Federal board approves New Hampshire town's bid to rename Jew Pond

A federal board has approved a New Hampshire town's request to change the name of a fishing spot that's been called Jew Pond since the 1920s.

The Telegraph of Nashua reports the U.S. Board of Geographic Names recently approved the decision by Mont Vernon residents to rename the pond Carleton Pond, after one of the town's founding families.

In supporting the change, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte had said "pejorative place names" reflecting religious "prejudice" aren't consistent with New Hampshire values of "community and mutual respect."

Over the years, the pond, near the center of town, has been called by many names, including Carleton Pond. A nearby sign says Carleton Park Recreation Area, though that refers to the land rather than the pond itself. The pond originally was named Spring Pond, said Masters, because the owners of a hotel there created it by digging up a spring to irrigate their golf course. They made clear in a brochure that Jewish guests were not welcome.

The rest of the story is a bit murky, but it's generally believed that the body of water became Jew Pond when two Jewish businessmen from Boston bought the hotel. They intended to make the pond bigger and rename it Lake Serene, town officials say.

Mont Vernon Historical Society member Zoe Fimbel, who has lived in the town for 31 years, said there's nothing bigoted about the Jew Pond name. She said it was more about longtime residents in the 1920s being annoyed by out-of-towners trying to turn the pond into something it was not.

"It's too bad it's gotten to be such an issue when it's never even referred to or portrayed in a negative way," she said. "It's more like, `It's the Jew's Pond. The new man in town."'

Still, resident Kevin Schmidlein thought the name should be changed. "If we're going to be known for something, I'd rather it be for something other than this," he said on Tuesday.

The town, about 35 miles southwest of the state capital, Concord, has Jewish residents, but census data don't indicate how many. The only synagogue Masters said he knew about is in Nashua, about 15 miles away.