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Sights and sounds of nature of a different era

  • An early view of Concord. Library of Congress

For the Monitor
Published: 9/11/2021 7:00:06 PM

As the colonists traveled north along the Merrimack River, they were surrounded by nature as pure as the blue sky. Seated in their canoes with their muskets nearby they traveled from Massachusetts Bay Colony in search of opportunity. The men traveled without their families and very lightly with limited provisions, observing as they paddled the waters of the Merrimack, they reached the crooked place they learned about from various trappers and Native American guides. Their destination became their home and the years have led to those that reside today in the city of Concord.

The travel along the river was challenging, exhausting and dangerous. When the sun set late in the day and the evening was welcomed the explorers would gather around a fire smoking their clay pipes filled with tobacco, enjoying a light dinner and consuming some spirits. As they retired for the evening, they were surrounded with the blackest of nights in the forest. It was on this moonless night the stars shone brightly and the forest came alive with wildlife.

As the small group arrived on the sandy shore of the Merrimack River in present-day Concord they organized and explored for days, seeking a good location for a settlement where their families would live and grow in the coming years. The first day they ventured into the forest for the very first time and encountered a different world, a world filled with the best that nature could offer.

The ground was covered with the heavy old-growth forest, a mix of softwood and hardwood. They found plenty of oak, maple, chestnut, beech, birch and ash with elm trees plentiful near the river where they camped. They found large pine, hemlock and some spruce and fir trees. The trees surrounding this land were very large and the forest had never been harvested. The endless supply of hard and softwoods would provide for building shelters, firewood for heat and rustic furniture.

As they traveled further into the local forest they found many animals in abundant supply, living and growing in this unblemished utopia. The men found a plentiful supply of bears, wolves, panthers, wildcats and lynx. There were many smaller groups of animals in large supply such as fox, squirrel, woodchucks and raccoons. The river where they camped provided an abundant supply of salmon as well. Both the river, ponds and streams also provided pike, perch, trout and shad. There were moose and deer populating the forest, the game was plentiful and sustainable for generations.

The land along the Merrimack River boasted fertile soil for planting crops, the fields cleared by the Penacook Native Americans for many generations; the rocky hills hosted the only venomous reptile, the rattlesnake. The climate was known and severe weather was both expected and accepted, the settlement would require early in the season arrival, shelters and garrisons. The Massachusetts Bay Colony provided armed guards for protection once settlement began, buildings were built and homes expanded. The first meeting house was used as a school and as a place of worship, on the corner of the present-day Chapel and North Main Streets. The garrisons were also close and growing in numbers. French traders and Native Americans traveled along the river and bartered and traded routinely. News would arrive by word of mouth and safety was found in numbers.

The years contributed to both the development and growth of our fair little town. The farmers farmed, the hunters hunted and everyone contributed to survival. Stores were established to sell provisions and a Main Street was planned and constructed as society developed further. From the old forest our town grew year after year, immigrants arrived to fill the labor roles as the granite industry, factories and the railroad arrived too.

As you spend time with nature this fall, observing the beautiful foliage and wildlife that our city does host, take a moment to listen. Close your eyes as you sit beneath a large oak tree deep in the forest and listen to the sound of silence. Think back to a time so long ago and spend time with your ancestors beneath the brightest stars embracing all that is good.

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