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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Homefront

“The Hutchinson Family tribes of John and Jesse,”
lithograph poster created by the Forbes Co. of Boston,
ca.1881. From the collection of the Library of Congress,,
accessed 4/30/12.
 . . . Slavery and Freedom they both had a fight,
And the whole North came up behind ‘em;
Hit Slavery a few knocks with a free ballot box,
Sent it staggering to the other side of Jordan.
    Then rouse up the North, the sword unsheathe,
    Slavery is a hard foe to battle; . . .

 . . . But the day is drawing nigh that Slavery must die,
And eve[r]y one must do his part accordin’;
Then let us all unite to give every man his right, (and women too;)
And we’ll get our pay the other side of Jordan.
    Then wake up the North, the sword unsheathe,
    Freedom is the best road to travel!
Title:  “Slavery is a Hard Foe to Battle”
Summary:  Stanzas 2 and 5 of song sung by the Hutchinson Family
Lyricist:  Judson Hutchinson, 1855
Medium:  Score
Repository:  Library of Congress Music Division

Over the course of four years, New Hampshire sent more than 30,000 of her citizens to live, and wait, and fight in the campaigns and battles of the Civil War. But what of those left behind? How did the war impact life within New Hampshire’s borders? The war years certainly had dramatic impacts, but they also influenced and accelerated subtle changes that were developing in the pre-war decades.

Part of the mill complex in Harrisville today, listed as a National
Historic Landmark in 1977.
From the collection of the
NH Division of
Historical Resources, Concord, NH.
Textile and woolen production in New Hampshire began in the 18th century as a small cottage industry that grew to be one of the state’s key large-scale manufactures by the mid-19th century. Small textile mills were among the early industries gradually shifting many towns’ economies from rural agricultural to industrial, concentrated in villages or urban centers. Increased demand for woolen and other goods during the Civil War created a boom for New Hampshire’s mills, hastening a variety of economic, social, and landscape changes.

 In a village whose existence has always been tied to the ups, downs, and history of the woolen industry, Harrisville benefited from the war’s demand for woolen cloth. In June 1861, Milan Harris incorporated his thriving multi-mill business in the village. By August of that year, the “[New Hampshire] Sentinel reported that ‘Milan Harris and Co., of Harrisville, are manufacturing the cloth for the uniforms of the New Hampshire volunteers, and, we are glad to learn, are making a good article . . .’” (Armstrong 1969: 121). The adjacent Cheshire Mills, owned and operated for the production of woolen goods by the Colony family for more than 100 years after the war, also experienced prosperity and expansion during the 1860s. While production and profit expanded for both mills in the 1860s, so too did the development of this concentrated community, with a doubling of its population and the construction of dwellings, additional mill buildings, and assorted support businesses and industries.

Historic image of the Hutchinson Family Homestead,
River Road, Milford. Private collection.
Social Reform
A number of social reform movements gathered momentum in the decades leading up to the Civil War, spurred in part by economic and social changes in the country and a revived interest in religion. Reform movements took on many issues, including prison reform, healthcare, women’s suffrage, temperance and abolitionism. 

The abolition movement in New Hampshire was formalized in 1834 when the state’s branch of the American Anti-Slavery Society was organized. While the subject of abolition remained divisive in the country and in the state of New Hampshire, it appears that many in the town of Milford and elsewhere were sympathetic to the abolitionists' cause and particularly vocal about their beliefs. One Milford family in particular, the Hutchinsons, spread the word of abolition in this country and in Europe through music. Initially consisting of four of Jesse and Mary Hutchinson’s sixteen children, the Hutchinson Family Singers were a highly recognized group of musicians whose first public concert was held in their hometown ca. 1840. By the Civil War, the group’s music and the songs they popularized were well-known throughout the country, and powerful in ways similar to the work of songwriters and musicians in the 1960s-70s. Various family incarnations of the group performed through the late 19th century. The Hutchinson’s music supported the cause of temperance as well, among others. Interestingly, the group was raised in a home originally built in the late 1700s as an inn with features designed specifically for the storage and sale of liquor. 
The Harriet Wilson Project recently erected this sculptural
representation of Milford author Harriet Wilson. Wilson’s novel,
assumed to be autobiographical, titled “Our Nig, or Sketches
From the Life of a Free Black,” is the first known novel
published by a black woman in English and the earliest novel
published in the United States by an African American.


Armstrong, John Borden. Factory Under the Elms: a history of Harrisville, New Hampshire 1774-1969. North Andover, MA: Museum of American Textile History, 1969, reprint 1985.

Boggis, JerriAnne.  A Black Heritage Tour: Milford, Harriet Wilson, & the Anti-Slavery Movement. Milford, NH: The Harriet Wilson Project, 2005.

Heffernan, Nancy Coffer and Ann Page Stecker. New Hampshire: Crosscurrents in its Development. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2004., accessed 4/30/12., accessed 4/30/12.

Pillsbury, Hobart. New Hampshire, A History: Resources, Attractions, and its People Vol. II. New York, NY: The Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc., 1927.

Wright, Winifred A. The Granite Town: Milford, NH 1901-1978. Canaan, NH: Town of Milford, 1979.

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