Dec. 17, 1979: New Hampshire’s multi-million dollar ski industry, already plagued by high fuel prices, is getting nervous about the winter. With just five days until the start of Christmas vacation, only six of the state’s 35 ski areas are open. Not only has there been a shortage of natural snow, but warm weather has hindered artificial snowmaking operations. Ski area operators are praying for a heavy snowfall before Christmas to bail them out of a potential financial disaster, the Associated Press reports.
Dec. 17, 2001: Concord mayor Bill Veroneau ends his 16-year council career on a high note, as the council approves the money for the completion of the southern leg of the Northwest Bypass. “My six years as a ward councilor and 10 years as mayor have always been exciting, never boring and continuously filled with action,” he says. “Tonight is an example.”
Dec. 17, 2000: A 7-week-old girl dies in an early morning fire at a Pittsfield apartment building. Though seriously injured, the girl’s mother and two-year-old brother will survive.
Dec. 17, 1951: The temperature in Concord falls to 22 below zero, making this the coldest December day of the 20th century.
Dec.17, 1828: Ralph Waldo Emerson, who is under serious consideration for the job of assistant pastor to the Second Church in Boston (the Mathers’ church), visits Concord. He and Ellen Tucker, whom he met the previous Christmas, become engaged to marry. He is 25, she 17.
Dec.17, 1835: Charles Miner, who supports native New Hampshireman Daniel Webster for president, explains why Webster’s stance on the War of 1812 will hurt him. “Damning Sin! Never to be forgiven,” Miner writes. “He was a Federalist . . . opposed to the war! Let no statesman or patriot hereafter, dare to interpose his voice to save his Country from the Horrors of War!” Miner’s view will be shared by historians, who say Webster’s antiwar position as a young congressman doomed his presidential ambitions.
Dec. 17, 1997: The New Hampshire Supreme Court rules that the state’s method of paying for public schools with local property taxes is unconstitutional.
Dec. 17, 1808: Three years after a state prison is proposed in Concord, the Legislature authorizes a committee of three to accept bids for building one. It will be nearly four years before the prison opens on North States Street at Tremont Street. It will be a three-story, 36-cell structure surrounded by granite walls three feet thick and 14 feet high. The cost: $37,000.
Dec. 18, 2001: David Rayment, a lawyer representing the Richmond Co., the Massachusetts company that wants to build a supermarket and shopping center adjacent to the South End Marsh, argues in a hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court that the Concord Planning Board unfairly rejected the project. Superior Court Judge John Arnold will later rule that the board did not provide the developers with enough evidence to support its decision to reject the proposal.
Dec. 18, 2000: For the first time in anyone’s memory, a crowd gathers at the State House to watch the casting of votes for president by New Hampshire’s four members of the Electoral College. The electors all choose George W. Bush, doing their part to ensure his narrow victory over Al Gore.
Dec. 18, 1999: Bradford residents celebrate the renovation of the town library, a $295,000 project that doubled the building’s size without any taxpayer contributions. The fund-raising effort had begun in 1970, when a bake sale brought in $198.
Dec. 18, 1805: Russell Freeman, a former speaker of the New Hampshire House, is murdered while serving in a debtor’s jail in Haverhill. His murderer will be defended by Daniel Webster but eventually hanged.
Dec. 18, 1862: Five days after his regiment marched to the slaughter at Fredericksburg, Sergeant George Gove of Raymond writes in his diary: “We have nothing to do now, for the very good reason we can do nothing. The Fifth New Hampshire Regiment is played out.”
Dec. 18, 1995: Concord’s Bob Tewksbury signs a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres for $1.5 million.
Dec. 19, 1979: At a campaign stop in Concord, Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker says a get-tough policy is needed to protect American embassies and suggests the creation of a special 50,000-member military unit to accomplish that. “As dangerous as the situation is in Iran, the real danger to this country is the growing impression throughout the world that you can push on Uncle Sam and nothing ever happens in return,” he says.
Dec. 19, 1979: In Twin Mountain, the temperature plunges to 20 below zero.
Dec. 19, 1774: The British frigate Scarborough arrives at Portsmouth Harbor, the second of two ships whose presence quells an insurrection. In two raids during the week, dissident colonists have taken light cannons, muskets and gunpowder from Fort William and Mary. The presence of the British ships is credited with keeping the dissidents from returning to seize the fort’s 45 heavy cannons.
Dec. 19, 1895: Schoolteachers Robert Frost and Elinor White marry. They will honeymoon the following summer in Allenstown.
Dec. 19, 1975: The state accepts as a gift the historic John Langdon house in Portsmouth, birthplace of an early New Hampshire governor.
Dec. 19, 1976: Gov. Mel Thomson says President-elect Jimmy Carter’s amnesty plan for Vietnam draft evaders and deserters “would deal a mortal blow to the patriotic spirit of America.” He writes Carter and tells him so.
Dec. 19, 1983: Sens. Alan Cranston and John Glenn pay their $1,000 each and file to run in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary. Both criticize the perceived front-runner, Walter Mondale. “You can’t promise everything to everybody,” Glenn says. “Pretty soon you have to go to the checkout counter.” Says Cranston: “Mondale is saying he would do everything from A to Z. I will try to do everything from A to B.”
Dec. 20, 1774: The Portsmouth Volunteers organize, elect officers and resolve to drill twice weekly. Alarmed, royal Gov. John Wentworth writes to Lord Dartmouth that his minions “are arming and exercising Men, as if for immediate War.”
Dec. 20, 1976: As part of a continuing liquor war between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Gov. Meldrim Thomson releases the names of eight Massachusetts tax agents who had been seen observing Massachusetts residents purchasing liquor in New Hampshire. Since New Hampshire prices are lower, Massachusetts has tried to limit large out-of-state purchases so as not to lose tax revenue. Thomson claims “tax stool pigeons” will continue to be detained and questioned by state police when found loitering around liquor stores.
Dec. 20, 1820: The six children of William Follansbee are burned to death along with his house in the west part of Hill.
Dec. 20, 1860: South Carolina secedes from the Union. “The earth did not quake, the sun shone on, & Nature did not mark the event with any uncommon convulsion,” New Hampshireman Benjamin Brown French writes in his diary.
Dec. 20, 1863: New Hampshire man Benjamin Brown French attends “the most brilliant” reception in his time as a White House aide to President Lincoln. Congress, the Cabinet and the Supreme Court are all on hand. The guests of honor: a Russian delegation visiting the capital. “The Russian officers were magnificently uniformed,” writes French, “and exceedingly polite and stiff in their manners, as all foreigners appear to be to us free-and-easy ‘Yankees.’ ”
Dec. 21, 1999: Encouraged by a Vermont Supreme Court ruling the day before, gay rights advocates in this state say they will introduce legislation to confer on same-sex couples the same rights as married couples. Other advocates say it would be better to wait for the Vermont legislature to respond to the court ruling before acting.
Dec. 22, 1939: Fire destroys the first steamer Mount Washington.
Dec. 23, 2000: Bradlees department store on Fort Eddy Road goes out of business.