to the “Great Snow of 1717.” According to Sidney Perley, writing in 1891, in his Historic Storms of New England, “In December, 1716, snow fell to a depth of five feet, rendering traveling very difficult, and almost impossible except on snow shoes. The temperature throughout the winter was moderate, but the amount of snow that fell that season has never been equaled in New England during three centuries of her history. Snow fell in considerable quantities several times during the month of January, and on February 6 it lay in drifts in some places twenty-five feet deep, and in the woods a yard or more on the level. Cotton Mather said that the people were overwhelmed with snow.”

"Ye Whiners! Ye don't know what a great snowfall is about." The Ghost of Cotton Mather

“Ye Whiners! Ye don’t know what a great snowfall is about.” The Ghost of Cotton Mather

On March 7, 1717, Rev. Cotton Mather made the following diary entry: “Never such a Snow, in the Memory of Man! And so much falling this Day, as well as fallen two Dayes ago, that very many, of our Assemblies had no Sacrifices.” He also called it “One horrid snow.”

The Boston News-letter reported, ‘Not fit for man nor beast,’ No horse could brave it. Nor any ships. No vessels arrived this week.” (The New Yorker)

Again from Sidney Perley we read, “The great storm began on February 18 and continued piling its flakes upon the already covered earth until the twenty-second; being repeated on the twenty-fourth so violently that all communication between houses and farms ceased. Down came the flakes of feathery lightness, until:

‘…the whited air Hides the hills and woods, the river and the heaven, And veils the farmhouse…all friends shut out the housemates sit, Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed, In a tumultuous privacy of storm.’

“During the storm enough snow fell to bury the earth to the depth of from ten to fifteen feet on the level, and in some places for long distances twenty feet deep.”

From New England Historical Society website; “The events were so unusual that he and other contemporary diarists made note of how exceptionally harsh it was throughout New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Throughout the region snow totals from the back-to-back storms were recorded of four, five and six feet, with drifts as high as 25 feet. Entire houses were covered over, identifiable only by a thin curl of smoke coming out of a hole in the snow. In Hampton, N.H., search parties went out after the storms hunting for widows and elderly people at risk of freezing to death. It wasn’t uncommon for them to lose their bearings and not be able to find the houses. Sometimes they were found burning their furniture because they couldn’t get to the woodshed.”

Snow shoes were often the only means of traveling through the snow.

Snow shoes were often the only means of traveling through the snow.

According to Perley, “Many cattle were buried in the snow, where they smothered or starved to death. Some were found dead weeks after the snow had melted, yet standing and with the appearance of life. The eyes of many were so glazed with ice that being near the sea they wandered into the water and drowned. On the farms of one gentleman upwards of eleven hundred sheep were lost in the snow. Twenty-eight days after the storm, while the search for them was still in progress, more than one hundred were found hurdled together, apparently having found a sheltered place on the lee side of a drift, where they were slowly buried as the storm raged on, being covered with snow until they lay sixteen feet beneath the surface. Two of the sheep were alive, having subsisted for four weeks of their entombment by feeding on the wool of their companions…Other animals lived during several weeks imprisonment under the snow. A couple of hogs were lost, and all hope of finding them alive was gone, when on the twenty-seventh day after the storm they worked their way out of a snow bank in which they had been buried, having subsisted on a little tansy, which they found under the snow. Poultry also survived several days burial, hens being found alive after seven days, and turkeys from five to twenty. These were buried in the snow some distance above the ground, so they could obtain no food whatever.

“The wild animals which were common in the forests of New England at this period were robbed of their means of subsistence, and they became desperate in their cravings of hunger…Bears and wolves were numerous then, and as soon as night fell, in their ravenous state they followed the deer in droves into the clearings, at length pouncing on them. In this way vast numbers of these valuable animals were killed, torn to pieces, and devoured by their fierce enemies. It was estimated that nineteen out of every twenty deer were thus destroyed.” (Perley)

“The carriers of the mails who were called ‘postboys,’ were greatly hindered in the performance of their duties by the deep snow. Leading out from Boston there were three post roads, and as late as March 4 there as no traveling, the ways being still impassible, and the mail was not expected,  though it was then a week late. March 25 the ‘post’ was traveling on snow shoes, the carrier between Salem, Mass., and Portsmouth N.H., being nine days in making his trip to Portsmouth and eight days returning, the two towns being about forty miles apart. In the woods he found the snow five feet deep, and in places it measured six to fourteen feet.” (Perley)

“Many a one-story house was entirely covered with snow, and even the chimneys in some instances could not be seen. Paths were dug under the snow from house to barn, to enable the farmers to care for their animals, and tunnels also led from house to house among neighbors if not to far apart. Stepping out of a chamber (second story)  window some of the people ventured over the hills of snow….Coffin in his History of Newbury, Mass., ‘Love laughs at locksmiths and will disregard a snowdrift.’ A young man in town by the name of Abraham Adams was paying his attention to Miss Abigail Pierce, a young lady of the same place, who lived three miles away. A week had elapsed since the storm, and the swain concluded that he must visit his lady. Mounting his snow shoes he made his way out of the house through a chamber window, and proceeded on his trip over the deep snow packed valley and huge drifts among the hills beyond. He reached her residence, and entered it, as he had left his own, by way of the chamber window. Besides its own members, he was the first person the family had see since the storm, and his visit was certainly much appreciated.” (Perley)  Accounts differ, some saying the couple were newlyweds, but whatever was the case, they had their first child on November 25, 1717.

“In the thinly settled portions of the country great privation and distress were caused by the imprisonment of many families, and the discontinuance of their communication with their neighbors. Among the inhabitants of Medford, Mass., was a widow, with several children, who lived in a one-story house on the road to Charlestown. Her house was so deeply buried in snow it could not be found for several days. At length smoke was seen issuing from a snow-bank, and by that means its location ascertained. The neighbors came with shovels, and made a passage to a window, through which they could gain admission. They entered and found the widow’s small stock of fuel exhausted, and that she had burned some of her furniture to keep her little ones from suffering with cold. This was but one of many incidents that occurred of a similar character.” (Perley)

Of course, in 1717, the Scotch-Irish had not even begun their settlement of Nutfield. It is doubtful they heard about the “Great Snow of 1717,” for if they had, they might have abandoned their emigration to New England in 1718. When the Scotch-Irish did arrive, they experienced many privations during the harsh winter of 1718-19. Their ship was frozen in at Portland, Maine, and many nearly starved to death there.

So quit thy whining, ye that have central heat, heated automobiles, plowed roads, and plenty of food in the refrigerator. Look to your rugged New England ancestors for courage. And take note, there is still plenty of winter left, and most of the snow that fell in 1717 occurred at the end of February. There is still time yet!

According to Wikipedia, the dates of the storms were different and caused by volcanic activity. “The winter, even prior to the Great Snow, had been the worst in memory. The temperatures had not been unusually cold, but in December 1716, there had already been snow to the depth of 5 feet. By the end of January, there were drifts 25 feet high in a few places, overwhelming the people living in New England at the time. There had been a series of volcanic eruptions circa 1716. Ash circulating the globe in the upper atmosphere from the eruptions of Mount Kirishima in Japan, Kelud in Indonesia and Taal Volcano in the Philippines likely contributed to the exceptional New England snowfall. The great snow, depending on the source, began on February 27 or March 1. On February 27 a typical New England nor’easter passed through, with snow falling on some areas and other places receiving a mix of snow, sleet, and rain. The first major snowstorm occurred on March 1, with another on the 4th, and a third, the worst among the three, on the 7th. At some points, the snow would lighten and stop, but the sky would remain cloudy, showing no signs of clearing. Some of the oldest Native Americans had said that even their ancestors never spoke of a storm of this magnitude.”