Windham Life and Times – May 4, 2017

Eastern Illustrating Company

GURRY’S STORE AND CANOBIE LAKE POST OFFICE

The photograph above was probably taken in the 1930’s. At that time, it was Gurry’s Store with a lunch counter and is also housed the Canobie Lake Post Office. I don’t know why the post office moved from Mason’s Store across the railroad tracks?  This place looked a heck of a lot different when I went there with my father in the 1960’s. It had been modernized with that mid-century modern, 1950’s look. I still remember sitting at the counter with my Dad as he talked with people like George Armstrong and George Merrill; Windham people and the Salem Contractors contingent. Breakfast cooked right in front of you in a compact space. Gurry’s used to be located at the corner of Route 28 and Shadow Lake Road.

 

Windham Life and Times – April 13, 2017

Eastern Illustrating Company

Clif’s Place, Windham NH Courtesy Penobscot Marine Museum

CLIF’S PLACE

Clif’s Place is a store and gas station that sprang up on Route 28 to serve the growing number of “auto tourists.” In another photograph of this location, Charles A. Dow Sr. was the proprietor and he offered camping grounds for auto tourists, overlooking Seavey Pond. This building is now a church. Courtesy of Penobscot Marine Museum.

Another photograph of the same spot by a different postcard publisher.

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: penobscotmarinemuseum.org/eastern-illustrating-publishing-company/ 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  https://penobscotmarinemuseum.org/historic-photo-prints/ 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: https://penobscotmarinemuseum.org/eastern-illustrating-publishing-company/

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 Times – March 17, 2017

100 YEAR AGO IN WINDHAM

JOHN PARK DIES SUDDENLY

John Park pictured with his horse and dog in Windham NH

“On the evening of Monday, March 5, occurred the death of John A. Park with startling suddenness from acute indigestion. He had been somewhat indisposed for a number of days, but even on Monday night had been to the barn to assist in the chores. Soon after returning to the house he expired with hardly a moment’s premonition.”     “Mr. Park had not quite completed his sixty-ninth year, having been born April 27, 1848. He never married, but he and his sister, Miss Mary Ellen Park, had been life long residents on the old homestead on the Range, which has been previously occupied by none but their direct ancestors in the Park name, during the whole period of the town’s existence. The sister now left alone in the homestead has the deep sympathy of all. A younger brother, Joseph Willard Park, of South Boston survives with his family.”     “Their great-grandfather, Elder Robert Park, built the house and settled on the farm in 1742, the year of the town’s incorporation. Of two enormous oaks, remnants of the primeval forest, one yet remains to throw its shade over the lawn, and to excite the veneration of the passer.  The memories and ties which make sacred such an ancestral country homestead are something which the majority of people in these superficial days know nothing about.”

The Park Family Homestead, Range Road, Windham NH>

“Here Mr. Park passed the even tenor of his days, at peace with his Creator and his fellows, fulfilling his duties of a good citizen and having the respect and good will of all who knew him. In May, 1876, he united with the Presbyterian Church and, although living two miles away, few kept up more constancy than did he and his sister the good old habit of regular attendance at morning worship and Sunday School. In 1899 his fellow members testified their respect for him by electing Mr. park a ruling elder, a position filled by his father and other ancestors in former years. His native modesty, however, and declination for public office, prevented him from accepting the position. He was for years an officer in the Presbyterian religious society.”     “Mr. Park and his sister were remarkable for being of undiluted Scotch-Irish, Windham and Londonderry lineage. They were descended from the Parks, Cochrans, Dinsmoors, and Hemphills, and more remotely from families of Wear, McKeen, Nesmith, Waugh. Lintell, and Orr— Scotch names without exception. Mr. Park exhibited many of the virtues of that sterling God-fearing race.”

“The funeral was held on Thursday, Rev. Mr. Armstrong, of the Salem Depot Baptist Church, speaking in a comforting and fitting manner, and Mr. and Mrs. Worledge singing  ‘Asleep in Jesus’ and ‘They Are Gathering.’ The bearers were Mr. Worledge, C.I Alexander, J.E. Cochran and J.A. Nesmith, and burial was in the Cemetery on the Hill. Among the beautiful flowers from relatives and neighbors was a crescent from the Windham Grange, of which Mr. Park was a charter member, although of late honorably retired from membership. W.S. Harris

 

Windham Life and Times – January 6, 2017

Leaving Ireland

The Blight of Emigration Statues, are located on Derry Harbor, Northern Ireland. The man moves resolutely ahead, while the woman and child look back toward what’s being left behind.

The Blight of Emigration Statues, are located on Derry Harbor, Northern Ireland. The man moves resolutely ahead, while the woman and child look back toward what’s being left behind.

REVEREND JAMES MCGREGOR LEADS HIS PEOPLE TO THE PROMISED LAND: 1718

Leaving is such a revolutionary act! Staying in the place where you were born, among friends and relatives, and living within the scenery that has greeted you day in and day out is the easy path. The hard way, the path not taken by many of us, is to simply leave. To leave everything behind and to begin life anew.

A recent BBC article calls the Reverend James McGregor, the Moses of his Scotch-Irish flock, who lead his humble congregation to the promised land of America. “He was a veteran of the Siege of Londonderry and in 1701, Mr. McGregor, who was a fluent Irish speaker, became the pastor of a small Presbyterian church in Aghadowey. In 1710, the synod gave him the privilege of preaching in Irish. At that stage, Presbyterians were not allowed to hold office, teach or to conduct most civil ceremonies such as marriages and funerals. In early summer of 1718, Mr. McGregor and the major part of his congregation set sail for Boston on the brigantine Robert. The group consisted of about 200 people, primarily from 16 families and ranging in age from babies to an elderly couple aged 90.”

“The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland holds the session minute book for Aghadowey congregation, 1702-61, that covers the period when the Rev McGregor was minister of the congregation. The session minutes reveal the level of poverty in the area as illustrated by the increasing number of named poor people receiving assistance from the church recorded at almost every meeting of session up to and beyond 1718.  This was undoubtedly due to a succession of poor harvests, a downturn in the linen industry and high rents. The congregation struggled continually to support their minister in stipend, corn, a farm and lodgings to the extent that when McGregor left in 1718, he was owed two years stipend amounting to £80.  Clearly, economic conditions played a significant factor in the decision of many to emigrate. (Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland.) 

aghodowdy

Presbyterian Church in Aghadowey, Northern Ireland

     Still even with the poverty and oppression, it would have been easier to stay, and many of the family members of those that left, did stay behind in Ireland. McGregor, gently prodding his congregation, to leave, promising as a group, they would be able to take on the wilderness with God’s help.

On the eve before embarking, Rev. McGregor gave a sermon, the manuscript which was preserved and related by Edward Parker in his History of Londonderry. “His discourse was from the appropriate words of Moses, when conducting the chosen tribes to the promised land: ‘If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.’  In the application of the subject of their emigration, he states the following as reasons of their removal to America. 1. To avoid oppression and cruel bondage. 2 To shun persecution and designed ruin. 3. To withdraw from the communion of idolaters. 4. To have the opportunity of worshiping God, according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of the inspired word.”

Here is the account from Morrison’s, Among the Scotch-Irish: “On a certain September morning, in the year 1718, a cavalcade, in which women and children, whose dress and bearing bespoke the farming class, might have been seen leaving Aghadowey by the Derry road. In the cavalcade were a number of old-fashioned wheel-cars, with their low, solid wheels and broad bottoms, upon which were piled provisions, wearing apparel, and household effects. Accompanying the procession and acting as guide, philosopher, and friend, was a clergyman in the prime of life, and dressed in the simple garb of the Presbyterian ministers of that period. The clergyman was accompanied by his son, a boy of eight summers, whose name is now accorded and honored place in the national biography of the Great Republic of the West. As the cavalcade wends it way along the road, the people are ever and anon casting regretful looks at the waving fields of golden corn, the green valleys, and the wooded hills now assuming an autumnal brown, of their native parish.”

“The cavalcade is a band of emigrants, of about 100 families, on their way to Derry, there to embark for the Western World. The clergyman is Rev. James McGregor, second minister of the Presbyterian congregation, of Aghadowey, to which all the families belonged, and who accompanied them to America. The reasons which induced theses people to leave their native land and undertake a voyage across the Atlantic, which in those days was tedious and full of hardships, and to face the uncertain prospects of new settlers, were partly religious and partly agrarian. Being Presbyterians, they were subjected to the unjust and insulting provisions of the Test Act, under which it was penal for a person of their persuasion to teach a school or to hold the humblest office in the State. Then again, at the time of the Revolution, when a considerable part of the country lay waste, and when the whole framework of society was shattered, land had been let on lease at very low rents to the Presbyterian tenants. About 1717-1718 these leases began to fall in, and the rents were usually doubled and frequently tripled. Hence farmers became discouraged, and a number of them belonging to Aghadowey formed the design of emigrating to America, where they would be able to reap the fruits of their own industry.” Other Scotch-Irish on other ships joined them. The Robert landed in Boston, the 14th of October, 1718.

For more information check out:

http://www.1718migration.org.uk/

 

 

Windham Life and Times – March 5, 2015

100 Years Ago Today in Windham NH – W.S. Harris Reporting in the Exeter Newsletter

Albert Farmer Pre-Cut House in West Windham NH

Albert Farmer’s Pre-Cut House in West Windham NH

WINDHAM , March 2. — Albert W. Farmer’s house at West Windham nears completion and presents a fine appearance. This is one of the ready-made houses, the materials coming from Bay City, Mich., every timber and board cut for its place, and only needing to be put together according to the blue-print plans. Mr. Farmer and his son and H.Y. Gilson, who are doing the work, are enthusiastic over this way of building a house, and say there is a great savings in expenses, the materials for the whole house costing under $1,300. This house stood until a few years ago, on Haverhill Road, on the right, just before the intersection with Mammoth Road.

Aladdin Homes Catalog from 1914 Showing Model Selected by Albert Farmer

Aladdin Homes Catalog from 1914 Showing Model Selected by Albert Farmer

“The Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan was one of America’s most long lived manufacturers of mail-order, “kit homes.” Begun in 1906 by two brothers, Otto and William Sovereign, the family-owned firm continued to manufacture houses until 1981. Over the firm’s long history it sold over 75,000 homes to both individual and corporate customers.” There slogan was “Built in a Day.”

From Wikipedia: “Aladdin quickly expanded to become one of largest mail-order house companies. By 1915 sales surpassed $1 million. In 1918 Aladdin alone accounted for 2.37 percent of all housing starts in the United States, around 1,800 homes. The company’s greatest success came from sales to industries which constructed company towns around new plants, mines and mills. The town of Hopewell, Virginia was largely developed by the DuPont Company using Aladdin homes. In 1917 Aladdin shipped 252 houses to Birmingham England, for the Austin Motor Company who built Austin Village to house workers for munitions, tank and aircraft manufacture during World War I”  

Windham Life and Times – February 5th and 12th, 2015

The Famous Artists Born in West Windham NH

A view of West Windham, New Hampshire

A view of West Windham New Hampshire

There must have been something in the water of West Windham, that was the catalyst for two children that were born and raised here, to become noted American artists. Mary Braddish Titcomb and Howard E. Smith both spent their early childhood in this scenic village overlooking Beaver Brook. Miss Titcomb lived here for much of her early life, becoming a teacher in the Windham schools. Smith lived in the village until he was fourteen and his family moved to Boston Massachusetts.

This blog post was inspired by an article in the Exeter News-Letter, written 100 years ago, by William Harris in 1915.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

“WINDHAM, February 9.— A native and former resident of Windham has painted a picture which has been purchased on its merits by President Wilson and now hangs in the White House. Miss Mary Braddish Titcomb as a girl in West Windham had no unusual advantages except such as came from her excellent parentage and her own ambition and persistence. In 1880 and 1881 our correspondence to the NEWS-LETTER shows several commendatory references to Miss Titcomb as teacher in Windham Center school and as an elocutionist. Even then she was interested in painting. Later she was a teacher of drawing in the schools of Brockton Mass. Now as we learn from last Saturdays’ Boston Journal, Miss Titcomb has a studio on Clarendon Street in Boston where she does work which is seen at all large exhibitions throughout the country. The particular painting which took the president’s fancy as he saw it at the recent biennial exhibition at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington is entitled, ‘Portrait of Geraldine J.,’ and shows a pretty young woman wearing a beautiful mandarin coat of blue. The Journal article refers to Miss Titcomb as a conscientious and painstaking artist who ‘has worked while others played, and painted better each year.’ Miss Titcomb was born here September 27, 1858, the daughter of Edward and Sarah Jane (Abbott) Titcomb.”

Examples of Mary Braddish Titcomb's work. "Two Girls on Right sold for $120,000 in 2011.

Examples of Mary Braddish Titcomb’s work. “Two Girls on right, above, sold for $120,000 in 2011.

“Mary Bradish Titcomb was described as an independent woman. She is listed as a portrait painter but is best known and appreciated for her impressionist paintings of rural and coastal New England scenes. She is described as taking the traditional stylistic ideals of the Boston Impressionism and infusing it with a modern sensibility. Mary was born in Windham, NH and supported her artistic education by teaching school in the Boston area. She studied at the Boston Normal Art School and the Boston Museum School under such well-known American painters as Edmund Tarbell, Philip Leslie Hale and Frank Benson. She was a frequent exhibitor at the Copley Society.”

"Gerraldine J." now hangs of over a bedroom fireplace in the Wilson House in Washington D.C.

“Gerraldine J.” now hangs over a bedroom fireplace in the Wilson House in Washington D.C.

“Although primarily associated with New England, Mary was known to have gone on sketching trips to Arizona, Mexico and California.In 1901 Mary left teaching to dedicate her life to painting. After living in the Fenway studios she bought a house in Marblehead, MA where she could paint the kinds of coastal scenes she loved. President Woodrow Wilson admired Titcomb’s “Portrait of Geraldine J.” and bought it to hang in the White House. Mary died in Marblehead, MA in 1927.”

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

“WINDHAM, February 23.— Since writing the little story of Miss Titcomb’s success as a painter, we have been informed by Mrs. M. Eva Pratt of Revere, Mass., formerly of this town, that another Boston artist of distinction, Howard Everett Smith was also born at West Windham, scarcely more than a stone’s throw from the birthplace of Miss Titcomb. He was one of several children born to Charles Smith and his wife, Sarah (Goodwin) Smith, while the father was the proprietor of the village store at Wes Windham and postmaster. He also served the town several years as selectman. The son, who was born April 27, 1885, received a scholarship for travelling abroad from the Boston Museum School, and is a teacher in the School of Drawing in Boston. He is especially good a illustrating, but also paints; he has recently married and gone to the Northwest to paint winter scenes. Perhaps the picturesque surroundings of the little hamlet of West Windham, with its babbling Beaver Brook flowing between pine and hemlock crowned ridges, had their influence in awakening the artistic sensibility in these now noted artists, whose childhood was passed there.”

Smith-1
“A portrait painter, illustrator, etcher, and painter. Born in West Windham, NH on April 27, 1885.  His mother encouraged his interest in art, and he studied both drawing and watercolor at a young age. One of his earliest instructors was a veterinarian, who had Smith closely study the anatomy of his subjects. This was to stand him in good stead, as he later became recognized as a master of portraiture. In 1899, his family moved to Boston. He attended Boston Latin School before continuing his art studies, first at the Art Students’ League in New York and then two years with Howard Pyle. Returning to Boston in 1909, he studied with Edmund Tarbell at the School of Art of the Boston Museum. His illustrations appeared in ”Harper’s” and ”Scribner’s” between 1905 and 1913, and for several years he taught at the Rhode Island School of Design.”

“Having been awarded the Paige Traveling Scholarship in 1911, he left for Europe. The scholarship enabled him to study and travel throughout Europe for two years. Smith financed additional year’s travel through his profitable and long time association with Harper’s Monthly. In 1914, he returned to the United States and began teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design. Here he met Martha Rondelle, whom he married later that year. They were to have three children, Jeanne, Jacqueline and Howard E. Jr. Smith’s  career took off in the teens and twenties. He won numerous prizes including the Hallgarten Prize in 1917 and the Isidor Medal in 1921, both from the National Academy. In the twenties, he and his family spent many of their summers in Rockport and Provincetown. He was one of the founders of the Rockport Art Association. While in Provincetown, the family became friends with Eugene O’Neill, who asked Smith to illustrate his first published play.

Smith-2
“In 1936, the Smith family visited Carmel and in 1938 settled there. His work continued to be exhibited on the East Coast, while he became active in the local art community of the Monterey Peninsula. He served on the Board of Directors of the Carmel Art Association from 1942 to 1949 and again in 1963 and 1964. After his wife’s death in 1948, he moved to Mexico for a number of years, often spending summers in Carmel. He returned to Carmel, living there until his death in 1970”

Smith-Illustration
“Smith was an American impressionist who was known for his illustrations, his portraits and his equine paintings. He worked not only in oil and watercolor, but did a wide variety of graphics, often using as subject matter the horses and cowboys of the West. Jacqueline Cagwin said of her father ”He was a gallant, a gentleman in every sense of the word. People always mistook him for a banker. He always said he would loathe going to an office and keeping rigid hours, yet he worked in his studio until five and spent his evenings etching and reading.”

 scan0588

 

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