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Monthly Archives: December 2017

Town Poor Farm (Alms House)

154 Old Derry 2017 S

Garnett Home at 154 Old Derry (formerly the Alms House)

 

This home, located at what is now 154 Old Derry Road, became a part of our town’s history in 1828 when it was purchased by Nottingham West (now Hudson) and used as the town Poor Farm or Alms House. In those days the resident poor were kept at the town farm; those who could worked the farm in an effort to produce food for all residents of the farm. The town maintained this farm for some 40 years until 1868 when the farm was sold and the few paupers which existed at the time were boarded out to private homes at the expense of the town. It was common for towns in this area to maintain a poor farm, supervised by the Overseer of the Poor. It was, in essence, their welfare system. As uncomfortable as this concept makes us feel, we need to realize there were no pension plans, no social security, no food stamps, no insurance to address medical and or hospitalization expenses. Any number of life events could have caused one to end up at the poor farm: living beyond ones means, mortgage foreclosure with no options to refinance, not making plans for your old age or for your widow after your death. Couple any of these events with no family able or willing to to care for you could place one in this desperate situation.

By 1869, with the Town of Hudson providing for the poor by boarding them in private homes at the town’s expense, the town farm on Old Derry Road was sold to members of the Senter family. Proceeds from the sale were used to assist families of veterans of the Civil War.

The home at 154 Old Derry Road, the former Alms House, is now the delightful home of Al and Marikaye Garnett and their family. The Garnetts purchased the home some 25 years ago in 1992. I had the opportunity to visit with Marikaye in the living room of their home just before Thanksgiving. As you enter the home from the steps leading to the three season room (previously a summer porch); you enter the beautifully rustic but modern kitchen. From there we entered the living room. Sitting on one of the couches I had a complete view of their back yard with a fenced in swimming pool. Beyond fence was a field leading to a wooded area. Just before the wooded area one could see the iron chain fence installed by the Town of Hudson to identify the location of the Poor Farm Cemetery.

We spoke of the master bedroom which previously was the common area or social center for the residents of the poor farm. The stone fireplace, paneled walls, and large picture window gave no sense or memorabilia of the town paupers who called this house their final home. Any such reminders are behind the dry wall or the paneling or on the beams of the attic. Prior to moving into 154 Old Derry Road the Garnetts performed a tradition common to their faith, a house blessing. They went from room to room praying and telling Jesus they wanted to use this house for His glory. O yes, they have heard stories and experiences of previous owners; but for themselves, these past 25 years the house has been at peace.

Within my memory this house has been home to members of the Farrington (1985 – 1992), Gould (1970-1985), Mazzarella (1966-1970) and Dube (1940 – 1966) families. In 1940 Albert and Lydia Dube moved their family of five (Theresa, Gertrude, Alice, Leo, and Claire) into the old farmhouse. A second son, Paul, was born a few years later. The farmhouse was on one side of the road; the barn nearly opposite the house on the other side of the road. Here the Dube family resided; working and living on the family farm, delivering milk to the local dairy for processing, attending local schools, and participating in 4-H activities. When farming activity had ceased Albert and Lydia converted the barn into a house for himself and his wife, Lydia. After the remainder of the farm was sold in 1966, they continued to live in what had been their barn. This house at 157 Old Derry Road is now home to their grandson Neil Lavoie and his family.
Attached to the garage ceiling is a large antique hay fork . This was used to lift the loose hay from the hay wagon up into the loft of the barn for winter storage. This relic remains as a fond reminder of the farming days of their family.

Of the six members of the Dube family, five are living in New Hampshire and one in Florida. The oldest, Theresa at age 90, lives in a retirement community on Webster Street here in Hudson. Gertrude, next oldest, lives in Florida. Alice and her husband George Lavoie reside in Londonderry. Leo, the oldest son, graduated from Alvirne, served in the Air Force and later established a veterinary practice in Henniker. He has since retired. Claire graduated from Alvirne and she and her husband Paul Bouffard live in Bartlett, and Paul, the youngest is living in Hookset.

Today’s photo, taken by the author, shows the Garnett home, the former alms house, at 154 Old Derry Road as seen today.

 

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The Farm at ALVIRNE High School

Hills’ Farm house and barn in the early 1900’s

The story of the ALVIRNE High School farm is linked to the birth of the high school and before that time to the Hills family of Hudson.  The 180 acres +/-  which make up our high school and school farm were a part of a 900 acre parcel  purchased by Nathaniel Hills from Jonathan Tyng prior to 1733.    In 1733 this land was a part of Nottingham, MA and according to the tax list the only resident was Nathaniel Hills.  He had left the garrison and settled on the northern portion of his land near the river where the Hills’ Ferry was later established.
The parcel where the high school and farm reside was transferred from Nathaniel to Elijah Hills, a descendant of James, the youngest brother of Nathaniel.  From there it passed to Elijah’s son Elijah, Alden, and Alfred Kimball. Today the farm is known as the ALVIRNE High School farm; but previously it was known as the Alfred K. Hills Estate, the Alden Hills Farm, or the Old Hills Farm.
This farm was the birthplace and childhood home of Alfred K. Hills.  He was born October 1840, a 7th generation descendant of the immigrant Joseph Hills.  After local education he attended and graduated  Harvard College about 1862.  In 1865 he married Martha Simmons in Boston.  Within a few years they moved to New York City and he had graduated medical school and he began his medical profession of 40 years.  In June 1885 Martha (Simmons) Hills passed away.
A few years later in June 1887 Alfred and Ida Virginia Creutzborg of Philadelphia were married.  Soon after they  purchased the old homestead from his family.  To keep the farm working, Dr Hills hired a resident farm manager.  Alfred and Virginia built a spectacular summer home (called ALVIRNE) upon a knoll and across the street from the farmhouse.
They had two daughters (Gladys and Mary) who died as infants.  Virginia herself passed suddenly in 1907.  As a memorial to his wife Dr. Hills built ALVIRNE Memorial Chapel by 1908.  When the chapel was completed and consecrated the remains of his wife, Virginia, and their two daughters were laid to rest within the chapel.
By 1911 Alfred married a third time to Jessie Norwell of Nashua.  Dr Hills, his third wife Jesse, and second mother-in-law Mary Creutzborg continued to frequent the summer home. He passed in 1920 and his will was filed for probate in 1928. By his will he left funds to the town of Hudson for the construction of a high school to be named ALVIRNE.  In order to secure these funds for the town, a school must have been established within 20 years.  To meet this requirement a six week summer session was held on the grounds of the Alfred K. Hills Estate.  Classes in agriculture and forestry for the boys using the farm and classes in sewing for the girls were held in the meeting room of the summer home.  By August 1947 the courts ruled that the remaining assets of his estate be released to the town for the construction of ALVIRNE High School.  Thus, his farm and summer home became property of the Hudson School District.  Design and construction were begun soon thereafter.  
 
The current farm house was built C1875 after the previous, and perhaps the original, set of farm buildings were destroyed by fire in 1874.  The earlier buildings were typical to New England; a large square two story home with an ell from which a shed was connected.  The large barn was connected to the other end of the shed.  This barn was the first to burn as flames broke out in the hay at the end of the barn furthest from the house.  It was impossible to check these flames and save the cattle.  With the buildings so connected, and without adequate water supply and fire fighting equipment, little could be done to save any of the buildings.  Many priceless heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation in the Hills family were lost.  Damage was estimated at $5,000 including 10 head of cattle, 2 horses,and farm equipment,  The loss was partially covered by insurance.  

             ALVIRNE Farm house C 1980

 
We have two photos of the ALVIRNE farm house to share with you.  The first dates to  the early 1900’s.  We see the two story farm house and an early view of the barn.  The identity of the people in front of the farmhouse are not known.  The farm house received extensive renovations in the 1960’s under the supervision of the school board.  Our second photo shows the farm house C 1980.
The ALVIRNE barn has also been victim to fire.  After the 1874 fire the farm buildings were rebuilt; but, the barn and out buildings were not connected to the  residence.  A second fire in 1911 destroyed the barn and all out buildings except for one shed.  Again, the fire began in the barn and quickly sent up flames which could be seen from Nashua.  Two pieces of Fire fighting equipment were  quickly dispatched from Nashua.  One of these arrived at the scene in time to help the local bucket brigade to save the residence and farm animals; but, not in time to save the buildings.
A third fire which destroyed the barn of the Wilbur H. Palmer Vocational Center occured in 1993.  The barn we see there today was built following that fire.  The photos are from the collection of the Historical Society.  Description of the ancient farm buildings and of the 1874 and 1911 fires were found in September 11 and 15, 1911 editions of the Nashua Telegraph.