Windham Life and Times – February 21, 2020

Windham Mid-Century Mode

Photograph of Witch Hazel fire from Rural Oasis

Articles from the Derry News | 1958-1959

GLOBAL WARMING EDITORIAL BY EDWARD TELLER FROM JANUARY 1958

“Dr. Edward Teller says the earth is warming up. Taking his stand in the controversy concerning the trend of the weather, Teller says that increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the air is warming our earth.

“Teller says accurate measurements show that there has been an increase of 2% in the carbon dioxide content in the air since the beginning of the industrial revolution. This has been caused by the heavy uses of fuels such as coal, oil, and its derivatives.”

“Unless there is a halt to the trend, Teller believes the earth will become overheated before the end of the twentieth century, He believes that when the amount of carbon dioxide has increased much further, ice caps on the Poles will begin to melt (they are already receding) and the amount of water in the oceans will increase, This will inundate such Port cities as New York and such countries as Holland.”

“The answer? Teller believes the answer is the use of nuclear fuel. The Associate Director of the University of California’s Radiation Laboratory says that we must put nuclear fuel to work powering electrical plants which otherwise would consume coal, or oil or other carbon dioxide producing fuels.”

WINDHAM TAX IS $54; NO CHANGE

“Windham held the line on taxes this year. In announcing the 1959 rate at $54 per Thousand, the same as 1958, Selectman pointed out that the line was held despite a sharp increase in state and county tax figures. A mild building boom which added $145,000 to the town’s valuation helped off-set increased costs. Veteran’s exemptions are $107,500 in comparison with $94,400 a year ago.  Total valuation is $2,263,000.”

DERRY SELECTMEN PLAN TO ATTEND HIGHWAY MEETING. 1958

“A delegation from Derry planned to join a group from Salem and Windham in attending a conference relative to the route of the new Interstate Highway scheduled to be held at 2 P.M. today at the office of State Highway Commissioner John Morton in Concord. Public hearings on the highway route have already been held in Salem and like meetings are expected to be conducted in Derry shortly. Planning to attend the conference in Concord are at least two members of the Derry Board of Selectmen and most legislators from Derry who will be in Concord for legislative sessions earlier in the day.”

WITCH HAZEL FACTORY DAMAGED BY FIRE; LOSS SET AT $25,000

“APRIL 23, 1959: A historic landmark on Route 28 in Windham went up in smoke early Wednesday morning when the old Witch Hazel Factory was discovered ablaze about 4 a.m. and was practically destroyed before the fire was brought under control about 8 a.m. Fire Departments from Windham and Salem responded.”

“The fire was believed to have started in the small building later spreading to the large building. According to the owners, Kachadorian and Bartanian, who used the building for the manufacture of fruit and vegetable boxes and crates, loss was estimated at $25,000, the building full of new stock for the coming season.”

“According to older residents the building has a long and interesting history. It was believed to have probably been a saw mill originally but for many years, from about 55 years ago to shortly before World War I, it was operated by the Gould Witch Hazel Company,  which cut brush with permission of local woodland owners and distilled the processed liquid obtained from it. Other sources say the building was moved from South Windham about the time of the railroad’s coming in the 1880’s and then it was used as a woolen mill.”

“The full apparatus of the Windham department was at the scene with firemen under the direction of Fire Chief James Brown. Some of the equipment returned to the fire station after the blaze was brought under control. The spectacular fire attracted a large number of spectators to the scene and traffic was up on 28, State and local police were up for a time on busy the busy Route on the scene promptly to keep traffic moving.”

“APRIL 30, 1959: BURNED MILL DATES BACK 109 YEARS: “Research has revealed that the Old Witch Hazel Factory which burned in Windham recently dates back to as early as 1850. From Morrison’s History of Windham New Hampshire, page 188.”

“‘BROWN’S MILL, 1850 This saw-mill and grist mill was started in April 1850, by John Noyes Brown, located in the east part of town, on the Turnpike , (now Route 28) and Flat Rock Meadow Brook. It was burned in 1871, and rebuilt by John S. Brown in 1877.’ Morrison also gives names of various owners. In recent times this place was known as Meserve’s Mills, and more recently as the Witch Hazel Factory.”

The photograph above shows Charles E. Harrington and Ernest Harrington delivering a load of witch hazel to the Gould witch hazel distillery on the turnpike. Carefully selected green twigs were boiled in huge vats and them mixed with alcohol.

The Indians thought that witch hazel had magical curative properties because it blossomed at the wrong time of the year. If you want to see witch hazel blossoming in November, it can be seen at Griffin park between the walking path and the stone wall of Johnson’s farm.

EVENING WHIST: Eight and a half tables were in play at the Neighborhood Club evening whist on Thursday. Mrs. Pearl Urquhart won both the half score and the door prize. Muriel Bistany won the special….”

 

 

 

Windham Life and Times – February 14, 2020

Windham | Mid-Century Modern

NEW BOWLING ALLEY PLANNED

March 1959: “Plans to provide local bowlers with a new and modern 24 lane Candlepin bowling center were announced today by Frank V. Sandberg, Windham NH. The new establishment to be known as Sandy’s Bowl-a-drome will be located at located on Route 28 in Windham, N.H., just north of the junction of Route 111. Construction will start immediately with completion scheduled for approximately July 1st. Mr. Sandberg said the cost of the project is estimated at $300,000 which includes the construction of a 18,000 Sq. Ft. building and installation of Brunswick bowling equipment and Bowl-Mor automatic pin setters…”

GRAND OPENING OF GIANT BOWLING CENTER AT WINDHAM ON WEEKEND.

September 1959: Governor Wesley Powell has been invited to cut the ribbon and officially open Sandy’s Bowladrome, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The Bowladrome north of Route 111 in Windham is co-owned by Frank V. Sandberg and Benjamin Siegel.

The Grand Opening, which begins at 10:30 on Saturday will continue through Sunday. Prizes will be awarded to those in attendance. The first prize being a 100 U.S. savings bond.”

“The Bowladrome which features Candle-Pin type of bowling, will be New Hampshire’s newest and largest bowling center and will include 24 beautiful lanes. It will feature automatic-noiseless pinsetters, range finders, Tel-E-Fouls, subway bowl returns and electric hand dryers. Sandy’s is completely air conditioned by an 80 ton unit and the new spacious building (140’ x 127’) is housed in concrete and tile steel with more than 18,000 feet of floor space… Other conveniences for the bowler are the 150 car capacity parking lot and refreshments which are available at the Snack Bar and in modern vending machines.  One of the most unique innovations at Sandy’s is the drive-in canopy under which cars can discharge their passengers in the event of rain.”

“…The Bowladrome encourages bowling teams and is ready and willing to give assistance in forming bowling leagues. Regular lessons for bowlers will start in the near future. Leagues are now being formed…Wall to wall carpeting provides a soft-toe effect and feels as though you’re walking on air as you glide across the vestibule. The carpet is a bright color and depicts pins and bowling balls which is an ideal theme. All in all Sandy’s Bowladrome will add a great deal to this section of New Hampshire.”

DERRY PHONE SERVICE INCREASE MEANS DIAL SYSTEM BY MAY 5TH.

“Improved service to keep pace with the town’s continuing growth is the keynote at Derry’s telephone office on East Broadway.”

“Serving not only Derry, but also Windham, Londonderry, East Derry and Derry Village, the local office has seen and impressive climb in consumer figures during the last decade and a half. Chief operator Barbara Berry reports that since she joined the company in 1945 the number of lines in local use has shot from about 600 to more than 1200. Most of these lines are not single party, but have as many as eight customers. Accordingly the number of operators has gone form 10 to 22 over the same period.”

“Derry ranks third in this state in sales increases. The term ‘sales’ includes addition of lines, installation of extension phones and sales of new colored telephones. Miss Berry speculates that the spurt is due in part to the influx of new families moving into various housing developments around town. She predicts that the growth will continue undiminished. ‘The demand is always greater than we estimate,’ she says.”

“The pronounced and constant increase in demand could have only one result: Derry’s conversion to the dial system. ‘Derry is growing to the extent that if we were not changing to dial, we would have to add more switchboards and operators,’ noted Miss Berry.”

“The town will go dial on May 5, 1960. Preparations are already in full swing. Workman swarm through the pleasant stucco building that houses the offices, drilling, hammering, and even tearing down inside partitions in the process of preparing to receive the complex dial equipment. In October the component parts of the physical plant will arrive. They will be assembled during the seven months before the conversion date.”

“After May 5, Derry will no longer need any operators. Although the girls have been guaranteed new jobs in nearby towns like Manchester or Lawrence, they will miss the friendly, informal closeness of a small town.”

“ ‘Since everyone knows everybody else,’ says Miss Berry, ‘we think of the townspeople as our friends. We are lucky here in Derry,’ she continues, speaking for the other operators as well as herself. ‘The customers are very polite. In return we try to bend over backwards to give good service and little courtesies.’ These ‘little courtesies’ will be what townspeople will most miss after Derry goes dial. No longer will Mothers be able to pick up the phone on a snowy morning and find out whether school is in session. No longer will the curious be able to discover where the fire is when they here the siren.”

“Nor will housewives be able to check their clocks when they run down, or ask directions for basting a turkey at Christmastime. Puzzled young scholars will have to use the dictionary to figure out spellings—and small children will not be able to call Santa Claus and hear the deep voice of some willing Derry resident answer their questions about the North Pole.”

“All of these service will go out with the advent of dial. But emergency service—always the pride of telephone offices everywhere—will remain reassuringly dependable. By dialing ‘O’ a telephone may reach a Manchester operator who has the numbers of all the Derry emergency facilities at her fingertips. Miss Berry thinks that most of the 22 operators in her office will take telephone jobs in other localities rather than give up the work they know. ‘There is something about telephone work that makes operators want to stay with it,’ says she. An operator is always learning. There is no monopoly on her job. When working with the public, there is something new every day. New ideas, new ways…that’s progress.” (You could listen in on the calls of all 8 people on the party line.)

WINDHAM PLACES STRINGENT RULES ON TRAILER HOMES.

“Windham elections were held on Tuesday as is customary but the business portion of the annual town meeting was delayed to the following evening after voters expressed this to be their desire in action under Article 2 of the warrant. There were no election contests. The following being re-elected unopposed: Town Clerk, Eleanor Zins; Selectman, Thomas Waterhouse Jr.; Treasurer, Richard Fellows; Tax Collector, RoseBoda; Trustee of the Trust Funds, Emma Jackson…”

“At the Wednesday meeting the town voted for strict control of trailers, zoning regulations being adopted for both trailers and mobile homes. It was also voted to give the planning board added authority under Article 15. A vote was taken approving the holding of Town Meetings hereafter on the Wednesday evening following the annual election day as was done this year. Under Article 26, it was voted to raise $1,500 to construct an office for the police department.

 

 

Windham Life and Times – February 7, 2020

Cobbett’s Pond Road about 1910

This photograph was taken by Herbert Horne about 1910. It is a nice view of Cobbett’s Pond Road from the meadow near the flume on Cobbett’s Pond. The back of the “Red House,” which was a summer house of the Horne family, is to the far right. The house on the left would become the Burrell family summer home in 1915. The Gavin McAdams house was built around 1810 and is the property facing the photographer. The hill in the background is where Farrwood Road is today.

 

Windham Life and Times – January 31, 2020

The Best Advice I Never Took!

Woodland Ridge was built as an investment by my Dad in 1982, on the Route 111 in Windham. It was one of the first commercial office buildings in town. Some of the early tenants included Prime Computer, SummaGraphics and Dave Wetherell’s Softrend.

Dave Wetherell and Softrend

I can still remember the “T” Ball games of the late 1990’s where various parents would brag about all the money they were making with their investment in a company in Andover known as CMGi.  The driving force of CMGi was David Wetherell. He was one smart son of a gun! A true visionary. He rented an office in Windham from my dad at Woodland Ridge, soon after it was built in 1982. He lived in Derry NH and that was his SAAB pictured in the parking lot. At that point he was running a company called Softrend.

Reuters, in their article titled, Big Personalities of the dotcom boom– where are they now?, writes the following about Wetherall and CMGi: Then: David Wetherell was CEO of the public holding and venture capital company CMGi, which helped grow to more than 1 billion in annual revenue with his energetic buying of then-notable internet companies, including Lycos and Alta Vista. He developed a tool called Engage to sell data that aided early versions of targeted advertising on the web. But shares of CMGi topped at $199 in 1999 and fell to about $6 in 2000. CMGi later became ModusLink Global Solutions via a merger.

On a Blog for VentureFizz, Keith Cline discusses Dave Wetherell and CGMi: You may remember that CGMi had the naming rights to the home of the New England Patriots which was known for a time as CMGi Field. Cline says that “at its peak, the company had over 70 investments, 20 subsidiaries, 5 thousand employees, and 1.5 billion in annual revenues. Its market cap was 41 Billion and ranked somewhere around No. 7-9 in the world in terms of aggregate traffic to all of its properties”

“Wetherell became Chairman, CEO and orchestrated a leveraged buyout of the company in 1986. CMGi’s core business was focused on selling mailing lists of university faculty and information buyers to educational and professional publishers. After taking over, Wetherell built up the company’s revenues and market share, and took the company public in 1994. Shortly after its IPO, Wetherall founded BookLink Technologies, a web browser company, which was sold to American Online for an all-stock transaction that yielded $72 million for CMGi from and initial $900 Thousand investment.”

“The proceeds from the sale of BookLink allowed CMGi to focus on a two pronged strategy . It would incubate its own startup internet companies and also have an investment arm, CMG@ventures to fund early stage internet companies. As the business grew, CMGi became a NASDAQ 100 company and market leaders like Microsoft, Intel, and Sumitomo held minority positions in it. CMGi’s portfolio included companies like, Alta Vista, Engage, Lycos, GeoCities, Raging Bull, NaviSite, Furniture.com, MotherNature.com, MyWay.com, Snapfish and others…” “AltaVista was developed by researchers at Digital Equipment and was the Google of its time…According to Wetherell, Novell and CGMi were planning a merger and Eric Schmidt would have been CEO of the combined entity but the merger was put on hold when the market crashed during the Spring of 2000. He also mentioned at one point CMGi discussed acquiring Google, but the board was against it.” (They also looked at investing early on in ebay but the board thought the valuation was too high.

Are you wondering where Dave Wetherell is today? After retiring from CMGi he “started as a sole angel investor, (in Biotech) and it blossomed into an investment firm with $200 million under management, called Biomark Capital.

    So what was the “best advice” that I never took. Dave Wetherell told me to invest in software companies. This was when the likes of Wang and Digital ruled the  technology scene. Microsoft Windows would be introduced in 1985. Well there is good news folks, I still have my Pets.com sock puppet; that must be worth something. Speaking of SAAB’s, I also drove a SAAB during the eighties. My SAAB had an odd quirk; it would suddenly come to a stop on the interstate.

Personalities of the Dotcom Boon…Reueters

VentureFizz: Dave Wetherell and CGMi

Windham Life and Times – January 17, 2020

The Merrill House Auction

From the Logbook of William Austin Brooks

     August 3, 1900 from the William Austin Brooks Diary: “In the afternoon we went to the auction at the old Merrill house. We arrived at 2 o’clock and found the sale in progress. Teams were hitched to the fence and trees along both sides of the road and about the house. The house itself is an ancient New England farm house, weather beaten and gray with over one hundred years. Outside in the sunlight stood the furniture, a mahogany high boy, a low boy, a bureau, and two mahogany tables; one a work table with drop leaves. They stood for inspection, a row of veterans, showing scars of many years of faithful usage and now to be sold and scattered. The auctioneer was selling various humble articles, pails, tinware etc. including house things the use of which is now obsolete; a tin kitchen hatchel, wool and flax carders, a hand press, bellows, etc.

     On the whole it was a pathetic sight; one that brought many thoughts to mind of the stories the old house and its contents might tell of an earlier and more primitive life in a new country. Austin climbed on top of the chest of drawers on which the auctioneer placed several articles. ‘How much do I get for this collateral, all except the boy?’ I took four pictures of the scene at different standpoints.

Inside the house people were sitting, talking in low tones and one could not help thinking it was a funeral. On the dining table was displayed the crockery and china ware and men were bringing up from the cellar a lot of preserved fruit, boiled cider, etc. How little Mrs. Merrill thought of this disposition of her labor when she put them up. In another room were the feather beds and bedding. We took the children into the garret, which was unfinished except a room at one end. The lots so far brought small sums, 5, 10 and 15 cents but the china brought more, a blue platter 1.75, etc. Mary bought an iron pan for 15 cents and I two old blue plates, both cracked, for .15 which the auctioneer knocked down to ‘that good looking man.’ I blushed. The highboy brought $16.00, the bureau $14.00, the work table which I bid 3.00 brought 6.00.

Many articles, including the sewing machine (5.00) were bought by Mr. Jewett who has bought a farm, He is a stal-wart, good natured looking giant of 35 years, 6 ft 6 inches tall. The auctioneer joked him a good deal about getting himself a wife now that he has a farm. It was a lively scene, the people and the teams in the bright sunlight, under the blue sky.”

 

 

Windham Life and Times – January 10, 2020

The Steamer Mineola

Canobie Lake with Windham NH in Distance

The Steam powered Mineola leaving the dock at Canobie Lake Park. The Windham shoreline is in the background. Windham once owned all of Policy Pond (Canobie Lake) and much of Salem, but out of spite, over a bitter religious feud between the Scotch Presbyterians and the English Congregationalists, it was given away in 1752.

Windham Life and Times – January 3, 2020

“Footprints of Genius”

William Meserve and his workshop on Route 28 in Windham NH,

William Meserve Windham NH

“A leading dentist in Lawrence became much interested in his work, and in 1902 contracted with him to build a two seated surrey. This contact led to the formation of a company, and a gasoline demonstrator, in the form of a truck was built. The company seemed to be ‘off to a flying start’ when ill fortune overtook it. One of the four men who formed it proved himself unequal to his responsibility, and financial disaster terminated this infant industry.”

“Nothing daunted my father and he continued to experiment, and finally brought forth the first gasoline propelled four-cylinder, two cycle motor with lift valves, so designed as to give the same results as an eight cylinder car of today. This car had a compressed-air self starter (which we believe to have been the first ever in service) and many additional features which other automobiles did not have until years later. Two of these were a wheel base of 140 inches and a three speed selective transmission. The chassis and engine of this car were invented and built by my father, the wheels and body being supplied by nearby companies. It was finished in 1904 and ran 125 miles without a stop on its initial trial. This was everywhere considered a remarkable feat. It was built for a lawyer in Derry, where my father moved to provide better educational opportunities for his growing family. The car proved to be most dependable, and gave long years of satisfactory service.”

“What might of developed from his work and experimentation we shall never know, for Fate again took things into her own hands. That same year he was attacked with rheumatic fever, and was for months was too ill to do work of any kind…”

From the history of Derry, NH. From Turnpike to Interstate we learn the following: “William Meserve and the First Automobile. Both Windham and Salem lay claim to William Forest Meserve, but Derry can put in its bid as well. Although he had no formal education after he was seventeen years old, during his lifetime he could have qualified for any of the following: mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, millwright, architect, draftsman, carpenter, and musician among others. William Meserve made the first automobile in Derry in 1900. (?!) He and his family lived in Derry for several autumns and winters during the early years of this century. Their permanent home was in Windham.

“In 1904 Will Meserve built another automobile in Derry. This was the first car he made completely—everything except the wheels and coach work. It had a four cylinder engine, that developed thirty-two horsepower (calibrated by the conservative standards of those days). It was a two cycle engine with lift valves, hence it had the power of an eight cylinder motor. It had a three speed transmission and a compressed self starter. The car was built in the rear of the Bartlett block in the part that had a large door facing Franklin Street. Built for Attorney Benjamin T. Bartlett, it was heavy, weighing 3,300 lbs. In June, 1904, Meserve, along with Attorney Bartlett, Bartlett’s nephew, Benjamin Piper, and another young man, Ernest Low, gave the car a thorough workout. First they drove it to Manchester and back. Travelling times over the rutty dirt roads of that day were forty minutes going and thirty-seven minutes returning. Then they immediately ventured forth on an 125 miles trip that encompassed Nottingham, Durham, Portsmouth, Kittery, Maine, then back to Portsmouth, Greenland, Hampton Beach, Exeter, Epping, and finally back home to Derry. The new machine performed perfectly throughout the trip and did not require a single adjustment on route.”

 

 

Windham Life and Times – December 20, 2019

“Footprints of Genius”

William F. Meserve – Windham Inventor

“In 1901 the Pemberton Mills, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, engaged him to build a truck. This was steam driven, which seemed at that time to be the most dependable driving power. It was the first practical commercial truck in that section, and we have been told that it was without doubt one of the very first — if not the first — practical heavy commercial trucks to be built anywhere. A picture of it was published in The Horseless Age.”

The Meserve Two Ton Truck for the Pemberton Mills.

The Horseless Age | November 4, 1901

“The Pemberton Company of Lawrence, Mass., have just placed in service a steam truck designed and constructed by W.F. Meserve at his shop at Canobie Lake, N.H.  The truck is intended for use between the company’s works in Lawrence and the neighboring suburbs of Andover and Methuen, and was designed for loads up to 2 tons. Another similar truck has been ordered.”

“In the construction of the truck frame wood is exclusively employed, and the design aims at flexibility, strength and economy in first cost. Two stringers of white oak of 2 x 6 inches run the whole length of the vehicle, and are heavily bolted at the rear to a substantial wooden yoke the extremities of which carry the bronze rear axle bearings, In the front the stringers are bolted to the heavily trussed vertical frame, which carries the forward axle and steering knuckles. The stringers being placed with their largest dimensions vertical, insures sufficient rigidity, with certain amount of flexibility. Two light metal trusses…further strengthen the fame.”

The total length of the truck is 14 feet 8 inches, the wheel base 10 feet, the platform 10 feet long by 5 feet 6 inches wide and the gauge is 60 inches. Unloaded, its weight is in the neighborhood of 4,000 pounds. Wheels of the Sarven type are used, of 36 inches diameter, and are equipped this 3 inch solid rubber tires. All bearings are of solid bronze and the springs are substantial and of the full elliptic type. The forward axle is of 2 inches diameter. Equipped with heavy steering knuckles, while the rear axle is of 3 inches diameter, divided at the centre and strengthened by a 12-inch sleeve. The driving sprockets, on each half of the rear axle, are bolted to 12-inch hubs, the faces of which are of 4 inches width and serve as drums for brakes.

As is customary in vehicles of this class the boiler is located just back of the operator’s seat, and it, together with the engine, was constructed by Edward S. Clark. It is of 24 inches diameter, with 720 copper tubes 1/2 inch by 14 inches, and is heavily lagged with magnesia covering. The normal boiler pressure is 210 pounds. Gasoline is the fuel employed and is carried in two double riveted galvanized steel tanks, one on either side of the boiler. Their capacity is 30 gallons, and they are arranged that either one may be filled without relieving the air pressure in the other. An ordinary burner is employed, fitted with the usual automatic fuel regulator and pilot light, and the products of combustion pass through a sheet iron hood of the common form and occupy the space under the body. Their capacity is 75 gallons.”

“The engine is supported vertically nearly under the middle of the body. It is of the regular Clark double cylinder model, with cylinders of 3 1/2 inch bore and 4-inch stroke, Stephenson link motion and crosshead pumps for water feed and air supply. Its air pump is provided with an automatic relief and the water pump a by-pass in reach of the operator.”

“An injector is provided as an auxiliary. The engine is connected by means of a Baldwin chain to the Brown-Lipe differential carried upon a countershaftm from the differential Baldwin chains transmit to the two driving sprockets.”

“For controlling the engine a combined throttle and reverse lever is employed, by the rotation of which in either direction steam is admitted. Pushing it downward gives the forward motion, pulling it up produces the reverse, and in its intermediate position the link is on centre. There is a safety shut-off in the main steam pipe. The steam and water gauges are conveniently placed at the left of the operator. Steering is by means of a lever and linkage.”

‘In order to heat the feed water before entering the boiler it passes from the tank through a coil of pipe enclosed in a condensing changer, which receives the exhaust. From this chamber the steam escapes by a pipe terminating just above the boiler tubes in the midst of the hot gases, which tends to render the exhaust invisible. The boiler tanks and other mechanism which project above the platform are very neatly housed, the painting is tasteful, and the general appearance of the vehicle is excellent. Its speed is 7 or 8 miles per hour on level.”

 

Windham Life and Times – December 20, 2019

“Footprints” of Genius

William Meserve’s Automobile is pictured above. It was built right here in Windham in 1895. He experimented with gasoline, electric and steam power. The Horseless Age is a fascinating early magazine from the pioneering days of automobiles and can be read online. W.F. Meserve’s advertisement from the September 26, 1900 issue

William F. Meserve: Windham Inventor

Throughout his life he maintained an active interest in electricity and its many developments, and was often called upon to make his knowledge serve practical purposes. In 1898, at a time when many big cities had not yet adopted the use of electric lights, the neighboring town of Salem installed them. It was to him that the new company turned when it was ready to start its plant, for he was the only one who could be found with sufficient knowledge to handle the monster safely. He foresaw many of electricity’s present applications many years before they became a reality. Among my earliest recollections is his talking about electrifying the railroads. He often spoke of it at home, although he would have received nothing but ridicule had he been so bold as to try to develop that idea at the time it originated within his mind. It was a great satisfaction to him when, years later, railroad electrification became an established fact.”

“On October 10, 1893 he married my mother, Abbie Chase, who had been his sister’s roommate at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. She had always the most genuine interest in his various undertakings. It is fortunate for her family that she kept a diary during the following years, for otherwise there are many things concerning out father’s accomplishments that we might never have known.”

“About that time he began reading of the wonderful new carriages that could go without horses. Nearly everyone he knew scoffed at such ‘fanciful’ stories. No one in his section of the country had ever seen one. It would be hard to say where the nearest one might be found. But the idea fascinated him, for it was indeed the fulfillment of his boyhood dreams. As a child he had lived near the railroad, and used to enjoy watching the trains come and go. His ever fertile brain, even at that early age, foresaw the possibility of wagons going likewise under their own power, and often did he ponder it. This was typical of him throughout his life. He was forever seeing possibilities for creation or improvement in any field in which circumstances placed him.”

“He snatched at everything he could find in print regarding the latest development, and in 1895 determined that he would make one for himself. He bought a Concord buggy, and cut down the wheels considerably . He conceived the idea of using was then termed ‘hose pipe’ tires, instead of the solid ones commonly used on wagons. He asked a well known bicycle tire manufacturer to make him a set patterned after bicycle tires, specifying the size – I think they were three inch. They agreed to try this experiment if he would give an order for two sets, which he did. These were among the first pneumatic automobile tires ever to be made. It marked a new era for this company, which is still prominent in the tire industry. An automobile engine was not obtainable, so he ordered a two cylinder gasoline boat engine. On July 21, 1896 Mother entered in her diary, ‘Went to the Post Office this morning and found Will’s engine had arrived. He and Charles went for it this noon.’ From then on throughout summer there were frequent references to the ‘carriage’ on which ‘Will’ was working. Almost any hour of the day or night, when he could get away from business (for all this was in his spare time) he might be found working in the little shop which he carefully equipped. (It is still standing on the side of Route 28 in Windham. BRD) Passing neighbors would place their hands over their mouths to hide smiles of ridicule as they watched him tinker with the metals and pipes, water, steam, gasoline and electricity — only he knowing that in them lay the power that today has given America a great and fruitful industry.”

“On September 22, 1896 Mother wrote, ‘Took carriage out and tried to start it this evening.’ Apparently it was not wholly successful, for there are subsequently many recordings of changes to the motor and of trying various combinations until he finally succeeded in making it do his bidding. What a thrill it must have been when at last he was able to drive out under its own power! Great was the excitement when first he drove his new creation down the turnpike. Skeptical neighbors and friends, who had smiled at his efforts, stood watching with mouths wide open and eyes popping out of their heads. For a number of years it was the only ‘horseless carriage’ or ‘motor wagon’ (as Mother variously recorded) anywhere in their section, and it created a great sensation wherever it went – especially in the cities. People would want to climb all over it, and particularly to look under it. On May 1, 1897 Mother wrote, ‘Will worked some on his wagon; rode out to Canobie and back in it.’ Throughout the next few years there were many recordings of trips to neighboring towns and cities. It wandered as far away as Boston, and even farther in other directions. His ‘carriage’ grew to be a familiar site for miles around, and people never ceased to marvel at it or to storm angrily about it. It served him well for four years, during which time he changed its power from gasoline to electricity, and finally to steam in an effort to discover the best means of motivity. ‘The Horseless Age; a leading automobile journal of that day, in its issue of September 26, 1900, carried and advertisement for its sale. We have proof that ten years after it was built it was still travelling New Hampshire’s highways, for its registration may be found in the book of ‘New Hampshire Automobile Law – With Registration to February 1905.”

The Horseless Age Online at: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000543204