, Derry, New Hampshire


July 4, 2013

Column: Three horse tales from the archives


In Lawrence, the authorities charged him with theft. Because this was not his first brush with the law he was sent to the Massachusetts reform school. I haven’t checked with Chief Garone, but this is likely the youngest criminal ever arrested in Derry.

In Derry toward the start of the 20th century, the place to be was the Beaver Lake Pavilion. For a dime, you could ride there on the trolley and, for another dime, spend all day swimming at their beach, bowling or visiting their tiny petting zoo. You could also buy a light lunch in their restaurant or lose money in their “one-armed bandit” slot machines. At night, you could part with more money by buying a ticket to dance to their orchestra in their Venetian ballroom or take in a vaudeville show.

In August 1899, the featured act was “Professor Edwards and his celebrated horse Bonner.” For a tenth of a dollar, one silver dime, two nickels or even 10 red copper pennies, you could see the show.

“Bonner can write words and figures as plainly as a man and will answer questions given him by the professor.” The professor’s show also included trained dogs and monkeys. The trolley company was putting on extra cars to handle the crowd that the pavilion anticipated to show up.

In the 19th century, when horse power really meant something powered by horses, the locals took great pride in their mares and stallions. Some farmers took their draught horses to local fairs to show how much they could pull. Others challenged all comers in races on a track on the site of today’s Highland Avenue in Western Derry. There were often hundreds of spectators cheering the riders on. Lots of money changed hands in side bets.

The fastest local horse I’ve found so far on a long distance run was a trotter belonging to 25-year-old Charley Cross of Londonderry. He knew his horse Scrub was fast and had stamina, but had never measured its speed over a long distance.

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