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Heritage Commission seeks to identify, document artifacts around Concord

  • The historical marker for the Rumford Garrison around the house of Jermiah Stinkney in 1746 sits on the property of the Holiday Inn in downtown Concord on February 24, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • RIGHT: The marker where the first Concord Meeting House in downtown was located in 1788 at the site of the old Walker School on Feb. 24. The meeting house burned as well as the original Walker School.

  • The marker where the first Concord Meeting House in downtown was located in 1788 at the site of the old Walker School on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. The meeting house burned as well as the orginal Walker School. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jim Spain, vice chairperson for the Concord Heritage Commission, touches the 1893 marker for the Unknown Soldiers for Civil War veterans at Blossom Hill Cemetery on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jim Spain, vice chairman for the Concord Heritage Commission, in the Concord downtown historical district on Feb. 24, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • A historical marker in the downtown Historical District marks where the first garrison was built to protect the first families of Concord in the mid-1740s.

  • One of the homes of President Franklin Pierce that was moved from downtown Concord in 1971 to its present location on Horseshoe Pond Lane. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jim Spain, vice chairman for the Concord Heritage Commission, touches the 1893 marker for the Unknown Soldiers for Civil War veterans at Blossom Hill Cemetery on Feb. 24. GEOFF FORESTERphotos / Monitor staff

Monitor Staff
Published: 3/13/2021 1:19:36 PM

Jim Spain has helped reveal forgotten cemeteries, preserved historic buildings, and written poems for the dead.

“I always tell people, ‘It’s an honor to speak for those that no longer have a voice,’ ” said Spain, the vice chairman for the Concord Heritage Commission and an avid historian.

Spain and the rest of the Heritage Commission are embarking on a new project to rediscover historical artifacts and monuments that have been lost or forgotten over the years with the intent to document them and their histories.

Spain is managing that search, buoyed by his undying love for history.

“You don’t meet many people that look back these days,” Spain said, noting that people go by historical sites all the time and don’t know what happened there. “People go by every day and they have no idea.”

Rick Jaques, chairman of the Heritage Commission, agreed.

“I think it’s important to know the history of where you live,” Jaques said. “A lot of people don’t know that.”

The goal with the search is to find and document missing pieces of Concord’s past and pass it on the community, Spain said.

“History needs to be documented to preserve its original intent,” he said.

The Heritage Commission has done work like this before, documenting the original locations of monuments that had to be moved due to construction or renovation.

“It’s not malicious,” Spain said, “but things do get moved, and they get stored ... and lost to the years.” Even if artifacts and monuments aren’t placed in storage, they can be moved out of their original place, and the history behind them can get jumbled.

An example of this, he said, is the granite monument for the Bradley Massacre that currently sits outside the Concord Hospital as a monument to early settlers that were killed during a clash with Native Americans on Aug. 11, 1746. “People ride by and they look at that ... a lot of people don’t know that it didn’t happen there,” Spain said. According to accounts at the time, Lt. Jonathan Bradley, his son, Samuel Bradley, John Lufkin, John Bean and Obadiah Peters died during a gun fight with Native Americans, where they were badly outnumbered.

The monument to the massacre was moved due to construction, and according to Spain, the site of the actual event was further up the road and on the opposite side of the street.

“So when I say document, it’s important for people to know that – this is where the event occurred and this where the monument ended up,” Spain said.

The current search for artifacts and monuments is a little more complicated. These, Spain said, are artifacts that are out there but remain unknown, hidden in plain sight.

“From a Heritage Commission point of view, I like to think of it as ‘what was once known but lost,’ ” Spain said.

Examples of what the commission is looking for include stone markers that denote the edges of old properties, monuments or artifacts left in storage, and any other historic item whose story hasn’t been told. Writing down what the object is and why it came to be is the is the most important part to Spain.

“Documentation’s really important, because things change,” Spain said.

It’s also personal for Spain, as his family has been in the area for generations.

“My family arrived in 1850, and I’m still here,” he said. He wants to preserve as much local history as possible, given how far back his roots stretch. “It’s so important that the next generation is aware of these stories.”

For Jaques, the project holds similar significance.

“To some people it might not seem important, but to me, being from Penacook, I’m into Penacook history,” he said. “I think it would be great to know little things like where a monument or a marker was. It’s just knowing where they came from and what they were for.”

The project, however, is a massive undertaking.

“This is a big, big task,” Jaques said. “This is huge.” Markers could be lost in the woods, hidden on large properties, or simply overlooked and ignored by passersby.

“And we might not even finish,” Jaques added.

The labor involved has not diminished the potential thrill of finding lost and hidden historical items.

“It’s truly a labor of love,” Spain said. “Every single person on that Heritage Commission is passionate about history. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

In addition to his position on the Heritage Commission, Spain spends his time researching and writing a weekly column in the Monitor about Concord’s history, called Vintage Views.

Jaques emphasized the need for community members reaching out to the commission about historical artifacts they might run across. “It would be super helpful if people would let us know if they have something near them or on their property,” Jaques said. “If you see something, say something, you know.”

If you find an old stone marker or a lost monument, contact Jim Spain at wjspain@comcast.net. If you want to learn more about Concord’s history, check out Spain’s column, Vintage Views, on D1.

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