Friday, February 24, 2006

Swanzey, New Hampshire

Swanzey, New Hampshire

First granted in 1733 as "Lower Ashuelot," this town was one of the fort towns established by Colonial Governor Jonathan Belcher of Massachusetts, which then held authority over the province of New Hampshire. It was chartered in 1753 by Governor Benning Wentworth, and named "Swanzey" at the suggestion of Governor William Brenton of Rhode Island. Governor Brenton was a large landowner in "Brenton's Farm," now Litchfield, New Hampshire, and Swansea, Massachusetts, named after Swansea in Wales. The town was the site of many battles during King George's War. Situated on the Ashuelot River, West Swanzey would develop as a textile manufacturing center, and East Swanzey would produce wooden buckets for generations.
The town boasts four covered bridges, and was the home of theatrical trouper, Denman Thompson, who gained a national reputation by his portrayal of the Yankee farmer, "Joshua Whitcomb," star of his stage play, "The Old Homestead." Swanzey residents reproduce Thompson's melodrama every summer at a natural outdoor amphitheater called the "Potash Bowl."

Denman Thompson (1833-1911)
Henry Denman Thompson was an internationally famous theatrical actor who lived and died in West Swanzey. He gained a national reputation by his portrayal of the character "Joshua Whitcomb," the New Hampshire farmer on a trip to New York City. From this he subsequently evolved "The Old Homestead," a play of long runs before enthusiastic audiences.

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