In April of 2014 I wrote about Merrimack New Hampshire Poet, Hannah Eayrs Barron. She was born in Merrimack, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire in 1809, daughter of Williams & Hannah (Foster) Eayrs. While researching her life I came across an April 17, 1948 Nashua Telegraph newspaper article about “Recollection of Long Ago,” a paper written by Hannah E. Barron on life in Nashua in the early 1800s that had been read at the afternoon meeting of the Matthew Thornton chapter DAR by Miss Abbie Laton.
At that time I contacted that DAR Chapter, and several local historical societies including Nashua, Merrimack and Hudson. Neither Nashua nor Merrimack knew of this document. A few days ago, I received an email from Ruth Parker of the Hudson Historical Society. I owe her a great debt of gratitude for following up on my very old email She had discovered a typewritten copy of Hannah E. Barron’s document in their museum archives, and was do kind as to scan and forward it to me.
Rather than share the original PDF I am going to post the transcribed text (my own transcription), keeping the punctuation or mostly lack thereof, with my own notes inserted between brackets [ ]. Please note that this document is used with permission of the Hudson Historical Society [NH], so should you wish to re-use it, they are the point of contact, not me.
The recollections are an interesting collection of remembrances of a woman who was born, died and lived all within the 19th century. Her ties are to southern New Hampshire, and include information about the Irish immigration that I had not heard before. She lived during a time when temperance [non drinking alcohol] was a hot topic and so she alludes to it. She writes from the personal view of a woman who saw rapid changes in her community, just as we do today.
RECOLLECTIONS OF LONG AGO. BY HANNAH EAYRS BARRON
IN 1803 Dunstable Village, which was called Indian Head was christened Nashua.
Between sixty and seventy years ago, Nashua Village in Dunstable, was known only by the name, except for the fact that there were three stores where farmers could exchange their produce for groceries for family use. One store was located on the west side of Abbott Square, then owned and occupied by Messrs Samuel Foster, and Stephen Kendrick. One store owned by the three brothers, Joseph, Ezekiel and Alfred Greeley, also occupied by them. It was situated across the street south of the Indian Head House, was on a part of the lot where the Greeley Block is and on Lock Street, which at that time was without a name.
On the north of the tavern about where Mrs. Sawyer’s house now stands, was a store kept by Moses Foster. The Indian Head House, which was then known as Tyler’s Tavern, and owned by Moses Tyler had been enlarged from a cottage to a more stately building, which consisted of four rooms on the ground with an ell and two stories high. In the second story was a hall where the young people used to meet and have a dance or ball as those gatherings were called.
The first caravan that ever stopped in Nashua, stopped at Tyler’s Tavern, and the show was in Tyler’s barn. I with all that could went to see the show and all was new about it, to young ideas a wonder of wonders, especially amusing were the cunning tricks of the monkeys gaily dressed and performing what seemed almost impossible feats. There was an ichneuman, [sic ichneumon] a leopard, a wild cat, a bear, a buffalo, a six legged cow, the superfluous legs were a stem or limb that grew right up between the fore shoulder and then branched off attached to the limb, were two feet with hoofs that hung over and lopped on either side of the limb. There was also an opossum, I have been to some shows since, but never saw any thing that equaled that show, as it then appeared to my childest [sic childish] imagination.
Each of the three stores in the village besides keeping groceries kept also a few pieces of calicoes, which could be bought, of which to make a go to meeting dress, such dresses among farmers were expected to last for years when the first child out grew the dress, it was made over, for a younger sister. I can remember a piece of print bought in 1815 and fifty cents per was paid for it, and although it was English print, it was no better or prettier than can be bought now for ten cents. No factories in this country at that time had been established in which prints had been made. If my lady in this vicinity wanted a better garment, such a silk or a nice bonnet, she had to go to Amherst to procure it. Amherst was supposed to be a little ahead of any other town in Hillsborough County in point of fashionable dress makers and milliners.
In all stores and at the end of the same counter where English and West India goods were delivered, also stood decanters filled for use, and country customers who came some distance and made considerable purchases would be invited to partake of something to drink. Or perchance they might buy a treat for themselves or friends. As it was Fashionable none considered it a sin. Every body who had the means kept something in the house to treat themselves or their friends who might call on them.
The minister even would not hesitate to take a little. A minister who lived in Merrimack sent word that he would visit a couple of families in the south east part of the town on a certain day and would dine with the family living nearest to Nashua or Dunstable Village. After the father learned the fact, he went into the field a half mile from his house and told his son to leave his work and go down to the village and get some rum as they had none in their house and they must have some, because the minister was coming there to dinner. So he stopped his work and came down to the village and got some. The store was over two miles distant.
I heard that same minister ask how much rum was sold in Merrimack. There was five taverns (no public house at that time had assumed the name of hotel) and there was four stores in the town all of which dispensed the needful. His reverence said the first deacon of the church, Deacon M. who did more business than any one store in the town, sold Twenty hogshead of ardent rum, which he thought would not be more than one third of the rum sold by the stores and taverns to people in town and what was carried out of town and sold to travelers, 60 hogshead was the estimate. The first temperance lecture I ever read was delivered in Salisbury by a lawyer named Kitteredge and a brother to the minister’s wife. Deacon M. who sold the twenty hogshead of rum was considered one of the most pious and benevolent men in the town where he lived and ultimate quite the richest man in town.
I have wandered from Dunstable Village and will now return. In 1818 there were no factories in town and not more than five or six two story dwelling houses in the village, after leaving Tyler’s Tavern, toward the north, there was no house on the east side of the road until you reached the house where Mr. William Eayrs lived. A house stood near the Pennichuck Brook, east of the road toward the Merrimack river, then owned by Mr. John Harris, and now owned and occupied by his two daughters. The land east of Main Street north of Lock street to the Laton farm, was covered with forests until reaching the Greeley farm. One house stood on Railroad Square, owned and occupied by Frederick French Esq. was where the oval is. When Mr. French sold out and went to Lowell, it was moved back to where the Laton House now stands and converted into the hotel Central House and kept by Mr. Higgins. It was afterwards sold to James Cameron who came from Canada and married a Nashua lady named Dorcas Jewett.
In 1818 there was no school house in the village. A small house stood near the Greeley farm house on the south where the children went to school. In the spring of 1818 there being no school house in the village and no church in the town, except the Congregational church at the middle of the town below the Harbor. There were a few brothers and sisters in Dunstable who were Baptists and had formed into a church. The deacons were Leach, Kidder and Baldwin. They were joined by a few individuals from Hollis. On the west of Abbott Square on Amherst street, there were two families who lived in low cottages owned by Jonas Woods Jr. On the north of Abbott Square were three houses, own owned and occupied by Joseph and Ezekiel Greeley, one built and occupied by Daniel Abbott Esq., and one built by John Lund and afterward owned by Sam Foster and Stephen Kendrick, now owned by Frank Kendrick. Mr. Jonas Woods Sr. was the owner of all the land west of Amherst street opposite the village and his farm extended to the Nashua river, on the west, and contained the large tract of land formerly called Woods Hill.
At the time alluded to in the spring of 1818 Mr. Woods built a new barn, a little north of his house, perhaps a little south of his house where C. Cambell Esq. now lives. There were two ladies who lived in Hollis who wished to be baptised by immersion and as there was no building in the village suitable for a religious meeting and as Mr. Woods barn had not been filled with hay and grain and was perfectly new and clean, he kindly offered to put in some temporary seats of clean boards and allow the barn to be used for religious services, it was accepted and they obtained Rev. Mr. Merrill of Hudson, to preach a sermon and perform the ordinance of baptism. Mr. Merrill was father to the Miss Merrill who married Rev. D.D. Pratt, for his first wife. What was calculated to give interest to the public especially to the young to whom it was new, was the announcement that the two ladies were to be baptized by immersion. A (Mrs. Blood and Hale) in the Nashua River. My father and family all that were able attended the meeting. I was a child and of course did not retain much that the minister said. I sat side of a child with whom I whispered and our conversation was about ourselves. She wished to know my name and age and told me hers. Her age was nine and I told her my name and age was eight, would be nine the following November. When the religious exercises were finished at the barn, the audience repaired to the Nashua river, where the minister made a prayer, then took the sisters, one at a time down into the river and baptized them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost. After the ceremony was finished the brethren and sisters sang the union hymn was as follows:
From whence doth this union arise,
That hatred is conquered by love,
It fathoms our souls in such ties,
That distance, or time can’t remove.
It can’t in Eden be found,
Nor in a paradise lost,
It grows on Emanuels ground
And, Jesus, dear blood it has cost.
Oh why then so loath here to part,
Since we shall ere long meet again.
Engraves on Emmanuels heart
At a distance we can not remain.
My friends are soden unto me,
Our souls ouls so united in love:
Where Jesus is gone we shall be,
O’erwhelmed in the ocean of love.
After which the audience dispersed. The fact of the girl and myself talking of our names and ages imprinted on my memory the date of the occurrence and being something new to myself and my young companion, that for some time afterwards, when we were out in the field and had exhausted our usual routine of plays, we would tie something around our waists and each would go through the ceremony of baptizing the other. We were not quite sure of the language used by the minister, but as we understood it, one would put one arm under the back of the neck and take hold of the belt with the other hand and tip her over backward as though we were in the river and say I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Ghost, down forever amen.
In 1820 the young men in Dunstable begun to take an interest in military affairs. It then being the law that every able bodied young man after he was eighteen years of age, was obliged to train every year sometime in the month of May. Every one had to furnish his own equipment. One man in the town kept a supply of old guns and any one who did not own one, could hire the use of one of his guns for a dollar a year, so that he thought the investment paid him fair interest. The more enterprising portion of the young men concluded that with proper instruction they might unite and perform military duty in a more satisfactory manner. They accordingly obtained a sufficient number of subscribers to warrant the establishment of a military school. They accordingly obtained the services of one Major Minot to teach them the necessary accomplishments to make their enterprise a success. They soon organized into a uniformed company and chose Samuel Foster for the Captain. The title of the company, was The Dunstable Cadets. On the Fourth of July following, the Dunstable people concluded to celebrate the day by a military parade, and all the people within convenient distance assembled to see the show, which was indeed a show for those times. The company went through with their military drill. Among the exercises was a sham fight, one part of which was the sham of killing Capt. Foster and the burying him under arms, which was quite interesting to the spectators.
The ladies had subscribed for and sent to Boston for a banner, which they had intended to present to the company on that day. They were all dressed in white and Miss Alah Pollard was to do the honors of presenting the banner. All was ready and expectation was high for the arrival of the stage, which was expected to bring the desired flag. And great was the disappointment when it was announced that the stage had come and no flag. Only one stage from Boston to Concord at that time through Dunstable, and no flag. There was no railroad, no telegraph and no means of rapid communication and they had to wait until nearly night for the ceremony to finish up.
Very few now survive who were present at that celebration. Mr. William Eayrs was my father and we lived three miles from Nashua Village, in Merrimack. Two houses were within a quarter of a mile of our home and in sight. When we got home mother said our nearest neighbor, Mrs. Bowers had a little daughter born to her, that day. That fact imprinted on my memory the date of the child’s age, as I was ten, would be eleven in November, following. That child who is Mrs. John Spalding, and her sister Byam, and myself are the only persons who now survive, of those three families, which then consisted of twenty six persons.
Between our home and the Indian Head House or Tyler’s Tavern on the west side of the Concord Road, were six houses, not more than three or four of those numerous families are now living. The district where we went to school was then No 4 and extended from Pennichuck Brook to Souhegan river, or more than a mile above Thornton’s Ferry. Not a parent of all that district which sometimes numbered fifty scholars is living, and only three or four who were children at that time alluded to, besides myself still live.
Mr. Charity Lund in the latter part of the eighteenth century–nearer the middle, bought a tract of land which extended from the farm of William Rayrs [sic Eayrs] to the Thorntons Ferry. The land was divided into six farms and occupied and built upon by his six sons, their names were John, James, Cosmo, Stephen, Jerahmeel, and William. The property has passed into other hands. The house which was built by the father, Charity Lund, and Afterwards owned by Cosmo
was lined with brick. Mr. Cosmo Lund never married, but kept house and his sister, Lucy, widow of Colonel Gordon Hutchins, lived with him until she died. They used to keep geese and very kindly gave to the school children in the neighborhood (quills). Often have I received quills from them, with which I learned to write. No such thing as a steel or gold pen was known at that time. And every scholar who was large enough to learn to write was supplied with a blank writing book, made of fools cap paper unruled. Having no lead pencils, the scholars manufactured for themselves, what they called a plummet, which was made by making a shallow mould into which was poured melted lead. After it was cold it was smoothed off to an edge and with the aid of a straight ruler we were able to mark our writing books, with straight lines. The teacher would make our pens of the quills, which we furnished. If we did not find quills enough where geese were kept, we had to buy them at the stores, called dutch quills, which the teachers manufactured into pens for all who were large enough to learn to write, until the scholars were large enough to make their own pens. The teachers set all the copies which, after the scholars were able to write a running hand, was usually some moral or religious or historical sentence or maxim. Every scholar who was large enough to write was expected to write twice a day, which came after the first reading and before recitation of any other lesson. Those scholars grew to be useful members of society and I cannot call one to my mind, who went to school in my day, who was ever put in jail or prison for a crime, or was much given to intemperance.
At the time the first factory was erected in Lowell, Mass. Mr. Boot, the agent, went to Ireland to obtain experienced help to work for him. By the time he had secured enough help to answer his purpose, there was such a rush of emigrants landed in Boston, without any means of Supporting themselves, that a law was enacted prohibiting the landing of emigrants in Boston, who had not the means to care for themselves until they could earn their own support. In consequence of this prohibitation, [sic prohibition] those Irish emigrants who wished to come to Lowell, were shipped to Montreal, where they disembarked, then shouldering what bagged they possessed, men, women and children were obliged to travel the whole distance to Lowell, on foot. They of course, had to beg their food all the way. Some of the children were small and occasionally an infant. We had near neighbors, but they did not live on the same road with us. Our nearest neighbor to the north on the river road was a mile away and half that distance was a forest on both sides of the road. When emerging from the woods, our house being the first, consequently the beggars made for our house first, for something to eat. And the first salutation, was “please ma’am give me some cold vituals. Something it would be milk or a piece of mate, ma’am (if anything happened to be in sight) if you plaze, or some bread”. If we were making cheese it was, give me some cheese curd plaze. During the spring of 1835 there was a cargo of emigrants landed at Montreal and as usual begged their way to Lowell. They came in squads and sometimes would want lodging. Election day in those times was made as much account as of Thanksgiving. I was at home with my mother, my sister being away. I had cooked up a quantity of food, expecting company. Before noon at one time, there were nine emigrants in one detachment that stopped to solicit something to eat. The company was made up of men, women and children. I furnished them with a pail full of milk, a large loaf of Election cake and bread enough to make a satisfactory meal, all they wished to eat.
And during the week I furnished with my own hands fifty two in number, sufficient to satisfy their hunger. Some of them came at night and we furnished them a place to sleep. And for my pay, I received thank you ma’am, much obliged to you ma’am and God bless you. I have lived on the interest of such deposits for something like fifty years. The principal of the funds deposited during those years is not exhausted from my memory at least.
Many emigrants who stopped in Lowell, lived on what was called the acre. Some of the employed in the mills. One Autumn 1844 or 1845, there was a fire that destroyed most of the little hamlets and the inhabitants had to find other places to live. Many were out of employment. Then the current of emigration turned from Lowell to Manchester. One evening when it was nearly dark, there came to our house, in one company, a young man who had lately married, with his wife, his mother, two grown up sisters and a young brother and sister and all wanted we should give them supper and lodging. They had walked all the way from Lowell to fathers house in Merrimack, some seventeen miles. Our family had been to supper and it was too cold for them to sleep, except in the house. So we divided up some beds and laid them on the floor of the parlor, with bedding to make them comfortable. Then I put over the fire a large pot and made it full of good Indian meal hasty pudding, together with a pan of good milk, and their appetites did justice to the cook. After satisfying their hunger, I showed them the place we had provided for their rest and they all retired. In the morning they came out and said they had rested nicely. After taking breakfast, they rigged themselves for another days tramp and, paying for favors with their usual handy change of “thank you ma’am and God bless you” they started off again for Manchester and all was quiet again.
The first stage running from Concord, was started in 1823 or 1824. The stage which run on the Merrimack River road was something new and the driver when he came in sight of a house, would take a tin trumpet and sound it to let the inhabitants know the stage was approaching, and if they wished they could have an opportunity to ride. In a few years business increased so much that six stages ran from Concord to Boston and as many from Boston To Concord in a day. They started from each place in the morning and arrived at the other end at night, seventy miles. As often as once in ten or twelve miles the stage was stopped and (exchanged horses) They were not detained longer than to unhitch the horses from the stage and hitch on fresh ones, which were always ready harnessed and, being fresh and spirited, enabled them to perform the long journey. Both the routes met at Nashua and took dinner at the Washington House, the most popular house in the city for several years. I(t) stood on the site of the Noyes Block. At the time President Jackson visited New Hampshire, a delegation was sent by the Governor of New Hampshire to meet him at the state line, he having been received in Lowell, the day previous. His escort and servants occupied four carriages. The barouche in which he ride had Mr. Van Buren, who was Vice President, afterwards President of the Untied states, Secretary Lewis Cass and Franklin Pierce since President of the Untied States. In the last carriage were his colored servants. After breakfast, he went out on the balcony of the Washington House, where he stopped and was introduced to many prominent Citizens. It was a great day for Nashua, the factories were all stopped and all the operatives paraded to do honor to the President and the hero of New Orleans.
The girls of each room of the factories were dressed in some distinct costume and were marched to Abbott Square, headed by their respective overseers. One company were dressed in white caps on their heads trimmed with blue ribbons and blue belts. One Company dressed in white with pink belts and bows on their heads and no bonnetts or caps. All had the sleeves of their dresses after the style called balloon sleeves, which were large at the top with a stiff lining which made them round at the top, which gave them the name.
The whole company were separated into two columns facing each other, and room enough between the two columns for the President to pass between them. He stood on his feet in his barouche and with his white head bared to the sun and wind, he bowed gracefully on either side as an acknowledgement of the honor done him by the lady operatives of Nashua Village. He and his cortage [sic] were preceded by a company of young men in citizens clothes on horseback. After having gone through with the ceremonies in the village, they started on their journey to Concord. The young men escorted them to the Greeley farm and when, under those elm trees, they separated into two columns with their horses heads toward the middle of the street and took off their hats, the President arose in his carriage, took off his hat and waved it toward them, for his farewell, and the cortage drove on. I was in a chaise with a gentleman and lady friend, and the gentleman, when they started to go from the south to the north side of the bridge, struck right into the procession next to the President’s last carriage and we followed near them all around Abbott Square and kept in the position until we arrived at our home in Merrimack, three miles from Abbott Square. I do not know as ever I pass under the shade of those venerable elms on the Greeley farm, but they remind me of the reception of President Jackson and his farewell.
During the season of Lent, some of the country travelers would take their produce to market and load up their team with fresh fish on their return for canadian market. At one time two men had started from Boston with heavy loads of fish, there came on a thaw and there was danger of their fish spoiling before reaching Canada. Before they arrived at Mr. William Eayrs, in Merrimack, the weather had changed to freezing cold. The common west of Mr. Eayrs house, where the brick school house now stands was covered with glare ice and a prospect of a cold night. The chance to care for their fish was soo good that they persuaded Mr. Eayrs, to furnish shelter for themselves and horses for the night. After supper the teamsters, with the help that Mr. Eayrs, who was my father could furnish, went out and unloaded all their fish, which was several tons and spread them all out on the ice and in the morning they were frozen solid.
Going to school
In going to and from school a mile and a half, by the orders of teachers every scholar was obliged to make our manners as it was called to every person we met. If a boy he must doff his hat or cap and make a bow, if a girl she must make a courtesy [sic curtsey]. Often when going through the woods in winter and seeing teams approaching, we would have to stop outside the beaten track and stand still in the deep snow until a long string of sleighs or pungs, perhaps a dozen or fifteen and make a courtesy to every person who passed. Usually every scholar would be asked on entering the school house, did you meet any one on the road, if in the affirmative, did you make your manners? if yes or yes sir, you may go to your seat.
An anecdote on the Town of Francestown
The first minister who was settled over the Presbyterian church in that town was a man named Bradford. The deacon of the church were Samuel Boyd, and Andrew Homes. The society furnished him with a house and thirty cords of wood besides his salary and deacon Homes gave him a present of a cow. After a while Mr. Bradford, received some tracts for didtribution [sic distribution], in his society. Seeing Dea. Homes, he asked him if he would like to receive one, and he told him he would. Mr. Bradford sent a boy to Deacon Homes with a tract and told him to tell Dea. Homes the price of it would be ninepence. Homes gave the boy the ninepence and a book and told him to tell Mr. Bradford he would not be satisfied with all Hell, unless he could use one corner of it for a calf pasture. Mr. Bradford was reported as having said in a sermon that Hell was lined with infants skulls. Some one asked how Mr. Bradford knew that to be true? The boy said he saw them when he went to salt his calves.
May 24, 1885
1857, A Fourth of July toast at Merrimac. Our Temple of Liberty
Worthy of the Goddess to whom it is dedicated. The grading for the foundation was done by the Declaration of Independance and the Revolutionary War. The base is the Constitution of our Common County. The superstructure is the United States. The Union of Towns. Union of the Districts, the Union of Families. The spire that points to Heaven is the Union of hearts which induces friendly and social feelings. May the Presiding Deity keep a fortress around it which shall effectively protect it against all the batteries of Bigotry, Fanaticism, Anaarchy [sic Anarchy] and Treason and may its Symetry and beauty remain unscared [sic unscarred] and untarnished to the remotest generation.
Only one step at a time, Written by Hannah Eayrs Barron
I recollect when I was young and teaching school, as was the custom in the district, I had to board among the scholars. In one part of the district I had to climb quite a hill before reaching one of my boarding places. The weather was warm and my health not very firm and only a cold lunch for dinner I could feel tired and weak and sometimes when coming in sight of the hill I would feel as though I could not reach the top. I got in the habit of counting my steps and soon learned it was not best to look at the top while standing at the foot of the hill. I considered that one step at a time was all that I could accomplish and repeating that step at a time I would soon find a level and pleasant road and shortly a resting place and warm supper.
So has lift been with me for seventy five years and six months. Had i looked forward in my youth to this day of my life, I should have said to myself no, I can never reach such a summit, I shall surely fail. Sickness has often obscured my path, that I have often thought I could not proceed much father, but with only one beat of the heart at a time has kept my life blood flowing and only one tick of the clock at a time has measured the the years and days of my life. Only one day at a time has been present for me to look at, but all of my days when numbered, amount to twenty seven thousand five hundred and fifty seven (27,557) days. One beat of the heart. One tick of the clock.
Written by Hannah Eayrs Barron.
An Abbreviated History of the Circus in America, by Rodney A. Huey, Ph.D. – pdf
History of the old township of Dunstable: including Nashua, Nashville, Hollis, Hudson, Litchfield, and Merrimac, N.H.; Dunstable and Tyngsborough, Mass. (1846) by Charles J. Fox.