STORIES


MILFORD’S EMILIO PORTALUPI… TITANIC SURVIVOR

Milford, New Hampshire was once called, the Granite Town of the Granite State. At one time more granite was quarried in Milford than in any other place in America.

That time was between the end of the Civil War and World War One.

Back in 1910 the most-talented stonecutter in Milford was a man who had come there from Bare, Vermont… and before that, from Varese in Italy. His name was Emilio Portaluppi.

Mr. Portaluppi was not a tall man but he was muscular. And he was an artist. He did sculpture, monuments, statues. He worked for the Tonella Quarries… and he was well paid.

He also taught stone cutting to the Italian quarrymen in the area. At the Milford Town Carnival in the fall of 1911 Mr. Portaluppi did a demonstration of open work so complex that other carvers said it would be impossible to complete in a single day. They were wrong.

Emilio Portaluppi had a wife and daughter who lived in Milford. But the marriage was not a happy one. His wife Enrichetta finally left him and sailed back to Italy in 1910.

Still Mr. Portaluppi loved his daughter and in 1911 he sailed back to Italy for a visit.But he did not stay.  In 1912 he sailed back to the United States and Milford… on the RMS Titanic.

What happened to Mr. Portaluppi on that April night is a matter of speculation. He claimed to have slipped and fallen overboard while trying to get on a lifeboat. He said that he floated in the icy water for two hours before being picked up by Lifeboat Eleven.  Other accounts say that he may have simply boarded the lifeboat on the starboard side of the ship.

Whatever the story, all the people in the lifeboat, including Emilio Portaluppi, were taken aboard the RMS Carpathia and arrived in New York City five days later.

At first, by the way, Mr. Portaluppi was reported among those lost at sea. Nearly everyone in second class on the Titanic was lost at sea. But before the Carpathia docked the correction had been made. Communication was very fast using the brand-new Marconi Wireless Telegraph between the ships and the mainland. 

After arriving in New York, Mr. Portaluppi at once he took the train to Nashua where he was met by well-wishers and driven to Milford in a car draped in an American Flag.

Two months later Emilio Portaluppi became a naturalized American Citizen

Emilio Portaluppi lived a long life. He visited Italy many times. He married three times and lived his last years in a rooming house in Brooklyn, New York. He died there in June of 1974 at the age of ninety-two.

His obituary said that he was one of only four people who were rescued from the frigid waters that night and who did not die.

And, more for our purposes, Emilio Portaluppi was the only man from New Hampshire to have been aboard the Titanic that fateful night.

THE GREAT SLEDDING ACCIDENT



 The finest day for sledding in the history of Bristol, New Hampshire was, arguably, the thirteenth of January, 1883… a Monday.

That week there had been snow and sleet and rain so that the hills were shiny with ice.

Now, back then, sled were made of wood with iron runners. You, no doubt, have seen such sleds … shaped like this. You steered them by shifting your weight or dragging a leg.

They also had what were called, “traverses”. These were made of two sleds with a board between them. The back sled was affixed to the board and the front of the board was on top of the front sled with a steel pin … so the person in front could steer it. Kinda like a bobsled.

Now here in Bristol there was a traverse that was a full twenty-two feet long. It could carry fifteen men and boys.

So on this particular day it seems that the entire town of Bristol was out on South Main Street sledding.

At one time ten men got aboard the big traverse at the top of the hill. Jim and Eddie Huckins, Elmer Sanborn, Artie, John and Eddie Drake, Bill Locke and Eldridge Bickford, Wes Preston, Eddie Kendal all got aboard the sled and started down toward the square.

Well the sled started going extremely fast; faster than anyone aboard had ever traveled. It was glare ice and it was scary.

Everyone was screaming. 

Jim Huckins was steering when the big sled went across this dip in the road where there was a water bar. Right there the sled jumped up and the bolt came out of the front.

It was now impossible to steer.

Jim yelled, “I can’t steer …everybody jump!”  and he dove off. So did Eddie Drake.

But most everybody else was holding on to the guy in front of them and wouldn’t let go.

And so, straight as an arrow the sled careened down the hill with the eight men hollaring bloody murder .. or saying their prayers.

The sled just missed the post office steps and went right into the lattice work between the Post Office and the bridge.

The lattice work was to keep people out of the river. But the sled slammed right through it as if it wasn’t there at all.  And all eight men went right off the fifteen foot wall and right into the Newfound River with a tremendous splash.

Why no one died is still a mystery. But, aside from a broken wrist suffered by Billy Locke, no one was seriously hurt.

And all were able to get out of the river and able to walk away on their own.

But sledding was over for the day …. at least for those guys


THE PECULIAR OSBORNS OF WEARE


Here  in Weare the Osborn family was considered quite odd. Their story, by the way, is in the Weare town History in a section entitled: “Peculiar People”. Jonathan Osborn, his wife, Esther and their six children lived on a farm about a mile from the center of town. This was a long time ago, just after the Revolutionary War in fact.


The family claimed to be Quakers. I say, “claimed to be” Quakers.  There is some question as to whether this was true or of the claim was simply to avoid serving in the war. For the Osborns were considered peculiar. One of the daughters is quoted as saying to a neighbor… she said, “I can sit all day and never think of nothing.” Now this sounds like laziness to me but, it turns out, the family was industrious. The house was always very clean and the farm was prosperous. The Osborn’s were, in fact, famous for their orchards. They planted peaches and pears and apples of all sorts and made a good living.


In the fall, when the fruit ripened, there were sometimes thieves in the orchard. In fact, one night some local boys snuck in and began stealing fruit. The bunch had bags and were systematically filling them. While they were so engaged Jonathan Osborn himself came down to the orchard and, it being dark, was able to slip in unnoticed and he helped the guys fill their bags… that is, he worked right alongside them.


When they had picked enough, Jonathan said to the boys, “Come on boys. Now we’ll go up to the house and have some cider.” The young men were so shocked they didn’t know what to say. And, with chagrin, they docilely went to the house where Mrs. Osborn had prepared a supper for them, which was delicious. Afterwards, the Osborn’s insisted that the boys take home the fruit they had picked.


The town history tells us that from that time on the Osborn Orchard was never again molested.”


Is that a great story or what?

And it proves, at least to me, one thing: And that is that these people really were Quakers.


      

  THE ANIMAL LOVER OF WEARE


One of the oddest people ever to live here in the town of Weare was a guy named John Gillet, Jr. John taught school sometimes. He was noted for his rhymes and his oration. He was also a fine mathematician and a decent farmer. He had an odd way about him and was often the brunt of ridicule from neighbors.


In the eighteen thirties he married Susan Webster from East Weare and the couple moved to Maine. While in Maine a smallpox epidemic struck their household and killed his wife and infant child. The town had fenced up the road to his house and John was forced to lay out and bury his family alone.

It pushed him to madness.


Nonetheless he found a second wife and she moved into the home. But his madness was not tolerable and soon he was ejected from the home. He returned to New Hampshire where he built a rude cabin in North Weare. Here he lived alone with a number of animals… cats, pigs, chickens, dogs, and a white bull he called, Abe.


He was extremely clean in his living and habits. He even bathed his pig daily at a spring. His cat was housed in a barrel in his living room when he was away. One day when he was about to leave he picked up the cat and went to put her in the barrel. But the cat would have none of it. She clawed him and jumped from his arms. John then grabbed the cat and pushed her into the barrel only to find there was a skunk in the bottom. Yes, what you think happened … did.


John also constructed a fantastic cart for the white bull to pull. And people came out of their houses when he passed he looked so grand…. Also so odd.


He had neighbors, though, who abused him. They did cat calls and insults when they saw him. That is, until one day he met them on the road. “You know,” he said to them. “I am insane; that I am not responsible for any act; and if I should kill you, I could not be hanged for it.”


No more trouble was had from those neighbors.


John Gillet was found dead on his threshold. He had been carrying food for his animals when death came for him. Folks buried him in his backyard in the same area many of his pets were interred in. There was no gravestone erected.




The other day my friend Binky Sears decided he was to make himself a boat to go fishing with.


Not a big boat, just something to cast his line from. Also it had to be light enough for him to carry by himself.


That morning he was down at the “Bucka-burger-Dolla-dog” having breakfast and  happened to look over at Francine,

the cook there. Francine, she was pouring half and half into the dispenser there beside the coffee urns.


The Half-and-Half, came in one of those plastic bottles.


A light went off in Binky's brain. He'd make a super light fishing boat from plastic milk bottles!


So after breakfast Binky, he went to the Sawyer recycling center and talked with the superintendent there, Luther Pomeroy. Could he have some of the plastic milk bottles people were throwing away?


“Well,” Luther said. “We get good money from recycling those bottles. I can't give 'em to you but I can sell 'em”


“How much for fifty one-gallon bottles and twenty five quart ones?” Binky asked.


“Ten dollars.”


“I'll give you eight.”


“Done.”


So Binky filled the back of, “Louise”, his 84-Toyota pick-up, with seventy five plastic milk bottles. 


When he drove in to his yard, his wife Fern was outside and she was not pleased to see Binky coming home with more junk.


“Oh Sweetie,” Binky says, “I am going to make the most elegant 

fishing boat you ever saw,” he says.


Fern, she looked like she was going to cry.


So all afternoon and into the night, Binky spent gluing the bottoms of the old milk bottles to the long edges of a four-by-eight sheet of half-inch plywood.


There were two rows of bottles on each side with the small, quart bottles in a kind-of “vee-shape” at each end so as to cut the water better.


Binky he used Gorilla Glue to hold 'em on.


Then he put caps on all the bottles and wrapped the rows with duck tape to make it smooth and elegant.


 Then he screwed a aluminum lawn chair to the middle of the four-by-eight sheet of plywood.


Next morning he went fishing.