WWLPD? “What Would Luther Parker Do?” Mike Humphrey knows. Humphrey is the owner of Riverside Speedway in Groveton while Parker once helped govern the Indian Stream Republic.
We’d like to thank Mike Moffett for this Op-Ed. If you have an Op-Ed or LTE
you would like us to consider please submit it to email@example.com.
A brief New Hampshire history lesson is necessary here. In 1832, the inhabitants of N.H’s northern Coos County, frustrated by an ambiguous Canadian border and efforts by both N.H. and Canada to tax them, formed an independent nation—the Indian Stream Republic. Parker was a leader of the new country.
Attempts by both British Canada and New Hampshire to assert claims on the Indian Stream territory were resisted by inhabitants. “Streamers” (often fortified by liquor) were not averse to brandishing weapons in response to unfriendly approaches, whether from north or south.
Then in 1840, the town of Pittsburg was incorporated and Daniel Webster brought about an 1842 treaty clarifying the border and most of the Indian Stream Republic begrudgingly became part of N.H.
But the independent character of the North Country continues to this day—embodied by Humphrey.
Up “north of the notches” one runs into Granite Staters with different accents and different attitudes. Pick-up trucks abound—with nary a Prius to be seen. The independent spirit of the Streamers endures.
Edicts from Concord regarding the COVID-19 “pandemic” rekindled the North Country’s sovereign spirit. In a part of the state with approximately zero cases of the coronavirus, folks wondered why they had to hunker down when the spring racing schedule at Riverside beckoned.
What would Mike Humphrey do?
Humphrey initially cancelled early events but decided to go ahead with a race schedule on May 23, with races in seven classes. He tried to support the spirit of Governor Chris Sununu’s emergency orders, which made much more sense in Manchester than they did in Groveton. Humphrey put out hand sanitizers and signs everywhere. He made masks available. He painted the grandstand into squares to accommodate social distancing.
North Country folks and racing fans finally had a good day—with no thanks to the people from Concord. Authorities heard that Humphrey wanted to run a race schedule and the spoilsports actually put up electronic signs on roads leading to the speedway, discouraging attendance. The Attorney General’s (AG’s) office called Humphrey on Friday, May 22, conveying disapproval.
In the spirit of Luther Parker, race fans showed up en masse, taking personal responsibility for their actions—without the liquor and firearms that the Streamers would likely have deployed.
Humphrey’s phone was soon ringing off the proverbial hook. Most of the calls were supportive of his independent actions. But in the best spirit of overprotective killjoys, the AG’s office called to put Humphrey on notice that he’d created displeasure in Concord, with implications of fines, sanctions, or shut-downs. So Humphrey called the governor’s office and left several messages.
“I wanted to ask why some businesses were treated differently than others,” explained Humphrey, who like most everyone else, was aware that Wal-Mart, state liquor stores and numerous other enterprises were still conducting business.
“My understanding is that the state-owned ATV trails, like at Jericho Park, remained open for hundreds of people,” noted Humphrey.
The notion of N.H. shutting down private businesses while still running state operations rankled.
The governor’s office did not respond.
Humphrey was a self-employed logger who worked very hard to succeed in life. His efforts enabled him to eventually follow his dream of racing, eventually to include competing in the Super Modified class at places like Star Speedway in Epping. Another dream was to own a race track, which he realized late in 2019 when he purchased Riverside.
The North Country is not what it once was. Papermill closings in Berlin and Groveton devastated the area economy. Many moved away but those who stayed put their hopes in people like Humphrey to create some economic energy. Then the state shut him down while maintaining other state businesses.
Humphrey is a logger and a race fan, not a troublemaker. But some descendants of the Streamers invoked Part 1, Article 10 of the N.H. Constitution:
“Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”
Yes, the N.H. constitution guarantees the right of revolution, which many “Streamer types” feel trumps well-intentioned but unevenly applied gubernatorial edicts.
So now what?
Humphrey scheduled a race day for June 6, with some Super Modified tour action and some local action—sans fans.
What will Governor Sununu do?
The descendants of the Streamers hope he’ll be more like John Stark, Luther Parker, or Mike Humphrey, and less like Gavin Newsom, Charlie Baker, or Bill Di Blasio.
“Live Free or Die!”
Loudon’s Mike Moffett is a retired professor, Marine Corps officer, and former state representative. A Groveton native, he once helped sell hot dogs at Riverside Speedway.