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Plumer descendant donates historic chair to state archives

August 13, 2020
CONCORD — Two-term State Rep. John R. Plumer of Belmont has donated several artifacts of historical importance to the State of New Hampshire, foremost a chair used by an ancestor in the 1857-1858 session of the legislature.

"My great-grandfather, going back five generations, Charles Nathaniel Plumer of Alexandria, used the chair when he served one term in the House, and it has remained in the family ever since. We were told he would bring the chair back and forth from his home to the State House during the session, because there were not enough chairs for all the reps in those days. It was always displayed in our home," Plumer said.

Plumer family lore appears to be in keeping with State House history.

The State House opened in June of 1819, and 40 years later, Representatives Hall was getting crowded. Writing in the 2018 Fall/Winter issue of Historical New Hampshire, authors James and Donna-Belle Garvin write:

"In fact, the space set aside for the House was no longer adequate as early as the mid-1850s. By the 1860s, more than 300 members were seated in a hall that had originally housed 212 representatives. A collection of mismatched chairs was brought into the room to accommodate them..."

"Over time, as the population of the state grew, almost 100 extra chairs had been brought in to Representatives Hall to seat those who could not fit on the pew-like benches that had been designed to seat a much smaller number of legislators."

After viewing a photo of the Plumer chair, Ms. Garvin commented: "This type of heavy, low-backed Windsor chair with scrolled top didn't become popular until just around 1850. This is in keeping with the date (1858) that appears on the front of the top rail."

The current Rep. Plumer comes from a long line of family members who have served in business and politics in the Granite State.

Charles Nathaniel Plumer operated a country store in Alexandria for many years, and was prominent in the Grange. His son, David Bowdoin Plumer, served the town in the House five terms, 1927-1937, and John's uncle, Bowdoin Plumer, while publisher of the weekly Bristol Enterprise, had the time to serve no less than 10 terms in the House, ending in 1968.

John recently confirmed his lineage includes Governor and US Sen. William Plumer of Epping (1759-1850), a lawyer, Baptist lay preacher, and first president of the NH Historical Society. This Plumer wore many political hats as a NH State Senator, senate president, served numerous terms in the House, including as speaker, and authored William Plumer's Memorandum of the Proceedings of the United States Senate, 1803-1807, Edited by Everett Somerville Brown (Macmillan, 1923). A large-than-life mural of William Plumer hangs in the research room at the state archives.

As Governor, William Plumer presided over the building of the State House, laying the cornerstone on Sept. 4, 1816 after choosing the site on Concord's Main Street.

"As an ancestor of Gov. Plumer, who the state has honored with a magnificent mural, due to his efforts over two hundred years ago to preserve for posterity official state papers, we thought donating this family heirloom to the state archives was most fitting," Rep. Plumer said.

Plumer explains throughout the generations, some branches of the family have chosen to use the original surname spelling with the single m, while others the more common double m.

John also learned he can claim, yet another ancestor of note, and perhaps the most colorful of them all. Joseph Plummer (with two mms), 1774-1862, "The Hermit of Meredith Hill," of whom Hermit Lake is named, is John's seventh generation great uncle.

The Plumer family has operated a country store in Alexandria from the 1840s to 1952. A leather-bound ledger from the store, dating from 1840 to 1858, has also been donated to the archives, with the original deed to the Plumer family homestead, dating to February, 1778, as well as a family rocking chair used by the wife of Charles N. Plumer.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner expressed appreciation in accepting the gifts on behalf of the state, advising a suitable place will be prepared for public display of the chair in the archives building at 9 Ratification Way, Concord.

Klumb Environmenta;
Varney Smith
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