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Historical marker honors first paintball game

Union Leader Correspondent

August 25. 2011 10:31PM
Paintball's profile has risen in 30 years from its beginnings in Henniker. (WALLPAPER.COM)

HENNIKER - While many of the state's historical markers commemorate famous people or pivotal moments that helped shape the nation's history, Henniker's first historical marker will be all about fun and games.

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources is finishing the text on the marker that will soon commemorate the world's first paintball game.

On June 27, 1981, using guns loaded with pellets filled with gelatin and food coloring, created to mark trees for cutting from a distance, a group of 12 men took to a field in Henniker for an elaborate game of 'capture the flag' that involved eliminating players by shooting them with paintballs.

A history of the sport by Lionel Atwell, one of the founding players, notes that he was joined by Ken Barrett, Bob Carlson, Joe Drindon, Charles Gaines, Jerome Gary, Bob Gurnsey, Bob Jones, Hayes Noel, Carl Sandquist, Ronnie Simkins and Richie White as the first people to engage in shooting each other with paintballs for fun.

The idea for the game came over a series of gin and tonics when Gaines, Noel and Gurnsey started talking about creating a 'survival game' that would allow them to recall 'the childhood exhilaration of stalking and being stalked,' according to the introduction Gaines wrote for Atwill's book.

When George Butler came across the Nel-Spot paint marker in a forestry catalog, Gaines said, the seed of the game was planted.

Elizabeth Muzzey, director of the Division of Historic Resources, said the state received a petition signed by far more than the 20 residents required by law, and after research and evidence from at least two independent sources, the state decided to move forward with the marker.

'The text is still being finalized,' said Muzzey. The division will have to coordinate the placement of the new marker with the Department of Transportation.

Though perhaps the origins of paintball don't rise to the importance of the first textile mill or the birthplace of a president, Muzzey said the division is attempting to mark notable moments in recent history, in addition to those that happened in the distant past.

'We have fewer markers relating to the 20th century, so we're encouraging folks to come up with 20th century themes,' she said.

People, places and events of the last 100 years recognized by the state recently include the Nansen Ski Jump just north of Berlin; Jonathan Daniels, a civil rights worker from Keene; and the reported alien abduction of Benny and Barney Hill in Lincoln.

Recognizing the world's first paintball game 'fits into our effort to bring more attention to 20th century events,' Muzzey said.

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