NASHUA’S DIVERSITY has been growing for many years now.
With the city’s establishment of the Nashua Manufacturing Company in 1823 came the cotton textile industry and life at the mill for many. “Between 1865-1900, immigrants to Nashua mostly came from Canada and European countries such as Ireland, Greece and Lithuania,” according to a 2016 Harvard University study conducted by The Pluralism Project.
In addition, young men from Poland, Armenia, Romania and Russia began arriving in the late 1880s. By the 1890s, those young men’s families followed.
I searched high and low for statistics on the population of African-Americans in Nashua in 1890. Lindsay Yungbluth, library information specialist in government documents at the University of Missouri Libraries, was able to help me by looking through the 1890 Census of the United States.
“According to a table on the populations of places having 2,500 inhabitants or more, the African American population in Nashua in 1890 was 24. For the state of New Hampshire as a whole, it was 614,” Yungbluth wrote.
French-Canadian families arrived from Quebec post-Civil War and settled in the Gate City, eventually becoming the largest ethnic population here for quite some time.
Like Manchester and nearby Lowell, Mass., Nashua’s mill town roots were impressive. “By 1836, with the opening of mill No.3, Nashua Manufacturing Co. had 32,000 spindles, 710 looms and was producing more than 9 million yards of cotton (cloth) annually,” says the website of the Millyard Brewery located on Otterson Street.
In 1895, 15 Jewish families had moved to Nashua from Boston, says tbanashua.org. In the years to follow, “A building was purchased at the corner of Cross and Lock Streets and, thus, the Beth Abraham Congregation was founded with twenty-five members.”
Our city continues to add to its diversity.
“In recent decades, the influx of immigrants from Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, India, Russia and Cambodia has made its mark on the religious landscape of both Manchester and Nashua,” says The Pluralism Project.
Mayor Jim Donchess enjoys being the head of a city that celebrates diversity, and in a 2018 speech where he first declared June as Immigrant Heritage Month for Nashua, he said this: “It is our responsibility as Nashuans to recognize the heritage of the immigrants who built our community and be welcoming to those who will create its future.”
On that note, Nashua Public Library is currently hosting Language Groups gatherings. It’s free, and no registration is required.
Polish Discussion Group: Members talk about Polish culture, literature, history, current affairs and other topics. The group speaks in Polish or English, depending on the preferences of attendees. Americans interested in Poland and its rich heritage are most welcome. The group meets Fridays from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
French Conversation Group: This group talks in French about art, geography, culture, food and travel in Francophone countries. It’s open to anyone able to converse at the intermediate level. (Not appropriate for beginners.) Meetings are Tuesdays, Sept. 24, Oct. 8 and Oct. 22; Nov. 12 and Nov. 26, at 7 p.m.
Italian Conversation Group: An opportunity for those who have studied Italian or grew up speaking it to practice the language. (Not appropriate for beginners.) It meets Wednesdays at 2 p.m.
Spanish Class: Instruction is at the intermediate level. (Not appropriate for beginners.) It gathers Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m.
Coffee and Conversation: An opportunity for newcomers to Nashua learning English as well as native speakers to talk about topics of everyday interest, share their languages and enjoy coffee, tea, and light snacks. Meetings are Thursdays, Sept. 19, Oct. 17 and Nov. 21, at 2 p.m.
For more information, contact Carol Luers Eyman, outreach coordinator at Nashua Public Library, 589-4610.