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Hopkinton Historical Society Reopening Date
Beginning Thursday, July 16, Hopkinton Historical Society will be open by appointment on Thursdays and Fridays.
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New Hampshire Communities Read Frederick Douglass
Tune in to NHPBS on Saturday, July 4 at 7 pm to hear people from across New Hampshire read Frederick Douglass's famous speech, "What to the slave is your Fourth of July?" Hopkinton readers include Ruth Chevion, Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, and Sara Larson. (Also reading are Gabe Nelson of Warner and Kayla Lewis of Hooksett, who were actors in Hopkinton Historical Society's 2019 Putney Hill Cemetery Walk.)
On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and heroic orator for liberty, delivered one of his most famous speeches in which he asked, “What to the slave is your Fourth of July?” In addressing an Independence Day observance in Rochester, New York, his speech was a blistering indictment of an American idealism that ignored and accepted the inhuman treatment of enslaved African Americans as part of the country’s identity and economy. Ironically, even though Douglass’ words spoke directly to his moment in history, they still ring with an unsettling power today.
While reading and hearing Frederick Douglass’ work is a powerful experience for many, it is only one piece of the long overdue conversations that our communities need to have. We hope these readings will be a starting point for the difficult dialogues, and that they will provide an opportunity for us to engage in deeper conversations leading to actions to build more inclusive and just communities today.
Hopkinton Historical Society is pleased to participate for the second year in this event organized by the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire in partnership with New Hampshire PBS. The statewide reading will be rebroadcast on NHPBS at 10 pm on July 4 and 8:30 pm on July 5.
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 are grateful for their contributions.
Delia Ardell (Jewell) Bohanan: Hopkinton’s “Can Do” Woman
Married teacher, female school board member, social justice promoter, and community organizer – these are all achievements of Hopkinton’s Delia Bohanan over 100 years ago when most people viewed a woman’s place to be “keeping house.”
Delia Jewell was born in Weare, New Hampshire on February 1, 1855. Her father was Otis F. Jewell, a farmer, and her mother was Mary Priscilla (Sargent) Jewell. Delia was the oldest of three girls (with sisters Lucy and Mary) and it appears from census information that her father would periodically take in a boy, probably to help with farm chores. Also living with them during Delia’s childhood were her paternal grandfather and her paternal Aunt Lucy who was described as idiotic, an archaic diagnostic term indicating profound mental disability.
At the age of 21, on May 2, 1876, Delia married John Wilber Bohanan, age 28 and a farmer, in Hopkinton. The 1880 census shows Delia and John living on a farm in Contoocook village with John’s parents, David and Belinda Bohanan, as neighbors on one side, and John’s older brother Samuel and wife Ellen on the other side. By this time, Delia and John had two of their nine children, Bernice who was born in March of 1877 and Elsie who was born in September of 1879. It is at this point in her life, if not earlier, that Delia began to express her can do attitude by becoming employed as teacher at the Sugar Hill School. She taught 14 students during summer term, 1881, and nine students during summer term, 1883. Between these two summers, she gave birth to her third child, son Lester, in February of 1882. This was a period in history when female teachers were usually single women, just out of high school themselves, encouraged if not forced to leave teaching upon marriage (and certainly upon motherhood). The town’s annual reports of this era included evaluations of every teacher in town; Delia’s evaluation in the 1882 report for the 1881 school year was as follows:
“Mrs. Bohanan is one of our very best teachers. Active and energetic, she has the faculty of interesting her scholars in their studies, and thus relieving the routine of the school-room of much of its dullness. The examination at the close of the term showed that the scholars had improved their time, and understood what they had been over. The classes in reading showed great improvement.”
Delia went on to have six more children: Etta in June, 1884; Edna in November, 1886; John Henry in October, 1889; Percy in September, 1892; Josephine in July, 1895; and Leland in September, 1900. Unfortunately, Delia’s husband succumbed to bronchitis on February 25, 1900 at the age of 52, never to know his son Leland. Then on March 11, 1902, Leland also passed away. The census of 1900 records Delia as a 45-year-old widow, head of household, home owner free of mortgage, with eight children at home, Bernice the only one to have left. Elsie was now a teacher and one boarder, Netty Taylor, was also a teacher. Lester, at age 18, was a farm laborer. The remaining children were in school except for young Josephine and Leland.
During the time that her children attended school, Delia became active in overseeing the quality of education provided in Hopkinton. This was a time of evaluating the effectiveness of one-room schools versus a more centralized education program since the town’s school population was declining and truancy, especially of boys, was high. There being no school superintendent, the three-member all male school board was all-powerful. As early as July, 1880, a Hopkinton Times editorial reported that “35 women signed a petition protesting [school] closures and expressing a desire to be allowed to take an active part in all educational processes.” The town report of 1884 indicates that Helen Bailey served that year on the school board. Not again until 1896 was this call answered; Delia sought and was elected to the Hopkinton school board, serving until 1907 with such well-known men as Charles C. Lord, Samuel Symonds, George A. Barnard, Henry Dustin, Leown H. Kelley, and Frank E. Dodge. She was the one consistent member during these 12 years. Some historians have reported that Delia was the town’s first school superintendent, and although she was undoubtedly instrumental in designating the need for a superintendent, the 1907 town report indicates that J. A. MacDougall was given that post. Yet Delia was the speaker for the first graduating class of Hopkinton High School, eloquently telling of the school’s controversial establishment as well as honoring the one graduate that year, 1904, Mildred Diman.
Delia was a religious person, and she appears to have been active in both the Methodist Church and in the First Congregational Church of Hopkinton where she taught adult Sunday School class. Putting belief into action, she and Leown Kelley co-founded the Merrimack County Missionary Society. Such societies were prevalent in the late 1800s with goals of spreading evangelism and promoting social justice, carrying out Jesus’ commandment to “love thy neighbor” and assisting recently freed blacks in the South. These Societies successfully raised money which was used, in part, to fund the establishment of a number of colleges for black students in the South.
As might be expected, Delia was a member of the committee directing the festivities in the 1915 celebration of the 150th anniversary of the town of Hopkinton. Also active in her local neighborhood, Delia was a charter member of the Emerson Hill Community Extension Group, serving as Vice Director at the first meeting on August 14, 1916. This club for local women was the first of those established through the Extension County Council of Merrimack County, which itself was created as a result of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, a law that established a system of cooperative extension services connected to land-grant universities. Women would bring their handwork, have interesting programs often with speakers from the University on such topics as food preparation, and periodically offer community picnics, suppers, and other social events.
In her later years, Delia and her youngest daughter Josephine, as yet single, lived with her eldest daughter Bernice and husband James Rice; Bernice had become an invalid and benefitted from their assistance. Then in 1918, Delia’s daughter Etta and husband Edward Nelson became very ill with the pandemic (“Spanish”) influenza. Etta died; Eddie finally rallied. Eddie’s sister Ida and other nearby relatives offered help with raising Eddie’s two children, Margery and Stanley, only six and one year old respectively; it was Josephine and also Eddie’s sister Etta who prevailed, with oversight by Delia. A letter to Eddie from “Mother Bohanan” thanks him for Christmas gifts and says that she would be happy to wash the children’s clothes for him since he doesn’t have water, and mentions that “Stanley’s union suit was 95 cents instead of 49,” in expectation of full reimbursement. Some descendants (including Stanley’s daughter Vicki who fondly remembers her grandfather and aunts Jo and Etta) are of the opinion that Eddie’s child-rearing was entirely without shortcomings even if lacking some material conveniences.
Delia Bohanan passed away at the age of 69 on August 15, 1924 having suffered for one year with hepatic carcinoma (W. H. Tarbell, M.D.). She was buried in the New Hopkinton Cemetery on August 17, 1924 (Frank H. Reed, undertaker). Seventy-five years later, on October 31, 1999, Delia was the subject of an All Saints Day sermon at the First Congregational Church of Hopkinton, given by the minister Gail Whittemore. “So we have saints among us now. Saints are not perfect people. God alone is perfect. But in a saint, a bit of God’s perfection lives so that we can see it. Perhaps it is a certain sparkle, or serenity, or practical wisdom. Perhaps it is generosity, or a passion for justice, or love for the world God has made that translates into action that makes a difference…” Delia is also referenced by Rose Hanson in her book Our Town; in “A Hymn in Honor of our Ancestors” the line referring to Delia Bohanan (and Matthew Harvey) reads “Those who led the people by their counsels.” No further mention of Delia is made to explain this remark but it certainly reflects great respect. Yet, it was a more personal recollection that granddaughter Margery had of Delia who died when Margery was twelve years old. “The thing that impressed me the most was that you could always hear her whistling,” and there is the human side of the portrait of a saint.
References: In addition to Hopkinton town reports, documents from Ancestry.com, files at the Hopkinton Historical Society, and Rose Hanson’s history of Hopkinton, information was obtained from records collected by great-granddaughter Rita Gerrard and from memories/verifications of great-granddaughter Vicki Frye.
The image above is of Delia (Jewel) Bohanan, her husband John Bohanan, and their oldest daughter Bernice, who was born in March 1877.
Author Allita Paine is the past president of Hopkinton Historical Society and regular researcher, writer, and frequent contributor to the Society’s projects and exhibits.
Hopkinton Historical Society
Receives National History Award
The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) proudly announces that the Hopkinton Historical Society is the recipient of an Award of Excellence for the 2019 Putney Hill Cemetery Walk. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 75th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.
Performed in October 2019, the Putney Hill Cemetery Walk is a theatrical production designed to entertain and educate attendees about people buried in, or excluded from, the town’s earliest cemetery. Written by Lynn Clark, the script deconstructs the traditional narratives of conflict, racism and misogyny and instead constructs an inclusive, multi-vocal narrative of Hopkinton past and present. Volunteers carried out extensive research, and under the direction of Beth Spaulding, local actors vividly brought to life 26 of Hopkinton’s former residents. Audience members were appreciative of the historical context and multiple perspectives about issues that people are grappling with today, noting that issues from 250 years ago, such as religious freedom, voting rights, settler colonialism, racism and women’s rights, have their parallels today. The Putney Hill Cemetery Walk is the seventh Cemetery Walk produced by the Hopkinton Historical Society. DVD copies are available at the Society.
This year, AASLH is proud to confer fifty-seven national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, and publications. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history.
Hopkinton Historical Society Awarded Grant
Hopkinton Historical Society has been awarded a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act General Operating Support Grant in the amount of $10,000. According to Executive Director Heather Mitchell, “We are extremely grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities and New Hampshire Humanities for this grant. Given the pandemic, the Society has been closed since mid-March, meaning that we have been unable to open our summer exhibit and hold its associated programs, or hold our regular fundraisers. This grant will help us rework our traditional summer exhibit into a driving tour and also help mitigate some of the losses from our fundraisers.”
2020 Vintage Yard Sale
With the current uncertainty surrounding the health and safety of our community during the COVID-19 crisis, we have decided to push the sale date out past our usual May time frame. But rest assured the sale will happen. The Vintage Yard Sale has become a highly anticipated community event and has increased awareness of the Hopkinton Historical Society, our beautiful building, and our mission. This has been made possible through the generous donations from many of our members and the community at large. As so many of us are homebound right now, please keep us in mind as you do spring cleanings and attic cleanouts. We have year-round storage for donated items, and we will gladly pick up your items when time and public safety allow.
Pulling off this fun community event is truly a team effort, and we will be working hard to make the 5th Annual Vintage Yard Sale our biggest and most successful yet. Stay tuned for an announcement on the date of the sale, and please consider donating some of your no longer needed or loved vintage treasures so that they might come to be cherished all over again.
One hundred years from now, what would you like people to know about the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020? Hopkinton Historical Society would like to document people’s stories of what they are feeling, seeing, and/or doing during these unprecedented times. How has your daily scheduled changed? What are your fears? How long do you think we will have to physically distance ourselves from each other? How can we help others in our community? What acts of kindness have you seen?
Please share your stories and photos by at email@example.com.
Image of Hopkinton High School graduation on June 13, 2020 taken by Bob LaPree.
“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.