Thursday, July 26, 2018

New Hampshire - Day 25 - Manchester/Nashua/Merrimack

Wellington Camping Park
Wednesday, 25 July 2018
today's route
I had a big day planned today with lots of stops, so we managed to leave the campground at about 7:30.  It turns out rural New Hampshire has a rush hour.  It took me almost 10 minutes before I could find a big enough break in the traffic to make a left turn on Rt. 125, a 2 lane road that runs from nowhere to nowhere, according to the map and my experience.  So what, there were plenty of cars coming from somewhere.  But we made it.  And we were on the other side of Manchester in less than an hour.

fish ladder
I went first to Amoskeag Fishways, pronounced amos (to rhyme with damask) + keg.  The link gives some basic information about the facility and its purpose.  One of the main purposes is the fish ladder built next to the dam.   At the moment there's no water in the fish ladder, as you can see, because there aren't any migrating fish.  They've already had most of their runs and expect more later in the fall, but I can't remember which species come at which time.

One of them is the sea lamprey, which I'd always thought meant an eel, but I got educated.  They look like eels to people like me but are actually anadromous fish - anadromous (emphasis on 2nd syllable) meaning fish that are born in freshwater, then go spend time in the ocean, then come back to their home stream to spawn - like salmon.
2 immature lampreys attached to a fish

sea lamprey
That odd looking front end is a fearsome mouth with rings of teeth used to feed off a fish's blood and body fluids.  40% - 60% of the lake trout in the Great Lakes are killed by lampreys. 

Lampreys evolved 500 million years ago - dinosaurs, by comparison, came a paltry 250 million years ago.  Thus, they don't have gills, as other fish do, but instead evolved a series of holes not far from their mouths, and the holes pump water in and out in a sort of vacuum way.

The Natives who lived in this area prized the lampreys as a food fish, particularly for their children as the lampreys don't have bones.  I learned that at my next stop, the Millyard Museum.

The Millyard Museum tells the story of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company (AMC), which in essence is the story of Manchester.  AMC became one of the largest textile producing companies in the world, and as a result Manchester became New Hampshire's largest city, which it still is.  At its height, AMC employed 17,000 workers and produced 470 miles of fabric each day (5,000,000 yards/week).

When the town was first settled, it was called Derryfield and sat near the 54' Amoskeag Falls on the Merrimack River.  Serious commerce was blocked by these falls as no ships could get around them.  In 1807, Samuel Blodgett built a canal around the falls, enabling ships to come and go.  And they did.  As a result, in 1810 the town of Derryfield changed its name to Manchester, after the thriving manufacturing town in England, hoping they'd be seeing something similar in their town.  And they did.

AMC was set up in 1831, with the owners aiming to own every stage of the textile manufacturing process.  They made the bricks the buildings were built of; they grew the flax used to make the linen cloth; they imported their own workers and housed them in their own buildings.  You get the picture.  And it all worked.  For instance, all the denim used by Levi Strauss until 1915 was made at AMC in Manchester.

The millyard was eventually a mile long.  It's hard to tell from my photo here, but those multi-story brick buildings line a long avenue, which I accidentally turned onto at the other end.  I drove and drove, trying to find the one brick building that was the museum, gradually deciding as I drove that surely - surely - those weren't all original buildings but instead new buildings designed to look like the old ones in the name of history or something.  But no, every one of those has been there since the mid-1800s, and they're still being used.  Many of them are offices now, one houses a branch of University of New Hampshire, some are still used for manufacturing and quite a few are now apartments.  In fact, at least 20% of the originals have been knocked down for one reason or another. 

diagram of the power canals
one of the tunnels inside the factory
The buildings in my photo back up to the Merrimack River.   Beginning in 1839 AMC used a new source of power called a "power canal."  It was dug by hand, of course, steam shovels not having been invented, mostly by Irish immigrants.  Water was pumped from the Merrimack River through tunnels into the manufacturing buildings, where it was used to turn belts that turned the engines, then returned to the river.  This system gave the AMC a power source not available to any other textile manufacturer, enabling them to out-produce everybody.

Almost by accident, the Amoskeag Machine Shop started making railroad engines, producing its first one in 1848.  In 1858 it produced a steam fire engine that sold world-wide, with 855 made in the 50 years it was in production.

During the Civil War, cotton to supply the raw material for the gingham, mattress ticking, denim, flannel and other fabrics got short-circuited (silly Southerners, cutting off their markets like that).  Ever resourceful, the AMC set up industrial sewing machines to make shoes, and the Machine Shop started producing rifles for the Union Army.

I learned about Margaret (Mattie) Knight who, in 1871, invented a machine that would make square paper bags, like today's grocery bags.  Someone else patented the same design just days before she applied; but she learned this man had spied on the person who'd made her prototype.  She used her original drawings and diary entries to prove she was the inventor and won the patent!  Imagine how hard it must have been for her to get such credibility at a time when women could scarcely own property.  Over her lifetime she received more than 80 patents, most of them inventions that would promote worker safety in manufacturing.

It's a good museum, well laid out and informative, but I was also lucky - a group of newly immigrated Indians had arranged a tour with the museum head and an interpreter, so I got to hear more information than was on the signs as I was within hearing distance for much of the visit.  The head emphasized the number of immigrants who had come to work in the fabric plants and how those people had become integrated into American life.

I went from there south to the Nashua National Fish Hatchery and got a tour all to myself.  The fish hatchery has been in existence since 1898 and is the US's 7th oldest national fish hatchery.  They grow various species of fish from eggs to several years old, moving them progressively from one environment to another.  These long white tubes are raceways and they have 20 of them, with 15 currently in use.  When I commented on them looking like greenhouses and aren't they too hot for the fish, the guide said the water comes from 3 wells on the property, and the well water stays at a constant 51° year round.  The guide took me into 2 of them and I saw Atlantic salmon and brook trout swimming around, and he was right - it was fairly cool inside even though the day was hot and humid outside.

These are brook trout in the photo - you may have to look closely but they're milling around like crazy.  The guide said they're like Dexter: even though they just ate, they'll go crazy over more food - and he proved it by throwing in some pellets that looked like dog food.

I learned to my intense surprise that Atlantic salmon aren't like Pacific salmon in that when Pacific salmon spawn, they die right then, but Atlantic salmon live and can spawn several more times if they live long enough, going out into the ocean after each spawning trip upstream.  The ones at the hatchery are being used as broodstock, but they'll also send eggs to other places on request - the fish must imprint from the beginning on one stream to be its native stream, and that's the stream it will always return to after a trip up to Greenland. 

Next I made a run into Nashua to the New Hampshire Holocaust Memorial.

The train tracks in the photo on the left stop at the blocks on the right, each engraved with the name of a death camp - e.g. Auschwitz, Treblinka.  A design that looks just like barbed wire is carved into the outside of the blocks.

Altogether a very somber statement.  Unfortunately, these days it seems we must be reminded to Never Forget.

My last stop was someplace much more lighthearted: the Anheuser-Busch Bottling Plant in Merrimack.

I learned a lot about the history of the company (they began producing an American-style lager in 1876 and still use their original recipe).  I learned they grow their own hops and may use as many as 15 varieties, depending on the type of beer they're making.  I learned it takes 30 days to make the beer and they can bottle 1200 bottles/minute.  I learned pasteurizing allows the beer to be shipped without being refrigerated, and that Busch started using pasteurizing 20 years before milk producers did.

But the thing I learned that most surprised me was this bit about beechwood aging.  I'd always envisioned barrels made of beechwood, as wine is made, but that's way wrong.  The beechwood is in the form of shavings, about 1/8" thick and 9" long, and a layer several feet thick is spread in the bottom of the final aging tanks before the almost-finished beer is poured in.  The shavings produce more surface area in the beer, which allows more contact between the yeast and the beer.  Whodathunkit.

And of course they gave us all samples at the end of the tour.  I took the free tour, so we got 2 small samples - about triple a shot glass size.  Not being a major fan of odd beers, I opted for a Bud and a Bud Light, never having had a chance to do a taste test before.  I can say they are definitely not the same beer, and I liked the Bud better.

I happened to talk to a nice family from Ontario who told me they'd raised a horse that is now one of the Budweiser Clydesdales.  They said they hadn't even expected to have a foal that year and thought at first what they were looking at out in the pasture was a fawn.  Nope.  They kept him until he was 3 years old, and then they sold him to the Bud people.

I spent some time walking the dogs afterwards on their extensive grounds to be sure I was going to be okay in traffic on the way back to the campground, as it was already after 4:00.  But Manchester rush hour isn't much compared to - say - Dallas or Seattle and I didn't have any trouble.  It just took a little longer than in the morning.

By the way, Sig Sauer has an academy down the road from here in Epping and offers lots of courses in various aspects of gun use.

In all an interesting day but a long one.

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