New Hampshire Tidbits: Fun Things To Do Before 1880

The Cheer of New England Life

Engraving of wild turkeys, from
American Sportsman: Containing Hints to Sportsmen, Notes on Shooting, etc, by Elisha L. Lewis, M.D., and Arnold Burgess, 1885, page 181

For one, I utterly deny that the rural society of New England, taken as a whole, is in a grim, stern or extravagantly repressed condition. I do not know much of Connecticut, but I know a good deal of the rural parts of Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island, and am not ignorant of Maine and New Hampshire. It would be interesting to learn how much your lamenting contributors personally know of the country life of those States.

Battle re-enactment of American Revolution. Photograph property of J.W. Brown.

Did they ever go deer-hunting or moose-hunting; ever take part in a squirrel-hunt, or even a “turkey-shoot?” Did they ever see a militia muster; ever observed with wonder that old-time miracle of armed display, “a Cornwallis?” 1 [Even Lowell’s Hosea Biglow is obliged to own that “there is fun to a Cornwallis.”]

Did they ever go to a husking-party, or a hop-picking, or a “sugaring-off;” or attend a lumberman’s ball at the close of the season? [“The things they don’t say and do at one o’ them balls,” said a Maine stage-driver once to me, “ain’t worth thinkin’ of!”] Did they ever join a party going down the Merrimack to the salt-marshes for hay, in a “gundalow;” or a Salisbury Beach “camping-out,” or a party to explore the “glen” by torchlight, at Stockbridge, or go through “purgatory” in the same way, at Sutton?

Silhouette of Merrimack Gundalow; From “Shipping & craft in silhouette; drawing and text by Charles G. Davis, 1929, page 57, Hathi Trust

Did they ever visit those innumerable picnic grounds now distributed all over New England for summer pleasuring, and so well equipped for innocent amusement; or observe how the world of merry-makers has gradually overflowed the camp-meeting grounds at Martha’s Vineyard; or spend a summer day at the thronged water-places of Narragansett’s Bay–Rocky Point in particular, where from one to five thousand chance-visitors go to dine daily, and may be seen whirling in the dance, hour after hour, as busily as if they were born Germans?

Do not these critics know that half New England lies within easy reach of the Atlantic shore, and that from every part of that shore gay sailing parties are putting forth or returning at almost every hour of day or night, all summer long? Do they not know that all the interior of New England is threaded by the Connecticut River, and that a score of the inland villages have been for many years the traditional centers of cultivated and agreeable society? If you wish to see what Lennox and Stockbridge are and were, read the Life and Letters of Miss Sedgwick; or, for Northampton, read the charming memoirs of Mrs. Lyman.

….Town after town comes up to the memory of any man of large social experience, any one of which refutes this dismal theory.–[Excerpt from June Atlantic and May 1879 several newspapers].

  1. A “Cornwallis” was a celebration popular prior to the Civil War, held each year on October 19 to celebrate Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. This event often included banquets, drinking alcohol, toasts, cheers of ‘huzzah’ and gun salutes.
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3 Responses to New Hampshire Tidbits: Fun Things To Do Before 1880

  1. I wonder if the writer of the article was responding to another article portraying New Englanders in a negatively stereotypical light.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Liz, the author could very well have been responding to another article. I’ve read articles criticizing New Englanders, specifically New Hampshirites as most recently as 5 years ago. We are a sorry lot it seems (lol).

  2. Amy says:

    I need to check this out! I love being a New Englander (born in NYC and raised in its suburbs, but have lived in New England since I turned 18).

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