Ithaca Bound: Yuletide Favorites

“The Starry Night,” painted in 1889 by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, remains my most revered painting. It hasn’t anything whatsoever to do with the Yuletide season. And yet, in my mind, it has everything to do with it.
Van Gogh was in an insane asylum at the time, and he painted this masterpiece while looking at the night sky through the barred window of his room. His memory and his imagination supplied the rest. Not only do I greatly admire this work, but it also a constant reminder that the line separating genius and insanity is often a very thin one.
In my imagination, it was just such a starry night that inspired Melchior, Balthazar, and Kaspar to begin their journey to Bethlehem.
In my mind, also, the season of Christmas and the season of Easter can never be separated, either. At Easter time, it is Michelangelo’s overwhelmingly powerful “Pieta,” a sculpture that, as the poet Robert Frost said of poetry, strikes the right reader/viewer with a mortal wound, one from which he/she knows he/she will never recover, that rivets itself un the memory.
Most of all, however, Yuletide, for me, brings memories the delightful “Round the Table Carol Service,” which I first experienced as a member of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church choir in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. East Liberty was a modified Gothic styled church that had one of the wealthiest congregations in the city. Of the church’s three full-time ministers, one was Dr. Donald D. Kettring, its Minister of Music.

From his days as a student at Union Theological Seminary, he had brought with him the idea of the Round the Table Carol Service, which he had learned from his mentor Dr. Clarence Dickinson.
The event was held annually in the church’s sizable dining hall. There were two performances, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening, both of which filled most every seat available. Based on the idea of an old English feast, this feast would be a feast of song. With big red bows adorning their usual choir attire, the members of the 50-voice choir filed in and took their assigned places at two u-shaped, decorated, candle-lighted tables. Because lf the lighted candles, each singer had a glass of water at his or her place.
Then, the church’s two pastors, each wearing a dark suit and red robe, were escorted into the room room and to their assigned “thrones” by young folk dressed as pages. The senior pastor would survey the hall and proclaim “Let the feast Begin!”
The next hour would be filled with song and dialogue, not all of it serious, by any means, all centered around a theme that Dr. Kettring had chosen for that year: The Year of the Scroll; The Year of the Tree.
It was a charming and delightful way to usher in the Yuletide season. I still miss not doing one each year.
Ithaca Bound writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily Sun. Ithaca Bound is the pen name of Dick Conway. His email address is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Poof Tardiff: A Town of Today V

Hello fellow Berlinites. I remember when I first started writing my stories for this newspaper in August of 1999. A lot of water has flowed down the Androscoggin River through Berlin since then and I have researched many years of Berlin's history, along with Gorham and Milan, after this first story. It is with pride that this week's story that you are about to read is number 900. That is a lot of searching and writing, but it is what I enjoy and I will keep doing it, as long as my readers enjoy this city's rich history and my heart keeps telling me to share it with the the citizens of this great Northern New Hampshire municipality. Thank you for following my stories about the history of this area and as usual, I hope that you relish this one.

As I continue with the Berlin Mills Sawmill, which started out as Berlin's first major industry, the refuse from the saws passed through sluices to the basement. It was here where it was sorted according to the purposes for which it was used.

There were no “waste products” at this mill, as everything was used. One part went to the newly built pulp mills and another part went to the lath machines. The rest of this waste which had no other use, was cut up for fuel and used in the boiler plant or at the pulp and paper mills. This company bought no fuel whatsoever for use anywhere about its mills. They were energy dependent back in 1896.

In the yards of the sawmill, were several miles of track on which three locomotives owned by the Berlin Mills Company were kept very busy. A spur track had been built from the Grand Trunk to this mill in 1854 especially for the use of locomotives. They also used about 60 horses about the mills to move cars along the tracks.

The product of their lumber mill was sold in the American market and went also in considerable quantities to South America and England. Along with this, they also made about 2,000 cords of birch annually into spool stock that was sold in Scotland.

Every day, they sent out a train of some times 30 cars loaded with lumber, which was run as a special train to Portland and it was known as the “Berlin Train”.

By 1896, the Berlin Mills company included the huge lumber mill, two pulp mills and a two machine paper mill, which were run to great advantage in connection with their lumber business. They also had a gristmill, a machine shop and a large store in which they did an annual business of about a quarter of million dollars.

This company was not only known as a corporation engaged in manufacturing and selling lumber along with pulp and paper. They were not just in the town of Berlin, they were a part of it and very a essential part. The Berlin Mills Village, that portion of the town lying above the “Narrows” ( a passage that used to exist where Cambridge Street now comes into Main Street), owes its existence entirely to the Berlin Mills Company.

The company, or individuals that comprised it, made possible the building of the Congregational Church and always assisted liberally in its support. Also, when there was no public library in town, they maintained a circulating library and when this village established a free library, the company turned over their valuable collection to this town. They also maintained a free reading room, billiard room etc., for their employees and in countless ways this company contributed to a great extent, towards raising the standard of living in this town by 1896.

The officers of this company during the mid-1890s were W. W. Brown, president; James W. Parker, vice president, Thomas Edwards treasurer and H. J. Brown, assistant treasurer and general superintendent of the mills.

We certainly had more industry in Berlin before it became a city in 1897 than we do today (2016) unfortunately. Another company, of which I have previously written was the Forest Fiber Company, whose first mill was built in 1877 and second mill was built in 1880. They would have stood in the vicinity of today's new courthouse on Upper Main Street.

Henry H. Furbish was the originator of this company and always had a prominent part in the direction of its affairs. He became associated in partnership with J. A. Bacon, a paper manufacturer who owned mills and Lawrence, Massachusetts.

These two men continued in partnership until 1893, when a corporation was formed under the name of the Berlin Falls Fiber Company. For many years Mr. Furbish resided in Berlin and was the active manager of his mills. His son W. H. Furbish was the superintendent by 1896. Henry Furbish has always been considered the “Father of Berlin” for all that he did.

This company manufactured pulp by a chemical process known as the “soda process”. The principal ingredients used were soda ash and lime from which a liquor was made and used to cook a wood called poplar, until the acids and resinous substances were freed from the wood, leaving pure cellulose.

This was boiled into sheets and shipped out to be used in paper making. The product of this mill went mainly to such grades of paper that were used in magazines and fairly good book paper, for which purposes ground pulp, from its lack of fiber could not be used. They used eight cords of poplar a day, but I do not know how the wood got to this mill, either the river or another form of transportation.

Another industry that was already four years old by 1896, was the Burgess Sulphite Fiber Company. This new business enterprise was situated on the east side of the Androscoggin River, directly across from the Berlin Falls Fiber Company. It was this mill that had a big effect on the start of Berlin's East Side.

This huge complex manufactured pulp by a chemical process somewhat resembling the soda process in its general features, though differing greatly in detail. In its early days, this mill had many accidents, being known as the most dangerous of mills at which to work.

Here, spruce was used instead of poplar and the raw materials from which liquor was made were lime and sulfur. The lime, of which about five carloads were used weekly, was brought in from the West and the sulpher was imported from Japan and Sicily.

During this year, the lack of snow hindered lumber operations in Coos County. So, the wood used was brought in from various places, with the mill receiving about 40 carloads a day from Canada. Of course during a good winter, the spring drive brought this wood directly to the mill via the river.

This mill was producing 75 to 80 tons of pulp daily and additions would be built in 1896 to increase the output to 100 tons. In this year the Burgess was the largest mill of its kind in America and when the additions were completed, it became the largest mill of its kind in the world.

I will continue with the Burgess Mill and more when I continue with the days before Berlin became a city.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily 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 weekly mystery pictures that have been posted.

James T. ParkerJames T. Parker

Early Burgess MillEarly Burgess Mill

Brown WW 2W.W. Brown

Brown H.JH.J. Brown

Ithaca Bound: Favorites for Yuletide

During the Twelve Days of Christmas, these are my personal Yuletide favorites for listening, reading, speaking aloud, watching. Perhaps you may enjoy the challenge of making your own list.
Of all the fine actors I have seen portray Santa Claus, none has rivaled that of Edmund Gwenn, in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street.” He captured the spirit of the “jolly old elf” to perfection. Ia word, watching Gwenn be Santa Claus was enough to make you believe I never think of Santa without thinking od Edmund Gwenn.
One further thought, In the movie, when Santa is asked how old he is, he replies, “I’m as old as my gums, and a little older than my teeth.” I have uses that line many times since.
My favorite poem for the Nativity is Cristina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Written in response to a magazine’s request for a Christmas poem. Written by 1872, the poem was set to music by the English composer Gustav Holst in 1906. It is in that setting in which it is found in many church hymnals.
Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” Originally written as an instrumental piece, the tune clearly called out for words, and they were quickly supplied by Mitchell Parish. Not specifically for the holidays, it so well captures the spirit of the season that it has become an annual favorite.
For a number of years, NBC used to air an annual presentation of Gian Carlo Mennotti’s chamber opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” While teaching in the Nashua schools, I performed with a community chamber opera group. One season, we performed this delightful piece, and I sang the role Melchior. Melchior is the oldest of the Night Visitors and is given one of its most richly-laden of its arias to sing. Listening to some of he greatest baritone voices of my lifetime sing this aria is one of the must-do’s of each Yuletide.
My favorite on-screen production of Charles Diclens’s “A Christmas Carol” is that of “Scrooge,” by Lesiie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. As the show nears its end, Scrooge has his change of heart and sings a song the words of which might give us all reason to pause for a moment of reflection
It’s called “I’ll BeginAgain,” and its first words are “I’ll begin again, I will build my life , . . . . “
More next time.
Ithaca Bound writes a weekly column for The Berlin Sun. Ithaca Bound is the pen name of Dick Conway. His email address is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Poof Tardiff: A Town of Today IV

Hello fellow Berlinites. We now had Catholic church services in both English and French with the building of St. Kieran's Church in 1894-1895, but the town of Berlin was a multilingual town and services in two languages did not meet the requirements of all of its citizens.

Accordingly, in 1887, the Scandinavian Lutherans of the town formed themselves into a parish and built St. Paul's Lutheran Church in the Norwegian Village and secured the services of a resident Scandinavian pastor, Reverend S. N. Garmoe.

The St. Barnabas mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church was organized by the labors of the Reverend William Lloyd Himes of Concord. This mission owed both its beautiful edifice and the land on which it stood to the generosity of Mr. Henry H. Furbish, who during his residence in Berlin gave freely both of thought and of money to every enterprise likely to be of benefit to the town. In 1896, the Reverend W. B. MacMaster was in charge of this mission.

The Methodists, after worshiping for some time in the Universalist edifice, had built of themselves a commodious structure. It was the first church building on the west side of the Grand Trunk Railway and the services of their pastor, the Reverend F. C. Potter, gave great satisfaction to the members of this congregation. This church still stands today on the corner of First Avenue and Mount Forist Street.

Now, if to be without doctors or lawyers was to be happy, then the town of Berlin must have enjoyed over 50 years of pure bliss. Until 1881, the townsfolk here had to go to Gorham for their medicine and law, as well as theology.

In that year, Dr. Wardwell, who had long administered to the ills of Berlin people while in Gorham, decided to make his home in this up-river town. By now, Berlin was beginning to show signs of future growth.

Wardwell was then followed soon by Dr. F. A. Colby, who became the senior physician here in point of residence after Wardwell's death. By 1896, there were nine doctors and this town, representing two great schools of medicine.

Also, in 1881, the first lawyer came to town in the person of R.N. Chamberlain, who, in his 15 years of residence in Berlin had not only attained eminence in practice of his profession, but had also been prominent in the field of politics. In 1893, he was the speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Mr. Chamberlain was here alone at least four years, before being joined by Daniel J. Daley, who moved here from Lancaster in 1885. Daley also became one of Berlin's great mayors.

These two lawyers being in Berlin was very satisfactory, as there were just sides enough for each case to go around. Then, the intrusion of Herbert H. Goss took place, when he also came over from Lancaster. That made three and put an end to this town's legal utopia. Others followed in greater or less intervals and by 1896 this town had seven lawyers.

Of these men, Mr. Daley served four years as County Solicitor and his partner Mr. Goss, who also held the same position, was the only Republican ever elected to that office in Coos County by then.

Mr. William H. Paine was also in practice here back then and he was formally the Rockingham County Solicitor. The judge of the police court in 1896 was George F. Rich, a partner of Mr. Chamberlain, who was the first judge of that court.

It was in fact, very worthy of noticing back then, that the oldest lawyer in Berlin was not yet 40 years of age and every lawyer that settled here since the first one in 1881, was still here by the mid-1890's.

As was mentioned in an earlier story, the fast growth of Berlin had principally taken place within 1880-1896 and it had been remarked that this growth had been due to two reasons. They were the magnificent water power and its proximity to the forests.

Berlin's foundation, geographically speaking is solid rock; but from a commercial standpoint it was founded on wood, thus, “The City the Trees Built”. Until 1896, every product of its mills had its origin in the forests, it's pulp and paper, as well as its lumber.

It was through this town's large corporations that advantage had been taken of these natural facilities and to them that was owed whatever prosperity Berlin had back then.

The Berlin Mills Company (Brown Company) in 1866 succeeded to the mills and privileges of the H. Winslow and Company (Heritage Park today), as has been stated. From that time on to 1896, their business had been kept annually growing and spreading in one direction or another, making it the largest manufacturing concern in New England, if not the East by the mid-1890s.

This company already owned vast tracts of timberland in New Hampshire and Maine, aggregating about 300,000 acres, cutting and driving their own logs. On their lands, this company was cutting about sixty million feet of logs, spruce and pine, which they drove down the Androscoggin River to their mills in Berlin.

The description of their business in the late 1800's could easily be made to fill a small book, but some conception of it may be afforded by giving my readers a few figures. The Berlin Mills Company, in these days, employed about the mills and yard in the summer, from 600 to 800 men. In the winter, when their lumber operations were ongoing, they gave employment to about 1,200 men and during the spring, they furnished work to about 450 River drivers.

The cutting and driving of their lumber necessitated the owning of a large number of camps with a vast supply of camp outfits, tools, etc. They also had large farms in Berlin and Milan and also on the Diamond and the Magalloway Rivers. These farms were used to raise a considerable amount of feed used by their horses in the woods and in the mill yards.

The sawmill at Berlin was situated at the head of the falls and it contained six band saws, or “Band Mills”, the modern substitute for the old-fashioned circular saw, which went through a huge log about as fast as a person could walk. In addition to these saws, there were two shingle machines, two clapboard machines and two lathe machines. That was quite a sawmill 120 years ago.

The Berlin Mills Company sawmill was now just the start of some of the major industries that had commenced in Berlin back then.

I will continue with this old Berlin story in my next writing.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily 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 posted mystery pictures.

St. Pauls Church 1889St. Paul's Church 1889

Paine William H. 1William H. Paine

Chamberlin R.NR.N. Chamberlin

Berlin Mills SawmillBerlin Mills Sawmill

Ithaca Bound: Remember Manzanar!

They were never accused of committing any crime or of being disloyal to their country. Two-thirds of them were law-abiding American citizens, supposedly under the protection of the United States Constitution. The remaining third had been denied American citizenship. The reason? They weren’t white.
But, on 19 February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law Executive Order 9066, which authorized the military to select ten areas that would be euphemistically designated as relocation centers, round up over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, most of whom made their homes on the West Coast, were rounded up and essentially incarcerate them there until the end of the Second World War.
Manzanar, the name means “apple orchard,” was the first of these “relocation centers” to be completed, and ten thousand men, women, and children of Japanese descent were transported there. There were no trials, no opportunities to defend themselves. Their rights under our constitution were simply ignored. Businesses and homes were lost, never to be regained. Prized personal possessions had to be left behind because of the small amount they were permitted to take with them.
Arriving at the camp, they found that much of what constituted human dignity had been ignored. They found themselves forced to use common latrines and common showers affording them no privacy whatsoever. They had to stand in long lines awaiting their turn to eat at the common mess halls. Keep in mind that these were mostly American citizens who had committed no crime, had made no threats against their country. Their only “crime” was that were Japanese. That was enough for them to have to endure the censure of their own country, and the insults and slanders of many of their fellow citizens.
And yet . . . And yet, when young Japanese men were finally permitted to serve their country during the Second World War, they were among the most highly decorated units in the war
The valor of the 14,000 men who served their country, (while their families were held under armed guard), fighting largely in Italy, France, and Germany, earned them 9,486 Purple Hearts, eight Presidential Unit Citations (Five of them in one month.), and twenty-one of them were awarded Medals of Honor.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had it right when he said that people should be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin
Tomorrow, the 7th of December, we remember the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Let us also remember America’s unprovoked “attack+ on over 110,000 of its own loyal and law-abiding citizens. Let us remember Manzanar!
Ithaca Bound writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily Sun. Ithaca Bound is the pen name of Dick Conway. His email address is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..