Saturday, October 23, 2010

* Mrs. Stowe's Sorrow Still Sounds on the Connecticut River, Hanover, N.H.

Ledyard Bridge over the Connecticut River, Hanover New Hampshire / Norwich, Vermont
The view south on the Connecticut River from the Ledyard Bridge
Eliza and her son  fleeing Trader Haley on the ice flows of the Ohio River  in Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe and Professor C.E. Stowe
 Scars on the Connecticut

At least once a week I cross the Ledyard Bridge over the Connecticut River, * leaving Vermont and traversing Hanover and the Dartmouth College campus. I never fail to think of Harriet Beecher Stowe's eldest son, 19, drowned in that river while swimming when a Dartmouth student in 1857, four years after the publication of his mother's internationally renowned abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Mrs. Stowe writes stirringly of motherhood in those pages (see link below), especially the agony of the slave, Cassy, who administered laudanum to her infant son (fathered by her "master') and rocked him to his death in her arms rather than allow him to grow up in slavery.

Mrs. Stowe had lost an infant son to cholera in 1842, and one might not be irresponsible in inferring that that mother's grief made its way into the pages of her enormously influential anti-slavery novel.

Her grief transformed became a blessing for the world.

*Ironically, an island close to the Ledyard Bridge still bears the scars of slavery which Mrs. Stowe sought to heal.


Gilman Island is the closest Connecticut River island to Hanover. The island lies along the east shore of the river south of Ledyard Bridge. The Ledyard Canoe Club built Titcomb Cabin on the island in 1952 after the new Wilder Dam (1947) raised this portion of the river by 15 feet and inundated club cabins on three other islands (Falcon). Before the raising of the river, the island was correspondingly larger and may have been connected to the New Hampshire shore. Perhaps reflecting the marginality of the land, the island was known as "Nigger Island" and later "Nicker Island" (Falcon). The former name was still current in the 1940s, as the name of the Thayer School's model railroad of that time demonstrates: it was called "The Nigger Island and Pompanoosuc Railroad" (Dartmouth Alumni Magazine 32, no. 8 [May 1940], 40).

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