Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day Bellringing

In 2010, the New Hampshire Legislature unanimously passed legislation designating September 5, Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day, recognizing the importance of the 1905 Treaty proceedings in New Hampshire history and the role of citizen diplomacy in ensuring the success of the peace conference. Each year since then, the Governor of New Hampshire has issued a Proclamation calling on all New Hampshire citizens “to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities commemorating this important part of New Hampshire history.” On September 5, 1905 – 117 years ago – Portsmouth celebrated by ringing bells throughout the city.  The Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum continues that tradition.

On September 5, the celebration of Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day and NH citizen diplomacy takes place in Market Square, starting at 3:30 pm. The Mayor of Portsmouth reads the Governor’s Proclamation and letters are expected from New Hampshire Senators Hassan and Shaheen, Representative Chris Pappas and Representative Ann McLane Kuster, whose great grandfather John McLane was Governor of New Hampshire and host to the 1905 peace conference.

At 3:47 pm, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard sounds a memorial salute at the exact moment the Treaty was signed in 1905 and, on that cue, the bells of Portsmouth ring. The public is welcome to participate in the bellringing ceremony at the Treaty historic marker outside the Piscataqua Savings Bank and Judge Calvin Page memorial (15 Pleasant Street).

Participating in the bell-ringing are:

Middle Street Baptist Church, Portsmouth
Christ Episcopal Church, Portsmouth
North Congregational Church, Portsmouth
First Congregational Church, Portsmouth
Second Christian United Church, Kittery
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Portsmouth
Unitarian Universalist (South) Church, Portsmouth
First United Methodist Church, Portsmouth
Temple Israel, Portsmouth (sounding the shofar and displaying a peace flag)
New Castle Congregational Church
Portsmouth School Department
Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, Portsmouth
Little Harbor Chapel, Portsmouth
Wentworth By the Sea Hotel, New Castle (where the Russian and Japanese diplomats stayed)
Portsmouth Historical Society John Paul Jones House (Portsmouth Peace Treaty exhibit)

Portsmouth's Sister City of Nichinan, Japan (birthplace of Baron Komura, lead Japanese negotiator) will conduct a bell-ringing with their Mayor Sakita and the Nichinan Gakuen Jr-Sr High School sister school. Portsmouth Peace Treaty Living Memorial cherry tree sites in Dublin, Hanover, Lancaster, Meredith, Manchester and Milford NH also traditionally participate in the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day commemoration. 

St. John's Episcopal Church, Portsmouth NH

While a 1905 postcard suggests that North Church had a bell cast by Paul Revere, possibly confusing Portsmouth’s with Old North Church in Boston, a 1732 Revere bell does hang in the steeple of St. John’s Church, on Chapel Street in Portsmouth. St. John’s participates in the annual Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day bell-ringing commemoration on September 5th.

North Church, Portsmouth NH

In 1904 Americans began a charity to support Japanese widows and orphans of the war. Its chief officer was Portsmouth native Edward Warren Clark, a retired Episcopalian priest and pastor’s son whose brother had been pastor of St. John’s in Portsmouth. Rev. Clark had met the young Komura and Takahira in 1871 when he taught western science at Kai Sei Gakko in Tokyo. Rev. Clark, now an adult and retired from the clergy, had returned to his native city in 1904 where he spoke at North Parish Congregational Church using glass slides about Japan and the Asian crisis to raise charitable funds for the support of widows and orphans created by the war. The North Church bell rings each year for Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day.

Christ Church Episcopal, Portsmouth NH

The bell (below) in Christ Episcopal Church (1035 Lafayette Road) in Portsmouth was rescued from the old Christ Church in downtown Portsmouth when the Church burned. A crane was brought in to lift the entire steeple with bell to the ground. The inscription on the bell puts its maker as the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore in 1887. Christ Church figured significantly during the Treaty summer and on September 5, 1905 was the site of a Service of Thanksgiving offi ciated by members of the Russian Orthodox Church in New York, including Father Alexander Hotovitsky, who was later martyred following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and canonized in the Orthodox church. In 2005, NH’s Episcopal Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, presided over a re-enactment of that Service of Thanksgiving and reconsecrated the memorial tablet from the original Christ Church.



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