Windham Life and Times – March 2, 2018

Cutting Ice at Community Beach

Mimie Pearse Cianciulli loaned me these family pictures many years ago and I believe I posted them in the Windham Independent previously. They are very interesting in that they show the shore and cottages along First Street near Community Beach sometime between 1929 and 1933. The people in the photograph were members of the Pearse and Perry families. They were cutting ice to put in the ice house to use for refrigeration the following  summer. It seems as much fun as work!


Windham Life and Times – March 31, 2017

Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company

Herman Cassens and one of his Eastern Illustrating “real photo” postcards of Cobbett’s Pond in Windham.

Historic Glass Plate Images of Windham

You will remember this image that was in last week’s column. In looking at the postcard, I noticed that the name of the publishing company was imprinted on the back. Eastern Illustrating Company of Belfast, Maine. A little research online lead me to the Penobscot Marine Museum, where the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company collection is housed. There are literally tens of thousands of historic images in the collection. You can imagine my excitement as I viewed the forty or so photographs of Windham.

I spoke to Kevin Johnson, photographic archivist at the museum who told me the history of Eastern Illustrating and his involvement with the collection. The glass plates were almost lost in a flood! The museum gave me permission to present the Windham photographs to you in my Windham News column and in my blog. I am sure you’ll enjoy seeing these photographs as much as I did.

The history of the Eastern Illustrating is very interesting and what is presented here is from the Penobscot Marine Museum’s web-site. “In 1909, R. Herman Cassens, a young entrepreneur, started a postcard company, the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company, in the mid-coast town of Belfast, Maine. Postcards have always been a popular item, especially for travelers, but at the turn of the century they were the absolute rage.”

“At a time when the telephone was not an integral part of the American household and email was still nearly a century away, postcards provided both a visual and written link, whether from across town or across the country. Cassens saw a niche between personal/amateur postcards and the mass-produced postcards available in the bigger cities. He had a dream of “Photographing the Transcontinental Trail–Maine to California,” focusing on small rural towns and villages. He and his small crew of photographers traveled through rural New England and New York focusing their lenses on locally known landmarks, street scenes, country stores and businesses, events and people. The exposed glass plate negatives were sent back to the ‘factory’ in Belfast where they were processed, printed and sent back to the general stores for sale at ‘2 for 5 cents.’ ”

“Cassens sold his business in 1947 and died in 1948. Though his dream of photographing all 48 states was not realized, his company did manage to make over 40,000 glass plate negatives of New England and New York between 1909 and 1947. The images are fascinating on many levels. They take their viewers back in time to when the roads were still dirt, horse drawn carriages outnumbered cars, coastlines were still undeveloped and elms lined the streets.” You can learn more about how the collection ended up at the Penobscot Marine Museum by following this link: The museum is looking for donations for its efforts in restoring and publishing these and other photographs.

The good news is that for anybody who might be interested, the Penobscot Marine Museum will make high resolution prints on Fine Art paper, with archival pigment inks. So in the coming weeks, if you see a Windham scene that you might want to enjoy hanging on your wall, you can purchase it at the Their collection also features historic photographs of towns throughout New England and New York. I saw beautiful views of Big Island Pond in Derry, Arlington Pond Reservoir and of the town of Salem while doing my research. Print sizes range from 8” x 10” to 24” x 30.”

I can’t wait to share these photographs with you, my loyal readers. In the coming weeks, you’ll see  many fascinating scenes of Windham past.

You can learn more about the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company and its photographic archive at:

Purchase the North by Northeastern DVD featuring the photographs of the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company.

Donate to help preserve the photograph collections of the Penobscot Marine Museum.

Browse the Penobscot Marine Museum Photograph Collection.

Purchase Maine On Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography by author Kevin Johnson


Windham Life and Time – March 9, 2017

100 Years Ago In Windham

The Upham Cottage on Left. North Shore Road, Cobbett’s Pond

Benjamin N. Upham Drops Dead

“WINDHAM, March 13, 1917— Benjamin N. Upham, of Dorchester, Mass., who has a summer cottage on Cobbett’s Pond, in which he took great interest, dropped dead on the street near his home in the storm of Monday evening, the 5th. He had long been connected with the Youth’s Companion, having charge of the premium department. Which, was quite a specialty with this popular paper. For some years, Mr. Upham was a deacon in the Ruggles Street Baptist Church  in Boston. He was a man whom it was good to know.” W.S. Harris 

Francis and Edward Bellamy

Benjamin Upham’s brother James, had a large role in the creation of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Many patriots today, might be interested to know that, “The Pledge,” was written in 1892, by Francis Bellamy, a former Baptist minister, and an employee at the Youth’s Companion. (There has been a long running historical debate about who actually wrote “The Pledge,” with Upham’s family providing evidence that he actually did. However, today the authorship of the pledge is generally ascribed to Bellamy.) Both Bellamy and Upham were  “Christian Socialists.” Before joining the Youth’s Companion, Francis “was forced out of his Boston church for his socialist sermons, including topics like ‘Jesus the Socialist’ and a series of sermons on ‘The Socialism of the Primitive Church.’ ” Edward Bellamy, was Francis Bellamy’s cousin and also a socialist, who wrote Looking Backward, a utopian novel set in the far distant year 2000. “Bellamy’s vision sees the social ills of society cured by making America into a regimented worker’s paradise where everyone has equal incomes, and men are drafted into the country’s industrial army at the age of 21, serving jobs assigned by the state. Bellamy used the term “Nationalism” rather than “Socialism” as the descriptor of his governmental vision. He made this calculated move, to prevent a negative impact on sales of his novel and to better influence political ideas. Bellamy’s book inspired a political movement of “Nationalists Clubs,” and Francis Bellamy, author of “The Pledge,” was a founding member in Boston.      “The Pledge” would have been seen as an anathema to the founders of America, who felt that all of the rights of the government, only had legitimacy when they flowed from the rights of the individual, not the other way around.

    So where does James Upham fit in the picture? It was his job to generate revenue through the sale of premiums at the Youth’s Companion. According to Wikipedia, “In 1891, Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of the Youth’s Companion, hired Bellamy to work with Ford’s nephew James B. Upham in the magazine’s premium department. In 1888, the Youth’s Companion had begun a campaign to sell American flags to public schools as a premium to solicit subscriptions. For Upham and Bellamy, the flag promotion was more than merely a business move; under their influence, the Youth’s Companion became a fervent supporter of the schoolhouse flag movement, which aimed to place a flag above every school in the nation. Four years later, by 1892, the magazine had sold American flags to approximately 26,000 schools. By this time the market was slowing for flags, but was not yet saturated.  In 1892, Upham had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas to further bolster the schoolhouse flag movement.

The magazine called for a national Columbian Public School Celebration to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition. A flag salute was a part of the official program for the Columbus Day celebration to be held in schools all over America.”

The Pledge was published in the September 8, 1892, issue of the magazine, and immediately put to use in the campaign. Bellamy went to speak to a national meeting of school superintendents to promote the celebration; the convention liked the idea and selected a committee of leading educators to implement the program, including the immediate past president of the National Education Association. Bellamy was selected as the chair. Having received the official blessing of educators, Bellamy’s committee now had the task of spreading the word across the nation and of designing an official program for schools to follow on the day of national celebration. He structured the program around a flag-raising ceremony and his pledge.”

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Students saying the “pledge” with the “Bellamy salute,” which looks very similar to the NAZI salute.

“For years the Pledge was accompanied with the “Bellamy salute,” a gesture invented by The Youth Companion’s marketing man, James B. Upham. In Bellamy’s own recollection, upon reading the pledge for the first time, Upham had snapped his heels together, raised his arm at half mast, and enthusiastically roared his support.” Of course, with the similarity to the NAZI salute, American politicians opted to change the salute to the more politically correct, hand over the heart, in 1942.

Benjamin Upham’s cottage was located on the North Shore on land leased from William Harris.  James Upham died in 1905, but his children visited the cottage. Both James Upham and Benjamin Upham worked in the premium department of the “Youth’s Companion.”

Indian Rock Road, Windham NH

Morrison Family Homestead

Morrison Family Homestead

The changes on Route 111 and Interstate 93 in Windham NH have totally transformed the area which was composed of Dinsmoor Hill and Indian Rock Road. At the turn of the twentieth century, this scenic country road traversed some incredibly beautiful scenery. Beginning at it’s intersection with Range Road, Indian Rock Road, where the Morrison family homestead once stood, it began a decent toward Cobbett’s Pond in the Valley below. Along the way, this scenic road passed hills, farms and the shores of a truly panoramic lakes-shore view. Much of the land along the road was part of the Dinsmore Family farm.

Searles Castle, Windham NH, Main Gate

Searles Castle, Windham NH, Main Gate

"Behind the Walls" View of Searles Castle

“Behind the Walls” View of Searles Castle

The biggest change along Indian Rock Road, at the beginning of the twentieth century, was the construction of Searles Castle. Ponds were dug, walls were built and the castle itself could be seen rising on the distant hillside. The main feature a traveler along the road would have noticed would have been the gate-house that was built right on the road. At this time , the road passed behind where Citizens Bank is located today. The road was moved when Route 111 was reconstructed by the state of NH in the 1950’s.

Dinsmore Farm and Dinsmoor's Hill in Windham NH (John H. Dinsmore pictured

Dinsmore Farm and Dinsmoor’s Hill in Windham NH (John H. Dinsmore pictured)

Continuing along Indian Rock Road, you would have come to the John H. Dinsmore farm. The road actually ran between the barn an the house, where the horse and carriage are shown in the photograph above. When Route 111 was rebuilt in the 1950’s this stretch of Indian Rock Road became Wyman Road where the Windham Exxon was located. Today the southbound exit ramps pass just about where the house was located. The road shown veering to the right was county road which was a straight shot to Windham Depot. When Interstate 93 was built it was discontinued except on one end, but it could still be seen, making its way in the median strip of the highway, before the most recent construction. John Dinsmore’s land ran to Cobbett’s Pond and his son George Dinsmore Sr. built a stone house on Indian Rock Road, past the farm, when he returned from Wyoming. He built the house himself, with his own hands. Across the street from the house he built a barn. The road was still dirt at the time. There would have been glimpses of the pond from the road but it would have really come into view at Dinsmore Ravine. Today you can still see it from the road near Rocky Ridge Road.

When Route 111 was rebuilt in the 1950’s this stretch of Indian Rock Road became Wyman Road, where the Windham Exxon was located. Today the southbound exit ramps pass just about where the house was located. The road shown veering to the right was County Road, which was a straight shot to Windham Depot. When Interstate 93 was built, it was discontinued except on one end, but it could still be seen, making its way, lined with stone walls, in the median strip of the highway, before the most recent construction. The picture at the upper right shows John H. Dinsmore pushing a wheelbarrow beside Indian Rock Road. County Road and Dinsmore Hill is behind him. The southbound lanes of Interstate 93 are located today, just about where the beautiful stone wall is shown in this photograph. After passing the barn, Indian Rock Road took a steep decent into a gully where a small brook ran into Cobbett’s Pond. On the left, there was a hillside, totally cleared of trees, that offered a panoramic view of Cobbett’s Pond to anyone who took the time to climb it. Today, the residences of “Granite Hill” are located there. On the water, near the brook, John Dinsmore’s son, George Dinsmore Sr., built cottages. At this time, many farmers, who owned frontage on Cobbett’s Pond were doing the same. You might want to know if these photographs make me nostalgic. Since I never knew this time or place in Windham, I do feel that something is lost but it’s not really tangible because I never experienced it. For the people of my grandfather’s generation, however, the construction of Interstate 93 changed everything

George Dinsmore Sr. built the stone house and was know for his tall tales.

George Dinsmore Sr. built the stone house and was know for his tall tales.

George Dinsmore Sr., loved to tell tall tales and his favorite character was his heroic grandmother. According to his account, the brook that crossed Indian Rock Road, near his house, was known as “Scalding Brook.” There was a reason for this rather peculiar name. Back when Mr. Dinmore’s grandmother, was in her prime, she was quite the woods-woman. The men who cleared trees in Windham had nothing on her. She would cut down massive trees and chopped wood at such an incredible rate of speed, that her double sided axes would glow red hot. The reason why the brook was called “Scalding Brook” was because Grandmother always had several red hot axes cooling in the water of the brook. In fact, the water in the brook boiled red hot constantly from the axes and the towns-people would bring their pigs there to boil the hides. Mr. Dinsmore’s grandmother would be what you would call an emancipated woman and her strength made her a legend in Windham, as well as in surrounding towns. In fact, she lived to be 104 years of age, but sadly died in child birth while digging a well. She passed away thirty feet below ground. When Grandmother was in her prime, there used to be competitions in Windham to see who could plow the most field with a team of horses. The men did their best to beat Mrs. Dinsmore but she had a maneuver that none of them could match, and for this reason, she always won the competition. When the men and their teams would reach the end of a row, they would have to take the time to get their horses turned around. Grandmother didn’t have this problem, because of her great strength, she just picked her team of horses up over her head and turned them in the row. In this manner, she always won. And of course, Mrs. Dinsmore was quite the watermelon farmer. She grew championship watermelons that were almost as big as a small houses. She grew these on Dinsmore Hill, high above the valley below. They grew so mammoth that she had to prop them up with large planks of wood. One day, she was on the hillside, hoeing weeds around her melons, when she accidentally hit one of the boards holding them in place. All of a sudden, there was a tremendous roar, as the first one, then all of the giant watermelons became dislodged and began to roll down the hill toward the valley, carrying Grandmother along with them. The poor lady would have surely drowned but she was able to grab onto a giant watermelon seed and survive. That is how Cobbett’s Pond came to be. As a great story-teller, George Dinsmore Sr., would have added more details and feigned sincerity, in order to take his listeners in, but you get the idea. The pictures show George Dinsmore Sr. and the stone house that he built by hand, early in the twentieth century. Many of you, will remember the barn that sat across the street. At left, my great-grandmother is standing in front of the stone house. Behind her, Indian Rock Road, passes over “Scalding Brook,” with John H. Dinsmore’s barn in the background. Of course, the rock shown behind her, was once located near Indian Rock. It was the chief’s chair and he used to sit in it while the members of his tribe ground corn. Grandmother, carried the stone chair on her back, and placed it where it still sits today, in front of my grandfather’s house on Indian Rock Road.

Most of us who pass along Indian Rock Road, never consider this area was for thousands of years, the home to Native American tribes. Morrison says that “the Indians of this town were of the Pawtucket nation, and derived their name from the Pawtucket Falls at Lowell, MA… Their domain included New Hampshire. Efforts were made to Christianize the Indians at Pawtucket previous to 1653, and it is not improbable that the same Indians whose wigwams were on the banks of our ponds, and whose canoes glided over our waters, taking fish therefrom, may have heard the gospel at Pawtucket (now Lowell), twelve miles away…The Indians congregated at the Falls, as it was a good place for fishing. Our Indians, confined to no permanent places of abode, of course visited these Falls, as the rushing of its waters could be distinctly heard in Windham, before they were in 1818-20, turned from their rocky bed for the Lowell factories. The last great chief of this tribe was Passaconnaway. In 1660, at a great feast and dance, he warned his people, as a dying man, not to quarrel with their English neighbors, as it would be the means of their own destruction. They left this section as a residence about 1685, but in their wanderings for fifty years after, spent much time at the Falls. After the settlement of Londonderry Colony, there is but one recorded instance of Indian cruelty to a citizen of Londonderry,—that of the killing the boy on the banks of Golden Brook in what is now Windham.”

Indian Rock and Dinsmore Ravine leading to Cobbett's Pond

Indian Rock and Dinsmore Ravine leading to Cobbett’s Pond

“In early days the Indians used to encamp on the shores of Cobbett’s’ and Policy Ponds, and many arrowheads have been found as they were turned up by plows near the shore…” I was told that there was a large agricultural settlement located in Windham, between Cobbett’s Pond and Canobie Lake. Native Americans did in fact have large settlements and open agricultural fields. Of course, the Indian grinding holes, on “Indian Rock,” prove that corn was grown by the Indians in the area. Back when Cobbett’s Pond Road was rebuilt by the state of New Hampshire, a great number of Native American implements and tools were found in the there.
So that is why there is a memorial plaque on Indian Rock. It is there to remember a forgotten people, who once lived nobly and in harmony with nature. It allows us to picture in our minds, these people sitting upon this rock, grinding their corn, as they looked out through the ravine to the shores of Cobbett’s Pond. Before Route 111 was rebuilt in the 1950’s, Indian Rock was visible from the road.

THE PLAQUE SAYS- INDIAN ROCK- “Over these rock strewn hills and through these woods the Indians roamed on their hunt for game, on these waters their canoes were launched in their quest for fish, nearby fields yielded their harvest of corn and on this rock it was ground in to meal.” This tablet erected by the Town of Windham, A.D. 1933.”

The Harris Homestead and North Shore of Cobbett's Pond

The Harris Homestead and North Shore of Cobbett’s Pond

Continuing along Indian Rock Road was the Harris Homestead which was built by the Rev. Samuel Harris in 1811. He was a beloved pastor at the Windham Presbyterian Church. His son, William Harris wrote a “Windham” column for the Exeter Newsletter from 188o though 1917. His columns and interest in Windham History have preserved much of what we know about Windham’s past.  Beginning in the late 1800’s, William Harris began a summer resort on the North Shore of Cobbett’s Pond, building several cottages and renting them out to summer tourists, by the week and month. The Harris Homestead was located where Windham Village Green is today.

Inidan Rock Road Ended in the Center of Windham

Inidan Rock Road Ended in the Center of Windham

The final section of Indian Rock Road was laid out much differently than it is today. When Route 111 was widened and straightened in the 1950’s, it was also rerouted to bypass the Center of town. Today, this bypassed section of Route 111, runs from about where “Windham Commons” is today to the current intersection with North Lowell Road. Prior to the 1950’s, Indian Rock Road, ran along what is Church Street today. It ended right in front of the Presbyterian Church, where it intersected with Lowell Road. Yes, Lowell Road, because before the bypass of the Center, there was no Lowell and North Lowell Roads, there was just Lowell Road. 1) The view looking from where the “Village Green” is today toward the “Center.” 2) The current location of the plaza where Klemm’s Bakery is located. 3) The site of “The Commons,” the wall is still there. 4) Indian Rock Road before it became Church Road. 5) Indian Rock Road running in front of the Windham Presbyterian Church. 6) The intersection of Indian Rock Road and Lowell Road. I hope you enjoyed this look back at Indian Rock Road. Within a couple of years, you will never be able to imagine that it could have looked as it did and you will also have forgotten how it looked just 10 years ago.

Indian Rock Road prior to the 1950's Reconstruction

Indian Rock Road prior to the 1950’s Reconstruction