Vintage Views: North, South ends rivalry

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There are times in life when a little competition is good for everyone involved. People are basically competitive at heart and when placed in a situation where there is an opportunity to compete it becomes quite interesting, especially within a small community like Concord.

There has always been a rivalry in our little community between the boys living in the south end and the boys living in the north end of Concord. This is both documented and known by the people that have made Concord their home for many generations. This friendly rivalry has been quite interesting because it did not stop when the boys were young, it simply continued through their lives, right down to their very last years.

The north end and south end boys knew their own allegiance very well, for the battlefield was established way back in the early 1800s. The common ground, or boundary between the north and the south, was the old town hall, our present-day Merrimack County Court House on Main Street. There were many antics and pranks both documented and some perhaps not. The north end boys would always push the limits a little past the old town hall, with confrontations primarily taking place in the yard of the New Hampshire State House. There were mock battles and competitions of all sorts, the most talked about being the mutual theft of an old miniature cannon. The pranks were well known at both ends of town with the intent being the public humiliation of the opposition.

As the years progressed and the border warfare of their youth became the friendly banter of their adulthood, we find the rivalry still very healthy. Many of the young boys sought public positions and they still favored their old neighborhoods both north and south. Some of the key people involved in this lifelong rivalry were most prominent and beneficial to the entire city of Concord. There were people such as Abiel Walker, known as a man of few words but of very sound judgment. People felt Abiel was the pattern of economy and thrift. His friend and neighbor were Samuel Coffin, known for his cool disposition and easy-going nature. Samuel held a position where he was personally responsible as a financial conservator of town expenses. He would bring his estimates into each town meeting and usually make the same statement time and again, thus far gentlemen and no farther.

There was General Robert Davis who possessed the unique ability to know every single person living in Concord during his time. His many friendships and likability resulted in his election to many public positions serving his beloved Concord. It was Richard Bradley that found much respect from the local citizens. Young Mr. Bradley entered politics in Concord at the age of twenty-one years when elected as the constable. Richard Bradley managed to hold elected positions in Concord until he was 70 years old. He possessed a keen knowledge of town affairs, was known for his very positive attitude and remained a leader his entire life. All of these gentlemen were born and died in their old Concord homesteads and every one of them was known as conservative north end men their entire lives.

As we look from the north end of Concord to the south, we find the men on the opposing side of the old town hall. The south end boys included people such as Colonel William A. Kent, a very intelligent gentleman with a respectable social standing deeming him very popular within the community. There was Isaac Hill, a very skilled politician, he held many prominent positions with both the city of Concord and the state of New Hampshire. Isaac Hill served as an author, printer, editor, senator and even governor of the state of New Hampshire. Joseph Low was another upstanding citizen of Concord and a devoted south ender. He was soft-spoken and able to reconcile differences easily. He served as the Concord Postmaster and was the very first mayor of Concord. Local attorney Nathaniel G. Upton was a very prominent attorney in Concord and also served as a judge, superintendent of the railroad and Commissioner to England, similar to a present-day Ambassador. All of the south end gentleman mentioned were not native-born members of the Concord community but certainly very well respected and appreciated by their adoptive town. These south end men all arrived as young boys, accepted the lifelong challenge of combating the north end boys and enjoyed a rivalry spanning many decades.

There certainly is a place for good-hearted competition in every community, when the boys grew to be men their opposing views ushered in very balanced views within the town. The small cannon that I mentioned in past columns was stolen by the north end boys, only to be stolen by the south end boys again. This mutual exchange and competition never did end until the passing of every one of these competitive gentlemen except for one. The last man standing was quite elderly indeed, having seen all of his friends pass away over a period of decades he predicted his own soon to be demise. The old gentleman held two thoughts closely to his heart as his numbered days were quickly ending.

His first thought was one of aggravation, he harbored a somewhat humorous thought within his mind regarding cemeteries. After all of these years and all of this competition, all of those old south end boys ended up in the north end of Concord in the cemetery. This thought often brought a smile to his face in his last years. His final thought centered around that small cannon of his youth. The old cannon was documented as being in the possession of the north end boys last, where it was is lost to history. As the boys became men and then prominent members of the community, the topic of the cannon was discussed time and again, especially over some spirits in the local taverns. The cannon story has been handed down from one generation to the next over and over again. It was my very own father that told me about the old cannon and its disposition.

I was told the old gentleman, the very last surviving person from the old days of Concord rivalry, had the cannon stored in his Concord barn for decades. Sworn to secrecy the location was never known. As the final months of his life arrived the old gentleman needed to finish some unfinished business. He simply would not allow anyone from the south end of Concord to obtain the old cannon after his death. The old man summoned his grandson and swore him to secrecy as he brought him into his old barn one dark evening. He told his story and then he told his grandson what needed to be done. The old man and the young boy loaded the small cannon onto a wagon, hitched up their horse and covered the cannon with canvas. It was a cold October evening and not many people were on the streets of Concord. They traveled out towards the old Walker Farm on Horseshoe Pond. They quietly backed the wagon to the edge of the pond and unlashed the small cannon. The boy pushed the cannon off the back of the wagon and watched it splash into the dark pond water. The cannon, never to be seen again.

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