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Column

‘New England’s most  distinguished soldier’

Portrait of Gen. James Miller among items on exhibit through November

With today’s column, the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript launches a series of articles highlighting the Monadnock region’s small historical societies and their collections. Through November the focus will be on Monadnock Treasures, an exhibit presently on view at the Peterborough Historical Society highlighting prized objects from the collections of 16 area societies.

Monadnock Treasures, presently on view at The Monadnock Center for History and Culture at the Peterborough Historical Society, takes an eclectic look at the history of our communities through the objects they treasure.

An important historical artifact representing the entire Granite State is “The Hero of Lundy’s Lane,” loaned by the Historical Society of Temple. The 1825-35 oil painting, thought to be by Charles Osgood, portrays Gen. James Miller (1776-1851) of Peterborough and Temple.

Miller joined the state militia in his twenties and in 1808 was appointed major of the U.S. Infantry, Fourth Regiment. Described by Nathaniel Hawthorne as “New England’s most distinguished soldier,” Col. Miller commanded the Twenty-first Regiment in the 1814 invasion of Canada. In a critical battle on July 15, when the British attacked the Americans at the village of Lundy’s Lane, Miller acquitted himself with such valor that he was acclaimed a national hero. Promoted to brigadier-general, he emerged as one of the few true heroes of the War of 1812. Congress awarded him a gold medal.

Osgood’s oil portrait was presented in 1960 to the Temple Historical Society by Miller’s great-grandson, Philip Brown. Accompanying the portrait are a small campaign trunk and the shirt and vest the general wore for the sitting.

The Jaffrey Historical Society is represented by The Ark – 1808, a large wooden trade sign depicting one of Jaffrey’s early hostelries with a summer scene on one side and a winter scene on the other. The Ark stood at the foot of Mount Monadnock and flourished as an inn from the 1870s until 1965, when the Monadnock Bible Conference purchased the building as quarters for a year-round Bible camp and conference center. Today, the Bible Conference continues to operate The Ark as part of its campus.

Another intriguing contribution from the Jaffrey Historical Society is an assemblage of Hannah Davis band boxes. Davis, an enterprising and productive Jaffrey resident, designed, manufactured, and sold hand-nailed wooden band boxes, decorating the exteriors with wallpapers and lining the interiors with newspapers. Loading her own wagon and hiring a horse, she took her boxes to the burgeoning mills along the rivers to the east, as far as Manchester and Lowell. The band boxes were the perfect way for young female millworkers to store and carry their possessions. 

Collections throughout the country contain Hannah Davis band boxes. One of the largest is at Vermont’s Shelburne Museum.

Also prominent in the exhibit are 19th-century flasks from the renowned early glassworks in Keene and Stoddard, loaned by the Historical Society of Cheshire County, in Keene. Bottles from all five NH glassworks will be on display July 20 and 21 at the National Antique Bottle Show at the Hotel Radisson Expo Center, Manchester. More information is available from the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors, www.fohbc.org.

Monadnock Treasures contains prized artifacts from 16 area historical societies, libraries, and archives and will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays through Nov. 23. General admission to the exhibit is $3 (children under 12 free).

There is no charge for members of participating institutions. For further information visit MonadnockCenter.org.

Michelle Stahl is the director of the Monadnock Center for History and Culture at the Peterborough Historical Society, and Anne D. Lunt represents the Temple Historical Society.

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