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Reasonable UseThe People, the Environment, and the State, New England 1790-1930$
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John T. Cumbler

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138139

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195138139.001.0001

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Fish, the People, and Theodore Lyman The Moderate Approach

Fish, the People, and Theodore Lyman The Moderate Approach

(p.79) 5 Fish, the People, and Theodore Lyman The Moderate Approach
Reasonable Use

John T. Cumbler

Oxford University Press

On November 3, 1865, Theodore Lyman III handed his report for the River Fishery Commission to Massachusetts governor John Andrew. Then he headed north from Boston to Lawrence, where he met with newly elected New Hampshire governor Frederick Smyth and the fishery commissioners from other New England states. At that meeting, Governor Smyth, in Lyman’s words, “undertook the high horse and said they would shut down the water from Lake Winnepiseogee [the nineteenth century name for Lake Winnipesaukee] if we did not give the fishways.” Smyth was no one to take lightly. As the son of a New Hampshire farmer, he knew the importance offish to the rural diet, and as a founding member of the Republican Party, he was a politician of some significance. Smyth was also under pressure from rural farmers in the Connecticut and Merrimack River Valleys who had depended upon spring fish runs and now faced depleted rivers. Regarding the New Hampshire governor, Lyman wrote in his diary: “The threats of New Hampshire were some of my business as commissioner.” These threats were Lyman’s business in more than just his role as fish commissioner. The waters of Lake Winnipesaukee fed into the Winnipesaukee River, one of the main sources of the Merrimack River, which provided the power for the mills at Lowell and Lawrence. Without that water, those mills could not function. Lyman enjoyed healthy returns on his holdings in those mills. He not only held stock in these companies and in mills in Holyoke, he was also on several of their boards of directors. As he stated when he later ran for Congress, “I have been connected, and my father before me with the manufacturing interest.” As a major stockholder, Lyman had reason to be concerned about the waterpower of the mills along the Merrimack. Yet when he met with the governor and fish commissioners, he thought of himself not as the representative of the manufacturing interests but as a scientist and public servant. It was a role for which he had been preparing for a long time.

Keywords:   agricultural reformers, dissolved oxygen (DO), fishways, gentlemen farmers, hatcheries, pisciculture, sports fishers

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