Other red barns out there

Somehow, a red barn is iconic. Little wonder I latched onto it in naming this blog. My posts have already mentioned Tuttle’s and Red’s Shoe Barn in Dover, New Hampshire, and the Red Barn Motel in Millbridge, Maine.

As for others? Not all of them are on farms.

  1. There’s the fast-food restaurant chain that originated in Springfield, Ohio.
  2. A market and deli in South Burlington, Vermont.
  3. A feed and pet store in the San Fernando Valley of California.
  4. A flea market in Bradenton, Florida.
  5. A home décor store in Wisconsin.
  6. A convention center in Adams County, Ohio.
  7. A trailer dealership in Texas and New Mexico.
  8. A medical marijuana producer and dispensary in New Mexico.
  9. Amish in Maine, who not only allow them but make them their bright signature color while keeping the houses plain white.
  10. And let’s not overlook Tom Waits, singing “There was a murder in the red barn” as the chorus.

When Irish lights are shining

Living in New England, I’ve gained a fondness for lighthouses, an appreciation that has been heightened by my relocation to Way DownEast Maine. This state alone has more than 60 still in working order.

My research regarding the towers and their beams has, however, had me admitting that the bulk of the world’s most glorious examples are to be found on the rugged Atlantic coastline of France. Some of them resemble small castles, and many are built in grand style, no expense spared.

The English, in contrast, appear stuffy and uninspired. (Sorry about the pun there.)

What I wasn’t expecting was the discovery that Ireland also has some stunning examples.

If I ever get to the Emerald Isle, they’ll be high on my list of sites to visit.

What’s on your travel bucket list?

When the alewives run

Around mid-May across the New England coast, the alewives migrate en masse upstream to freshwater breeding grounds. Sometimes identified as river herring, they have played a role in the region’s heritage, from Indigenous peoples on.

They’ve made it halfway up the ladder. They’re also quite strong, considering the speed and force of the rushing water.

They still attract fishermen to the riverbanks and bridges, as well as eagles and osprey overhead.

And here’s a bald eagle that’s about to catch another of them. The osprey weren’t about at the moment.

And though bony, many folks consider them a seasonal delicacy, often worked into an appetizer. More commonly, they’re a common lobster bait.

Here comes the paperbook edition!

A history book seems like a natural for a print edition, but it can be a risky deal for a publisher.

After all, few titles are of the bestseller scope aimed at a nationwide readership.

My Quaking Dover is a prime example of the niche appeal that can arise when you zero in on a small community and then further refine it to a crucial minority. Even when it becomes a microcosm of a much bigger picture, as I believe mine does, the hard reality is that it’s hard to break even in traditionally publishing such a work.

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Independently producing at Kindle Direct Publishing was one alternative, but it wouldn’t get copies into brick-and-mortar bookstores, which would have to buy the books at full price from Amazon and then add an additional fee, or into many public libraries – and I do see those as essential outlets for this work.

I looked into several other services but concluded that the costs to me would have been prohibitive, no matter how attractive the result.

Now, however, I have good news to share.

Quaking Dover is appearing as a print-on-demand edition from Draft2Digital, available through its affiliated traditional retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

D2D first came to my attention when it acquired Smashwords.com, the pioneering ebook enterprise that’s been my literary haven for nearly a decade now. The more I learned of it, the more I sensed that releasing my print editions there was no-brainer.

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See what you think. Like the ebook edition I’ve previously announced, the paperbook is being offered at a reduced price in a pre-release – in this case up till its October 8 release.

You can help me prime the pump by requesting your own physical copy at your favorite bookstore or library.

Check out my author page at Books2Read for details.

Let’s shake things up!

The physical fight for the town pulpit

As I ask just what made Dover so ripe for the Quaker message, I see how much earlier conflicts over the town’s official church open the way for an alternative congregation, once itinerant Friends visit town.

Dover’s first minister, solidly Puritan William Leveridge, arrives in 1633 and conducts the first religious service in New Hampshire, but he’s gone in 1635, leaving “for want of adequate support,” meaning salary, which he then finds around Boston and on in Long Island. His surviving scriptural notes are in Latin.

Perhaps two years later, maybe earlier, George Burdet shows up in the pulpit, while also taking over as “governor,” the proprietors’ agent, overseeing the northern half of the New Hampshire province. He feigns sympathy with the Puritans but secretly corresponds with Church of England Archbishop William Laud, who will eventually be executed by the Puritans. Before Burdet flees in adulterous disgrace in 1639 – or a year or two later – things get really interesting, though I’ll spare you the details now. Among other things, he gives the settlement the name Dover, not reflecting the famed English town with the white cliffs but rather an anti-Puritan wit and attorney who also founded the notorious Cotswold Olimpick Games, which included horse-racing, coursing with hounds, running, jumping, dancing, sledgehammer throwing, fighting with swords and cudgels, quarterstaff, wrestling, and gambling.

In contrast, the main sports New England Puritans accepted were hunting, fishing, and the mock battles the militias used for military training.

Dover’s first church probably resembled the one at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. (Photo by Swampyank via Wikimedia)

How did Burdet become the pastor in Dover, in the first place? Specifics are often lacking or blurred in the available records.

The Puritans organized their churches on a congregational structure, where the members themselves managed the affairs, including the selection and dismissal of ministers. The concept also grew into the New England town meeting system for managing secular affairs. It’s about as democratic as you can get.

The Church of England, in contrast, relied on an episcopal hierarchy, where the Archbishop of Canterbury and subordinate bishops ruled.

The differences between the Puritans and the Anglicans go far beyond organization and polity. They include baptism, marriage (a civil contract for Puritans at the time), funerals and burial, prayer (the Anglican Book of Common Prayer versus extemporaneous), liturgy (hocus-pocus, as some Puritans would say) or none at all, rituals and genuflection (superstition to the Puritans), the Virgin Mary and saints (ignored by the Puritans), Christmas (no holiday for the Puritans), and, especially, eternal salvation or damnation (the Puritans being certain that at least some of their brotherhood will be among the Elect God had chosen at the time of Creation). I’ll venture that the Church of England offers more creaturely comforts to its faithful than do the Puritans.

Quite simply, there are tensions within Dover and beyond. The Massachusetts Bay colony has just banished Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and Samuel Gorton, who all scoot off to the new refuge of Rhode Island – and Hutchinson’s brother-in-law, John Wheelwright, heads north to found Exeter, New Hampshire, near Dover. They’re all major figures in American dissident history.

Two mysterious figures then approach a newly arrived minister in Boston and lure him to Dover.

As a young Anglican priest in England, Hanserd Knollys had suffered a religious crisis that led him to resign from the pulpit and begin a quest that brings him to a Mr. Wheelwright, “a silenced minister,” near Lincoln, England. Yes, the same one who founds Exeter. Something in their discussions rekindles a flame within Knollys, liberating him to preach again but with such an intensity that he’s soon imprisoned in Boston, England, until he somehow escapes and sails in 1636 during a difficult voyage with his wife and only child, who dies en route, to Boston, Massachusetts. While living in impoverishment there, and prevented from preaching because of his antinomian theological views, he’s met by “two strangers coming to Boston from Piscattuah, hearing of me by a meer accident, [who] got me to go with them to that plantation, and to preach there, where I remained about four years.”

The only problem is that Burdet is still minister or at least physically present, but the governor’s role has been handed to John Underhill, himself in flight from Massachusetts after leading the militia in the Pequot massacre and running his mouth off.

Burdet forbids Knollys from preaching in Dover but is countered by Underhill.

Within this backdrop, Knollys is credited with formally organizing in 1638 the First Congregationalist Society, now known as First Parish, United Church of Christ (Congregational), and out of its longstanding worship together from 1633, it is regarded as the oldest church in the state.

If only it were that easy.

Hanserd Knollys

Adding to the conflict is Knollys’ evolving theology which will lead to his becoming a founding father of the Particular Baptist denomination, though he’s not yet quite there during his time in the Piscataqua parish. Otherwise, Dover might have been the first Baptist church in America, rather than the one in Providence, Rhode Island, founded in 1639.

From a later Baptist perspective, Knollys “preached with much acceptance upwards of three years. … However, his church in New Hampshire was split on the issue of infant baptism. This brought persecution on him by the Congregationalists. He, with others from his church, fled to New Jersey and eventually back to England.”

To put it mildly.

More directly, from a Baptist point of view, “America does not seem to have been a peaceful place for … Hanserd. While in New Hampshire, conflict arose between Hanserd and another minister, Thomas Larkham, who had arrived in New Hampshire in 1640. Larkham had wealth and influence, and had very lax standards for membership. This produced much division within the congregation, and Larkham at one point had Knollys removed from the pulpit. Many congregants then removed Larkham and restored Knollys as pastor. Larkham had armed men march up from nearby Portsmouth [still known as Strawbery Banke], conducted a trial which found Knollys guilty, fined him, and ordered him to leave. During his time reports circulated that Knollys was also censured for having a ‘filthy dalliance’ with some young females living in his house. Records indicate that this was a false report as other ministers spoke of Knollys with respect. There is also a record that Hanserd had filed suit with a claim of slander. It was never prosecuted, as the Knollys did not stay in the colonies.”

There were even reports of an armed skirmish between factions of the church.

But Larkham, too, suddenly departed from Dover in 1641 and returned to England.

There’s more, as Jeremy Belknap’s History of New Hampshire, reveals:

Larkham “came to Dover, and being a preacher of good talents, eclipsed Knollys, and raised a party who determined to remove him. He therefore gave way to the popular prejudice, and suffered Larkham to take his place; who soon discovered his licentious principles by receiving into the church persons of immoral characters, and assuming, like Burdet, the civil as well as ecclesiastical authority.” Except that Larkham was never “governor.”

Belknap continues: “The better sort of the people were displeased and restored Knollys to his office who excommunicated Larkham. This bred a riot in which Larkham laid hands on Knollys, taking away his hat on pretence that he had not paid for it; but he was civil enough afterward to return it. Some of the magistrates joined with Larkham, and forming a court, summoned Underhill, who was of Knollys’s party to appear before them, and answer to a new crime which they had to allege against him. Underhill collected his adherents; Knollys was armed with a pistol, and another had a bible mounted on an halbert for an ensign. In this ridiculous parade they marched against Larkham and his party, who prudently declined a combat, and sent down the river to Williams … at Portsmouth, for assistance.

“He came up in a boat with an armed party, beset Knollys’s house where Underhill was, guarded it night and day till a court was summoned, and then, Williams sitting as judge, Underhill and his company were found guilty of a riot, and after being fined, were banished from the plantation. The new crime which Larkham’s party alleged against Underhill was that he had been secretly endeavouring to persuade the inhabitants to offer themselves to the government of Massachusetts, whose favor he was desirous to purchase, by these means, as he knew that their view was to extend their jurisdiction as far as they imagined their limits reached, whenever they should find a favourable opportunity. The same policy led him with his party to send a petition to Boston, praying for the interposition of the government in their case: In consequence of which the governor and assistants commissioned Simon Bradstreet, Esq. with the famous Hugh Peters, then minister of Salem, and Timothy Dalton of Hampton, to enquire into the matter, and effect a reconciliation, or certify the state of things to them. These gentlemen travelled on foot to Dover, and finding both sides in fault, brought the matter to this issue, that the one party revoked the excommunication, and the other the fines and banishment.”

Yes, once again, religion and politics mixed.

George Wadleigh, reviewing the events, adds an extra element to the conflict. Larkham and Knollys “fell out about baptizing children.” Remember, Baptists would insist it was for consenting, informed adults only.

Let it not be said that Dover was a sedate fringe habitation.

Dover’s second meetinghouse was something like this, surrounded by a palisade. It was erected in 1654, before the Quakers further stirred things up.

And I’m certain these events all lead up to the faction that welcomes itinerant Quakers a decade later. After all, Dover would have a ready audience and prime examples for the Quaker criticism of “hireling priests” who saw the position as a rewarding salary more than as utter discipleship.

Until then, lingering tensions simmer.

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Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in an iBook edition at the Apple Store.

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.

 

Missing the news cycle with a big story

Let me admit that hearing about Joe McQuaid’s recent book on Bill Loeb stirred a range of reactions in me.

The first was a yawning, “Who cares? Who cares now?”

The second was a recognition that most stories have short shelf lives, and Loeb was ancient history now, even in New Hampshire.

For background, you must understand that I spent the second half of my journalism career at the statewide newspaper Loeb had owned and notoriously thrust into the national spotlight from Manchester, New Hampshire. When I arrived, he had been dead six years and the paper was in transition from one known more for its vitriolic front-page editorials than for its reporting. The editorials had retreated mostly to the opinion page, and I was among the hires intent on improving the professional quality of the coverage. Or, as I overheard three figures accuse the managing editor my first week on the job, of already being “liberal media.” (That’s how far right much of the state was – and in some parts remains.)

McQuaid, under the wing of Loeb’s widow, Nackey, was a hometown boy on his ascent as executive editor and after her death, publisher. His father, Bernie, had been Bill Loeb’s righthand man in the newsroom – and Loeb kept a loaded revolver in his desk drawer, as I heard a few years before my move to the paper. In many ways, their arrangement was like family and a family business. I had worked for enough newspaper chains to appreciate the differences, as well as to appreciate Loeb’s determination to keep the paper independent of chain ownership.

There was always gossip, of course, which now gave me a sense that that if Joe could look hard and candidly at his subject, he might have enough inside dope to open fresh material for historians while also doing a bit of self-therapy in his retirement years. To me, his project looked something like my own attempt to better understand my grandfather and his legacy, pro and con – the man who labeled himself Dayton’s Leading Republican Plumber. What I had was mostly genealogy and local history, one where my remaining living sources could openly differ with each other and with what I had collected from those now passed.

Joe, on the other hand, was dealing with a once well-known rabid anti-communist archconservative who was credited with derailing more than one presidential candidate and leaving a long shadow over local and state politics. New Hampshire politicians still dare not speak of income or sales taxes as a funding option. People either adored him or hated him – reader and advertiser aversion to his approach had killed several other papers he owned – but he was largely a curiosity and enigma, one sometimes seen as a big joke with occasionally fatal consequences. Take Loeb seriously? For starters, Joe had to go beyond Kevin Cash’s 1975 Who the Hell IS William Loeb, a fat blast that nobody I’ve met ever finished reading, even during Loeb’s last years on the throne.

The result was William Loeb and His Times: Provocative Publisher, Private Paradox by Joseph W. McQuaid, published by New Hampshire-focused Plaidswede Publishing in Concord at the beginning of the year.

Joe’s tome faces several huge challenges.

Loeb died 41 years ago and few readers remember him or the era. Why should folks care about someone others have tagged a pipsqueak? Quite simply, he’s no longer news. Move on to today.

Newspapers are no longer the powerful institutions they were, diminished both by the right-wing attacks of Loeb’s ilk and by internet sapping of readership and advertising. Who’s interested in their internal operations? Or even of Loeb’s uneven track record in advancing his causes and candidates?

Politics itself has become toxic, a consequence of unchecked right-wing shenanigans. Informed folks are still shell-shocked by the daily scandals from the Trump White House.

Joe’s attempt to make sense of Loeb’s sordid personal life and financial dealings could be of importance, not so much as something that happened “back then” but rather in the ways it seems to foreshadow the emergence of Trump and his ilk and of Fox television’s slanted presentation of public affairs.

Not that Joe can quite make the connection from the late 1940s and ‘50s that gave Loeb his rise to today’s quagmire. He can’t honestly paint Loeb as a hero, though the publisher’s diatribes fit that role for many, so that omission costs Joe potential readers on the right. But his revelations about Loeb’s personal life make an already repulsive subject even less attractive to potential readers in the middle and left. Even morbid fascination has its limits. Besides, these days it fits a pattern. Clarence Thomas? Ted Cruz? Newt Gingerich? Mitch McConnell? As for New Hampshire? It’s still seen as too tiny to matter across much of the nation.

And as a footnote, Clem Costello, publisher of the newspaper just downstream in Lowell, Massachusetts, could provide a similar subject for the era, if only to round out the history.