Non-Public BOS Meeting Scheduled (August 6, 2018)

By Muriel Bristol | July 31, 2018

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have posted their agenda for a Non-Public BOS meeting to be held next Monday, August 6, at 4:00 PM. The agenda has two items: a Non-Public matter classed as 91-A:3 II (c) and another matter classed as 91-A:3 II (d).

91-A:3 II (c): Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting. This exemption shall extend to any application for assistance or tax abatement or waiver of a fee, fine, or other levy, if based on inability to pay or poverty of the applicant.

91-A:3 II (d): Consideration of the acquisition, sale, or lease of real or personal property which, if discussed in public, would likely benefit a party or parties whose interests are adverse to those of the general community.

The first matter relates to the recent tax abatement process. In November, the BOS made an error in setting the 2017 tax rate. It affected all of the taxpayers, i.e., about 2,700 taxpayers, to a large degree. Various figures have been given. In December, the BOS suggested that those affected should file for abatements.

This would be case of apples and oranges. Abatements are intended to resolve errors in particular property assessments or to address the personal circumstances of particular taxpayers. For this purpose, the town typically allocates or holds back a very small percentage – less than 1% – for abatements. (They had allocated only $20,000 to cover all abatements). The BOS’s very large town-wide rate error could not possibly be corrected through granting a few abatements.

The difference between the BOS error and their proposed “solution” is separated by several orders of magnitude. The BOS may or may not have known that back in December, but they surely do know it now.

Only 56 taxpayers filed for the suggested abatement. Of those, 39 (69.6%) received abatements, while 17 (30.4%) were rejected. This Non-Public matter before the BOS is likely an appeal by one of the 17 whose abatement was rejected.

The second matter relates to the buying, selling, or leasing of property. Several property matters have been in the wind over the last few months. The sale of the old fire station, acquisition of conservation land, and the proposed purchase of parking spaces have been much discussed lately.

The BOS intend to adjourn their Non-Public BOS meeting by 5:00 PM. Their prior public meeting was held on Monday, July 16. Their next public Meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 20.


Town of Milton. (2018, July 31). BOS Non-Public Agenda, August 6, 2018. Retrieved from

State of New Hampshire. (2018, February). Revised Statutes Amended Online. Retrieved from

Milton’s Summer Theater

By Paige Turner, Guest Contributor | July 18. 2018

The Milton Town Players performed their adaptation of a scene from Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington at the Emma Ramsey Theater last Monday night (July 16).

Mr. Glen Bailey made a guest appearance in the title role of junior Senator “Jeff” Smith. His performance was uneven at best, although his material was quite good. It might be that his future lies more behind the keyboard than before the footlights.

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) reprised their familiar roles as clueless and ineffectual solons and did so convincingly. Their new “ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies” rules for the meeting’s Public Comments section aided the mise-en-scène.

Chairman Thibeault, in attempting the more complex role of the sympathetic Senate President, originally played by Harry Carey, was not entirely successful. His stony-faced performance did not project any sympathy at all for Senator Smith or for the taxpayers. For that, he would need to break the fourth wall.

EDC Committeeman Larry Brown portrayed the senior Senator “Joe” Paine, a role originally undertaken by the incomparable Claude Raines. He was the stand-out star of the evening. Brown’s Senator Paine confirmed that government officials can absolutely, by statute, retain and use money they take without authorization. He appeared to have that factoid at the tips of his fingers. His choice of citing it so blandly captured perfectly the cynicism, venality, and corruption of Senator Paine.

The Town Players did well in limiting themselves to this brief scene. A little bit of their governance goes a long way. But do not miss their future shows!


Milton Board of Selectmen. (2018, July 16). Milton Board of Selectman Meeting, July 16, 2018. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, July 26). Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Retrieved from

Rubber Stamps

By S.D. Plissken | July 10, 2018

An examination of fifteen years worth of the Town Meeting Warrant articles on which the Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted to make a recommendation – 239 of them – reveals an oddity. While it cannot be said that they never met a warrant article on which they did not unanimously agree, it is extremely rare.

The BOS voted unanimously to recommend warrant articles 231 of 239 times (96.7%) in those fifteen years. They voted unanimously to not recommend warrant articles 5 of 239 times (2.1%). Those articles not recommended concerned the contentious landfill issue on the 2015 ballot, and the disincorporation petitioned article on the 2018 ballot. (Making any recommendation at all on a petitioned warrant article is itself an extreme rarity). Taken together, unanimous votes were made 236 of 239 times (98.7%).

There was a split vote in only 3 of 239 times (1.3%). One of them was a 2-0 vote with 1 abstention. (Some might say that too should be counted as a unanimous vote, of those who were voting). The other two were 2-1 splits. Most of them arose out of that same landfill issue.

Now, none of the warrant articles that were unanimously recommended (or unanimously not recommended) received unanimous approval (or disapproval) of the voters. Not a single one. In fact, a significant number of the unanimously recommended articles were rejected outright or passed by narrow margins.

All of this begs a question: why are the BOS recommendations, which have been almost entirely unanimous ones, at such variance with the expressed wishes of the voters? (Why are there so few dissents? (1.3%))

Some have answered that most of these warrant articles have to do with expanding town appropriations or authorizations, i.e., they are things that the town government wants. The town government is interested, as are all bureaucracies, in increasing its budgets, staffs, pay rates, pensions, authority, and control. So, it is easy to see why the town departments might create warrant articles that do not gain anything like unanimous acceptance by the voters. Their interests are not the same.

But the question remains for the BOS itself – the supposed representatives of the voters. Why do they make so many unanimous recommendations of warrant articles, i.e., solutions proffered by either the town apparatus or by themselves? And why such strong recommendations for solutions so often at variance with the interests of significant numbers of voters, even majorities of them (as expressed by them with their ballots).

One might expect there would be something like as many split recommendation votes as there have been split results in the actual election. That is to say, one might expect greater variance if the BOS were truly representing the voters. But do they, in fact, even try to represent the voters (and their interests), as distinguished from the town government?

Is the BOS really just a rubber stamp?


Town of Milton. (2002-03, 2006-2018). Annual Report. (Various Years). Milton, NH: Town of Milton


Milton Town Beach in 1960

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | June 12, 2018


Town Beach Open

The town beach gates swung open the past week-end [June 18-19] to begin another season at this cooling-off spot. More picnic benches have been added to accommodate additional picnickers. The commissioners also have purchased a ride-around lawn mower to keep the alfalfa under control.


Rochester Courier. (1960. June 23). Town Beach Open. Rochester Courier: Rochester, NH

Milton and the Spaulding Turnpike

By Muriel Bristol | June 5, 2018

The NH State Legislature authorized construction of a northern extension of the Eastern Turnpike in 1953. The Eastern Turnpike would consist of the just completed (1950) Blue Star Turnpike or NH Turnpike (now also Interstate 95), which ran from the Massachusetts border to the Portsmouth traffic circle, as well as a northern extension, which would run from the Portsmouth traffic circle to the Dover-Rochester area.

The first five miles of the Eastern Turnpike’s northern extension, ran from the Portsmouth traffic circle, through Newington, to Exit 6 (US Route 4) at Dover Point. Construction began in May 1954 and opened in September 1956.

Huntley N. Spaulding (1869-1955) and his brother, Rolland H. Spaulding (1873-1942), both of north Rochester, were manufacturers of leatherboard and fiberboard at their family’s mills in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. They both served as NH Governors: Rolland in 1915-17, and Huntley in 1927-29. Both they and other members of their family were philanthropists. The northern extension of the Eastern Turnpike was renamed to the Spaulding Turnpike by March 1954, presumably in their honor. (Huntley N. Spaulding died in November 1955).

The second seventeen-mile section of the now Spaulding Turnpike ran between Exit 6 (US Route 4) at Dover Point to Exit 12 (US Route 202 | NH Route 11 | NH Route 125) in Gonic, in Rochester. This second section bypassed the Dover Point Road, downtown Dover, and NH Route 108 between Dover and Rochester. It opened in August 1957.

The Portsmouth Herald observed that by “Connecting with the New Hampshire Turnpike, the Spaulding Turnpike will give motorists a superhighway from the Massachusetts line to Rochester and easier access to the mountain region of the state.”

The Spaulding Turnpike and NH Route 16 ran concurrently from Portsmouth Circle towards Rochester, where the Spaulding Turnpike ended at Exit 12. (NH Route 125 ran from the Massachusetts border at Haverhill, MA, through Plaistow towards Rochester). NH Routes 16 and 125 then ran concurrently from there through downtown Rochester, north along Milton Road in Rochester towards Milton, and through Milton along the White Mountain Highway to Union (Wakefield).

Milton enjoyed a tourist boom in the 1960s and 1970s. It had lost its train station by 1960. But it was now the first town (as opposed to Rochester) through which the increased traffic of the Spaulding Turnpike passed after Exit 12. (Some estimates were triple the traffic). Many travelers considered Milton to be a halfway point to the White Mountains. It was a good place to break one’s journey.

Older residents and through-travelers recall that Milton had more mercantile activity, such as general stores, hardware, antiques, garages, etc., during this period. Other venues catered to lunches, ice cream treats, and summer activities. Its public beach had been open since about 1948. Mi-Te-Jo Campground has been here from at least the 1960s. Ray’s Marina replaced the train station in 1962. There were even water-ski jumps in the Depot Pond.

Then the NH Department of Public Works and Highways (now the NH Department of Transportation (NHDOT)) announced plans for a third section of the Spaulding Turnpike in 1973. The NH legislature authorized it in 1977. It would continue twelve miles from Exit 12 in Rochester to the current Exit 18, just short of the Milton-Union (Wakefield) border. This third section opened in 1981 after three years of construction.

Milton had been by-passed and its stretch of the White Mountain Highway is now a by-way, rather than a highway.

The NH Route 16 designation had shifted successively from its original path through Dover Point, downtown Dover, and NH Route 108 as Spaulding Turnpike construction advanced. Somewhat belatedly, that designation shifted away also from downtown Rochester and Milton to the Spaulding Turnpike in the mid-1990s.

NH Route 16 continues north from Exit 18 of the Spaulding Turnpike. Its alternate name of  White Mountain Highway is still used in those stretches of the “old” NH Route 16 that have been bypassed or re-aligned. It is also used in stretches that continue to align with the modern NH Route 16. It is so called in Milton, Sanbornville (Wakefield), West Ossipee, Tamworth, Conway, and North Conway.


Carroll County Independent. (1926, September 3). Record of Public Service Best Campaign Argument. Center Ossipee, NH.

Eastern Roads. (n.d.). Spaulding Turnpike. Retrieved from

NH Department of Transportation. (2015). Spaulding Turnpike. Retrieved from

Portsmouth Herald. (30 August 1957). Spaulding Turnpike Now Open to Traffic. Published Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth Herald. (1977, June 24). News Briefs. Published Portsmouth, NH

Wikipedia. (2018, February 17). New Hampshire Route 16. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2017, September 25). Spaulding Turnpike. Retrieved from

The Mathematical Limits of Representation

By Muriel Bristol | June 1, 2018

Many have spoken, over eons, of the practical, logical, and philosophical limits of political representation. Here we will consider only some of its mathematical limits.

The U.S. Constitution provided that

The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse [Sic] three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

That made for a total of 65 House Representatives originally. This was only an estimate with which to start. The number of Representatives expanded to 105 after the first census provided actual population data in 1790. That number of Representatives continued to grow as the population increased to maintain the desired ratio of 1 Representative for roughly 30,000 people. It grew to 142 Representatives after the 1800 census, 182 after 1810, 213 after 1820, and 240 Representatives after the 1830 census, which recorded a population of 12,855,020 people. Representation began to lose ground after that.

There were only 223 Representatives after the 1840 census, 234 after 1850, 241 after 1860, 292 after 1870, 325 after 1880, 356 after 1890, and 386 Representatives after the 1900 census. This process continued until Congress passed the Apportionment Act of 1911, which capped the number of increasingly less representative Representatives at 435 after the 1910 census.

Each U.S. House member represented about 212,000 people in 1920, 280,675 in 1930, 301,164 in 1940, 334,587 in 1950, 410,481 in 1960, 469,088 in 1970, 510,818 in 1980, 571,477 in 1990, 646,946 in 2000, and 709,760 people in 2010.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects a population of 314,500,000 people by 2020, which would be about 723,000 people per Representative, or 1/24th of the representation originally intended. (It would take a House of 10,434 Representatives to provide the original degree of representation).

A mathematical limit is the value that an equation, function, or sequence “approaches” as its input or index approaches some value. The function or f(x) of House representation can be represented as f(x) = 435/x, where x is the size of the population. When x = 435, the function f(x) = 1, i.e., everyone represents themselves, and when x = 13,050,000 or less, the level of representation would be about as the framers intended – 30,000 people per Representative. However, as x grows larger, the degree of representation falls increasingly below their intent.

When the U.S. House is capped at 435 (or any other number), the degree of representation must shrink thereafter as population grows. For our House representation function f(x) = 435/x, when x grows larger and larger and finally approaches infinity, the function f(x) approaches its limit of 0. That is to say, the degree to which anyone is “represented” must shrink increasingly until it ceases finally to have any meaning at all.

The NH House was capped at 400 members in 1942. The same mathematics of representation applies to that institution as well.


Baker, Peter (NYT). (2009, September 17). Expand the House? Retrieved from

Bartlett, Bruce (NYT). (2014, January 7). Enlarging the House of Representatives. Retrieved from

Colby, Sandra L. and Ortman, Jennifer M. (2015, March). Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060. Retrieved from

Election Data Services. (2017, December 26). Some Change in Apportionment Allocations With New 2017 Census Estimates; But Greater Change Likely by 2020. Retrieved from

NH House of Representatives. (2006). NH House Facts. Retrieved from

US House of Representatives. (2018, May 8). Proportional Representation. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, May 2). Limit (Mathematics). Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, May 27). Limit of a Function. Retrieved from


Milton’s Railroad Line

By Muriel Bristol | May 28, 2018

Railroad - 1860

The railroad line that passes through Milton was built by the Great Falls and Conway Railroad. The railroad was incorporated in 1844, and was then

… authorized and empowered to locate, construct, and finally complete a railroad, beginning at or near the depot of the Boston and Maine Railroad, in Somersworth, and thence running through said Somersworth, Rochester, Milton, Wakefield, Ossipee, Effingham, Freedom, or Tamworth, to any place in Conway (Gregg and Pond, 1851).

The Great Falls and Conway line connected in Somersworth to the Great Falls and Berwick Railroad, which in turn connected to Portsmouth and beyond. The two railroad companies merged under the name Portsmouth, Great Falls & Conway Railroad (PGF&C) in 1848.WW-1851

Construction began at the Somersworth (Great Falls) end and the stretch between there and Rochester opened on February 28, 1849. It had reached “South Milton” by 1850.

An 1851 tourist guide had Gt. Falls & Conway Railroad service terminating in Rochester. Chestnut Hill, Milton, and points beyond were accessible by stage only.

A blasting accident injured three members of a railroad construction crew extending the tracks beyond Milton in December 1852.

Milton was said to be the “terminus” in 1854, but construction had reached Wakefield’s Union village by 1855. There it stalled due to financial difficulties.

A Boston & Maine advertisement of 1861 mentioned that its Portland, ME, train connected with the Great Falls & Conway Railroad at Great Falls, NH, i.e., Somersworth. Wakefield’s Union village is the end of the line; travel beyond there was by stagecoach.

The 8.46 AM Train from Portland connects at Great Falls with the Cars of the Great Falls and Conway Railroad, for Rochester, Milton and Union Village, and Stages for Milton Mills, Wakefield, Ossipee, Conway, etc.; and at Dover, with the Cars of the Cocheco Railroad, for Rochester, Farmington, Alton, and Alton Bay; and with Steamer Dover, in Summer, on Lake Winnipiseogee, for Wolfboro, Center Harbor and Meredith Village, with Stages from Center Harbor for Conway and White Mountains (Willis, 1861).

Railroads have rarely been economically viable. The history of railroads is a history of government subsidies and interventions in favor of railroads. (A notable exception was James J. Hill and his Great Northern Railroad). But the Republican administrations that dominated the post-Civil War era were not overly attached to free market principles. As a general rule, they favored “internal improvements” (now called “infrastructure spending” or government “investment”), including railroad subsidies and other interventions.

The moribund Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway railroad (PGF&C) construction was revived in July 1865, at least to some degree. But serious progress did not happen until the Eastern Railroad (eastern Massachusetts with branches) leased the PGF&C lines in September 1870 (it guaranteed the PGF&C’s bonds).

NEW HAMPSHIRE. At the meeting of the stockholders of the Eastern Railroad in New Hampshire, and the Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad; held in Portsmouth, on Monday, the lease ot the latter road to the former was voted (Vermont Journal (Windsor, VT), September 24, 1870).

Leasing was a often a mechanism to eliminate competition; mergers often followed those leases.

The Eastern Railroad extended the PGF&C lines from Union to Wakefield, and then on to West Ossipee, between September 1870 and October 1871.

WHIFFS FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE. Last week at a town meeting, Ossipee voted five per cent. of its valuation to aid in extending the Great Falls and Conway railroad from Union Village to West Ossipee. There has been a wrangle over this railroad for several years, the track has been surveyed three times, each time locating somewhat better (New England Farmer (Boston, MA), September 13, 1870).

NEW HAMPSHIRE. Ossipee, having voted five per cent to have a railroad, is puzzled which of the three routes surveyed to choose, and will have to let the conformation of ground, and scarcity or abundance of rocks settle the question for it (Vermont Journal (Windsor, VT), September 24, 1870).

NEW HAMPSHIRE. The first passenger train over the Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway extension passed to Wakefield station, six miles beyond Union, on Monday (Vermont Journal (Windsor, VT), [Saturday,] July 1, 1871).

The Great Falls and Conway Railroad is open to West Ossipee, N.H. (New England Farmer (Boston, MA), October 14, 1871).

By the beginning of July 1872, the Eastern Railroad was advertising that

THE PORTSMOUTH, GREAT FALLS AND CONWAY RAILROAD Is completed and running Trains to North Conway, and in connection with the Eastern Railroad forms the Shortest, Quickest and Only Route to North Conway and White Mountains … (Boston Globe, July 1, 1872).

The North Conway station was built in 1874. The PGF&C connected to the Portland and Ogdensburg Railway line at Intervale in 1875.

The Milton station depicted in old postcards and pictures was built in 1873. The original station stood on the “Lebanon side,” i.e., still in Milton, but on the other side of the Salmon Falls River..

Historian Sarah Ricker seemed to think the station and the ice business began together in 1873, although she did not specify whether the chicken or the egg came first. She further reported that “… the area’s ice industry experienced tremendous success in the 1880s. The Milton Ice Company, one of five such businesses in town, shipped up to 100 carloads of ice to Boston every day.” Ice cutting is a seasonal affair, of course. Those ice companies remained active until the late 1920s.BG820722-Excursion

The Eastern Railroad renewed its lease on the PGF&C line for a period of 60 years in 1878, but the whole was taken over by the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1890, which operated it as its Conway Branch line.

Transporting lumber and ice were early mainstays of the railroad. Mills sprang up, especially in places that had both the train and water power. That added raw materials and finished products to the freight. Milton participated in both ice and manufacture, but the mills and trains enabled also an exodus of sorts. An 1882 description of Milton mentioned that “there has been a small [net] decrease in population during the last twenty years, many leaving town for the cities and larger manufacturing towns for the purpose of engaging in other business than farming.”

The White Mountain Art movement predated railroad access to the White Mountains. This landscape painting movement began with stagecoaches in the early nineteenth century and had its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century. But it did enjoy improved railroad access for a time and it encouraged an initial wave of tourists to the White Mountains. Those tourists came by train. By the latter part of the nineteenth century, the White Mountain Art movement was being supplanted by the Hudson River School, Rocky Mountain art, and photography.

According to the Conway Scenic Railroad, North Conway is the “birthplace of American skiing.” Snow trains began running in 1932 to serve those skiers. “Countless skiers rode the snow trains as the sport of skiing grew with the development of ski lifts.” (See also Milton in the News – 1952 for a description of a snow train journey).

By the early 1950s, improved highways and America’s love affair with the automobile led to a decline in passenger service. Passenger service to Boston ended on December 2, 1961, as a single B&M Budliner headed south never to return. Freight customers continued to decline, too, and the last freight train departed on October 30, 1972 (Conway Scenic Railroad, n.d.).

The Portsmouth Herald published a list of fifteen Boston and Maine Railroad stations that would close as of June 1, 1958:

Here is a list of the 15 Boston & Maine Railroad stations in New Hampshire where passenger service will be discontinued June 1. Bath, Sugar Hill, Jefferson, Randolph, Fitzwilliam, Troy, Keene, Walpole, Hayes, Milton, Union, Burleyville, Mountainview, Mount Whittier, and Madison (Portsmouth Herald, May 9, 1958).

Ray’s Marina had supplanted the Milton Train Station by May 1963. The B&M went bankrupt in 1970. The last passenger train between Rollinsford and North Conway ran in 1972.

The railroad line continues in a limited way under the New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad (NHN). Ossipee is now its northern terminus. (Several disconnected stretches north of there are run as tourist attractions). It carries no lumber, ice, mill products, artists, skiers, or tourists now. It services only the sand pits of Ossipee with twice daily runs. They pass right on through and do not stop here.

Ray’s Marina closed in 2012. The train station’s freight depot building still remains, as a part of the Ray’s Marina complex. (Facing the marina buildings and the pond, it is the small building or shed on the left-hand end).

See also Milton’s Railroad Station Agents

References: (2018). Surviving New Hampshire Railroad Stations. Retrieved from

Conway Scenic Railroad. (n.d.). A Brief History of Our Station. Retrieved from

Foster’s Daily Democrat. (2016, May 12). Obituary: Rheaume J. (Ray) Lamoureux. Retrieved from

Gregg, W.P. and Pond, Benjamin. (1851). Railroad Laws and Charters of the United States. Boston, MA: Charles Little and James Brown

Historic Wakefield. (n.d.). Heritage Park Railroad Museum. Retrieved from

Hurd, D. Hamilton. (1882). A History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties. Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lewis & Co. (also retrievable from

Jonathan (The Shark (102.1 & 105.3 FM)). (2016, April 1). Restaurants Eyeing The Site Of Ray’s Marina In Milton. Retrieved from

Marvel, William (Conway Daily Sun). (2018, May 2). Then and Now: A Conspicuous Manisfestation of Industry, 1890. Retrieved from

Poor, Henry V. (1860). History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States of America. Retrieved from

Ricker, Sarah. (1999). Milton and the New Hampshire Farm Museum. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC, Chicago, IL, Portsmouth, NH, and San Francisco, CA

Rochester Courier. (1960, January 7).  Close [Sanbornville] R.R. Station. Rochester Courier: Rochester, NH

Rochester Courier. (1960, January 28). B and M Requests Permission to Drop Passenger Service Entirely on Conway Branch. Rochester Courier: Rochester, NH

Wikipedia. (2018). Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad. Retrieved from,_Great_Falls_and_Conway_Railroad

Wikipedia. (2018, March 10). White Mountain Art. Retrieved from

Williams, W. (1851). The Traveller’s and Tourist’s Guide Through the United States of America, Canada, etc. Retrieved from

Willis, William. (1861). A Business Directory of the Subscribers to the New Map of Maine. Retrieved from

Boots Meets a Bobcat

By Muriel Bristol | May 24, 2018

Boots the cat met a bobcat in his backyard on Park Place in Milton last Tuesday (May 22).

Nancy West was in her kitchen in the early Tuesday afternoon when she heard what she thought was her cat Boots howling or hissing out back. She went to check, expecting some spat between Boots and a neighbor’s cat. She looked out the back door to see a bobcat at the foot of her back stairs. He saw her but made no attempt to move.

She turned for her camera and in so doing realized that Boots was hunkered on the porch rail nearest the house, She scrapped the camera idea and opened the door to get her cat. The bobcat turned and ran off as soon as she opened the door.

My Boots is okay but obviously nervous, his little heart was beating really fast when I scooped him up. He stayed very close to me for some time afterwards. Never had that occur in the 32 years I have lived here. The day before Boots had  acted nervous when he went out in the am, sniffing everything and looking out in all directions from the front porch. He came in shortly after and continued to act nervous for quite a while, staying very close to me. Wonder if the Bobcat had been there that day.

According to NH Fish & Wildlife Department, bobcats are the most common wildcat in North America. Males are larger than females but, on average, they measure 19-22″ in height at the shoulder, 28-49″ in length, and weigh between 15-35 pounds. They have a characteristic “yellowish-brown or reddish-brown (more gray in winter) color with indistinct dark spotting and streaks along its body. … Their upper legs have dark horizontal bands. The face has thin, black lines stretching onto broad cheek ruff and their ears are tufted.” Their name derives from their short “bobbed” tail, typically 4-7″ in length with 2 or 3 black bars and black tip above and white beneath.

Bobcats live in scrubby or broken forests (hardwood, coniferous or mixed), swamps, farmland, semi-deserts, scrubland, and rocky or bushy arid lands. Their home ranges vary in size depending on sex, season and prey distribution and abundance. Bobcats mark their territory with urine, feces, anal gland scent, and scrapes on physical markers, such as trees. Individuals have one natal den and other auxiliary dens for protection located throughout their home ranges. Dens can be found in caves, hollow logs, brush piles, rock ledges, or stumps (NH Fish & Wildlife, n.d.).

Bobcats are predators that usually follow consistent hunting paths to prey on snowshoe hares and cottontails. However, their diet also includes mice, squirrels, woodchucks, moles, shrews, raccoons, foxes, domestic cats, grouse and other birds, reptiles, porcupines and skunks. The bobcat is capable of fasting during periods of limited food availability, but will occasionally kill large prey, such as deer and livestock, during harsh conditions (NH Fish & Wildlife, n.d.).

 Ms. West reported that the bobcat she saw “looked be about 15-18 lbs., possibly as much as 20 lbs. It definitely had the bobbed tail, which I could see clearly when he turned to run off toward the woods out back. He was kind of spotted brownish and black. with some white on its chest.”

I have had several bear visits over the years.  Most recently one knocked down the metal pipe I have a bird feeder on. Several weeks earlier a bear was seen at my mailbox  by a neighbor early one morning before dawn . That day another neighbor told me a bear had been in their  yard. Earlier in the spring there were several sighting of bears close by  (Hare Road, Governors Road and Route 153 in Milton).  I have taken pictures of bears in my yard several times in years past. I sure wish I was able to get one of that Bobcat, but I had to rescue my Boots.

Boots had a narrow escape. He showed good tactical sense. He had his back to a wall and had positioned himself up on a rail midway between the back door (and the potential of rescue) and a leap to the ground with access to several different options of flight. He did not have to use any of his nine lives.


New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife Department. (n.d.). Bobcat – Lynx Rufus (Felis Rufus). Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, May 17). Bobcat. Retrieved from


Larry Confronts Towering Strawmen

By S.D. Plissken | May 22, 2018

Economic Development Committeeman Larry Brown rose to speak during last night’s [May 21st’s] Public Comment portion of the Milton Board of Selectmen Meeting. (The full text of Brown’s comments appear in indented italics).

Larry Brown. Our Public Comment has been moved around and people don’t remember the meetings from about three meetings ago [April 16], but what I wanted to do was talk about a topic which I am sure is heavy on your minds, which is the old Greek philosophers, specifically Sophists, who had a bad reputation for a good reason.

They were the kind of philosophers who had arguments that were plausible, self-serving, and knowingly deceptive. They specialized in the destruction of fair discussion by questions that could by their very nature have no direct answer.

Few Sophist works survive from antiquity. Most of what we “know” of them was written by their detractors. (Imagine a future in which an ancient Democrat’s description of the ancient Republicans is all that is known about them (or vice versa)).

Brown does not cite or refute any actual Sophist arguments, but merely repeats the prejudicial characterizations of those ancient opponents. He is employing here a Prejudicial Language fallacy (also known as variant imagization), as well as a Composition fallacy, on his way to a full-on Ad Hominem fallacy.

To denigrate the original speaker of April 16th as a Sophist should require some proof. Even if the original speaker’s opinions overlapped to some degree or in some respect those of the ancient Sophists would not by itself make him a Sophist. To assert such is to engage in a Composition fallacy. (Hitler liked dogs, so people who like dogs are evil).

To then employ alone these unanswerable ancient pejoratives and a Composition fallacy to characterize the original speaker as a wicked Sophist is to engage in an Ad Hominem fallacy or attack, i.e., to speak to the supposed characteristics of an opponent rather than to address their arguments. (There’s a lot of that going around these days).

Example: “How can you say you are moving forward when one-sixth of the voters don’t want the town to exist?” Or, “why should we pay for the mistakes of past assessments?”

Brown’s reframing of the original speaker’s arguments so that he might answer something other than those arguments is a use of the Strawman fallacy. The original speaker (April 16th) made that final point about the results of the March election only as an answer to an assertion by Chairman Thibeault that he felt he spoke for the “entire board and the entire community.” It had little, if anything, to do with seeking explanation of the “moving forward” or “change” aspects of Chairman Thibeault’s statement, which was the principal issue.

Brown was answering a question that had never been asked, at least not as he presented it. There was nothing Sophistic in pointing out that the recent election results proved that Chairman Thibeault did not speak for the “entire” community. The original speaker was proffering a valid counter-example to Thibeault’s assertion of a wider mandate than he actually has.

The two new Selectmen rushed to disavow the actions of the prior board (which had then included now Chairman Thibeault) as having nothing to do with them. So, at least when speaking of the prior board’s actions, or lack thereof, Chairman Thibeault was not speaking for the “entire board” either.

The original speaker had refuted Chairman Thibeault’s assertions of representing the “entire” board and community in the tax matter at hand with valid counter-examples. Nothing Sophistic about it.

As to the first, five times as many voters wanted this town to continue and the actions, structure, and the very election of the new board are an example of that moving forward.

As noted above, Brown is here creating and refuting an argument that the original speaker never made. But his own refutation argument – that a five-sixths majority should compel the actions and fortunes of a one-sixth minority, with no stated limit – is fascinating, if somewhat appalling. The minority should be compelled by a majority to participate in a polity they abhor or in actions they oppose.

Brown is putting forward an Appeal to Numbers (argumentum ad populum) fallacy. That is precisely why the U.S. was designed as a democratic republic and not as a democracy. It did compel participation, but it also incorporated safeguards intended to protect the natural rights of minorities (or, at least, of minorities that it considered to be within its polity). Otherwise, what would be the likely fate of permanent minorities, such as the red-headed, the left-handed, those of minority ethnicity, religion, etc.? Not to mention those with dissident opinions.

The Athenian Democracy executed Socrates, a Sophist, by voting for him to drink poison hemlock. They regularly exiled dissidents by “ostracizing” them, i.e., voting citizens into compulsory exile with potsherd ballots (“ostrakon”). Then followed the Tyrants and the Athenian Empire. And then they fell.

As to the second, absent criminal intent, malfeasance, and the explicit penalties in a contract of record, in a court action it will cost more than the cost of the injury alleged and the simple [?} have little chance of success. That’s the reality.

This is not an argument against the justice of seeking a refund for poor services. It employs instead an Appeal to Consequences fallacy (Argumentum ad Consequentiam). The expense of action or likelihood of success should determine our actions, rather than the truth of the complaint or the pursuit of justice.

But the original speaker framed it somewhat differently. He asked instead, if, as we have been told, the original mass assessment was defective, why are we not seeking a refund?

That contains within it the possibility we might not have been told the truth or, at least, not told all of it. It would have been possible for Chairman Thibeault to admit finally to what has become increasingly obvious: that he, the prior board, and other town officials were at fault. The original speaker allowed for such an admission. Were that the truth, there would be no need to seek legal action against the former assessing contractor.

In his two agenda items, the original speaker actually questioned how we could safely “move forward” or “change” without knowing the truth of what had happened. It was the town officials that had for months shifted blame onto the prior assessor. The original speaker appears to have called their bluff. The Town Administrator began to speak instead of the prior assessors having done things differently, rather than incorrectly, as she and the Selectmen had either stated or implied over a number of months. She also admitted that the then Selectmen had used a “sample ‘reval’ [revaluation]” in setting the rates. So, the original speaker elicited some truths previously obscured. Socrates would approve.

Assessing is an art, not a science.

That would be frightening indeed, if true. How would one ever know an assessment was invalid, as opposed to not quite suited to one’s artistic taste and sensibilities? Not to mention the problem of balancing the artistic tastes of taxpayers versus those who benefit from increased taxes.

If you want more information you can go to the DRA website and you can look up the mathematical formulas which set equalization. The Municipal Association has an article written by Stephen Hamilton, who I knew when I was in municipal and county government. He has been for years the person in charge of the Property Appraisal Division of the DRA and his comments on classical statistics and small sample overrepresentation and the goal of central tendency are still very much on target for assessing today.

Here Brown concludes with an Appeal to Authority fallacy (argumentum ad verecundiam). As an argument, it counts for nothing. Hamilton’s work likely has merit, but none of it has been cited to any particular purpose. It just sounds good.

So, the comments come late and thank you for your work.

Brown failed to show that original speaker employed any Sophist techniques at all, nor did he show why that would have been a bad thing. Nor did he respond to anything that the original speaker actually said. On the contrary, it was Brown himself  who employed quite a few logical fallacies and “merely” rhetorical devices in his comments.

Perhaps, for some reason of his own, he intended to provide us with a practical demonstration of his notions of Sophism?


Milton Board of Selectmen. (2018, April 16). Milton Board of Selectmen Meeting, April 16, 2018. Retrieved from

Milton Board of Selectmen. (2018, May 21). Milton Board of Selectmen Meeting, May 21, 2018. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, May 19). List of Fallacies. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, May 20). Sophist, Retrieved from


%d bloggers like this: