“ I wish that in the ear of every son and daughter of New Hampshire, in the summer days, might be heard whispered the persuasive words: Come back, come back. Do you not hear the call? What has become of the old home where you were born? Do you not remember it – the old farm back among the hills, with its rambling buildings, its well sweep casting its long shadows, the row of stiff poplar trees, the lilacs and the willows?”-Governor Frank West Rollins 1897
Ever wonder how Old Home Day began and why we still celebrate it today? -courtesy –http://londonderrytimes.net/2014/08/origins-old-home-day/
The tradition began in 1899, at the initiative of then Governor Frank Rollins, to help restore closeness, unity, and prosperity back to the state of New Hampshire.
At the end of the 19th century, New Hampshire had lost thousands of its inhabitants to the Civil War, the new frontier in the west, and the fast-paced lifestyle of the big cities. Once abandoned, the previously bustling and inviting communities and farms turned into ghost towns. The cozy homes they left behind fell into disrepair, green fields and pastures soon filled with weeds and brush, and the deep forests thick with trees were being cut down to help keep big business going. Times were difficult and depressing for the remaining residents, who remembered how beautiful and industrious their state once was.
New Hampshire Governor Frank Rollins knew the success of his state was in jeopardy and that life in New Hampshire could not continue this way. He took it upon himself to make a change and devised a plan to reinvigorate the state and its failing economy. He decided to host a massive reunion in all cities and towns throughout the state.
It was to be a grand festival, celebrating all the wonderful things about New Hampshire and its citizens, both past and present. The governor wanted this celebration to encourage former residents to keep ties with their old communities, and he also hoped that those who left New Hampshire and found success elsewhere would want to stay connected to their roots by purchasing summer homes and other properties.
Governor Rollins wasted no time in drafting local towns to find current addresses of former Granite Staters across the country to send them invitations to attend the very first Old Home Day celebration. The response was overwhelming. There was so much interest that an Old Home Week committee was formed at the State House.
Old Home Week’s inaugural night was Saturday, Aug. 26, 1899. There were outdoor gatherings, complete with bonfires, from the mountains to the beaches. On Sunday, attendees sang hymns and former residents gave special services. Concord featured the biggest celebration that year, but other communities expanded their own celebrations after the first year, to include patriotic parades, outdoor concerts, baseball games, and contests, along with speeches and folklore expressing love for New Hampshire and the country.
Old Home Week did so well at revitalizing the state and its residents that the rest of New England quickly followed suit. Just two years after the first Old Home Day was celebrated, Vermont and Maine decided to take up the tradition for themselves. By 1906, Massachusetts and Connecticut were celebrating Old Home Day and soon after, the idea spread throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and even into four provinces in Canada.
Now, over 100 years later, New Hampshire is still observing Old Home Day. While many cities and towns have continued the tradition, hard times or lack of participation have prevented it from taking place annually in many communities across the state.
The following numbers show the staggering flux in population:
Population of Salisbury Over the Years:
According to the source cited above only 10 communities in New Hampshire have made sure Old Home Day is celebrated every year since its inception. A little research into our town’s records and archives is needed to determine if Salisbury had been able as well to carry on this tradition every year since 1899.
It is certainly an event enjoyed by young and old.
In our town it is made possible by the Town of Salisbury, Salisbury Fire Department, Explorers, Congregational Church, Salisbury Library, Historical Society and the many, many volunteers and participants. What can you bring to it?
Salisbury Historical Society’s participation over the years has included:
- A Cemetery Walk
- Open House at the Museum and Meeting House
- A Raffle of fine objects to benefit the Society
- A White Elephant sales table that draws a lot of interest
- A demonstration of traditional crafts
- An Information and Benefit Concert ticket sales table for the Scholarship Program
- A Display of Historical Flags
- Parade Float
SALISBURY OLD HOME DAY IMAGES
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