Candia remains an old town trying to hold onto a rich history
The Smyth Library on High Street, although in need of repair, hasn't changed much in appearance over the years. (Benjamin Klein and courtesy)
The Smyth Library on High Street, although in need of repair, hasn't changed much in appearance over the years. Benjamin Klein and courtesy
CANDIA - Nestled in Southern New Hampshire, Candia, with a population of 4,000, is in the midst of celebrating its 250th anniversary.
Settled in the 1740s and incorporated in December of 1763 after it split from Chester, Candia has produced a governor, business leaders and many American war veterans dating back to the Revolutionary War.
"Candia is an interesting town," said resident and historian James Lindsey. "It spun off of Chester, as did most of the towns around here, such as Auburn, but I guess its greatest claim to fame is that it produced Governor Frederick Smyth, who was governor in the 1860s right after the Civil War.''
Smyth, who was the state's 30th governor and served two one-year terms from 1865 to 1867, helped establish the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts by signing a bill that brought the college into existence. That college would become the University of New Hampshire in 1923.
Lindsey said Smyth's impact on the town is still being felt because he and his family created two of the town's most important historical locations.
"Governor Smyth was really big on libraries and education in general, and he started a public library in someone's house and provided money for books. And when he died, he left money, and his wife decided to donate a building so that the town could have a place for the library . ," Lindsey said.
Smyth also helped establish a Civil War monument in 1892 that still stands.
"It surprised me that when Smyth put up the statue in 1892, they say about 5,000 people showed up on the hill. It amazes me that such a large group of people would celebrate something like that, but historically, it's a very patriotic town," Lindsey said.
The Fitts Museum, the Smyth Library and the Civil War monument all sit very close to one another, Lindsey added.
Reviving old tradition
Ray Cresswell is the founder of the modern Candia Militia, and he wants to keep the group alive because of how important it was to founding and maintaining the town.
It was disbanded several years before the outbreak of the Civil War.
"The militia was founded in the early days of the town. We had a militia prior to that, even with the first settlers. They existed to protect the town, act as a police force, to protect from Indian raids and even help out at fires. They were an all-purpose unit," Cresswell said.
The militia was at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War. As the war went on, Candia residents served in the 1st and 3rd New Hampshire regiments, Cresswell said.
Candia also contributed to the development of Manchester, Lindsey said, as both an industrial area and as a recreational one. Mills in Candia and in many surrounding towns contributed to the development of Manchester.
However, unlike the other surrounding towns, Lindsey said, Candia was a hub of recreational activity for Manchester residents in the 1800s looking to get away from the city.
One of the problems that a town as old as Candia faces is the upkeep of its historical treasures. Lindsey said the Fitts Museum is unique in the state in that it is town-owned and operated.
"The house was donated to the town by the Fitts family in 1901. It now contains many documents and photographs that are pertinent to the town's history," Lindsey said.
However, while the Fitts Museum is thriving, Lindsey said, the old Smyth Library is struggling.
"It was built probably around 1932 or '34. It's a brick building, a facilitating building. It is a shame it has sat empty for eight years now.
"That's why we are trying to do something to make it usable for the people in Candia and make it so it doesn't just deteriorate," Lindsey said.
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