A COMMUNITY PROJECT OF THE
CONWAY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
THE SALYARDS CENTER FOR THE ARTS
is located at
110 Main Street
Conway, New Hampshire
Enjoy visiting some of our prior Salyards Exhibits below:
The Conway Historical Society’s Salyards Center for the 2017 season
THE ‘WAR TO END ALL WARS’
That exhibit had a spring 2017 opening at the historical society’s Salyards Center, located on Main Street in Conway Village
in recognition of the 100th anniversary of America’s entry
into the conflict on April 6, 1917.
Bob Cottrell (left) and David Smolen are seen with the Conway Honor Roll
at Conway Public Library. (TOM EASTMAN PHOTO)
The Conway Historical Society is reaching out to families of those long gone
who served our country in the First World War.
Bob Cottrell, executive director of the Conway Historical Society
and curator of the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room,
is hoping families will step forward with stories
and any family World War I memorabilia
to help the society prepare for an exhibit on
Conway’s connections to “the Great War.”
Cottrell, of Tamworth, is hoping the community will step forward with stories, photographs, medals, old uniforms and other items pertaining to World War I.
By reaching out now, he hopes that it will afford time over the winter to research and place the items as part of the exhibit.
“We wanted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I in April 2017. We wanted to give the local community a reason to stop and think about the past and its implications for the future,” said Cottrell this week, adding, that a “round-numbered anniversary” helps with this, as the historical society did with an opening exhibit on the town of Conway’s 250th in 2015 and the 100th anniversary of the N.H. Primary in 2016.”
The global war began in Europe on July 28, 1914, sparked by the assassination a month earlier in Serbia of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Quickly, through a series of alliances, the fight between Austria-Hungary and Serbia pulled in most of the countries in Europe, along with their colonies and other allies around the world. Germany and the Ottoman Empire joined Austria-Hungary to form the “Central Powers” fighting against an allied force from France, England, Russia, Italy and Japan.
The United States avoided involvement for more than two years before declaring war on April 6, 1917, on the side of the Allies.
“One hundred years is a good vantage point to research, evaluate and understand. It’s a ‘Goldilocks’ time frame for historians: not too close, not too far away,” said Cottrell. “We want to put the First World War into the context of what it meant for Conway and New Hampshire — of how it impacted local folks.
“We also wanted to follow up with the cemetery work/booklet done, and document and interpret the many veteran memorials around town. Around town there is a landscape of memory, but we have forgotten the meaning of many of those monuments and memorials and in some cases, have even forgotten the location of some of them. Folks drive by these memorials without even knowing they are there. We want to make them easier to find and easier to understand.”
He said that Conway Historical Society member and Conway 250th co-chair Brian Wiggin and several others have offered to loan their collections of World War I posters, sheet music from the era and other items.
“We know we have something valuable and interesting to build upon, and we are looking to add more with the help of the community,” Cottrell said.
One project is to find out as much as is possible about the 49 names of those who served in the First World War, as depicted on the veterans memorial located on the front lawn outside of Conway Public Library.
It reads, “Conway Honor Roll Tribute to Those who Served in the 1917 — World War — 1919.”
On the plaque are such names as Hounsell, Knox, Lowd, Morrill, Moulton, Smith, Towle, Twombly, Whitaker and Wiggin, to name a few.
“Teresa Blanche Duffy seems to be the only woman on the monument (the gender of some names are hard to tell and further research is needed). To follow her story, we used the super powered library edition of Ancestry Plus and found her marriage record, indicating she was a nurse,” said Cottrell.
He knows there will be some great stories to share.
“We’re hoping that people will review the photos we’re posting of the plaque, or they will stop by to take a look and tell us if they are related to them and what they know,” said Cottrell.
“We would love to make copies of any photos you have and learn about stories you can relate,” notes Cottrell. “We also are looking for volunteers to help research the names through our Conway Library subscription to genealogy databases and files and books.”
He said the library’s Henney History Room has access to World War I draft registration cards. From this card he said they can learn about a man whose name appears on the plaque, McCarthy Bobbins. “We know that he was born in, and was still a citizen of, Russia. He was a laborer at the Conway Lumber Company. He was single, of medium height and stout build,” said Cottrell. “It appears he was illiterate as he made his mark with an ‘X’ and had the registrar witness it.”
Cottrell said he has also undertaken research by going through the archives of newspapers and other sources.
Still, as he related, there is not much local history recorded that he has been able to locate as of yet.
“Not much that I can tell has been summarized, say unlike a number of books, etc., that covered the Civil War, such as local historian Bill Marvel’s book on Conway and the Civil War, ‘The Neighbors’ War.’ In a way, World War I has become one of those forgotten wars,” said Cottrell, who is a frequent New Hampshire Humanities program speaker on a variety of historical topics, including on the Chinook kennels. “My main source so far has been (the now defunct) Reporter newspaper.
“Each month, I have been reading the paper from 100 years ago and tracking the way the war was reported and what was going on in Conway,” Cottrell said. “As we get into the research over this winter, we are really hoping to see World War I-era information, stories, photos and artifacts to ‘come out of the woodwork’ from folks in Conway.”
“We are asking the entire community to help us with the history of all those names on all those monuments and memorials, in an attempt to fill in the blanks and, if possible, show the faces of those who served,” Cottrell said.
In his online blogspot, www.mwvhistory.com, Cottrell has posted some of his research concerning those Reporter articles from 1916.
“While Conway’s residents received little actual news about the war raging in Europe, the Reporter’s May 4, 1916, editorial page opined on President Woodrow Wilson’s diplomatic efforts to avoid war with Germany,” Cottrell noted in his blog.
He added that “Germany had been sinking ships and, according to the paper, Wilson was writing ‘yet another note’ to complain and ask them to stop. The writer commented ironically and dramatically that Wilson ‘gave Germany four days to make a reply, and he said he really meant it. But the Kaiser didn’t believe it and has taken his time.'”
“The implication is that Wilson’s efforts were useless,” writes Cottrell. “The editor concludes sarcastically that, it is ‘Pretty near time Wilson was writing another note,’ suggesting that Wilson will continue doing paperwork while Germany destroys ships and kills people.
“Wilson’s inaction (other than writing complaint letters) is contrasted in a paragraph below on England’s problems with the Irish insurrection on the home front, the surrender of 10,000 troops in Turkey, the loss of a battleship and 25,000 men (wonder why the battleship takes priority over the loss of life?). In any case, the ‘indomitable spirit’ of Britain in the form of ‘Johnny Bull’ is contrasted sharply with Wilson’s lack of effective action.”
As to the domino effects that led to the start of the war, Cottrell sidestepped the question, saying the focus of this exhibit will be on local impacts of the war.
“That (concerning what led to the start of the war) is sort of beyond the scope of our project, we are interested in how those larger, far away, events impacted people in Conway,” he said.
World War I was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, introducing a stalemate of trench warfare and technological advances, from machine guns, tanks and airplanes to flame throwers and poison gas. According to Wikipedia, more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilized, and over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war.
In the end, the war redrew the map of the globe, paving the way for revolutions, new nations, transfers of colonies, economic collapse and the League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations), and setting the stage for an even greater world war to follow 20 years later. Arguably, its effects are still being felt today.
On a personal note, this reporter visited the Conway Public Library’s Henney Room to work with Cottrell on researching the military service in World War I of my late Great Uncle Frederick Moore, who was born in Newport, N.H., in 1877 and who served with General John J. Pershing before moving on to a career as a journalist and author of such books as “Siberia Today,” published in 1919. It was a fascinating exercise, using such online resources as Ancestry.com.
I had always grown up hearing about my great uncle, who was my father’s mother’s brother who, according to family lore, ran away from home in Enfield at age 16, and lived a full and adventurous life. He is said to have served as an intelligence officer and may even have been a spy. We will have to continue that research, but it just shows you how rich the stories are that are waiting to be researched and told as part of the Conway Historical Society’s exhibit.
With thanks to Tom Eastman . . .
This article was written by Tom Eastman, and used with permission.
The Conway Daily Sun issue – Saturday, November 12, 2016
For more information contact:
Bob Cottrell, Curator
Conway Historical Society
100 Main Street / P.O. Box 1949
Conway, New Hampshire 03818
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Prior exhibit at the Salyards – – –
The Conway 250th Historical Display
at Salyards Center for the Arts.
Presented by Conway Historical Society
it covers all aspects of Conway’s history
from the Native American period
to the coming of the settlers in the 18th century;
and 19th century artists whose paintings served as the first postcards of the region, drawing early tourists here;
early transportation, including stagecoaches and the arrival of the railroads;
logging, millwork and the evolution of the town as a tourist and shopping destination,
This exhibit includes original paintings, maps, displays and more.
Among the items on exhibit are a painting of the Smith – Eastman Covered Bridge by Ernie Brown and a “Then and Now” quilt by a local quilting group.
Photos by Jamie Gemitti