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A Lively Take on Cornish’s History

  • Lynn Schad, left, and Beth Lum look at copies of the new Cornish history. (Deanna Meadow photograph)

    Lynn Schad, left, and Beth Lum look at copies of the new Cornish history. (Deanna Meadow photograph)

  • Memorabilia of Samuel Hardy of Cornish Flat, who made a “magical pain destroyer’’ based on a formula obtained from a member of the Cayuga tribe in New York.

    Memorabilia of Samuel Hardy of Cornish Flat, who made a “magical pain destroyer’’ based on a formula obtained from a member of the Cayuga tribe in New York.

  • Lynn Schad, left, and Beth Lum look at copies of the new Cornish history. (Deanna Meadow photograph)
  • Memorabilia of Samuel Hardy of Cornish Flat, who made a “magical pain destroyer’’ based on a formula obtained from a member of the Cayuga tribe in New York.

The roundup of volunteers took longer than expected. John Dryfhout led the effort, sending for fellow book contributors schmoozing on the Cornish Meeting House’s ground level. A commemorative photo needed to be taken, with all who worked on the new book.

“How many are there?” asked one woman, caught up in the shuffle.

“As many as there are,” Dryfhout replied.

When the shutter snapped, 17 of 29 contributors stood in front of the camera, including the photographer. Others couldn’t make it up the stairs. Some were out of town. Some were in Europe.

Many of those who posed were holding onto the town’s new hardcover history which they helped create: Cornish, New Hampshire: In Celebration of 250 Years, which focuses on the past half-century.

June 13 was the book launch, a culmination of about a half-year of updating the town’s previous history book, published in 1960. Publication coincides with the town’s 250th anniversary this year.

“This is something you can enjoy,” said Anne Tracy, whose family’s Cornish lineage dates back to 1793. “Not just look up the facts in.”

With the focus on a more recent history comes a more modern method of telling it. The 144-page volume eschews encyclopedic cataloguing in favor of glossy pages popping with colorful photos and portraits. Written passages, split up by topic and written by a few dozen contributors, snake through the visuals.

It opens dramatically. Directly after the title page is a two-page spread taken up entirely by a wintry view of the mountains from Tifft Road. The photo was taken by Deanna Meadow, who supplied most of the “now” visuals in the book. (The “then” pictures were culled from collections, historical societies and Cornish residents.)

Much of the page design fell to Meadow’s fiancee, Corey Fitch, a ninth-generation Cornish resident who graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in March. The book went to the printer in mid-April, and the collaborators saw the final product a couple of weeks ago.

“It was amazing to have it actually in my hands,” said Fitch after the group photograph, which Meadow took.

He was flanked by Meadow and Kathleen Welker, who contributed the book’s cover art — a view of the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge — as well as a full-page hand-colored photo of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.

“I think the fact that 30 people came together in six months ...” said Fitch, trailing off.

“Kind of describes the town, really,” Meadow said.

Speaking to a crowd of about 50 downstairs, Peter Burling called the book the “first approachable history of the town.”

“This catches the color, the flavor, the kindness, the honesty of this place,” said Burling, who wrote the introduction and has served as town moderator, state representative and state senator since moving to Cornish in the early 1970s.

It also attempts to capture some of the straight-laced facts common in more conventional town history volumes. A 13-page appendix lists selectboard members over the years, the town’s conserved lands, its businesses and artists.

Much of the written information came from Cornish’s detailed yearly town reports, said Susan Chandler, who co-wrote the book’s education section. Her biggest surprise was discovering how much the Cornish school budget has changed since 1963. Back then, it was $100,000. Just three months ago, residents passed a $3.7 million school budget.

There were also the many residents who had been members of the school board, the programs both successful (skiing, started in 1970) and unsuccessful (French, which started in 1999 and was killed due to budget cuts), and the school building’s renovations and growth over time.

“Those of us that were writing had so much to say,” Chandler said.

The new history has received around 300 pre-orders on a print run of 700, according to Dryfhout; all proceeds from the $25 book will go to the Cornish Meeting House fund. To order a book or for more information, call George Edson at 603-542-7688.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.