Glossary of New Hampshire Terms Explained

New Hampshire Genealogy and History is a web site for family tree and history researchers of people and places in the State of NH.


Note: this glossary is in no way a complete listing of all terms used in early New Hampshire history. If you know of a term you would like to see here, please let me know.
  • A
    • Association Test (also known as the "Patriot Test") - In New Hampshire the "Association Test," or "Articles of Association," were written by the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, under the chairmanship of Meshech Weare. Generally the wording was similiar to the following: "We, the Subscribers, do hereby solemnly engage and promise, that we will, to the utmost of our power, at the Risque of our Lives and Fortunes, with arms, oppose the Hostile proceedings of the British Fleets and Armies, against the United States Colonies." The document refers to a resolution passed by the Continental Congress (March 14, 1776) which called for two actions: the signatures of every adult male who was willing to take arms against the British, and the names of all who refused to sign. Their signature indicated their obligation to oppose the "hostile proceedings" of the British fleets and armies. The returns of these documents gave the signers of the Declaration assurance that their acts would be sanctioned and sustained by the citizens of our country. Town officers in New Hampshire were requested to obtain these signatures, who in turn sometimes selected a local "Committee of Safety," to carry out this order. Only white males above twenty-one years of age ("lunaticks, idiots, and negroes excepted") were asked to sign this document. Not everyone qualified to sign this document agreed to do so, and not all of those who refused to sign should be considered "Tories" or "Loyalists." [SEE copy of original document and discussion regarding same - PDF file]
    • attorney (lawyer) - a professional person authorized to practice law; conducts lawsuits or gives legal advice. From New Hampshire's earliest days, attorneys practiced here. In 1716, a collection of law books belonging to the provincial government formed the first state library collection. Samuel Livermore was New Hampshire's first Attorney General (from 1785 to 1786) and Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court (from 1782 to 1789). In 1845 Levi Woodbury (1798-1851, born Francestown NH) was appointed a justice to the Supreme Court of the United States. Daniel Webster, one of New Hampshire's most famous orators, practiced law in New Hampshire. Nathan Clifford, born in Rumney NH, was the 19th United States Attorney General (1846-1848). Amos Tappan Ackerman (born in NH in 1821) was the 34th U.S. Attorney Geneal (1870-1872); Harlan Fiske Stone (b 1872 in Chesterfield NH) was the 52nd Attorney General of the U.S. (1924-1925); William French Smith (b 1917 in Wilton NH) was the 74th Attorney General of the United States (from 1981-1985). In October 1864, Lincoln appointed Salmon P. Chase as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, a position he held until his death in 1873. Salmon P. Chase (born in Cornish NH), as one of his first acts as Chief Justice of the United States appointed John Rock as the first African-American attorney to argue cases before the Supreme Court (1865). New Hampshire's first woman lawyer was Marilla Ricker (1840-1920). She was admitted to the bar of the supreme court of the District of Columbia in 1882, and opened the New Hampshire bar to women in July 1890, when she was admitted to the bar of the state. Northwood NH-born Ella Louise Knowles, who studied under Burnham & Brown of Manchester NH, was admitted to practice law in Montana on 1 January 1890. There she became the first female assistant attorney general of the state in 1893. Agnes Winifred McLaughlin (on one web site noted as the first woman 'admitted' to practice law in New Hampshire on June 30, 1917, however Marilla Ricker appears to have that honor) was one of the earliest women attorneys in NH. Linda Stewart Dalianis is the first woman to hold a seat on the New Hampshire Supreme Court (appointed by Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in the year 2000). Kelly A. Ayotte, the current (2006) Attorney General of NH, has the distinction of being the first woman and youngest attorney general in New Hampshire. David H. Souter, a resident of Weare NH, became a chief justice of the United States Supreme Court in October 1990. [He was born in Melrose MA].
  • B
    • bannock -- a simple or quick- bread cooked on a hearth, or in a frying pan.
    • beekeeper - As early as 16 June 1787 (and probably much earlier), beekeeping (or apiculture as it is now called) was practiced in New Hampshire. A beekeeper is a person who tends bees and uses them to pollinate crops and to produce honey, propolis, and beeswax.
    • bed bug - Cimex lectularius, a bug known to frequent the sleeping area of their "host," biting, then sucking blood from them in order to continue their life cycle. This bug was probably brought to colonial America by European immigrants. Known to mankind as far back as Aristotle (and possibly before), Infestation was prevalent in Europe and the United up until World War II. The incidence has recently (in the past 2-3 years) dramatically, possibly due to the east of international travel, and the prohibition of deadly chemicals that once were used to kill them, but also had an adverse effect on human beings. There has been a recent increase in bedbug infestations in New Hampshire, as is the trend elsewhere.
    • black fly - tiny annoying insects that occur in large numbers in the spring and early summer months in New Hampshire (and other northern states), especially in rural areas. They breed in our moving water, such as rivers, creeks and streams.
    • blaze - A mark, usually on a tree, designed to indicate the direction of a trail. In early days, marked trees were often the only indication used to locate the directions to an area, or newly defined town.
    • bleachery - a location, but most frequently a building where fabric and sometimes straw hats were whitened or cleaned. In the case of fabric, a dye works was often a component. New Hampshire's many cloth mill compounds had such a building.
  • C
    • cellar - in New Hampshire colonial days, before refrigeration, a cellar was built to store food, and keep certain food items cool (sometimes called a "root cellar).
    • chowder - a hearty soup made with salt pork, using cream or milk as the base, and including various types of salt-water fish and seafood. Historically it was thickened with crushed crackers or flour. See article, "New Hampshire Glossary: Chowder" at Blog: Cow Hampshire. Includes recipes used by New Englanders to make Chower (or "Chouder") in 1751 and 1820.
    • clam bake - a meal that may have originated with the native peoples ("feasts of shells") and includes "baking" (really steaming) clams, lobsters and other vegetables, in a large stone and seaweed lined pit. See my blog, Cow Hampshire for more details, through the hypertext link.
    • communion token - a small coin used by the Presbyterian Church, including parishes in the American colonies, from the 1770s to the early 1900s. The pastor would visit with families of his church, examine their "spirit soundness," and then issue them a token that allowed them to receive communion. No token, no communion. [click the link to read more and see a photo example]
    • constable - in early times, an elected official of a town, with the responsibility of calling ("warning") town meetings, keeping the peace, and collecting taxes. He was elected during town meeting, had the power to arrest and attach goods of delinquent taxpayers, enforce "warnings out" issued by the selectmen, and was expected to serve without pay unless excused from service. Fines, punishment, restoration of property, and payment of debts were matters handled by the constable with warrants issued by a local magistrate. In the early records of the town of Goffstown, each constable was paid $10.00 per year, excluding expenses. Constables were the precursors of the current police departments. In 1808 the term "Police Officer" first appears in Portsmouth, NH records. The early records of the NH State Police, designated them as "Constable(s) of the State."
    • cordwainer - A cordwainer was a boot and shoemaker, and is sometimes called a "cobbler." Before the 16th century, a cobbler was considered a repairer only, and sometimes was prohibited by law from actually making shoes. After 1700 the term cordwainer was rarely used, bowing to the more common term, shoemaker. The basic equipment he needed was a shoemaker's bench, tools, and leather. By the 1600s, The shoemaker's bench was a combination bench and tool box. This way a shoemaker could pick up and carry his workshop from home to home, or home to shop. The workbench consisted of a bench with a box structure on one end, that was actually a small chest of drawers in which he stored his awls, marking wheels, sole knifes, small hammers and other tools along with pieces of leather and lengths of waxed hemp or linen "cord" that he worked with.Instead of producing an inventory of shoes (such as we see today in our stores), shoemakers waited until a request was made. Sometimes the customer provided the material needed, which lowered the final cost of the shoes.With the advent of large-scale shoe manufacturing in America, the profession of shoemaker became a less-needed occupation. Cobblers, or shoe-repairers, held their ground a little longer, but they too are now few and far between. Read more about cordwainers at Blog: Cow Hampshire
    • Coos - (pronounced "CO-ahss" with two syllables) - a county in New Hampshire, established December 24, 1803, taken from Grafton County, one of the five original counties of the State. At the time of establishment, it contained the original towns of Dalton, Whitefield, Bretton Woods, Bartlett, Adams, Chatham, Shelburne Addition, Durand, Kilkenny, Jefferson, Lancaster, Millsfield, Northumberland, Stratford, Wales' Gore, Cockburne, Colebrook, Stewartstown, Piercy, Paulsburg, Mainsborough, Dummer, Errol, Cambridge and Success, with a population of about 3,000 in 1803. The name "Coos" is derived from the Abenaki dialect--the word "Cohos," or "Coo-ash" signifying 'pines." The tribe occupying this region was known as the 'Coo-ash-aukes,' or 'dwellers in the pine tree country."
    • cranberry bog - a location where cranberries are grown, in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. Cranberries are one of North America's three native fruit, growing on low-lying vines. These small red berries were used by the Native Americans before the Europeans arrives, called sassamenesh (by the Algonquin) and ibimi (by the Wampanoag and Lenni-Lenape). The aboriginal people made pemmican, probably American's first "fast-food" (so called). American whaling ships were known to carry cranberries to ward off scurvy.
  • D
    • deer-reeve (deer reefe) - (or deer keeper) an elected position in early New Hampshire towns; this official was expected to control the illegal killing of deer when these animals became scarce in the area, and tracked down poachers.
    • Dunstable - aka "Old Dunstable; The town of Dunstable was created by the colony of Massachusetts, but in 1741 transferred to the colony of New Hampshire. Nearly all the territory embraced within the bounds of the present Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, originally comprised a portion of the old town of Dunstable, which was granted by Massachusetts October 16, 1673 (O.S.), and embraced the present town of Tyngsborough, the east part of Dunstable, a narrow gore on the east side of Pepperell and a tract in the northeast part of Townsend, Mass., and the towns of Litchfield, Hudson, Merrimack, portions of Londonderry, Pelham and nearly all the present towns of Nashua and Hollis and parts of Amherst, Milford and Brookline, in New Hampshire.
  • E
    • ear marks - a "mark" or distinctive pattern was placed on a domestic animal's ear, by its owner to identify his own animals. Marks were commonly created by cropping, notching, or splitting an animal's ear. These marks are often recorded in public records and sometimes included a description of the color, size, and special characteristics of a particular animal. This mark was registered with the clerk of the court, or the town clerk, and ears were kept when an animal was butchered as proof of ownership. Ear marking was the precursor to animal branding on western ranches. Nowadays ear tags or tatoos are often used instead.
    • ecclesiatical - regarding religious matters.
    • egg-nog - in colonial times this was an alcoholic drink, usually served warm, and traditional at Christmas time by about 1815; the name possibly coming from the combination of ingredient words egg and grog (rum).
    • excise - a select tax collected on goods and commodities made or sold within a country or State and on licenses granted for certain activities. This is sometimes also called an excise duty.  When we speak of colonial excise taxes, historians often think of the excise duties imposed on the American colonies by the European countries who ruled them.
  • F
    • fence-viewers - an elected position in early New Hampshire townships. They arbitrated boundary disputes between adjacent landowners, and were responsible for inspecting each resident's allotted portion of the common fence and any particular [individual] plots to see that regulations were followed. . Settlers were usually directed to fence the areas holding animals in order to keep them contained, and also were directed to fence gardens and crop fields in order to keep out the animals.
    • field drivers - an elected town position whose responsibility it was to take animals that were stray or loose to the pound, in order to avoid damage to resident's crops.
    • flax - a plant used to make thread, and a cloth called linen.In colonial times the colonists mostly used cotton and flax for weaving because the English would not send them sheep or wool. They could get one cotton crop each fall. Flax was harvested in the summer. Women and girls spun wool and flax so that it could be woven into fabric or knitted into socks, hats, scarves, and mittens. They sometimes brought yarn to weavers to have cloth woven and they used the cloth to make clothing and sacks. Edwin Tunis in his book on Colonial Living (New York: The World Publishing Company, 1957), says of flax, “It took about twenty operations, all laborious, to reduce the plant to a state that would allow its fibers to be spun.” [SEE for this process]
    • frost heave - Frost heaves are changes in the earth that result in ground distress such as bumps, potholes, dents, ruptures, cracks and creases. Usually frost heaves occur in the northern states. Read more at link.
  • G
    • garrison house - a colonial fortified building.
    • gore - in New Hampshire's colonial times a "gore" was the name for a strip of land not large enough to create an entire township. This area was created by a surveyor's misjudgment, or re-adjustments of boundary lines. When discovered, New Hampshire's governor sometimes granted the "gore" to someone who had performed a personal service for him, or who was a friend. Read about "Dame's Gore" at Blog: Cow Hampshire.
    • gore - in colonial times a gore was the name for a strip of land not large enough to create an entire township. This area was created by a surveyor's misjudgment, or re-adjustments of boundary lines. When discovered, New Hampshire's governor sometimes granted the "gore" to someone who had performed a personal service for him, or who was a friend; Also SEE Article: New Hampshire Missing Places, Dames Gore -- Blog: Cow Hampshire
    • governor - chief executive of the region now known as New Hampshire. This position was orignally appointed by the King of England. After the American Revolution, this became an elected position. As chief executives, governors were responsible for executing colonial laws, administering justice, and appointing most administrative and judicial officers. As commanders in chief, they were responsible for provincial defense and diplomatic relations with the Indians and the other colonies. As one of three branches of the legislature, they had veto power over all laws and took an active role in the legislative process. Finally, they held the exclusive power to grant lands from the enormous royal or proprietary domains. The governor's council, served as an advisory body whose approval was required for most executive actions, and in a few colonies they acted as a superior court.In 1631, Captain Thomas Wiggin served as the first governor of the Upper Plantation (comprising modern-day Dover, Durham and Stratham). In 1679 this Upper Plantation became the "Royal Province" with John Cutt as governor.The "Royal Province" continued until 1698 when it came under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts with Joseph Dudley as Governor. In 1741 New Hampshire returned to its royal provincial status with a governor of its own, Benning Wentworth, who was its governor from 1741 to 1766. Jeanne Shaheen was the first woman to be elected
      Governor in the State of New Hampshire. [SEE Colonial & Royal Governors of New Hampshire] and [SEE Governors of New Hampshire]

    • grist mill - a facility used to grind grain into flour; the operator needed skills in carpentry, stone masonry, math, and mechanics in order to master the day-to-day operation of same. Mills were essential for survival, and the miller was an important man in any community. Before there were grist mills, settlers ground their grain by hand. This was time-consuming, inefficient, and the results made lumpy porridge and bread. The grist mill was a major advancement. Most were built beside streams, where dams could be built to regulate water flow, or by a waterfall, where the flow of water could turn a paddle wheel, which was connected via an elaborate system of gears and shafts to a pair of mill stones. Grain was put between two millstones, crushed, and ground into flour. The waterwheel was a simple and cheap source of power.
  • H
    • hog-reeve (hog reefe) - an elected position in early New Hampshire townships. Early settlers often let livestock graze in the woods around their fields. Even if these animals were fenced, early fences were often inadequate to restrain stray animals. As a result, each town chose a hog reeve, who assumed custody of livestock that strayed into cultivated fields. Wandering livestock were called "estrays," they were "taken up," and they often were taken to the "pound," where their owners could retrieve them after paying a fine (usually small). This position was also responsible for appraising of damages by stray swine, and to order restitution.
  • I
    • incorporation - a legal charter given to a township, and/or organization (such as town churches and libraries), giving them certain legal rights (such as the ability to elect officers, and collect taxes or dues). In earliest days this designation was conferred by the governor and/or governor's council, and later by state legislature.
    • intervale - "intervale" is a word unique to New England. It is used to describe low-lying meadow land, usually along a river, and particularly alluvial land (or land made by deposits from the running water) that is more fertile, at least at first. It comes from the more common word "vale," which is a valley coursed by a stream. They are usually level plains.The word "intervale," was one that was "mapped" by Dr. Hans Kurath, linguistic professor at Ohio State University, and later Brown University, to create the "Linguistic Atlas of New England." His study showed that although the word was common in the 1940s, by the 1960s it was less known. This would actually make sense. By the 1960s the intervale land along New Hampshire's larger rivers was no longer the rich, alluvial land that the first settlers found. In New Hampshire there is a village called Intervale, contained within the township of Bartlett. Bartlett includes the villages of Glen, Lower Bartlett and Intervale, in the White Mountains region. See my blog: Cow Hampshire for an article regarding this topic.

  • J
    • johannes - a colonial coin - see "New Hampshire Glossary: Pistereens and Johannes," - Blog: Cow Hampshire
    • johnnycake - a pancake made primarily of corn; not a common product of New Hampshire - see CowHampshire blog.
    • justice of the peace - The lowest level of the colonial judiciary consisted of local judges called justices of the peace or magistrates. They were appointed by the colony's governor. At the next level in the system were the county courts, the general trial courts for the colonies. Appeals from all courts were taken to the highest level -- the governor and his council. Grand and petit juries were also introduced during this period and remain prominent features of the state judicial systems.The justice of the peace was expected to "fulfill the duties of government and to maintain the peace." He executed deeds, wills, and other legal documents, and acted as a justice in the trial of causes." He also helped to settle disputes within the town, and the community honored his decisions.
  • K
    • King Philip - Metacom, (aka Philip) second son and successor of Massasoit, sachem (chief) of the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, brother of Wamsutta.
    • King Philip's War - The series of raids and skirmishes known as King Philip's War raged through the towns and villages of New England, 1675-76. This "war" had a profound impact on Indian-Colonist relations throughout colonial America and beyond. [SEE "Soldiers in King Philip's War" ]
  • L
    • lamprey eel - also called "lamper," it is a "jawless fish" found in New Hampshire rivers. Early New Hampshire colonists considered them an important part of their diet. Today they are considered parasites, but also as good bass fishing bait. See article in Blog: Cow Hampshire.
    • lilac - an American shrub that produces spring flowers. It is not native to the United States. The purple variety was brought to the American colonies about or after 1683. The Purple Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) was designated New Hampshire's official state flower in 1919. Governor Wentworth lilacs can be found in Portsmouth NH, and are considered by some to be the oldest living lilacs in North America. See article, Blog: Cow Hampshire.
    • lithobolia - a term used to decribe a type of poltergeist, also called the "Stone-Throwing Devil," that reportedly harrassed a New Castle New Hampshire family, and their houses guests, in 1682.
    • loon - A bird found in New Hampshire, along with Canada, Greenland, Alaska and other northern American states. In Abenaki language, they were called "Medawihla." They are known for their odd bird calls. The population of the Common Loon (Gavia immer) is decreasing in New Hampshire due to milder winters, and their ingestion of lead fishing sinkers.
    • lumbering - this occupation been important in New Hampshire since the first sawmill was built on the Salmon Falls River in 1631. Most of the timber cut now is used in paper production. The first homes were either "lean-to's" or made of logs. Even after lumber mills were built in the towns, often only the wealthier citizens built the early "framed" houses from sawed boards. SEE "surveyor of wood and lumber" (below)
  • M
    • manufacturing - establishments engaged in the mechanical or chemical transformation of materials or substances into new products. These products may be "finished," that is, ready for utilization or consumption, or it may be "semi-finished" to become a raw material for further manufacturing. New Hampshire emerged as a major manufacturing state in the late 1800s, however it did so at the expense of the traditional family hill farm. New Hampshire was the first state to make special provision for the promotion of industry. This was shortly after the Revolutionary War. While early industrial economy was dominated by the textile and shoe industries (a good example being the Amoskeag Mill in Manchester, once the largest textile mill in the world, there has been in recent years a tremendous increase in electrical, light metal and computer products. Textile manufacturing decreased in the late 20th century as competition paying lower wages appeared in Southern states. Most of the manufacturing industries are concentrated in the Merrimack Valley. Today New Hampshire is one of the most highly industrialized states in the Union when one considers the percentage of total population engaged in industry. Some of New Hampshire's major manufacturing cities are Manchester, Nashua and Concord. Also Portsmouth, Dover, Keene, Claremont, Lebanon, Laconia and Berlin -- the latter being a prominent pulp and paper center.
    • measurers of wood and bark - an elected town position, whose responsibility it was to inspect and measure firewood and bark brought into the town for sale to insure correct quantity and grade.
    • meeting-house - a building erected by residents of a town that was originally used for religious services and official citizen meetings. Many of these earliest buildings were composed of logs (as opposed to a "frame" building). In New Hampshire, the wording of the document incorporating a township, usually included a requirement that a meeting house be built within a specified time of settlement. Prior to the erection of this building, meetings were often held in barns or homes of the local residents. Early town meetings were also religious affairs. Laws were passed on attending and supporting the church and observing the Sabbath.
    • moderator - an individual who acted as chairman of, and regulated the conduct of, town meetings, ensuring fair proceedings. By New Hampshire law, the first order of business at any town meeting was the election of a moderator.
  • N
    • neat stock - a livestock term usually referring to oxen or heifers, and excluding milking stock. These cattle were often used used as payment and barter. The term "livestock" would refer to neat cattle, horses, mules, asses, sheep and goats.
    • niddy noddy - a wooden device used to measure the length of thread or yarn. One full winding around the niddy-noddy equaled two yards.While using this device, to keep track of the length, this rhyme was often recited:
      Niddy-noddy, niddy-noddy,
      Two heads, one body,
      'Tis one, 'taint one,
      'Twill be one, bye and bye.
      'Tis two, 'taint two,
      'Twill be two, bye and bye.

      According to folklore, "niddy" comes from a nickname for grandmother, who would often spend alot of time knitting. "Noddy" refers to how the grandmother would often "nod off" (or fall asleep) while thus occupied. In actuality, the term probably comes from the way the tool moved when used--the person winding the yarn would dip or nod the cross bars with an elbow-wrist movement.
    • nor'easter - an old weather term for a strong storm (or gale) whose winds come from the northeast, especially in the coastal areas of the northeastern United States. This type of storm typically resulted in heavy snow fall, high winds, high surf, and coastal erosion. In recent years, the term seems to be used (inappropriately) to describe any violent snow storm (with heavy winds, precipitation and thunder and lightning). See more about this topic - from Cow Hampshire blog.
  • O
    • occupations/trades - the first emigrants to America had occupations concerned primarily with simple, basic survival in the New World. They were, for the most part, skilled laborers. See the link for a listing and description of these early jobs. [Also see "Trades and Occupations in Colonial Times" and "Daily Life in the Colonies"]
    • oyster - a bivalve mollusk that is also called a shellfish (because it has a two-part shell). The shell has a hinge, which is closed by the oyster's adductor muscle. To open a live oyster, you insert a knife blade between the shells and sever the adductor muscle, then remove the meat. This is called "shucking." See article at Cow Hampshire.
  • P
    • parka - a type of mid-thigh length coat often worn in the winter. See article on Blog: Cow Hampshire for more information.
    • Passaconaway - leader and sagamore of the Penacook Indians (or Native Peoples)
    • patent medicine - a medical compound or mixture of drugs, sometimes called a "nostrum," that is proprietary, or protected by a patent, and is available without a doctor's prescription. In reality, most of the old-time patent medicines were "marked" medicines (usually the container and the label design were trademarked), and the contents were not patented. Some of the more famous "nostrums" that are still well known today are Lydia E. Pinkham's vegetable compound, and Angostura bitters. Canterbury Shaker Village was well-known in New Hampshire for it's medicine herb garden used in the creation of herbal and patent medicines. (Read more at link above)
    • pearlash - see "potash" (below)
    • pistareen - see "New Hampshire Glossary: Pistereens and Johannes" - article, Blog: Cow Hampshire
    • pocket - A colonial "pocket" was a removable cloth bag used for holding "pocket books" (wallets), sewing paraphernalia, and other things that girls and women wanted handy throughout the day. These pockets were tied around the waist with a ribbon, or thin strip of cloth. They were often decorated with embroidery. [SEE History of the Pocket]
    • poll - (or capitation, i.e. head) tax, was a lump sum tax levied by colonial, state or local governments on individuals, who often had to pay the tax in order to vote. The Massachusetts law of 1646 served as a model for the New England colonies. Every male 16 years and older, the year of registration for potential military service, was required to pay an annual tax of 1s. For administrative simplicity, the tax was often combined with the country rate. New Hampshire in 1784 required voters to be males over 21 who paid any tax, which in 1792 it became payment of a "poll" (or head) tax.
    • potash - ("black salts") a substance that was often the first cash crop, and export product, for the early settlers. Potash, also known as potassium hydroxide or lye, was a strong base used throughout history to make soap, gunpowder, glass, and bleach. The early settlers would first chop their hardwood into logs. Using oxen they would draw the logs together, pile them in big heaps and when they were dry, burn them to ashes. They then took lumber and made a leach in the shape of a “V”; filled the leach with ashes and poured water in on top of the ashes. The lye, which ran from the ashes, was caught in potash kettles and boiled into potash. The water evaporated, which left in the bottom of the kettles, a great cake of dirty-brown matter, called "potash." These lumps were broken up, re-leached, evaporated, and dried in brick ovens, producing a whiter, purer grade of potash called "pearlash." In this concentrated form, the great forests of northern New Hampshire, were, with much labor, turned into money by the hardy settlers, who, in the winter, conveyed the pearlash to local markets in their sleds, and came back laden with the necessaries of life. Almost the only products having a cash value even as late as 1830 or 1840 were potash and grass seed.It took 200 bushels of ashes from the fallen trees to make 100 pounds of potash. Local storekeepers exchanged imported goods for farm crops and other local products, including potash.
    • pound - a town-sanctioned enclosure for the keeping of wayward domestic animals and the temporary holding of animals as sureity (i.e. for tax payments). They were often built of stone (which was more durable than wood).
    • pound keeper - an elected position; caretaker of a pound (see above), and the animals it contained; sometimes called a fold-keeper in early New England records.
    • privy - an old fashioned toilet, also called an outhouse. See article on Blog: Cow Hampshire for more info.
    • punishment - see article "Taking Stock in New Hampshire: Colonial Punishment" from my Cow Hampshire blog; includes description and examples (of use) of stocks, pillory and whipping post in New Hampshire.

  • Q
    • quarantine - a situation where people, animals or produce are isolated to keep them separate from others, with the hope of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease.
    • quarry - A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone. Quarries are usually shallower than other types of open-pit mines. Minerals of New Hampshire were mined before and after the arrival of European immigrants. Eleven pre-historic quarries (quarries used by the pre-historic and indigent people, i.e. "Indians) have been identified in New Hampshire, including the most recent one at Ossipee Mountain (2005). Some of the most common types of minerals mined or "quarried" in New Hampshire by European settlers included limestone and granite (Concord NH had the greatest concentration of these), iron, gold, and other minerals. The official NH State mineral is beryl. The official state gem is smoky quartz. The Swenson Granite Company of Concord NH gradually became the strongest of these companies, and purchased other regional quarries. The Swenson Company has provided granite for numerous monuments and prestigious projects around the country including parts of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Bridge, The Pentagon, and Civil War monuments from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Antietam, Maryland. Francestown was also the site of a high-quality soapstone deposit, discovered by Daniel Fuller about 1785. This quarry was closed in 1891. Granite is New Hampshire's official state rock (Adopted in 1985).

  • R
    • ragman - a person who collected rags, as a profession, for resale to paper-making manufacturers. Read more at blog: Cow Hampshire
    • Red Tide - the common name for a highly toxic algae called Alexandrium fundyense, can negatively impact the harvesting of widely popular shellfish such as soft- and hard-shell clams and oysters because these shellfish ingest the algae, making them hazardous and even deadly to eat. Read more at blog: Cow Hampshire.
    • revolution - aka American Revolution - Leaders in the revolutionary cause, New Hampshire delegates received the honor of being the first to vote for the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and to establish its own government (January 1776). New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the new Constitution of the United States on June 21, 1788. Pre-Revolution events occurring in New Hampshire included: 1) the April 1772 "Pine Tree Riot" of Weare NH, and 2) the removal in 1774, by a small party of patriots at New Castle, of the powder and guns at Fort William and Mary. None of the Revolutionary battles took place on New Hampshire land. Hundreds of “minutemen” from New Hampshire participated in early skirmishes and battles, including participation in the Battle of Bunker Hill at which nearly all the troops doing the actual fighting were said to have been from this State. The signers of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire were Josiah Bartlett, Matthew Thornton, and William Whipple. New Hampshire's General John Stark is famous for (among other things) his victory at the Battle of Bennington. Captain John Paul "Jones," who visited Portsmouth NH twice, had a brief stay at the Purcell House (today called the Paul Jones Museum) was famous for his sea campaigns.
    • rhubarb - a vegetable imported from Europe to the American colonies in the mid-1700s. Originally used for medicinal purposes, combined with other herbs it was believed to help cure dysentery, "prevailing fevers," indigestion, headaches, the common cold, and later even cholera and other more serious maladies. By 1830 the plant was being cultivated in New Hampshire, and was often called the "pie plant" (probably referring to its use as a pie filling).
  • S
    • salt marsh - A salt marsh is a coastal wetland rich in marine life, that is covered (at least once a month) by the rising tide. They are sometimes called tidal marshes, because they occur in the zone between low and high tides. Salt marsh plants cannot grow where waves are strong. They also occur in areas called estuaries, where freshwater from the land mixes with sea water. Salt marsh plants have unusual colors in shades of gray, brown, and green. The salt marsh is home to plants and small animals important to the ecosystem, and therefore to us. In the early days of New Hampshire's colonization, farmers valued the salt marsh. They often collected the salt marsh grass, as its nutritional value for livestock was excellent. Hampton New Hampshire's town seal includes a depiction of the local salt marshes. Learn more about the salt marsh on my blog, using the hyptertext link above.
    • salt-works - a manufacturing business which produced salt. In colonial America salt was vital for tanning hides, and preserving fish. The principal supply of salt was obtained by the evaporation or boiling of sea water. The first known salt works in New Hampshire was developed near Portsmouth.
    • saw-mill - a sawmill was often the second mill built in a settlement. Before there were sawmills, settlers constructed dwellings out of logs and hand-hewn planks. But once sawmills were built, milled boards and planks were in great demand. [see "grist-mill"]
    • school committee -- a group of people, appointed by a town's selectmen, who would interview and hire teachers, visit schools to ensure proper discipline and instruction; and recommend textbooks. They worked in conjunction with a "superintendent of schools" at a later date.
    • Scotch-Irish - i.e. Ulster-Scots," a term used to refer to the descendants of Lowland Scottish people who live in Ulster, Ireland. "Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish" are terms used to refer to the same people, and in particular, their descendants who migrated across the Atlantic. These families had lived in Ireland for 100 to 200 years but had remained completely separate from the old Irish and retained the Scottish character and identity. They were usually of the Presbyterian faith. Scotch-Irish farmers from Northern Ireland began the prosperous settlement of Londonderry, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire in 1719. In the 2000 U.S. Census, 4,319,232 people claimed Scottish heritage and 4,890,581 people claimed Scotch-Irish heritage. The two groups represent just over 3 percent of the U.S. population.
    • scythe - an agricultural hand tool, usually composed of a metal blade attached to a wooden shaft (handle); used to cut grass for hay and harvest crops from the fields. Scythes had different sized blades, depending on the job. For example, a thicker blade was used to cut brush than was used to cut grass. A special scythe, called a grain cradle, was designed with wooden fingers to harvest grain, wheat, oats, or rye
    • sealer of leather - early elected official of a town. He had authority to see that all sales of leather were made honestly as to quality and quantity. The sealer of leather was authorized to put his "seal" or stamp of approval on items he inspected, tested and certified.
    • selectman (or assessors) - elected officials of a town; this term evolved from "ten men" (c1634) to "select townsmen (c1643), eventually evolving into select(ed) men. This position was usually "selected" at "town meeting" held once a year. The selectmen managed the affairs of the town in accordance with the policies and laws set forth by the voters. Despite their responsibility as municipal executives, selectmen can only exercise those powers set forth by state law. Early responsibilities might include hiring preachers, marking out roads, granting licenses to run taverns or sell "spiritous" liquors, submitting documents and fulfilling the town's share (payment) of taxes required by higher-level government. New Hampshire's first woman town selectman was Miss Lenna Gwendolen Wilson of Sharon, who served two House terms. She first became a selectman in 1928, following service in the 1927 Legislature, and was reelected for three additional three-year terms. She served as board chairman throughout that 12-year tenure, by annual vote of her male associates.
    • small-pox - a disease that afflicted and killed the American colonists, and even moreso the native peoples.
    • snath (scythe) - the long, wooden shaft to which the blade of a scythe mounts.
    • steeplejack (or steeplejill) - the occupation where someone would repair, paint, or replace a steeple, lightning rod, tower, chimney, or clocktower.
    • suffrage - the right to vote. In 1784, women lost the right to vote in New Hampshire. In 1860, five states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts) allow free blacks to vote. In 1868 the Fourteenth (U.S.) amendment war ratified and passed Congress, giving the vote to black men. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment (The Susan B. Anthony Amendment) giving women the right to vote, is ratified by a majority of U.S. states and becomes law.
    • surveyor (overseer) of highways - an elected town position whose responsibilities might include the care and upkeep of current roads, the creation of new roads (as designated by the town officers), and the solitiation of resident help to maintain same.
    • surveyor of wood and lumber - an elected town position whose responsibilities, during colonial times, was to oversee the local use of trees and lumber. On a higher level, deputy surveyors of the King's Woods were appointed by the governor. The Deputy Surveyor and his crew had the authority to mark any and all suitable white pines (to produce masts for the King's navy) with the broad arrow mark of the king. These masts became reserved for the British crown. The Deputy Surveyor also had the authority to check the sawmills run by the settlers [Learn about the Pine Tree Riot of Weare NH].
  • T
    • Temperance - Temperance is defined as having control over ones own actions. From a historical perspective, temperance usually refers to not drinking alcohol. To read more, visit the article, on Blog: Cow Hampshire.
    • tenor, old and new - see article: New Hampshire Glossary: Pistereens and Johannes on Blog; Cow Hampshire
    • tin reflecting oven - a cylindrical device usually made of tin, but sometimes also made out of copper, was set on the hearth in front of the fire. The heat reflected its polished back, and would bake, roast or broil meat. (Also see "Cooking in Colonial New Hampshire," from blog: Cow Hampshire)
    • tithing man - an elected town position, it was his duty to arrest Sabbath travellers, unless they were going to or from church, and to keep the boys from playing in the meeting-house, and to wake up any who might fall asleep during meeting. In some towns, tithing men were provided with staves which had brass upon one end and feathers upon the other--they used the brass end in hitting the sleeping men or restless children, and the feathers were used to brush the faces of sleeping women. Tithing men also collected the taxes mandated for the support of the church and the minister of the gospel (hence their name, from the worth tithe, " to pay a portion of one's income, especially to the church."). They were expected to report on idle or disorderly persons, profane swearers or cursers and Sabbath breakers.
    • Tory - an English loyalist, i.e., an American who favored the British side during the American Revolution (especially those who afforded aid and comfort to the British army during the Revolutionary war) were designated "Tories," a term borrowed from English politics. This term is sometimes used (erroneously) to describe anyone who refused to sign the "Association Test" (see above).
    • town clerk - elected official of a town; kept all the vital records for birth, marriages and deaths for the church, as well as various other records of appointments, deeds, meetings, and the election of officers at the annual town meeting.
    • town crier - a person selected to shout or "cry" the town news aloud. Since the ability to read and write among the citizenship of early America was fairly low, in addition to being written, proclamations, edicts, laws and news were often also communicated by word of mouth. Usually a person of good standing in the community, able to write and read the official proclamations. They made use of a signalling device to draw attention to their announcements, using a bugle, hunting horn, other musical instruments, metal pots and large spoons, and bells. The official job of Town Crier can be traced back as far as 1066. Town criers were protected by law. "Don't shoot the messenger" was a very real command-- anything that was done to a town crier was deemed to be done to the King. The Town crier would read a proclamation, usually at the door of the local inn, then nail it to the doorpost. The tradition has resulted in the expression "posting a notice", and calling a location for sending and receiving mail (notices) the "post office."
    • turpentine - made from the resin of the pitch pine (pinus rigida) tree, it was an export of the early settlers. Turpentine was used by the local aborigines (Native Americans) as medicine, both internally and externally, for a wide variety of illnesses and injuries. The "Indians" would place bits of pitch pine wood in one of the depressions made in the tree. A layer of flat sandstones would be placed over the wood, and a fire would be built on top. The heat would drive the sap out of the wood. It would flow through the channel and pour into a waiting vessel. After the early aborigines were driven away from the area, the pioneers who moved in and occupied the land (and also used turpentine) used the Indian stills, but with a slight change in technology. The pioneers would invert their black, iron kettles over the pine bits, and build the fire on top. The use of turpentine as medicine for the colonists and their animals continued for many years. Turpentine was sold, for medicinal purposes, in apothecaries (and later pharmacies) until the mid-1960’s. This practice of came to an end years ago due mainly to increased labor costs and competition from foreign markets.

  • U
  • V
  • W
    • war of the rebellion - aka Civil War which lasted from 1861 to 1865. During that time, over 38,943 New Hampshire residents served - approximately 12 percent of the state's population (1860 Census). 32,486 served in New Hampshire units, 3,160 enlisted in the U. S. Navy, and 396 joined African-American regiments. By war's end, 1,934 New Hampshire soldiers and sailors had died from war wounds, 2,407 from disease, and 499 died from undetermined causes. Alexandria NH was the birthplace of Luther C. Ladd, the first enlisted soldier to lose his life in the Civil War.
    • water baliff - An appointed position in a town located on or near the seashore; water-baliffs had oversight of the shore "to see that no annoying things either by fish, wood or stone, or other such like things be left or laid about the sea-shore."
    • water privilege - usually a place where one (usually the owner) has the advantage of using water as a mechanical power (i.e., a mill or manufacture driven by machinery that is powered by a flowing body of water, such as a brook or river). Why a privilege? In most cases of early New Hampshire settlement, the first individual who built a grist-mill was awarded extra property, or other incenstives, for doing so.
    • whetstone - a sharpening stone used to sharpen the edge of metal tools and weapons (such as knives, scissors, and scythes). Sharpening stones come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  The Pike Manufacturing Company of Haverhill New Hampshire, had the largest whetstone business in the world, until the 1920's and 1930's when artificial abrasives took over the market and the business was moved to Littleton, NH. Their whetstones were made from a mica schist, and there are some myths and legends associated with the "Indian Pond" whetstones. Grafton County, New Hampshire was especially noted for the presence of Novaculite--siliceous rocks valuable as whetstones.
    • woolen mill - Sheep were essential to pioneer life, as their fleece was used to produce wool. Sheared each spring, the wool was washed of its natural grease and dirt, combed, and finally carded. Carding was the untangling of the fibres. By hand, it was a time-consuming pastime.
  • X
  • Y
    • Yankee Doodle - historical records imply that the term "Yankee Doodle" may be directly connected to Col. John Goffe's troops, who participated in the "Indian Wars" (circa 1760). See article, "New Hampshire Inspired Yankee Doodle," on my Blog: Cow Hampshire.
    • Yankee notions - things made in New England, made widely known by traveling Yankee peddlers (salespeople). These items included (but were not limited to) pins, needles, hooks, scissors, combs, small hardware, buttons, thread, ribbon, minor trinkets, knick-knacks, household industries, nails, clocks, tin ware, and miscellaneous novelties. The peddler often carried his goods in trunks slung on his back by a harness or a leather strap. Sometimes he used large wagons. He traveled by land primarily until rivers and lakes became connected by canals. Then, direct selling in early America branched out to the frontiers of the West and the Canadian territory in the north.
  • Z

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