**Author's Note: While the historical events mentioned
in his story are real, I have taken some fictional liberties to create
the mystery within.**
The fresh scent of cut grass wafted past her nose. The leaves on the
oak tree were still green, but Alyssa knew it wouldn’t last. Early
September in New England was still warm, not as warm as August, but
the weather was mild and pleasant, only hinting of the chill to come
at night fall. Autumn was her favorite time of year. She just hoped
she wouldn’t be too busy with schoolwork to let it pass her by.
Alyssa walked onto her high school campus and headed toward the Practical
Arts Building where she had her American Studies class. That class
was going to be a handful. It was for students who fell in the “honor
student” curriculum, geared for those who were going onto college
after high school. Alyssa took the steps, two at time, and breezed
inside. The only way she was getting to college was to get a scholarship.
This was the year to do it. No more late nights with her friends,
Steffie and Idgy. If she had to spend extra hours after work or on
the weekend, she would.
“Scholarship, here I come…” Alyssa whispered to herself, just before
she went into the old style, wooden classroom. Then she stopped dead
in her tracks.
The room was filled with jocks, preps, and richies. She surveyed the
room, trying to pick out the one seat that would make her invisible.
The bell rang, surprising her, and she took the nearest seat she could
find, next to the history teacher’s desk. American Studies was a two
period class and two teachers taught it. Mr. Lipton was the history
teacher, and Mrs. Houston was the English teacher.
“Hello, Everyone, welcome to American Studies,” said Mr. Lipton, standing
up. “It’s going to be a demanding year.”
The class groaned. It was set up in a horseshoe so everyone could
look at each other. The classroom itself was old, with creaky floorboards
and three big bay windows overlooking Central High School’s courtyard.
A statue of President Lincoln sitting in a chair rested between the
building she was in and the Classical Building.
Mr. Lipton had everyone introduce themselves. Alyssa kept her bio
“Hi, I’m Alyssa Rydell, I’m seventeen, I work part time for the
phone company, and I run long distance on the girl’s track team.”
The intros went on for a good twenty minutes before Mr. Lipton spoke
“For your history project, I’m going to have you pair up,” Mr. Lipton
pointed to Alyssa’s side of the room. “This side will pick their partners
and the partners will pick a mystery from American history which you’ll
try to solve. Your work will be detailed in a journal you’ll both
keep and turn in at the end of the semester for your grade.”
Alyssa’s heart sank. She didn’t know a soul in class. Mr. Lipton thrust
a small basket in her face and she drew out a piece of paper.
“Miguel De Soto.”
“Ah, that’s me.”
Alyssa looked across the room. Miguel was tall, with dark bangs that
seemed to casually flop just past his eyebrows. The pensive look in
his eyes told her he was just as nervous as she was. What did he say
“I’m Miguel De Soto. It’s my first year here. My dad was transferred
from Miami, Florida…”
Mrs. Houston walked up to Miguel and put a small basket in front of
him. “Pick, Miguel.”
Miguel nervously reached inside and took out a piece of paper.
“The first flag of New Hampshire.”
Mr. Lipton smiled. “That’s a very challenging project.”
Miguel looked at Alyssa with little lost boy eyes. Alyssa shrugged
her shoulders. Mr. Lipton noticed their confusion and continued.
“History tells us John Wentworth, lieutenant governor of New Hampshire,
commissioned the first flag in 1717. The first flag of New Hampshire
only has the clipper ship on it. The wreath of laurel leaves and nine
stars were added once New Hampshire became a state. The flag has only
flown four times in the state’s history. What you’ve got to figure
out is when was it flown, and why. Bonus points for where the flag
“We have to solve this mystery by Thanksgiving?” Miguel asked.
“That’s the end of the semester,” Mr. Lipton confirmed.
Miguel looked at Alyssa with a hapless grin. He hoped he could bring
something to the project, but he didn’t know a thing about New Hampshire
history. Alyssa’s smile betrayed her trepidation. This was definitely
going to be a challenge.
Alyssa waited for Miguel to walk out of the classroom and fell in
step next to him. She was taller than the average girl, 5’9”, but
Miguel seemed to tower over her.
“Hi, Alyssa. Nice to meet you,” he said pleasantly. “Some project,
“Yeah. Where do you think we should start?”
“I was going to ask you. I can tell you all about Florida and Cuba,
but I don’t know anything about New Hampshire history.”
“You’re from Cuba?”
“No, my granddad was,” said Miguel, looking down at her with a smile.
“My Dad works for a marketing firm. He just transferred up to Boston
and bought a house here in Manchester.”
“Ah…I see. Well, let’s go to the computer room and see what’s online.
This period is my free time.”
They left the Practical Arts building and walked over to the most
recent building that was constructed, the James Building.
“So…this place is different. It’s not as hot here.”
“Wait until the leaves start to change. They turn all different colors.
It’s nice. My parents take us up to the White Mountains just so we
can see the foliage.”
Miguel wrinkled his dark brow. “That doesn’t sound like too much fun.”
Alyssa turned on him and gave him a tart smile. “Don’t knock it until
you’ve tried it, Miguel.”
He chuckled. “I’ve got a car. Want to show me the foliage?”
Alyssa’s eyes narrowed. “Not particularly. I want to solve this mystery
and that’s all.”
Miguel sighed. Alyssa was all schoolwork. And maybe that wasn’t such
a bad thing. He was hoping for a scholarship too.
They entered the library and found a free computer. Alyssa did a google
search on their assignment, but to her surprise, she only found one
link. It was a web page belonging to the New Hampshire Historical
“In March 1945, right before V-E day was declared in Europe, the
first flag of New Hampshire was found stored away in an old cabinet
in the archives. The commander of the naval station ordered it to
be flown next to the U.S. Flag. The next day a fleet of German U-Boats
surrendered in Portsmouth. Visit the Portsmouth Naval Station museum
for more information.”
Next to the small article was a picture of the flag. Mr. Lipton was
right. It consisted of just a clipper ship on a blue background. Underneath
it was written “Royal Colony of New Hampshire.”
Alyssa turned to Miguel. “Are you free this weekend, Mr. Hot Rod?”
“I want an “A” on this project, so we have a date in Portsmouth.”
“You want me to drive you to Portsmouth?” Miguel gasped. He had a
1989 Toyota Corolla that was a bit junky looking.
Alyssa grinned. “You bet. Hopefully we’ll get some clues about when
the flag was flown before then.”
Miguel ran a hand through his hair. “You have a date, Alyssa.”
“Call me Aly.”
They shared a knowing smile.
That Saturday, they took state route 101 towards the seacoast and
Portsmouth. Rural New Hampshire was very different from urban Miami.
Life seemed casual here, slower. The people were laid back and more
relaxed. Alyssa was very focused on her schoolwork, but Miguel didn’t
mind. He liked working on this project with her.
As they drove along the countryside, Alyssa pointed out several pumpkin
patches and he counted five scarecrows proudly displayed alongside
They stopped at the next patch and Alyssa bought several pumpkins,
explaining to him how her mother loved to put pumpkins around the
front lawn of their house. Not only did she buy several pumpkins,
but she got several decorative gourds as well. The scent of fresh
hay being cut tickled Miguel’s nose.
“So, how long is your mother going to leave the pumpkins out?” asked
Miguel, helping Alyssa carry her goods.
“Until Halloween. Then mom makes her famous pumpkin pies.”
“What makes them famous?” he asked.
Alyssa winked at him. “She puts a nip of rum in them. Then she brings
them back here to this patch and sells them at the farmer’s market.”
Miguel made sure the pumpkins were stuffed neatly in the backseat
and they drove off. “I can’t wait to try a piece. I never had pumpkin
“Get out!” Alyssa laughed.
Miguel smiled and drove off. Soon they arrived at the front gate of
the naval station in Portsmouth. The Marine MP at the gate signed
them in and gave them directions to the naval museum. Miguel was amazed
at how clean the base was. The grass was neatly cut. The barracks
were lined up in orderly little rows and the view of the Atlantic
Ocean was breathtaking. As soon as they got out of the car, Miguel
was stung by the sea salt breeze.
Students were free, and Alyssa made a beeline for the World War II
display in the heart of the museum. She studied the old photographs,
surprised by the story they told. Several German U-boats were lined
up just off the shore, surrounded by US warships. Miguel hovered closely
over her shoulder.
“Can I help you?”
Alyssa whizzed around and discovered the curator. She was an older
woman with gray hair and sharp eyes.
“We’re doing some research on the first flag of New Hampshire.”
“I’m Mrs. Whittle. I see you found the pictures when it was last flown.”
She pointed to an old gray photograph. The flag casually fluttered
in front of the naval headquarters building.
“Is it still here?” Miguel asked. He was impressed. Everything came
alive with an excitement he couldn’t define – the ocean, the season,
and the history.
“It was sent back to the state capital in Concord after the war,”
explained Mrs. Whittle.
“Do you know if the flag was flown before then?” asked Alyssa.
“Not since the American Revolution. I’ll show you, Dear,” Mrs. Whittle
gestured for them to follow.
The curator opened a display case and withdrew an old, dusty, brown
leather journal. After turning a few yellow aged pages, Mrs. Whittle
handed the book to Alyssa.
“October 30th, 1789. The city is honored to have President George
Washington visit. The Honorable Mayor, John Langdon, gave him a tour
of the naval facilities and ordered me to fly the first flag of New
Hampshire in his honor. It flew proudly for the president to see in
the courtyard and he saluted it before he left. – Jeffery Social,
USN, Captain, Adjutant.”
“Alyssa, that makes twice the flag has flown!” exclaimed Miguel.
Alyssa dug into her pink backpack for her journal, explaining to Mrs.
Whittle about the mystery they had to solve.
Mrs. Whittle smiled. “There’s a display of historical flags in the
“That’s Concord,” said Miguel.
Alyssa was impressed by how fast Miguel seemed to process information.
He bought several postcards for them to paste into their journal.
As Alyssa copied the journal entry, Miguel realized something.
“Hey, Alyssa, it seems to me this flag has flown on very important
“I think you’re on to something, Miguel,” she said.
Miguel flashed her a sweet, awkward smile.
Alyssa had to admit her partner was very nice.
Unfortunately, the weeks passed faster than Alyssa was expecting.
It was now mid-October and this was their first chance they had to
team up again.
Miguel drove his old, but dependable Toyota up Interstate 93 to Concord,
riveted to the scenic view. Oaks and maples lined the highway. Their
leaves were dressed up in colors of gold, rust, purple, and orange.
They clung to life on fragile stems, threatening to fall onto the
highway at any moment. He’d never seen trees as vibrant as this.
Soon they were in Concord. The state house was small, but stood out
with its golden roof. As soon as they entered, they found themselves
in a grand rotunda, its ceiling painted with angels and cherubs, resting
on white billowy clouds. A directory told them the flag gallery and
state archives were on the second floor. Alyssa went to the archives
and Miguel went to the flag gallery. Sadly, he couldn’t find the flag
he was looking for.
Alyssa took one look at the filing cabinets and bookshelves in the
archive and her heart sank. She’d be here all night.
“Hey, Aly, the flag isn’t here. They have a spot for it, but it’s
missing,” said Miguel, walking up to her.
She frowned and pointed toward her daunting task. “Where do we start?”
“Well, what important event during the Revoluntary War would they
fly the flag in New Hampshire?” Miguel asked.
“Most of the major battles were fought in Massachusetts and states
further down the Atlantic coast.”
“No major war battles?” Miguel asked, crossing his arms.
“Well, come on! New Hampshire is one of the original thirteen states,
“So when did it enter the war? They had to fly it then, right?”
A bright grin grew on Alyssa’s face. She flew down the aisles, her
fingers dusting the spines of brown and black leather books until
she found what she was looking for.
Miguel watched with baited breath. Alyssa pulled out a book, flipped
pages, and smiled.
“I stood in the town square and listened proudly as New Hampshire
declared its independence from England. It is a little scary, but
Massachusetts will follow. We are the first colony to be so bold,
but the first flag flies high in the sky today with the governor’s
approval. – Adam Bradford, Merchant, 1774.”
“You found it!”
“With your help, Miguel.”
“What now? How are we going to find the flag itself?” He helped her
slide the pink backpack off her shoulders so she could pull out their
“I have a hunch. Are you ready for another trip?”
“You name it.”
“Exeter, New Hampshire.”
The following weekend, Alyssa and Miguel went to Exeter, New Hampshire.
It was a small town near the seacoast. At one point in the state’s
history it was the capital, when John Wentworth was lieutenant governor
of the colony. There was a historic museum near the governor’s house
and Alyssa had a hunch she’d find the answers to the flag there.
Miguel followed Alyssa into the museum and was immediately impressed.
Several young men and women were dressed in clothes of the time period
and were acting as role players throughout the museum. It was made
up like a home would be in colonial times. The kitchen had a small
brick stove, and a black metal pot hung over several unburned logs.
There was a sitting room with a mahogany desk that Wentworth wrote
his letters at. Several letters hung on the wall in nearby glass cases.
Miguel’s eyes raked over them. Suddenly, his pulse shot through his
“Aly, I found it!” he exclaimed, pointing to a letter. “I flew
the flag today for the first time. Since the proud colony of New Hampshire
had no flag, I commissioned one to be knitted. Some say it is too
plain, but I disagree. It flies free and strong over the town hall
here in Exeter. Some have also debated the wisdom of putting a clipper
ship on it, but Portsmouth is our major city and the colony is known
for its shipbuilding resources. – John Wentworth, Lieutenant Governor
of New Hampshire.”
Alyssa pulled out her journal and began to write. “Miguel, you were
right. The flag has flown on very important occasions in New Hampshire
history. But…why didn’t it fly all the time? Why isn’t it in the state’s
Miguel shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ll tell you.”
Alyssa and Miguel spun around, finding themselves face to face with
a man dressed in the colonial clothes. He must have been one of the
role players here at the house.
“Many did not care for the flag,” he smoothly began, his deep-timbred
voice seemed to purr like a song. “It was too simple and they didn’t
feel the emphasis should be on shipbuilding, since most of the colony
was rural and agricultural. After much dissention, Mr. Wentworth took
the flag down and had it placed in a display case in the Exeter state
building. Years passed. When it came time to declare war, New Hampshire
needed a flag and the Lieutenant Governor at the time remembered this
one. He withdrew it from its case and proudly flew it on that fateful
day the state announced its independence from England. More flags
were then commissioned with the laurel leaves surrounding the clipper
ship. These flags became popular and the first flag was taken to Portsmouth
to be put in their naval museum. After the war, it was flown in honor
of President Washington’s visit, where it then went back to the display
case. It stayed locked away for years until a young adjutant found
it during World War II. A day after it flew, German U-boats surrendered
to us. The flag was taken to Concord for a while, but a descendent
of Mr. Wentworth petitioned to have it returned to this museum and
it was granted.”
“Aly, look!” Miguel said, looking past the role player’s shoulder.
There, in the courtyard between the museum and John Wentworth’s colonial
house, flew the first flag of New Hampshire. When Alyssa turned back
around, the role player was gone, lost among the crowd, much like
how the first flag of New Hampshire was lost throughout history.