Windham Life and Times – May 18, 2018

Had Kin in Every U.S. War

Mrs. Henry Gilson | July 28, 1942

Mrs. Gilson is shown above knitting for the Red Cross during World War II. She and her husband purchased the J.C. Armstrong farm in 1898. It is pictured above and below and was located on Haverhill Road between the Center and West Windham. She was the librarian at Nesmith Library from 1922 until 1943. She was born in 1869 and died in 1950.

    Manchester Union Leader:  “Windham, July 27.— A remarkable family war record—dating back to the Revolution— is possessed by Mrs. Henry Y. Gilson of this 200-year-old town. Relatives have taken part in practically every war in which this country has been engaged since its birth, a fact of which she is duly proud but quite modest.”

“Two great, great grandfathers of Mrs. Gilson participated in the famed Boston tea party. They were Joseph Shed and William Wheeler, both of whom are buried in Tomb 69, Granary burying ground, near Park Street church, Boston, in the same cemetery with Paul Revere. Some of the colonist masquerading as Indians for this party changed their clothes in the general store of Mr. Shed in Boston. Two other great, great grandfathers served as captains in the war with Britain, Caleb Kimball and Samuel Carr.”

“Lorenzo B, Kimball, father of Mrs. Gilson served in the Civil war, along with two of her uncles, William H. Shed, who died a war prisoner, and Henry Fargo. The local woman’s husband, who died six years ago, was a first lieutenant in the Spanish-American War, Two of his brothers, and a brother-in-law, also took part in that conflict, besides several cousins. The trio were Howard A. Gilson, now in Chelsea, Mass., veteran’s hospital, recovering from a major operation; Valentine E. Gilson, who later served as a color guard for a Connecticut governor, and died two years ago; and Louis Winchenbach of Lexington Mass. “

“A son of Mrs. Gilson, Henry E. Gilson of Sunapee, was a fireman in the U.S. Navy in the First World War, and is now endeavoring to enlist in this war. A son-in-law, Paul B. Evans of Windham, also saw service in the European battle, enlisting at the age of 18. A nephew of Mrs. Gilson, Frederick F. Harmon, a brigade runner, was killed in the Argonne engagement.”

“A grandson Paul G. Evans, 19, enlisted in the U.S. Navy last January and is stationed at Boston as a second class seaman. Another grandson, Robert W. Evans, has tried twice to enlist in the Navy, but was rejected because of a slight ear ailment. He has been taking regular treatment, however, and when he made his second try last Thursday was told to come back a week later and there would be no doubt about his acceptance.”

“Mrs. Gilson is also doing her part in civilian defense activities. She serves at the local report center two afternoons weekly and does knitting for the Red Cross. She has been the librarian of the Nesmith Public Library for 20 years.”

She has belonged to the Molly Reid chapter D.A.R., of Derry for more than 25 years, and is past president of the Windham Woman’s club. She is a trustee of the Windham Presbyterian church and holds membership in Windham grange and Mizpah lodge of Derry.”


Windham Life and Times – April 27, 2018

Dunkan Beach

George Dunkley purchased this property on Cobbett’s Pond in the 1930’s and set about operating a public bathing beach here.  It was said that Mr. Dunkley had intended the name to be Dunkin Beach like the doughnut chain, but the sign maker made a mistake so the name became Dunkan Beach instead. He built a refreshment stand selling hot-dogs, soft drinks and ice cream. Later a pavilion was added with pinball machines, a jukebox and bowling alleys. “It was rumored that during the early forties there were one armed bandits housed in the boat house.” Speaking of boathouses, the whole east end of Cobbett’s Pond used to be covered with small, wooden, black and white row boats, for a far as the eye could see, many crammed with people and nearly capsizing.  Of course, Dunkan Beach was located where Castleton is today.


Windham Life and Times – April 13, 2018

Windham Junction

The Boston and Maine Railroad Station at Windham Junction circa 1930

There was a time in New Hampshire, in the late 1800’s, when the state government was controlled and did the bidding of the Boston and Maine Railroad. They picked the candidates and dictated many of the important decisions. By 1930, when this photograph was taken, the glory days of the B & M Railroad were long over. Describing the “Depot” about that time, Richard Hoisington says in the B&M Bulletin that, “In 1927, the general store and its attached buildings were destroyed in a spectacular fire that threatened other buildings in the junction area. After the fire, Postmaster Clyde began selling groceries and before long he installed gasoline pumps as well. Although his store inventory was limited, it is said that ‘if he didn’t stock it, he could get it for you.’ Clyde was postmaster until 1945 when the store was closed and eventually torn down in 1965. Effective September 14, 1935, the Windham station agency was closed and the sale of tickets discontinued. The few passengers who wished to entrain at Windham could buy their tickets from the conductor. Passenger service on the Manchester and Lawrence Branch was reduced to a single round trip daily prior to World War II. Weekday trains consisted of a gas-electric car and a trailer.  A K-7 Consolidation powered Sunday trains. The last scheduled passenger train, NO. 1511, consisting of gas-electric No. 182, was operated July 10, 1953 by conductor Harold Leavitt, Engineer John Bryant and Baggageman, Bernard Walls.”


Windham Life and Times – April 6, 2018

Anderson Station

Anderson Station was located in West Windham. It was originally built in conjunction with the Nashua & Rochester Railroad. Trains started running in 1874. This WN&R Railroad line was sold to the Boston and Maine Railroad June 1911. This picture is a witness to the coming end of the line. The last train, No 827, was operated by conductor Howard Andrews and Engineer Henry Bliss on March 3, 1934. The station was named for William Anderson a notable West Windham resident.


Windham Life and Times – March 30, 2018

The Dam on Golden Brook

I’ve had this old glass plate negative hanging around and I finally got around to scanning it and adjusting the exposure to see what I had. I knew it was a dam but not where. At first, I thought it was the dam at Cobbett’s Pond, but there are differences that ruled it out. Eventually, a photograph by Baldwin Coolidge solved the mystery. His photograph of the mill on Golden Brook Road, clearly shows the dam. Of course, the same people who built this dam, would have also built the dam on Cobbett’s Pond, since they owned the water from the lake which was used to power the mill.  The only unsolved mystery now; who is the gentleman standing by the sluiceway?

Windham Life and Times – March 23, 2018

Happy Spring

Spring Lambs at Johnson’s Farm

It may not feel like it yet, but Spring officially started, March 20th, on the vernal equinox.  What is the vernal equinox? It is the date  in the northern hemisphere when day and night last about the same 12 hours. The word “vernal” comes from the Latin word for Spring while “equinox”  literally means equal night, as both day and night last an equal time. This is the day that the sun shines directly on the earth’s equator because the earth’s axis is exactly perpendicular to the sun’s rays. The equinox is the time of new beginnings, birth and fresh starts. In the photograph the spring lambs have just been born on Johnson’s Farm. In the background you can see the huge barn which once  stood on what is known today as the Chadwick Farm. Open fields climb to the top of both Jenny’s and Dinsmore Hill.


Windham Life and Times – February 23, 2018

Windham Deserters in the Civil War

As somebody who has never donned the uniform or faced the fire of an enemy in battle, I make no judgment one way or another about the large number of deserters among the rolls of Windham men who fought in the Civil War. However, the number of deserters in Morrison’s History of Windham was quite astonishing to me. This led me to want to find out more about desertion during the War of Rebellion.

   Come to find out, the problem of desertion was widespread among both the southern and northern troops.  Mark A. Weitz in Desertion, Cowardice and Punishment says, “…the two sides put about three million men in the field during the course of the four-year conflict. Historians concede that exact numbers are unattainable, but estimates of total Confederates under arms is between 800,000 and 1,200,000. The Union army is estimated to have been slightly over 2 million men. Drawn from every corner of America, both armies were overwhelmingly volunteer forces comprised of men unfamiliar with war and the rigors of military life. Thus, in addition to the logistical challenges of training and equipping these armies, military and civilian officials faced the challenge of keeping the army intact, and throughout the war desertion posed a problem for both sides.”

“Defined as leaving the military with the intent not to return, desertion differs from cowardice. Cowardice in the civil war was defined as deserting in the face of the enemy. While deserters numbered in the hundreds of thousands, deserting in the face of the enemy was far less common a crime, or at least not as prominent in the records that survive…To be sure, the image of Henry Fleming fleeing the battlefield in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, had its basis in historical fact and undoubtedly occurred …Desertion proved a far more difficult problem for both sides. Official figures show slightly over 103,000 Confederate soldiers and over 200,000


     Thomas Crook, bounty $175. 3 years; Mustered Dec. 23, 1863; ‘Not officially accounted for.’

     John Inshaw, substitute, Co. I, 3 years, mustered in August 23, 1864; deserted at Petersburg Va., October 10, 1864; regained from desertion Jan. 11, 1865; discharged sentence of G.C.M. March 24, 1865.

     James Brown, bounty $175, 3 years, mustered in Dec. 22, 1863; supposed to have deserted en route to regiment.

     Asa Bean, bounty $200, 3 years, Co. C, mustered in Sept. 19, 1862; deserted at Aquia Creek, Va., Feb. 7, 1863.

George W. Coburn, bounty $200, 3 years; mustered in Sept. 19, 1862; wounded Dec. 13, 1862; deserted Feb. 9, 1863; apprehended Sept. 13, 1864; returned to Co. January 18, 1865; sentenced by G.C.M. to forfeit all pay and allowances due, to make good time lost by desertion, and to forfeit ten dollars per month of monthly pay for 18 months; transferred to 2nd N.H. Vols., June 21, 1865.

Reuben O. Phillips, bounty $200, Co. C. 3 years; mustered  in Sept. 19, 1863; deserted at Aquia Creek, Va., Feb. 7, 1863.

Timothy Norris, bounty $200, Co. G, mustered in Oct. 18, 1862; deserted.

Union soldiers deserted, with some estimates as high as 280,000… Men deserted for a variety of reasons, many of which were common to both sides. The rigors or military life, poor food, inadequate clothing, homesickness, and concern for loved ones at home all drove men to desert… Many soldiers saw their enlistment as contractual in nature and any perception that the government was not living up to its end of the bargain justified their departure. This reliance on the government’s promise as a reason to desert would prove particularly troublesome for the Confederacy where soldiers believed their commitment to fight was based in part on the promise that their families would be taken care of in their absence.

“…Desertion from the Union army began early in the war and continued to some degree throughout the conflict. Early enlistments were for three months, and volunteers flocked to the cause believing the rebellion would be suppressed in short order. When it became clear that subduing the Confederacy would be a much more arduous task, particularly in light of Union defeats in July, August, and October of 1861, the patriotic fervor that drove enlistment in the first months of the war began to wane and with it the commitment of some men to the cause. However, one aspect of enlistment unique to the Union army clearly contributed to desertion and appealed to men who never intended to remain in the service. The Union paid bounties, or enlistment bonuses for new recruits, often as much as $300.00. Men enlisted, collected their bounty, and then deserted. Thereafter, a deserter re-enlisted under a different name and at a different place, collected another bounty, and then deserted again. The Union Army paid privates an average salary of $13 per month. A $300 bounty amounted to almost twice a private’s annual salary and a man willing to test the bounty system