Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: How NH went from being colony to becoming a state

STACEY COLE July 05. 2013 8:52PM

The Fourth of July has come and gone. Even so, the year 1776 still lingers in my mind. New Hampshire, then known as the "Colony of New Hampshire," had entered into the debate in Philadelphia over the wording of the Declaration of Independence and, as history records, her citizens played an important role in the battle for independence. But what was New Hampshire to be called after the Declaration had been signed? Certainly "Colony" was no longer appropriate.

In my library I have several volumes of New Hampshire law beginning with the Province Period 1702. I turned to Volume 4, "Laws of New Hampshire," that covered the Revolutionary Period — 1776-1784 and noted that the question was decided when our legislative body, meeting in Exeter on Sept. 11, 1776, passed a law entitled: "An Act to adopt and take the Name, Style, and Title of State, in Lieu of Colony, in New Hampshire."

The Act read: "Whereas by a late Declaration of the Hon. Continental Congress, the United Colonies of North America are declared Free and Independent States. —

"Therefore be it Enacted by the Council and assembly, that henceforth this Colony, assume and take the Name and Style, of the State of New Hampshire. And where any Law hath directed the Name & Style, of the Colony of New Hampshire, or the Name & Style of the Province of New Hampshire to be used in any Commissions, Processes, or Writings whatever; In lieu thereof shall be now used, the Name & Style of the State of New Hampshire, & not otherwise."

The courage of our forefathers in their willingness to go to war with the world's most militarily powerful nation at the time, Great Britain, has always amazed me. Indeed, they declared by their words and deeds that freedom was more precious to them than life itself. I have always been proud of being a direct descendant of Artemas Ward, of Shrewsbury, Mass., senior general of the Massachusetts Army. Ward was expected by many to be nominated by John Adams of Massachusetts to be the commander of all the continental forces. However, instead, Adams (who wanted to bring the southern colonies into the conflict) nominated a man he referred to as, "A gentleman from Virginia ... George Washington." During the debate, on June 15, 1776, the Second Continental Congress selected Colonel Washington of Virginia. General Ward was named first on a list of generals to assume command if General Washington was unable to continue. Charles Lee was named second.

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Whippoorwills were on the mind of a reader when she began her postcard by writing: "Since Wednesday, June 3, my husband and I have been hearing the whippoorwills sing in our woods. They come back every year. We live in Derry."

How lucky can you get? That was the first thought to strike me after reading her card. When I first moved here, these loud singers began their chorus at dusk and frequently carried on until dawn. Night after night they buried the quiet of darkness with their disquiet. I have missed them.

There is no question that there are fewer whippoorwills in all of New England now. Dr. Pamela Hunt, senior conservation biologist for NH Audubon, wrote in a NH Audubon release: "Since the 1960s and 1970s, populations of this enigmatic bird have been declining across the eastern United States. NH Audubon started its current involvement with whippoorwills in 2003, when it coordinated roadside surveys in the Piscataquog River Watershed in southern N.H. Over the next few years, these surveys expanded across N.H., elsewhere in New England, and elsewhere in the Northeast. The larger project, now in partnership with efforts in the Midwest and Southeast, is attempting to collect data on population trends across most of the species' range. Hopefully these data will provide a more detailed picture of how rapidly whippoorwills are declining, where significant populations still exist, and even how habitat may be changing in these areas.

"Habitat may be a key to the decline of the whippoorwill. To that end, NH Audubon initiated a whippoorwill habitat study at two high density sites, the Mast Yard State Forest (Hopkinton and Concord) and the Ossipee Pine Barrens (Madison and Freedom). Habitat management at both sites has the potential to improve conditions for whippoorwills, through either harvesting (Mast Yard) or burning (Ossipee). Starting in 2008 we have been mapping whippoorwill territories at these two sites and comparing the areas birds use with the habitat across the state as a whole. Preliminary results suggest that birds are far more likely to occupy previously disturbed areas, and may move into newly harvested areas relatively quickly. ... Radio telemetry was used to find out where non-singing birds are in relation to habitat and insects."

Management recommendations will result.

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey, 03446.

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