By Carolina Carneiro, Summer Times Staff Writer
For more than a century, Exonians have been confidently boasting that there town was where Amos Tuck, a 19th century politician, founded the Republican Party. However, a longtime curator of the Exeter Historical Society, Barbara Rimkunas, and volunteer researcher, Mark Willis, have discovered evidence proving that the Republican Party may have not originated in Exeter.
These doubts stem from the lack of evidence to prove Tuck’s and Exeter’s role in the founding of the party. The story’s only foundation is based on a letter from Massachusetts resident Homer Batchelder to Exeter’s Newsletter, claiming that 15 men, including himself, were present at a secret meeting on October 12th, 1853, where Tuck stated that the party of abolitionists shall be called the “Republican Party.”
This letter was like a cannon, according to Ms. Rimkunas, creating an explosion of misconceptions, which fortunately do not last forever.
“In the study of history, you need to be very, very careful when you have a single source,” she said. “Looking at this, you would say there is only one guy here so we should find out if this really happened.”
Mr. Willis began to revisit letters written by Tuck during the early 1850s, attempting to see if there are any letters corroborating Batchelder’s story. This is when he found two letters for Tuck’s children, written on October 10th, 1853, two days before the secret meeting, where Tuck explains how he is in Chicago and plans to travel to Ohio.
This letter inspired Ms. Rimkunas to say that “It takes a few days to get from one place to another. [Tuck] is heading farther west. It sure doesn’t sound like he is heading to Exeter to this secret meeting.”
Despite rigid evidence of this meeting not coming to light, Ms. Rimkunas is holding onto hope that a new piece of evidence confirming it will surface.
“If something comes up, I mean we find evidence to the contrary, and [the meeting] could have happened, I would be thrilled to get the story back,” she said.
While she waits in hope, a new question needs to be researched: why did Homer Batchelder write this letter?