Dunbarton seeking copies of town's first newspaper, 'The Snow Flake'
There are life-sized photocopies of the Snow Flake from 1881 and 1882, collected by Donna Dunn. (Ruth Mariano Photo)
Eastman’s pronouncement occurred long ago, in an Oct. 4, 1882, edition of the Snow Flake, the first-known public newspaper published in Dunbarton.
According to Donna Dunn, member of the Dunbarton Historical Awareness Committee, the Snow Flake was then published out of the building that is now the Maple Lodge, which is still in the center of town. The Historical Awareness Committee has gathered old Snow Flake newspapers going back to earliest paper printed on Dec. 25, 1877.
Dunn said the Historical Awareness Committee has been working for the better part of two years, pooling together resources with the town clerk’s collection, the Dunbarton Historical Society and some private collections, but they are looking to the general public to find more of these historical newspapers.
For Dunn, part of the intrigue is looking at the evolution of the whole news media from this era forward, especially for a small community, she said. While she finds the economic information to be interesting, she is mostly amazed by the real-time information. She’ll read in a history book, for example, about T. Sylvester Wilson, a cobbler from Dunbarton, and then she’ll see him listed in the paper as going out for a visit on a particular week.
The Snow Flake was perhaps a cross between today’s Neighborhood News papers – reporting on local events – to a social-media-of-the-day, sharing of the goings-on about town, such as an update that “W. Foster Clark has been very ill from the effects of the mumps,” to a report that “John Parkinson has his new barn nearly completed.” When people came into town to visit, or if they left for an out-of-town journey, the Snow Flake was the place to find out the details.
The Snow Flake also contained poetry, short stories and news of the day. Local merchants advertised their products for wool suits, boots, yarn and many pharmaceutical options.
After the Snow Flake’s period of publication, The Analecta published a self-professed “village journal,” continuing the tradition of reporting on the daily events in its readership towns of Concord, Dunbarton, Bedford, Contoocook and others. In Dunbarton, for example, in 1886 “Dr. Leach has sold one of his horses to a party in Concord,” while a “splendid supper with lemonade, social games, and dancing,” was celebrated for Mr. and Mrs. Matthew S. Mills’ 25th wedding anniversary on a stormy evening in July.
Dunn said the Historical Awareness Committee has collected issues of The Analecta going back to March 20, 1884.
Beyond then, the Shopper News was published by Mulberry Press in Goffstown, with its first paper (Volume 1, No. 1) published in 1955, with articles about “A Country Women’s Journal” by Farmer Brown’s Wife, “Historical Notes of Dunbarton” and general news and classifieds for the town. In keeping with the tradition of prior papers, general tidbits about town were announced in their second volume, including the riveting news of “Dora’s sister,” who was walking her “beautiful. big black rabbit” on New Year’s Eve,” a pet “who gets his airing every night.”
While the Historical Awareness Committee has pooled together an impressive number of these historical gems, they have many gaps in time to be filled. They are hoping the public can find more that may be stashed away in attics or in relatives’ belongings.
According to various internet resources, including
HomsteadingToday.com, old newspapers are often stuffed into walls as wind-stop and insulation. Blair Hopper, who has done finish carpentry in old buildings from Weare to an old carriage house in Shrewsbury, Mass., to historical buildings at Beacon Hill in Boston, said builders have been putting newspapers into walls as a matter of tradition – sort of like their own time capsules.
“They’ve been doing it for over 100 years,” said Hopper. “I’ve ripped out inside walls and found newspapers from the early 1900s.”
Hopper continues the tradition, he said, “from guys like me that want to do something for the next guy.”
Dunn said many of their papers have come from construction or renovation work being done on historic homes. They have “many examples of people opening up walls and floors with these newspapers,” she said. The Dunbarton Cobbler Shop, for example, had many in between the floors.
“That’s how we were able to date it,” said Dunn.
Dunn urges residents who find any of these papers to you to bring them to the Dunbarton town clerk’s office. Linda Landry is the person who accepts the documents as they come in and takes responsibility for them. After the papers have been sleeved and copied, they will be returned to their owners.
The papers will then be available for others to research and view.
Dunn said they are being actively collected in advance of Dunbarton’s 250th anniversary in 2015, and they are also being used by the Dunbarton Elementary School to add local history into the kindergarten to sixth-grade curriculum. Younger students in Dunbarton may learn, for example, of Molly Stark’s life in Dunbarton and see a letter sent to her by her husband while he was away during the Revolutionary War. Older children may be asked to contrast Martin Luther King Jr.’s belief in nonviolence to Gen. John Stark’s famous “Live Free or Die” pronouncement in 1809.
As these papers are collected, people like Donna Dunn will be there to gather and preserve them for generations to come.
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