One fine September day in 1773 the people of Wilton, New Hampshire, gathered to realize their dream, raising the frame of a brand new meetinghouse that would be the literal and symbolic center of this small farming community. But dream became nightmare when a huge center roof beam gave way, dropping fifty-three workers three stories to the ground and collapsing tons of trusswork, planks and joists, and metal tools on them. Five died. Forty-eight were injured, many seriously. The catastrophe might have been lost in history had Charles E. Clark t discovered an heirloom copy of an anymous, forty-three-stanza ballad memorializing it. Sifting through clues from the ballad and from archival records, Clark pieces together the mystery to give a full picture of the disaster. His Meetinghouse Tragedy offers a fascinating glimpse into architectural history, popular and folk culture, religious traditions, and the ways communal memories are formed and then endure.
CHARLES E. CLARK is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of New Hampshire. His books include The Public Prints: The Newspaper in Anglo-American Culture, 1665 - 1740 (1994), Maine: A Bicentennial History (1977, 1990), and The Eastern Frontier: The Settlement of Northern New England, 1610 - 1763 (1970, 1983).