Voices in the wilderness and community conversations

It was an ungodly 5 a.m. on June 16, 1976, as I shook my father’s hand and boarded the Concord Trailways bus at what was then Freddy Prince’s IGA Food Liner. I was suddenly struck by the realization that this was the “end of the line.” Freddy’s was as far north as the bus went and so beyond Berlin was, and is still in some ways, a virtual and paradoxical wilderness.

Having just graduated from high school, I had used the intervening seven days to say my goodbyes to all that could be relevant to a man/boy of just 18. I had gone to a going away party at a friend’s camp on Cedar Pond, arriving home only hours before what was going to be an interminable succession of bus rides that would culminate at Fort Dix, N.J.

I had made my first poor nascent adult decision and liberally imbibed beer and bourbon as my contemporaries wished me well on my last night home. My childhood friends and I had talked well into the night about what we all would do and where we all would go in the intervening days, months and years.

Many would imminently leave to go to college or planned to work at the paper mill. I was somewhat alone and conspicuous in that I was going into the army at a time when a military career wasn’t a first choice in the immediate aftermath of the long and unpopular Vietnam War. However, I had convinced myself that I was only doing what my father and countless Americans had done. No one was beating down my door to give me a scholarship; I was simply another small town boy needing to find a purpose, embark on a path and make my own way in life. In that, nothing has really changed.

I can still see concerned look on my father’s face as we sat in the Dunkin Donuts shop prior to my bus departure. I tried unsuccessfully to consume a cup of coffee in my state of near post-inebriation with the knowledge that I had likely disappointed my dad. In some deep place in my mind and soul, I appreciated his forbearance in not attempting to scold me and it came to me that his unspoken words carried the weight that, it was now my job to be the “Captain of my ship and the master of my soul.”

It was a lot to take in at 4 o’clock in the morning and when I looked at the looming reality of the dawning day, I felt sullen, despairing and vastly uncertain over the choice I had made. In any case, there was no going back. To mark the occasion, my father had purchased for me a small wooden plaque that contained the poem oftentimes referred to as “A Father’s Prayer.” My dad was not given to emotionally laden gestures but at that moment his attempt at a meaningful parting of father and son left us even emptier and with little to say. I doubt that father and son partings are ever easy but I dutifully regarded his offering albeit with limited enthusiasm.

It reads as follows:

Your Family Name
By Nelle A Williams

You got it from your father
It was all he had to give
So it’s yours to use and cherish
For as long as you may live

If you lost the watch he gave you
It can always be replaced
But a black mark on your name
Can never be erased

It was clean the day you took it
And a worthy name to bear
When he got it from his father
There was no dishonor there

So make sure you guard it wisely
After all is said and done
You’ll be glad the name is spotless
When you give it to your son

Needless to say, it was not a poignant “movie moment.” I am not even on the bus yet and out of Berlin and as I read this poem, I was already guilty of sullying up the family name. My father’s inscrutable look betrayed he just might be harboring similar feelings. I slipped it into my pocket thinking to myself, “Just what the heck does he expect me to do with this thing, hang it above my bunk at basic training? The intervening silence between us was heavy but there was nothing left to say. Inevitably and thankfully the bus arrived and I boarded it, settled in and watched my father watch me leave my hometown. My hands kept reaching into my pocket and I must have read that poem a couple of hundred times on the 20-hour bus trip to New Jersey. That unadorned plaque accompanied me throughout the majority of my life’s travels and I never forgot the meaning or my father’s intentional message contained in the its simple lines.

Both my parents are still current Berlin natives. Except for a three-year stint by my father in the Korean War, they have resided in Berlin all of their lives. It took me 35 years to return to my beloved Berlin to join all the hardy and diverse people that strive and persevere in the Great North Woods. I’ve reinvented myself so many times over the years from my time as an Army Combat Medic to the person that now gets to drink coffee every day with my 88-year-old dad and mom.

My pilgrimage has taken me halfway around the world, and I have resided all over this great country from Texas to Massachusetts and many places in between. I spent my life working in medical research and have participated and witnessed the dawning and evolution of a technological world and a complete reinvention and attendant consequential changes, both good and bad, that such progress engenders. From that time to this day my certitudes of what to believe consume me to the core of my being and, like most of you, I have ever more questions than I have ready answers.

Recently, while conversing with my old dad on the many consternating topics of the day, he abruptly stood up and did an elderly and graceful human pirouette and with outstretched arms said: “You can only react to and control what is in your grasp, the rest depends on how far you want to reach out for.” I look at him a lot these days with a renewed appreciation. In my life, I have traveled more widely and variously than he, but we very much flow from a deep and common source that ultimately has its roots in the Great North Country and Berlin in particular. My dad is still as sharp, effective and independent as the day that he placed me on the Trailways bus more than 41 years ago.

So, there you have it. As for me, I’m pretty much a construct of rigorous scientific methodology, extraordinary mentors and teachers, formative experiences and lastly, my deep roots in a place that I have always loved but that I could not indulge given my occupational pursuits. My soulmate and wife Barbara and I feel a profound sense of pride and contentment to be part of the Berlin community. I want to thank The Berlin Sun for affording me a potentially recurring platform where, as a community, we might explore a continuing and respectful dialogue and a sharing of inclusive perspectives that can only better inform differing journeys and personal circumstances in these greatly changing times.

I am at heart “An American Refugee” who has finally had the opportunity to come home. My hope is that people might be ready to hear and to share some human interest stories. And maybe, we might begin some cracking good community conversations and hear and listen to the collective voices from “the wilderness” that comprise the great people of Berlin and all of the communities that make up the Great North Woods.

David W. Boucher
Proud North Country Resident


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.

Pulscifer DocDoc Pulscifer

Post Office Square trolleysPost Office Square trolleys

Library 1903 04Library 1903



Poof Tardiff: POWs of Stark

Hello fellow Berlinites. From what I have researched, the first trainload of German prisoners of war came to the Percy, N.H., railroad station in the Spring of 1944. They were then brought to the small village of Stark, where it was that a camp had been built for these war prisoners.

Two months later, a reporter went to this place to observe its population. Never having been in the vicinity of a prisoner of war camp and being devoid of knowledge concerning such a wartime necessity, he brought pen and paper.

Poof Tardiff: Exploring the history of Mount Jasper

Hello, fellow Berlinites. Many people who come to the Berlin area for the first time in their lives are taken aback by the mountains that surround this Upper Androscoggin Valley city. Not only that, they can’t believe the amount of hills that we have.
Cates Hill, Enman Hill, Mount Forist, Jericho Mountain, Mount Carberry and Mount Jasper are some of the high points of interest that surround this city. These smaller rises are then surrounded by larger ones such as a Presidential Range of the White Mountains, the Kilkenny Range out toward Route 110 and the Mahoosic Range on our Maine border.
Our Native Americans were probably all over these mountains at one time or another gathering supplies, hunting and fishing, but our most famous mountain for these earliest inhabitants was the one down the street from me and where I spent many days of my childhood roaming. It is called Mount Jasper.
The cave on the side of this mountain was always the object of our climb and we spent many hours playing in it, on top of it, below it and around it. We called it the old “Indian Cave” and we knew that at one time it had something to do with these archaic natives. We did not know, however, the whole story, and in the last 40 years there have been many answers to why it is here.
There were a couple of tribes of Native Americans that were mentioned as being in this area. They were the Penobscot, who had possession of all the country watered by the Penobscot, Kennebago and Androscoggin rivers. There was also another tribe called the St. Francis who lived in Canada and were friendly with the Penobscot.
The St. Francis tribe’s great thoroughfare was here on the Androscoggin River, and their camping places whenever possible were located on its islands. Often, the curiosity seeker would find many things that richly rewarded their search on these islands. Maybe they were not very valuable as far as dollars and cents were concerned, but valuable relics, such as spear points, arrowheads tomahawks and even bullets after the white man arrived were found.
Now these arrowheads and other things were made of what was then called Jasper (rhyolite today). This stone was very hard, and most of these old camping places had some, which were evidently chipped from larger pieces.
It had been a source of wonder where these natives had obtained this stone. This was settled in the year 1859, when William Sanborn found that what then became locally known as Jasper Cave on Cave Mountain. Mr. Sanborrn was a great outdoors-man, hunter and fisherman. It was said that he knew this area like the back of his hand. Certainly this is why the name was changed form Cave Mountain to Mount Jasper.
When Sanborn found and went inside this cave, he was convinced that this was where the natives mined for their weapons and equipment, some of which have been found four hundred miles away, many years ago.
Mr. Sanborn was the original owner of the Sanborn Place, where the Body Line is today in Berlin on Route 16. At one time in 1857, Sanborn lived on the old Murray Place on Upper Main Street. This was almost opposite where Bean Brook enters the Androscoggin River.
When it was first discovered by white man, the cave was about 14 feet long, 9 feet high and 6 feet wide. In all probability this entire cave was made by early Native Americans to obtain material for the purpose previously mentioned. There was no place on the three rivers previously referenced that had this special material.
It was in 1978 that an archaeologist named Richard Gramley decided to undertake a thorough excavation of what he called a mine and related sites on Mount Jasper and the valley below. This was to start in the spring of 1979.
In November of 1978, Gramley sought permission from the city of Berlin on behalf of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Harvard University to do some excavations. The city of Berlin held the title to this mountain and gave this man the OK.
Gramley found out through library research that archaeologists had come to this area in 1882 and 1961, but a thorough investigation did not take place. His excavation would be exhaustive.
Gramley’s findings in the 1979 survey put Mount Jasper on the map as a famous spot. The earliest inhabitants of the White Mountains were hunters who knew nothing about raising crops, making pottery, or using metal.
Several hundred years after the ice sheets retreated from what now is New England and 11,000 years ago, small bands of native hunters camped periodically in their favorite places along the headwaters of the Androscoggin River.
They left evidence of their presence in the form of skillfully made flaked tools of chert (flint). As sources of chert were rare in Northern New England and not accessible, hunters constantly searched for other stones in good supply that could be substituted for chert
Mount Jasper and it’s outcrops of excellent raw material for making flaked tools passed unnoticed until about 7,000 years ago or 4,000 years after the Native American’s pioneering exploration of the North Country.
The stone sought back then on Mount Jasper is called rhyolite, a variety of igneous rock. It outcrops as thin seam or dikes in metamorphic rocks perched nearly 400 feet above the Androscoggin River Valley.
This seam is inconspicuous and archaeologist Gramley believed that it might have been discovered accidentally. Once the natives found it, the location was never forgot until the white man brought firearms and iron tools, to replace the stone weapons of the Native Americans.
In its heyday, of Indian mining, Mount Jasper was visited regularly by the early inhabitants of this area, at least every two years and perhaps every season.
How did this igneous rock help our native Americans? Well, first and foremost they lived off the animals and fish that existed in this area and they grew very little crops. The rhyolite on Mount Jasper is tough and would fracture yielding a tough edge. With this tough edge, they were able to make such stone implements as knives, scrapers, drills and projectile points.
Being curious about this stone, I asked a geologist that I had met one day why it was sought of so many years ago by the local Native Americans. He told me that if I had a piece of rhyolite in my hands and snapped it into two pieces, the edges would be very, very sharp. That is why it was used to hunt or fish and for many other things.
Let us put it this way: Our Indians were great hunters, but I do not think that they could catch a trout by hand or outrun a deer. Getting your hands on a running or flying roughed grouse is also impossible. Once they found Mount Jasper, their lives must have changed with the use of better weapons.
There was no evidence that the earliest Americans remained for long periods of time on Mount Jasper. There were at the site only a few days and as soon as fresh tools had been manufactured, these hunters departed for their camps to the North along the Upper Androsscoggin River and mountain lakes. They moved on foot or by canoe, carrying only enough rhyolite to meet their immediate needs.
There are a lot more facts about this stone that people can find. On that point, we now have a great trail to the top of Mount Jasper and some artifacts on display at the public library here in Berlin. The hike takes about 25 minutes. If people talk about local mountains, tell them that Mount Jasper is the most historical in this area and is accessible to almost everybody.
Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for The Berlin Sun. Questions or comments e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, join the many fans of the “Once Upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the previously posted weekly mystery pictures.
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Sanborn William DWilliam D. Sanborn
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Jasper Mt. 2Mt. Jasper

Evaluating non-profit organizations

By Kathleen Kelly

There are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States and almost 8,000 in New Hampshire. One in eight people in New Hampshire works for a nonprofit. Nonprofits in New Hampshire represent 14 percent of the gross domestic product. There are 5.76 nonprofits per person in New Hampshire. 31.7 percent of New Hampshire residents volunteer for a nonprofit on the board or providing services to clients, or fund raise. Four out of five households in New Hampshire financially support nonprofits.

When I have a great idea for a nonprofit, I go to CharityNavigator.org, which rates nonprofits in different ways, and GuideStar.org, which features information, including tax returns of nonprofits. There I usually find 10-20 nonprofits within 100 miles doing something similar to my great idea! Then I call them or email them a few questions about their mission and clients they serve, read their Facebook page, their blog, their newsletters, their Tweets, and determine who has served on their board. Most often I know someone who works there or volunteers there, willing to talk about their organization.

If I feel they are doing great work, I might even suggest the idea I have or consider being a part of the board or volunteering for them or contributing in-kind services. I might even donate to their cause. But I do not rush out to start a new nonprofit. You may ask, “why?

I am a fundraising coach, a grant writer and a retired CPA with nonprofit accounting experience. There are a few things that people do not know about nonprofits:

1. They must figure out a way to be sustainable within three to five years of operation.

2. They must connect donors, government organizations and/or corporations to a defined mission.

3. They must research and follow best practices in nonprofit management as well as the problem they are trying to solve.

4. A board of directors with term limits, policies, bylaws, and procedures is a must. The board will develop a strategic plan including goals and strategies for the organization.

5. Granting agencies are not interested in funding operations/administration. They are interested in programs. The granting agency requires the nonprofit to develop a sustainability model within three to five years or less. They will require documentation that the organization did what it said it would and that they achieved the outcomes outlined in the grant.

6. The nonprofit needs to register and then annually report in every state in which it will be doing fundraising, meet unique auditing and reporting requirements and pay fees.

7. Records management and retention are critical if you are managing confidential material, supervising employees, managing reimbursement for services to clients.

8. The nonprofits must annually evaluate not only employees but also volunteers.

9. In today’s world, the executive director of the nonprofit must also be a branding, communications, database and social media specialist.

10. States like Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey are not paying for services provided by nonprofits or are paying very late, so the nonprofit needs to have much more cash on hand than they expect.

If a nonprofit in New Hampshire needs operating support, I always suggest they try the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits, the Association of Fundraising Professionals — Northern New England or the New Hampshire Charitable Fund. I can list more nonprofits in Northern New England providing valuable support. If you want to communicate with me, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Kathleen Kelly, certified fund-raising executive, is a fundraising coach, a grant writer and a retired CPA with nonprofit accounting experience. She lives in Randolph.