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Do You remembers Fast Day? A day of fasting and prayer was common during provincial New Hampshire. As time progressed this day lost most of its original purpose, even so Fast Day continued as a state holiday until 1985.
The first Fast Day was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the Province of New Hampshire in 1681 when our state was under the rule of the king of England and it was continued for some 300 years. We remember a holiday on the 4th Monday of April where schools and businesses were closed, state and town offices were closed, and many state newspapers did not publish. As this was not a national holiday the postal system remained open. The observance of Fast Day in NH continued until 1985 at which time it became optional. By 1991 it ceased to exist when the NH Legislature adopted Civil Rights Day in January. Later in 1999, under the governorship o f Jeanne Shaheen, that holiday was changed to Martin Luther King Day.
To most the tradition meant a day off from work or the beginning of April vacation in our schools. To some it signaled the beginning of our state’s summer tourist season. Some with longer memories may remember it as a spring Thanksgiving – signaling the end of winter and expressing hope for a good planting for the new growing season. Let’s step back in time and look at the origin of Fast Day
John Cutt along with two brothers Robert and Richard immigrated to the NH province from Wales prior to 1646. John settled at Strawberry Bank which later became Portsmouth. He was a merchant and after settling in Portsmouth he acquired a large parcel of land, became a farmer and a mill-owner. The Cutt brothers came to America in order to seek their fortunes as opposed to religious freedom; they brought capital and expertise to the area and became leading merchants and ultimately some of the wealthiest men in the New Hampshire colony. In July 1662 John married Hannah Starr and they had several children. She passed November 1674 and was laid to rest In his orchard. He married a second time about 1675 to Ursula Cutt.
In 1679 when the Province of New Hampshire was separated from Massachusetts the king appointed John Cutt as president of the council of New Hampshire which consisted of the president along with three men appointed to assist him The provincial government consisted of the council and an assembly which included representatives of each of the towns in the province. This was an earlier version of our present Governor and Executive Council. Two years later President Cutt, then in his 60’s, became seriously ill. The council proclaimed a day of public fasting and prayer for March 17, 1681 on behalf of the popular Cutt in an effort to improve his health. These efforts were unsuccessful as Cutt passed about two weeks later. Through his will he made provision for a family cemetery in his orchard where he had buried his first wife Hannah and his deceased children. He was laid to rest in this family burial ground
The council decided to continue the practice of an annual fast day and within a year they passed a proclamation making it a permanent holiday. History tells us that fasting and prayer were common in the early colonial days as a way of helping with the problems of the times.
By the late 1800’s fast day had lost most of it’s original significance was gone. The states of Maine and Massachusetts which had celebrated Fast Day discontinued the holiday in favor of Patriots Day. In 1897 then Govenor of New Hampshire Ramsdell urged the legislature to likewise discontinue the holiday. Rather than abolish they passed legislation in 1899 to make it a legal state holiday. The date was flexible but it became customary for the governor to declare Fast Day as the last Thursday of April. This continued until 1949 when legislation established the fourth Monday of April as Fast Day. This provided state employees with a long weekend. It also became the time for the April school vacation.
Today New Hampshire’s unique holiday has passed into history. Perhaps the single reminder of it’s existence is the April school vacation schedule for on the 4th week in April as opposed to neighboring states which take their vacation during the week of Patriots Day.
This photo shows the State House in Concord. This is the oldest state house in the country in which the legislative body still occupies the original chambers.
Every once in a while we come upon a photo which tells it’s own story. In many ways this C 1922 photo of the World War I Memorial at Library Park is one of those photos. Library Park, that beautifully maintained triangular park bounded by Ferry, Derry, and Library streets was a gift to the Town of Hudson by Mary Field Creutzborg and the efforts of her son-in-law Dr. Alfred Hills. There is a granite boulder with a tablet at the park near the intersection of Ferry and Derry Streets The tablet reads: LIBRARY PARK – The gift of Mary Field Creutzborg 1911. Just prior to 1911, this parcel of land was owned by parties living in Nashua. It was sub-divided it into eleven house lots and offered for sale. Two had been sold and a house was being erected on one of them. The residents of Hudson were beginning to realize that a potential of eleven houses in that area would be of no real value. There had been earlier discussion about acquiring the land for a public park; but, no action had been taken. A special town meeting was called May 15, 1911 to see if the town would authorize the Selectmen to acquire this land by eminent domain for the purpose of a public park. Dr Hills offered a resolution: that the Selectmen be authorized to acquire the property for a public park, to be known as Library Park, at no expense to the town. The resolution passed unanimously. The owner of the house under construction was compensated with a much larger lot in a more desirable location.
The First World War began in Europe during July 1914 and for the first years the United States had a policy of non-involvement. After the sinking of the Lusitania and the killing of some 190 Americans and later attacks on US ships, the United Stated declared war on Germany April 1917. The Armistice which lead to the end of conflicts was signed November 11, 1918.
Between 1917 and 1919 some 71 young men from Hudson were engaged in the Armed Forces. A listing of these servicemen was maintained by historian Julia (Webster) Robinson. At the town meeting in March 1920 the town voted to construct a tablet to honor these men and by early 1922 this granite boulder and attached bronze tablet was placed on Library Park by at a cost of $977.65 to the town. The Dunklee Construction Co. was paid $647 to move this huge boulder onto the park and place it on a foundation. The Hillsborough Granite Co. was paid $30 to cut and shape the boulder for the bronze tablet. The William Highton & Sons Co, was paid $300 for the bronze tablet and setting it into the stone.
Of these 71 service men 3 lost their lives during the conflict. On June 25, 1922 three newly planted trees were formally designated as memorials to these three young men who paid the supreme sacrifice in the World War; a bronze marker was set at the base of each of these trees. These trees were a gift of a local member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Chapter. The dedication ceremony was shared between the GAR and the Town of Hudson. The three servicemen memorialized by these trees were Pvt. Leland H. Woods, Pvt. Carlton L. Petry, and Pvt. Harold M. Spalding.
Leland H. Woods was born February 1897 in Hollis, NH. His parents were Frank A. and Cora Anna Woods. Frank was employed as a brakeman for the Boston and Maine Railroad. Leland registered for the draft in Townsend, MA and entered the US Army via the draft board in Nashua. His death in February 1919 at Coblenz, Germany was the result of disease. He was laid to rest in the Hillside Cemetery, Townsend, MA.
Carlton L. Petry was born November 1888 in New York City. His parents were Alfred and Louisa Petry. When Carlton registered for the draft he was living in Hudson and employed as a farm worker by Paul Butter. He was killed in action while serving in France.
Harold M. Spalding was born July 1889 in Hudson. His parents were Charles Laton and Sarah (Merrill) Spalding. When Harold registered for the draft at the age of 27 he was employed as a locomotive fireman for the New England Gas and Coke Co, in Everett, MA. He passed away February 1919 at Noyems Loiset Cher, France. He was laid to rest in Sunnyside Cemetery here in Hudson.
This photo of the WW I memorial is the earliest I have seen of Library Park; being completely open, uncultivated, and with no landscaping. The pre-civil war cannon which we see there today was not placed at Library Park until May 1929. Looking beyond the boulder to the left we see the home of Harry Kendrik House (also knows as the G. O. Sanders and Lenny Smith House). Noticeable is the spire on the ell of this great victorial home. To the right of the boulder we see homes along Derry Road beyond what is now French Insurance Agency.
In sharp contrast to Library Park of 1922 our second photo was taken this past week from about the same location. You may ask Where are the memorial trees which were planted in 1922 as a memorial to Privates Woods, Petry, and Spalding? We have searched the park for the specific trees with the memorial markers, but these specific trees and their markers could not be located.
You are encouraged to keep your eyes open for changes comming to Library Park a couple of weeks prior to Memorial Day. This park will become the site of “Field of Honor” at Hudson Library Park. This is a local effort sponsored by the Hudson American Legion, Post #48 which offers area residents an opportunity to honor military veterans and first responders. A flag with the name of each honoree will be flying at Hudson’s Field of Honor until June 14th, Flag Day.
Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 the registration of young men for the draft was begun by the Draft Board of Exeter, NH. Registration of Hudson men was held in February 1942 in the lower room of the Hills Memorial Library. Males between 18 and 45 were registered and classified. The total population of our town was then about 3,400.
Members of the American Legion Post No. 48 constructed an honor roll on the east side near Library Street) of Library Park in 1942. As individual men and women entered the service their name was added to the honor roll. As the number of service men increased the initial honor roll board became filled and was replaced by a larger one. The Post Commander, Webster W. White, and a committee of three members, Robert Pratt, Chairman, Paul Buxton, and Harold Farnum with cooperation of the Town Clerk were responsible for the posting of names.The earliest photo shown here is that of the World War II honor roll with some 368+/- names as listed in the Town Report for the year ending January 31, 1944. After the hostilities ended in 1945 this honor roll remained in place on Library Park. Just how long it remained, I am not sure. After it was removed there was no War Memorial for veterans of World War II or any subsequent wars or conflicts until August 1991 when the American Legion erected the present War Memorial.
The Hudson Veterans War Memorial is in honor all who have honorable served in our armed forced, both living and deceased, during all conflicts of our great nation. This project was started in 1989 and authorized by the veterans group in early 1990. Past Post Commander “Billy” Mitchel promoted the original concept, which was further refined by other post members. As with most projects of this magnitude, help from many sources were needed. Mr. James Arsenault designed the center of the monument, Hudson Monument Company was contracted for the stones and artwork. Employees of the Hudson Public Works Department volunteered services for the groundwork, concrete was provided by Brox Industrues, and Hudson Paving Company formed the foundation. The completed memorial was dedicated Sunday August 18, 1991 as part of Hudson’s Old Home Days. Both photos are from the collection of the Historical Society.