Dec. 31, 1999: Despite a bomb threat, First Night celebrations wrap up without incident. Enthusiasm, however, is hard to find. “It doesn’t feel like New Year’s Eve,” one would-be Concord reveler laments. “There’s not a lot going on,” another adds. “And with no snow, it’s even worse.”
Dec. 31, 1866: Fire burns the roof and destroys machinery at the Penacook Mill. Though it is so cold that the firemen’s clothing freezes, a horse-drawn steam fire engine speeds at 30 mph from Concord and saves much of the mill building. The mill’s 250 employees are thus out of work only briefly.
Dec. 31, 1869: A group of young men from Concord gathers to greet the New Year. “One raised his glass and pledged upon his honor as a man, that not a single drop of intoxicating liquor should pass his lips in 1870.” Impressed, another poured the party’s whiskey down the drain. The Monitor approved, reporting: “These men have made a good beginning for 1870.”
Dec. 31, 1935: Enrollment in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the public works agency of the New Deal, reaches its peak in New Hampshire at 3,787 men. By October 1941, CCC rolls in the state will have shrunk to 488 men employed, most of them war veterans and most stationed at Bear Brook Camp in Suncook.
Dec. 31, 1984: Bernhard Goetz turns himself in to the Concord police, confessing that it was he who shot four teenagers in a New York subway nine days before. Police Chief David Walchak is at a loss as to why Goetz came to New Hampshire. Between the shootings and his surrender, Goetz spent several days in the state, staying in motels at North Sutton, Keene and Sunapee.
Jan. 1, 2002: The town of Hopkinton instates a new department rule forcing firefighters to retire at the age of 70, but will allow them to serve in a diminished capacity, from directing fire trucks arriving from other towns to manning the radios. Rather than accept “inactive duty” as a firefighter, Dick Gourley, 72 years old and a 20-year veteran with the department, resigned.
Jan. 1, 2000: About 50 people from the state and the private sector huddle in an emergency operation center in Concord, ready to respond to whatever havoc the dreaded Y2K computer glitch may bring. To their relief, the rollover of the calendar passes without incident.
Jan. 1, 1871: Birthdate of Dr. Henry L. Stickney, one of the state’s leading doctors in his day. “The first automobile owned in the state was owned and operated by him, but after serving an apprenticeship with three, he concluded that he was not earning money fast enough to keep them in repair and finally gave them up entirely and returned to horses, man’s best friend,” reports the New Hampshire Patriot.
Jan. 1, 1925: The Granite Monthly magazine reports: “Mah Jongg has had its day and has gone to the happy hunting ground, or wherever games go when people get tired of them, and the crossword puzzle reigns supreme in the homes of rich and poor alike.”
Jan. 1, 1819: The Phenix Hotel, built by Abel Hutchins, opens on Main Street in Concord as “a house of entertainment.”
Jan. 1, 1865: Lewis Downing Sr. retires from Abbot & Downing, his coach and wagon company.
Jan. 2, 1784: The Legislature grants Concord official townhood.
Jan. 2, 1942: The state encourages women to go to work in factories to replace men who have joined the armed forces. Walter M. May, deputy state education commissioner, says he will throw the state’s 13 defense schools open to women at once so that they can learn mechanical skills. To now, women have tried in vain to gain admittance to such classes.
Jan. 2, 1960: U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy announces he will run for president. Because he is from neighboring Massachusetts, his chief rivals for the Democratic nomination – Hubert Humphrey and Stuart Symington – concede New Hampshire’s 11 convention votes to him. Neither plans to enter the state’s March 8 primary.
Jan. 2, 1824: After a 36-year fight during which Hopkinton vied with Concord to become the seat of a county that was to be called Kearsarge, the first Merrimack County courthouse opens on its current site.
Jan. 2, 1843: New Hampshire natives Benjamin Brown French and Sarah Josepha Hale visit the White House together for the customary New Year’s greeting of the president. They shake hands with John Tyler, mingle with the large crowd, then leave to visit John Quincy Adams and pay him “the compliments of the season.”
Jan. 3, 2000: Concord Mayor Bill Veroneau opens his fifth term in office with a pledge to explore seriously the possibility of bringing a semi-professional baseball team to the city. Before the fall, the city will announce it has landed just such a franchise: the Concord Quarry Dogs, who will play their 2001 home games at Memorial Field.
Jan. 3, 1852: Visiting Concord, Henry Hubbard slips on the icy walkway on his way to the Eagle Hotel. The fall breaks his left arm. Hubbard will sue the town and win a judgment of $800.
Jan. 3, 1904: Gov. Nahum J. Bachelder reports that his New Year’s letter to major metropolitan newspapers has found widespread publication. His letter’s purpose is to recruit inhabitants for New Hampshire’s abandoned farms. It is part of a campaign begun in 1889 when the Legislature appointed a commissioner of immigration to bring about a re-population of the state’s rural areas. A report at the time disclosed that 1,343 farms were uninhabited. Apparently, despite Bachelder’s gushing over “the extent to which the state’s abandoned farms have been adopted by prosperous and well-pleased foster parents,” plenty of farms are still available.
Jan. 3, 1870: An aurora borealis appears. At 4 a.m., “the northern portion of the sky was nearly all aflame,” a patriotic observer writes. Directly overhead, “Streamers of red, white and blue were seen streaking up from the horizon.”
Jan. 3, 1979: The Washington Post reports that a collection of Robert Frost memorabilia has been donated to the University of New Hampshire. The collection includes a copy of New Hampshire inscribed by Frost to his wife in 1923. The work later won him the first of four Pulitzer Prizes. Among the other items in the collection: a patchwork quilt made from the academic hoods received by the poet.
Jan. 4, 1859: The Coos Republican of Lancaster prints a list of all town residents who had died the year before – and the cause of death. The tally: 11 from consumption, 3 from apoplexy, four from typhoid fever, 3 from lung fever, 1 from scarlet fever, two from inflammation of the bowels, 2 from congestion of the lungs, 1 from cancer, 1 from paralysis and one from old age. Of those 29 deaths, more than half were under 30 years old.
Jan. 4, 1950: The temperature in Concord climbs to 68 degrees, making this the warmest January day of the 20th century.
Jan. 4, 1973: Gov. Mel Thomson gets his first term off to a secure start by having all the locks changed in executive offices at the State House.
Jan. 5, 2002: The Concord police found firsthand evidence of methamphetamine’s creeping presence last month in an attic crawlspace on Northeast Village Street, the Monitor reports. There, in the Heights home, officers found a pH tester and chemical bottles. Methamphetamine, also known at “crank” and “speed,” has long been a top concern for law enforcement officials in the West and Midwest. But only recently has the narcotic turned up in New England, law enforcement officials said.
Jan. 5, 1776: In the first of five Provincial Congresses in New Hampshire, delegates adopt a temporary constitution. The document makes New Hampshire an independent colony six months before the colonies jointly declare their independence. Recalling the objectionable actions of recently departed Royal Gov. John Wentworth, the framers make no provision for a governor. Meschech Weare becomes New Hampshire’s president. The permanent state constitution will not take effect until June 1784.