By Garry Rayno
New Hampshire’s thriving businesses and nearly negligible unemployment rate reflect a growing economy constrained only by an aging workforce and a limited number of skilled workers entering the system.
But a drive along the back roads of New Hampshire’s rural areas from the North Country to the state’s southwest shows another Granite State, with families caught in the cycle of poverty, workers stuck in low-paying jobs with little room for advancement, opioid addiction and alcoholism eating at society’s fabric and little state help to change it.
The manufacturing sector that once fueled the economies of small cities and towns has been gone for years, leaving no economic ladder to climb for those who remain.
A recent report reinforces what has been known for some time: New Hampshire is two states, not one.
Much of the economic activity that makes up the state’s economy is in four counties: Rockingham, Hillsborough, Strafford and Merrimack. The rest of the state has not recovered from the great recession with few if any new jobs added in the past five or six years.
Places like Portsmouth with more than 100 restaurants, shops, hotels, historic places and its creative community draws boatloads of tourists. Manchester’s Millyard hosts high tech firms with young workers looking for things to do, while Concord has revitalized its Main Street.
Then there are Franklin, Newport and Claremont whose once glorious pasts as centers of economic activity now seem hollow reminders of what their communities used to be.
Young people who cannot find work are fleeing rural Coos, Grafton, Carroll and Sullivan counties as well as workers who have to travel hours to earn a paycheck and many more miles to a hospital that will deliver a newborn child.
However bleak the future may be for those in rural communities, it is as bright for those in southeastern New Hampshire.
The private sector, responsible for 90 percent of production and employment in the Granite State, sold $3.4 billion more goods and services to state residents, fellow Americans and foreigners from 2015 to 2016, according to Greg Bird, N.H. Center for Public Policies Studies’ economist, increasing wages by $1.3 billion.
“The transactions that comprise the New Hampshire economy are disproportionately occurring in the southeastern section of our state,” Bird writes in the report. “Consequently, the positive economic trends outlined above are isolated in a few corners of New Hampshire.”
The vast majority of newly created jobs and wages paid have been in the urban areas, and where people are moving the past few years.
Bird said while the more populous urban areas would be expected to see more growth, it is far greater than anticipated.
He notes Rockingham County accounts for 23 percent of the state’s population, but was responsible for 40 percent of job growth and population gains in the Granite State.
While the job growth is impressive, there are some troubling signs. The private sector job growth has been in health care, construction, restaurants and white-color office businesses.
Three of the top eight industries with job growth are in the health care sector which could be significantly impacted by potential changes in the Affordable Care Act coming from Washington.
Also, many of the new jobs pay wages below the state average, making it difficult for many to live in the communities where they work.
With the job growth centered in the four southeastern counties, the other six are being left behind.
Places like Berlin and Groveton had their lifelines cut when the paper mills closed, and nothing has replaced the lost jobs except prison work in Berlin.
The six counties do have sweet spots such as Conway or the towns around Lake Winnipesaukee and Lake Sunapee, Hanover and Lebanon, and other college towns like Plymouth and Keene, but not far away, the dismal backroads are a very different story.
It should surprise no one Donald Trump won the New Hampshire Presidential Primary in a landslide while Bernie Sanders did the same on the Democratic side.
The two politicians may come from different sides of the political spectrum, but they both spoke of the economic dislocation of people who once were the backbone of America, but are now alienated, angry and most importantly left behind and forgotten.
Many people in rural areas are hurting, and much of Concord’s focus the past few years has done nothing to address that.
The one thing that could make a significant difference is more accessible higher educational opportunities, but lawmakers have been slow to restore state aid to pre-recession levels.
The fiscal 2012-13 state operations budget approved by the 2011 Legislature slashed state aid in half to the university and community college systems, sending tuition rates higher and higher in the state with the highest student debt in the country. Not only do New Hampshire college students have the highest debt, New Hampshire contributes the least of any state to help its students pay for higher education.
New Hampshire is one of nine states where tuition revenues are double state funding for higher education, according to a report published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The university and community college systems received a combined $394.5 million in tuition from students while state aid to the systems was $132.6 million.
For fiscal year 2011, the university system received $100 million in state aid, but only $51.6 million in 2012. For the current 2018 fiscal year budget, the system will receive $81 million.
New Hampshire higher education tuition increased 39.4 percent from 2007 to 2017, the fourth highest increase for four-year institutions in the country. The increase translates into a $4,424 increase compared to a national average of $2,484.
The community college system received $37.6 million in state aid in fiscal 2011, and that dropped to $23.6 million in 2012. In fiscal 2018, state aid is $46.5 million.
While state aid to higher education lags, lawmakers decided to cut the rates of the business enterprise and business profits taxes which together are the single biggest source of revenue for the state.
The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute notes those tax reductions may in the future make it more difficult to increase state aid for higher education.
“The increased risk of reduced revenue from these rate changes, as well as a proposed 18 percent reduction in federal Pell Grant aid, the primary source of grant aid, should alert policymakers to potential future challenges students and families may face when paying for higher education in the state and the subsequent consequences for New Hampshire’s workforce and economy,” the report read.
“Given New Hampshire’s workforce constraints and demographic trends, the state’s public institutions of higher education can be key resources for bolstering the economy and productivity.”
The question is will a more robust higher education system help the entire state, not just the southeastern corner?
Not right away, but it would be a start.
Lawmakers have several bills to boost workforce programs they will have to act on the first month of the 2018 session that will indicate what approach this lLegislature will follow.
Hello fellow Berlinites. It seems that the citizens of Berlin were getting worried about the amount of arrests that were taking place during the beginning of the fall of 1903. A new liquor license law in the state seemed to have caused the problem.
A large number of workmen employed at the Cascades, building the new mill, increased the drinking population to a considerable extent and the large number of these men were arrested due to being drunk. In many cases, the same person had been arrested for drunkenness two or three times within a week, and the question was raised as to whether the dealers and saloons were following the rules of the new law.
As proper disposal of persons who were frequently before the local police caught for being inebriated and those who did not pay their fines for the first offense, it was advocated that the city open up a wood yard and give them a chance at cutting wood. I did not see where this penalty had been instituted.
A couple of local deaths dealing with prominent citizens took place during October 1903. The entire city was shocked early Wednesday morning, Oct. 7, 1903, when Dr. Herbert C. Whalen took ill the day before and passed away at 7 a.m. on the following morning. The news seemed highly creditable, as this local physician was taken ill in his office in the Gilbert block (across from City Hall today) early Tuesday evening. Dr. Denison had called on Whalan’s office, when he took sick and at once tried to relieve his afflicted friend.
Other doctors in the city were called and they did everything possible to restore Whalen to consciousness, but their efforts were to no avail and he died at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. The doctor had urinating problems for some time and it is said that this was probably the cause of his death.
After finishing his studies, Dr. Whalen came to this city to practice his profession and acquired a large circle of friends and patients, having laid the foundation for a large practice. Dr. Whalen was buried in Gorham..
Another famous Berlin resident passed away on Oct. 30, 1903 at the ripe old age of 87. His name was Albert H. Gerrish (Gerrish Street). Mr. Gerrish was born on Oct. 8, 1816, moved to Gorham in 1860 and then to Berlin in 1865. He owned the water privilege at the Cascades, where the paper mill was now being built by the Berlin Mills Company, the tall chimney being on the exact site of his house. It was at this spot, that Mr. Gerrish had a sawmill and had engaged in the lumber business. Mr. Gerrish is considered one of this city’s early pioneers.
During the beginning of November 1903, Gen. John B. Gordon, a top ranking figure in the Confederate Army, came to Berlin and spoke to the citizens of this city at the Clement Opera House. Gordon was the father-in-law of Mr. Orton. B. Brown, manager of the Berlin Mills Company (Brown Company) and was well known in this city. His subject was “The last days of the Confederacy.” Gordon was one of the survivors of that lessening rank of brave man, who from 1861 to 1865, fought with the gallantry unexcelled in the annals of history, for a cause that he believed to be right.
Gen. Gordon spoke of Gettysburg and other major battles in which he participated and gave credit to the officers of both the North and the South. These were his initial remarks: “Ladies and my fellow countrymen, I stand before you this evening as a Southern man and a soldier of the Confederate Army, but nevertheless true to our country, our flag and all it represents, but while my talk is of war, my mission is of peace.” He must have been great to hear back then, but I wonder how that speech would go over in these days. John Gordon was also a U.S. Senator from the state of Georgia from 1873 to 1880 and from 1891 to 1897. He was, as well, the 53rd governor of Georgia from 1886 to 1890. His daughter, Caroline Gordon Brown, is buried in the city cemetery next to her husband here in Berlin.
Another of the many mill accidents that happen in 1903 took place on Oct. 26 and claimed the life of Mr. Peter Bouffard. The fatal accident occurred at the Burgess Sulphite Fiber Mill, the most dangerous of Berlin’s plants.
Mr. Bouffard was struck by a belt and clasp while working in the wood room, where he was cleaning debris occasioned by the installment of a new piece of shafting from the previous day. While about his work, Bouffard went too close the 36 inch belt used in the machinery of this room and the metal clasp and bolt caught him in the back of the head. The force of the blow killed this Berlin man instantly.
Mr. Bouffard was about 60 years old and resided on Mason Street in the St. Giles District of this city. That would be in the area where Granite and Mason Streets come together today (2017). He was survived by two sons.
The original chimes for St. Anne’s Church arrived in this city during the second week of November 1903, coming here from France. The bells were three in number and were made at the foundry of Couzet Hildebrance at Louvieres, France.
The ceremony for the blessing and the first ringing of the bells took place at the church on Sunday, Nov. 29, 1903. Immediately after the services took place the bells were raised to the position and were rung for the first time shortly after 5 p.m. Each bell has an inscription on it, and it was said that the beautiful tones of the bells were much admired by the parishioners and the citizens of the rest of the city. Are these the same bells that are there today? I think so, but can be corrected on this.
Finally, the City National Bank (old Holiday Center today), was finished and occupied on Monday morning, Nov. 23, 1903. The original occupants were the City Savings Bank and the City National Bank.
A description of this building, the material used, its measurements and cost, which was $15,000, were put in the newspaper for the citizens to read. In short, while the description can in no way do such a building justice, it was soundly the most elegant building of any at this time in the city of Berlin.
The bank was organized in 1900 and did its business in a building on the corner of Green and Main streets, where the Northway Bank now stands. It was the outgrowth of the Berlin Savings Bank and Trust Company and many old officers in that institution left it when a considerable portion of the stock changed hands.
The work on the building was started in April 1903, as mentioned in one of my earlier stories. It was designed by A. I. Lawrence of Berlin and built by L. W. Goodie of Lisbon, New Hampshire. Many businesses to include a clinic hospital came through this building in its 114 years of existence. What will it be next?
I will continue with the history of Berlin during 1903 in my next writing.
Hello fellow Berlinites. Before the summer was finished in 1903, several accidents had taken place that claimed the lives of Berlin’s citizens. Of course, many of these tragedies took place in the local mills.
On Friday, July 31, 1903, Max Ortelt, an employee of the International Paper Company, was caught in a paper machine at about 7:30 p.m. and instantly lost his life. Mr. Ortelt was employed as a back tender on this machine, and when he commenced work at 6 p.m., found both reels full of paper, due to the improper working of the machine during the daytime shift.
When he started to wind off the surplus, he led off with the paper on the upper reel. The paper broke, and to prevent it from catching on the lower reel, Ortelt reached for the end of the paper. The 20-year-old man then was caught up in the machine, which took his life, becoming another of Berlin’s Mills' statistics.
Another sad accident that took place on Aug. 21, 1903, that was not related to the manufacturing in this city, was that of Mrs. Phileas Nadeau, who was severely burned trying to light her kitchen stove. She had risen before her husband in the morning and was using kerosene to light the fire when the liquid in the can started burning and exploded, setting fire to her clothes. The sudden burst of flames frightened the lady and she ran to the room where her husband was sleeping, jumping on his bed. He was awakened at once and tried his best to relieve his terrified wife. He did succeed in putting out the flames, but not until severe injuries were inflicted to his own arms and hands.
Despite the efforts of Dr. Provost, the 23-year-old lady died the following day. Another sad accident that took a young Berlin citizen and left a small child motherless.
In the fall of 1903, not long after the start of the 1903-1904 school year, an incident took place at the Marston School that was the talk of this growing city for several weeks. J. W. Hamlin, the principal of this school, was before the court, charged with assault on 14-year-old Richard Farnham, a student at this schoolhouse, brought on by the parents of this lad.
The courtroom was filled to the maximum, and it was evident that considerable interest had been awakened by the reports that had been going around since this disturbance took place. This was Mr. Hamlin’s first term of school and he had come highly recommended to the board of education.
The first witness to testify was the young Farnham boy, and he said that he was standing in the line formed by the pupils before marching into the building. A boy in back of him punched him and in turn, he told the classmate to cut it out.
It was at this juncture, so he testified, that Mr. Hamlin appeared, grabbed him by the back of the neck and chin and threw him several feet down the terrace. During his flight, the boy’s feet struck another student in the face causing his nose to bleed.
Young Farnham also said that he struck on some rocks, being bruised to such an extent that he was lame and sore for some time, remaining in bed for the greater part of three school days. Several of the other students testified to corroborate Farnham’s story and the father and grandmother explained to the court the condition of the boy following his punishment.
Mr. Hamlin testified that he had some difficulty with several of the students while making the class line, especially the Farnham boy. The principal had visited all of the grades at the onset of school, explaining the rules and regulations that he expected to be carried out and he said he had to speak several times to the boys in line.
Other teachers also gave testimony that the pupils had been unruly since the opening of the school term, but the bone of contention was the height of the terrace over which the boy was thrown and the rocky ground on which he landed.
Farnham’s attorney said that this was not “reasonable corporal punishment,” but the school’s attorney said the law was very plain in such cases and that a teacher was allowed the same latitude as a parent, and Mr. Hamlin was acquitted. Things have certainly changed since then for both teachers and parents.
Two weeks later, J. W. Hamlin was again in the news and he was dismissed from Marston School, when a revival of matters in connection with this principal took place. The facts that were eventually uncovered created quite a bit of excitement and alarm.
Even with his acquittal, there seemed to be a strong wave of public sentiment against this teacher-principal. It was now apparent that he would have a hard row to hoe as a result of the Farnham episode. People wanted to know more about this man and where he came from. Trouble with other students was continually occurring, and the relation between scholars and teacher were becoming strained. With this, some new facts were now presented to the public.
After the arrest and acquittal of Mr. Hamlin, in the beginning of October 1903, Mr. Farnham wrote to the sheriff at Rumford Falls, Maine, to make an inquiry regarding Mr. Hamlin. He did this because of reports that he had heard about this new Marston principal.
This fresh research elicited a letter from the Maine official, bringing to light the fact that Hamlin had stolen $50 from an express company in Rumford Falls, while he was a clerk in their employee and later, he was arrested for pocket peddling of liquor.
The first case was dropped, after Mr. Hamlin returned the money, but in the second case, he was tried before the Municipal Court in Rumford Falls and found guilty. When the report reached Berlin and the facts became known to the board of education, Hamlin was fired at once.
Before Hamlin was engaged as principal, he had several recommendations from reliable parties, who were known personally by members of the school board of education. At the time the principal’s selection was made, the school board had received very few applications, to be exact, only one other one besides Hamlin’s.
This must have been the gossip in Berlin for at least two weeks, if not longer, and it certainly must have changed how the local board of education conducted their future interviews.
I will continue with the interesting history of Berlin’s in 1903 with my next writing.