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The Dangers of Riding the Rails

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published in the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, April 13, 2018.

“In the early settlement of the country, the want of good roads was a serious inconvenience,” related Nathaniel Shute in an article entitled “Travelling in the Olden Time” published in the Exeter Gazette in 1882. Sure, you could travel with relative ease by water, but over land was problematic. Spring and Fall were both ‘mud’ seasons when well-traveled roadways became nearly impassable. Shute relates (or perhaps re-tells) a story about Robert Metlin, a baker from Portsmouth. “He was a noted pedestrian, and usually bought his flour in Boston, and always travelled there on foot, performing the journey in a day, the distance being about sixty-six miles. The story is quite unbelievable, although there are numerous sources that indicate Metlin routinely walked from Portsmouth to Boston and back. The entire trip would take three days, with two full days of wal…

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