It’s Flashback Friday! #nhdistricts75th In 1811, 4,000 merino sheep were smuggled to New England! Continue reading below to learn more!
During the nineteenth century, William Jarvis, the U.S. consul to Lisbon, Portugal arrived to Spain during the time in which Napoleon Bonaparte was beginning to break up the country’s monopoly on Spanish Merinos. For centuries, Spain controlled the Merino sheep market which were seen as an asset to the nation’s market. Merino sheep were so prized, that taking even one sheep beyond Spain’s border could result in the death penalty. At the time, Merino sheep were only owned by the Catholic Church, Spanish royal family, or by Spanish nobility who were gifted the sheep. Jarvis successfully purchased a flock of 4,000 Merino sheep from the Spanish royal family. The exportation of the 4,000 sheep, however, would signal the downfall of Spain’s sheep empire. Due to this, Jarvis had to smuggle the 4,000 Merino sheep out of Spain and onto a ship awaiting to bring him and the newly purchased flock to the United States. When Jarvis arrived back to the United States, he decided that the best location to distribute his sheep was Vermont. In 1811, Jarvis brought the sheep to his farm in Weathersfield, Vermont, and sold them to farmers throughout Cheshire County, NH.
As farmers throughout New England began to quickly accept the strange new breed of sheep, the War of 1812 began. During this time, demand for woolen uniforms soared. This resulted in the New England sheep boom. At the end of the war the price of wool fell from a dollar and fifty cents a pound to forty cents a pound. This large drop was only temporary, and due to high tariff protection, the industry continued to flourish. There were soon more sheep in Cheshire County than people! Eventually, Cheshire County farmers could no longer compete with cheaper wool out west, causing the sheep boom to end by the 1840’s.
Historical Society of Cheshire County
Sheep: small-scale sheep keeping for pleasure and profit by Sue Weaver
Photo Source and Image Description: Keene Public Library and Historical Society of Cheshire County, Photograph of sheep being driven through central square in Keene!
October 8 – Sheep Smuggling

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