Griffin Free Public Library – Auburn, NH

Where Auburn Comes Together!

The Story of a Book

Hello all. I hope you’ll indulge me in telling the story of a single book in the collection of Griffin Free Library.

In August, 1904, White Mountain Reporter writer and poet Sumner Claflin was wandering through the Saco River Valley when he came across a cow owned by a fellow by the name of Will Sanborn.

Sumner, born in Auburn, raised in Lyme and friends with Sebastian Griffin, recalls how this particular cow came to be known as the dancing cow. I’ll let Sumner himself tell the story:

“Mr. Sanborn tied Mrs. Cow to a post in the fence where she proceeded to lunch on the raspberry bushes in the immediate neighborhood just like any well-regulated cow or cowlet would do. Mr. Sanborn had only been in the house a few minutes when he was surprised to hear a series of triangular, rectangular and slambangular sounds that split the air as with a meat ax. Music hath charms— but this had more, it was fairly electrifying, and when William got out to the road he was surprised to find his gentle and usually mild-mannered cow dancing a very good imitation of a highland fling. She seemed quite anxious to get away from the fence and occasionally described a half circle sidestep, schottische or all swing and balance your partners, then this remarkable cow got down on her front legs and tried to stand on her head.

“The cow then “ riz” up on her hind legs and actually sat down on her haunches, and what she would have done next I don’t know only her necktie broke and she went over backwards.

“After Mr. Sanborn secured her it was discovered that an unobtrusive but well-armed hornet’s nest was located too near the hitching post for mutual comfort.

“Talk about cows going shopping—they’re taking dancing lessons and musical culture up here!”

I mention the hilarious Sumner Claflin in the context of the Griffin Free Library collection because as we begin to curate our antique book collection in order to create a NH/Auburn reference library, the staff was delighted to discover a book written by Sumner from 1893 that appears to have come from Sebastian Griffin’s original collection when our founder turned his personal library over to the town. The book in question, “Thoughts in Verse,” is a lovely collection of poetry about the natural world including poems on the White Mountains and Coos County. Sumner would go on to be active in politics in Manchester, running for mayor several times and even being the Socialist Party’s nominee for governor.

But writing was his true talent, and now you can read his work as well. While the library’s reference books are not for loan, we encourage you to drop by, sit a spell, and read some of Sumner’s poetry. We think you’ll be glad you did!

~ Dan Szczesny


This entry was posted on August 18, 2022 by in Uncategorized.


Griffin Free Public Library
22 Hooksett Road / PO Box 308
Auburn, NH 03032



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