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Vintage Views: In Concord, a gift falls from on high

  • A sketch of the meteorite that fell on Concord in the year 1840. —Concord Public Library

For the Monitor
Published: 8/21/2021 11:00:01 AM

There are times in life when amazing things happen to us. Moments when some very unpredictable things happen and we need to stop to ponder the occurrence. We experience these situations today and our ancestors experienced them many years ago too. In fact, there was such a case right here in Concord and it occurred in October 1830.

It was on a very beautiful fall day in Concord during October 1840 that a local attorney returned to his Concord home and enjoyed dinner with his family. As the cool refreshing October air beckoned him, he decided to take a walk around his property, enjoying the abundant fall foliage and the many dazzling colors that covered the hills and valleys about town. The attorney was J. S. Noyes and he practiced law by day while his mind traveled freely during the late afternoons and evenings. Mr. Noyes decided to walk this very evening as he enjoyed a fine cigar and nothing but the sound of silence.

As Mr. Noyes enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the distant Rattlesnake Hill to his west, he decided the time had come to conclude his enjoyable walk. He set course for his house at the end of a long unpaved road and found a comfortable fence to lean upon as he gazed skyward. The October evening quickly darkened as Mr. Noyes lost rack of time. The dazzling stars above were especially bright this evening and the view was mesmerizing. As he lit another cigar with thoughts of retiring to a comfortable chair in front of his fireplace, he spent a few additional moments looking at the stars.

As his cigar was extinguished on the edge of the fencepost his attention was quickly brought to a bright light in the sky over Concord. It approached from a great distance in the form of a fireball and only grew in intensity. Standing in the road just south of his house his arm still rested on the fence with his gaze towards the southwestern sky. At first, he concluded that he was most fortunate to see a falling star, certainly something that would bring him much luck and required a sincere wish. As moments passed, he became a little concerned because this falling star was accompanied by a sound, very unusual indeed. The bright object passed overhead and impacted Concord miles away as the night sky returned to normal. It was as this moment that Mr. Noyes experienced his second unpredictable moment.

There was a distant sound, as if something with weight was falling from the heavens above. It grew louder with each moment but never reached above a strong whisper. Something was falling and falling fast. It seemed like minutes but it was just moments after the fireball passed overhead that Mr. Noyes unknowingly came very close to death himself. Just fifteen feet away from his arm resting upon the rail fence an object impacted the very same fence. It whispered as it fell, impacted the fence and then bounced and rolled into the center of the road. With the bright stars he walked to the area in the road and found an object which he quickly picked up and brought into his home. Carefully examining the object, he placed it on his table near a burning candle, he was very perplexed. The unknown object that had fallen from the sky was similar in some ways to the many small stones he had plowed up in his field. These stones became a part of his stonewall marking his property line. Mr. Noyes retired for the evening very deep in thought.

A period of a years passed and Mr. Noyes spoke often about his strange discovery. His talk caught the attention of Mr. Abiel Chandler one day down on Main Street. Mr. Chandler told Mr. Noyes that he knew someone that could examine this strange rock and perhaps tell them what it was. Mr. Noyes agreed and so it was that on October 16, 1846 a letter was received by Mr. Chandler from his friend, a friend that just happened to know about this kind of thing.

Small pieces of the strange rock were sent for analysis weeks before and the letter contained the answer to the many questions posed. The letter said the exterior finish is glazed with brilliant enamel of grayish white with some deep brown metallic staining. It registered at about 6.5 on the hardness scale and easily scratched feldspar. Additional details were provided at length in this letter with the conclusion confirming the identity of the strange object.

The brilliant light over Concord that Mr. Noyes enjoyed that cool October evening in 1840 was not a falling star, it was not a fireball, it was a meteor. A small portion separated as it fell to the earth, landing just 15 feet from Mr. Noyes. It was often said over the following years that it might not have been a falling star, but Mr. Noyes was once of the luckiest men walking the streets of Concord, New Hampshire.

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