New Hampshire Tidbits: Land Serpents of the Granite State

TIMBER RATTLESNAKE, Crotalus horridus. From the reptile book, by Raymond Lee Ditmars, 1915.

TIMBER RATTLESNAKE, Crotalus horridus. From the reptile book, by Raymond Lee Ditmars, 1915, the Internet Archive.

Down deep in that hollow the bees never come–
The shade is too black for a flower;
And jewel winged birds, with their musical hum,
Never flash in the night of that bower:–
But the cold blooded snake, in the edge of the
brake,
Lies amid the rank grass half asleep, half awake;
–from The Philosopher Toad by Mrs. Rebecca S. Nichols

Saturday, June 28, 1823 Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH) Page 2
REMARKABLE.–During the few warm days we had in the month of April, a yoke of oxen, belonging to Mr. Richard Jackson, of this town were feeding in a meadow–they came by a small thorn-bush, and put their noses down apparently to smell of something there, when a huge black snake with incredible velocity, fastened himself around the neck of one of the oxen–the oxen were yoked together, ran and bellowed terribly–a young man who observed their movements hastened to see what was the matter, and with difficulty got near enough to give the snake a blow with a stick, which caused him to loose his hold and fall off–he was completely clenched round the ox’s neck–his tail being wound round his own head and neck–he was killed, and found to be six feet long….

Serpent head from Snakes: curiousities and wonders of serpent life, by Catherine Cooper Hopley, 1882

Serpent head from Snakes: curiousities and wonders of serpent life, by Catherine Cooper Hopley, 1882

Monday, July 31, 1837 New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) page 3
A LAND SERPENT! of the GRANITE STATE!!
Mr. Editor–On Thursday the 20th inst. the family of Gen. M. Pillsbury of Boscawen, were surprised by the appearance of a huge Snake, passing within six or eight feet of the front door of his dwelling. As the house is contiguous to a pond, it was supposed to be a water adder; but on the following Saturday, while Gen. P. was viewing his fields, some 16 or 20 rods from the house, he discovered his Snakeship, and finally succeeded in capturing him, while he was reposing upon a rock. And to his surprise, it was a Rattle Snake, measuring 9 feet 6 inches in length, and having 21 rattles.

Thursday, August 3, 1848 Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst NH) page 3
A MONSTER SNAKE. We yesterday reported the killing of a large snake at Milton, and we are now called upon to record the killing of a monster. On the 4th inst. Mr. Lyman Whitman (who resides at No. 28 Nassau street) in company with a friend was gunning in the town of Dunstable, N.H. near the somewhat celebrated springs, and discovered a large black snake slowly crawling along the ground. Mr. Whitman fired, wounding the reptile, who hissing, started furiously toward him, when a second shot from his friend brought him to, but it was not until a third and fourth charge had been given him, that he succumbed to his assailants. Upon measuring him, he was found to be nine feet and seven inches in length.–B. Jour.

Thursday, October 12, 1848, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) page 4
MESSRS. EDITORS: Without any personal acquaintance with you except through your paper, permit me to give you a brief account of an excursion to “Rattle Snake Island” in Winnipisseogee Lake. A few days since, in company with Gen. Tuttle, Maj. Tuttle, Lieut. Cass, Gen. Wadleigh, a son of Meredith, and Capt. Carr of Gilford, I embarked at Small’s landing, for the purpose of visiting the island, and enjoying the novel sport of catching a rattle snake and pulling his teeth.–We were soon on the celebrated snake ground; and as we stepped on the shore, we looked about us with the nicest scrutiny, but there was no one to welcome us. After landing our culinary utensils and eatables, we set off for the top of the mountain, each individual armed with a musket. As we ascended the rugged hill-side, we were ever and anon startled by the sudden flight of partridges, which abound on the island, but as were were hunting for rattle snakes, we gave them but little attention, regarding them as an inferior game. Having climbed almost to the summit, we put ourselves in battle order, and moved on under the most intense excitement, expecting that our Buena Vista fight would be on the very top of the mountain. In this we were disappointed; not an inhabitant was seen. After halting and enjoying the grateful breeze that swept over the lake, and gazing upon the magnificent landscape that surrounded us, (our guide pointing out and naming every island, farm and mountain in sight,) which for beauty and variety far exceeds that beheld from Mount Washington, we took up our line of march for the lower end of the island, expecting to find a rattle snake at every step; yet we traversed the entire mountain without hearing a rattle. Again we sat down and deliberated upon the unexpected silence of our ancient and time honored antagonists. We descended the brow of the mountain with some difficulty, and pursued a zigzag course along its side, and were soon aroused from our sad and complaining mood by the shrill rattle of an enormous snake, that caused the ground to tremble, and seemed to electrify the very atmosphere we inhaled. The rattle was so sudden and unexpected, that before we could “make ready,” he had concealed himself under a huge rock, and there continued his music, so charmingly romantic, that even the wood-nymphs might have lingered to listen to its strange echoes. As our enemy had entrenched himself within an impregnable fortress, we resolved to seek a foe that would meet us in the open field. Our wishes were soon gratified.–We had proceeded but a short distance, when we fell in with a “guerrilla party” made up of rattle snakes and partridges. One of the former was immediately dispatched, even before the war-rattle was heard. The latter took to the surrounding trees, and as our gallant friend, Maj. T., was aiming his musket at one of this winged party, he discovered another large rattle snake directly above him head, twisted round a limb, raising his frightful form to strike. Retreating a few feet, the Maj. leveled his musket and fired, bringing the snake dead to the ground. Joy ran through our ranks, that the issue had been so favorable. We picked up the killed and wounded, supposedly the victory complete. But we had hardly renewed our march before we heard the shouts of Maj. T. ringing through the forest; “a monster, a monster, we will take him alive.” All hastened to the spot. The snake was coiled up on the ground, each coil within the preceding, and apparently a perfect circle; his head was raised in a vertical position, some eight inches above the coil, his rattle and about four inches of his tail moving horizontally with great velocity, which, with the fierce dartings of his cloven tongue, his hiss and jet black color, presented a formidable appearance indeed. An attempt was made to confine his head in order to pull his teeth, but our efforts proved fruitless, the motions of his head were so rapid. Once, with two forked sticks, cut for the purpose, the central part of his body was confined, but his strength was such, that he soon rescued himself and prepared to leap upon his aggressors. Having abandoned all hope of securing him alive, he was honorable shot. This snake was an ancient inhabitant, having sixteen rattles, and consequently was nineteen years old. The other two were younger, one having nine, and the other eight rattles. Having killed three partridges, we returned to our quarters to join Gen. Tuttle and Capt. Carr, who had previously left us in search of fish. We soon met them with some of the finest denizens of the lake, and congratulating each other upon our good success, we concluded our proceedings on the island by preparing a repast of which all partook with excellent relish and good cheer. The sun fast sinking below the western hills admonished us of a return. Not, however, until we had joined in six hearty cheers, and mutually agreed to meet on the same spot, one year from that time, with as many more as might be pleased to accompany us. — Lowell, Mass., Sept. 12, 1847.

Wednesday, August 11, 1852, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord, NH), page 1
LARGE SNAKE FAMILY–A few days since as Mr. S.H. Perkins was mowing, near Rocky Pond, so called, in the westerly part of Hollis, he was attacked by a huge water-snake, which sprung towards him, following him to some distance, lashing the ground with his tail, and hissing fearfully. With some difficulty Mr. P. succeeded in transfixing the snake with his scythe and finally dispatching it. This snake measured four feet in length and fifteen inches in circumference. After removing the scythe, fifty-six young snakes crawled from the wound, average some more than six inches in length.
Within a short time Mr. P. has killed several of these venomous reptiles of enormous size.–Nashua Gazette

Thursday, July 20, 1876, New Hampshire Sentinel (Keene NH) page 5.
CHESTERFIELD–A Centennial snake has evidently put in an appearance. It was killed by Wm. Royce, on the farm of Joseph Hubbard, one day last week. One of the fair daughters of the house mounted it upon a hay fork and carried it to the barn; and we did not learn that she screamed or fainted when, on her arrival, it was found that the snakeship required a second killing, which was promptly administered and his measure taken, amounting to five feet and five inches in length.

Thursday, August 6, 1885 The Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) page 5
MERRIMACK COUNTY. A large rattlesnake was seen, recently, on the shore of Long pond in Webster.

Thursday, August 5, 1886, The New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) page 5
CHESHIRE COUNTY. The cast skin of a black snake measuring seven feet and two inches was discovered recently found at East Jaffrey.

Thursday, September 16, 1886, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) page 5
SULLIVAN COUNTY. George Jones of Newbury recently shot a black snake over six feet in length.

Thursday, July 21, 1887, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord NH) page 5
Henry Lucas of Wolfeboro killed a black snake five feet long, while haying, the other day.

*****ADDITIONAL READING*****

Snakes of New Hampshire – from New Hampshire Fish & Game Department

PLEASE DO NOT KILL SNAKES. NH has only one venomous snake, the timber rattlesnake, which is protected by law. If you think you see a timber rattlesnake, please leave it alone, and let us [NH Fish & Game Department] know. There is no reason to kill a NH snake.

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