The initial impetus for the 125th anniversary came from the Historical Society. The 1992 minutes of the Society show discussion of the upcoming anniversary in 1993. At the November 1992 meeting, the discussion was on the questions of whether other organizations would join, how elaborate it should be and could it be tied to the 4th of July celebration. It was agreed that Corresponding Secretary Sherry Norman would write to other groups requesting representatives for an overall discussion. The letter said that the Historical Society was interested in celebrating the 125th anniversary and would like to form a committee with members from organizations and town departments to organize the event. Groups were asked to respond with the names of representatives.
The first meeting, “a brainstorming session”, was called by Wilma Garland, President of the Historical Society, for February 16, but had to be postponed until March 3 because of a snowstorm. Quite a number of groups were represented at that first meeting. The 4th of July committee already had made plans for the holiday which would fall on Sunday, including the midway, pancake breakfast, barbecue, parade and fireworks. Other firm plans already included an art show, the dedication of Memorial Park and a historical bike ride; and several other ideas were being considered. The second meeting on March 17 also had to be postponed because of a snowstorm, but the committee began meeting regularly, soon weekly on Wednesday evenings. They did a lot of work in a short time, in just four months from that first meeting until the celebration. Wilma Garland, was general chair. Alex Ray and Brian Chalmers represented the 4th of July committee. Other regular committee members included Peggy and Peewee Duguay, Jo Brown, Steve Jaquith, David Hrdlicka, Ray Goddard, Noreen Crawford, Kathleen Donaghue, Kathy Scheer, Mary and David Ruell.
Most of the added events, like the art show and the flower show, were self-funded, the sponsoring organizations finding the money to pay expenses. But the general expenses, for the parade, entertainment and fireworks, were handled through the 4th of July committee which started 1993 with just $1390 in the bank, a rather low point in the treasury, because much of the 1992 holiday celebration had been rained out. The Town did make a $700 appropriation. As we shall see, more money was raised by the Legion and the Historical Society and from the sales of the souvenir program. But much of the fundraising fell onto the Fourth of July committee through the usual means: sale of buttons, pancake breakfast, barbecue and food booth. In June, they also held a large yard and food sale in the old Post Office parking lot, and a pancake breakfast at the Common Man. So, they were able to cover all the expenses. But the expenses were greater than the income, so at the end of the year, the 4th of July committee had just $592.60 in the bank, which was literally the lowest end of year balance their treasury has seen from 1978, when they began reporting their finances in the town report, until now.
Souvenir program, an 8 page publication, with 81/2 by 1l inch pages, which contained the schedule of events, three short historical items: “The Secession of Ashland from Holderness”, “The Highlights of Ashland Town Meetings”, and “The Creation of the Ashland Water System”. (The rebuilding of the water system was then a hot topic in Ashland.) Wilma Garland sold ads for the program, mostly at $10 for a business card size ad. There were 52 ads, all but five from businesses located in Ashland. The program was called the Ashland Item and used the banner from the former Ashland newspaper of that name. The publication was designed and produced by Sally Grand of ME Design. It was sold during the event and all told made a profit of $320.
The Ashland Historical Society had previously sold commemorative plates of the Whipple House and the High School. So the society decided to do a plate as a fundraiser for the 125th anniversary. The subject was the Town Hall, which had been left off the Centennial plate, probably because it was being used as a school building in 1968. The same company that had done the two earlier plates, World Wide Art Studios, produced the 10 inch white plate with a gold rim and a brick red illustration of the Town Hall as it appeared in the 19th century. 100 plates were ordered. The price was set at $12, and pre-orders were being solicited in May. The plates arrived in late June and were sold during the event and afterwards. By the end of the summer, there was only one left, which was given to the Town for display in the Town Hall. The Society had also bought two plates for its own collection. The plates had cost the Society $861, and made a profit of $355 for the July 4th committee.
The Town Hall design from the plate was used as the main element of the July 4 buttons, which were assembled by volunteers. The button collections brought in $993.
Essentially the anniversary was a weekend celebration, with most events on Saturday and Sunday. But, two events were different. The flower show was held on Friday and Saturday, while the art show was open for four days, starting with a reception on Friday and running through Monday. So I will start with the two longer events.
The Ashland Garden Club decided to do a standard flower show as a tour through the town's historic buildings, including 5 of the 7 properties on the National Register of Historic Places. (The railroad station and the old school had not yet been restored, so they were left out.) The tour also included the Toy Museum and the Town Library. The show was called “A Small Town on a River” and organized by a committee of a dozen Garden Club members headed by Fern Doucette. It was a juried and judged show with judges from 8 NH garden clubs who donated their services and gave out a long list of awards for the numerous classes. The tour started at St. Mark's parish house, where adults paid $2 (children were free) and picked up a brochure with map. In the parish house, there were several horticultural classes and educational exhibits. St. Mark's Church had designs suitable for churches. There were hanging baskets at the town hall entrance, and large pots at the front doors of the Baptist Church. The Toy Museum had small designs in one room and designs in lunchboxes in the schoolroom. The Whipple House had fruit and vegetable baskets in the kitchen and tea trays in the parlor. Children's designs with toys were shown in the library's children's room. The grist mill had underwater designs and window boxes. The visitors were also encouraged to look at the Garden Club plantings in the pedestrian park on Mechanic Street, Memorial Park, around the Civil War Monument and on the trash boxes.
The Ashland Womans Club voted in February to sponsor an art show of Ashland scenes. A nine member committee chaired by Mary Ruell, put on the show. Ruth Preston of Downtown Artworks provided professional knowledge of the logistics of an art show. The club obtained a $1000 grant from the NH State Council on the Arts for the show, which was entitled “Ashland As I See It”. A flyer was sent to local artists. Joan Doggett loaned the former post office as the gallery. The building needed some work, painting, minor repairs, and carpeting on parts of the floor. The Club borrowed some display panels and made some more from hollow core doors. The show was advertised with posters, press releases, and even a float in the July 4 parade. 56 artists entered a total of 95 works, in a variety of media- photographs, oils and acrylics, water colors, drawings and pastels. Nearly 500 visitors saw the free show. They were given the opportunity to vote on their favorite works in different categories. Cash prizes were donated for the most popular works by businesses and committee members. Six artists sold works from the show. It really was an interesting exhibit, particularly for Ashland residents.
The Whipple House and the Glidden Toy Museum were also open over the weekend.
The traditional 4th of July events were all held on Sunday, the actual July 4, while the events added for the anniversary were, with two exceptions, on Saturday the 3rd in the afternoon and evening.
The historical bike tour of a dozen local historical sites was supposed to be in the morning but was postponed to the afternoon because of rain. The free tour was led by Sandra Jones of Bayside Bikes for a small but enthusiastic group.
The playground saw different afternoon events, one for adults and three for children. The adult event was an apple pie bakeoff of pies made by scratch by amateurs and judged by three “expert pie eaters”. Beth Chalmers won first prize, a pie plate made and donated by Suzy Johnk. The pies were donated to the Legion supper in the evening.
Children 12 and under had their own contest for decorated cookies 3 to 6 inches in diameter. This was won by Laura Ray, who was five years old.
The Ashland Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops held a field day for children, although afternoon rains put a damper on the event.
In the late afternoon, Ashland musician Paul Hubert gave a concert for the children.
The American Legion served a ham and bean supper at the Legion Hall at $4 for adults and $2 for children. The real beanhole beans were baked in the ground by Roland Garland and Roland Amsden for 24 hours. The Legion Auxiliary cooks prepared the rest of the meal. Legionaries and the Baptist youth group served it. It was a sellout to over 200 diners and raised $579 for the 4th of July committee.
That evening Jim Alba and the Tattoo Rhythms played for a street dance in the Plymouth Stitching parking lot.
The midway with rides, the Fire Department's dunking booth, games and food including the 4th of July food booth, was held on both Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday morning started with special church services. For example, the Methodist church, had a John Wesley service, with participants wearing period costumes.
The pancake breakfast was served at the Common Man by the usual crew for just $4 per person.
The start of the parade was delayed until 11:30 a.m., because of the church services. The parade, organized by the Fire Department, followed its usual route from the fire station down Main Street, but it stopped at the library for a proclamation from the Speaker of the NH House, read by Rep. Nils Larson and presented to the selectmen and town manager. Police Chief Paul Dean also made a presentation to Tom Winn on his retirement from the state police after 25 years, which included working the parade every year. Six out of town judges gave out awards, plaques donated by Pemi-Baker Memorials, in several categories. Bayside Bikes also gave a prize and a treat to everyone who rode a decorated bike in the parade.
Dedication of Memorial Park
Memorial Park had been under development for 25 years, and had finally reached a point where the Memorial Park Committee felt that it was ready to formally dedicate. They had paid off the original loan for the purchase of the property. In 1983, committee members had jointly purchased with David Colburn the Havlock property up the river from the original purchase. They had paid off a second loan for their share of the Havlock property and had finished the landscaping of the park, including that addition and a bridge connecting the old and new sections. They had also raised enough money to increase the endowment fund to $15,000, so they were ready to deed the addition to the town and also to turn over the trust fund money. On Sunday afternoon, the dedication ceremony was held in the lower part of the park. Chairman Marion Merrill gave a brief history of the park's development. Mary Ruell gave commendations to park committee members, and thanked others who had helped through the years. A list of those honored by memorial gifts to the park was read. Art Harriman sang. Rep. Nils Larson spoke. The deed for the addition and the check for the endowment fund were presented to the selectmen. Then Kaye Harriman and Shirley Splaine, representing Pauline Glidden, unveiled the formal plaque on the boulder in the upper level of the park with the inscription “Ashland Memorial Park, A volunteer Centennial project, undertaken 1968, accepted by the town and dedicated 1993” which neatly connected the Centennial and the 125th anniversary. Of course, the park committee was not really done. They went on in the next few years to buy David Colburn's part of the Havlock property and to raise more money for the endowment.
The usual crew of 4th of July volunteers served the chicken BBQ at the ballfield in the evening. The barbecue was followed by pre-fireworks entertainment featuring Art Harriman, Paul Hubert and Kathe Kolman.
The weekend celebration ended with what was advertised as “the area's best fireworks display”. The show was put on by Atlas Pyrotechnics at a cost of $5000. Unfortunately, it was marred by one of the few accidents in the decades of our 4th of July fireworks. Something happened to a box of fireworks, so that instead of all going up into the air, some flew off sideways. Two boys, an Ashland resident and his visiting friend, were hit. They were treated on the scene by the fire department, then taken to the Plymouth hospital, treated for minor burns and lacerations and released.
Aftermath There were two uncompleted projects at the end of the anniversary and I am afraid that they are still uncompleted and likely to remain that way.
One was the photo guilt project of the Squam Lake Grange. The plan was to use a transfer process to print local photos, I believe historic photos, onto cloth, and then make a large display quilt with those images. From talking to a former Grange officer, I learned that the quilt was planned and discussed, but never actually made. The Squam Lake Grange has since disbanded, so the project will remain unfinished.
This is somewhat embarrassing for the Historical Society. The time capsule was to be buried in Memorial Park and to be opened at the 150th anniversary. But the Memorial Park people were unsure of where future work in the park would take place. So, there was no agreement on a spot to bury the time capsule and it was never done. In the meantime, the items that had been collected for the time capsule were placed in an envelope in a file cabinet at the Whipple House office for safekeeping. I only learned of this envelope a couple of weeks ago when I was interviewing for this talk. While I looked through the file cabinet twice, I could not find it. Sandy Ray and I have looked for the envelope in the Whipple House storage rooms and archives, but we have not been able to find it. It may still turn up, but I do have a possible theory as to what might have happened. 10 to 12 years ago, four of us on the archives committee organized the various documents that had accumulated over the years, often in little miscellaneous collections of materials. We sorted them by topic, put them in folders, and filed them away in the archives file cabinets. It was quite a large task that took some time. I don't think anyone on the committee knew that the contents of the time capsule were stored in the Whipple House. I suspect that this envelope was disassembled, sorted by topic, and the contents dispersed among the various folders in the archives. I doubt that the contents of the envelope would have been thrown away or removed from the Whipple house, so this is my best guess as to its fate. I am sorry to end the talk on the 125th anniversary on these sour notes, because it was really a successful celebration, which people enjoyed.
This presentation on Ashland's 125th Anniversary was delivered to the Ashland Historical Society by David Ruell on October 23, 2014.