One disappointing observation was the lack of several members of the delegation at the meeting. With the important decisions to be made concerning the former business administrator’s house and the barn one would think that all the information that was discussed would be very important. The decision is one that should require a great deal of thought and discussion.
Chairman Theberge made it clear that public input will be taken and considered before a decision is made on the barn and will not be rushed into. One should be reminded that the county is still receiving money from Agri-mart for their shares when the county was shipping milk. If some of that money was used to maintain the barn until a decision is made it would not be costing the taxpayers any money until a decision is made. That is money that the farm did earn.
The next commissioners meeting is May 15, in Stewartstown at the nursing home beginning at 9 a.m. Chairman Brady has allowed for public input in two different areas of the meeting which is something that he and I believe are crucial to allow the taxpayers to have an opportunity to be better informed about our county government.
Another item that should be up for discussion will be the appointment of several positions on the Coos County Planning Board. There will be two openings for regular members and three openings for alternate members.
As previously mentioned in my column Mr. King had publicly stated that he would not be seeking reappointment to this board. This vacancy could very well be filled by someone from the Unincorporated Places and beginning to balance the board according to the boards own by-laws.
If one is interested they should contact the chairman of the planning board John Scarinza at 375 Randolph Hill Road, Randolph, NH 03593. 466-5775.
An interesting saying that I read the other day speaks volumes. “A compliment offers genuine appreciation for a quality of action seen in another person.” “Flattery is usually self-advancement through gaining the favor of someone else.” Maybe this is something we should think about.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 19:56
There is a powerful sense of place that draws and holds us to this seemingly inhospitable spot. We are connected to this land and humbled by it. We lack the power or the inclination to change it, fortunate to simply endure it and in the end we are all defined by it. Those same awesome forces of nature that carved the profile of the old man millions of years ago—surely -- and ever so slowly – shape us.
The old man was a symbol of this land and to some a point of demarcation of where the true North Country began. But it is also about our people -- as Daniel Webster famously noted. “In the mountains of New Hampshire,” he said, “God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.”
This is a place of tough people – not tough in the popular sense of the word. It has nothing to do with bravado or competition. It is an inward, not outward quality; quiet and unknowing in the eyes of our old timers and the heart of our children. It’s a kindness, sympathy rooted in a common struggle formed by a hard life. Failure is never far away, and while that keeps us on our toes and also opens our ears to the secrets whispers of nature, life and God himself.
The North Country has taken its hits these days – we know how to take a hit and to get back up and we know how to love and care for a neighbors when they are in need. The spirit of the Old Man of the Mountain lives in us and still inspires us. We need to look for new symbols but there are no shortages in the wilds of this place and spirit of our people.
(This an adaptation of remarks made by Sen. Woodburn at the 10-year anniversary of the collapse of the Old Man of the Mountain.)
Last Updated on Monday, 06 May 2013 19:55
“Have you all heard the news,” he asks? We look at each other. No one seems to know what he is talking about. The puzzled faces looking back at him tell the story. We have no idea. It is Saturday, the 3rd of May 2003.
“The Old Man fell this morning,” he says, or words to that effect. “It must have happened sometime during the night. Workers discovered he was gone this morning. The Old Man of the Mountain is no more.”
Some in our group let out audible expressions of shock. Some simply shake their heads in dismay. How did it happen? How could it happen? What does the state do now? The Old Man’s proud profile had so defined the Granite State of New Hampshire. A state rugged and self-reliant had a symbol that boldly proclaimed it so. It had kept watch over its people for who knew how many centuries? Most thought it would last for centuries more.
But there were those who knew better. There were those who knew how precarious the Old Man’s perch on the mountain really was. Efforts had been going on for decades to try to save it from falling and preserve its prominent place in New Hampshire lore for generations yet to come. But time, wind, and weather had been working their way, also. The Old Man was going to fall sooner or later. It was no longer a matter of if, but when.
When was sometime during the night of 2-3 May 2003. Even for those who knew the truth about the Old Man’s perch, the when came sooner than expected. The vigilant visage that could be discerned distinctly only when looking southward from the north had finally fallen victim to the ravages of time. All men fall in due time. That Saturday morning in May, a decade ago, was the Old Man’s time.
Happily, initial thoughts of putting some kind of man-made substitute back up in its place had little momentum. Nature had created the silent sentry of the state. Nature had decided that it had had its day. Build a memorial if you must, but don’t be arrogant enough to try to replace it. Let it live in memory, where it properly belongs.
Driving home that Saturday in May a decade ago, there was little opportunity to try to take a quick glance to where the silent sentry had held sway. The popular viewing area was filled with television trucks and cordoned off by state police. Not a space was to be found in the parking area in front of Cannon Mountain.
Within a few days, I helped put together a memorial exhibit in one of the glass-topped showcases in the 1803 barn in Heritage-New Hampshire. There were newspaper and magazine accounts past and present of the state’s symbol; photographs from over the decades; a few stories -Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Great Stone Face,” for example; poems that had been inspired by the Old Man’s visage; the quarter that had been issued in 2000 that was noted for being the only two-headed coin; and various souvenir items that had been gathered over the years.
Long held in reverence by the state’s original inhabitants, the formation was first recorded in 1805 by a team of surveyors. In 1945, it became the official state emblem and could be seen on state route signs and automobile license plates.
The most famous comment about The Great Stone Face was the one made by New Hampshire-born Daniel Webster, in which he noted that “up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.” A stirring statement, indeed.
But all men eventually fall. A decade ago on this date, New Hampshire’s Man fell.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 May 2013 19:33
Now that the winter season seems finally behind us, Mike Perrault and the Public Works Department crews are gearing up for some badly needed infrastructure repairs. At the top of the list is the sewer main replacement project on Hutchins Street. Wright-Pierce, the city's consulting engineer on waste water and inflow and infiltration (1&1) work is finalizing design. It is my hope that within the next 4-6 weeks we can bid the work and have Hutchins Street paved from Bean Brook Bridge to Turcotte Street. We also plan to demolish about eight dilapidated properties that the city tax deeded this past year. Although we've come a long way to achieving our goal, we still have much to do. The main eyesore, the old rooming house next to the Holiday Center, is slated for final demolition before school gets out. Main Street is looking nice these days, but it is very important that we make every effort to support our downtown merchants. The downtown is the pulse of Berlin and the many businesses there provide goods and services that can't be found anywhere else. Where else can you be greeted with a smiling familiar face?
There have been numerous letters to the editors lately on employee contract issues. Although I feel it is in no one's best interest to negotiate in the press, the city council has been consistent with it's philosophy that city employees all be treated equally. As a bit of side information, newly hired City Manager Jim Wheeler will be receiving as part of his compensation the health plan that was recently accepted and ratified by AFSCME Local 1444 public works, waste water, park and recreation and water works. RSA:273 requires that the legislative body accept cost items for all labor agreements. The legislative body in a city form of government is the city council. With local resources already stretched, the city council is wary of allowing employee costs to escalate out of control. That would only set us all up for big layoffs in the future or worse, the elimination of services that may be done cheaper in the private sector. If labor, management and the council all work together, it is possible to insure no one ends up out of work.
Finally, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are back! For us die-hard hockey fans, it's two and three games a night for the next seven weeks. GO HABS GO!
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 May 2013 19:28
Written by Poof Tardiff
In November of 1897, the murder in Gorham, of which I wrote, mentioned the event that had taken place three months previous in another of Berlin's border towns called Randolph. With this I went back and found the Randolph shooting event that had taken place.
“Little did old Mount Jefferson think on Saturday evening July 31, as he cast his long shadow over the Lowe place in Randolph, that before tomorrow's light should dawn, there was to be such a tragedy enacted at the little cottage below him, as would never die out of the terrified memories of those who saw the angry flash that brought a swift and untimely death”.
Also, “Little did he dream, when he sank to sleep in great downy banks of clouds, with the solemn hush of country peace everywhere, that the first rays of the Sabbath sun, readily streaming through the valley, were to fall across the prostate body of Norman Decost”. Such was the scene in this small hiking town when the authorities arrived on Sunday morning.
Trying to find out where this murder actually took place, I stopped at Lowes garage the other day and was told by family member Gordon that it happened in a building on the Valley Road, which is still owned by a Lowe family relative.
A reporter from the 1897 Berlin newspaper arrived at this house to check out the scene of the crime and he was met at the door by Constable Reed and Selectmen T. S. Lowe of Randolph, along with Sidney M. Brown, coroner. They asked what the reporter’s business was here and he told them that he wanted to cover the story.
The writer was then brought into a sitting room and was met by Emma Knight, Ethel Varney and Maud Tibbetts, who were residents of this place and had witnessed the murder, telling him their side of the story.
Please understand that I am trying to sum up this long narrative in my column, so I will move on to the facts that I have found. One thing that I was told is that this was some type of a drinking place where people met in these days, but I am not sure.
On Saturday night at 10:45 o'clock Norman Decost, a native of Prince Edward Island, allegedly attempted to force entrance into the house kept by George A. Staples, in the town of Randolph, about 8 miles from the Waumbeck House and four miles from the Ravine House. Supposedly, all of this took place a day after Decost had tried to cut Ethel Barney's throat in the same house.
On the day of the shooting, after being warned to stop forcing his way into the Staple residence, Decost was shot and instantly killed with a 45 caliber Winchester rifle.
Before continuing with this story, a short description of both men's past was now printed in the paper and it seemed like the two of them were characters with major problems.
Norman Decost had been hanging around Berlin for several years and was of a very quarrelsome disposition when drinking. He had been arrested and locked up in Berlin several times. The last time that he was confined in jail, he had tipped over the chimney and made his escape through the roof.
It was assumed that he left the vicinity, so authorities did not pursue him. But, he did return and was arrested by Sheriff Wheeler, Chief Lambert and Patrolman Youngcliss. Decost was then sentenced to a term in the Lancaster jail which finally expired on July 5, 1897.
Upon his release, Decost returned to Berlin and threatened all three officers that had sent him to jail. He was then run out of this city and found a job at the Ammonoosuc Lumber Company in West Milan where he remained until July 27.
Upon leaving his employment, he went to his boarding house, broke into a room, demolished a safe with an ax and stole $15. He also stole $1.50 from another man's trunk and departed.
On Thursday, July 29, he showed up in Randolph and wanted to work doing some haying, but both Mr. Lowe and George Staples refused to hire this man.
As for Mr. Staples, the shooter, he was the former proprietor of the famous (or infamous) Lead Mine House in Gorham and was not always known as being the most peaceable man in the world.
After several shooting affrays and other equally disreputable affairs, he was driven out of Gorham by the law and next heard of in the town of Jefferson. Not liking Jefferson, Staples went to the Lowe place in Randolph on June 28, rented half of it and also had the three women previously mentioned living there.
It seems that all parties involved were brought here to Berlin for a trial with Solicitor Goss conducting the prosecution and William H. Paine appearing in defense for Staples .
During this trial, many witnesses told practically the same story, all bearing in the same direction, that Decost was a man who was totally irresponsible for anything in the line of morality.
A man by the name of George Bouchard then testified that he and other men had found Decost at the foot of the hill on the night of the murder, near a place called the Gorham Hill House (now this must have been the bar mentioned). He had been deserted, was drunk and disorderly and the proprietor did not want him around anymore.
Bouchard said that he and the other men put the drunken Decost in a wagon and finally described him as falling asleep before they reached what we call the Valley Road today (2013) and the Staples residence. It was at this point that Bouchard’s story contradicted all of the other witnesses, being told in such a way that it carried a lot of weight.
Mr. Bouchard said that on knocking at the door and being admitted, he saw Staples with a gun in his hand and not in another room, as had been previously testified.
Being that Decost was highly intoxicated, explains why he was standing with his hands upon each side and not responding when warned not to come in. There had been no struggle and the unvarnished facts were that Decost was practically helpless from being so drunk. Thus, Staples fired a shot that branded him as a murderer for the rest of his days.
There was no doubt that Decost was a violent man and many people were afraid of him, but with the number of men in place and without a sign of a struggle to warrant the plea, “self defense” would never cover the field. At this point the defense brought no witnesses and neither side desired to make any extended plea.
The testimony of George Bouchard was a bombshell in the ranks of the defense that could not be recovered. Consequently, the council for the defense had no heart to ask for an acquittal. As a result, Staples was committed to jail to wait for the October term of court and all of the witnesses were also ordered to give bail for their appearance.
I have tried to find the news from the October term of court, but to no avail. I am sure that the court records somewhere have the outcome to this whole trial. As for the town of Randolph, it citizens were determined that the mental and physical peace of their fair valley and mountain homes would here after remain undisturbed by crime or any of its accessories. That meant there would be no more drinking places.
The writer said that Staples shot would never cease to echo through the mighty gorges and Granite Mountains of the Presidential Range until it had become the signal gun of this resort and hiking region, calling to arms morality, along with law and order.
As mentioned, this was just a short version of everything that took place in what I believe was Randolph’s first and only homicide, but I stand to be corrected. The incident that took place back then certainly rocked this small town to the core back in the summer of 1897.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 18:58