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Canterbury teen, author Sam Papps helps draft town’s history

  • Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury. Canterbury, N. H. at 11 Kimball Pond Road, in celebration of a new publication, "Harvest Home", the story of one of Canterbury's influential families in the 19th and 20th centuries. Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff)

    Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury. Canterbury, N. H. at 11 Kimball Pond Road, in celebration of a new publication, "Harvest Home", the story of one of Canterbury's influential families in the 19th and 20th centuries. Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury, greets book buyers as his mom Kelly looks on. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff)

    Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury, greets book buyers as his mom Kelly looks on. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury signs a book. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff)

    Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury signs a book. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury. Canterbury, N. H. at 11 Kimball Pond Road, in celebration of a new publication, "Harvest Home", the story of one of Canterbury's influential families in the 19th and 20th centuries. Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff)
  • Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury, greets book buyers as his mom Kelly looks on. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff)
  • Sam Papps, the author, is a Junior at Belmont High School and a resident of Morrill Road, Canterbury signs a book. (Geoff Forester / Monitor staff)

Sam Papps is a fresh-faced 17-year-old who spends afternoons digging through the Canterbury Historical Society’s archives at the town library.

But Papps, who recently published his second book, Harvest Home, might be making a bit of history himself.

He is the historical society’s youngest board member and was recently named its archivist – duties he’ll juggle with his role on a committee to help write the town’s history dating to 1912.

“He was originally on the board because of his incredible interest in history and Canterbury, so we asked him if he would consider being an official member of the board,” Canterbury Historical Society President Bob Scarponi said. “It’s very unusual for someone his age, but it’s also an example for other people, for young people, to take a lesson.

“History isn’t something that is just to be experienced and forgotten. It really is the framework for how we live, and Sam appreciates that.”

Papps, a junior at Belmont High School, grew up in a historic home on Morrill Road, an eighth of a mile from Cantebury’s town center. The forest behind his house was fertile ground for finding old glass bottles, rusty cans and old junk, and the origin of the artifacts piqued Papps’s imagination.

“From the time he was little, he’d be back there looking for stuff. At first I tried to keep him from it, but eventually I gave up,” said his mother, Kelly Papps.

For Harvest Home – the story of an old Canterbury farmhouse – Papps spent more than two years and hundreds of hours conducting research in the town’s

historical archives. The book was released for sale this weekend during a reception at the house, where he planned to give a signed copy to the family who recently moved in. Books can be purchased through the Canterbury Historical Society for $12.

“History has always been an interesting thing to me,” Papps said in an interview at the Elkins Public Library, the site of the climate- and humidity-controlled town archives.

In his own words, the book is about a historical home and its notable inhabitants. More specifically, it is the brick Colonial that was built on Kimball Pond Road in 1849. With its red brick exterior, shuttered windows and its lack of inhabitants, the home caught Papps’s attention as a child.

“I was familiar with the house in that it was the type of place you stayed away from,” Papps said.

The home was unoccupied in 2012 when Papps hatched an idea.

“I said there has to be some story behind this house,” Papps said.

He had already published A History of Morrill Road and a genealogical book recording his paternal Greek heritage. This would be different, though, because Papps was no longer home-schooled and was attending Belmont.

Using the town’s rich historical records, Papps sifted through probate records and recorded land deeds. He studied a book cataloguing the town’s historical homes and the signatures of their inhabitants. He wrote letters to living relatives of the colonial’s inhabitants and conducted several oral interviews to complete the book. For two years, he spent up to four hours every week researching for Harvest Home.

Papps learned the home was a post office, a switchboard office for the town telephone company, a brick mason’s home and the site of a carpentry business.

But it was Elizabeth Foster Houser, who died in 1939 and whose photograph is on the book’s cover, who became central to his research. Houser was the first librarian at Cantebury’s public library and served on the historical committee that wrote the history of Canterbury in 1912.

“All of these people have had a big impact on Canterbury, and they aren’t remembered very well today,” Papps said. “I think it goes back to me trying to figure out a puzzle, who these people were and the impact they had on our society.

“People who lived in that house have done a great deal for our community.”

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

This story is extremely cool on so many levels. Firstly, I cannot remember the last time I heard of a 17-year-old who was so into history. Honestly, I was just about ready to declare that particular species as extinct. How refreshing it is to be proven wrong by young Sam Papps. And the irony in the outcome is almost like something out of a "Twilight Zone" episode. Specifically, one of the occupant's of this Kimball Pond Road brick edifice turns out to be the first librarian of the town, and a member of the local historical committee that wrote the town's history! That would be the same town library, and historical society (perhaps not physically in either case, but essentially), Sam used to research the history on the house. See how it flip-flops around like a TZ episode? It's not hard to imagine Rod Serling leaning against the mantel while this young man was digging through the town records. So, please take a bow for job well done, Sam Papps. Mom should grab her fair share of the harvest, too, for raising such an excellent son.

Nice job Sam. Now, if a Canterbury teen can help draft a Town's history, why can't Concord's teens draft plans for a Community Center?

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