Family Memories: Finding My Grandfather’s Stories in the Newspaper

When I was a kid my grandfather would drive us over to see the old family sites in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. I remember grandpa was quite the storyteller. Every corner had a story attached to it, including the story of Joseph Plummer (1774-1862) of Meredith.

collage of newspaper articles about New Hampshire hermit Joseph Plummer

Collage of newspaper articles about New Hampshire hermit Joseph Plummer

Why was that story memorable? Because Plummer was a hermit.

A hermit…that was kind of spooky, mysterious…but there we were—parked near his grave. My grandfather showed us where Plummer’s cabin stood. As we drove around the Lakes Region, my grandfather brought us to the old Baptist Church where some of our relatives were once baptized on Christmas Day—after chopping a hole in the ice. Later, he showed us the place where another relative was buried in a glass coffin, a sealed vat of alcohol, in an attempt to prevent his body from decomposition by being buried in the ground.

These were great stories I heard while growing up in New Hampshire. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have TV; we had our grandfather to keep us spellbound with his stories—“our” stories. Today, remembering his storytelling provides some of my fondest memories of time spent with grandpa when I was young.

Over the years I have found documentation in old newspapers that filled in my memory of the stories he told us when we were children.

Bingo: here is another one of my grandpa’s stories verified. I found information in an old newspaper article about the New Hampshire hermit Joseph Plummer that my grandfather told us about.

Over the years the newspapers wrote a dozen articles about Joseph Plummer, giving many of the details of his life.

He was interviewed in 1862 and asked his age: “he answered: ‘I was born the 9th hour of the 13th day of October, in 1774.’”

New Hampshire hermit Joseph Plummer, Deseret News newspaper article 15 October 1862

Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 15 October 1862, page 123

Another news report gave an episode in Plummer’s life that my grandfather didn’t include in his telling of the hermit’s story.

It seems Plummer didn’t quite know how to go about dating the Deacon’s daughter. His brothers married two other of the Fox daughters—but for Joseph it wasn’t to be, despite his apparent determination: “Joseph on one occasion made up his mind to sally forth from his retreat and woo the remaining daughter.”

Unfortunately for Joseph, as the old article relates, “He was somewhat original in his method and broke down in his project.”

A Hermit's Attempt at Courtship, Washington Reporter newspaper article 19 February 1873

Washington Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), 19 February 1873, page 7

After failing in his attempt at romance, Plummer bought land and built his cabin far from the “crowds” and cares of the world.

Hermit's Home Today, Broad Ax newspaper article 21 May 1898

Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, Utah), 21 May 1898, page 2

These old newspaper article clippings bring back memories of time spent with my grandfather and add depth to the stories he told us as children. They provide perfect material for family memory books and scrapbooking projects to share with family generations to come so that they remember grandpa and his stories. Family stories are a treasure—even more so when we can document and expand on them in the deep newspaper archives of GenealogyBank.

 

 

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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