History of Old Home Day

The following was submitted by Walton F. Stockwell      
Old Home Week was created by New Hampshire Governor Frank West Rollins. In 1897 he wrote “ I wish that in the ear of every son and daughter of New Hampshire, in the summer days, might be heard whispered the persuasive words: Come back, come back. Do you not hear the call? What has become of the old home where you were born? Do you not remember it – the old farm back among the hills, with its rambling buildings, its well sweep casting its long shadows, the row of stiff poplar trees, the lilacs and the willows?”

 

Throughout the 19th century New Hampshire’s farming towns had been losing population. New England’s talent and money were being drained away to build up the rest of the country. The state government was in debt, as were three quarters of the towns.

 

Rollins called upon the old New Hampshire Board of Agriculture to coordinate something then known as Old Home Week. He had specific goals in mind: he wanted native born to return and buy the many abandoned farms in the state for summer homes. He wanted them to donate money to spruce up the village common, to support the library and the meeting house. And he wanted the towns themselves to awaken from what he saw as a moral slumber. He wrote “ There have been, of course, reunions since the beginning of time, but my plan differed from the ordinary reunion in that it was to occupy a week in each year so that each one could make his plans to be back, and was to be recognized by the state as a permanent festival”.

 

He rallied others to his idea, founded an Old Home Week Association, and as Governor of New Hampshire presided over the state’s first homecoming in 1899. The state issued its invitation across the nation to its sons and daughters toiling in the cities, in the fields of the Midwest, and the mining camps of Montana.

 

By 1907 the idea of Old Home Week had expanded from New Hampshire to all of the New England states, New York, Ohio, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and onto Nova Scotia, Ontario and even to Australia. Many towns in New Hampshire continue the tradition of holding “Old Home Days”.

 

The Campton Historical Society does not have many records of these celebrations in town. A newspaper clipping from 1961 describes a weekend of activities. President of the Day, Lester Mitchell, welcomed guests at the Campton Town House on Saturday. This was followed by several speakers, a brief history of the town, and introduction of visiting “Old Timers”. After a horseshoe pitching session, attendees moved to the Congregational Church vestry for a smorgasbord. The day ended with dancing at the Town Hall. Sunday saw a church service at the Congregational Church, with the combined Congregational and Baptist parishes, followed by a coffee hour.

 

Click here to view a program from 1904, which shows activities for that year, including a parade starting at Blair’s Station, and the full day’s program of events and speakers. The invitation and program from 1910 is also shown. Perhaps readers of this introduction could supply more information and pictures to add to our records. Contact any of the current Historical Society Board members, or e-mail to CamptonHistorical@gmail.org 

 

 Several years ago there was an effort to re-establish this homecoming, which had faded out over the years. The Historical Society established a “Heritage Day” event in 2006, which promoted some of the ideals of Governor Rollins. In 2008, a dedicated group of residents formed an “Old Home Day” committee, sanctioned by the Board of Selectmen, to make plans for a “homecoming” event in the summer of 2009. Check the home page for a list of planned events, and committee members.

 

AND SET ASIDE AUGUST 4, 2012 TO CELEBRATE CAMPTON’S HERITAGE.  CALL, WRITE, TEXT, AND E-MAIL THOSE FRIENDS AND RELATIVES OF OUR TOWN WHO ARE AWAY, AND INVITE THEM TO COME ON BACK FOR THE FESTIVITIES AND THE REUNIONS.


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