One branch of my ancestors lived in Stewartstown, New Hampshire for generations. When I first found the name in my genealogy research, I wondered where it was located. A life-long fan of maps, I didn’t remember seeing the name before outside of Pennsylvania.
My wife and I decided to visit the area a few years ago. After flying across the country to Boston, we spent the rest of the daylight hours driving north through New Hampshire to Stewartstown which is nestled immediately south of the Canadian border.
We fell in love with the beauty of the area and the slower pace of life that the folks in this area enjoy. We ate dinner across the Connecticut River in Canaan, Vermont and stopped on the border to say hello to the Canadian border guard. Total miles driven? Well, the mile clicker didn’t turn, we were still in tenths of a mile and the air smelled of pine. Nice.
Stewartstown is a place that you have to purposely be planning to visit. It isn’t really on the way to anywhere unless you are in the area and are headed to Sherbrooke, Canada. Why did my ancestors move from Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire to this backwoods burg?
They were looking for honest work and a place to raise their family after spending four years fighting in the Revolutionary War.
I found that they worked as sawmill owners and grain millers with the ever present farming ‘night job’. My cousins owned a livery others were laborers for others. All were typical small town occupations in area with a bounty of harvestable lumber.
We found the majority of them buried in a cemetery on the west side of Highway 3 south of West Stewartstown. The remainder were off the highway in another small cemetery to the East.
Generations of the family are buried by each other with their lifespans denoted by the style and amount of moss and algae on their markers.
As I stood reading their names I tried to picture how many times the families had visited the cemetery on sad occasions as they one-by-one rotated from the ranks of living to the world of spirit or from the world of spirit to the world of the living.
Continuing to trace the family, I found that a large percentage of the children migrated westward in the early 1850’s. The size of the exodus was surprising to me until I plotted the dates on my American timeline database, which graphically proved that they were following the same call westward that had been heard by all of my ancestral families at that time.
We still have fond memories of Stewartstown and hope to visit the area in the future. We miss the moose walking around our car in the motel parking lot like a scene from Northern Exposure. We hunger for the taste of the gravy at Mom’s Café in Canaan and hope it is still there and that Mom is still alive and well. We miss the smell of pine by the Ethan Allen furniture plant and the soft soil in the cemetery on a spring morning.
Visiting the homes and home towns of our ancestors always brings revelations of reference to our minds. When I speak or write of this branch of the family, the pictures in my mind are of the scenes that they enjoyed and of the smells that were part of their lives. I’m more connected to them because of it.