Windham Life and Times – June 7, 2019

Nutfield 300

A blind man plays the fiddle to a family audience. Coloured engraving by J. Burnet after D. Wilkie, 1806. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY.

Reverend MacGregor’s Fiddle

Scots-Irish Influence on American Music

E.H. Derby in his address to the Londonderry Celebration of 1869 says, “..and, if tradition may be trusted, even their clergy introduced musical instruments into New Hampshire. I do not refer to the ear-piercing fife alone, or the spirit-stirring drum, whose ‘toot’ so engrossed the ear that Matthew Clark, when presiding over the Session, that he could do no business,— I allude to a stringed instrument of music. The pastor of whom the tale is told had served as a chaplain in the army, and while in camp had learned to play the violin. He brought one to America — doubtless at the bottom of his chest — and in his log cabin, in the dreary winter nights, found solace in the music. But, late one night, an elder heard the ‘linked sweetness drawn out,’ and peeping through the crevice in the cabin, liked the elders who watched Susanna, decried his pastor in the very act of drawing the bow, and reported him to the session; and the elders decreed that he should ‘hang up the fiddle and bow’ for three successive Sundays, in front of the pulpit. And this, I presume, was the first display of stringed instruments of music in New Hampshire. Derry must not, therefore, be forgotten at the great Musical Festival, for which Mr. Gilmore is rearing a structure that reminds of the Coliseum.”

Well if fiddle playing was frowned upon by the early elders of Nutfield, it soon took on a prominence within the community. In Old Portraits and Modern Sketches, 1850, John Greenleaf Whittier reports the following about the fairs held in early Londonderry. “Their moral acclimation in Ireland had not been without its effect upon their character. Side by side with a Presbyterian as austere as that of John Knox, had grown up something of the wild Milesian humor, love of convivial excitement and merry-making, Their long prayers and fierce zeal in behalf of orthodox tenants, only served, in the eyes of their Puritan neighbors, to make more glaring still the scandal of their marked social irregularities. It became a common saying in the region round about, that, ‘the Derry Presbyterians would never give up a pint of doctrine or a pint of rum.’ …Ere long the celebrated Derry Fair was established in imitation of those with which they had been familiar in Ireland. Thither annually came  all manners of horse-jockeys and peddlers, gentlemen and beggars, fortune-tellers, wrestlers, dancers and fiddlers, gay young farmers and buxom maidens. Strong drink abounded… A wild, frolicking, drinking, fiddling, courting, horse-racing, riotous merry-making— a sort of Protestant carnival, relaxing the grimness of Puritanism for leagues around.” The Scots-Irish seem to be characterized by an uneasy dichotomy,  the side by side need for both religious revival and the “hooting and hollering” of a jolly good time!

The same Scots-Irish people who settled in Nutfield were also the dominant cultural force in the settlement of the Appalachian Mountain areas of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.  And these Scots-Irish settlers certainly brought the fiddle with them and used it plenty, in the mountains and valleys where American country music had its roots. There is a great New York Times best seller, called Wayfaring Strangers, written by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr, with a forward by Dolly Parton, that traces this “musical voyage” from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia. These settlers, “brought with them a wealth of traditional ballads and tunes from the British Isles and Ireland, a carrying stream that merged with the sounds and songs of English, German, Welsh, African American, French, and Cherokee origin.”

I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger
In that bright land to which I go

I’m going there to see my Father
And all my loved ones who’ve gone on
I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home

I know dark clouds will gather ’round me
I know my way is hard and steep
But beauteous fields arise before me
Where God’s redeemed, their vigils keep
I’m going there to see my Mother
She said she’d meet me when I come

So, I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home
I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home

     Getting back to Pastor MacGregor and his fiddle, Wayfaring Strangers in explaining the origin of the Scottish fiddle states, “Throughout the long history of migrations from Scottish Lowlands and Highlands, the fiddle was the ideal traveling companion, whether for sailors, journeymen, merchants, or emigrants. It was portable, adaptable to new playing styles, the instrument of choice for dances, and perfect both for soloists and playing partners. So it is not surprising that the fiddle eventually followed the Scottish emigration trail all the way to the southern Appalachians. Beginning in the seventeenth century, it took its place as the most popular dance instrument on both sides of the Atlantic. Hanover County, Virginia, hosted the first fiddling contest of colonial times in 1736, held on November 30 in honor of the holiday of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland.” In Scotland “…the music of the classical violin was the initial attraction, folk-style fiddle playing soon followed. These adaptions of the instrument were no doubt related to the widespread interest in dancing at community gatherings, weddings, funerals, and local festivals and fairs, as well as the ballrooms and drawing rooms of the landed gentry…”

Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage From Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia. On Amazon

Windham Life and Times – April 12, 2019

Nutfield 300

The First Settlement: By Land or River?

“…The company followed a trail from Haverhill about fifteen miles through the woods.” (But did they come by land? Not according the John Greenleaf Whittier who was intimately acquainted with the Scots-Irish in southern New Hampshire. In his book, Old Portraits and Modern Sketches Whittier describes the pioneer’s journey as follows: “In the early part of the eighteenth century, a considerable number of Presbyterians of Scotch descent, from the north of Ireland, emigrated to the new world. In the spring of 1719, the inhabitants of Haverhill, on the Merrimack, saw them passing up the river in several canoes, one of which unfortunately upset in the rapids above the village. The following fragment of a ballad celebrating this event, has been handed down to the present time, and may serve to show the feelings even then of the old English settlers toward the Irish emigrants:


‘They began to scream and bawl,

As out they tumbled one and all,

And, if the Devil had spread his net,

He could have made a glorious haul!’


     “The new comers proceeded up the river, and landing opposite the Uncanoonuc Hills, on the present site of Manchester, proceeded inland to Beaver Pond. Charmed by the appearance of the country, they resolved here to terminate their wanderings. Under a venerable oak on the margin of the lake, they knelt down with their minister, Jamie McGregor, and laid, in prayer and thanksgiving, the foundation of their settlement. In a few years they had cleared large fields, built substantial stone and frame dwellings, and a large and commodious meeting-house; wealth had accumulated around them, and they had every where the reputation of a shrewd and thriving community. They were the first in New England to cultivate the potato, which their neighbors for a long time regarded as a pernicious root, altogether unfit for a Christian stomach. Every lover of that invaluable esculent has reason to remember with gratitude the settlers of Londonderry.”

It’s probably true that both the trails and river provided access for the Scotch-Irish to their new settlement in southern New Hampshire. If they truly did take the river in April it would have been roaring with spring snow melt.

Rev. MacMurphy continues, “The men and boys, perhaps no women or small children as they were to stay with their friends a month while preparations were  being made to shelter them; sixteen men, their pastor and the boys, trailing up from Haverhill through the woods, with a few packs on horses, a few oxen and cows, and other live stock. What could they bring? Axes and hammers, saws, iron bars and shovels, hoes and plows, seed corn, potatoes, onions and beans, some garden seeds, some provisions, flour, meal, tea and molasses, pots and kettles, tins and dishes, knives, forks and spoons, their clothing, etc. (Also, undoubtably, rum.) And then where should they unpack? They came to a little west running brook, in a sheltered valley, and decided to camp down there. The horses and cattle were soon staked  to good low land grass. By the aid of steel and flint and tinder and dry wood a fine warm fire was kindled and the pots and kettles hung above and necessary arrangements quickly made to prepare supper in the open field. With axes, rude shelters were provided under which men and boys could sleep at night. The number that listened to that sermon on Sunday might have been seventy-five persons, perhaps even a hundred or more, for note that the pastor had six boys and sixteen other men with one exception are quite certain to have had average families for those years.”

The names of the sixteen should be of interest, they may be found in several places: In the Town Records, in Parker’s Centenary Sermon, in Book of Nutfield, and on the map of the Double Range. These sixteen or seventeen men selected their homes on both sides of this little brook and located their huts with reference to frontage on the brook and land a mile long stretching away north and south, but only 30 perches in width; bringing their families near together.” (The rod or perch or pole is a surveyor’s tool and unit of length exactly equal to ​5 12 yards…)

     In a month’s time the woman folks were anxious to join the menfolk and come to Nutfield and by that time sufficient accommodations had been erected of hewn timbers, split shingles, and stone chimneys with open fireplaces to make a cheerful place to live in. Rude furniture, tables and chairs, benches and bedsteads, cut and fashioned from the living forest gave an impression of comparative comfort. This colony had not been on the premises a month before they called a meeting and were duly organized. They ordered the construction of a mill dam and saw mill and in six months they had a saw mill in operation on Beaver Brook less than a mile away from their cozy valley, and in less than two years they had a gristmill there and a second saw mill on Aiken brook. So the log shanties began to be replaced and supplemented with framed houses with real boards, clapboards, and shingles. Of course a church was built the first year of Nutfield and just about where the First Church now stands. Four months had brought more families and in September of 1719, they voted twenty more homesteads to the first new comers, to that number who should make immediate settlement in Nutfield. By the time the territory had been surveyed and laid out in ranges and homesteads of sixty acres the number of inhabitants had increased to that degree that the first so called Schedule named one hundred and five heads of families to receive allotments of homesteads; and others rewarded for services rendered the colony, up to the number of homestead rights of 122 1/2.”

“The Wheelwright Deed, given to Nutfield Colony as an Indian title to the ten miles square territory was not signed until October 29, 1719, and consequently the surveying and settling of bounds to the homesteads did not progress much in the first six months of occupation. The colonists working together cleared a few acres of forest around their camps at West Running Brook, with difficulty plowed among the stumps and in common raised and harvested their first crops and thus originated the name ‘common field’ as applied to a section well known to this day. The winter was not particularly severe, their mill was kept running, the timber around prospective houses and homes felled and drawn to the mill yard. In March of 1720 the homesteads were surveyed, laid out, butted and bounded, as we find in the Town Records and may trace on the map drawn for the purpose by the writer of this address and published in sections in Willey’s Book of Nutfield, with the provision that all rights to use these maps are reserved by the original draftsman.”



Windham Life and Times – December 21, 2018

Windham and the Summit

A June Snowstorm Brings Christmas to the Summit. Among the Clouds, July 13, 1905.

Part 2 – June Christmas

Summit House Opens: “The formal opening of  every hotel is an important date in its calendar, and often the management endeavor to introduce some special attraction for the pleasure of  those guests first to arrive. Mount Washington – always zealous of  its individuality, this season outdid itself.”

“The Summit House was ‘opened,’ Monday, June 26th. The morning was rainy and dense clouds obscured the slightest vision of  the outside world. There was wisdom in this arrangement, for it was not the scenery but the completeness of  the hotel that was to be made manifest that day. The thermometer, which registered 46 in the morning, having heard a student waiter reciting “What is so rare as a day in June” was not forgetful of  its part of  the program and toward noon settled slowly to 38, and at 4 o’clock gave a decided novelty by sinking below the freezing point. Immediately the torrents of  rain became a driving snow storm, and throughout the night and Tuesday and until late Wednesday (6/29) Mount Washington was in the clutches of  a winter tempest, at time the roaring of  the wind and the beating of  ice and hail against the summit House was almost deafening. But within all was good cheer and comfort. “Dolly” the boiler was never more faithful, and steam whizzed through the pipes assuredly and without cessation, while the huge coal stores performed nobly the extra service required of  them. But those were days to be remembered, and the few guests who braved the mountain will not soon forget their experiences. After all, it is not the weather that decides the amount of  pleasure to be had in a visit to Mount Washington. ‘For the dissatisfied man all life is unsatisfactory, and for one that is contented the world is full of comforts, and for the cheerful man even the easterly wind is musical in the window crevices.’ ”

—Among the Clouds – Thu, Jul 13, 1905

“A June Christmas Tree: ‘On Wednesday evening, June 28th, the Summit House colony indulged in festivities unique in the history of  Mount Washington. The platforms that morning covered with snow and the whole cone of  the mountain glistening with frost work and ice suggested midwinter rather than a rare June day. Someone remarked that ‘it would be proper to observe Christmas.’ The idea was a popular one and immediately following breakfast preparations were continued throughout the day for an unusual festival. The manager of  the hotel, Miss Mattie A. Clarke, ordered a fir tree brought up from the Base, which through the kindness of  the Mount Pleasant House was later made attractive by many festoons of  pop corn. Then came the search for gifts. There were about thirty-five employees of  the Summit House and Mount Washington Railway to be remembered. Trunks, boxes, even coat pockets were divested of  their treasures and by nightfall the tree was overloaded with offerings. Nearly 150 presents were ready for distribution. What they may have lacked in value was made up in quantity. About 8 o’clock the parlor doors were opened. Mr. John Tice presided at the piano and a merry company was soon seated. Hardly had an exchange of  greetings been made when Mount Washington’s Santa Claus, Mr. Ed Colter, costumed in a style to make St. Nick himself  envious appeared on the scene to the  delight of  everyone save Leon (the Summit dog), whose association with the genial gentleman had heretofore been confined to an almanac interpretation of  seasons. Among the Clouds at this date not having commended an issue, one of  the staff  presented the initial number of  a possible evening addition for midwinter circulation “Among the Snow Flakes.” Next Santa ably assisted by Mark Lee, distributed the presents, a description of  which would be impossible. Then followed an excellent musical program, including solos by Mr. Chandler and Mr. Horan, and a chorus selected from the company. While the storm was furious, and together with the freezing temperature made all without wild and terrible, this little Summit House party – warm and comfortable, were living the sentiment of  Dr. Van Dyke ‘and best of  all along the way is friendship and mirth.’ ” —Among the Clouds July 13, 1905

Remember, we’re looking for a photograph of Mattie Clark for Tim Lewis. Does anyone know of one?


Windham Life and Times – June 24, 2016




Willis Low was first appointed to the police force before 1941. In the early days, there was no police station so, “most of the police strategy was discussed at the homes of whichever officer was in charge of the particular case. Most of the time it was either the chief’s house or the Zins kitchen. Here would be laid the plans for speed traps, searching a home or camp for stolen goods, etc., but especially careful plans would be made for raids on stills…”

“Most police calls were received by Willis Low with his mother, Mrs. Ethel Low, taking calls and relaying the messages to the other men on duty. This was all done by telephone. You can imagine the interest the neighbors took in town affairs when they heard a cop’s number ringing. All of them were on party lines and one was a sixteen party line with all sixteen rings heard in each home. After Willis married, he of course moved all his police records to his new home on Nashua Road and that is still considered Police Headquarters (1975). His wife took over the answering service and is still on the job although the volume of calls has increased so much there is now a hookup to the police building behind the fire station.”


    Willis Low remained the chief into the 1970’s and experienced the tremendous growth in calls after the construction of Interstate 93. As you can imagine, there were times when the chief wanted to escape from all of the demands of the job, which as noted above followed him home. He wanted a place where nobody could find him. Rock Pond is very isolated and really hard to find, unless you know it’s there.  He bought the Harry Simpson cottage and updated it into a modern, comfortable summer home. This is the place where he could kick back and relax out of the public view.

The Harry Simpson Cottage (1929) was remodeled by Willis Low.

The Harry Simpson Cottage (1929) was remodeled by Willis Low.

Windham Life and Times – May 6, 2016

Edward Devlin


“In the print, Red showed his 19 year old bride walking through the fields in need of water for the strawberry plants. Life so naturally blended with the practical needs of family, that, over time, the gardens expanded, livestock increased, a new farm was bought, and five children were born. Her sole indulgence were flowers, wild and cultivated, where she found beauty after hours of toiling.” On their fiftieth wedding anniversary, Dad nicely summed up their life together when he gently said, ‘Could Not Be Better”. With a wide smile

“In the print, Red showed his 19 year old bride walking through the fields in need of water for the strawberry plants. Life so naturally blended with the practical needs of family, that, over time, the gardens expanded, livestock increased, a new farm was bought, and five children were born. Her sole indulgence were flowers, wild and cultivated, where she found beauty after hours of toiling.” On their fiftieth wedding anniversary, Dad nicely summed up their life together when he gently said, ‘Could Not Be Better”. With a wide smile

We know from Ed Devlin’s own words that “he was never quite satisfied with life in the big city saying ‘I’m a country boy at heart.’ He also was quoted as saying, “New York is just not my bag. It’s too fast a pace for me, the city’s too impersonal.” “And when his friend, George Lloyd called him to help paint the mural for Hamilton Smith Hall, at the University of New Hampshire, Devlin grabbed the offer.  ‘It was a good excuse to get out of New York…I liked New Hampshire so much I decided to stay.’ ”  This was in 1939-40 and the project was a massive mural.

“Artist George Lloyd was on a mission to find a ‘real’ farmer. It was the spring of 1939, and, having been commissioned to paint a mural about agriculture that would cover one entire wall inside Hamilton Smith Hall, he wanted to be sure he could depict a New Hampshire farmer accurately. With UNH agriculture professors as his guide, he soon found his models out in the fields, piecing together a way of life in the aftermath of the Great Depression—much the way he was doing, himself. Lloyd was one of the unemployed artists who had been hired under the auspices of the Federal Art Project branch of the Work Projects Administration, a national program created by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide productive work to some 8.5 million citizens in lieu of unemployment benefits. Coordinated by Manchester artist Omer T. Lassonde, at the time one of the country’s most influential modernist painters. The UNH project included three massive murals, eight feet high and 40 feet wide, in the three main rooms of UNH’s then-library. Lloyd’s ‘agriculture’ mural was to grace the reserve room.” UNH Today. According to the artist’s wife, “this is a mural on farming in New Hampshire, It deals with the four seasons of the year—Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter; and with the four main social institutions around which the farming community is centered—the Home, Town Meeting, School and Church…” UNH Today

“In order to stay in rural New Hampshire, Devlin had to give up his art career. ‘Back in the 40’s there was very little interest in New Hampshire for this sort of thing or with artwork in general. People didn’t have the money to get interested in it.’ He met his wife, Pearl, a native of New Hampshire, and settled down in Nottingham, working a small dairy farm. When their family grew with five children, they bought 100 acres plus in Windham NH.” “He was a farmer for 30 years before he could devote himself to his ‘real work.’ ” “His former art training has given him an artist’s eye for craftsmanship, but he credits farming experience for much of his pottery design. ‘The one thing I have strived for is that a piece not only have a shape, but that shape to have a vitality to it…to live and have appeal,’ he said, ‘It’s a sensitivity of form. My close association with nature, after 30 years of farming helped to develop it’ ”

“But Ed Devlin went back to art work as suddenly as he had left it. Remembering his work with Dedham Pottery where he painted decorations, he remembered an old hankering to learn the potter’s trade.”

“ ‘My daughter was studying pottery at the University of New Hampshire. It restimulated an interest that was in the back of my head,’ he said. ‘I worked with it between farm activities and the more I got into it, the more it interested me.’ ‘As the years went by. This (Windham)  was no longer a farming community. We finally got rid of the cows, then I put all my time into pottery.’ ”


Windham Life and Times – April 29, 2016

Edward Devlin



The plate shown above is described by the auction house as, “Dedham pottery crackleware, very rare plate painted by Ned Devlin, Asian inspired scene, 1934. Indigo Registered stamp, artist signature and date. Estimated at between $1,250 and $1,750.” (2008 auction)

Edward Devlin was born in 1912, a Boston native, he grew up in a comfortable home. His father had as they say, “pulled himself up by the bootstraps” and through hard work and determination had become a dentist. It was presumed in the Devlin household that owing to all the advantages given them, that all of the boys would enter the professions, preferably becoming doctors. We can only imagine the conversation, when Edward announced to his father, that he wanted to attend art school. That being said, his father must have recognized that he had “shown artistic inclinations from an early age.” Edward went on to “graduate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where he received a scholarship for painting in 1929.” He also attended Massachusetts Art Institute and studied sculpture at the Copley Society.

Ed began his career in the 1930’s as a decorator at the Dedham Pottery in Dedham, Massachusetts. When he worked for Dedham, he signed his work as Ned Devlin. While there he created Chinese landscape designs among other motifs. Dedham had been founded by a fifth generation Scottish potter named Hugh Robertson, and operated from 1896 through 1943. It was known for its high-fire stoneware characterized by a controlled and very fine crackle glaze with thick cobalt border designs. A Yankee Magazine article says of Dedham that, “This homage to the raw beauty of nature was never more apparent than during the Arts & Crafts movement. Its back-to-nature aesthetic rejected the industrialization of the late 19th century and embraced a return to the simplicity of handmade goods. American artists heard this call of the wild and, so inspired, produced some of the finest decorative pieces ever made in this country. Beautiful ceramics were one of the movement’s greatest legacies, and among the most popular wares was Dedham pottery, made right here in New England. You likely already know Dedham pottery: that simple tableware with the bluish-gray crackle glaze and cobalt-blue border of flora and fauna. The charming patterns repeat in a right-facing (or, occasionally, left-facing) rotation. It’s reminiscent of Chinese export porcelain, but with a whimsical edge. Both modern and traditional in its appeal, Dedham pottery’s most recognizable border design, the crouching ‘Dedham Rabbit,’ doubles as the image for the company logo.” All of the designs were painted by hand by the artists at Dedham.

The ubiquitous Dedham pottery rabbit plate and other Dedham pottery items.

The ubiquitous Dedham pottery rabbit plate and other Dedham pottery items.


The Art Student League building in New York City. Notable Alumnae include Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O'Keefe and Jackson Pollock.

The Art Student League building in New York City. Notable Alumnae include Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keefe and Jackson Pollock.

After working at Dedham, Ed decided to head for New York City. While there, he was a member of the Arts Students League. Another member of the league, at the same time, was John Little, who studied there under Georg Grosz (a famous German expressionist painter who emigrated to America in the 1930’s,) and Hans Hoffman. Little was according to the New York Times, “an abstract expressionist artist who founded a New York company that made fabrics and wallpapers with designs inspired by abstract impressionism.” “In 1921, Mr. Little founded the fabrics-wallpaper company, which he called the John Little Studio. By the mid-1930’s the concern was attracting wide praise for fabrics that combined high-quality designs with affordable prices.” Little went on later to paint with his friend and neighbor, Jackson Pollock. Edward Devlin designed fabrics and wallpaper at John Little Studios, during the 1930’s, at the highpoint of the company.

Fabric Designed at The John Little Studios. Date Unknown.

Fabric Designed at The John Little Studios. Date Unknown.





Windham Life and Times – April 21, 2016

Edward Devlin



When you think of artists associated with Windham, you might think of the impressionist painter Mary Braddish Titcomb or the western artist, Howard Everett Smith, both of whom grew up in town, but became noted for their art elsewhere. Well, there was another artist, who moved to Windham in the 1940’s, who was a designer, painter and potter, who became very well known in art circles in New Hampshire and beyond.

 Over the years, learning about Windham’s history,  his name kept coming up in conversation, but I knew very little about him. Of course, I knew his wife Pearl, personally, from my trips to the Nesmith Library as a child. Then one day, I was given a piece of pottery, that bore the imprint of Ed Devlin on the base. The vase had belonged to long time Windham, Chief of Police, Willis Low. Little did I know at the time, that the potter and the chief were close friends, as you might have expected them to be in a small town, like Windham was, during their lifetimes. Back then, the rhythm of life was a bit slower and more humane. Willis will always be remembered for the way he handled the kids who went astray, working in his unique way to put them back on the straight and narrow, without all the fuss and hysteria often seen with juveniles today. And it’s Willis Low’s vase that renewed my curiosity about Ed Devlin.

Low’s vase is pictured below. It is a beautiful form, with warm hues of rich, deep russet and brown on a natural speckled background. Well, now I had a piece of the man’s pottery, but still didn’t know anything about him. Finally,  determined to tell his story, I called his family to find out more about him and his career as an artist.


The Devlin family, especially Mary, was very gracious to me in providing the detailed information I was seeking about her dad and his craft. I really enjoyed finally hearing his story, about his life in the arts, and his life in Windham. I hope that over the next few weeks, I will be able to do justice to a man I only know through those that loved him, newspaper accounts and by the art he created.