A Walk Along Main Street

By JIM SPAIN

For the Monitor

Published: 09-09-2023 2:00 PM

Gather your thoughts and your belongings and join me as I travel back to a simple time. A time when the value of a silver dollar was appreciated and the opportunity to spend your silver dollar frugally down on Main Street in Concord was embraced.

It was back in the year 1860 that our Main Street in Concord was still cobbled, horse troughs lined the perimeter and the evening was brightened by gas lantern, ignited by a gentleman simply known as the gas lighter. Our little town was home to about 11,000 people, quite an increase in the population over the prior decade when there were only 2,300 citizens living in Concord in the year 1850. As we stop to chat with some of our ancestors along our Main Street tour this morning, we encounter some of the 11,000 people living in Concord. Some are very dashing, and some not quite so. They are however discussing the important news of the day; James Buchanan is the President of the United States and Abraham Lincoln will certainly be elected the next President in November. The good gentleman Ichabod Goodwin is our New Hampshire Governor and he is busy raising the new recruits, fitting out ten regiments of soldiers who will march from Concord and defend the Union. Doctor Moses T. Willard is our Concord Mayor and many say he strongly resembles Abraham Lincoln.

The railroad arrived in Concord eighteen years ago and connected us with both passenger and commercial centers while Cheney and Company Express are now handling the money and merchandise for our local merchants.

As we walk along the cobbled Main Street just a bit further my thoughts turn to the period when this beautiful Main Street was first established. You see, it was laid out back on June 23rd, 1785 and the original plan called for quite a grand width, about ten rods, or over 160 feet. This original plan would have made our Main Street thirty feet wider than the present width. The plan called for the extra width with board walks, fine driveways with a wonderful center line of planted maple, elm and oak trees. The center filled with trees was often referred to as a park setting.

As I walk along, I think the original plan would have nicely resembled some of the old towns of Europe, where the original planners had some strong roots. I do dream about what might have been, but I am very pleased with what I see on Main Street in the year 1860. Our little nineteenth century Main Street even has a nickname, people just call it “The Street”.

I continue my journey along our 1860 Main Street as I stop and admire the views, the fine shops and buildings that have sprouted up along the way. There is a new business block erected to replace some of the buildings lost in the many fires that have ravaged our Main Street. I admire a very fine gold pocket watch in the window of the J. B Stanley Jewelry shop and have thoughts of visiting the Norton & Crawford Booksellers and Binders shop, I am thinking about purchasing a book called The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. This is the fifth book written by Collins and people say it is a very enjoyable mystery. I pass the Tripp and Osgood Steam Printers and admire the clothing in the front window at the W.G. Shaw Clothing Shop.

As I jingle the two silver dollars in my pocket, I think about purchasing a new crock for my home at the S.G. Sylvester Crockery. There are many additional stores lining “The Street” that entice me to make multiple purchases. There are tailors, dry goods dealers, druggist and hardware stores. I hold on to my two silver dollars and decide to visit the Eagle Hotel for a refreshing glass of cold ice tea and a fine imported biscuit instead.

As I walk, I wave to my dear friend Mr. Chase inside his telegraph office and shake hands with Mr. Talbot, one of our local barbers. I do splurge a little and spend a whopping five cents at the Munroe and Morrill Confectioners shop, pocketing some small treats for my four young grandchildren. I am sure I will be met with a smile from the children when they visit on our front porch later this weekend. They visit their Nana and Grampa every Sunday afternoon with their parents, traveling to Concord in the family horse and buggy.

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Our Concord Main Street is lined from end to end with such wonderful shops in 1860. Our visit allows us to pass furniture makers, Prescott Piano musical instrument manufacturers, cobblers and the local trunk, and harness makers as well as many more. From Bridge Street south and back you can find anything at any time, as long as it is not on a Sunday when the stores are closed for the Sabbath. Our beautiful Main Street is lined with over a hundred oak, maple and elm trees to provide shade in the summer sun.

There are many homes being built not far from Main Street, there are farms too. Additional businesses that have been very successful include the Abbott Downing Company, well known manufacturers of various wagons, and the J.C. Norris Bakery on South Main Street is a very successful bakery that will supply hardtack to Union Troops during the upcoming Civil War.

There are now several law offices and banks, a Commercial Club with many additional social clubs too. There are several doctors, architects and multiple school houses about town.

I hope you have enjoyed our visit with the past. The next time you venture down to “The Street” be sure to spend your silver dollars and support the many wonderful businesses that can provide you with just about anything you might need.

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