The magic lantern slide above depicts the "inverted pot-hole" underneath Butterfield's Boulder. Magic lantern shows became popular in Victorian era America. Slides, such as the one shown above, could be created from real photographs, popular prints, or even hand-painted by artisans. More detailed slides could include moving parts, or strips of similar images in a series meant to tell a story. Like a modern slide projector, a magic lantern would project the still images of the slides onto a wall or screen, often using the light of a kerosene lamp; later lanterns included options for electric light, and older lanterns could have been converted to use an electric light bulb. While most shows were for an audience of family and friends, professional magic lantern presenters made a business of putting on shows with more elaborate, and mechanical slides. It is unlikely such a presentation every took place in Windham, but it is certainly possible Windham residents of the last quarter of the nineteenth century ventured out of town to see such shows in larger towns such as Derry. Slides of scenes around Windham, including Butterfield's Boulder, may have been created by eager tourists looking to show their friends back home what they had seen, or by more serious naturalists looking to document natural curiosities. Below is a short video of magic lantern show performed in 2009.
Joseph Wilson Dinsmoor was born on Monday, September 9, 1833 to parents John and Clarissa Wilson. Tragically, one-year-old Joseph was left fatherless following the death of John on November 2, 1834. On that Sunday morning, Captain John Dinsmoor, along with Reverend Jacob Abbot, and the Reverend's son, Ebenezer, had crossed Cobbett's Pond in a rowboat in order to attend church at the town center. Later on that afternoon, when they were making their return trip following the Sunday service, the old, leaky boat began to fill with water and sank. While Ebenezer, an able swimmer, was able to reach the shore, John Dinsmoor and Jacob Abbot both drowned. Joseph Dinsmoor grew up on the family farm, and later married Cordelia Bean. The couple had five children: Clara-Belle, Katie-Ardelle, John-Walter, Joseph-Wilson Jr., and John Lynford.
Joseph and Cordelia raised their children on the Dinsmoor farm on the Range, which Joseph built into a thriving fruit farm. Leonard A. Morrison recorded that in the 1850s, "his farm had little or no grafted fruit, nor a cultivated grape-vine." However, by the early 1880s, "thirteen acres [were] covered by orchards, including a grapery and small fruits. A portion of [which] yield[ed] double crops, such as strawberry, raspberry, currant, and blackberry, among his orchards and grapery. The grapery cover[ed] two acres, and produced eight tons of choice varieties in 1880. An apple orchard of four and a half acres produced five hundred barrels of apples the same year. Two acres are covered with peach trees, and the same area with pears." Morrison also noted that Dinsmoor devoted "his entire attention to fruit culture."
In 1867, Joseph Wilson Dinsmoor served as the town tax collector, a position he would hold for two years. In 1869, Dinsmoor was appointed as one of the two constables in town; he would remain a constable until 1873. Cordelia Bean Dinsmoor passed away on July 13, 1879. Joseph Wilson Dinsmoor died circa 1895.
On the evening of October 26, 1919, a resident of West Windham penned a letter to a recipient only identified as "Carrie." Unfortunately, the identity of the author of the letter has been lost to history. The author begins the letter with a short summary of the weather on that October day: "It is raining hard but very warm for this time of year. The thermometer on the north side of the house registers sixty." The remainder of the letter describes a "dear little chap" by the name of William, who seems to be a relative of the letter's author. According to the letter William, "is very energetic and there are days that it takes our united effort to keep up with him. Today has been one of the days." The author goes on to write, "He woke up at four a.m. I got up and dressed him, and with the exception of a three hour nap he has been on the go ever since. He is very slow about talking, but very active, seems to understand everything. He is very observing..."
Derek Saffie is an avid Windham historian who enjoys researching and sharing his collection with all those interested in the history of the New England town.