New Boston Historical Society
New Boston, New Hampshire

Boston Post cane Boston Post cane
The 14K gold head of the original 1909 cane

The Boston Post Cane in New Boston

Ever since 1909, an ebony-and-gold cane has been awarded to the oldest citizen of New Boston. Seven hundred canes just like ours were distributed by the Boston Post to towns all over New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and the resulting publicity helped make the Post New England's most-read newspaper.

BostonPost

Each cane is made from a three-foot length of polished ebony, and has a 14-carat gold head, engraved with the names of the town and the newspaper. The story is told that the Post's publisher Edwin Grozier bought seven hundred ebony sticks at a good price, and had to think of something to do with them. The Boston Post cane was his solution.

At first, the cane was given only to the oldest male citizen of a town. After considerable debate, women became eligible to receive the cane in 1930, although it took another eight years for New Boston to get the news. In 1938, Sarah Goodwin was the first New Boston woman to be awarded the cane. "Granny" Goodwin held the Boston Post cane for ten years, more than anyone else in our town's history.

Grozier intended that a cane should be "transmitted," i.e., returned to a town's selectmen upon the death of a holder, to be passed on to the next oldest citizen. In New Boston, the selectmen now give the oldest citizen a replica of the 1909 cane to keep, and the original is on permanent display in the Historical Society museum. In 2020 there was some difficulty in obtaining a new replica; some are on order thanks to the efforts of State Representative Donna Mombourquette and Laura Bernard and Maralyn Segien in the Town Hall.

Holder's name Born Received cane Died Age*
Hooper, Levi18181909191597
Todd, James P.18221915191795
Todd, John M.18351917191883
Wilson, Andrew C.18381918192486
Warren, Almus18391924192788
Langdell, George18421927192987
Morgan, Franklin B.18491929193283
Corliss, John C.18521932193482
Bailey, Philester P.18521934193785
Leach, Allen A.18561937193882
Goodwin, Sarah (Farley)184619381948102
Dane, Alice (Todd)18541948195399
Cann, Edgar18621953195896
Cleland, Alice Lillian (Moses)18631958195996
Cochran, Lilla18701960196393
Daniels, Joseph18701963196898
Warren, Josie187519681976101
Warren, Elsie18791976197899
Boulter, Artemus18821978198199
Mason, William O.18921981198391
Craig, Ethel Maude188019831986106
Saltmarsh, Ruth M. (Smith)18951988199297
Christiansen, Helen D. (Bergquist)18961992199699
Gould, Charles190119962004103
Smith, Charlotte (Fiske)19092005200798
Clark, Rhoda Shaw191120072011100
Towne, Howard191920112020101
Poltrack, Betty19212020
*Age at time of death may be up to 1 year more than the holder's true age, due to spreadsheet rounding errors.

Betty Poltrack In the list above, James P. Todd and John M. Todd were brothers, and Josie Warren and Elsie Warren were cousins. 106-year-old Ethel Maude Craig needs a few paragraphs all to herself, which she shall have later on this page.

Betty Poltrack, cane holder 2020—

New Boston's newest Boston Post cane holder is Betty Poltrack, who celebrated her 99th birthday in 2020. Betty was born in Bellingham, WA, in 1921. She taught third grade in Connecticut for dozens of years. Betty married the late Anthony Poltrack in 1945, and they had three children, John Poltrack, Susan Carr of New Boston, and Patricia Poltrack. (John took the color photo of Betty, and made a 2-minute video of the July 23, 2020 presentation of the cane by Selectman Joe Constance.)

Betty moved to New Boston in 1997. She has enjoyed reading to the children at the Central School and volunteering at the Historical Society.

HowardTowne Howard Towne, cane holder 2011-2020

Howard Towne was born in New Boston in 1919. He accepted his Boston Post cane about a hundred years after his grandfather, James Towne, received the cane for Peterborough, NH, in 1910. Howard's 100th birthday was celebrated in the Central School gym to accomodate all his family, friends, and well-wishers.

HelenChristiansen Helen Christiansen, cane holder 1992-1996

Helen Christiansen was born in Dorchester, MA, in 1896, and moved to New Boston in 1979. When she received the Boston Post cane in 1992, she was congratulated by President George H.W. Bush, while he was campaigning in New Boston. Until we find the photo of Helen and the President, we'll use this photo of Selectman Arthur "Butch" Johnston presenting the cane to Helen.

Helen's granddaughter Ellen McDowell Ruggles, great-granddaughter Jane Byam, and two great-great-granddaughters all live in New Boston today.

There is a story for almost every one of the Boston Post cane holders, and in time we'll add more to this page. For now, we'll close with a Boston Post cane mystery — and its solution!

MaudeCraig1983NBTownReport
Excerpt from the 1983 New Boston Town Report

Ethel Maude Craig, cane holder 1983-1986

The Historical Society keeps a list of New Boston cane holders, which I've reproduced near the top of this page. I did add an "Age" column to the list, because someone asked me, "How old was each of the cane holders?" To calculate their ages, I needed to know the year in which everyone was born. That was a few minutes' work, using FindAGrave and FamilySearch. However, for the longest time I could not find Ethel Maude Craig, in any of my usual sources!

Finally, I found an Ethel Amelia Maude Craig, who is buried in Dublin, NH. Then I found in the Dublin town reports that Maude Craig, which is what she called herself, held the Boston Post cane for Dublin, from 1980-1986. Did Maude Craig possess two Boston Post canes at once, New Boston's and Dublin's? (Spoiler alert: the answer is "Yes.") Or were there two different Maude Craigs? (Answer: No.)

I asked the other Historical Society volunteers if anyone remembered Maude. Betsy Moody looked through a dozen New Boston town reports, and found a Milestone for 1983: "The cane was presented at the July 4th celebration to Miss Maude Craig of Chestnut Hill, age 103." Therefore, our Maude was born around 1880, which matches the birth year for Dublin's Ethel Amelia Maude Craig, born in Milton, MA on May 30, 1880.

Next I contacted the Town of Dublin. Archivist Nancy Campbell did some research, and after several emails back and forth, we now know the whole story. "According to the Town of Dublin checklist records Miss Craig first appeared on our checklist in 1960... According to our annual reports, she died here in Dublin on November 16, 1986, at the age of 106. She also had a sister, Blanche I.A. Craig. The sisters lived at the Fairwood Bible Institute." Ms. Campbell found a history of the Fairwood which stated that Maude lived with the Miller family on Chestnut Hill in New Boston until the fall of 1983 (in other words, a few months after she received our Boston Post cane) at which time she returned to the Fairwood, in Dublin.

Dan R. townfarm@comcast.net