Vintage Views: Our first mayor

  • Mayor Joseph Low, first mayor in the City of Concord. Courtesy of the City of Concord

Published: 9/8/2019 2:53:37 PM

As our ancestors in Concord witnessed many historical developments in the mid 1800’s the City of Concord was growing as more immigrants arrived from far away. With the Irish Potato Famine many ships arrived at the port in Boston with men and woman seeking employment to sustain their families. As the mills at Manchester lured them north, we find many continued even further north seeking employment in the new granite industry on Rattlesnake Hill. The year 1853 saw Franklin Pierce and his family involved in a tragic train wreck on Massachusetts and the Territory of Washington organized after separating from the Oregon Territory. Our ancestors also witnessed Cincinnati become the first United States city to employ full time professional firefighters while we find the first potato chip being prepared by chef George Crum at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

As the year 1853 progressed the people of Concord felt there was a need for our local government to become more structured and organized, especially with new residents arriving each week. The town voted and the seven wards in Concord decided to elect a moderator, three selectmen, one alderman, two members of the common council, an assessor and a member of the superintending school committee. In addition to all of these positions the people decided it was time to elect the very first mayor, too.

On Saturday, March 26, 1853, the people of Concord held their very first election to establish these positions. The race for the mayoralty included just three candidates; Joseph Low representing the Democratic Party, Richard Bradley representing the Whig Party and Asa Fowler representing the Free Soil Party. Our ancestors voted this day with much attention given to the election of our very first mayor. There were one 1,519 votes cast during this election with Mr. Low receiving 749, Mr. Bradley, 644, and Mr. Fowler 126 votes. Because a majority vote was required, Joseph Low did not win the election, he was actually just short by 26 votes to be elected mayor. As a result, the people decided there was a need for a second election on April 5. This election was held with much fanfare since there were now only two candidates for mayor, Joseph Low and Richard Bradley. The voters elected Gen. Joseph Low, the very first mayor of Concord, with 827 votes of the 1,466 votes cast while Mr. Bradley received 639 votes. Low won by a majority of 188 votes.

On Wednesday, April 6, 1853, the very first mayor of Concord was sworn in at Representatives’ Hall with a large assembly of people attending as well as the induction of the additional newly elected city officials.

Our first mayor arrived in Concord shortly after he was released from military duty at the end of the War of 1812. He travelled to Concord as a young man to marry Fanny Abbot and was then appointed the postmaster in 1816, setting up his office in the old West House on the corner of Main and Washington streets. A very dedicated gentlemen with a desire to succeed he soon purchased the George Hough property on Main Street and moved his post office to a shop front where he conducted business. Low constructed a home on Main Street with a deep front yard sloping east towards the Merrimack River. He eventually moved his Main Street building to 51 School St., and constructed the Low’s Block, also known as Rumford and Woodward Block over the years.

There was some controversy at the Low’s Block during the Civil War period. The building was rented to a weekly newspaper which had pro-slavery views. The people of Concord were not pleased with the publication but tried to stay clear of controversy. This changed when the young soldiers returned to Concord and found the Aug. 8, 1861, issue of the publication referring to them in a rude manner. The Concord men had just returned from a three-month enlistment and found the publication referring to them as “Old Abe’s Mob.” It was shortly after the press printed this edition when the soldiers mobbed the printing office and destroyed most of the equipment. The owners did escape without harm and the newspaper was never printed again.

As Joseph Low aged, he was respected and loved by the people of Concord. He could be seen walking about Concord with a gilded cane in his hand, interacting with the people that welcomed him so many years before. In his life he served his country, enjoyed a successful career as postmaster and real estate investor, started a temperance society, was president of the New Hampshire Savings Bank and treasurer of the Concord Railroad Corporation as well as Adjutant General.

Mayor Low saw much change in his beloved Concord and remained dedicated to the citizens that supported him. He passed away a very content gentleman in 1859 at the age of 69.

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