Hills Garrison Fourth Graders Get Glimpse of History at NH Statehouse

December 18, 2015


by Doug Robinson

This past week, the fourth grade students of Hills Garrison, hopped on the big yellow bus and traveled to visit the NH Statehouse in Concord.

The yearly trek has been taken as an added learning tool to teach the students about government.

The NH Statehouse outing not only affords the students lessons rich in American history, but the good fortune of having Hudson resident and Speaker of the House, Shawn Jasper, as their personal historian and educator at the statehouse.

During their visit, Speaker Jasper met with the students in the House of Representative to answer questions.  He also welcomed two students to the speaker’s lectern as a birthday gift to them.

NH state representatives, Russ Ober, Lynne Ober and Jordan Ulery, were also available and answered questions during the tour.

The NH towns of Concord, Hopkinton, and Salisbury competed for the honor of hosting the state’s capital.  In the end, the decision was made to have the capital constructed in Concord.

In 1819, at a cost of $82,000 and constructed from granite from Concord, the capital hosted their first session of legislature.

NH.gov writes, “There is no record of discussion of enlargements or expansion of Capitol facilities until 1857.  At that time there was pointed out the need for more library space and rooms for new departments.  Nothing was done, however, until the problem became acute in one of the Civil War years, 1863, through the offer of the city of Manchester of a sizable sum to build a new capitol and locate it there.  This amount was stated to be no less than half a million dollars.”

Once the legislature voted to retain the capital in Concord, “plans were at once made to undertake its enlargement and remodeling.”  The project began in 1864 and cost $200,000.

Since those early days, most of America’s greats have walked the hallowed halls of the statehouse.  Statues of John Stark, Daniel Webster, President Franklin Pierce, and Commodore Perkins are prominently displayed.  Life-size portraits of President Lincoln and George Washington are only two of the historic paintings that line the beautiful walls of the statehouse.

Upon entering the statehouse, the students met in the “Hall of Flags” and learned about flag history.  In this room, they received from personal witness the growth and changes of the American flag throughout history.  These flags demonstrated to the students the growth and sacrifices of many people throughout America’s history.

“Efforts have been made through the years to preserve the 115 flags, most of them from the Civil War,” writes the Portland Press Herald.  “Others are from World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War.  The silk and cotton flags are displayed in large, oak cases.  The Hall of Flags at the Statehouse, featuring some bloodstained and bullet-riddled banners from conflicts going back to the Civil War.”

Christine Kingsley from the Statehouse Visiting Center then led the students to the hall in which New Hampshire’s legislators do their work.  The NH House of Representatives has met in this hall since 1819 and is the oldest chamber in the United States.  In addition to the large portraits of Abe Lincoln and George Washington, the portraits of John P. Hale, Franklin Pierce, and Daniel Webster can be seen facing the students.

At each seat, the students noticed that three buttons were located on the armrest.  “The white button is for attendance, the red button is for a no vote, and the green vote is for a yes vote,” commented Speaker Jasper.

“What happens if someone is talking?” asked one of the students.  “Bam, Bam, Bam” went the gavel from the speaker’s hand.  “That is what I do.  That usually does the trick and they quiet down,” laughed Jasper.

“How much do you get paid?” asked another student.  “Well, let’s say you get an allowance of $2 per week,” Jasper explained.  “That means you get $104 a year.  The three state representatives make $100 a year doing their job.  That means you will make $4 more than them.”

“Why did you get into politics?” came the next question.  “Well, my grandfather was in politics and my dad was in politics.  At 21 years old, I was on the Hudson Budget Committee, and then I became a selectman in Hudson.  It is in my blood.”

As Speaker Jasper brought his gavel down upon the striking post, Jasper to the Concord Patch, “As a student of history, I am delighted that the new striking post was made from a tree native to the Granite State.  Thanks to the fine work of one of our own New Hampshire craftsman, I am confident that this rugged striking post will remain in Representatives Hall for many years to come.  At the end of the day, it truly was a New Hampshire team effort that made this happen.”

The story continued, “The new five-foot striking post and two matching gavels, crafted by Mark Battey of Goffstown, came from the heart of a 90-year-old walnut tree harvested by logger Joe Butts of Allenstown from the property of Manchester resident Eileen Devine.”

While the students listened, Speaker Jasper weaved from his vast knowledge of NH and Unites States history, including New Hampshire’s John P. Hale’s involvement with the freeing of slaves, a commentary about the lives of New Hampshire’s founding fathers from 150 years ago.