Windham teen launches new website detailing history of town

By PAMELA CYRAN
Union Leader Correspondent
June 24. 2015 10:36PM
Part of a document from 1813 showing selectman duties for Deacon William Davidson and what he was paid for each task. (Courtesy of Derek Saffie)

Anderson Farm in West Windham, circa 1900. Courtesy of Derek Saffie

WINDHAM — A Windham teenager launched a website solely dedicated to the history of the town. Derek Saffie, 18, has been collecting documents, pictures and postcards for the last seven years.

Saffie keeps his collection in acid-free sleeves and has multiple binders full. Over the course of five months, he combed through his collection, researched the stories and scanned the documents into his computer to share them with the town.

“I thought it was a good way to go through them all, learn about them and share them,” Saffie said about his extensive collection of artifacts. “A lot of it is actually personal things people did 200 years ago.”

The website, windhamnhhistory.com, is filled with stories and pictures of New Hampshire people and places from the 1700s through the 1900s. One of Saffie’s favorite documents is a 1795 document on the purchase of a tombstone for John Dinsmoor.

“It’s similar to a receipt,” Saffie said. Dinsmoor is a founding family of Windham.

Saffie purchased this document in a small collection off eBay. The collection cost $5.

“I was surprised I got it for that amount,” he said.

Throughout his years of collecting, Saffie discovered old documents on eBay are a lot cheaper than purchasing from families in the town.

“It has more sentimental value to the big families, a more personal meaning,” Saffie said.

Price doesn’t deter Saffie from growing his collection, and it’s a hobby he wishes to continue “forever.”

“I really enjoy learning about the history of Windham from its early founding to now,” he said.

Every week Saffie will share a new featured story on a specific person or place. The current featured story is on Deacon William Davidson, a Windham selectman for various terms between 1806 and 1817. Saffie gives a brief history of Davidson and uses selectman documents to show a day in the life of a Windham selectman from that time. “I’m focusing more on individual pieces of history, like the playhouse, Cobbett’s Pond, stories on the people,” Saffie said. “That’s my goal.”

The site went live at the end of May and is slowly gaining the attention of local history buffs. Frank Farmer, chairman of the historic district/heritage commission, called the site extensive and very professional.“It’s a really nice website. Some of the stuff on there I haven’t seen before,” he said.Jean Manthorne, president of the Windham Historical Society and chairman of the trustees of the Windham Museum, said she discovered the site when it was recently posted on a blog she frequents.

“I have heard of it, and I’ve been dying to find out who started it because it’s wonderful,” Manthorne said when asked about Saffie’s new site. Manthorne said she was surprised to find that it was an 18 year old who put it together. According to Manthorne, people who are this interested in antiquing tend to be older and don’t necessarily have all the skills to share their knowledge and artifacts on all public platforms.“I find it really encouraging that someone who’s young has such an appreciation for history and the town and is able to share that in a way that’s relevant today,” Manthorne said.

Al Letizio Jr., chairman of the board of selectman, had similar sentiments.

“I’m very happy to see a young person take this initiative,” he said.

Letizio also had just learned about the site and after looking at it for the first time, he was immediately fascinated.

“This is really cool,” he said. “It’s heartening on so many levels.”

Manthorne said Saffie’s website is not only informational for the community but also enriching.

“There are a lot of groups in town who are interested in history but it’s fractured,” Manthorne said. “It’s nice to have one central spot to bring all those people together.”


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