March 14, 2011

Sugaring Time

"Sap House" at Low Plain

Maybe next year... Here it looks like an early spring, with no snow on the ground at sugaring time. Taken on April 1, 1892, the Sap House was photographed at the end of a winter in which just 20.8 inches of snow fell at Dartmouth's Shattuck Observatory in Hanover—lowest on the record from 1866 through 1958.

The two men gathering sap are identified, perhaps tentatively, as Ellie Farwell and Jesse Melendy. Reo Ellsworth Farwell, born in Springfield (NH) in 1862, resided on the Penuel Everett farm at Low Plain, taught school several terms, and served as town clerk. In 1897, he moved to Lynn, Massachusetts. The younger Jesse Melendy, also a Low Plain resident, graduated from Colby Academy in 1897 and entered Brown University. Both are listed in Myra Lord's History of New London, New Hampshire (1899).

The photographer, William A. Farren, was settled as minister of New London's Baptist Church in 1889. He preached "truth without fear or favor" for the next decade, according to the History of New London. Reverend Farren brought a keen interest in photography and took images of the town throughout his tenure. The archives holds a collection of over fifty of his New London prints.

Right now there's well over a foot of snow on the ground, but today was the best yet for collecting sap—clear, cool, and sweet.

March 8, 2011

A letter from Andersonville.

Israel Roach letter
The Town Archives holds thousands of letters—some business, some government, some personal. Nearly all have a clear connection to the town of New London, but here's a rare and fascinating exception.

Israel Roach of Danvers, Massachusetts, was 38 years old when he volunteered for the 35th Massachusetts Regiment in 1862. Most of his comrades were more than a dozen years younger. On May 24, 1864, he and eight others from the same regiment were captured at the battle of the North Anna River, Virginia.

They were taken first to Libby Prison in Richmond for processing, but after four days they were moved along with a thousand other prisoners (sixty-five men packed into each boxcar) to Camp Sumter in Andersonville, Georgia. They arrived at noon on June 7, 1864 and struggled to find open ground on which to settle in the over-crowded prison.

One month later, Israel wrote this brief letter to his wife, Almira. Dated July 9, 1864, it begins:

...through the mercy of God I am well enough to write to you to day.... I have a strong hope to see you once more on the Earth, although the mortality is fearful here daily. If the government delay[s] paroling those men, there will be few... to transport in a few weeks.

The regimental history of the 35th Massachusetts Volunteers includes the following diary entry of Sgt. Henry Tinsdale on August 21, 1864:

Reverse, with death notice
The weather has been warm and very trying to sick and well. The death rate holds its own; three out of the ninety have died. Among them Israel Roach, of Company F, of our regiment. It was with tearful eyes we of the Thirty-Fifth bore his remains to the gate, pinned the scrap of paper denoting his name and regiment upon his breast, and delivered them to the stolid rebel guard. I have had many pleasant chats with him during our prison days. He had, I think, typhoid fever, and was delirious in his last hours. 
Two or three times a day now can be seen the "dead-wagon"—an old army wagon rigged with staves and railing, into which are piled our dead comrades, as a farmer would pile a load of wood — drawn by four mules around the south-west corner of the stockade to the final resting place. 

Israel Roach's letter was found among the papers of Oren D. Crockett, a New London resident with a keen interest in local and national history—but no known relation to the soldier.