Milton in the News – 1845

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | December 23, 2018

Milton buildings burned frequently. It had partly to do with their construction methods and materials, everything being made of wood, including wooden roof shingles, and partly to do with heating with fires. Heat was provided by open hearth fires, then the more efficient but more intensely-hot wood stoves, and, later, coal fires.

FIRE AND LOSS OF LIFE. A correspondent of the Bee at Rochester, N.H., writes that a fire broke out on the 17th at Milton Three Ponds, which consumed the new and excellent yarn mill of Messrs. A.S. Howard & Co. – Loss about §12,000, and no insurance. A very worthy young man, the son of John H. Varney, who was a watchman in the mill, was burnt to death (Baltimore Daily Commercial, November 24, 1845).

The mills at Milton, (N.H.,) owned by Messrs. A.S. Howard & Co., and occupied for the manufacture of cotton yarn, were entirely destroyed by fire last week. Loss $12,000. A man who was asleep in the loft was burnt to death (Columbian Fountain (Washington, DC), November 27, 1845).

Fires. A correspondent of the Boston Bee, writing from Rochester, N.H., states that a fire broke out on the 17th at Milton Three points, which consumed the new and excellent yarn mill of Messrs. A.S. Howard & Co. Loss about $12,000, and no insurance. A very worthy young man, the son of John A. Varney, who was a watchman in the mill, was burned to death (Daily National Pilot (Buffalo, NY), November 27, 1845).

Except for the death of the unfortunate young watchman, Caleb Varney, this was a relatively routine fire by Milton standards. And Milton was not alone in experiencing such “conflagrations.” Dover lost a whole block of wooden storefronts in 1847, and its railroad station in 1848, just to name a few. Rochester and Portsmouth suffered very severe fires over the years.

Algernon Sidney Howard was born in Tamworth, NH, October 17, 1796, son of David and Rebecca (Whitman) Howard. He died in Sangerville, ME, August 5, 1859.

In 1834 the “Mechanics Company” was incorporated consisting of Algernon S. Howard, Richard Kimball, Joseph Anthony, and their associates, all of Great Falls. They built the [Rochester] “Lower Mill,” where they made blankets for six or seven years, when they failed, having sunk their whole capital, and paid no debts (McDuffie, 1892).

Previous in sequence: Milton in the News – 1843; next in sequence: Milton in the News – 1848


McDuffie, Franklin. (1892). History of the Town of Rochester, New Hampshire, from 1722 to 1890. Retrieved from

Milton in the News – 1843

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | December 21, 2018

Andrew Howard, of Rochester, NH, robbed and murdered Miss Phebe Hanson, aged sixty-three years, at her home in the Meaderboro district of Rochester, NH, on Tuesday, September 19, 1843.

That is really a Rochester story. Milton residents appear here only peripherally, as members of an “indignant” crowd of 10,000 onlookers, who were present outside the Dover jail for the November 1845 execution of the murderer.

The Exeter News-Letter says that the gallows had been erected and preparations all made for the execution of Andrew Howard, at Dover, (N.H.) before the Governor arrived with a reprieve. The people who had come from Barrington and Bowpond, Squannemagonic and the Dock, the Three Ponds and Crown Point, Barnstead and the Bear country, to see the sight, were very indignant at the interference of the Governor. The Dover Gazette estimates that there were 10,000 strangers in that town on that day (Weekly National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), November 29, 1845).

Apart from the indignation, which was quite strong (many subsequent demonstrations), our principal interest lies in the names of the places from which the 10,000 people came. Barnstead and Barrington are obvious. Three Ponds is Milton. The Dock is the Puddle Dock district of Farmington, Squannemagonic is the Gonic district of Rochester, and Bow Pond and Crown Point are districts of Strafford. Bear Country remains a mystery.

The murderer Howard was eventually hanged at the Dover jail at 1:40 PM, Wednesday, July 8, 1846. He was then twenty-three years of age.

Previous in sequence: Milton in the News – 1842; next in sequence: Milton in the News – 1845

Every Watch Is a Compass

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber)  | December 20, 2018

Don’t get lost:

Every Watch Is a Compass

A few days ago I was standing by an American gentleman, when I expressed a wish to know which point was the north. He at once pulled out his watch, looked at it, and pointed to the north. I asked him whether he had a compass attached to his watch. “All watches,” he replied,  “are compasses.”

Then he explained to me how this was. Point the hour hand to the sun and the south is exactly half-way between the hour and the figure XII on the watch. For instance, suppose that it is 4 o’clock. Point the band indicating four to the sun and II on the watch is exactly south.

Suppose that it is 8 o’clock, point the band indicating eight to the sun and the figure X on the watch is due south. My American friend was quite surprised that I did not know this.

Thinking that very possibly I was ignorant of a thing that everyone else knew, and happening to meet Mr. Stanley, I asked that eminent traveler whether he was aware of this simple mode of discovering the points of the compass. He said that he had never heard of it. I presume, therefore, that the world is in the same state of ignorance.

Amalfi is proud of having been the home of the inventor of the compass. I do not know what town boasts of my American friend as a citizen. – London Truth (Vermont Journal (Windsor, VT), November 1, 1890).

Dr. Livingston, I presume?


Ordnance Survey. (2011, August 22). Forgotten Your Compass? Use the Sun to Navigate. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 2). Flavio Gioja. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 20). Henry Morton Stanley. Retrieved from

What Is the Zodiac, Anyway?

By Peter Forrester |  December 20, 2018

Many people know the term “zodiac” from astrology, or fortune-telling based on stars and planets. But how many know the astronomical, scientific use of the word?

First of all, I need to introduce another term, the “ecliptic”. This can be imagined as an invisible line in the sky through which the Sun appears to move every year. I use the word “appears” because we are on a spinning Earth, which is the real source of the Sun moving across the sky every day. The Moon and planets always stay very close to this line. The ecliptic gets its name because eclipses only occur when the Moon is crossing it during full moon or new moon.

The ecliptic is inclined 23.4 degrees from the “celestial equator”, the line in the sky lying directly over the Earth’s equator. This corresponds to the well-known tilt in the Earth’s axis, in its orbit around the Sun.

From our vantage point in the Northern Hemisphere, the ecliptic rises from the horizon in the east, reaches its highest point to the south, and then descends to the west. So if you want to see a zodiac constellation, or a planet, or the Moon, your best bet is to start by looking south.

The concept behind assigning a Zodiac constellation to each month is a rough approximation of the scientific reality. The idea is that every month, the Sun occupies the space between the Earth and one of the twelve classic Zodiac constellations, and hence is said to be “located” in that constellation. Here the zodiac uses 12 divisions of the ecliptic into 30 degrees each, regardless of how big each of these constellations actually is.

However there are a couple of little catches here. There are actually 13 constellations through which the ecliptic passes. The one not used in the common 12-sign version of astrology is called Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, and is located between and above Sagittarius and Scorpius. The constellations are different sizes and thus the astrological divisions reflect simplifications of where the Sun and planets are.

A further problem with the signs of the Zodiac is that they do not align properly with the current position of the Sun. For example, the astrological sign Aries is from March 21 to April 20, but the Sun actually passes in front of Aries between late April and mid-May. This is because of long-term fluctuations in the orbit and rotation of the Earth. The dates of the signs were assigned over 2000 years ago, and now are out of alignment.

I need say very little about the third major problem with astrology in general. There is no scientific evidence that a person’s life or personality, or future prospects have anything to do with the position of the stars or planets at the time of their birth, or at any other time. Astrology is a pseudo-science, a cool belief system that has very little basis in reality. I am here to explain the reality to you, as harsh as it may sound.

The zodiac, as used in astronomy, is a small band in the sky, about 8 degrees above and below the ecliptic, in which the Sun, Moon, and Solar system planets are usually located (there are as many as 10 other constellations in which planets can occasionally be found). Besides the 13 constellations mentioned above, which all cross the line of the ecliptic, there is a 14th one that nearly touches it and which the solar system objects more commonly occupy. This constellation is called Cetus, the Whale, and lies just below Pisces.

I’ll discuss the various zodiac constellations later, but for now I just want to list them, with the dates that the Sun is actually located there. You will notice these dates are about a month later than the traditional astrological  dates, which I will not give here. You can easily find them if you want to.

Aries: April 18 – May 13

Taurus: May 13 – June 21

Gemini: June 21 – July 20

Cancer: July 20 – August 10

Leo: August 10 – September 16

Virgo: September 16 – October 30

Libra: October 30 – November 23

Scorpio: November 23 – November 29

Ophiuchus: November 29 – December 17

Sagittarius: December 17 – January 21

Capricorn: January 20 – February 16

Aquarius: February 16 – March 11

Pisces: March 11 – April 18

Just one further point – it will be difficult to see the constellation in the month of its “sign”, since it is too close to the Sun, which means the sky will be too bright to see it when it is up.

Some of the zodiacs are dim, and others are very bright. We’ll get into the easiest ones to see on another occasion.

For now, your friendly Milton astronomer signing off.

See also: Skies Over Milton, December Edition.


Wikipedia. (2018, December 20). Cetus. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 20). Ecliptic. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 20). Ophiuchus. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 20). Sidereal and Tropical Astrology. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 20). Zodiac. Retrieved from

Milton in the News – 1842

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | December 20, 2018

Milton had over a foot of snow in late November 1842, which “much impeded” local travel.

Snow. At Milton, N.H., about 20 miles from Dover, the snow, ten days ago, was 14 inches deep, and travelling was much impeded in consequence (Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 8, 1842).

That would not seem to be an outlandish amount of snow for Milton, although it might have been a bit early in the season. (Such as we have had this year). Perhaps a run-of-the-mill news item for New England seemed more notable further south in Philadelphia.

No one plowed the roads. Some might travel by horse. For the few that possessed a horse and a carriage, they might now break out their sleigh. In the Christmas song “Over the River and Through the Woods,” the family is traveling by sleigh to Grandmother’s house. Larger places might have “rolled” their roads, packing down the snow, which would facilitate travel by sleigh.

Most would have simply trudged through the snow, either with snowshoes or without, or just stayed put where they were. Various church denominations reported low attendance and closures, sometimes for weeks at a time.

It was a good thing that they had earlier engaged in “making hay while the sun shines,” so they might feed their animals now. New England farmhouses frequently had the barn attached or connected to the house by an enclosed passage. No need to go outside.

They would have laid in a good supply of firewood before winter. Historians have estimated that the average Colonial-era household consumed an acre of woodland every year in their open hearths. Many households would by now have a Ben Franklin-style wood stove. Much more efficient. Smart guy, that Ben.

Previous in sequence: Milton in the News – 1839; next in sequence: Milton in the News – 1843


Thinking ‘Outside the Box’

By S.D. Plissken | December 19, 2018

Chairman Thibeault is fond of saying that “we,” meaning the Board of Selectmen (BOS), and Milton in general, “need to think ‘outside the box.'”

The catchphrase regarding thinking “outside the box” originates with management consultants of the 1970s and 1980s. It is the pop psychology of yesteryear. You should be concerned whenever you hear it.

The sad fact is that he, the BOS, and Milton governance in general, for well over a decade, represent the ne plus ultra of conventional thinking. Everything they do is very much within “the box.”

They cannot help themselves, poor things. Their approach is inherent in the nature of government. It is impossible to rationally allocate resources. If ten of something seems desirable, wouldn’t twenty be even better? It is impossible to say, because government lacks a price mechanism with which to measure its decisions. It relies to a very great extent – some have even said that it relies entirely – upon “magical thinking.” That is why government should never be engaged for any task or service that might be provided by the free market.

While it is always instructive, and sometimes amusing, to examine their more absurd premises more thoroughly, – and I have tried – let us confine ourselves this time to the most recent BOS meeting. Issues are rarely explained in these meetings, as such, but it is sometimes possible to extract some sense – some rumor – of what is happening from the little tidbits that are dropped along the way.

In our last episode, the Town Clerk had objected – through intermediaries – to being the Central Repository for all Town monetary transactions. Her objection is not fundamental or constitutional, although objections could certainly be made along those lines. She was willing to undertake the increased tasks. Her problem arises only from the principle that increased tasks should be accompanied by increased personnel hours. Well, that makes sense. (The BOS should consider deeply how this same principle might be applied in their own dealings with the State government).

Past meetings have informed us that the State government forbids the Town government to keep more than $1,500 in the house at any one time. Are you with me so far? The larger in-the-box thinkers have given the smaller in-the-box thinkers a directive. This unfunded imposition comes with costs. Was any out-of-the-box thinking employed? No, we have been given an order and are rushing to fulfil it. The taxpayers can pay the freight. All very much within “the-box.”

Now the Town government’s new bank wants to change the way that they take in their deposits. This is just a bank “policy.” It is something that works well for them. (Note that, on the market, the customer is always right, and there are other banks in the world).

The Town’s bank “recommended” that we establish a central repository for all the Town’s exactions, excuse me, deposits. The Town Treasurer agreed, the Auditors were insistent, the Town Counsel approved it, the Town department heads loved it, the Town Administrator said that all the cool Towns are doing it. We take orders from banks too. All very much within “the box.”

Whenever they cite this “all the other Towns” reasoning, as they do frequently, I hear my mother’s voice: “If all the other kids were jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?” Her point being that it’s not that you can’t do what the others are doing, if they are acting wisely, but that it is folly to be a lemming just to be like the other lemmings.

By itself, citing “all the other Towns” is really the same as having no reason at all. It is a confession of having no reason. Completely ridiculous, but very much within “the box.”

Anyway, the Town Treasurer restructured Town monetary procedures such that the various departments off-loaded portions of their deposit accounting to the Town Clerk. Just like all the other Towns. The various departments all spend less time on those fiddly bookkeeping details. And the money is all in one place. Less is more. They love it. Win-win, right?

Well, no. None of these apparatchiks gave up any personnel hours to the Town Clerk when they piled on their extra tasks. It was more like a zero-sum game: she got their tasks, while they retained the hours with which they formerly did those tasks. She reportedly tried to juggle these increased tasks, for a time, but finds it is not working for her.

Will all those that are surprised please raise their hands?

I see, the BOS have their hands up. (They raise their hands for everything). They seem to be baffled. To their minds, it apparently makes perfect sense that the Town Clerk should do more so that others might do less. It adds up somehow?

So, the BOS dug in their heels regarding full-time status for her administrative assistant. Nor did they arrange for any extra assistance from the departments that were relieved from the tasks with which she now struggles. The BOS provided no solutions. Instead, they told all of the children to sort it out for themselves. They have until the end of January to do so. Don’t make me come in there.

It is impossible to accept yet another Town personnel expansion. (The Town needs to move in the opposite direction). One might hope that some interdepartmental reallocation or redistribution of budget money or personnel hours is made instead. Cutting elsewhere to pay for this latest shiny initiative would work quite well.

But the Town Clerk is to be much admired. Her spirited defense of her department showed true grit. She demonstrated exactly the qualities that the BOS has so sadly lacked in defending the taxpayers’ interests.

One might well imagine that we will see these issues emerge again in some form.


Town of Milton. (2018, December 17). BOS Meeting, December 17, 2018. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 18). Thinking Outside the Box. Retrieved from



Milton’s NHES Community Profile – 2018

By Muriel Bristol | December 17, 2018

New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES) produced an update to its Milton statistics in its NH Community Profiles in March 2018. Most of its figures were updated to June 2017, while some were based still upon figures from the prior profile.

It included US Census Bureau figures, which estimated Milton’s population at 4,591 inhabitants as of 2016. This would be an decline of 0.3% from the 4,606 inhabitants estimated in 2015.

Milton’s net population has not increased significantly since the 2010 census, when it had 4,598 inhabitants.

238 (5.2%) of Milton’s 4,591 inhabitants were aged under 5 years of age, 866 (18.9%) were aged 5-19 years of age, 830 (18.1%) were aged 20-34, 1,157 (25.2%) were aged 34-54 years of age, 929 (20.2%) were aged 55-64 years of age, and 571 (12.4%) were aged 65 years of age or over. There were 2,279 males (49.6%) and 2,312 (50.4%) females. The median age was 43.6 years (an increase of 1.2% over that stated in the prior year).

Milton had 2,040 housing units in 2016, a decline of 0.9%. Single-Family Units, Detached or Attached accounted for 1,557 (76.3%) of them, Mobile Homes (and Other Housing Units) accounted for 304 (14.9%), 2-4 Unit Multi-family Structures, i.e., apartment buildings, accounted for 61 (3.0%), and 5-or-more Unit Multi-family Structures accounted for 118 (5.8%) housing units.

This represented a slight decline in both number and proportion of Single Family Units and a slight increase in both number and proportion of Mobile Homes and Multi-Family Structures.

By computation, the average Milton housing unit sheltered 2.3 inhabitants, an increase of 0.1 inhabitants.

Milton’s single largest employer by far was the Milton town government, whose 247 employees (132 Municipal Services and 115 Education) made up 11.0% of the 2,250 employed inhabitants. Next largest was Index Packaging with 157 employees, Eastern Boats with 38 employees, Iron Mountain with 20 employees, and ProLine with 13 employees. (Note: none of these employer figures appear to have been updated from 2017, except the number of employed inhabitants).

Most of Milton’s Working Residents (88.0%) commuted to employment out of town, an increase of 0.5%. Most of them (77.9%) commuted to another NH community, while some (10.1%) commuted to employment out of state. The mean travel time increased to 32.1 minutes. Only 12.0% worked in Milton.

Some 124 inhabitants (5.4%) were unemployed in 2015. This had declined to 73 inhabitants (3.1%) by 2016.

The Per Capita income was $28,403 in 2016 (a decrease of 15.2% over the previous year’s $33,495). The Median Family income was $72,226 and the Median Household income was $65,679. Individuals below the poverty level were 6.7% of the population, a decrease of 2.1%.

See also Milton’s NH Employment Security (NHES) Community Profile – 2017


New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES). (2018, March). New Hampshire Community Profiles. Retrieved from