NO MATTER how far you travel, there’s no place like home - unless, of course, your trip takes in Derry, New Hampshire, Derry, Pennsylvania, or, even, Derry, New Mexico. Derry - or Londonderry - is the namesake for eleven American towns ranging from mountain ski resorts to former coal mining towns, all descendants of our very own city on the banks of the River Foyle. The JOURNAL finds out more.
“The place to be”, according to the town’s municipal website, is Derry, New Hampshire, a small town of around 30,000 people in the south of the state.
And forget Seamus Heaney or John Hume - in New Hampshire, Derry’s claim to fame is as the birthplace of astronaut Alan Shepard - the first American in space - and the location of poet Robert Frost’s farm.
But even across the Atlantic, some things are just like home.
Just a stone’s throw away across the busy Route 93 lies the town of, yes, you guessed it, Londonderry!
This community owes its origins to the flight of a group of Presbyterians who fled our city in 1719 to find greater religious freedom and to escape rising rents and a series of bad harvests in Ireland.
Many of the emigrants had taken part in the Siege of Derry and legend has it that one of their leaders, Reverend McGregor, was supposed to have fired the cannon that let everyone know the boom across the River Foyle had been broken which, of course, ended the famous Siege of 1688-89.
They originally settled in Nutfield, New Hampshire, and later renamed it Londonderry.
The early settlers in America were described as ‘robust, persevering and adventurous’ and soon built two stone garrison houses on either side of a small river.
The settlement remained remarkably free from attack from Indians and it is thought that this may have been due to the influence of the French Governor of Canada who advised the Indians that the settlers were different from the English.
All was quiet in the town of Londonderry until the late 1820s when there was what has been described as ‘an administrative upheaval’ when residents of the east bank of the river petitioned for a division of the town which was duly granted.
On July 2, 1827, Londonderry separated with the eastern part being called Derry and the remaining part of town being called Londonderry.
This separate township of Derry secured the majority of residents.
Derry thrived with family business, the most famous being H.P. Hood Company. In 1856, Harvey Hood established his dairy farm, which supplied milk for businesses in Boston.
In 1870, Colonel William Pillsbury purchased 18 buildings for his shoe manufacturing enterprise. The industry provided a major source of employment until 1960, when fire destroyed the large plant.
Today, this industry is replaced by high tech manufacturing companies, while most of the business community continues to be made up of many family-owned business.
Today, the two towns are so close that it is almost impossible to tell them apart.
Derry is more industrial, and Londonderry is more rural, but really you can’t tell the difference.
There are two high schools, with two football teams, but that’s about as far as the rivalry goes. While it may not be able to compete with Derry’s ancient origins, the US city has spawned a copycat of its own.
The town of Londonderry, Vermont, was named after the New Hampshire town by a resident who moved to Vermont and brought many of the town’s inhabitants with him.
Londonderry, Vermont, was first established in 1770, and named Kent according to a New York Patent.
Within the week, the town had been purchased by one James Rodgers, who returned to his native Londonderry, New Hampshire, to sell some of the land to his friends and neighbours.
But war soon broke out, and, during the War of Independence which followed, Rodgers fought for the British Crown.
The colonists’ victory in 1776 put Rodgers on the wrong side and the state of Vermont promptly confiscated his property, casting the validity of his earlier land sales into doubt.
Rodgers’ friends and neighbours maintained they should be allowed to keep their property - not only were they occupying and working the land, but they had all backed the Colonists during the War.
The inhabitants of Kent were allowed to keep their land, but on one condition - the name Kent be abandoned. They chose to rename the town after their former New Hampshire home - Londonderry.
Today the town’s tempestuous origins are long forgotten, and Londonderry, Vermont - a rural town surrounded by mountains - is best known for winter sports and stunning scenery.
Yet another take on the city’s name is Derry, Pennsylvania “where it’s just sweeter”.
In Western Pennsylvania, the Greater Derry Area comprises Derry, West Derry and New Derry, first settled in 1769 by Scotch-Irish who had emigrated from nearby areas.
While we may not have the snow-capped mountains or the stunning autumn scenes, next time you travel across the Atlantic, get ready for a warm Derry welcome - US style!