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Home | Looking Back with Aurore Eaton

The biggest funeral Manchester had ever seen

July 07. 2014 10:49PM

In the summer of 1876 Edward W. Harrington, 60-year-old former Mayor of Manchester, died in a hotel in Hot Springs, Ark. He had been on a quest to find relief for his chronic pain from gout and hoped that the alleged healing powers of natural mineral, magnetic, and hot spring waters would help him. However, there was no solace to be found at the spas that he and his wife Margaret visited, including at Hot Springs. According to his death certificate, Edward succumbed to “inflammation of the bowels.”

Margaret began her lonely journey home. Edward’s body, enclosed in a metal coffin, was shipped separately as freight. Margaret was 49 years old (the previous article in this series erroneously reported her age as 29). The Harrington family also included Edward’s daughter from his first marriage to Frances M. Dearborn. Fanny, 29, was married to attorney John P. Bartlett, Manchester’s City Solicitor. Edward’s and Margaret’s children were Edward W. Jr., 22, and Delana Bemis Harrington, 24. Edward Jr. was a clerk in the City National Bank, where his father was cashier.

On July 14 Edward Jr., John Bartlett, and two family friends joined Margaret on the train at Albany, N.Y. A Manchester newspaper reported, “Mrs. Harrington is much worn with attendance upon her husband, with the anxiety incident to it, and with the fatiguing journey from Hot Springs to Albany alone. It was at once a surprise and a great comfort to her to meet her friends at Albany.”

At Worcester, Mass., the casket was transferred to a special train that took it to Manchester where it arrived at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, July 16. The funeral that day would be the largest one held in Manchester up to that time, and the details were extensively reported in the local newspapers.

The ceremonies began with prayers at the Harrington home on Hanover Street. Afterwards a religious service was held at the Unitarian Church on the corner of Beech and Concord streets. According to a newspaper report, the Reverend Powers spoke “at some length and in high terms of the deceased with whom he had formed an intimate acquaintance during the last months of his life. The church was crowded to suffocation with the members of the procession and with other friends.” The casket was kept outside, as the remains “were not in a condition to be seen and were not carried into the church.” A display was arranged at the base of the pulpit that included Edward’s regalia as a devoted Freemason and a member of that organization’s order of the Knights Templar. These objects were surrounded by bouquets and floral decorations in symbolic shapes.

After the ceremony, a long procession of mourners on foot and in carriages escorted the coffin to the Valley Cemetery. City workers poured water on the streets to keep down the summer dust. It was reported that “men of all conditions (united) in honor to his remains by taking part in the procession, and the streets from church to cemetery being lined with people.” The procession was headed by a platoon of police and the Manchester Cornet Band. The Masons and Templars came next, followed by current and past city and state officials, Edward’s family, friends, and business associates.The city fire department was well represented, including members of the E. W. Harrington Fire Company No. 3 of Piscataquog Village. Also taking part in the procession was a large contingent of Irish citizens, who had specifically requested the privilege of honoring former Mayor Harrington. More than 50 children from the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, which was associated with the Irish-American St. Joseph’s parish, “were drawn up in line (along the street), in respect to the memory of the deceased, who had been a liberal benefactor of the institution.”N. W. Cummer, whose home was on the route, provided free cold tea and ice water for the crowd. Edward’s Templar brothers served as coffin bearers, and conducted the ritual over his grave. A monument or gravestone must have later been placed at the site. It would have been replaced many years later by the Egyptian-style Harrington family mausoleum that remains there today.

Next Week: A Valley Cemetery Story — The creation of the Manchester Opera House..

Aurore Eaton is a historian and writer in Manchester, e-mail her at

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