It was much later in the morning when I learned that it was John I had captured in this shot of the Cook Memorial Library. Tamworth is the birthplace of another John, referred to most often as J. S. White, July 13, 1845, a frontier architect I wrote a book about as he lived most of his professional life in Snohomish, Washington until his death in 1920.
I was on a road trip from my home in Snohomish begun on June 1st: through Canada, down into Duluth where I discovered an unknown Blake buried in my great grandfather’s cemetery plot; then on to a small town north of Quebec City where my mother’s mother was born in 1883; and dropping down to Bradley, Maine, the home town of the Blackman Brothers who established the logging and lumber industry of early Snohomish. I am a history writer and driver.
John and I were introduced to each other by another John who was untangling the flag on his home on Main Street where I had parked my car. The John featured in my photograph forgot it was Father’s Day. He was off to do “his loop” as he put it, and I asked, “what is the loop?” Turns out, it was an easy walk around the pasture of the Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm, a popular interpretative museum with animals and several homes to visit.
I followed John around the back of the History Center, where had stowed his backpack that contained a tall can of beer wrapped in ice. I passed on an offer to share, sticking with my water, and we were off on the loop, a Sunday tradition I was lucky to have stumbled upon.
He won the contest of the seventies by one year, and John was missing a liver I learned early in the walk, but as I couldn’t top that we changed the subject to military service. John just missed service in Vietnam, and he was impressed with my service in Germany when the Berlin Wall went up.
The wind picked up as we rounded the corner where all the cows were lying down under the trees. “You know, when cows lie down,” explained John, “it means rain is on the way.” “I didn’t know that,” I said but could certainly feel that rain was in the air.
Back at the History Center, John gave me a quick tour. A most impressive museum featuring a civil war display with a vital variety of objects — uniforms, cooking gear, paintings, and weapons. Most impressive, John wrote an account of his life in Tamworth, running to several hundreds of pages that were typed up by his mother if I understood him correctly. Even in the short time we talked, he impressed me with the richness, clarity, and insightful humor of his stories.
By the time we said goodbye, the Tamworth Distilling was open where I purchased a bottle of Chocorua Rye Whiskey. To write this, I learned about the legend of Mt. Chocorua named after the Indian Chief who leaped to his death to end the tragic conflict between himself and a white settler over the crimes of passion resulting in the death of both family members.
The tragic story of Chief Chocorua and his dying curse of the white settlers is considered to be the beginning of New England’s history. Could this be why John S. White left his birthplace … first for the midwest, then on to the Pacific Northwest?
A short while later, heading south on Route 113a, it began to rain.
Extra credit reading:
“Ann Tuohy Likes to Solve Puzzles: Where Was J.S. White Born and What Was Name?
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