Poof Tardiff: 1903

Hello fellow Berlinites. I have a few stories about the year 1903 that I wrote over 15 years ago, but never covered it like I have all of the other years. Therefore, I will try to relate all of the important events and tales that helped make this year’s history for the city of Berlin 114 years ago.

Of course, when I am in this year, I do have two local papers to use, but they do not differ much in their news and facts. They do differ at times in their editorials.

By January 1, 1903, the word was out that Berlin might get a public library, if the City Council saw fit to accept the offer. The following letter had been sent to Mr. A. I. Lawrence Esq. of Berlin on Dec. 27, 1902: "Dear Sir, responding to your letter on behalf of Berlin, New Hampshire. If the city agrees by resolutions of consults to maintain a free public library at cost of not less than $1,500 per year and provide a suitable site for the building, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to furnish $15,000 to erect a free public library building for Berlin. It was then signed by Andrew Carnegie’s secretary Mr. James Bertram."

It was almost unanimous among the men and woman in Berlin to accept the gift from Mr. Carnegie. People though, were wondering what the conditions were so that this library could be built and it was slowing the process of this matter. If there were strings attached, maybe the city of Berlin would not go along with Mr. Carnegie.

The letter that finally got the approval from the city fathers arrived and stated that there were no strings to his offer of $15,000 to the city for a public library building. Even with this, the city thought of putting this issue on the ballot, and this did not please Carnegie, as the city might have thought he was pulling something on them. By the end of 1903 though, we did have a public library and it still stands on the same spot today, 114 years later.

A curious and interesting document that showed how things had changed from 1861 to 1903 in Berlin was posted as a headliner in a January 1903 paper. This strange and interesting document was in the possession of Mr. Dean Paine of this city. It was given to is father by one of the town’s “old timers” and was an accurate map or plan made up of Berlin in 1861 from a survey made at that time, showing the location of every building standing here back then.

While 1861 was not that long ago in the year 1903, many of Berlin citizens were not here back then, as it was mostly the pioneers. If they were here, they were considerably crowded, as the actual count showed 21 buildings total in town.

Six of these buildings were on Main Street, one was a bowling alley near the Glen Mill, one was a saloon and billiard room and one was a hotel. Where Badger Realty is today, the Androscoggin covered the land and the “Heights” where Upper Hillside Avenue is today was nothing but wilderness. Nothing could better illustrate the great strides that Berlin had made during one half a century back then.

Before the advent of the automobile in Berlin, with over 10,000 citizens roaming around the streets, accidents still took place. During this time though, it was with horses and buggies in the summer months, or sleighs in the winter.

An early January paper had two painfully serious accidents that occurred on Berlin streets and one was blamed on criminal carelessness on the part of the driver of a pair of horses.

Saturday morning, Jan. 4, 1903, Miss Mary Marshall left her room in the Clement Block on Main Street to go to her work in the shoe factory on Green Street. She went by way of Mason Street and the new Pleasant Street extension, which was being built to Green Street.

According to Miss Marshall’s statement, she was at the extreme right of the road and just about opposite the Gerrish Block (back of old Woolworth’s), when she heard a team approaching rapidly behind her. She could not move over any further and was struck from behind and finally thrown to the ground as to render her unconscious.

Besides the injury to her back and side, her face was frightfully lacerated, presumably by one of the horses trampling upon it. She was then picked up and brought to a nearby house where medical attention was summoned, and at this time, was made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

It was ascertained that no bones were broken and provided that she had no internal injuries, she would recover, save for the disfigurement of her face. It was understood that the lady had retained counsel and would sue to recover damages for injuries. She would also claim that in addition to the criminal carelessness of the driver, he had no bells attached to his sleigh, which was a law back then.

The other accident, while more serious in its results, was not due to any personal fault or carelessness. Dr. McCabe and Dr. Pulsifer were driving down what is now called Exchange Street from the Grand Trunk Railroad station with McCabe’s team, on the same morning mentioned earlier. When they reached Post Office Square, the horses became frightened by an electric car and broke into a run up Main Street, in spite of the efforts of the men in the sleigh to check them.

Main Street was crowded both with teams and people and several collisions were narrowly averted. In front of the American Express office on Lower Main Street, a team stood near the curb and another was coming on the trolley track next to it. Dr. McCabe made a successful effort to guide his turn out between these two and as he did so, Harold McGowan, employed in the American Express office, stepped from behind the team near the curb and tried to cross the street right in front of the runaway.

The flying hooves of the horse struck him with great force in the side and chest, breaking several of his ribs and causing a most serious injury, as was found afterward. His lungs were ruptured, causing an internal hemmerage that was feared could prove fatal.

Mr. McGowan was taken to his home on Green Street and all medical aid could do was done to help him. My research shows that he did survive.

While this accident was in no way due to carelessness, is still served to illustrate the extreme danger of fast driving on Main Street and to warn people that they must be cautious when crossing a main thoroughfare or any other street.

I will continue with the year 1903 in my next writing.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for the Berlin Sun. Questions or comments email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, join the many fans of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the previously posted weekly mystery pictures.

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