A One Man Performance

Eric Rotsinger has been portraying Mark Twain since 1997. He brings Mark Twain to life through his animated storytelling and personality. Rotsinger has presented at festivals, community events, historical societies, schools and Civil War reenactments. Rotsinger even had the honor of speaking for the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College in Elmira, New York in the summer of 2007. While in Elmira, he also had the opportunity to exchange ideas with some of the top Mark Twain scholars and visit the Mark Twain Study and Quarry Farm, where Twain spent many summers and completed many of his most famous works. When Rotsinger puts on the white suit, he truly becomes Mark Twain.’ Living Historians Living historians are not actors, or roll players, or Halloween refugees. Historians are serious portrayers of a famous personality or personalities. Our purpose is to take years of study, volumes of text, countless hours of research and distill it down to an image that encapsulates the essence of an individual. A “true” Living Historian looks at the totality of things and is not swayed by the obnoxious vicissitudes of public opinion. Therefore, we are not bound by political correctness. If you are looking for the Hollywood version of history, then rent a movie. If you want the truth, look to Living Historians. —Eric Rotsinger (aka Mark...

Boxing in Hillsborough? – The Gilbert Arena

Gilbert Boxing Arena, Hillsboro, N. Hamp Philip R. Harvey August 1, 2012 In an open field along West Main Street, that I assume belonged to Mr. Carlton Eaton because his corn field extended to about 200 yards from the highway at that point, a Mr. Gilbert had constructed his sports arena on the land where the west end of the Armory now stands. Gilbert’s Boxing Arena, West Main Street, Hillsboro, New Hampshire, c. 1932. Sketch by Philip Harvey He and his wife, Noreen, were active entrepreneurs during those early depression years. They ran the “Gables”, now the Town Office complex on West Main Street, that consisted of a Shell gas station, a restaurant in the small building in front along the main road, and presumably tourist rooms in the gabled building. It may have been the inspiration for the famous fictional sign that read: “STOP, EAT and GET GAS”. In those early days of the automobile when Main Street was a principal highway from points east and west, the Gables was a busy spot. But it wasn’t enough to keep Mr. Gilbert occupied fulltime so he decided to convert the barn into an athletic gym where boxers and wrestlers could train. Boxing was a big time entertainment in those days with Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney still capturing the headlines, and a pure sport of wrestling had a former Dartmouth star football player, Gus Sonnenburg, as its major attraction.   The Gables, West Main Street, Hillsboro, New Hampshire, c 1931 The gym facilities were on the east end of the barn and elevated above the ground floor. A nearly...

Hillsborough’s Stone Arch Bridges

Join us as we take the trolley to explore many of Hillsborough’s wonderful Stone Arch Bridges. Once home to more than a dozen stone arch masonry bridges, Hillsborough now has five of these gems, four of which are used everyday to support auto, bike and foot traffic. These bridges are registered as historic structures by the Historic American Building Survey, part of the National Park Service. Most recently they have been recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, the second in New Hampshire, after the Cog Railway. Stone arch bridges were a solution to the weakness of timber bridges and were especially suited for withstanding frequent flooding in the steeply sloping New Hampshire streams and rivers. Historical records reflect the repeated destruction and rebuilding of many of the earlier wooden bridges, leading townspeople to seek more rugged and enduring forms of construction. At the time, lime mortar did not have sufficient strength to withstand the arch stresses, often failed to harden in the interior arch walls, and did not set in water. By a more careful cutting and fitting of stones, it was possible to make stronger stonework than could be made with use of the conventional lime mortar of the period; hence the development of the technique known as “dry masonry.” The stone arched bridges are believed to have been the work of Scotch-Irish stonemasons who emigrated to Hillsborough in the 19th century. Selectmen Hiram Monroe argued that the bridges be built of stone to last, and that they have. Each of these lovely examples of bridge building craft is still in place with original keystones and held together...

The John Butler Smith Mansion, Hillsborough, New Hampshire

The John Butler Smith Mansion Hillsborough, New Hampshire 1891-1926 Where former New Hampshire governor John B. Smith greeted guests to his home a century ago, patrons of Hillsboro’s public library today go to check out books. This building, a tremendous source of pride for the Governor and his family, is no less an asset to our community today. Smith’s homestead was formerly the property of the heirs of Hiriam Bell, being given in deed to Smith through Mary Bell in 1880. Soon afterward, Smith and his family took up residence and made some modifications, including the addition of a French roof. Later, they hired architect William Butterfield to incorporate the original structure into a grand plan that would become the building we know today. In July of 1891, the Keene Evening Sentinel reported that “the Hon. John B. Smith of Hillsboro Bridge, one of the largest and most successful manufacturers of New Hampshire, is about to erect upon the site of his present home one of the largest and handsomest residences in the State at a cost of from $30,000 to $40,000. Mr. Smith has just closed a contract with E.S. Foster of this city to take full charge and superintendence of the construction of the entire residence, not only overseeing and directing the workmen but looking out, also, for the purchase of supplies and materials of all kinds which are to be bought under Mr. Smith’s direction instead of being furnished by a general contractor. Mr. Foster will enter upon his duties as superintendent next week, and expects to devote the main portion of his time to the...

Dana Brown, the Ultimate Dowser

Dana Brown was an uncle by marriage of Mildred George Kemp, the wife of Elton “Dude” Kemp, the squire of Water Street, in the days prior to World War II.  Dana’s wife had died just before the time that he built the cottage on the riverbank that provided a comfortable place for him to live in his widower hood. He and Lou Hanson, the teamster for the Contoocook Mill were neighbors there in the midst of the Mill’s domain until the 1936 flood.Dana was a jack-of-all-trades, as most of those old Yankees were, so he was never without work even during the height of the Great Depression.  I think he preferred carpentry, and as a result he  would often be found replacing a sill here or patching a roof there. He had also mastered the ancient craft of dowsing, so he would often be seen trudging off with his witch hazel rod to some country spot where the owner was hoping to dig a well.  There were few wells dug in those days until the proposed site had been certified by such a dowsing genie.  But Dana was no ordinary genie, for it was reputed that he could locate all manner of buried objects with his dowsing rod.  People would frequently hire him to walk their property with his magic stick in the hope that he would detect some object of great value.  Well, as everyone knew the sea captain’s fortune that was believed to be hidden at Ocean-Born Mary’s House in Henniker was the largest treasure in the vicinity. At the time, in the early 1930s, a gentleman named Mr. Roy and...

The Historic Hillsborough Center

Take a trip back through time to the village of Hillsborough Center. It stands in peace and dignity, as it has stood for almost three hundred years.If you approach the village from downtown Hillsborough you will come up a rise in the road which will transport you to an earlier time as you pass two beautiful old farms looking as they did a century ago. Another mile or so brings you into the Center. Here thirteen colonial houses stand almost unchanged around a triangle. Two churches grace the common, a Congregational church, still used for services and music in the summer; and a Methodist church, built in 1863, which stands empty after the last Methodist died many years ago. The old schoolhouse, the pound, the Center Club and the cemetery complete the village today. The schoolhouse, with its wood stove, desks and chairs, stands as if waiting for the children to arrive. Just past the schoolhouse is the pound, a safe haven for a cow or sheep missing from the fold. Across the street from the schoolhouse the Center Club with its stage and kitchen saw many a Christmas show and play put on by the villagers in the past. Today it still hosts an occasional wedding reception, meetings, and Art & Craft Fairs. Take a quiet walk through the old cemetery with stones hailing back to pre-revolutionary days. A quiet walk into history would also bring you to a tavern. The Tavern of the Rising Sun, as the owner Joseph Wilder Jr. called it, was in the house he built in 1815 to the right of the Methodist...

2nd South Carolina String Band

Without recognizing it at the time, the group, comprised of mostly amateur musicians playing banjo, fiddle, and guitar, tambourine, bones and military drum – had coalesced into a 20th century recreation of a typical American Civil War camp band. In the beginning they played only at night around their company camp fire as they enthusiastically began to explore and perform the music of the War Between the States. Soon they began performing for reenactment dances and concert audiences.