Give Thanks for These Historic Spots
Travel back in time during this season of feasting, remembrance and families reuniting
Like a thoroughly brined turkey, the Thanksgiving season is marinated in history, so November is the perfect month to spend a little soak time in New Hampshire’s most historical locations. Many attractions close down after foliage season, but there are still places to touch base with the history of the harvest celebrations and fall feasts that have long been a way to brace our bodies and souls for the long, hard winter.
The Fort at No. 4
The Fort at No. 4, a mid-18th century stockade, once protected Plantation Number 4, which was the northernmost British settlement on the Connecticut River during the years of the French and Indian War. A recreation of the fort in Charlestown functions as an open-air museum, and is a popular site for reenactments of the struggles and lives of the settlers, armies and Indigenous inhabitants of the region. It was added to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places in July 2020.
This fall, The Fort at No. 4 continues its immersive educational activities and experiences, reopening on November 6 and 7 for their Native Heritage Weekend. This is a Native-centered weekend where volunteers representing the Indigenous tribes of our region speak to their heritage. It’s described as “a low-key weekend, with some of our Native friends engaging in activities connected with their cultures, 18th century or otherwise.”
The Fort’s popular annual Harvest Dinner is still on for November 20. This year-end celebration is also an end-of-season fundraiser for the museum, in which dinner guests can enjoy a light “starter” reception in the museum’s Parker House, then take part in a historical “shopping experience” in the Stevens House, visit special exhibits in several of the museum buildings, all while enjoying the period-appropriate music performed by Tobias and Prudence — both regular performers at the Fort at No. 4 who have played at Harvest Dinners for the last several years. After working up an appetite, guests will gather to sit in the Great Hall or Hastings House for a three-course dinner. All by candlelight and firelight.
The pioneering spirit of the fort and grounds lives on most creatively in their plans to host an immersive theater version of “A Christmas Carol” this December — their third such collaboration with the River Theater Company of Charlestown.
Visit fortat4.org for more details on these events.
Sarah Josepha Hale
The Richards Free Library in Newport helps keep the light of history focused on one particular figure in the history of Thanksgiving, Sarah Josepha Hale. They do this notably each year with their presentation of the Sarah Josepha Hale medal to one acclaimed New England writer. The first one was given to poet Robert Frost, and this August, after a year of pandemic delay, they presented the latest one to New Hampshire nature writer Sy Montgomery (whose latest book, “The Hummingbird’s Gift,” is a delightful treasure.)
Born in Newport to parents who believed in gender equality in education, Sarah Josepha was homeschooled by her mother and her brother Horatio, a graduate of Dartmouth College. She became a teacher and, at 25 years old, married David Hale, a Newport attorney. The couple continued the tradition of Sarah Josepha’s parents, discussing academic questions between themselves and encouraging the curiosity of their five children.
Hale became a poet, best known for creating the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and was a groundbreaking female publisher in the male-dominated 19th century whose “lady’s magazines” helped transform the lives of women and girls. Her most significant accomplishment for lovers of our November feast day is her work lobbying President Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving an official national holiday.
There are no historic reenactments of this effort on display at the library, but the children’s librarian will have special readings and some other ways to enlighten youngsters about this important and inspirational woman of New Hampshire around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Visit newport.lib.nh.us for details.
Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm
This attraction is a model working farm in historic Tamworth Village, where Dr. Edwin Remick and his son Edwin, also a country doctor, lived and practiced medicine for a
combined 99 years. Along with the Remick homestead, there are barns and outbuildings that provide insights into the early agricultural years of New Hampshire.
Although the buildings have been closed to the public since Covid-19 struck, the grounds remain open as long as weather permits. Along with a chance to see the animals of a real working farm, there’s a trail through the nearly 100 acres of farmland to explore. The farm raises and sells beef, pork, lamb and eggs, and curbside pickup is available
all year (orders must be received a day in advance).
For details, visit remickmuseum.org.
Guided outdoor activities have mostly ceased by November at Portsmouth’s living history museum Strawbery Banke, but you don’t even have to be there to enjoy this year’s Dawnland StoryFest — an annual Indigenous storytelling festival they host that will take place via Zoom on November 13. Preregistration is required, and there’s a suggested donation of $10 for the otherwise-free event.
Objects found by archaeologists in the Puddle Dock neighborhood of Strawbery Banke include pottery and stone tools, and demonstrate that Native people had been there for millennia.
The event is hosted in connection with Strawbery Banke’s permanent “People of the Dawnland” exhibit. The 2021 Dawnland StoryFest is dedicated to the memory of the life and work of Wolfsong, a well-respected and much-loved Abenaki traditional storyteller from Vermont.
Participants will listen to a keynote address by Louise Profeit-LeBlanc, co-founder of the Yukon International Storytelling Festival, and hear traditional Indigenous storytellers from New England and Canada. Additionally, participants are invited to engage in breakout room conversations, a Q&A with the storytellers, and a facilitated Swapping Grounds story-sharing session.
Register to attend at strawberybanke.org/events/dawnland-storyfest.cfm.