Goffstown unveils new Minuteman statue
GOFFSTOWN — On what is now Center Street and Henry Bridge Road, 43 men mustered on April 20, 1775, before leaving New Hampshire to fight in the American Revolution.
"They were 43 men who dropped their plows and their fields and marched to Massachusetts, leaving their homesteads and their fortunes. Upon arriving at Lexington and Concord, they found an embankment of militia from all over New England. They formed into a regiment with other New Hampshire militia under Gen. John Stark and they fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill," said Phil D'Avanza, Historic District Commission vice chairman and selectman.
On Saturday, about 75 townspeople gathered to honor the soldiers and unveil the town's new Minuteman statue on the Grasmere roundabout. In addition to D'Avanza, speakers included Rep. Ruth Gage, Historic District Commission chairman, and Ben Hampton, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and a history professor.
The ceremony highlighted the town's rich history and, after the Pledge of Allegiance, members of the New Boston Artillery Company discharged the Molly Stark Cannon over the circa 1768 Hillside cemetery.
During opening remarks, Gage thanked the people and organizations who make the statue and surrounding landscape possible.
"We couldn't have done any of this without any of them," she said.
In fall 2006, the Heritage Commission began reviewing plans to replace the triangular-shaped common, and the design was approved in 2009. Through a Historic District Commission and Heritage fund, about $18,000 was collected for the statue, base, shipping and mounting. Fundraising and money donated by the town's 250th Anniversary Committee helped pay for the statue, which sits on a 6-ton rock that was specifically cut from 11 tons to fit the town's needs, D'Avanza said.
The statue was made by Gareth Curtiss of California; Paul Bedard Jr., of Pawjer Construction, cut the glacial rock from its original size; and Lee Sperry, of On Point Concrete Foundations, made a form for the statue to rest upon. The rock was found on the grounds of Villa Augustina School.
"The base is very appropriate for this monument as it was deposited by the receding glaciers on Mast Road," D'Avanza said. "The very road that is named for the transport of the 24-inch white pine trees that were claimed by King George for the masts of the British ships."
He explained how the king's actions caused unrest among the local property owners who saw their trees being confiscated and were fined if caught cutting their own trees. This sparked the Pine Tree Riot of 1772, he said.
Hampton and his wife, Jane, dressed in period costume for the event. He spoke about John Stark leading his men to battle.
"The requirement for the Minutemen of ages 16 to 60 was to have a musket, a knife and a hatchet and be ready to go to work to defend his country at a minute's notice," he said.
In 1809, when Stark was 81 he declined an invitation to an anniversary reunion of the Battle of Bennington. Instead, he sent his toast by letter saying, "Live Free or Die. Death is not the worst of evils."
"I think we're all living proof of that because we have the opportunity to do what's right," Hampton said.
Among the men standing guard over the Molly Stark cannon with the New Boston Artillery Company was town moderator Rod Stark, whose ancestor was Gen. John Stark's brother, William. Rod's four grandchildren are the ninth-generation in the Stark family legacy.
"I think the timing couldn't have been better to have it on Veterans Day weekend. I'm glad they wanted to have the cannon. It was a project getting the Molly out; there has to be a guard," he said.