By Danielle LeBlanc, Staff Writer
On top of Jordan’s Rock overlooking Fort Constitution, the Walbach Tower is part of New Castle’s history.
This past Sunday was the 200th anniversary of the tower, and the town of New Castle threw a celebration in honor of the historic fortress.
“The tower was built by Col. [John] Walbach,” said Nancy Borden, resident of New Castle and organizer of the event. “Walbach was in charge of Fort Constitution at the time.”
As Borden sat on her porch that was only yards from the tower itself, she retold the history of Walbach Tower.
According to Borden, the tower was built during the War of 1812. However, it was during the year of 1814, near the end of the war, that Walbach Tower was built.
“Near the end of the war, the British warships were attacking some towns in Maine,” Borden said. “There was fear that they might try to attack Portsmouth.”
According to Borden, there were no guns on the beach side of Fort Constitution. The only guns pointed across the Piscataqua.
There is a myth as to how the Walbach Tower was built. The myth is that Walbach mobilized all the townspeople along with a small militia in order to build the tower in one night. Borden claimed after they built the tower, they put a cannon on top of it.
“The British never did attack,” Borden said. “And we feel it is because the tower was built.”
In the late 1800s, Walbach Tower became an icon for the town. According to Borden, there were numerous paintings, photographs and post cards of the tower up until about 1900.
“From then on it’s been forgotten,” Borden said.
However, interest in the tower has come back recently.
“My neighbor Bobbie Sweet became interested in it [Walbach Tower] and asked the chair of the Historical Society at the time is she could arrange a tour,” Borden said.
Borden and her neighbor took a tour of the tower and their interest increased, especially Sweet’s.
“She has always wanted to bring it to the attention of more people,” Borden said.
The celebration began with a poetry reading of “The Legend of Walbach Tower,” which was written in 1883. Borden smiled in the background as the poem was read with passion about the tower she had come to love.
Later, a brief history on Walbach was given by expert Kathy Richards. Historic Society member Jim Cerny talked about how the tower was probably built and the amazing behind-the-scenes work that went into making this celebration possible.
“I think it was a combination of Bobbie Sweet and Nancy Borden’s interest in the tower that created the perfect synergy,” Cerny said. “I think it was a great turn out.”
However, all the excitement was leading up to the big reveal of the new historic marker that will sit below Walbach Tower. “Wows” and comments of appreciation were given as Sweet and Borden revealed the marker.
The marker includes a brief history of Walbach, the War of 1812, and the tower itself.
“I’m very happy with the historic marker,” Sweet said. “The tower was built in a hot moment of vulnerability; I think it’s important to celebrate someone who had the skill and creativity to solve that problem.”
During the celebration, after various speeches were made, guests enjoyed the sounds of fiddlers Ryan Thomson and his son, Brennish. A special Walbach cake in the shape of the tower was prepared for the event.
Guests were also able to go on guided tours of the tower. Those who were feeling adventurous were also able to tour the top of the tower in order to get a closer look.
“It was a wonderful turn out,” Borden said. “Here is this unknown relic that no one knew about, and now a real group of people understand the significance of Walbach Tower and Col. Walbach.”