Windham Life and Times – November 8, 2019

Get-Away on Cobbett’s Pond

Willis and Edith Low on Rocky Ridge Road

Willis Low was the chief of police in Windham for many, many years and his wife Edith served as a dispatcher. They are shown here enjoying a stay at Cobbett’s Pond. Eventually, they would purchase a property on the very secluded Rock Pond, because it allowed them a private place in town where they could get away from their duties for a little while.

Shoreline of Cobbett’s with Dunkan Beach in the background.

Looking toward the narrows on Cobbett’s Pond

Windham Life and Times – October 25, 2019

Novitiate of the Sisters of  Mercy

Searles Castle, Windham, NH.

I had the occasion to pull out some photographs for Cathy Walsh, with the Sisters of Mercy.  The postcard views of the Novitiate of  the Sisters of Mercy, at Searles Castle, reminded me of a very nice childhood memory of growing up in Windham in the early 1960’s.  At five o’clock, the chimes at the Sisters of Mercy rang out and could be heard in a large part of Windham. When they rang, I knew that if I was out and about it was time for me to get home. I wonder how many people still remember them today?

The Sisters of Mercy have a very interesting and inspiring history. The order’s website states that, “…the Sisters of Mercy was an order founded in Ireland, by a laywoman Catherine McAuley. She spent her inheritance to open the House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland on September 24, 1827. It was a place to shelter and educate women and girls. On December 12, 1831, Catherine and two companions became the first Sisters of Mercy.”

“The Sisters of Mercy arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1843 at the invitation of the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” Frances Ward founded the first Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh…” “Sister Mary Frances (Ward) went to Manchester New Hampshire in July, 1858, and founded a convent where day and night schools were established. In 1859 the sisters began teaching in public schools and received a salary from the city government. The sisters again wore secular dress when teaching and attending staff meetings. In 1863, they were allowed to wear their religious habit in school. Fourteen convents were established from Manchester between 1861 and 1883. Two of these were outstanding in forming new convents Philadelphia and Princeton. Mother Frances travelled with the sisters to each new convent and stayed with them for a month. She held the position of Superior from 1837 – 1884 except for 3 years in Manchester 1880 – 1883. Mary Frances Ward died on the 17th September 1884 in Manchester New Hampshire and was buried in St. Joseph’s cemetery there. A marble cross is erected over her grave…”

So now when you pass McAuley Commons or the Frances Ward Center in town, you will know the reason for the names and the story of the founders of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland and America. Cathy Walsh is working on a multimedia project about the “Sisters of Mercy and their long relationship with Searles Castle.” She is seeking copies of photos of the sisters at the castle and if anybody in town might have any, I would be glad to forward them to her or provide you with her contact information.


Windham Life and Time – September 18, 2019

Granite State Grove

A large picnic gathering with everyone in their finest attire at Granite State Grove

A rare photograph of the grove taken from the boat docks on the lake.

Rural Oasis updated Leonard Morrison’s Windham History and was written by a committee. The effort was actually very effective with various committee members researching and writing their sections. I was in high school and I was to write about Canobie Lake and “Granite State Grove,” which luckily had quite a bit of coverage by Will Harris in his columns from the late 1800’s. It took quite a bit of imagination to bring the old grove back to life in words, since there were so few pictures of the place. All we had for Rural Oasis was an old menu. Over the years, I came across one photo of a picnic at the grove and a couple of postcard views. Recently, David Demers and Michael Mazalewski were kind enough to provide me with some copies of old photographs to share, that added  much more detail to the faded memories of the place.  From Rural Oasis:  “Nearly fifty years before Canobie Lake Park’s conception, Windham’s amusement park, Granite State Grove, was providing a beautiful recreational area for the general public…” Canobie Lake Grove operated under various names such Dow’s Grove and as Policy Pond Grove when it opened in 1850. Abel Dow saw the most success after the Boston and Maine Railroad added a stop at Canobie Lake Station just down the road.

The boat-dock and a building in the grove. (Demers-Mazalewski)

  “…A refreshing swim in the lake began the day (the lake was not closed to swimming until 1903.) At the grove you could enjoy bowling alleys, a shooting alley, (yes its what it sounds like), a roller skating rink or you could “hire a boat late in the afternoon for a leisurely row around the lake.” The Dow’s had a restaurant at the grove that in 1892 offered upscale dishes such as Woodcock on toast, lobster salad and Boiled salmon and fresh peas.  The dance hall was built in 1885 and attracted the headliners of the day. The beautiful house built by Mr. William Smith in 1867 still stands on the property on the corner of Range Road and North Policy Street. The grove operated for almost 60 years until it went up in flames on July 21, 1909.


Windham Life and Times – October 4, 2019

Nutfield 300

A Maine Indian from the Norridgewock tribe with a scalp.

Jamie Cochran Indian Captive

The first section below is taken from the History of Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell, Maine, by George Wheeler.  The next accounts are from John Gyles and John Wentworth concerning the exploits of James Cochran and are contemporaneous with his captivity by the Eastern Indians. It is important to remember that Cochran was just sixteen years old at the time of his captivity. His mother had a dream that he was killed and scalped by the Indians prior to his being taken. Scalping was practiced by both the Indians who used them as proof in order to receive their bounty from the French and the English, in order to receive their bounty from the government in Massachusetts. Bounties on scalps were quite large, making the practice quite worth the gruesome effort.  “This attack upon the settlement at Brunswick is supposed to have been specially in in retaliation for that upon Norridgewock, the preceding year, by Colonel Westbrook.” (He had killed and captured several Indians there and burned the village and church to the ground.)

“No further fighting is known to have occurred in this vicinity until 1725. On April 13th of that year two Indians captured a man belonging to the garrison at Maquoit, named James Cochran, about eighteen years of age. He was on the marshes in pursuit of fowl when he was surprised by two Indians. He was pinioned, taken to the carrying-place, put in a canoe, and carried up to Ten-Mile Falls. There the Indians made their arrangements for the night. A fire was made and supper prepared. Cochran expected all this time he would be killed when the savages met some of their companions, and determined, in consequence, to make his escape, if possible. The second night his bonds were removed and he was placed between the two Indians to sleep. Each of the savages slept with his hatchet under his head and his gun by his side. Cochran feigned sleep, while in reality he watched every movement. As soon as he found his captors asleep he rose up. This movement awakened one of them, who, seeing their prisoner suffering from cold and endeavoring to warm himself went to sleep again. When all was again quiet, Cochran took the hatchet from under the head of the one who had waked, and killed him instantly. He killed the other as he was getting up. He then scalped them both, took both, took their guns and hatchets, and went down the river in great haste, fearing lest he should meet their companions. In fording the river on the way, he lost a gun and one of the scalps. When he arrived opposite the fort, he shouted, and a boat was sent across for him. He narrated his adventure to Captain Gyles, and some men were sent up river, who found the bodies of the dead Indians, and also their canoe which they brought back. He was rewarded for his bravery and promoted in rank.


Letter from Co John Wentworth.

Fre. Portsmouth April 21th, 1725.

“Yesterday was with me a young man, who is a Soulder in Your Servis by Cocharain An Ireish lad, Two Indians Took him at Maquoite and carried him up Abroscogen river a Day & a halfe Journy. The Second Night, this Cocharam (sic. Cochran) found The Indians fast asleep, went around em feeling for a hatchet, at length found one with which he Dispachrd em boath & has brought away there Scalps, but makes the Story more Manly, this Cocharam lost one of his Scalps in his March home so that when he came to Our Garrison he got three men more of his minde and went up to the place which they Judge Neer forty Miles from Mequoite, and there found the Indians as he had Saide, So they Took Another part of his Scalp and brings with, I Sent them Down Yesterday in Order to get a passage to Boston, where I hope You will See him this Evening. It was a Manly Action and doubt not but You will reward Accordingly, but in these cases our hands are Tied up, which is very greaveious to me. I think Such actions should be bountifully rewarded, it would Animate our Captives and put em upon Desperate attempts which would Discourage our Enemies…”


May it Pleas your Honour,

April 15, 1725. This Day a soldiar taken from Maquaitt Made his Escape to this Garrison, who informs me yet he was taken by two Indians ye 13 Currant, one spake good English & asked him many questions Particuler Concarning myself & this fort, he being well acquainted & told him he kil’d Moses Eaton & a negro & an English Man at Black Point, & he tould him yet six Indians wear now gon towards falmouth to kill & take, and yet our Gentlemen Commitionars wear Return’d from Canaday and yet ye Indians wear Resolved for war, & yet many Indians & Mohewks would be Down this summer to Destroy ye English & their Cattle, and now their wear 50 or 60 Indians with a friar at Narangawock, & several Indians at a Village up this River (Part of his Discours I take to be french Aier, tho My humble opinion is as I mention in my mean Lines to your Honour, December 12: 1724 Date) the second night after ye Presonar was taken, ye about said 2 Indians after hunting & killing several beauer & authers* in ye Evening they being tir’d, then, Camp* about 15 or 20 mile up this River above our fort, and when found on sleep, ye youth James Cochron ye Prisonar Rise & nockt them bouth in ye head, & took of their sculpt, one he brought to this Garrison, ye other Lost by yr way, and a fm gun in a small River Palling over. I adis’d ye Presonar to give a full accompt of to ye Colenel by ye furst — he being now much tired, I have also Rate again to ye Cololonel of affears since ye Presonar Came in, I thought also to send to Captian Heath for Men, to go up & secure ye Canew & anthers. Left with ye Corps of, but it being Difucult sending to Ritchmond, I thought it Proper to mustar a few hands of my Little number & from maquaitt, to Prevent ye anther Indians  getting ye Plunder. April 18th  this Day our People Went up ye River to Vew ye Indians Corps & bring of ye Plunder, and if any further Discovery.

April 17″‘, then Return’d, but no furthir Discoury; they brought of ye anther gun hatchets, knives & stone; ye Canew brought ye auther sculp, skins etc. in all to ye Value of 6 or 8 Pounds. I have often Prayed for a Reinforcement of men to this Garrison to scout & ambush this River & anther Places Which Depending on anthers for it. I now renew my humble Request for your Honours feauer to this Garrison.

Fort George.

April 16th 1725.

I am your honours, Most Dutyfull servant John Gyles.


Windham Life and Times – September 27, 2019

Nutfield 300

Jamie Cochran: The Indian Captive

This week I am presenting the poem, “Jamie Cochran: The Indian Captive” by Robert Dinsmoor, The Rustic Bard. Next week, I will follow up with the actual accounts of his exploits, for Colonel Westbrook’s Letters, which were recorded at the time that this event happened. This line of the Cochran family left Maine and settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire, among the Scotch-Irish community there.

Give ear, my friends, and let me here relate
A tale which now appears of ancient date.
The hero of my tale is Indian Jamie,
His history I’ll give lest you should blame me.
In Ulster Province, Erin’s northern strand,
Five shiploads joined to leave that far off land.
They had their ministers to pray and preach
These twenty families embarked in each.
Here I would note and have it understood,
Those emigrants were not Hibernian blood,
But sturdy Scotsmen true, whose fathers fled
From Argyleshire, where Protestants had bled
In days of Stuart Charles and James second,
Where persecution was a virtue reckoned.
They found a shelter on the Irish shore
In Ulster, not a century before.
Four of those ships at Boston harbor landed;
The fifth, by chance, at Casco Bay was stranded.

*A tale of 1728; occurrences of 170 years ago, and
narrated by the “Rustic Bard” Feb. 28, 1833, 105 years
after they took place

But there those stout old Scotsmen knelt and sang
Jehovah’s praise till sea and desert rang.
There they gave up, in one united prayer,
Themselves and children to th’ Almighty’s care.
In seventeen hundred eighteen, August fourth,
Our ancestors received their freedom’s birth.
Some came to Nutfield, since called Londonderry,
The others chose just where they were to tarry.
And one of them was of the Cochran name,
Of no small note, who with those settlers came.
On the main land this father settled down,
The place is now called Brunswick of renown.
From Bowdoin College, a few rods is seen
The caved-in cellar where his house had been.
Where famed McKeen* his pupils led,
And by his lore profound made science spread.
The Cochran’s eldest son was James,
But eight years old, which now our notice claims.
When Jamie’s blood had felt the heat
Of sixteen summers, high his pulses beat.
He then from bears could guard his father’s corn,
Armed with his gun, shot-bag, and powder horn.
The howling wolf that he was wont to hear
And catamount made music to his ear.

* Rev. Joseph McKeen, D. D., of Londonderry, N. H.,
an old schoolmaster of Robert Dinsmoor, as early as
1775 (see “The Sleepy Shepherd”), who first presided as
President over Bowdoin College, at Brunswick, Maine,
which stood only a few rods from ” the caved-in cellar”
of the old Cochran home of 1728.

The sly marauding bear at dead of night
Came like a thief who likes to shun the light;
The thrifty hills he levelled with his paw,
Then stretching down, soon filled his hungry maw.
Jamie discerned the beast, as moping there,
He hobbled off to loiter in his den.
His proper course not far from Jamie led,
Whose gun was leveled at the felon’s head,
Then sprung the lock his father oft had fired;
The shot was fatal, and the thief expired.
As deeds of valor add to courage strength,
So this young hero proved it out at length.
Like that young Hebrew stripling, when he slew
A bear and lion — more courageous grew
And fearless, fought and killed Goliath too.
When stretched upon his bed of straw
He, in his dream, an awful vision saw:
A forest wild, extending far and wide,
Where beasts of all descriptions seek to hide;
And now and then upon his ear there fell
A shriek terrific and a hideous yell.
But all at once, to close the scene,
A fiend, like man of dark and ghastly mien,
Armed with a hatchet, and a knife and gun,
Ten more, armed like him, followed on the run.
Swiftly they sped their way, and passed him by,
“But oh! Alas! He heard an infant cry.
Horror now seized our youth, and in his dream
He surely thought he heard his mother scream.
Her bitter cries he could distinctly hear,
“My Jamie’s lost, my Jamie’s lost, I fear.”
At this he woke, for all did real seem,
And found the whole a fleeting dream.
Then to their labor all by order went,
But Jamie was on special errand sent,
O’er hills and fens he ne’er had seen before,
With musket armed and ammunition store;
His mother placed a knapsack on his back,
With things convenient, not a cumbrous pack.
He through the marshes sought his destined creek
Of which he’d heard the Indian hunters speak.
At length he found the little rolling river,
Which, when he forded, scarcely made him shiver,
And soon Magusit bay began to quiver.
A flock of ducks, through the thick air above,
With whistling wings, all lighted in a cove
Within short distance; Jamie cocked his gun
And made towards his game upon the run.
His fire was true, and plainly he could tell
Some lay dead, and others wounded fell.
He left his musket on the shore,
His powder horn, shot-bag, and all his store;
With ducks and drakes his knapsack soon was filled,
No matter then, how many he had killed.
With success flushed he turned toward the shore
And lo! He saw an armed Sagamore
Take up his gun, powder horn, and shot;
Ten Indian warriors stood there on the spot.
Our hero, now advancing near the shore,
Could recognize the ancient Sagamore,
The very phiz he’d often seen before
When hunger drove him to his father’s door.
James reverently approached him from the strand,
Bowed, called him father, offered him his hand,
And humbly asked him to give back his gun.
He frowned ; “Me no your father, you no be my son.”
In vain he plead, and urged his parent’s sorrow,
Said he’d go back, and come again tomorrow.
” No, me no trust you,” was the short reply,
” You no come back, you white men all will lie.
You shoot our bears, the Indians want their grease,
You shoot our ducks, and carry off our geese;
You kill our moose and deer, no heed our speeches,
Eat up their flesh and wear their skins for breeches;
You take our fish, and carry off our clams,
Indian no cross great water to catch your lambs;
You no be here again, you great pappoose,
To shoot our ducks and carry off our goose,
You be our captive now, yourself the cause,
Your life be forfeit, by our Indian laws;
We take you Canada*, and there you sell,

* The Indians, often took the colonists to the French in
Canada, who would buy the captives, or pay for the
scalps of the English colonists, as France was often at war with England.

But we no know, your scalp may do as well.”
Our hero, fixed as Indian captives are
Whom they take prisoners in a time of war,
Was placed between two warriors armed as guard,
Who both seemed proud that they this honor shared.
The old grey Sachem, Tested with command,
Gave order, “March to Canada,” offhand,
But bade all “steer for the great waterfall,
For at the Wigwam there we all must call,
Who knows but there we’ll have more English boys
To make us rich and to increase our joys.”
Now Jamie tried his masters to obey,
Nor made the least attempt to run away.
He seemed to place his life in their protection,
And by hypocrisy gained their affection.
As they grew intimate, he seemed contented ;
They lived like brothers when they got acquainted.
But, faithful to their charge, kept him in sight,
And made him sleep between them every night.
Such confidence they in their prisoner put,
He access had to all within their hut ;
To keep their guns and ammunition dry,
He careful was to set or lay them by.
And Jamie’s mind absorbed in deep reflection,
Besought his father’s God for his protection.
And then he thought on his prophetic dream,
Where, ominous, he heard his mother scream ;
In desert wild, of all his friends forsaken,
He was the infant that was taken.
like bees attracted to their wonted hive,
Straight as a line they to their hut arrive.
They gathered sticks and soon struck up a fire,
And fixed the wigwam as they did desire.
But Jamie’s mind on his escape was bent,
That to accomplish was his whole intent.
While here and there the busy Indians run,
They mind him not, till he secures each gun ;
And while he did their other weapons hide
He placed a hatchet slyly by his side.
It was his part to give the fire fuel,
Nor did they think that Jamie’s heart was cruel.
What Sachem told him he remembered still,
” We take you Canada, and there you sell,
But we no know, your scalp may do as well.”
“ My God,” said Jamie, ” must this be my doom
Unless that I an awful act assume ?
I am compelled the adage old to try,
“To desperate cases, desperate means apply.*
The hour is come, defenseless now they lie,
The blows I strike must kill them or I die.”
When rising up to give the fatal stroke,
By accident a small dry stick he broke.
And when it snapped, one of the Indians woke,
And asked him, what he wanted. Jamie said,
‘*’ The fire wants fuel “; the stick he on it laid,
Then down he laid as if to rest the better.
The Indian thought that nothing was the matter,
And fell asleep more soundly than before,
And soon they both began to wheeze and snore.
Again he rose while they were sleeping sound,
And at one blow killed one upon the ground;
Then for the other drew a stroke far bolder,
But missed his head, and hit him on the shoulder.
The Indian then arising to his feet
In fearful rage did Jamie’s hatchet meet,
Which soon dispatched him, there he fell
Nor knew not then who hurt him nor could tell.
Our hero then soon left this dire abode
And frantic ran some miles, nor sought a road;
How far he’d gotten from the Indian hut,
He could not tell, as he was light of foot.
His mind, still frenzied, sometimes reasoned well;
He said, “I die, sure as those Indians fell,
I cannot live, deprived of all subsistence,
What means have I to keep me in existence?
What have I gained, if I must die of hunger?
I must go back, I’ll think upon’t no longer.
There’s guns and hatchets, and some good provision
Placed in my knapsack, with some ammunition.”
Then back he went, as fast as he could go,
And found some light, although the fire was low,
He roused it up. There the two Indians lay ;
He scalped them both, and bore their spoil away.
A load for him packed up as Indians do,
And homeward then he did his course pursue.
But a small river running cross his way
Caused him to stop and make a short delay.
Then on the river’s brink he soon espied
A tall slim pine, to which he soon applied
The Indian’s hatchet to its body well,
Full soon the tree across the water fell.
With cautious hands and feet on it he crossed,
But there by chance an Indian gun he lost.
He marked the place it in the water fell,
Went back and got it, some the story tell.
But scarcely had he gotten safely o’er
He saw the Indians on the other shore.
The forest hid him from their savage sight,
And they despaired to catch him in the night.
Soon Jamie found the Androscoggin’s tide*,
Which led him, safely as a faithful guide,
To George’s fort , near which his father dwelt,
And oh ! what joy to see’t our hero felt.
But when he hailed it, this poor Scottish boy
Was taken for an Indian false decoy.
In quest of food, he had no need to roam,
His pack supplied him to his father’s home,
Where parents mourned as dead their favorite boy.
There they embraced him with ecstatic joy.

* Androscoggin river.

Gladly they saw the trophies he had won,
While he returned the knapsack and the gun.
The Indian scalps proved Jamie’s victory grand,
As did Goliath’s head in David’s hand.