douglasthompson on Family Tree Circles
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The Viking age has long been associated with unbridled piracy,
when freebooters swarmed out of the northlands in their longships to
burn and pillage their way across civilized Europe. Modern scholarship
provides evidence this is a gross simplification, and that during this
period much progress was achieved in terms of Scandinavian art and
craftsmanship, marine technology, exploration, and the development of
commerce. It seems the Vikings did as much trading as they did
The title "Viking" encompasses a wide designation of Nordic
people; Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians, who lived during a period of
brisk Scandinavian expansion in the middle ages, from approximately
800 to 1100 AD. This name may be derived from the old Norse vik(bay or
creek). These people came from what is now Denmark, Sweden, and
Norway, and had a self-sustaining, agricultural society, where farming
and cattle breeding were supplemented by hunting, fishing, the
extraction of iron and the quarrying of rock to make whetstones and
cooking utensils; some goods, however, had to be traded; salt, for
instance, which is a necessity for man and cattle alike, is an
everyday item and thus would not have been imported from a greater
distance than necessary, while luxury items could be brought in from
farther south in Europe. Their chief export products were, iron,
whetstones, and soapstone cooking pots, these were an essential
contribution to a trade growth in the Viking age.
The contemporary references we have about the Vikings stem
mainly from sources in western Europe who had bitter experiences with
the invaders, so we're most likely presented with the worst side of
the Vikings. Archaeological excavations have shown evidence of
homesteads, farms, and marketplaces, where discarded or lost articles
tell of a common everyday life. As the Viking period progressed,
society changed; leading Chieftain families accumulated sufficient
land and power to form the basis for kingdoms, and the first towns
These market places and towns were based on craftsmanship and
trade. Even though the town dwelling Vikings kept cattle, farmed, and
fished to meet their household needs, the towns probably depended on
agricultural supplies from outlying areas. They also unfortunately did
not pay as much attention to renovation and waste disposal as they did
to town planning, as evidenced by the thick layers of waste around
settlements. In contemporary times the stench must have been
Trade, however, was still plentiful, even in periods when
Viking raids abounded, trade was conducted between Western Europe and
the Viking homeland; an example of this being the North Norwegian
chieftain, Ottar, and King Alfred of Wessex. Ottar visited King Alfred
as a peaceful trader at the same time as Alfred was waging war with
other Viking chieftains. The expansion of the Vikings was probably
triggered by a population growth out stepping the capacities of
domestic resources. Archaeological evidence shows that new farms were
cleared in sparsely populated forests at the time of their expansion.
The abundance of iron in their region and their ability to forge it
into weapons and arm everyone setting off on raids helped give the
Vikings the upper hand in most battles.
The first recorded Viking raid occurred in 793 AD, the holy
island of the Lindisfarne monastery just off the Northeast shoulder
of England was pillaged, around the same time, there are recorded
reports of raids elsewhere in Europe. There are narratives of raids in
the Mediterranean, and as far as the Caspian Sea. Norsemen from Kiev
even attempted an attack on Constantinople, the capital of the
Byzantine Empire. Unfortunately, in the picture handed down to us in
written accounts, the Vikings are portrayed as terrible robbers and
bandits, this is strictly a single sided view; and, while the above
statement is probably true, they had other traits as well. Some of
their leaders were very skillful organizers, as evidenced by the fact
that they were able to establish kingdoms in already-conquered
territories. Some of these, such as the ones established in Dublin
and York did not survive the Viking period; Iceland, however, is still
a thriving nation. The Viking Kingdom in Kiev formed the basis of the
The remains of fortresses dated to the end of the Viking
period, have been found in Denmark; the fortresses are circular and
are divided into quadrants, with square buildings in each of the four
sections. The precision with which these castles were placed indicates
an advanced sense of order, and a knowledge of surveying techniques
and geometry in the Danish Kingdom. The farthest westward drive
occurred around 1000 AD, when people from Iceland or Greenland
attempted to plant roots in the North coast of Newfoundland in North
America, however, conflicts arose between these colonists and the
indigenous Indians or the Eskimos, and the colonists gave up.
Eventually, the Vikings plundering raids were replaced by
colonization; in the north of England, place names reveal a large
Viking population, farther south in Britain, an area was called The
Danelaw. The French king gave Normandy as payment to a Viking
chieftain so that he would keep other Vikings away. At the end of the
Viking age, Christianity was widely accepted in the Nordic countries.
It replaced a heathen religion, in which gods and goddesses each had
power over their domain; Odin was their chieftain, Thor was the god of
the warriors, the goddess Froy was responsible for the fertility of
the soil and livestock; Loki was a trickster and a sorcerer and was
always distrusted by the other gods. The gods had dangerous
adversaries, the Jotuns, who represented the darker side of life.
Burial techniques indicate a strong belief in the afterlife;
even though the dead could be buried or cremated, burial gifts were
always necessary. The amount of equipment the dead took with them
reflected their status in life as well as different burial traditions.
A clue to the violent nature of Viking society, is the fact that
nearly all the graves of males included weapons. A warrior had to have
a sword, a wooden shield with an iron boss at its center to protect
the hand, a spear, an ax, and a bow with 24 arrows. Helmets with
horns, which are omnipresent in present day depiction's of Vikings
have never been found amongst relics from the Viking period. Even in
the graves with the most impressive array of weapons, there are signs
of more peaceful activities; sickles, scythes, and hoes lie alongside
of weapons; the blacksmith was buried with his hammer, anvil, tongs,
and file. The coastal farmer has kept his fishing equipment and is
often buried in a boat. In women's graves we often find jewelry
kitchen articles, and artifacts used in textile production, they were
also usually buried in boats. There are also instances of burials
being conducted in enormous ships, three examples of this are: ship
graves from Oseberg, Tune, and Gokstad, which can be seen at the
Viking ship museum at Bygdoy in Oslo. The Oseberg ship was built
around 815-820 AD, was 22 meters (72 ft.) long and its burial was
dated to 834 AD.
The Gokstad and Tune ships were constructed in the 890's, were
24 meters (79 ft.) and 20 meters (65 ft.) in length, respectively, and
were buried right after 900 AD. In all 3 a burial chamber was
constructed behind the mast, where the deceased was placed to rest in
a bed, dressed in fine clothing, ample provisions were placed in the
ship, dogs and horses were sacrificed, and a large burial mound was
piled on top of the vessel; there are even instances in which
servants, who may or may not have chosen to follow their masters in
death, were sacrificed also. Some ship-graves in the Nordic countries
and in Western European Viking sites were cremated, while the large
graves along the Oslofjord were not. There are remnants of similar
graves in other locations and it seems to have been standard practice
to include sacrificed dogs and horses, fine weapons, some nautical
equipment such as oars and a gangplank, balers, cooking pots for
crewmembers, a tent and often fine imported bronze vessels which
probably held food and drink for the dead.
Their sea-going vessels were very seaworthy, as has been
demonstrated by replicas which have crossed the Atlantic in modern
times. The hull design made the ships very fast, either under sail or
when oars were used. Even with a full load, the Gokstad ship drew no
more than 1 meter (3.3 ft) of water, which means it could have been
easily used for shore assaults. The ships were made to be light-weight
and flexible, to work with the elements instead of against them; they
were built on a solid keel, which together with a finely curved bow,
forms the backbone of the vessel. Strafe after strafe was fitted to
keel and stem and these were bolted to each other with iron rivets.
This shell provided strength and flexibility, then, ribs were made
from naturally curved trees were fitted and these provided additional
strength. To increase flexibility, strafes and ribs were bound
together. Lateral support came from cross supports at the waterline,
and solid logs braced the mast.
Our main knowledge of Viking art comes from metal jewelry, the
format of which is modest. The choice of motif is the same as with
woodcarving. The artists were preoccupied with imaginary animals which
were ornamentally carved, twisted and braided together in a tight
asymmetric arabesque, their quality of work was superb. The Viking
raids tapered off around the year 1000. By this time the Vikings had
become Christian, which had a restrictive effect on their urge to
plunder. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway had become separate kingdoms
generally united under single monarchs. Wars wer now steered by the
shifting alliances of the kings. The age of private battles was gone.
Trade relations that were established in the Viking period continued,
and the Nordic countries emerged as part of a Christian Europe.
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RESEARCH - New Hampshire Genealogy and History
Researching Genealogy (Your Familiy Tree) in New Hampshire
Gules (red), with three roaches naiant (horizontal) in pale argent (silver).
In mythology, fish are associated with knowledge of a particular kind. The 'Otherworld' or "Subconscious" is often represented by water - river, lake or sea - where fish can live and represent Special Powers. The Red background is for Blood or Life.
Our Arms have nothing to do with Rock, but are simply Arms which invoke a motif with mythological connotations reflecting the family's historical knowledge of, or association with, the Norse Sagas and other forms of what some consider to be Religion, others Mythology.
There can be no denying our attraction to the metaphysical over the ages - whether Pagan or Christian.
Later "differenced" Versions include:
On a rock proper, an osprey (or other bird of prey) rising argent beaked and legged,
holding in its dexter claws a roach argent.
These late additions had nothing to do with the original purpose of identifying knights on the battlefield. Normally associated with the Romantic period, we find a bird of prey on arms for Roach - an osprey. Later, other predatory birds associated with the sea being used.
To be honest, I don't get it. Arms featuring three roaches and, at the crown, one trapped by a predator? If the bird were meant to be England, so dominant at sea, why admit it - even if the Roache in question were Loyalist? Honestly, I can only imagine some later-day Herald of Arms, during the Romantic period or shortly before, having fun at our expense.
Not too much should be made of them because they became prominent due to the requirement to "difference" heritable arms, and during a time when "differencing" was taken to extremes.
Motto: God is My Rock
It has been suggested the motto (also added later) may have been a reference to the Book of Psalms, Chapter 18, Verse 2, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress...."
Certainly, it meant a firm foundation - but for a Roach predator? People inclined to this Christian interpretation might also see in the three fish in relation to the Trinity, without realizing the the rock is displayed as a foundation or place of rest for the osprey, and not the Roach it plans to have for dinner.
Some, with reference to Old French, rendered it "Mon Roche (because God was Male); later, others "corrected" it linguistically to "Ma Roche" (because in French, rock, "la roche" is feminine - "la" not "le"; "ma" not "mon". Intererstingly, "la Rocque" is female, but smaller. They were also more inclined to the Lion that the Fish, in general.
Alternatively, on other arms in our surname, an antique five-pointed crown or "ROCHE" has been placed atop the shield or on the head of a Lion (the arms of another family of the name), within the Peerage, but of different Pedigree.
A five-pointed crown in mythology is associated with regal authority; and the Lion with courage - the symbol of a great Warrior or Chief. But either these motifs can render the same potential interpretation.
Some believe the Lion to be reflective of a Dragon or Tiger - respectively, Teutonic or Lombard (Italian) - which pre-date Charlemagne, Emperor of the Franks - with whom the Lion is often associated.
I have also seen Lions with the tail of a fish in place of hind paws (mermaid-like), no doubt a reflection of long association with the sea for reasons of war, trade and a source of nourishment.
De la Roche, of course, was continental, pre-dates de Roch, and almost always relates to a town or city of origin - and occasionally to a mountain fortress (during the Crusades). Surnames by then has been established, a fortress on a rocky height near a city or town of note might be named Roche if it were owned or held by them.
Fish and water have very definite mythological connotations - metaphysical, in fact - subjects to which many of our surname have been drawn. The red background was likely associated with Life itself. This seems a little esoteric for the Norse, Franks and Germans - for them and the English, the Raven and Lion seem more appropos.
Scholars debate how many branches of the "Roche" family exist in Ireland. Estimates have varied from three to five, but whole (especially later) peerages, and, therefore, pedigrees, have been excluded or manipulated through this exercise. Others, still, have been removed from the Peerage.
Given those stripped of Peerages during the Reformation; those still in dispute or unresolved; the mischief worked by "antiquarians"who "fiddled pedigrees when they could, and the fact that a Republic has no legal basis on which to grant Arms, the issue is moot.
Roches, by name, are found elsewhere in the British Isles, in most of western Europe, and, more rarely, further to the East. It will, of course, be in the language used by the culture occupying a given county or region, and in each case is subject to different spellings.
Modern geneticists - as with much of recorded history - have literally revolutionized our cultural history and mythology. They have shown there are three distinct branches (Haplogroups) using the surname Roche (spelling varies) in Ireland and the Diaspora countries of if Norse, Celtic or Mid-Eastern origin.
There would, of course be others - similar German names and arms might be expected for be Haplogroup G, for example.Whole countries and regions have yet to be tested to determine their Haplogroups/types; but, allowing for cultural and biological diversity, plus multiple spellings of any name in every language, there are, no doubt, many of our name around the world.
As with Ireland, however, many Roches would not be even distantly "related" because of the various and sundry ways that surnames came into existence and have been modified over time. Some seem to confuse Rochford with de la Roche and it would seem more credible that Arms with a Lion rampant might well be Norse (of Charlemanic association) that our seemingly more humble (don't you believe it) fish. Any confusion may derive from the fact that the Lion motif has a five pointed crown (a roche) on its head.
Fear not, family historians; it's in the genes.
Scandinavian Marriages during the Vikings Times - Viking Romance and Love
Even though Vikings are well known for their courage and spirit of invading new land, when it came to love they were very caring and sometimes even shy about it.
Viking marriages were similar to the rest of Europe in the aspect that they were mostly forced. A marriage made because of love was almost unheard of - meaning that a Viking would marry a woman who was strong and could take care of children properly - and definitely not for love.
When a Viking was to marry, the celebration was held most of the time outside, but alas it also happened inside in front of their gods. God statues had to be placed specially during Friday which was the Frigg Day - the day devoted to Frig who was the goddess of marriage.
The fear shown by Vikings to their gods was enormous - to such degree that they feared doing anything wrong at all during their wedding as it would constitute the couple's doom. If the bride was to trip in her way to the feast, their marriage was certainly going to be a failure.
When the actual ceremony took place, among many other rituals, they exchanged swords in which the male Viking gave his sword to her wife who would pass it on to their first born son when he reached a certain age. The bride, on the other side, would pass the groom another sword which represented the whole family and he had to take care of it like he took care of his own family.
When all the formal celebrations were completed, everyone headed inside the keep for a feast. This is when if the bride tripped, so would their marriage. Subsequently, the groom was specially careful about taking care of his new wife.
This changed completely after the introduction of Christianity to Norway and Sweden, but alas; even Christianity was influenced by some Viking practices as it can still be seen today.
This article was written in response to a recent newspaper article (published in the Keene Sentinel, Keene, NH on Saturday, July 10, 2009) pertaining to The Atlantic Paranormal Society's (TAPS) recent investigation of the Amos J. Blake House Museum in Fitzwilliam, NH, the museum of the Fitzwilliam Historical Society, and their intention to use the footage on their television show Ghost Hunters.
As a paranormal investigator, I have participated in three investigations at the Amos J. Blake House Museum. The group I am a member of was invited to investigate the location by the museum's curator. I am aware of approximately six different paranormal groups that have investigated the site.
Though there are some indications of paranormal activity at the museum, all I have personally experienced is one cold spot, an unexplained voice, as well as capturing photographs of some strange mist. This is certainly not enough evidence to declare the place haunted by the standards of most paranormal investigators, however, we are all aware of the rarity of such phenomena and the difficulty of catching such phenomena on tape.
More recently, reports have been made of multiple apparitions, objects moving, and intelligent spirits haunting the location. These phenomena--as well as other strange events--have been reported by several groups, though most of these claims were made by Conscious Spirits Paranormal Group (CSPG), a team founded by the museums curator.
These events were documented on CSPG's Web site as recently as Thursday July 8th. Upon review of the groups site on Monday July 13, all references to the Amos J. Blake House investigations had been removed, though there is documentation of the groups investigation of the location at the Web site of the Keene State Equinox, a local college newspaper.
There are several links-- accessible via Google searches--to CSPG's Web site that portray their involvement with this location.
It is unclear to me why this information was deleted. I certainly enjoyed following the reported activity and even though our group considered the purported "evidence" to be highly exaggerated--being more attentive to debunking then many groups--I found it very entertaining.
At this point in time, two of the few sites where I can find any significant documentation of paranormal activity at the museum is on Dark Nights Paranormal's as well as ECTO Paranormal's, two teams of competent and tech-savvy investigators based in the general area. There is at least one other Web site where documentation of an investigation of the museum is posted, however, the location is not being disclosed--though it was previously identified as such.
Apparently,there was a minor controversy involved with "Ghost Hunters," filming at the location, as it was reported that the museum's Board of Directors had no prior knowledge of the TAPS investigation of the museum. The newspaper article published several comments from a member of the board pertaining to this fact, and--as of the time this article was written--there is still appears to be some question as to who signed the release form that allowed the filming in the first place. The paper also reported that the curator of the museum--who participated in the filming--had no comment.
I find it interesting that the board had no prior knowledge of a film crew being invited to the location. It is also of interest to note that the curator of the museum is a former member of the group I am involved with. This individual left our group abruptly in February or March--and subsequently formed her own group--shortly after informing me that TAPS had contacted her and had expressed interest in setting up on the location. It was also at this time that the reports of purported paranormal activity at the location increased significantly.
It is clear to me that TAPS was interested in this location, and--at least according to the curator--that there was some contact going on during this time between them and the museum..
In an open query to the Board of Directors of the Fitzwilliam Historical Society, I would ask the them to consider the publicity that may be garnered from the location's appearance on a national television show. In my experience, considering locations like the museum, publicity is a good thing.
Many similar sites have capitalized on such attention for monetary gain and recognition. The board will certainly want to consider how they are going to handle requests from individuals and groups wanting to complete paranormal investigations of the location--if you choose to allow them at all--as well as other recognition and media attention that arises from such an event.
Some places charge special fees for unique "haunted tours," and others even arrange all-night ghost hunts. The U.S.S. Salem in Boston, MA, The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, and Waverly Hills Sanitorium in Louisville, KY are examples of locations that are earning revenue and recognition secondary to their haunted status, and are places where one can participate in a paranormal investigation, above and beyond taking a simple tour.
In general, I would say that most ghost hunters are a respectful bunch, and the good ones appreciate the historical significance of such locations, as well as the potential for any paranormal activity.
The Amos J. Blake House Museum is a wonderful example of a New England historical society museum with an interesting and varied collection of artifacts, and--in my mind--this fact FAR outstrips the possibility of any paranormal activity occurring there.
I have participated many paranormal investigations--and have experienced some very strange things--however, on a scale of 1 to 10 related to possible paranormal activity, I would rate the museum a 2 or 3. Considering its wonderful collection and the history contained within its walls, I would rate it a 10.
Of course TAPS, with their top-of-the-line equipment and considerable resources may certainly be more successful then an amateur ghost hunter such as myself when it comes to finding evidence of possible paranormal activity.
It is obvious to me that the board of the Fitzwilliam Historical Society needs to seriously consider if this is a direction they would like to move in, and how the museum got to this point in the first place--a national television show filming in the location, apparently without it's knowledge and consent.
At this time, it appears that consent has been given, albeit in a method in which the board was not aware, and that the investigation will air on national television. The board should consider how they can take advantage of this. My guess is that the situation be viewed as a positive one, an opportunity to increase attention for the museum, possibly resulting in revenue that could be used to help maintain this historic location. It may also have the added benefit of drawing some tourism to the town of Fitzwilliam, and the Monadnock area in general.
The Granite industry was the most important business in Fitzwilliam for more than fifty years, and for a long time it was one of the three principal granite centers of the state. Before any quarries were opened, it had been found that large sheets of stone, which required no dressing except to free them at the sides and ends, could be taken from the surface of the hill south of Fitzwilliam Depot. They were freely utilized. The porch floor and the steps of the Meeting House of 1817, now the Town Hall, are made of these stones; and a few of the old houses have them at their entrances.
The first quarries were opened in 1845 by Melvin Wilson, according to the town history. John Milne, of Aberdeen, Scotland, is said to have been the first stonecutter to come to town. The firms of the early days include the names of Angier, Dutton, Damon, and Forbush. In 1848 the opening of the Cheshire Railroad, providing adequate transportation, gave a great impetus to the industry. Quarries were opened in the Bull Run neighborhood off the Richmond Road, by Collins Pond, east of Fitzwilliam Depot and along the Royalston Road, in fact, almost anywhere anyone wanted to dig, they came before long upon the granite which underlies the town. The largest quarries were on the hill west of the Laurel Lake Road, first owned by Daniel Reed and in 1892 by George P. Webb of Worcester, Mass. A spur of the railroad extended to these quarries, and at the peak of their activity, from 1915 to 1918, about 400 men were employed. A partial list of manufacturers during the years 1900-1923 would include J.C. Baldwin & Son, W.E. Blodgett, Decatur & Son, Emerson Troy Granite Co., Fasote Bros., E.M. Thompson, Perry Granite Co., Rozazza & Norza, Victoria White Granite Co., A.F. Wilson and Edward Yon.
Fitzwilliam quarry workers belonged to the Granite Cutters International Association, and their agreement with the quarry owners for the years 1900-1908 presents interesting figures:
8 hours a day's work, six days a week.
Minimum wage for granite cutters, $2.00 a day.
Minimum wage for hour, $.35.
One hour allowed for dinner.
Any cutter required to go from the shed to the quarries to cut stone shall be paid $.25 a day extra.
Double pay on holidays, and no cutter allowed to work on Labor Day.
The Fitzwilliam granite was of very fine grain and even color, and is said to have had the lowest percentage of iron of any in New England, which made it free from any ultimate discoloration. It had the further advantage that the ledges where the most highly-valued stone was found were so favorably placed that it could be removed at comparatively little expense. Among the buildings in which it was used were the State Capitol, Albany, N.Y., the Public Library at Natick, Mass., the Union Depot and Court House in Worcester, Mass., the Union Station, Washington, D.C., Marshall Field's, Chicago, Ill., and the City Hall and Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ.
The coming of cement construction spelled the end of the granite era in Fitzwilliam.*
The town of Fitzwilliam was named by the colonial governor, John Wentworth, in compliment to his kinsman, Earl Fitzwilliam of England and Ireland, and given its royal charter by George III in 1765. In stately phrase it is granted "by the advice of our trusty and well-beloved John Wentworth, Esq., Governor, and hereby declared to be a Town Corporate by the name of Fitzwilliam, and to have Continuance forever."
The town was organized by a group of men in Massachusetts who had bought the rights from the original holders of the Masonian Grants, and the region was known as Monadnock No.4. It was six miles square, and the land was laid out in lots of 100 acres each, those set aside for the meeting house and the minister's house being in the exact center. By the terms of the royal charter, the grantees were expected to build fifty houses, "each with one room at least 16 feet square," and within five years to build a meeting house and "to have constant preaching there." There were two other conditions in the charter. The lots were to be sold "to such Persons as would engage to settle and improve the same," and "All the White Pine Trees are Reserved for the Use of the Royal Navy."
But as early as 1762 the pioneering spirit of the age had brought the first settler. Benjamin Bigelow and his wife Elizabeth had made their perilous way from Lunenburg, Mass., into the wilderness which was Fitzwilliam, and on May 10, 1762, began the town's story with the birth of their baby, under the shelter of the oxcart which had brought them thither, and which, tipped up against a tree, was their first home.
It took determination and hardiness to come to Fitzwilliam in those days. Most of the pioneers were from the comparatively settled regions of central Massachusetts, and here was primeval forest. There were only two roads, one the military road, dating back to French and Indian war days, which came in from the south and crossed the town in a roughly diagonal line, and the other the "Great Road," along the easterly line of the town, now known as the Fullam Hill Road.
At first, the settlers came in slowly. In 1767, five years after the Bigelow family came, the total population was only ninety people. Elizabeth Bigelow used to say in her old age that for years she was the handsomest woman in town, because she was the only one. It was not until 1770 that there were enough people settled here for them "to provide Stuf," and set about building a meeting house. According to New England tradition, it was built on a hill. It was a plain, square building, with the burying ground adjacent. It must have stood where the present road now passes the burying ground, and no trace of it remains, though the ancient grave-stones of the men who built it, and the monument of its first minister, are still there. The first schoolhouse stood opposite, near the present school. The meeting house was the center of the town, not only geographically but in importance, the one place where the people could get together from their far-scattered clearings for worship, town meetings, and as Revolutionary days came, to have their war meetings.
The first inn was built by James Reed, the only one of the original proprietors to live here. It was the first framed building in town and was two stories high. It stood near the route of the old military road to the north, on what is now the Upper Troy Road. Most of the homes of the first settlers were built of logs, and of them no trace remains. The two oldest houses in the town today were both built in 177l. One, in the village, was built by Jonathan Locke, a notable example of its type, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Francis C Massin; the other, on the Rindge Road, was built by Samuel Kendall, and is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Otis Rawding, and called "the most photographed house in town." Its side door is the one out of which Mrs. Kendall stepped and came face to face with a bear, but "she shook her apron at him and he went back into the woods."
By 1775 the population of the town had risen to 250 people. The houses were still scattered over a wide area, only a little of the land had been cleared and they had just established the town government; but with the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, patriotism rose above all other claims, and Arnold's expedition against Canada, Bunker Hill, Bennington, Saratoga and Ticonderoga are names in Fitzwilliam's history. Forty-three Revolutionary soldiers lie in the old burying ground on the hill.
By the beginning of the 19th century the town had sawmills, gristmills, tanneries, taverns, stores, twelve schools and a singing school. It had also the Rev. John Sabin, for forty years arbiter, and on occasion, autocrat. Of him, many stories survive. A visiting minister once asked him where the people got the stones for their miles of stone walls. Mr. Sabin said, "They get them off the surface of the ground." And the guest exclaimed, "Why, it doesn't look as if one had ever been picked up!"
Fitzwilliam was a busy place in those days. Five coach roads connected it with the outside world. While most of the men were farmers - it is an old story that on one occasion there were gathered on the Common 100 yoke of oxen - the women, besides spinning and weaving the materials for their clothes, braided palmleaf hats, a business so profitable that Mr. Sabin once commented drily, "The dress of the assemblies shows it." Later on, woodenware was manufactured in such quantities that fifty travelling salesmen were employed. At one time Fitzwilliam was known as "The blueberry town of the world," and in the season 100 bushels were shipped daily to Boston. The price was five cents a quart.
About the year 1840, the rocks of Fitzwilliam, which Mr. Sabin once said "were not very frightful when you were accustomed to them," began to prove valuable economically, and the granite industry which arose then became the important business of the town. Fitzwilliam was one of the three principal granite centers of the state. The building of the Cheshire Railroad, in 1848, provided transportation, and the industry reached its peak from l9l5 to 1918, when it had brought in nearly 400 new residents as workmen and their families.
With the years came the gradual changes of a New England town - from farming to many small business enterprises, town improvement, cultural societies and the growth and influence of the churches. Fitzwilliam did its part in each of the six wars of the period, with its quotas of men, the Women's Relief Corps, the Red Cross and Veterans' Societies. The mid 20th century brought new industries and many young families, changing the picture of the town. With this young element has also come a new phase, for an increasing number of people find Fitzwilliam an ideal retirement place. The Rev. Mr. Sabin had a phrase for it, "We have a pleasant village, and so it strikes travellers who pass through it."
Wood was important here before the days that the King's men hammered the Royal Seal onto the trunks of the stately pines that were chosen for the masts of the Royal Navy. Some seventy and eighty foot logs had been rolled into place to make corduroy roads.
Along the streams may be found ruined foundations of many grist and saw mills. The ruins of the earliest mill are no longer visible from the Templeton Road. Pond areas were enlarged by dams for water power. The preparation of lumber and the manufacture of wooden ware products (picture frames, buckets, wheels, carriages, lumber wagons, sleighs, hat racks, wall brackets, rakes, fan handles, nest eggs, bowls, spoons, chairs and furniture stock) has long been associated with names like Bowker, Howe, Stone, Angier, Damon and Grant. Some wood, unusable for products, was at times stacked, covered with dirt and fired to make charcoal.
The hurricane of 1938 destroyed much of the growing merchantable lumber. The woodlands were wrecked so badly that owners could not find some landmarks. An irreparable loss was the destruction of the grove of first growth pines owned by the Damon estate. They were magnificent trees 125 feet in height and 90 feet from the ground to the first limbs.*