Killed by Locomotive on Christmas Day: John Langdon Swain of Meredith and Laconia NH (1824-1866)

John Langdon “Lang” Swain of Meredith and Laconia NH.

The face of John Langdon Swain peers out from a postage-stamp sized (i.e. gem) tintype photograph.  He was the fourth great-grandson of Jeremiah & Mary (Smith) Swain of Reading, Massachusetts. The tintype was another of my online auction ‘finds’ which I purchased because John had such an interesting face.  No doubt the photograph was cut out from a much larger album with related photos.

You would never guess that John “Lang” Swain met an untimely death on Christmas Day of 1866.  He was only 42 years old.  Other than his death certificate which quite simply states”killed by locomotive,” two newspaper stories shed a little light on what happened.  We probably will never know why he ignored the loud whistles of the train’s engineer, or why he was walking on the railroad tracks in the first place.

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New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Winchester

WWI monument plaque at Winchester NH. Photograph courtesy of Christy Menard, Library Director, Conant Library, Winchester NH. Used here with her permission.

Winchester is a quaint, small town in Cheshire County, New Hampshire. In 2010 it still only had 1,733 people. Between 1910 and 1920 its population was actually greater than today–with between 2,260 and 2,280 citizens.

The town sent its full complement for military service during World War I as you will see from the extensive list below.  This story will mostly focus on those who paid the ultimate sacrifice–dying during war time.   I am grateful to Christy Menard, Library Director, Conant Library in Winchester NH for providing the recent photographs of the war memorial that you see here. Continue reading

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New Hampshire in WWI: Committee of One Hundred

Photograph of Mary I. Wood, Chairman of Women’s War Work in New Hampshire. Photo from: The Granite Monthly, a magazine of literature, “New Hampshire’s War Workers,” 1919, page 99.

If you mention the term ‘Committee of Safety‘ to a New Hampshire history researcher, they will probably think of the American Revolution, when trusted prominent men from each town were appointed to regulate and take control of local government, especially as royal officials left or were expelled.

What is little know today is that a Committee of Safety, also known as the Committee of One Hundred, was appointed by the Governor of New Hampshire, just prior to World War I. This committee’s regulating power was far less extensive than that of its predecessor, but its membership was similarly drawn from the public sector, and was entirely male (though ancillary sub-committees and auxiliary committees included some women).

The responsibility of these committees collectively was to oversee and report to the governor on: food production, recruitment, hygiene and medicine, emergencies, industry, transportation, finance, aid societies, dependent soldiers and sailors, military equipment and supplies, aviation, mobilization and concentration camps, naval, state protection, speaker’s bureau, Americanization, War Historian, Non-War Construction, and Woman’s Committee. They helped also to coordinate towns and cities within the reach of their committees. Continue reading

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New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Somersworth

Old photograph (postcard) of Market Square in Somersworth NH. Property of J.W. Brown.

Somersworth New Hampshire, located in Strafford County, is the smallest of New Hampshire’s 13 cities, and one with the 3rd lowest population. In 1893 it was incorporated as a city, and was also known as “Great Falls.” At the time of the 1st World War its population was about 6,688 people.

The City of Somersworth Annual Reports give some insight into how returning soldiers were recognized. The 1919 report states: “We shall be pleased to appropriate money for a fitting celebration for our returned soldiers at some time during the year..” (p 8). The 1920 Annual Report shows how monies were spent from the World War Veteran’s Account, including a banquet, decorations, fireworks, orchestra, parade. The total was $1,181.09, a great deal of money at that time, so the event must have been spectacular. Continue reading

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100 Years Ago: Fourth of July 1917

Berwin (my father), Anna and Margaret Webster posing at their parent’s home on Depot Street in Manchester NH, circa 1918.

On July 4th 1917 the World was at War. Just a week earlier, on June 26 the first 14,000 United States infantry troops had landed in France, and were beginning to train for combat.

The  local weather was temperate. The Nashua New Hampshire newspaper reported: “Temperature reading at the Indian Head National Bank today were: 8 a.m. 62; 12 noon 66; 3 p.m. 70.”

The local New Hampshire newspapers around the 4th were a strange mix of current news and promotions of family-oriented entertainment to celebrate the Fourth of July. The front page of the Nashua (NH) Telegraph included stories on the Russian offensive, American troops in Paris on parade, and a notice that a famed trench fighter named Oscar M. Flather would be visiting to give his insights into ‘modern warfare.’  Continue reading

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