, Derry, New Hampshire


March 27, 2014

Column: Horace Greeley had Nutfield roots

Today most people would be hard pressed to remember exactly who was Horace Greeley (1811-1872). However, if you had been in America from the 1840s through the 1870s, you would know him as the editor of the country’s most influential newspaper, a man whose written opinions were read by millions.

Greeley’s fame was such that schools, babies, and many cities and towns were named after him, perhaps the best known is Greeley, Colo. In 1961, the government issued a postage stamp in his honor — and to think he grew up in Londonderry.

Perhaps many remember him for the quote, “Go West, young man. Go West.” Most historians today question if he ever really said those “exact” words. Several times, however, he did write encouragements to young people to leave the East and try farming in the western United States.

One example is in an 1867 New York Tribune editorial: “Washington (D.C.) is not a nice place to live. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting, the mud is very deep, and the morals are deplorable. But on a farm in the West these dissatisfied could not only make money, and live decently, but also be some use to the country.”

Many, I suppose, would say that the anti-D.C. sentiment is as true today as it was then.

While the great man was born in Amherst, his Old Nutfield ancestry actually goes back to 1720. Greeley was living with his grandparents in western Londonderry when he went to school for the first time. His school years ended when he was only 14 and began a career in journalism. In 1841, he became editor of the New York Tribune; soon his ideas were known from coast to coast.

His editorials were generally biased toward the common man and in opposition to big business and secularism. Greeley was a strong voice against slavery and, at the start of the Civil War, his newspaper had a national circulation of nearly 300,000. The reasons for his very public feuds with Presidents Lincoln Johnson and Grant were debated across the nation.

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