Yester-Heroes: William Clough – Wordsmith with a Badge

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Pic 1-18 Wm Clough / Caption: Nashua City Marshal William Clough circa 1877.

Stories from the History of Nashua’s Police and Fire-Rescue Departments.

There’s a good chance nobody reading this today ever heard of William Clough. And there’s a better chance that they couldn’t care less about William Clough. But if it wasn’t for this man, a veritable wordsmith with a badge, the history of Nashua from 1673 to 1895 might contain some large blank spaces.

William Clough, at 29 years of age, came to Nashua from Boston in 1869 after a glass company he had been working for failed. Clough had held several jobs but mostly he enjoyed writing and enjoyed politics and became the city editor for the Nashua Daily Telegraph. On April 3, 1876, he attended a meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen where new city officials were to be elected. When it came to City Marshal, an impasse developed. After twenty ballots the vote was still stymied. It is here that history becomes clouded. One account says that upon the 21st ballot, the mayor cast a deciding vote and Clough became City Marshal. Another account says that he was appointed by the mayor. Still another account says that seeing everyone’s frustration, Clough simply volunteered his services as City Marshal. However it went, he was the man.

Again, history is hazy with his term as City Marshal. One account says he was re-elected in 1877, 78, 79 and served until 1880. Another account says he served 1876, 77 and 1879 with Timothy Crowley serving in 1878. In 1878, NH Governor Cheney commissioned Clough as an associate justice of the police court. It is unknown if he was serving each office concurrently but that may be where some confusion arises.

He eventually left the Nashua Daily Telegraph and wrote for the New Hampshire Daily Republican newspaper until the paper closed in 1893. In 1895, Clough purchased the controlling stock in the Nashua Daily Gazette and changed the name to the Nashua Daily Press. Among other endeavors, Clough wrote for the Boston Journal under an assumed name. 

And here is his greatest contribution to Nashua history. He was the “writer of the biographical section” of History of the City of Nashua NH by Edward Parker. This book has been one of the primary sources of early Nashua history for well over 100 years.

The Nashua Gazette of April 4, 1876 proclaimed, “William Clough Elected City Marshal – Bill will now have a new suit of blue.” This line is interesting because it indicates that by 1876, the Nashua Police department had uniforms; or at least the City Marshal had a uniform. It is possible that they wore uniforms as early as 1869, by 1876 some of the department may have had unforms, but it may be as a late as 1881 when all had uniforms.

Excerpted from “Nashua’s Finest: The History of Law Enforcement in Nashua NH”