Hold the Muster
Hanover Center Celebrates a True Memorial Day Tradition
If you’ve been to downtown Hanover recently you’ve seen the banner that spans Main St., announcing the Muster Day Celebration in Hanover Center. If it gets you wondering what a muster is and why it is out in Hanover Center, read on!
The French and Indian wars, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 had our country’s forefathers on their toes in the 1800’s and led to the Muster Day tradition. Twice a year local militia (men age 16-40) showed up for a roll call where they would display their weapons and ammunition. An inspection and military drills followed, to take stock of the town’s readiness to defend itself. Muster Day would then progress into one of very few annual holiday celebrations (think Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4 and that’s it), with feasting, music, contests and games.
Locally, the commemorative ceremony started on the Hanover Center Green because that was the original center of Hanover. Current downtown is in the far southwest corner of the 7 x 7 mile plot that is Hanover. The Muster Day tradition died out in the mid 1900’s, but was revived by Lillian Bailey in 1961.
Bailey, a third grade teacher, a community anchor and a force of nature, was also the driving force behind the Hanover Center Fair, an annual tradition (coming up June 23-24) started that same year. Bailiey’s son Bob, who still lives in Hanover Center, recalls with a laugh that, “As a kid I used to dread Memorial Day and the last weekend of June—fair weekend—because all my friends were messing around and I was working!”
Bailey’s revived Muster Day included her 3rd grade class reading Theodore Geisel’s (AKA Dr. Seuss) “A Prayer for a Child” and the 4th grade class reciting the Gettysburg Address. After Bailey met Geisel at a tea, and told him about her use of the poem, he had his publisher send her custom woodcuts of the illustrated poem.
Bailey, who passed away in 1998, handed over the Muster Day celebration to the Hanover Recreation Dept. in the late Eighties. In 2011 the ceremony included dedication of a granite marker on the Parade Ground, and a bench bearing Lillian’s name:
Bench honoring Lillian Bailey, founder of Hanover's modern Muster Day celebration
Over the years the tradition has morphed, but always enlists local youth to participate with the readings and music, thereby passing along a true Memorial Day tradition. This year’s speaker, Edwin Chamberlain, will remember the Foster Brothers, Civil War Heroes from Hanover Center. The Lyme Town Band will play armed services anthems while the Boy and Girl Scouts replace old flags with new on all the military graves in the cemetery, some of which date back to the Civil War.
The celebration takes place Monday, May 29, at 4 pm, rain or shine on the south end of the green, next to the cemetery (or in the Hanover Center church if it’s raining).
For more info contact the Hanover Recreation Dept. (603) 643-5315
Dr. Seuss's "A Prayer for a Child," part of Hanover Center's Muster Day Tradition
A Prayer for a Child
From here on earth,
From my small place
I ask of You Way out in space: Please tell all men In every land What You and I Both understand . . .
Please tell all men
That Peace is Good.
That’s all That need be understood In every world In Your great sky.
Both You and I.)