IN AUGUST 1851, Chandler E. Potter accepted the chairmanship of a committee tasked with publishing the history of Manchester in book form.
The project was initiated in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town of Derryfield, the original name for Manchester.
Derryfield had been incorporated on Sept. 3, 1751, but it appears that the planning process had started too late to allow for the event to take place on the actual anniversary date. So, the celebration was scheduled for late October, 1851.
It was expected that the city’s history would be published in a timely manner sometime in the months following the celebration. Potter had expected that the project would move along at a good pace.
However, he received no substantial assistance from the committeemen in either researching or writing the book’s content, so he took on the entire effort himself.
It would take nearly five years for Potter to finish the book. The last piece he wrote was its preface, which he completed on July 4, 1856. Here Potter detailed some of the hindrances that had delayed the book’s publication, and hinted at a “multiplicity of other cares” that had impacted his ability to work.
The greatest of these must have been the loss of his wife of 21 years, Clara Adela (or Adelia) Underwood Potter.
She had died on March 19, 1854, at the age of 51, overcome by a terrible case of erysipelas, a painful skin infection that could have developed from a minor skin wound. In today’s world, her condition would have easily been treated with antibiotics.
Not long after his wife’s passing, Potter and his three sons moved out of the family home on Union Street and took up residence as boarders in the City Hotel. Located at the northeast corner of Elm and Lowell streets, the hotel was a top establishment in Manchester, known for providing good accommodations.
This building, where Abraham Lincoln would spend a night in March 1860, still exists but without its porches and gabled roof with dormers.
Potter left his position as Judge of the Police Court in July 1855 after serving in this role since June 1848.
During this time the court conducted most of its business in rooms in the rear of the Riddle’s building on the corner of Elm and Hanover streets.
The one large meeting hall in City Hall, which took up what is now the building’s second and third floors, was seldom available for court purposes.
After leaving the judgeship, Potter set up his own law office on Elm Street.
At that time his sons — 21-year-old Joseph, 19-year-old Treat, and 17-year old Drown — were employed in the printing trade.
Potter’s “History of Manchester” was printed and bound, and made available to the public sometime before December 1856.
It included the official record of the Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation of Derryfield, held on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 1851.
The book outlines the various governmental proceedings that facilitated the event, and it lists the elected officials and volunteers involved with its organization.
It goes on to record the details of the celebration, which included two large public gatherings in City Hall, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.
For the afternoon program, entertainment was provided by the local Musical Education Society. The opening prayer was given by Rev. Benjamin M. Tillotson, pastor of the Lowell Street Church of the Universalist Society.
The Rev. Cyrus W. Wallace of the First Congregational Church, revered as the senior clergyman of the city, delivered a speech on the history of Manchester from a philosophical viewpoint. His church was a wooden Greek-revival style building located near City Hall on the first block of Hanover Street.
William Stark, a descendant of Maj. Gen. John Stark, Manchester’s hero of the American Revolution, read a poem he had composed for the occasion.
He had grown up in Manchester, and had later settled in Troy, N.Y., where he practiced law while pursuing his literary interests.
The afternoon program ended with the audience singing a hymn of praise and gratitude to God with lyrics written by Stark, set to the tune of a familiar Christian song known as “Old Hundred.”
Next week: Highlights of the Centennial Celebration of 1851.