Candia New Hampshire Journalist, Editor and Poet, Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

During his lifetime, he was called “Poet of the People,” and “Master of the Yankee Dialect,” but today he is one of New Hampshire’s underestimated, and often forgotten poets.

Photo of Sam Walter Foss from book, "Reminiscences of Candia," by Wilson Palmer, Cambridge MA, Riverside Press; 1905; page 238

Photo of Sam Walter Foss from book, “Reminiscences of Candia,” by Wilson Palmer, Cambridge MA, Riverside Press; 1905; page 238

Sam Foss was a newspaper editor and writer for the “Saturday Union” (Lynn, MA), the “Yankee Blade” (Boston, MA) and the Boston Globe. He contributed to the top magazines of his day, “Youth’s Companion,” “Puck” and the “Christian Science Monitor,” the New York “Sun,” “Tribune,” and “Herald,” and other papers. In January 1893, the better portion of his poems were published under the name of “Back Country Poems.”  He was also librarian of the Somerville (Massachusetts) Public Library for 13 years.

He was known for his tongue-in-cheek articles, and for his inspirational poetry.  He was a lover of the open field, woodland, and rural farm. He often wrote about the common man: “the man with a hoe, and the man in his shirt-sleeves.”


W’en you see a man in woe,
Walk right up and say ‘Hullo!’
Say ‘Hullo,’ an’ ‘How d’ ye do!’
“How’s the world a-usin’ you?’
Slap the fellow on his back,
Bring your han’ down with a whack;
Waltz right up an’ don’t go slow,
Grin an’ shake an’ say ‘Hullo!

The House by the Side of the Road is a historic house at 61 School Street in Tilton NH. The house, built in 1783, is a modest 1-1/2 Cape Style home. It was the home of Sam Walter Foss in 1877-78 when he was attending Tilton Seminary, and it has been known by this name since the 1890s.

The House by the Side of the Road is a historic house at 61 School Street in Tilton NH. The house, built in 1783, is a modest 1-1/2 Cape Style home. It was the home of Sam Walter Foss in 1877-78 when he was attending Tilton Seminary, and it has been known by this name since the 1890s. Please note that Sam Walter Foss never identified the house in his poem.

Before you decide that you haven’t heard his poetry, know that one of the most famous quotations, taken directly from his poetry is: “Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”  Ah, now it sounds familiar!

The rest of that poem is:
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
Where the races of men go by;
The men who are good, the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I;
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban;
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man

The House by the Side of the Road today.

The House by the Side of the Road today.

On Oct 13, 1894 Sam Foss was in his native town of Candia, New Hampshire, as an invited guest at the dedication of a soldier’s monument. His presentation included these words: “”There is something woefully wrong in the moral nature of the man who is not loyal to his native town. Such a man would forget his own mother and neglect his own children. He is lacking in the essential sentiment that makes a man a man. In this age of easy movement comparatively few men continue to live, during their entire lives, in the places of their birth. But to a true man–no matter where he may wander– the focal point of all the earth, the center of the universe to him, is the town where he was born.   And so today we know that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, throughout the breadth of the land, from sea to sea, who look back with unspeakable love to these old hills and valleys of Candia. All their lives long the brooks have murmured in their ears, the orchards and cornfields have waved before their eyes, the homes and firesides have been shrines and temples in their thoughts, and the soil, to them, will be forever holy ground.  For the soil that has upborne our baby footsteps and holds the forms of those we loved, is always sacred in our thoughts, though we may wander to the very ends of the world.”

A bronze tablet dedicated to him was placed in the Somerville Public Library (Massachusetts) in 1916.  In New Hampshire, a NH Historical Marker #141 was placed in the town of his birth, Candia, at the junction of Route 43 and Route 101.

As for Sam Walter Foss’ natal house by the side of the road in Candia, New Hampshire,  the Boston Daily Record (Boston MA) of December 21, 1959, page 5 stated: “A simple farm house, known to millions of Americans as “The House by the Side of the Road,” will be sold for taxes by the New Hampshire Welfare Dept. it was disclosed. The two-story, frame house, painted white and of early Colonial design, was the birthplace in 1958 of Sam Walter Foss….The Welfare Dept. said the property was being sold to recover about $2,000 paid the late owner, who was not identified because of her welfare status. The department reported that the occupant of the house, who died last week at the age of 90 inherited the property. She was a distant relative of the poet.

I’ll be printing more of his poetry on my blog.  We can all do with a smile and some inspiration.


*Additional Reading*

-Sam Walter Foss: Minor Poet With A Major Message-

Poets Corner

Some Sam Walter Foss Poems at

Reminiscences of Sam Walter Foss

Candia: 250 Years in the Making [2013 article]

Poem: The Song of A River,” by Sam Walter Foss


I must preface this genealogy with an apology to my readers.  I do my best to report accurate genealogical material, and though several sources indicated that John Foss, ancestor of Sam Walter Foss was from Norway, I and they were entirely mistaken.  Joseph Foss, a direct descendant of this John Fosse (below), through Benjamin Foss of Machias, Maine (c 1741-) contacted me and sent me detailed information on the origin of said John Foss(e). He personally visited Paignton England and saw the baptismal record of John Fosse. Most of the information in the first paragraph below, on John Fosse of Paignton is from his research.  Please NOTE that the Danish ancestry of this John Fosse of Rye NH is INCORRECT.  A good source of info about the conflicting John Foss info can be found here.

John Fosse, son of  Stephen & Mary (Jackson) Fosse, was baptized 24 November 1633 in the parish of Paignton, a seaside town on the coast of Tor Bay in Devon, England. His father Stephen probably died in 1634. The family legend is that John learned his trade as a caulker of seams on the common sailing vessels of the day.  John immigrated to the American colonies, settling in the area that is now known as Rye, New Hampshire.

John Foss, of Rye NH [credits to the creator of the Meyers Genealogy for part of this info] was approximately 30 years old in 1666, approximately 46 in 1680. He first appears in division of 1661 as of 1657, likely in his wife’s right. In 1668 he bought John Warren’s stake in the Shrewsbury Patent, and in 1675 defended it in a suit against Richard Morgan. He was a grand juror in 1675, 1678, 1681, and 1692. Innholder 1694-1698. Selectman 1698.  He m. Mary Berry, grantor with him in 1673. His grandson  Joshua (1709-1809)  as told by his grandson,  Jacob D. (b. 1784) writing in 1854, gave his story: A calker, he deserted a British warship in Boston harbor, came to Rye, where he found a wife; Foss and Fost are two distinct names; he raised up 12 ch.who had families. Of this number, by taking every Foss in sight (not Fosts) we make but 10. His will of 13 September 1710, mentions by name only children John, Joshua and Zachariah.
Children of John Foss:
1. John Foss, b abt 1660
2. Joshua Foss, lived at Rye and Barrington NH; m. Sarah Wallis, dau of Ralph and Ann (Shortridge) Wallis and had issue.
3. Elizabeth Foss, b 1666; m. Nathaniel Batchelder
4. Nathan Foss
5. Samuel Foss
6. Martha Foss, m. by Dec 1693 to Richard Goss
7. Thomas Foss
5. +William Foss, b. 11 March 1673 in Rye, Rockingham Co NH
6. Zachariah Foss
7. Hannah Foss, m. June 1702 to John Jenness
8. Richard Foss

William Foss, son of John & Martha (Berry) Foss, was b. 11 March 1673 in Rye, Rockingham Co NH, and died before 12 Dec 1718 in Greenland, Rockingham Co NH.  He married at Hampton Falls, 29 Nov 1700 to Sarah Buswell, dau of Isaac & Susanna (Perkins) Buswell, and stepdaughter of William Fuller.  She b. 22 Nov 1676 in Hampton Falls NH and d. abt 1717 in Greenland NH.
Children of William & Sarah (Buswell) Foss:
1. Lydia Foss, b. 7 Jan 1702 in Hampton Falls, NH
2. Thomas Foss, b. abt 1707 in Hampton Falls NH; m. Sarah –.
3. +*Walter Foss, b. 10 Jan 1708 in Hampton Falls NH, baptized in Portsmouth NH
4. *Benjamin Foss, baptized 30 July 1710 in Portsmouth, Rockingham Co NH; m. Silence Winch
6. William Foss
7. Sarah Foss
8. John Foss
9. Joseph Foss, baptized in Scarborough ME; m. 22 Dec 1757 Elizabeth Parcher

Walter Foss, son of William & Sarah (Buswell) Foss, was b. 10 January 1708 in Hampton Falls, Rockingham Co NH and d. 9 December 1791 in Saco, York Co ME. He married 13 Sep 1726 in Greenland, Rockingham Co. ME to Sarah Babb, dau of Peter & Sarah (Cate) Babb.  She b. 18 Sep 1711 in Hampton Falls NH, and d. 1755 in Scarborough, Cumberland Co ME. He settled in what was then Pepperellboro (now Saco) Maine about 1730. They are buried
Children of Walter & Sarah (Babb) Foss:
1. +Walter Foss, b. 12 June 1727 in Greenland, Rockingham Co NH
2. Levi Foss, b. abt 1729 in Saco, York Co. ME
3. James Foss, b. 19 Aug 1730 in Saco ME
4. Pelatiah Foss, b. 5 Nov 1732 in Biddeford, York Co. ME
5. Joseph Foss, b. 29 June 1735 in Biddeford ME
6. Lemuel Foss, b. 16 Apr 1738 in Biddeford ME
7. Sarah Foss, b. 29 Apr 1741 in Biddeford ME
8. Mary Foss, b. 16 Oct 1743 in Biddeford ME
9. John Foss, b 15 Feb 1746 in Scarborough, Cumberland Co. ME
10. Nathaniel Foss, b. 7 Jan 1749 in Scarborough ME
11. Benjamin Foss, b. 26 Dec 1752 in Scarborough ME

Walter Foss, son of Walter & Sarah (Babb) Foss, was b. 12 June 1727 in Greenland, Rockingham Co NH and d. 9 Dec 1791 in Scarborough, Cumberland Co ME.  He married 29 Sep 1748 in Scarboro ME to Hannah Carll, dau of Samuel & Esther (Burbank) Carle.  She b. abt 1729 in Scarboro ME. He enlisted during the American Revolution, 22 Jan 1776, in Capt. Benjamin Hooper’s Regiment, and served to 23 Nov 1776 at Falmouth ME.
Children of Walter & Hannah (Carll) Foss:
1. James Foss b. 21 Apr 1759 in Scarborough, Cumberland Co ME; d. 183
2. Lucy Foss b.1753.
3. Joseph Foss b.1754. He married Hannah Carle/Carll his cousin. [Hannah Carll is this editor’s 3rd cousin 6x removed]. Had children: Joseph Hill Foss, and Ruth “Peggy” Foss (who m. Andrew Spaulding).
4. John Foss, b. abt 1761 in Scarborough ME
5. +Walter Foss, b. abt 1763 in Greenland, Rockingham Co NH
6. Anna Foss (1764 – 1839);
7. William Foss, b. 10 Sep 1766 in Scarborough ME
8. Olive Foss b.1767
9. Edward Foss, b. 27 July 1769 in Scarborough ME; d. 1821; m. Sally Boothby, had issue

Walter Foss III, son of Walter & Hannah (Call) Foss, was b. 1763 [one source states in Greenland, Rockingham Co NH, and a 2nd source says Cambridge MA.  In the 1850 census he reports he was born in NH] and d. 4 Oct 1852 in Cornish, Sullivan Co NH. He is buried in Edminster Cemetery in Cornish NH.   1st) 10 Jan 1786 in Cambridge, MA to Lucy Cook, dau of Ephraim & Mercy (Hale) Cook.  She b. 19 July 1767 in Cambridge, MA and d. 7 Feb 1854 in Cornish NH.
Children of Walter & Lucy (Cook) Foss:
1. +Walter Hale Foss, b. 2 March 1789 in Cornish, Sullivan Co NH
2. Abraham Foss, b. 26 Apr 1791 Cornish NH, d. 1 Aug 1864 Cornish NH;
3. Isaac Foss, b. Feb 1793 in Cornish NH, d. 24 Apr 1860 Fairfax VT; m. Lucy Whiting and had issue.
4. Deborah Foss, b. 18 Aug 1794 in Cornish NH; m. Daniel Sargent, had issue.
5. Jacob Foss, b. 17 Oct 1796 in Cornish NH; m1) Mehitable Clark; m2) Martha Howland
6. Luther Foss, b. 4 March 1799 in Cornish NH; settled in Cornish NH; m. Minea A. Andrews; had issue
7. Ephraim Foss, b. 25 Feb 1805 in Cornish NH; m. Julia “Delsa” Demous/Demos/Demons
8. Lucy Foss, b. 10 July 1807 in Cornish NH, d. 24 June 1891
9. Penninah Foss, b. 17 Aug 1810 in Cornish NH; m. Zenus C. Howland

Walter Hale Foss, son of Walter & Lucy (Cook) Foss, was b. 2 March 1789 in Cornish, Sullivan Co NH and d. 11 Apr 1856 in Cornish, Sullivan Co NH. Buried in Edminster Cemetery, Cornish NH. He married 16 Aug 1816 in Cornish NH to Mary “Polly” Griffin, dau of Isaac Griffin from Sandown NH [marriage record says surname “Hook”]. She was b. 4 Nov 1785 in Cornish NH, and d. 13 June 1865 in Cornish NH. She first married Dyer Hook. After he died she married Walter Foss. She had two children with Dyer
Peter, b-1810, and Moody, b-1813. She is buried in Edminster Cemetery, Cornish NH. By 1850 they were living in Candia, Rockingham Co. NH.  In 1860 Mary was living with her son Walter in Sunapee NH.
Children of Walther H. & Mary (Griffin) Foss:
1. Mary Lavina Foss, b. 27 Dec 1817 in Cornish NH, d. 16 Nov 1896 in Claremont, Sullivan Co NH. She m. Oct 1837 in Cornish NH to Ruel Goward.  He b 27 March 1812 in Croydon, Sullivan Co NH. She is buried in Claremont, Sullivan Co NH.
2. Walter H. Foss Jr., b. 4 Aug 1820 in Cornish NH, d. 23 Aug 1886 Claremont NH; m. 4 Nov 1853 in Cornish NH to Hannah Davis. She b. 30 May 1833 in Springfield, Sullivan Co NH.  In 1860 living in Sunapee, Sullivan Co NH with wife Hannah (age 27), and children Sarah (age 5) and Jerry H. [George Hale] (age 3).  In 1870 living in Cornish NH with wife Hannah, daughter Sadie (age 15), dau Nellie (age 8), and dau Etta (age 4).  Daughter Sadie married 28 Sep 1885 in Claremont NH to Elwyn D. Austin.
3. +Dyer Foss, b. 20 June 1822 in Cornish, Sullivan Co NH

Dyer Foss, son of Walter Hale & Mary (Griffin) Foss, b. 20 June 1822 in Cornish, Sullivan Co NH, and d. 23 March 1897 in Portsmouth, Rockingham Co NH. He married 1st) 1 April 1850 in Candia, Rockingham Co NH [reported from Chester NH] to Polly Hardy, dau of Samuel & Lydia (Johnson) Hardy. She b. 18 July 1832 in Candia NH. They resided in Candia NH. She died bef 1865.  Dyer married 2nd) 13 December 1865 in Candia NH to Eliza J. Hardy, dau of Samuel & Lydia (Johnson) Hardy;  3rd) 13 May 1869 in Candia NH to Clara A. Carkin, daughter of Levi & Lydia P. (Dow) Carkin. She was b. 8 May 1837 in Portsmouth NH and d. 26 Feb 1903 in Portsmouth NH. Dyer and Clara resided on Gosling Road, in Portsmouth NH, a farmer.
1850 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Rockingham > Candia
Walter H. Foss 65 M 1100 NH [b abt 1785]
Mary Foss 67 F NH
Walter H. Foss Jr. 29 M NH
Dyer Foss 28 M NH
–living next door–
Samuel Hardy 44 M Farmer 300 NH
Lydia Hardy 43 F NH
Dolly Hardy 18 F NH
Elisa J. Hardy 15 NH
Susan M. Hardy 8 F NH
Adeline Hardy 6 F NH
Abby Hardy 6 F NH
1860 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Rockingham > Candia
Dyer Foss 37 M Farmer 500/150 NH
Polly Foss 27 F NH
Samuel Foss 1 M NH
Eliza Hardy 25 F Domestic NH
1870 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Rockingham > Candia
Foss, Dyer 48 M W Farmer 3000/920 NH
Foss, Clara A 32 F W Keeping House NH
Foss, Samuel W. 12 M W attending School NH
1880 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Rockingham > Portsmouth > District 225
Foss, Dyer W M 57 Farmer NH NH NH
Foss, Clara A W F 42 wife Keeping House NH NH NH
Foss, Clarence W M 7 son at school NH
Foss, Ethel S. W F 4 dau NH
1900 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Rockingham > Portsmouth Ward 1 > District 206
Foss, Clara Head W F May 1838 62 WIdow 2 ch 2 living NH NH NH
Foss, Ethel L. dau W F Feb 1876 24 NH NH NH stenographer
Foss, Clarence L. son W M Feb 1872 28 single NH NH NH farm laborer
Children of Dyer & Polly (Hardy) Foss:
1. male Foss, b. 29 Sep 1852 Candia, NH, d. 17 Oct 1853 Candia NH
2. Mary L. Foss, b. 5 June 1855 in Candia, Rockingham Co. NH
3. child, b. May 1856 Candia, NH
4. +Samuel Walter Foss, b. 19 June 1858 in Candia NH.
Children of Dyer & Clara (Carkin) Foss:
5. Clarence L. Foss, b 28 July 1872 in Portsmouth NH, died 30 July 1937 in Portsmouth NH, single
6. Ethel S. Foss, b. February 1876 in Portsmouth NH; died 5 April 1953 in Portsmouth NH.

Sam Walter Foss as a young man, from History of New Hampshire by Everett S. Stackpole, p164

Sam Walter Foss as a young man, from History of New Hampshire by Everett S. Stackpole, p164

Samuel Walter Foss, son of Dyer and Polly (Hardy) Foss, was born June 19, 1858 in Candia, NH, and he died February 26, 1911 at Bay State Hospital Boston MA, at age 52, and was buried at the north cemetery in Providence Rhode Island. He was fitted for college at Portsmouth high school and Tilton seminary in N.H..  He graduated from Brown university in Rhode Island in 1882. Besides contributing to several humorous journals in New York, and to the New York Sun, he was editor of the Saturday Union, Lynn, MA 1883-87; of the Yankee Blade 1887-94, and an editorial writer on the Boston Globe, 1887-96. In May, 1898, he was elected librarian of the Somerville (Mass.) public library. His published writings include: Back County Poems (1892); Whiffs from Wild Meadows (1894); Dreams in Homespun (1896); and Songs of War and Peace (1898), besides numerous contributions to periodical literature. He married in 13 July 1887 in Providence RI to Carrie Maria Conant, dau of Rev. Henry W. & Mary Conant of RI.  They resided in Somerville MA. Carrie was living a widow in Somerville MA in 1930.
U.S. Census > 1910 United States Federal Census > Massachusetts > Middlesex > Somerville Ward 5 > District 1006
Foss, Sam W., Head M W 51 m1x 22 yrs NH NH NH Librarian, public
Foss, Carrie M.C. wife F W 52 m1x 22 yrs 2 ch 2 living CT CT CT
Foss, Saxton C. son M W 21 single MA NH CT
Foss, Mary S., dau F W 17 single MA NH CT
Children of Sam Walter & Carrie M. (Conant) Foss:
1. Saxton Conant Foss, b December 1888 in MA. He graduated from Somerville Latin School in 1906 and Harvard College in 1910. Saxton enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in June 1917. A member of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, he was mortally wounded on October 9, 1918 after volunteering to flank a German machine gun nest as his Battalion moved forward. He was awarded the Distinquished Service Cross. Foss Park on Broadway, Fellsway W, and McGrath Highway, in Somerville MA, is named in honor of Saxton. Saxton was buried at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau Woods in France, in Plot A, Row 13, Grave 18.
2. Mary Lillian “Molly” Foss, b. 12 Apr 1893 in Somerville MA, and died 10 Sep 1986 in Somerville MA. In 1930 living with mother Carrie in Somerville MA, a stenographer for a paint manufacturer. She did not marry.

This entry was posted in N.H. Historical Markers, New Hampshire Men, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Candia New Hampshire Journalist, Editor and Poet, Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

  1. Joe Fitzgerald says:

    Who was the wife of Lemuel Foss b.1738 d.1815 from Biddeford, ME? He was the son of Walter Foss (1708-1791) and Sarah Babb (1711-1755).

  2. Ken Myers says:

    I have set one of Sam Foss’s poems to music, the Calf-Path. It’s a wonderful poem, and I hope my music and singing do it justice. It’s part of a project I recently conceived of, to compose music to help great poems reach a wider audience and survive historically in a world where each generation seems less inclined to crack a book than the one before it. I view it, then, as a form of historical public service. This poem is one of the first I am working with, and I have the music all worked out. I will be recording it and posting it on YouTube to initially display the end product that I have in mind, and show the sort of music I compose wherein I try my best to enhance the emotion of the piece without upstaging it, letting the words take center stage. I thought I might notify Mr. Foss’s descendants of this, in case they had an interest hearing my piece based on this poem, but I’m unsure how to contact them. If they happen to read this, they can reach me at, or anyone else with any thoughts on this sort of project also could feel free to e-mail me (I am generally taking suggestions for other works to set to music and help spread in similar fashion, and would also be open to collaborations, and perhaps even a commercial publication deal, though that’s sort of “pie in the sky” to me, as this is more a hobby/passion/work of love.) Anyway, I hope to have this piece on YouTube within the next 30 days or so.

  3. Do you have a source for the death of William Foss, d. before 12 Dec. 1718, I have seen this a lot but am not sure where it comes from. John Foss s/o William was baptized in Greenland in 1717. If Sarah Buswell had a ninth child, Joseph, he couldn’t have been born after John and baptized in Maine, if Sarah d. in 1717. If William d. in 1718 he would have left quite a few orphans, I wonder why there is no probate of his estate, or is it just lost. Hum. I am trying to sort of the father of John Foss who married Tabitha Sargent in Chester. He is said by some to be the s/o William and Sarah Buswell Foss, but I can’t find anything that would prove this other than the time frame seems right.

    • Janice Brown says:

      This original story was written in 2006 so those notes are long gone in a computer crash about two years ago. I am not a descendant of this family, and so I don’t plan to revisit or re-research the line, especially collateral ones. I do hope your post draws attention from other descendants who will share their research with you.

    • Okay, I was able to answer my own question about John Foss of Chester. He was the son of Isaac Foss of Chester, now who the heck was Isaac Foss of Chester??? Don’t you love genealogy!

  4. Sharon Snyder says:

    I am trying to find any documentation on the birth and death of Walter Foss III as well as his son Luther Foss. I have dates but no official documents. Any help would be appreciated.

  5. Pingback: Poem: “The Song of a River” by Sam Walter Foss | Cow Hampshire

Leave a Reply