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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #140: Rumney

Home of the Great Robert J. Burns

I love the fact that when I went looking for pictures of Rumney, the internet gave me an unending stream of rock climbing pictures. Apparently this little North Country hamlet is a climbing mecca, with the Rumney Rocks of Rattlesnake Mountain a destination for sport climbers who know their schist. The Polar Caves are another popular tourist destination in town. It's a far cry from 150 years ago when Rumney was a lumber town, with fifteen operating sawmills and railway service. Like so many other Grafton and Coos villages, it fell upon hard times when the wood industry dried up, and in some ways it's never really recovered; tourism is really all that's left. There are about the same number of people living there as in 1850.

The first recorded European visit to Rumney was in 1752 when a hunting party was met aggressively by indigenous peoples under the command of Chief Titigaw. One David Stinson of Londonderry was scalped and killed - his name lives on with Stinson Brook, Stinson Pond, Stinson Mountain. There's a story about the founding of Rumney that I adore. Apparently Governor Wentworth granted the town to a bunch of Connecticut settlers in 1761 (and named the joint after a buddy of his back in England, Baron Romney). The settlers arrived in 1865 and promptly failed to comply with the charter. In particular, some dude named Brainard was pushing people around and taking most of the land for himself. In true Yankee fashion, he was asked to absent himself from the fledgling town. Rumney also displayed an early inclination to independence, voting to establish a Committee of Safety on June 20, 1776. Later, seventy Rumney men fought in the Civil War, ten of whom never returned.

What I love most about Rumney is that it gave the world Robert Burns. No, not the Jacksonian Congressman from the 1830s. RJ Burns, my great friend, kindred spirit, fellow UNH alumnus. Burns is also the only person I know who loves New Hampshire as much as I do. Where my affection is for the coast, his heart lies in the granite hills of his youth. A visit to his ancestral home is the only time I've ever been to Rumney, but it's also why it makes this list.

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