Current and Upcoming Events
We're closed to the public in January and February (but still here)
The Society is currently closed to the public so that staff can work on upcoming exhibits and programs. We will still be replying to phone calls and emails.
Your donations help support Hopkinton Historical Society's programs and exhibits.
Thank you for your support!
Dear Hopkinton Historical Society Friends,
Out of an abundance of caution and deep care for our community, members, and staff, the Society will be closed until April 9. We are monitoring COVID-19 developments carefully, and may extend this closure as necessary. Updates will posted here and on Facebook.
We can still assist with your local history or genealogical research questions while we are closed. Please contact us by email with any questions.
Thank you and be safe,
Heather, Nancy Jo, and Elissa
“Very seldom have we seen our village so quiet for many days and weeks. Little is being done but care for the sick and gather crops.” Kearsarge Independent & Times, October 11, 1918
1918 Influenza Pandemic in Hopkinton, NH
Photograph of Etta Lucy Bohanan Nelson and her daughter Margery. Etta was one of 13 victims of the influenza pandemic in Hopkinton. She died October 18, 1918.
The 1918 influenza pandemic was unlike any other. Originally known as the Spanish flu, it is now thought to have originated in the United States. Starting as any other flu virus, it mutated into a highly virulent “super-virus” that targeted young adults in their prime and spread easily especially in crowded quarters such as military training camps, college dormitories, schools, and social gatherings. Once contracted, it progressed quickly and violently, causing extremely intense head and body aches, internal bleeding, changes in skin coloration, and rapid deterioration of the lungs; within four to seven days, the victim could be dead or on a slow path to recovery. Globally, it is estimated this pandemic caused 20 to 50 million deaths; a large percentage of these were young adults in their twenties and thirties. Present in 1917, the pandemic reached its peak of destruction in the United States from mid-September to early December, 1918.
Like many towns, Hopkinton folks did not immediately recognize the seriousness of the pandemic. The first death in town was George Conant, a bright and popular recent high school graduate. His body was returned to Contoocook for his funeral one week after departing for Dartmouth College, having died on September 22, 1918. In fact, even his family members assumed his illness occurred as the result of sleeping on a rain-soaked mattress, not the pandemic influenza. It took another week for people to take precautions; in the meantime, the Hopkinton Fair, with some 4,000 attendees, did not seem to be affected. By the end of the first week of October, the local newspaper reported “there are 70 cases of influenza in town, and many of them very severe, but at this writing, none have proved fatal. How thankful we are for our capable physicians.” In reality, four Hopkinton deaths had occurred by October 6th and five more would occur in October. The drug store advertised Sunday hours, 8-10 am and 12-1 pm, beginning after October 1st. Hopkinton schools were closed week by week for the month of October, with hope in each announcement that reopening would be possible the following week. Meetings of the Grange and Rebekahs were cancelled. As stated in the Kearsarge Independent and Times newspaper on October 11th, “Very seldom have we seen our village so quiet for many days and weeks. Little is being done but care for the sick and gather crops.”
By November 1st, schools had reopened and there was a sense of relief that the worst had passed. With the end of WWI, the spirits of all were high. A peace rally occurred in mid-November and the whole town enthusiastically participated, with bells and whistles early in the morning, celebrations all day long, and a huge parade and Kaiser effigy burning in the evening. Still there were more deaths from influenza, one in early November, one in December, and two at the beginning of January, including the death of the high school principal, Wesley Eastman.
The profile of the pandemic in Hopkinton mirrored that of the United States as a whole. The majority of deaths had occurred in late September through early November (10 of 13) and had taken adults ages 35 and under (10 of 13). The care of those who were ill, however, differed from that of many towns and cities. Even in Concord, hospitalization and congregate care were common, but in Hopkinton, doctors and local caregivers went to the patients’ homes. This likely may have prevented a larger number of deaths in Hopkinton.
As a result of the 1918 influenza pandemic and new requirements of the State Board of Education, Hopkinton schools made several changes to promote good health:
George Elmer Conant, age 17, September 22, 1918: “One of the most promising and popular young men in town” and having been accepted at Dartmouth College, he left home on Tuesday for Hanover, took sick Thursday, was hospitalized Friday, died Sunday, and was honored with a funeral of very large attendance on the following Tuesday.
George William Marsh, age 63, September 27, 1918: Having labored at many jobs throughout his life, George and his equally hard-working wife Ella had finally gained financial stability and home ownership with a mortgage which was lost upon his death; Ella at age 67 became a live-in servant to an older man.
Clarence Lorenzo Tilton, age 28, October 3, 1918: A recently divorced father with day-to-day responsibility for two young children, Clarence, a resident of Webster, was being cared for in Contoocook when he died.
Birge Lester Fenton, age 29, October 6, 1918: Unmarried and a fireman for the B & M Railroad in Concord, Birge was active in the Order of United American Mechanics, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, and the Loyal Order of the Moose, each represented at his funeral.
Mildred Lillian Jordan White, age 20, October 8, 1918: Mildred died while trying to care for her three little children, ages 4, almost 3, and 10 months, her husband being out with a lumber crew in the Hatfield area. Mildred had been caring for another young woman with influenza who also died, as did Mildred’s two youngest.
Howard Adams, age 23, October 13, 1918: Howard lived with his mother and step-father, Laura and Frank Fifield, in Contoocook, worked in the local silk and saw mills, and was a member of the Free Baptist Church. He was a person of fragile health, exempted from the draft due to “ill health.” The Kearsarge Independent & Times newspaper reported him to be very sick with influenza for over a week and being cared for by Mrs. J. A. Sherwan, evidently one of a number of caregivers who attended very ill townspeople in their homes.
Jane Magnan, age 86, October 15, 1918: The oldest pandemic victim in Hopkinton, Jane appears to have had a full life with a long first marriage and two more marriages later in life; her controversial will left her property to her third very young husband and to a very long-time boarder.
Herman Scott Spoffard, age 35, October 15, 1918: Born and raised on a farm in Hopkinton, Herman became a miller of grain, saved his money, and bought a milk route in Concord. In support of the Great War, he put many extra hours into crop production while continuing milk production and also purchased war bonds being quoted in his obituary, “Certainly, I can at least do that much.” He may have been only the second of these Hopkinton thirteen who died in a hospital.
Etta Lucy Bohanan Nelson, age 34, October 18, 1918: Married for fourteen years and with two children, Margery, 6, and Stanley, 1, both Etta and her husband Eddie, in the prime of life, became so severely ill with the influenza that neither was expected to survive. Eddie finally recovered and raised the two children with the help of his mother-in-law, Delia Bohanan.
Eugene Andrew Tallant, age 33, November 4, 1918: One of 15 children raised on a farm in Pelham, Eugene came to Hopkinton, working as a farmer and a lumberman. His obituary noted, “Gene was industrious, and on account of his unusually strong physique and jovial nature was well known about his town.” He had been married five years and was without children at the time of his death. His wife Emma never remarried and eventually became a nurse.
Dwight Eugene Conant, age 46, December 14, 1918: A hard-working, well-respected manager of the Conant Manufacturing Company in Contoocook, a silk mill which had been established by his father, Dwight and his wife Blanche were parents of George, the first local fatality of the pandemic. Though violent illness had spread rapidly through town, theirs was the only family to lose two of its members.
Wesley E. Eastman, age 29, January 2, 1919: Raised on a farm in Andover, NH, Wesley had earned his degree at the state college in Durham, gained an advanced degree in Michigan, and taught geology at Michigan Agricultural College before coming to Hopkinton in the fall of 1918 as the new principal of the high school. At the time of his death, he had a 3-year-old son and his wife Elaine was pregnant with a daughter born one month later.
Mabel C. Martin, age 19, January 3, 1919: Mabel died at the home of her friend, Jessie Gould, while both were on winter break from Keene Normal School. Mabel had graduated from Henniker High School with high honors and was demonstrating excellence as a student teacher. Her mother had died when Mabel was only 5 years old; her father had boarded her with a family living next door to him. Her loss was deeply felt by her community.
Allita Paine 20 March 2020
update of original from 2017
Notable Women of Hopkinton:
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary
of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, Hopkinton Historical Society is recognizing some of the women of Hopkinton whose accomplishments – both large and small – deserve to be highlighted. Their bravery, ingenuity, intelligence, and tenacity is inspiring and we thank them for their contributions.
Laura Emily Sanborn
World War One Army Nurse Corp.
Served June 28, 1917-April 27, 1919
Born February 5, 1881 in Webster, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, Laura Sanborn was the eldest daughter of Charles F. Sanborn and Jennie E. (Colby) Sanborn. Charles F. Sanborn was a farmer and a descendant of Captain Peter Coffin, soldier of the American Revolution. Not much is known about Laura’s early life. She was raised on her father’s farm in Webster along with her siblings, John, Scott, and Annie. In the 1900 United States Federal Census, Laura was 19 years old and single. There is no notation as to her occupation. Between 1900 and 1910, Laura left the family farm in Webster and went to Boston to study nursing at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1910, Laura was employed as a private nurse in the home of Anna Wright, a widow. Laura was one of seven employees living in Mrs. Wright’s home on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
A small item in The Kearsarge Times, dated 16 February 1917, noted, “Miss Laura Sanborn, trained nurse of Boston has been spending some time here at the home of her father, Charles Sanborn.”
The First World War, originating in Europe, began on July 28, 1914. The United States entered the war on 6 April 1917, joining its allies, Britain, France, and Russia. Two months later, on June 23, 1917, Laura signed a United States passport application to travel overseas to France as a nurse. She was enrolled as a Red Cross nurse, sworn into the army, and on July 10, 1917, Laura, along with 63 other nurses, departed New York City sailing on the Aurania to be stationed with Base Hospital No. 6, a medical surgical unit of Massachusetts General Hospital, in Bordeaux, France, where the nurses were known as the “Bordeaux Belles.” Base Hospital No. 6 was well equipped to handle wounded and sick soldiers, including the treatment of soldiers with infectious diseases. By the last months of the war, the hospital ran at capacity with casualties from the Meuse-Argonne offensive, a major part of the final Allied offensive of World War One that was fought for 47 days and is one of the deadliest battles in American history, resulting in over 350,000 casualties, including over 26,000 Americans. Between August of 1917 and September of 1918, the total number of patients treated, both surgically and medically, was 26,156, including 580 allied sick and wounded.
It must have been a relief to Laura when the war ended on November 18, 1918. Laura departed from Bordeaux, France on 14 February 1919 on the ship Abengarez to the port of Hoboken, New Jersey, arriving on March 2, 1919. Laura returned home to Contoocook, where her parents and her brother, John, were living on Pine Street. In 1920, Laura was employed as a private nurse and living with her family in Contoocook. In the 1930 United States Federal Census, Laura was living with her mother, Jennie, and her brother, John, on Pine Street. Her occupation was a private nurse however, it was noted on the census form that she was an “unpaid worker, member of the family.” This likely indicates that she was the caretaker for her mother. The 1940 United States Federal Census records that Laura was living alone on Pine Street as the head of household. Her occupation was left blank. Laura never married. She died January 10, 1969 and is buried alongside her family in Contoocook Village Cemetery.
Laura’s 1917 passport application describes her as 36 years-old, 5’6” tall, with blue-gray eyes, and medium brown hair. The accompanying passport photo of Laura reflects a woman, half in shadow, staring directly into the camera. She has a kind face and a slight smile on her lips. She appears to be a woman who knows what she is about, where she is going, and what she has to do. One can only imagine the horrors she witnessed taking care of the young men on her watch at Base Hospital No. 6. One can also imagine that, perhaps, while tending to a dying solder, Laura Sanborn’s calm blue-gray eyes were the last vision a young man saw in the Great War.
January 24, 2020
2020 Exhibit and Programs
All Aboard! Economic, Social and Environmental Change During New Hampshire’s Railroad Era
"All Aboard! Economic, Social and Environmental Change During New Hampshire’s Railroad Era" is a multi-group collaboration exploring the impact of the railroad on rural New Hampshire towns and Native American groups across the United States. Through seven exhibits, 13 organizations, and more than 30 programs, the goal is for people to look beyond the trains and stations to see the changes in society facilitated by railroads.
If you have railroad-related items (photos, railroad tickets, stories, etc.) to loan/share for our exhibit, please contact the Society at 603-746-3825 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the latest on this exciting collaboration, including participating organizations and a calendar of upcoming programs go to www.nhmuse.org.