Saturday, February 6, 2016

Announcing the 10th Annual Nancy Carnegie Merrill History Award Essay Contest

Nancy Carnegie Merrill
Every winter the Exeter Historical Society invites students in grades 6 to 12 to compete for the Nancy Carnegie Merrill History Award in honor of our esteemed former curator for her invaluable contributions to the preservation and interpretation of our local history. Students of the Cooperative Middle School, Exeter High School, Phillips Exeter Academy, and greater Seacoast area are invited to enter by contacting faculty members in their social studies departments or the historical society directly for further information.

The topic for this year’s essay is “technology in Exeter's history” and students should choose a topic that relates to technological innovations that have been introduced in the Exeter area. Examine one form of technology that Exeter has experienced and answer the following questions: what was this form of technology; how did it change the lives of Exeter residents; was the change welcomed, or were they unsure of it? Students should not attempt to write the essay without receiving the judges’ criteria and requirements from their school’s faculty members or the staff of the Exeter Historical Society. (These can also be found at http://bit.ly/2016EHSEssayContest.)

The deadline for submission is Saturday, March 19, 2016, by noon.

A panel of judges will choose the entry from each division (Middle School and High School) that best meets the criteria of outstanding achievement in format, historical accuracy, originality and style. A $100 prize will be awarded to each winner. Also, winning papers will be read by the authors at our annual Youth Night awards ceremony on Thursday, April 21 at 7pm.

It is our hope that the Nancy Carnegie Merrill Award will foster an appreciation for our community and an interest in its past. The essay contest and Youth Night are generously sponsored by Service Credit Union.

For additional information, please contact Laura Martin, Program Manager. Materials can be downloaded here: 2016 Nancy Carnegie Merrill History Award Flyer and Materials. The rubric that the judges will be using to evaluate the entries can be found here.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ghost Roads of Exeter

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published by the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, January 29, 2016.

When is a road not a road? It might be surprising to know that New Hampshire towns frequently have the decomposed remains of abandoned roadways snaking through their uninhabited woods. Sometimes surveyors stumble upon them and this is what has recently happened in Exeter. Old roads, usually called ‘highways’ in the old town records, are problematic for the landowner because technically they still guarantee right of way to the public, which can prevent the new owner from using the land to, say, erect a building. As Susan Sack, a legal services counsel, wrote in New Hampshire Law of Local Highways, Streets and Trails, “once public rights of way are established, the rights of the public should last indefinitely, unless a formal public decision is made to discontinue them.” This is true even if the road has been abandoned for over a century and no one in living memory can recall the road being used. The only way to get rid of a road is to have the voters agree to discontinue it.

Exeter has been down this ghost road issue twice before. In 1979, the town voted to discontinue an ancient and abandoned roadway called “Jolly Rand Road.” It was further voted to turn the road, which had deteriorated into nothing more than a woodland path, into a scenic trail for hiking. Another road, Garrison Lane, was partially discontinued in 1999. Both of these roadways were abandoned when other more efficient roads were laid out and this was the fate of the ancient road system rediscovered in 2015.

There was at one time a garrison house at the elbow of the old Garrison Lane. According to Elizabeth Knowles Folsom, who wrote about it in The Colonial Garrisons of New Hampshire, in a 1937 publication by the New Hampshire Society of the Colonial Dames of America, it was built by Daniel Young in the early 1700s. It appears as the home of Peter Cushing on the 1802 map of Exeter. Garrison houses were sturdy buildings designed to withstand attack and designated as a local stronghold should the need arise. They were sprinkled around towns in New England to protect the citizens. Mrs. Folsom listed three such buildings in Exeter – the Gilman Garrison, still standing on Water Street and currently owned and maintained by Historic New England; the Sewall Garrison on Epping Road just opposite the Park Street Common; and the Daniel Young Garrison, which she said was “taken down many years ago.” There were three ways to approach the Daniel Young Garrison – Garrison Lane, the two branches of which met at the house, and another unnamed road system that further branched out to Brentwood Road and an area known as ‘Great Meadow.’ The Great Meadow portion was abandoned before 1802, when Phineas Merrill laid out the first reliable map of Exeter. When it was discovered recently the surveyors unofficially named it “Three Rod Road” because of its width. The other branch, for which there is more documentation, was designated “Garrison Road” for its proximity to the site of the old garrison and the now discontinued elbow of Garrison Lane. The only physical evidence for either of these roads were crumbling rock walls in the woods.

So, were these roads or just farmer’s paths? Determining the history of ancient and abandoned roads can be tricky. Garrison Road clearly appears on the 1802 map, but it took some digging to find out if it was actually a town road. Indeed, in the town records there are entries for both the Garrison Road and Three Rod Road as early as 1699. Garrison Road, although nameless, is mentioned again with a more specific layout in 1746, although the language can be hard to cut through. “A highway should be laid out for the use of the town from the highway that leads by Daniel Youngs dwelling house to the great meadows through the lands of the persons here after mentioned in this return & it being of particular service to them having by an instrument under their heads bearing date with this return quited there right to all the lands as mentioned in the bounds of the said way.”

Luckily, there have, over the years, been other attempts to find old roads. In New Hampshire we are lucky enough to have the Oscar Jewell Collection of Road Layout Returns at the State Archives. State Archivist Brian Burford explained the collection in a 2014 article in the NHLSA Newsletter, “It has been my understanding that Oscar Jewell was hired in the 1930s by the State Highway department to research the legal rights to roads, as the state highway system became more and more extensive. State roads were generally local roads that the state assumed the responsibility for maintaining. The state wanted to know what legal rights the towns had to the roads they were taking over.” There in the Oscar Jewell collection at the NH State Archives was the page with our Garrison and Three Rod Roads – still on the books in 1930s as actual roads. Although the roads disappear from our town maps by 1845, and were thoroughly abandoned to traffic by that time, no formal discontinuance had been approved by the townsfolk.

There are other maps that can be used for locating roads. I was enchanted with a series of maps made in the 1950s called the “White Pine Blister Rust” maps. These were created to track the progress of a fungal disease then spreading through the forests of North America. The maps provide fairly detailed descriptions of the woody areas of the state. Although our Garrison Road area isn’t covered in this series of maps, they are a good resource.

Are there other ghost roads in the woods of Exeter? It’s possible. A comparison of our maps has only indicated that Jolly Rand and Garrison Road were dropped by 1845, but there could be a few that weren’t placed on the earlier 1802 map due to disuse. Each time one is discovered it provides us with a little mystery into our earliest history.

Image: The 1802 Map of Exeter by Phineas Merrill, showing Garrison Road (highlighted in red to the right). The one below it and to the left is Jolly Rand Road.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Farmer Krajewski and the Presidential Election of 1952

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published by the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, January 15, 2016.

Exeter, like a lot of New Hampshire towns, certainly gets a great deal of campaign traffic during presidential primary years. Among our photo stacks of politicians is one of “Farmer Krajewski” taken in the 1950s. In terms of documentation, you can’t ask for a better photo. It’s usually a struggle to determine when, where and why a picture was taken, but this guy (and the photographer – A. Belcher) managed to nail down all the basics in one inspired shot. The candidate stands next to his car, which is festooned with “Farmer Krajewski for 1952 President of the United States” and “Square Deal Program – Poor Man’s Party – Independent Candidate – New Jersey,” posed in a no parking zone directly in front of the Exeter Inn on Front Street. Our copy even has the date – May 14, 1951 – scribbled on the back. For an archivist, it doesn’t get any better than that. Except, of course, that no one’s ever heard of the guy. What in heaven’s name was going on in with the 1952 election?

When we look back on that election, it seems like a slam dunk. It was the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower – “I Like Ike” a near landslide for the Republicans in November. But that outcome was in no way foreseeable in the early days of the campaign. The incumbent, Democrat Harry Truman, although eligible thanks to the 22nd amendment, had flushed his re-election chances the previous year when he fired General Douglas MacArthur for insubordination. MacArthur, still a hero to most Americans for his World War II victories, had encouraged an escalation in the on-going Korean War. Truman’s popularity ratings sank to all-time lows. He tried to recruit someone to run, hoping perhaps Eisenhower – who had not declared his party affiliation – would run as a democrat. Eisenhower surprised everyone by declaring himself a Republican. Adlai Stevenson, Truman’s second choice, showed no interest in running for president because he was happy serving as governor of Illinois and wanted to run for a second term. That left the Democrats with Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, who soundly won the New Hampshire Democratic primary even though Truman was still listed on the ballot.

Dwight Eisenhower won the primary for the Republican Party and in June of 1952 resigned his commission in the army and began his presidential campaign. Think about that for a moment – he BEGAN his campaign in June of the election year. Presidential elections were shorter back then. Last October, with 13 months before the general election, Joe Biden’s chances at a presidential run were considered hopeless due to a late start. Eisenhower pulled it off in 5 ½ months. The Republican Party convention, held in July, gave the nomination to Eisenhower on the first ballot.

The Democrats were faced with a larger problem. Estes Kefauver won 12 of the 15 state primaries, but the party hierarchy disliked him intensely. He’d been part of a congressional watchdog group that had investigated corruption in the party and, considering these were the days of Joseph McCarthy’s ‘Red Scare’ with all of its witch-hunting and blacklisting, such behavior was viewed as intolerable to party bosses. Not to mention he campaigned wearing a coon-skin cap on a dogsled, which was just too silly to be taken seriously. Kefauver had to go down at the Democratic Convention, and go down he did. The party was also hobbled by civil rights issues – the Southern delegates threatening to walk if desegregation came up. In the end, the reluctant Adlai Stevenson was drafted as the nominee choosing John Sparkman of Alabama as his ‘balance-the-ticket’ running mate.

And then, of course, there was New Jersey pig farmer Henry Krajewski. Could there have been an unlikelier candidate? With his foreign sounding name (pronounce it, “kra-YEV-skee”) and crazy political platform – he endorsed a one-year tax moratorium for most taxpayers, a free pint of milk each day for every school child, more beer parties for the poor man – he was the diversion many people were looking for. He hailed from Secaucus, New Jersey where he ran a 4,000 pig farm. Often campaigning with a pig tucked under his arm he decried “piggy deals” in Washington. A supporter of Joseph McCarthy, and “America First” he was hardly the people’s choice. His campaign was aided by the creation of his very own music, the “Hey! Krajewski! Hey! Polka,” that you can still find on YouTube performed by Philadelphia’s Polish String Band (look it up, it’s worth it). In spite of all this fun, and his status as the earliest candidate to campaign in Exeter for the 1952 election if our dated photo is to be believed, Krajewski, like nearly all stunt candidates didn’t draw enough support for even one electoral vote, failing even in his home state of New Jersey. His photo, however, serves as a foreshadowing of the crazy, nutty circus that politics – particularly primary politics – in New Hampshire would evolve into as our ‘first-in-the-nation’ status dug into the national scene. Next time you get caught in a robo-poll on the phone, tell them you’re voting for Farmer Krajewski.

Photo: Candidate Henry "Farmer" Krajewski made a campaign visit to Exeter in May of 1951. In spite of his colorful campaign platform, he ultimately lost the election to Dwight D. Eisenhower.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Looking Back on 1915

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published by the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, January 1, 2016.

At the close of 1915, Exeter’s residents were mystified about the curious fickleness of winter weather. Christmas was unusually warm and the following day the temperature climbed into the 50s. There had been enough snow cover to promise a suitably white Christmas, but it all melted away before the big day. Then, within two days the mild temperatures gave way to pounding rain, sleet and finally blizzard-like conditions. Exeter News-Letter editor John Templeton summed it up with his headline: “Extraordinary Christmastide Weather” – a summation we could easily reuse 100 years later.

Our concerns about terrorism were similarly mirrored in 1915. Although the United States had not entered World War I yet (and wouldn’t until 1917), accounts of the new style of warfare were frightening. Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau, an Exeter native who was living as an artist in Paris, kept the town up to date on war news with her letters. In 1915, she and her fellow Parisians were terror-stricken by the threat of air raids. “You have read in the papers the episode of the attempted raids of Zeppelins on Paris,” she wrote, “when it was rumored that they were to come by night to throw incendiary bombs over the city, the military authorities put us all on drill to suppress all light which could guide them if they should come.” Numerous times in April, Bouguereau was awakened at night by sirens and rushed to the basement with her maid and cook. French artillery and biplanes chased the enemy away, she noted, “the Zepplins fled, doing some harm in the suburbs but none in the city.” 

When school opened on September 13 (not in late August as it does now), parents were reminded that all children attending public school were required to be vaccinated against smallpox – the only type of vaccination available at the time. “The law will be enforced,” the News-Letter firmly reminded everyone. This was still the Progressive Era and public health was one of the major social reforms. Two Exeter doctors took to the editorials to remind the public of the dangers of poor health. Dentist Dr. Gerrish reminded the forgetful that if you clean your teeth regularly you won’t need as much dental work. “Cleaning the teeth may be the most important and expert thing you can do,” he wrote adding, “Thus cometh the golden days of ‘prevention.’”

Dr. Otis had become one of the foremost experts in the fight against tuberculosis, which in 1915 was one of the common killers. It was, by this time, known to be caused by bacterium, Otis reminded people that TB was more common in people who did not maintain optimal health to begin with. His prescription for a healthy lifestyle: Clean air – get outside as much as often; Nourishing food – a mixed diet of meats, fats, starches; Rest – seven to nine hours a day; and Exercise – sports, walking, gymnastics preferably in the open air. It doesn’t sound much different from what we hear today, although modern doctors would add WASH YOUR HANDS.

Voters in 1915 – and these would all be men, remember – were looking forward to the first Presidential primary ever held. The radical idea of allowing voters to choose the candidates for election was another idea of the Progressive Era. Before this time, candidates were picked at the party conventions. However, the build up to the primary was nothing like it is today. The late months of 1915 had none of the horserace-like quality that we encounter now. It’s hard to spot any political news in November or December of 1915. If there’s any at all it mostly circles around the question of women’s suffrage. The ladies were tiring of not being part of the political process. Suffrage and the question of temperance were the most frequently discussed issues of the year. Drunkenness, even in a dry town like Exeter, was a problem out of control, just as today we’re facing a new round of heroin abuse. Their solution was to ban alcohol completely – a solution that would later prove unenforceable. Ours is to step up treatment for addiction. Only time will tell if this pulls us out of the quicksand.

There was much on the horizon of 1916 that was unknowable to Exeter’s people. There was no way of knowing how close the war was coming. Excitement about the upcoming Olympics due to take place in Berlin was dashed when the event was cancelled due to the war. The bright new Ioka Theater would be bankrupt by March, its owner Edward Mayer fleeing town to avoid his creditors. Still, 1916 began on a happy note with a special town meeting called for January 8th to accept a gift of a proposed town bandstand from Ambrose Swasey. Even while attending the meeting, they couldn’t forsee how beautiful that bandstand would be. Dedicated in August, it would still be beautiful 100 years later.

Photo: An early photo of the IOKA Theater, which opened November 1, 1915.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Exeter House of Delegates

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published by the Exeter News-Letter on December 18, 2015.

For over a decade a yellowing packet of papers lingered in the uncatalogued collections of the Exeter Historical Society. When it was finally opened in 1986, the archivist was only able to enter “received before 1972”into the record. What was known, however, was that it came from the estate of Dr. William G. Perry (called “young Doctor Perry” to distinguish him from his father of the same name and occupation). Perry was born in Exeter in 1823and worked his entire life in town. After his death in 1910 the family found a host of historical gems in his papers. One of these was the packet labeled, “Records of a debating society called Exeter House of Delegates, started Oct. 28, 1848.”

Every era has its divisive and seemingly intractable issue. Today the issue is probably guns. Our constitution allows us to own guns, but it doesn’t provide us with enough details about how to live with them. The writers of the Constitution couldn’t have anticipated the leaps in technology that would create weapons capable of tearing apart a schoolroom of little children. Nor did they anticipate that people would want to keep this type of weapon at home to protect themselves against the other guy with the same kind of gun. How are we going to get ourselves out of this mess? Both sides of the issue are dug in. We’ve gotten to the point where we can’t even talk about it.

In 1848, the intractable issue was slavery. The Constitution, although never using the word “slavery,” allowed it. For the first few decades of our country’s history slavery was tolerated – providing it remained in the states where it had become the accepted economic system. Compromises had been made regarding governmental representation based on population. There was a balance, of sorts, between those states that were slave and those that were free, and both sides profited from the other. It was an uneasy truce, but one that was largely accepted by both camps. The Mexican-American War, which ended in 1847, threw that balance off. What would happen now that the United States was expanding? Would the new territories be slave or free? What guidance did the Constitution provide? Even in New Hampshire, which one might think would be against slavery’s expansion, the issue was contentious. Tempers flared.

How best to discuss the elephant in the room without flipping tables at the local tavern? In Exeter, where the county court met and the public often attended court proceedings for entertainment, the local lawyers, businessmen and other educated sorts created a debating society to have a forum to discuss – in a civilized way – the problem. The Exeter House of Delegates mimicked, to a certain degree, the United States House of Representatives. Members participated as “representatives” of the states, thus Dr. William Perry served as the delegate from New Jersey, even though in real life he had no connection to that state.

Their dedication to civility and rules is obvious. About half of the business of the Exeter House of Delegates is what we would call housekeeping. Dates and times of meetings were discussed, “Resolved, That hereafter this House shall not be adjourned before hour 10pm except by vote of two thirds of the members present.” “Resolved, That all absentees be allowed to present their excuses for absence immediately after the resolutions have been called by the Speaker and before any special orders of the evening.” “Resolved, That no member shall speak longer than twenty minutes at a time upon any subject before the House.”

You have to admire their insistence on decorum, especially considering the actual U.S. House of Representatives was a violent place. Yale professor Joanne Freeman has commented on the dangerous machismo of the House, “In the rough-and-tumble Congress of the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s, politicians regularly wore weapons on the House and Senate floors, and sometimes used them.” During the discussions leading up to the Compromise of 1850, Senator Henry Foote threatened to shoot Senator Benton. He was stopped (luckily) when other members wrestled him to the floor.

The packet of documents contains only the rules and resolutions of the group. Rarely does it mention whether a particular resolution was passed and it never records the actual debates. They debated resolutions to reduce postage, outlaw usury, allow Athiests to serve as witnesses in court, reduce taxes on manufactured cotton goods. In the spirit of a good role-playing game, they even debated resolutions put forward by imaginary people, in this case women – one that requested outlawing the use of “a certain weed called tobacco” and another that would impose “a duty (tax) upon foreign unmarried females sufficient to prevent competition with the domestic article.” Both were withdrawn before serious debate began. I mean, really.

But by far, the most frequent resolutions dealt with the complicated problems that the nation as a whole could not solve. “Resolved, that we regard the passage of a law by the Congress of the United States abolishing slavery or the slave trade in the District of Columbia as direct attack upon the institutions of the Southern States to be resisted at every hazard.”

“Resolved, that whenever any member shall offer any petition…touching in any manner the subject of slavery in the states where it now exists – or the District of Columbia – or any territory South of the line of the Missouri Compromise – the motion to receive the same shall lie upon the table.” “Resolved, that any petition …shall be introduced touching in any manner the subject of slavery…it shall take precedence of all other business of the House.”

“Resolved, that it is expedient to legislate for the abolition of the slave trade between the several states of the United States.”

“Resolved, that a special committee be appointed to take into consideration the expediency of legislation for the gradual emancipation of the slaves in the several States.”

The Exeter House of Delegates ceased to meet after 1851. The Compromise of 1850, shaky though it was with the North hating the fugitive slave act and the South hating abolition of the slave trade in Washington D.C., bought the nation another decade before war ultimately decided the fate of the slave system. The Delegates, committed as they were to civil debate, were not able to bring forward any of their imagined legislation, however, by participating in the game they found that they could at least talk about the painful divisiveness of the day.

Photo: Materials in the handwriting of Dr. William G. Perry – member of the Exeter House of Delegates

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Charles Marseilles

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published by the Exeter News-Letter on December 4, 2015.

The youngest man ever to own the Exeter News-Letter was a fascinating 20 year old Phillips Exeter Academy drop out named Charles Marseilles. Lucky enough to have been born into a family of means, he had ambitions to become an editorial kingmaker – devoted to Republican politics. He didn’t always succeed, although to read his own press one might believe he had. At his death in 1920, his obituary writer in Exeter found it hard to sum up the life of the man, commenting only, “despite his interest in politics, Mr. Marseilles never held public office. He was a man of much native ability and of marked individuality.”

Marseilles was born in Philadelphia in 1846, the son of a comfortable wholesale merchant. In 1862, at the age of 16, he entered Phillips Exeter Academy. He remained there for less than a year. The reasons for his leaving are uncertain, although these were uncertain times. The Civil War was raging and within a year Marseilles entered Norwich University – a military academy – in Vermont. Even though his time at Phillips Exeter was short, it held enough social clout for him to remind anyone who would listen that he had attended the school. In a Granite Monthly profile of Marseilles written in 1897, author Henry Robinson wrote, “of the boys whom Mr. Marseilles personally remembers at this superior institution are Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Lincoln; Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., son of General Grant; Levi Woodbury Blair, son of Montgomery Blair; August Belmont Jr., son of August Belmont and many others equally distinguished by their parentage or their own advancement in later years.” But he couldn’t have ‘personally remembered’ them. None of these boys attended Phillips Exeter at the same time as Marseilles.

He remained at Norwich until the war ended in the spring of 1865. Realizing he didn’t need to prepare himself as a military officer, he left the school and went to Boston to work at the publishing firm of Ticknor and Fields. This venerable firm published many of the respected authors of the day, including the likes of Hawthorne, Dickens, Tennyson, Thoreau, Emerson and Whittier. Marseilles absorbed all the publishing knowledge he could and seemed to believe that his short tenure with the company yielded him friendly relationships with the authors. He worked there for less than a year. John Greenleaf Whittier, who later autographed a volume for him, seemed to need reminding of who Marseilles was. When inscribing a book to him in 1891, he wrote, “To Charles Marseilles, who was an attaché of the store of Ticknor and Fields when it was first issued I am sure this little volume will not be unacceptable, with the good will and wishes of its author – John G. Whittier.” It was like that with Marseilles. The publishing house instilled in him an obsession with books and autograph collecting. His extensive personal library began to grow.

He must have heard, while still working at Ticknor and Fields that the Exeter News-Letter was up for sale. He returned to Exeter and purchased the newspaper hiring Andrew Hoyt to serve as his editor and printer. From the very start the two men decided to change the sleepy agricultural paper into a political journal. Jumping into the politics of the post-war period, “politically, we believe the News-Letter to be on the right track,” they wrote in their first edition on September 17th, 1866, “and amid the present chaotic state of politics, we unhesitatingly unfurl the UNION REPUBLICAN banner.” Together Marseilles and Hoyt expanded the paper and introduced decidedly partisan editorial content. Hoyt left the paper in 1871. Marseilles, who had set down roots in Exeter by marrying Annie Leavitt in 1869, inherited a great deal of money from his father’s estate in 1878. He purchased two more newspapers in Kingston, New York, the Daily Freeman and the Journal. This necessitated moving to New York, although he still maintained control of the Exeter News-Letter through the capable editorship of William Morrill. In Kingston, he took credit for the success of Republican candidates in the elections of the 1880s. Granite Monthly would later crow, “at the first election following the transfer of the journals, a Republican county treasurer was elected, for the first time in many years; two years later, led by Marseilles, in the Freeman and the Journal, the Republicans captured the county, which was held by them until the Democratic landslide of 1892.” Although he liked to take credit, this was most likely a reflection of the political winds in that decade.

He didn’t stay in Kingston very long. Overwork began to wear on him, even though he loved the excitement of politics. As something of a gadfly, his journalistic credentials allowed him contact with politicians at all levels. He supported Republican candidates and eagerly name-dropped any he shook hands with. To meet Charles Marseilles was to become his dearest friend – at least to his mind. He wrote to his old ‘school friend’ Robert Todd Lincoln, requesting an autographed photo. The publicity-shy Lincoln sent him the photo – but told him it was NOT for publication.

In 1882, Marseilles became ill. “He fell victim to nervous prostration from overwork and malaria,” explained the Granite Monthly before mentioning that he consulted with the esteemed Dr. John H. Douglas of Brooklyn, NY, physician to General Ulysses Grant. Most likely, he simply wrote him a letter. After taking some time in Vermont to gain strength, he returned to Exeter, sold his newspapers and settled into a life of collecting autographed books and political punditry. Although he was called, “the political prognosticator and Presidential prophet of Exeter, NH” by the Rhode Island Gazette and Chronicle, he rarely picked a winning candidate. In 1899, he enthusiastically encouraged Admiral George Dewey, the hero of the Battle of Manila, to seek the Republican nomination for president. The problem was Dewey, who had sent Marseilles an autographed photo, turned out to be a terrible candidate. He admitted he’d never voted in a presidential election and once it was obvious that the Republicans weren’t interested in him, he simply switched parties and tried to capture the Democratic nomination.

By the turn of the century, Marseilles seemed to be out of his own influence. His wife died in 1904, leaving Charles alone in his house full of books. The entire collection was sold at auction in 1907. Marseilles himself never fully recovered from his earlier illness – which proved to be not malaria but syphilis. He entered the state hospital in Concord in 1908, his health slowly deteriorating for the 12 remaining years of his life. Before his illness took hold of him, he received accolades from many sides. Henry Robinson, the Granite Monthly author and perpetual fan-boy wrote of him, “How many things Charles Marseilles knows, which to tell would make him a brilliant newsman!”

Photo: Charles Marseilles became the sole proprietor of the Exeter News-Letter in 1866 at the tender age of 20.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Our new Exeter History Minute

Most kids play with dolls at some point during childhood, whether it be a baby doll, GI Joe, Barbie or all three. In this episode, Barbara explores the interesting and unique back-stories of two of the dolls in the collections of the Exeter Historical Society. 

This History Minute is generously sponsored by Anne Swane of Citizens Bank.

To learn more about Exeter history -- or to support the Exeter Historical Society -- visit our website. #ExeterHistoryMinute