In his “History of Hudson, NH” Webster states it is impossible to determine when, where, or by whom the first mill was built in our town. Having said that, he does provide us some insights into where early mills did exist and who may have operated them. Settlers into this area needed sawed lumber. Just imagine how impractical it would have been to transport these products from Dunstable, across the Merrimack River with no bridge or ferry. Standing timber was plentiful and a number of brooks existed to provide the necessary power. Once their homes were established these settlers would also need a grist mill to grind their corn and grains into flour. Without a doubt these first mills were established by the early settlers along these streams.
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The Hadley /Willoughby Mill
This week we look at some of the history and background of the mills along Otternick (aka Tarnic or First ) Brook from the outlet of Otternick Pond to Melendy Road. Tradition claims the earliest mill in this area was built near the outlet of the pond on Otternick Brook about 1710. There are no records to tell us who the builder was or the exact date. To put this in perspective: our town was mostly wilderness. There were a few settlers mostly along the river on land granted to Joseph Hills. Three of his grandsons were building the Hills Garrison about this time. The other garrisons, Blodgett and Taylor, would be built within a few years.
We do know that about 1778 Moses Hadley built a small grist mill and probably a saw mill along this brook, near the site of the earlier mill. Some 20 years later, about 1798, he purchased the Richard Cutter farm located below this site and along the same brook. He then built another saw and grist mill. This site of this mill was on what is now Melendy Road. Our first photo shows the “Old Mill” just east of the dam which secures the pond behind the mill. The Hadley mill, built about 1800, remained in operation as late as 1870. Moses Hadley passes in September 1829 at the age of 79. In 1838 two brothers, Ethan and Mark Willoughby moved into town from Hollis. They purchased the Hadley mill from Moses’ family and continued its operation. The location of this dam and old mill (now gone) are at 12 Melendy Road; slightly east of the town’s Pickleball Courts (site of old skate park) at the corner of Central and Melendy.
Moses Hadley lived on what is now Central Street. From the early town records we see that in 1827 the town of Nottingham West (later Hudson) authorized the laying out of a road from Hamblet Ferry (at what is now the bridge) past Moses Hadley’s place to the North Meeting House in Hudson Center. This was Central Street and the North Meeting House was located on the site of the present Wattannick Hall.
Our second photo is of the same Hadley mill at about the same time. From this perspective we are looking across the pond at the opposite side of the old mill. Both photos are from the Historical Society Collection. The first was courtesy of Natalie Merrill and the second courtesy of Frank Mooney of Nashua. Both photos are undated. The “Old Mill” has been gone for a number of years. If any of our readers know when and under what circumstances the mill or the mill stones were removed please contact Ruth at the Historical Society either by email at HudsonHistorical@live.com or leave a message at 880-2020.
Both of the Willoughby brothers lived nearby. Mark on Central Street a short distance west of Sunnyside Cemetery. Ethan lived near the mill on the west bank of the mill pond.
During this time a facility was constructed west of the dam for various manufactures. About 1858 Daniel L. French and his son Edward Payson built tables and furniture using the business name of French & Gould. After several years of success the it was operated by Warren and Jacob Spalding under the name Albert Shedd & Co. Still later George S. Wood operated these mills and a table shop. Fires occurred in 1874 and again in 1888, each time it was rebuilt.
By 1892 George O. Sanders purchased the property and built a box shop. After operating for a few years it burned once more. Sanders rebuilt and sold the building and part of the land to George Melendy; retaining the water rights to the brook and the pond. Sanders built a large well and pumping station to be utilized by Hudson Water Company which he organized in 1893.
The Melendy Box Company operated for several years and ultimately became property of the Town of Hudson. The site was used by the Highway Department for the town barn. When the highway department moved into their new facility on Constitution Drive this area was utilized for a skate park and now for Pickleball.