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New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a small state, it has merely a million inhabitants. However, this region of New England used to be rich and attracted many Lithuanians ~1900; today there are around 7000 of them and the city of Nashua (pop. 85 000) is their heartland, having numerous Lithuania-related sites.

Nashua Lithuanian church

One apartment building in Nashua is called Casimir Place after the Lithuanian saint Casimir. This is because it has been built next to the former St. Casimir Lithuanian church, closed in 2002 (Temple St). To the very last day, it served Lithuanian-language mass and had flowers of Lithuanian flag colors surrounding its altar. The church building still stands and now also houses apartments. Inside, there are commemorative plaques about the Lithuanian church and Lithuanians, as well as many old pictures of it. The vault of the Lithuanian church was not destroyed as the attic is left unused; it is still visible through a ceiling glass from the corridor. Entering the church interior may need somebody of those who live there to let you into the building. The gothic revival building itself was not built by Lithuanians but rather acquired from another community.

St, Casimir Lithuanian church of Nashua

St, Casimir Lithuanian church of Nashua

The corridor on the second floor built in the church nave

The corridor on the second floor built in the church nave. Old images visible here on the walls show the church as it was.

Nashua textile mills

Pre-War Lithuanians (~1000) have been attracted to Nashua by its massive textile industry. Its golden era was short however as the Great Depression forced many mills to go bankrupt and the last one closed down in 1949. Some Lithuanians were already too rooted to move away however and ~700 still live in the city. Unlike many other post-industrial American core cities Nashua enjoyed a true renaissance and was not affected by the White flight. Even the "Money" magazine named it "The best American city to live" twice. Massive textile mills of the golden era where the forefathers of local Lithuanians worked at are now considered heritage and may still be seen near the town center (Main St, Franklin St, Factory St).

Nashua factories looking from the spot of "Diversity" statue

Nashua factories looking from the spot of "Diversity" statue at Front St (see below)

Nashua Lithuanian cemeteries

Nashua has two Lithuanian cemeteries. The Holy Cross Cemetery in Hudson suburb has a Lithuanian tricolor perpetually waving over it and the name "Lithuanian" prominently displayed. It was the Catholic cemetery and a memorial next to the flags is dedicated to the memory of those who served the country, the community, and the St. Casimir Lithuanian parish. Initially, the Catholic church was reluctant to establish a separate Lithuanian cemetery, but they did so after Lithuanians who sought their own cemetery established a Lithuanian Co-Operative Cemetery at Carmichal way (~400 graves) in 1928. In those days, cemeteries were a religious issue as well, as the Roman Catholic church insisted that Catholics be buried in the sanctified ground of the Roman Catholic cemeteries, however, some Catholics actually preferred cemeteries based on the ethnicity. After understanding that it will not stop the establishment of the ethnicity-based cemetery in Nashua, the Catholic church, therefore, saw it as important to also have a Catholic ethnicity-based cemetery.

Holy Cross Lithuanian cemetery with the Lithuanian and American flags

Holy Cross Lithuanian cemetery with the Lithuanian and American flags

Therefore, while beforehand there had been a dispute if Lithuanians need a separate cemetery at all, currently two Lithuanian cemeteries operate. The Co-Operative cemetery, however, has since been renamed "Pinewood cemetery" (in 2010), but its history is still reminded by a memorial. Only the American and New Hampshire flags wave there though. Like the Holy Cross Cemetery, however, it has many old Lithuanian graves.

A memorial commemorating the Lithuanian Co-operative cemetery

A memorial commemorating the Lithuanian Co-operative cemetery

Nashua Lithuanian sculptures and streetnames

Unlike many of the so-called Lithuanian "colonies" of the pre-war first wave, Nashua still has substantial Lithuania-related activities. A major reason for that is the Zylonis fund, created by a will of a Nashua Lithuanian in the 1970s. Its money is to be used to strengthen the Nashua-Lithuanian relations, attracting, for example, Lithuanian bands to concert ant Nashua. Nashua library too has Lithuanian books and hosts some Lithuanian events. Some Lithuania-related places have been on Zylonis Fund as well, including the sculpture "Talking Bush" by a Lithuanian sculptor Asta Vasiliauskaitė (E Hollis St) - the sculpture has no Lithuanian details, but the old age of the Lithuanian language is explained next to it (the plaque also cites the author: "I am pleased that many Lithuanians have found happiness in Nashua and in the United States. When a person is happy, he shines from the inside". Another sculpture by Lithuanians is Diversity next to where the factories are, created by the Nashua Lithuanians Woitkowski and Tomolonis.

Talking Bush statue by Vasiliauskaitė

Talking Bush statue by Vasiliauskaitė

Nashua has multiple locations named after their former Lithuanian owners. One of them is the Gelazauskas preserve west of the town, located on the land sold at under-market rates (200 000 instead of 2 800 000 USD) by the Gelažauskas family (while most Lithuanians came to New Hampshire to work at the factories, some, like Gelažauskas, eventually acquired land for farming, as land was always important in the Lithuanian culture and before World War 2 industrial jobs were still often seen only as a mean to earn money to buy land for farming, sometimes back in Lithuania, which was 70-80% rural; Gelažauskas family had a dairy farm on that land). A wooden plaque with its name marks the entrance to the preserve.

Gelazauskas preserve entrance

Gelazauskas preserve entrance

Another area with multiple Lithuanian names is a collection of Lithuanian-named streets after the members of a single family who lived there. Now the streets have detached homes. The names are Tomolonis, Vieckis, Mizoras, Monica, and Monias (the last two anglicized Lithuanian, the first three originals). The original owners of the farm there were Leon Vieckis and Monica Mizuras; their daughter Monica then married another Lithuanian Joseph Tomolonis, while their daughter Phyllis married Frank Monis.

Mizoras Drive, one of the Nashua Lithuanian-named streets

Mizoras Drive, one of the Nashua Lithuanian-named streets

Elsewhere, there is also Vilna street in Nashua, named after Vilnius (its old Russian name, still popular in English before World War 1 when most of the Nashua Lithuanians moved in).

New Hampshire Lithuanian sites outside Nashua

Manchester city north of Nashua has a small street named after Lithuanian city of Kaunas (Kaunas Circle). Manchester's mile-long rows of former textile mills survive around Commercial St and are in good shape. They have a Millyard Museum that explains how they worked and how the immigrants (including Lithuanians) worked there.

Epping may lack a Lithuanian community but it has a famous grave: that of Jack Sharkey, a heavyweight world champion of boxing. He was a pure Lithuanian: “Jack Sharkey” was just a pseudonym based on the names of his favorite boxers, while his original name was Juozapas Žukauskas. Today, he is among the best-known people among the Lithuanian-Americans.

Jack Sharkey (Juozapas Žukauskas) grave in Epping

Jack Sharkey (Juozapas Žukauskas) grave in Epping

Map of the Lithuanian sites

Map of Merrimack Valley Lithuanian sites

Destination America expedition diary

Destination America map

Later, in New Hampshire, our team had to go on the „discovery mode“. While I learned the cemetery where the Lithuanian world boxing Champion Jack Sharkey is buried beforehand, it still took some time to actually discover his grave and mark down its exact coordinates.

In Nashua, we were met by the sociable mother and daughter Woitkowskis, who shown us more Lithuanian sites there than we initially knew, including a district of Lithuanian street names. In many cases, the locations are named not after some famous people, but rather after those who sold the land!

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 24.

Woitkowski family greets "Destination America" in their home

Woitkowski family greets "Destination America" in their home at Nashua

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Comments (18) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Excellent article. Thank you. Jay (Zalanskas) Cook. New Hampshire

  2. Aciu uz LIETUVYBE !

  3. My parents are buried in the Lithuanian cemetery. We commissioned a “Rupintojelis” (Christ the Worrier) to be engraved on their tombstone. Interesting fact: buried near my parents are Mr and Mrs Kissel whose four sons were all famous football players (I know several played for the NFL). I was married at St Casimir’s church which has now been converted to a senior center/apartments. There was also a Lithuanian Club on High St which closed in the 60’s.

    • Thanks for sharing this. Indeed, many people at the Lithuanian cemeteries chose to engrave Lithuanian symbols on their tombstones. Among the most popular are the Coat of arms (Vytis), the Cross of Vytis, the Columns of Gediminas, the sun-cross. I have also seen the Iron Wolf and some other symbols.

  4. Hello – are there any Lithuanian Language teachers in the Nashua/Manchester/Concord areas of New Hampshire ? Concord is preferred but would consider other areas. Thanks – Mary

  5. For several years we had Lithuanian Language classes at the local library but unfortunatly they were discontinued when attendance dropped to one or two.

  6. What does this mean:
    Metu Sonoma 27
    1903 Janvoro 7 Meres

  7. My babysitter in the 1940s was named Anne Mischkanis. We lived on West Hollis. Her father, a well-known character, owned a radio flyer wagon which he pulled from store to store on Main Street, gathering crate wood which he would bundle and resell as kindling. Does anyone know the family?

    • My great grandfather, whose name I could never spell , lived with his daughter Rose in Nashua NH when he was too old to work. She broke tradition and married an Irish man, John Francis McDermott.
      My father remembers his grandfather Joseph telling stories about the old country. ( My father was born in 1924.) We had lots of relatives thruout the Merrimac Valley.
      Now I am confident that my g. Grandfather’s name must have been spelled “Mischkanis” like your babysitter. Thank you. Perhaps I may proceed with ancestor discovery.

  8. Are you still looking for Lithuanian classes?.. I may be of me at
    Anyone of Lithuanian BLOOD.. (ethnicity)… is Lithuanian whether born in the old. Country or diaspora.. you are still Lithuanian blood and that is to be cherished and preserved!
    I can help maybe in helping/ connecting anyone of blood Lithuanian (no matter where born matter if you speak Lietuvos or not!)…

  9. I am seeking information about my grandparents. My grandfather’s name was John Bagdonas, born in Lithuania in 1883 – I believe he immigrated in the early 1900s and he was a parishioner at St Casimir’s in Nashua. I know they are buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery. Is there a way that I can check their church records? I have called St Patrick’s and had no reply. Where else can I look to learn more about them?

  10. Were only Lithuanians buried in the co-op cemetery? I was surprised to find my husbands great grandparents there with the last name Bouley.

    • The surname does not mean much as the surnames were often Anglicized by the time of emigration or later. E.g. “Bouley” may be an Anglicized version of “Bulys”.

      That said, sometimes non-Lithuanians would be buried in Lithuanian cemeteries, e.g. because of being relatives of Lithuanians.

      As the time passed and the people’s ancestries became more mixed, it became more common to “open” such cemeteries to everyone (still, non-Lithuanians often saw little utility in having their graves there and so even new burials were typically Lithuanian-majority). But, as those are great grandparents, the burial is likely from a long time ago and so this is unlikely.

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