Merrimack New Hampshire’s Boston Post Cane

Photograph of a New Hampshire Boston Post Cane (this one from Hampton NH). Photos courtesy Bill Teschek, Lane Memorial Library – 2004. Used with permission.

I recently wrote about a custom unique to New England, namely the awarding of the Boston Post Cane.  I won’t be repeating all that background data, and instead focus on one New Hampshire town’s oldest cane recipients.

Suffice it to say that in 1909 the Boston Post newspaper sent out gold-tipped ebony canes to several hundred New England towns, with a letter urging them to bestow the cane on worth citizens of their towns. Merrimack, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire was among those who received one.

The cane that arrived in Merrimack Hillsborough County, New Hampshire was awarded for several years, and then like several other towns, the cane went missing.  It is easy enough to happen and in most cases it is not a malicious mistake.  Rather than just provide a list, I think that giving you a bit of background on each of them would make this story more interesting.  I also can fill in a few years of names where the town and the historical society could not.

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Obituary of William J Rockwood from a 1911 newspaper.

#1. William Josiah Rockwood (received cane in 1909, died 1911)
In Merrimack New Hampshire, the very first person to receive the cane (in 1909) was one William Josiah Rockwood. He was 94 years old at the time.  Mr. Rockwood was born 1 April 1815 in Wilton NH, son of William Emerson & Abigail (Conant) Rockwood.  He held the cane for just under 2 years, dying on 25 January 1911 at Merrimack, NH.  He was buried in East Cemetery, Hollis, New Hampshire.  He did not seem to ever have married or had children. The book, Beside Old Hearth-Stones by Abram English Brown (pub 1897) mentions him.

Rick Weaver who created his listing on Find-a-grave states: “William went to New York around 1835 to work as a carpenter and wheelwright. He then went to Nebraska in 1856 to become a homesteader with 160 acres. He then spent time in Memphis Tennessee until 1868 and sold his land in Nebraska and returned to Merrimack NH [by 1870] to be with his parents. In 1880 re removed to Hollis, the place of his Mother’s birth. At his death he was living in Merrimack NH. A Whig, Republican and Prohibitionist. He loved reading and writing. An article in the Hollis Times of March 1906 mentions that he is the Grandson of Dr. Ebenezer Rockwood and a Grandson of Rev. Daniel Emerson. Is this family buried in the East Cemetery under the Rockwood stone?”

Nashua Telegraph, 26 January 1911. DEATHS AND FUNERALS: William J. Rockwood.
William J. Rockwood, the oldest resident of Merrimack, passed away at his home last evening at 6:40 p.m. Mr. Rockwood was an expert carpenter by trade and was in his 96th year. Years ago he made his home in Merrimack and since leaving there had traveled through the southern states moving north to locate in Hollis and Brookline and finally back to his old town, Merrimack. Nothing is known of his parentage as he was a man who seldom would talk about himself, being one of the old school type. The funeral will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. from his late home. Friends invited.
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Nashua Telegraph 9 Feb 1911
OBITUARY: WILLIAM J. ROCKWOOD. The Telegraph is indebted to James Russell of Pratt’s for the following facts concerning the late William J. Rockwood, who at his decease recently was the oldest resident of Merrimack. While Mr. Rockwood lived in Brookline some 30 years ago, wrote Mr. Russell, the writer had many very interesting conversations with him in relation to his earlier years, and found him a man of solid sense, and in spite of a lack of scholarship, he had gathered a large fund of useful information. He was born April 1, 1816, the son of William Emerson Rockwood and Abigail Conant Rockwood, and was a grandson of Dr. Ebenezer Rockwood of Wilton, who married Mary, daughter of Rev. David Emerson of Hollis. Also a nephew of Ebenezer Rockwood, law partner of Hon. Samuel Hoar who named his son Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar in honor of him.

Aerial view of Merrimack New Hampshire and the Merrimack River. Circa 1930s. Photograph copyright J.W. Brown.

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2. John Stevens (received cane in 1911, died 1912)
John Stevens was born
12 July 1824 in Newbury NH (according to the  1900 U.S. Census), son of Andrew & Lois D. (Gunnison) Stevens.  He died 28 Feb 1912 in Merrimack NH. On the 24 October 1854 in Weare NH he married Dolly P Vitty, daughter of Albert & Phebe (Purington) Vitty.

In 1860 he was living in Newbury, Merrimack Co. NH with wife and 2 daughters, Emma Frances and Florence Isabella.  In 1870 he had moved to Bedford New Hampshire adding two more children to his family, Herbert and Clara.  By 1880 he had moved to Merrimack, NH and one more child, Eldora M. appears in that year’s census records.

In 1900 he was living in Merrimack NH in the house of his daughter, Eldora Mabel “Dora” Stevens, who married Henry Westley Seavey. He was buried in Last Rest Cemetery, Merrimack NH on 1 March 1912. His wife is buried beside him. Occupation: Farmer.

Children of John & Dolly P. (Vitty) Stevens:
1. Emma Frances Stevens, b abt 1856, d. 11 Jan 1932 in Tacoma, Pierce, Washington. She m. Walter Eugene Fogg. They had at least two children, Lawrence Eugene Fogg, and Clarabel D. Fogg.
2. Florence Isabella Stevens married William Byron Stearns, son of William Thompson & Elizabeth (Goodhue) Stearns. Florence was born 5 Dec 1856 in Newbury NH and d. 30 May 1921 in Manchester NH.
3. Herbert O. Stevens, b. abt 1862 Newbury NH, d. 14 April 1943 in Alton NH. He m1st) 14 Aug 1893 in Merrimack NH to Attie J. McFarland. He m2d) 8 May 1932 in Farmington NH to Harriet “Hattie” Giles-Dean, daughter of Thaddeus & Jane (Mosher) Giles. He was a clergyman. Buried Riverside Cemetery, Alton NH.
4. Clara A. Stevens, b May 1867 in NH. She married 14 Aug 1893 in Lawrence MA to Frank E. Holmes, son of Joseph & Harriet Holmes.
5. Eldora Mabel Stevens, b. July 1872 Merrimack NH. She m. 20 Sep 1890 in Merrimack NH to Henry Westley Seavy, son of Samuel & Lavina (Aldrich) Seavey. She died 30 Jan 1970 in Worcester MA.

Unidentified soldier from Co. F, 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery Regiment in uniform. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

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3. Orison Sanderson (received cane in 1912, died 1912).
Orison Sanderson was born in 1827 at Harvard Massachusetts, son of Isaac & Eunice Betsey (Moulton/Bolton) Sanderson.   He married 1st) Hannah Barnes, daughter of Samuel & Betsey Barnes. She d. 6 Dec 1895 in Merrimack NH.  He married 2d) widow Lizzie P. (Bennett) Wait, on 26 July 1899 at Merrimack NH. She was the daughter of John & Rebecca (Pierce) Bennett.

Orison Sanderson served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He enlisted as a Private on 29 August 1864 at the age of 42. He was assigned to Company F, 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment New Hampshire on 6 Sep 1864 (they mustered at Concord NH).  He mustered out of service on 15 Jun 1865 at  Washington, DC.   He died on 19 December 1912 in Merrimack NH, aged 85.  He is buried at Last Rest Cemetery, Merrimack NH.

Children of Orison & Hannah (Barnes) Sanderson:
1. Nancy J., died young
2. Lorenzo E., married lived in Fitchburg MA.
3. Ellen M., d 1892
4. Louise, d 1881
5. Orin, b 25 Aug 1859 Merrimack, d. 2 Sep 1933 Merrimack NH
6. Dana C., who died 17 Sep 1891 in Hanover NH.

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4. James Patterson (received cane by 1918, died 1923).  This name was missing from the Merrimack record of Boston Post Cane awardees.
James F. Paterson/Patterson was born 30 Jan 1830 in So. Merrimack NH, son of Zaccheus “Zach” & Sarah (Farnham) Patterson.   He died 5 July 1923 in So. Merrimack NH. He is buried in Reeds Graveyard, Merrimack NH.  He married Melissa Anna Page, daughter of Zebina & Betsey (Merrill) Page. She was born in 1828 in Wentworth NH and died 15 Dec 1892 in Nashua NH of tuberculosis.  They had two children: Jed Frye Patterson of whom a note is included in the Bedford NH town history: ” April 23, 1869–Jed Frye Patterson, aged two years, an infant, was accidentally scalded to death. He sat down in a pail of boiling water.”

Dorchester MA Horse Drawn Street Car probably similar to what James Patterson drove.

They also had two daughter: A) Anna M. Patterson who married 29 Oct 1898 in Nashua NH to Julius Edwin Streeter, son of Edward & Mary (Olmstead) Streeter. He was born 20 March 1857 Fitzwilliam NH, d 3 Feb 1938 Merrimack NH. [He had m1st) 16 Aug 1883 in Nashua NH to Jennie N. Miller dau of Frank Miller].  She buried with her husband in Reeds Graveyard.; and B) Cora Patterson who married 8 May 1881 in Whitefield NH to Alonzo T. Whilloughby.  She died 15 June 1944 in Jefferson NH.  After his wife’s death, James Patterson moved in with his daughter and son-in-law on Railroad Avenue in Merrimack, New Hampshire.  In 1923 William E. Patterson, his brother, was Milford’s oldest citizen.  His brother George was the next holder of the Merrimack Boston Post Cane (see below)

The newspaper of July 8, 1918 Boston Post, Boston MA reported the following: “James Paterson, 88 years of age, the holder of the Boston Post Cane at Merrimack, N.H., is now enjoying his annual trip to the White Mountains. His daily constitutional is a good, long walk that sometimes stretches into a 10-mile hike. When a young man, Mr. Paterson drove horse cars between Dorchester and Quincy and for years he carried mail by stage.”

Records of the NH Adjutant General shows a James Patterson serving in the same unit that his brother George Patterson served in.  This is probably his service. Side: Union
Location: New Hampshire
Battle Unit: 12th Regiment, New Hampshire Infantry
Function: Infantry

The Nashua Telegraph on 6 July 1923 page 2, reported his death: ” OBITUARY: JAMES F. PATTERSON. James F. Patterson died at his home in South Merrimack Thursday afternoon. He sustained a stroke April 19th this year. Mr. Patterson was a native of the town in which he died born June 30, 1830, a son of the late and Sarah (Farnum) Patterson. He is survived by his daughters, Mrs. Cora Willoughby of Jefferson this state, and Mrs. Jule Streeter of South Merrimack, and also two brothers, William of Milford and George E. Patterson of South Merrimack.

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Old Postcard of “State Road Reeds Ferry NH”

5. George E. Patterson (received cane August 1923, died 1930).  This name was missing from the Merrimack record of Boston Post Cane awardees.
George Edward Patterson was born 20 June 1835 in South Merrimack NH, son of Zaccheus “Zach” & Sarah (Farnham) Patterson. He died 20 February 1930 on Nashua Road in Nashua NH. He is buried in Reeds Cemetery, Merrimack NH.  Occupation: Wheelwright/Carpenter.He m1st) Bertha P. Youngman, daughter of Jabez & Emma (Baldwin) Youngman. She b 1841, d. 22 May 1875. He married 2nd) Anna Maria Foster, daughter of John & Lois (Burley) Foster. She was b. 16 June 1855 and d. 25 June 1895.

Children of George E. & Anna M. (Foster) Patterson:
1. George F. Patterson, b 5 Nov 1870 Merrimack NH. Was of Cambridge MA
2. Ned Foster Patterson, b 15 May 1883 Merrimack NH, d. March 1971 Pinellas Florida; resided Harrisville NH. Buried Reeds Cemetery. He m. 12 June 1907 in Westford MA to Emily Augusta Manier
3. Horace Putnam Patterson b 29 Nov 1885 Merrimack NH, d. 23 Dec 1980 Concord NH; m. Annie Evelyn Linscott. Lived South Merrimack NH. Buried Reeds Cemetery
4. Susan/Susanne B. Patterson b 1887, d. 1968 married Charles Richard Parker of S. Merrimack NH.
5. Sarah Lois Patterson b 12 May 1891 Merrimack, d. 1970; married George E. Proctor.
6. Nellie W. Patterson, who m. 27 May 1897 in NH to Albert H. Harris of E. Pepperell MA, son of Henry A. & Dora F. Harris.

His Obituary was printed in the Nashua Telegraph:  OBITUARY: GEORGE E. PATTERSON [died 20 Feb 1930]. “George E. Patterson, a life long resident of South Merrimack, died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. George E Proctor, 123 Amherst Street at an early hour, this morning, resulting from a brief illness. He was born in South Merrimack June 20, 1835, a son of the late Zacchaeus and Sarah F. (Farnham) Patterson. He is survived by three sons, George F. Patterson of Cambridge, Mass., Ned F., of Harrisville, Horace P. of South Merrimack; three daughters Mrs. Albert H. Harris of East Pepperell MA; Mrs. Charles P. Parker of South Merrimack, and Mrs. George E. Proctor of this city; also 17 grandchildren, several nephews and nieces and one cousin. Mr. Patterson was a Civil War veteran, enlisting at Wentworth this state with Company F, 13th New Hampshire regiment, and was honorably discharged in 1861 at Philadelphia PA. He was a member of Thornton Post, G.A.R. of Merrimack. Six years ago last August Mr. Patterson was presented with a Boston newspaper gold-headed cane in honor of his being the oldest resident of South Merrimack. He was a life long resident of the South Merrimack Congregational church.”

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6. George Byron Griffin (received cane January 1937, died 1938).  This name was missing from the Merrimack record of Boston Post Cane awardees.

Reeds Ferry Train Station in 1935. Photo by B.H. Webster.

George Byron Griffin was born Feb 1844 in Reeds Ferry, Litchfield NH, son of George Griffin, a merchant of Litchfield NH, and his wife Clarissa (White) Griffin. Through his mother he was a descendant of John White of Wenham and Lancaster MA 1638.  His father George Griffin was the son of Ebenezer & Betty (Carter) Griffin who had 8 children: Josephine, Mary, Susan, George B.*, John W., Norris C., Orville L. and Arthur G. Griffin.

George Byron Griffin was a grocer and country store owner in Litchfield and later in Merrimack New Hampshire. He died 24 October 1938 Merrimack NH. He is buried in Reeds Cemetery, Merrimack NH.   He married 14 Nov 1872 to Frances S. Spaulding of Merrimack NH, daughter of John L. & Sarah (Bowers) Spaulding.
Children of George Byron & Frances S. (Spaulding) Griffin:
1. Blanche Spaulding Griffin b Nov 1874, died 24 December 1961. She married 26 Dec 1904 in Manchester NH to William Alexander Adams, son of Robert A. & Mary M. (Riley) Adams, a lawyer. He died in 1934. They moved to Proviso, Cook County IL. They had a son, William Bryan Griffin Adams b 10 May 1905 in Chicago IL.
2. Clarissa White Griffin b 24 May 1878, d. 26 Jan 1933 in Merrimack NH. Single. School Teacher.
3. Abbie May Griffin b April 1879, d. 3 Feb 1968. – Upon her death it was learned she had established trust funds through her will to assist the town, Merrimack residents who could not afford health care, offer scholarships to local young people for college, and funds for the police and fire departments. Those funds continue to benefit Merrimack residents today. In 1996 the Board of Selectmen named the bandstand area near the town hall, the “Abbie Griffin Park.”

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7. Anson A. Platts (received cane August 1938, died 1940). 
Anson A. Platts was born 18 July 1845 in Rindge NH, son of Asa and Fidelia (Emerson) Platts.  He graduated from Appleton Academy in New Ipswich NH.  He married 29 June 1869 in Rindge NH to Cynthia L. Lawrence, daughter of William & Loucinda (Lowell) Lawrence. She d. 3 Oct 1919 in Nashua NH Anson A. Platts died 31 May 1940 Manchester NH (hospital) He is buried in Last Rest Cemetery (per his death cert).

The Saturday June 1, 1940 edition of the Nashua Telegraph newspaper reports the following:  “Oldest Resident, 95, of Reed’s Ferry Died in Hospital at Manchester. Merrimack–Oldest resident of Reeds Ferry, Anson A. Platts, died yesterday afternoon at a Manchester hospital, following an appendectomy, at the age of 95. Previous to an automobile accident which resulted in the loss of one of his legs a few months ago, Mr. Platts had been manager of the heading department of the Fessenden and Lowell Cooper company for 56 years. He was born in Rindge, the son of the late Asa and Fidelia (Emerson) Platts and came to Reed’s Ferry at the age of 32. He had made his home for the past 21 years with Mr. and Mrs. Clarence L. Webster. Mr. Platts was a Golden Sheaf member of Thornton grange of which he was chorister for 25 years, a past grand of Souhegan lodge IOOF and member of Puritan Rebekah lodge for a great many years. He was Outside Guardian of the last two organizations up to the time of his accident. He was also one of the original five trustees of Wheeler chapel and the only one living. School auditor and Town treasurer were other responsible positions he had filled. There are no immediate survivors. The body was brought to the Charles Fisk Funeral Home in Merrimack where it may be viewed this evening. Funeral services will take place at 2:30 Sunday afternoon at the Congregational church with Rev. John W. Wright officiating. The Odd Fellows service will be conducted by members of Souhegan Lodge.”

 Note: Anson A. Platts lived with the paternal grandparents of this blog’s writer/editor. In 1910 my grandmother Mattie Kilborn (she was single then and a school teacher) was living with Mr. & Mrs. Anson Platt in Reeds Ferry, and they listed her in the census as their “adopted daughter.”  After Mattie married Clarence Webster, they continued to live in that very same house.

[Editor’s note: there may be one or more recipients between 1940 and 1947, however I have yet to discover them. It is ALSO possible that during these WWII years, the custom of awarding the Boston Post Cane was set aside, as it was in other places].

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9. John Spaulding/Spalding (received cane August 1947, died 1947).
John Oliver Spalding was born 11 May 1856 Nashua NH, son of John Lund & Sarah Sawin (Bowers) Spalding. He died 10 December 1947 in Merrimack NH, aged 91y 6m 29d. He married 30 Dec 1885 in Nashua NH to Flora Augusta McKean, daughter of James E. McKean.  He is buried in Edgewood Cemetery, Nashua NH.  He lived on Railroad Avenue in Merrimack NH.

Occupation: (1900) Heel Burnisher; (1910) Laborer in an Excelsior shop; (1920) Laborer in Toy Factory.  John & Flora A. (McKean) Spalding had a daughter, Hazel Lund Spalding who was b 27 November 1893 in Merrimack NH. She m1st) 29 Dec 1923 in Merrimack NH to Rolla Teel White, son of George G. & Polly A. (Marden) White. One child: Polly M. White b 9 April 1926 in Nashua NH, d. 17 May 2019, wife of James Phillips. Hazel married 2d) 23 Dec 1944 in Merrimack NH toJesse Francis Metcalf, son of Van Amberg & Rebecca Frances (Pierce) Metcalf. He was b abt 1853 in Rochester MA. They had 3 children: Howard Leslie, Millard Frank, and Roger Ellis Metcalf.
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Thu Dec 11, 1947
Obituary: John O. Spalding
Merrimack, Dec 11–John Oliver Spalding, 91, believed to be Merrimack’s oldest resident, died here last night. He was born in Nashua on May 11, 1856, the son of John L. and Sarah(Bowers) Spalding and had lived in Merrimack most of his life. He was a member of the Souhegan Lodge of Odd Fellows or Reed’s Ferry. Mr. Spalding was holder of the Boston Post gold braided cane. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Flora A. Spalding, one daughter Mrs. Hazel L. Metcalf; a granddaughter, all of Merrimack and two nieces. Funeral service for Mr. Spalding will be held from the Charles E. Fish Funeral home in Merrimack…..”

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10. Alice Isola Wallace (received cane August 1947, died 1949).
Alice Isola (Mooney ) Wallace was Merrimack’s first female recipient of the Boston Post Cane.  At first only men were eligible.  That custom began to change in the 1930s.  Alice Mooney was born November 1853 in Franconia NH, daughter of Fernando S. & Chestina (Oakes) Mooney.  She graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in 1872.    On m. 6 Jan 1876 in St. Johnsbury VT she married Frank E. Wallace, son of Hiram & Lavinia (Pike) Wallace.  They made their home in Rochester NH until her later years when she moved to Merrimack NH and lived with her daughter Mrs. Edith (Walter S.) Foss.

Children of Frank E. & Edith I. (Mooney) Wallace: Edith, born 30 Dec 1882 Rochester NH she married Walter S. Foss;  Fred. born 4 November 1892 in Rochester NH, d 1960 Swampscott MA, a toolmaker and mason).

The Nashua Telegraph newspaper of Dec 2, 1947 announced her birthday: “Merrimack, Dec 2 — Mrs. Alice Wallace celebrated her 94th birthday recently at the home of her daughter Mrs. Edith Foss. Mrs. Wallace was born in Franconia and has lived in Merrimack for 24 years. Until recently she has enjoyed good health but is now confined to her bed most of the time. She received many cards and flowers and calls from friends. Besides her daughter, Mrs. Foss, she has a son Fred Wallace, living in Swampscott Mass. The family had their Thanksgiving dinner on the day of her birthday. Mrs. Wallace sat at the table and enjoyed everything. The crowning piece of the feast was a birthday cake with 94 candles.”

She died 29 January 1949, aged 95, and she is buried in Rochester Cemetery, Rochester, New Hampshire.

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11. Brainard S. Caswell (received cane 1949, died 1951).

Brainard Stetson Caswell was born 14 Sep 1857 Halifax, Mass, son of Stetson & Sarah Maria (Chandler) Caswell.  He married 12 July 1882 in Lakeville, Plymouth, MA to Mary F. Sanford, daughter of George B. & Mary J. Sanford.  In 1900 he was a milk peddler in Lakeville MA. In 1910 a farm laborer in Middleboro MA. By 1920 moved to Merrimack NH widowed, a carpenter at a table factory. By 1930 he had his own farm in Merrimack NH.  Children: George S., Arthur B., Chester W., Edwin S., Mary E., Wallace Leland, Wilbur F., Florence M., and Mildred C.

In January 1951 the Nashua Telegraph noted that Brainard Caswell had returned home from Memorial Hospital in Nashua NH.  He died that same year, and is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester NH.

According to a newspaper story “His heirs returned the cane to the Merrimack selectmen’s office in 1951 when he died. There is no record that the cane was reissued again. It was missing for many years.” Starting in 1990 advertisements in newspaper requested its return, and it was returned anonymously to the town.  In 1996, 45 years after its disappearance, it was awarded once again.

[Links to obituaries, some on paid sites].
12. Rhoda Cross in 1996, died in 1998
13. Yvonne Carter in 1998
14. Theresa (Janelle) Perozzi in 2001
15. Louis Sperry in 2002
16. Thomas Gouvalaris in 2005
17. Madeline Bennett in 2011
18. Thomas Ingerson in 2014
19. Carsten” Bud’ Hahn in 2016
20. Nellie Granger, 2018

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