“Christmas Picture,” by New Hampshire Poet: Lydia (Swasey) Obear

Photograph of Lydia (Swasey) Obear, probably with one of her grandchildren, taken before her death in January of 1919.

Photograph of Lydia (Swasey) Obear, probably with one of her grandchildren, taken before her death in January of 1919 courtsey of Amy Conant Voelker, her 3rd great-grand daughter.

☆.。.:*・°☆.。.:Christmas Picture・°☆.。.:*・°☆.。.:*・°☆
When the light through the eastern sky shall break,
On Christmas morning, the children will wake,
And with whispered giggle each curly head,
And pink, chubby foot, will steal out of bed
On barefooted tiptoes to creep round the house,
From chamber to chamber, as still as a mouse.
To each sleeper’s door there comes a light tread,
And the latch softly lifted, in steals a head;
Now with eager haste, lest the sleeper arouse
Ere the words are uttered, there rings through the house,–
“I wish you a merry Christmas!”
While the echoes still through the chambers ring,
Swiftly scudding down stairs, like a burglar gang,
To the chimney-corner, where the stockings hang,
And each seizing one, they rush back to bed
Where their feet find warmth, while each curly head
Goes peering down in the stocking to find
The treasures good Santa Claus left behind,
Ere up the chimney he made his way,
To brighten the children’s Christmas Day,
And make it “Merry Christmas.”
–L.A. Obear

With a special focus of this blog being that of women’s history, it is appropriate that I share this poem by a little know New Hampshire woman, Lydia A. (Swasey) Obear.  I discovered a beautiful photograph of her, that her 3rd-great-granddaughter, Amy Conant Voelker, is allowing me to share with you.

Lydia A. Swasey was the daughter of Benjamin C. & Lydia (Ladd) Swasey Jr., born 7 July 1820 in Meredith (now Laconia) NH. She died 28 Jan 1919 in New Ipswich, Hillsborough Co. NH, 98 years old. She had married Clark Hopkins Obear, son of Josiah & Abigail (Carlton) Obear.  Lydia was a teacher for the Town of New Ipswich, NH and, as evidenced by her publication below, a historian and writer.

Soldier's Monument in New Ipswich NH, erected in 1878 as a Civil War memorial.

Soldier’s Monument in New Ipswich NH, erected in 1878 as a Civil War memorial.

In 1898, at the age of 78 and a year after her husband died, Lydia wrote and published a book called “New Ipswich in the War of the Rebellion. What its Men and Women did.” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol 55, by H.F. Waters, 1883-98 included a book review as follows: “New Ipswich in the War of the Rebellion. What its Men and Women did. By Mrs. L.A. Obear. New Ipswich NH July 15, 1898. Worcester, Mass; Press of Lucius P. Goddard; No. 425 Main Street. 12 mo. pp 71. This little volume is another chapter added to the records of American patriotism. The shaft dedicated thirteen years ago to the New Ipswich soldiers cannot be a worthier or more durable offering to their memory than a work like this, compiled from reports of adjutant generals, histories of regiments, personal records and letters, with the addition, which increases the pathos of the narrative, of a number of poems nearly all signed with the initials, “L.A.O.

This book is much like a dedication to her recently deceased husband, Clark H. Obear, as she references him frequently in the book, and quotes from a journal he apparently kept. This book about the Civil War and its impact on New Ipswich is different from many, in that is greatly included how the women of the town were affected, and what they did to help. It included many small anecdotes of events that happened both in the town, and locals who participated directly in the war.  Lydia A. (Swasey) Obear was one of the women chosen to prepare the constitution for New Ipswich’s new Soldier’s Aid Society, and she remained active in the society until the close of the war.

It is well worth reading, not only for Lydia’s poems, but also for the insight it offers into how the women of many New Hampshire towns worked to help the men who were off to war, and the anti-slavery movement.  One particular story that I found interesting is in regard to an “apple bee.”  Apparently scurvy was prevalent among the soldiers in Washington D.C. hospitals, and so New Ipswich held a town-wide event to collect, dry and ship dried apples to the New Hampshire soldiers.

Comfort bags” were made (500-600 of them!) and sent to the New Hampshire men on both battlefield and in hospitals.  Also mentioned in this book, is the general reaction to President Lincoln’s assassination, and how teachers were sent from the town to the south, for educational opportunities for former slaves (through the Freedmen’s Aid Society).  There is mention of the  building of the soldier’s monument in New Ipswich.  A good number of letters sent from New Hampshire soldiers home are included in this book.  And last, but not least, an entire list of soldiers from New Ipswich who participated in the War of the Rebellion (Civil War).

They sleep in peace–the patriot dead,
Whose names are carved on yonder stone.
Some, borne by men with silent tread,
Their martial foot-steps stilled, alone
Come home to rest in dreamless graves,
‘Neath skies, whose arch their childhood spanned,
Where flower that whispers, tree that waves,
Is stirred by winds that boyhood fanned
–snippet of a poem by Lydia A. (Swasey) Obear

 ====BRIEF GENEALOGY OF Lydia A. (Swasey) Obear=====

Lydia A. Swasey, dau of Benjamin C. & Lydia (Ladd) Swasey Jr., born 7 July 1820 in Meredith (now Laconia) NH, died 28 Jan 1919 in New Ipswich, Hillsborough Co. NH. She m. Clark Hopkins Obear, son of Josiah & Abigail (Carlton) Obear, b 25 Feb 1811 New Ipswich, d. 11 April 1888 New Ipswich NH. In 1844 Clark H. Obear placed an ad in the Farmer’s Cabinet newspaper to sell or let his Shoe shop in the middle of New Ipswich, two stories high, twenty by 30 feet. Lydia was a teacher, poet, historian and author.  In 1898 she wrote and published, “New Ipswich in the War of the Rebellion. What its Men and Women did.”  She is buried in Central Cemetery, New Ipswich NH.
Children of Clark H. & Lydia A. (Swasey) Obear:
1. Annabel C. Obear, b June/November 1852 in New Ipswich NH, d. 5 June 1928 in New Ipswich NH; m. 28 July 1873 in NH to George Frederick Conant, son of Frank H. & Sophie (?) Conant. He was b. July 1852 Littleton MA; civil engineer at marriage, in 1900 proprietor of a grocery. Children: (1) Francis O. Conant, b. Oct 1874 MA ; (2)Alice F. Conant, b. Oct 1878 MA; (3) Hope A. Conant b Aug 1891 TN
2. Francis Asbury “Frank A.” Obear, b abt 1858 New Ipswich NH; m. 30 Jan 1880 in New Ipswich NH to Sarah Jane Jenkins dau of Charles & Hellen (?) Jenkins. She b. abt 1858 in Townsend MA. In 1880 living in Manchester NH, a teamster. In 1940 living with wife Sarah in New Ipswich NH [Obar]. Children: (1) Harold Clark Obear, b 25 July 1881 in Laconia NH, d. 31 Oct 1959 NY; (2) Alice May Obear b 12 Feb 1883 in Nashua NH; (3) Donald Francis Obear, b. 25 Oct 1894, d. in New Ipswich NH


Visit the New Ipswich Historical Society on FaceBook

New Ipswich Historical Society web site


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3 Responses to “Christmas Picture,” by New Hampshire Poet: Lydia (Swasey) Obear

  1. Pingback: Celebrating New Hampshire Women Through History | Cow Hampshire

  2. Pingback: March 2016: Celebrating Women’s History Month in New Hampshire | Cow Hampshire

  3. I have been posting pages from her book Records and Reminiscences of the New Ipswich Children’s Fair from 1862 to 1911 to a daily newsletter for the New Ipswich Historical Society. https://nihist.substack.com/

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