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Monthly Archives: March 2018


Memories of the 1936 Flood


West Hollis and Bridge Streets 1936

The great flood of 1936 struck both the Nashua and the Hudson side of the Taylor Falls Bridge. By mid March the accumulation of winter snow to the north and west along with warmer weather and heavy rains caused the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers to peak beyond flood stage. The rivers were rising fast and carrying large ice cakes. Flood stage on the Nashua side was reached by Sunday, March 15 including flooding along East Hollis and Bridge Streets. For a short time the water receded and the danger seemed to have passed; but by Wednesday, March 18, there were threats of more heavy rain and warmer weather. The Merrimack River was again rising fast at a foot an hour. During the next few days flood conditions existed along Litchfield Road, Webster Street, Post Office Square at the bridge, and south of the square to Maple Avenue and parts of Riverside near Lowell Road. By Saturday, March 21, flooding had peaked, water began to recede and the worst was over. It wold take months to clean up and recover from the damage and debris left behind.

From her home at 1 School Street, atop Campbell Avenue, Hazel Buxton (Mrs. Paul) was able to observe much of the flood activity in Post Office Square and Webster Street. Hazel kept a diary during the three worst days of the flood. This diary was later transcribed and placed on file at the Historical Society. Paul worked for the Public Service Company in Nashua and was stranded on the Nashua side during most of the flood.

On Thursday morning, March 19, the Telegraph reported the bridge was closed to traffic. Bridge and East Hollis Streets (Nashua) had 5 feet of water. On the Hudson side, Paradise Park (aka Paradise on the Merrimack) was flooded and families were being rescued from their homes in boats. The gas supply into Hudson was shut off and the red Cross was “at the ready” to offer help. Hudson pupils were unable to attend Nashua High. There was no gas with which to prepare breakfast. Hazel and her children (Elizabeth age 16 and Robert C age 8) walked from their home, down Campbell Avenue to and across the bridge. They watch as boats were carrying residents from East Hollis Street to dry land. Water had reached the tops of front door steps and beyond. Water was rising rapidly and the reports on the radio were alarming. Families along the Litchfield Road and Webster Street were being evacuated. Our first photo shows West Hollis and Bridge Streets at this time.

When they returned home Hazel placed some potatoes in the coal furnace to bake. By 2:00 pm the power was off. Neighbors were helping each other; sharing extra kerosene and lamps. The power plant off Bridge Street in Nashua was abandoned. The Nashua River was overflowed. Families in Hudson ate supper by lamps or candles. The Hudson fire trucks were used to barricade access to the bridge on Ferry and Central Streets.


Flooding at Post Square from Central Street

On Friday morning she learned from neighbors that the bread truck had arrived at Baker’s Store on Central Street. The delivery was made by men wading through water in their rubber boots. By this time the water is pouring over the railings on the bridge. Our second photo was taken from Central Street near Baker’s Store looking down onto the flooding over the bridge and in the square. We see men in the streets wearing rubber boots; perhaps delivering bread and food to Bakers Store.

As Hazel looked down Campbell Avenue she saw a barn sailing from East Hollis Street down river and soon heard a crash as the barn hit the Rochester railroad bridge. Hazel and the children walked around Central Street to Reed Street and could see water had flooded the lower end of Maple Avenue. Water was pouring through the coal cars on the bridge. The old toll house from the Nashua side of the bridge had also gone down river and came to rest near the barn.

There was no phone service. Water from Webster Street was now connected with the flood water in the square. Ferry Street was roped off at Library Street and Central Street was closed at the Odd Fellows Building. Hazel was able to use the police phone to learn that her husband, Paul, was safe in the second floor of the Belvedere School in Nashua (now a small park on Bridge Street). He would be removed as soon as possible; but, as of now the school was surrounded by water from both rivers.

By noon water was rushing across the square from Webster Street and all houses on Webster were flooded, including that of Kimball Webster. Many people were out and about. They watched a large barn come down river, rise and crash into the bridge, splintering in seconds. Debris popped up on the other side of the bridge. All kinds of debris hit the bridge, sucked under by the current and later popped up on the south side of the bridge in pieces. A small building with a stove pipe resembling a person hits. A bunch of railroad ties come down with thuds and loud reports as they hit the bridge.

By early afternoon news arrives that her husband Paul, and other Public Service Company employees are safe at an uptown office. The Hudson Community Church open for shelter, warmth, and food. Meals were served all day. Women used wood fires in the ranges. Donations were accepted for flood relief.


Flooding of River onto Litchfield Road

By 5:00pm water was receding. Friends drove them up to Elm Avenue and they found the water up to the front door of the Hardy farm, now home to Bernard and Elaine Brody. The Garrison farm was also flooded. Soon people were beginning to relax as the worst was over. Our third photo shows the flooding of homes along Litchfield Road.

Come Saturday there were many hours and weeks of cleanup before normalcy could be restored. All canned goods and preserved were thrown out after the cellars were pumped out and disinfected. Floors were warped, furniture ruined. Electricity, gas service, and telephone had to be restored. All photos are from the Historical Society Collection.



Eli Hamblet House

Eli Hamblet House
Our next stop on our revisit to Hudson Center is at the home of Eli Hamblet.  Eli and Benjamin Dean were neighbors, both homes facing the common on the east side.  The Historical Society is fortunate to have three original documents written by Eli; a work ledger for years 1840 to 1878; his 1855 and 1857 diaries; and a manuscript detailing Hudson’s contributions to the Civil War.  This was kept by Eli during his tenure as Town Clerk.
Born in 1810 to Tamar and Thomas Hamblet, Eli lived most, if not all, of his adult life in Hudson Center.  Eli’s home and farm was located on Hamblet Avenue facing the Hudson Center Common on the east side. This house was previously owned by John Foster who operated a grocery store there for about 19 years.  Eli married Rebecca Butler of Pelham in 1844.  Their daughters Rebecca Souvina and Arvilla continued to reside in the house after Eli’s death in 1896.  In addition to farming, Eli served his town in many ways; town clerk, selectman, overseer of the poor, and representative to the general court.  He was one of the organizers of the Hudson Center Library and he acted as the librarian when this small library was housed in his home.  He was a member and Deacon of the Baptist Church.  In 1876, when the Hudson Center Post Office was established at the Railroad Station behind the Town Hall, he was appointed postmaster.  He held this office until his death in 1896.  Eli’s entire family, including his parents, are buried in Westview Cemetery.  This house was the home of Robert Thompson, Sr and his family for many years.  After being vacant for an extended time it was demolished a few years ago.

Hudson’s Nick Connell, East of Echo


This week’s Remember Hudson When … article is by Stephen Kopiski.  He has an interest in our town’s history and personalities like Nick Connell.  

Nick Connell 1989 S

Nick Connell 1989

Hudson’s Nick Connell, East of Echo

          Consider around 1900, the Merrimack River would freeze over and permit winter recreation from NH to MA. Forty years later, with industrial and municipal development, the water warmed and the freeze was only a memory. True except for a nineteen year-old Hudson boy who decided on January 31, 1940, to lace up and skate to Lowell. Despite some harrowing watery encounters, he made it to Pawtucket Falls, 14 miles in a little over two hours. Not to be outdone, six days later, he skated another 14 miles from the Hudson bridge to Manchester. Too tired to skate back, he attempted hitchhiking, but ended up walking 9 of the miles in borrowed galoshes. The young man’s name was David Wesley “Maurice” “Nick” Connell, and he was just getting warmed up.
          That’s a lot of names and nicknames. A favored choice was “Nick,” so this story moves forward as such. Born September 21, 1921, Nick Connell was a man who saw goals and drove towards them his way, and with focus. A lot of claims are hard to verify; married 4 times, Nick maintained he’d had over 40 jobs; trapeze artist, elephant handler, policeman, railroad man, stone mason, vaudevillian and more. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of newspaper accounts and first-hand recollections of his exploits, for a glimpse into his extraordinary life.
          Nick joined the Navy in 1943 and served as a corpsman in WWII. Always a fitness enthusiast, the Nashua Telegraph archives offer multiple mentions of weightlifting meets and matches, many featuring his breaking numerous city and state records. One such meet had him breaking every record in the competition for his weight class (181 pounds in this case.) He even bested some of the heavyweights on that particular night. Along the way, Nick won the title of Mr. New Hampshire in 1948. This dominant heyday lasted from the early 1940’s until the mid 1950’s, but he maintained his bodybuilding and strength training discipline all of his life.
          A high school dropout, Connell was self-educated with a lifelong interest in the religions of the world. A heavy reader, he wrote and spoke with natural intelligence. In the mid 1950s, he dedicated himself spiritually and joined The Church of Latter Day Saints, The Mormons, and became the church’s State Commander (NH) in 1956. He remained a Mormon for life. Into the 1960s, his vocation had him living in Arizona and Salt Lake City, Utah where he performed his missionary service. Newspaper accounts from this period describe Nick as a researcher, a writer, even a lecturer for the church. But as this decade of cultural change and upheaval began to unfold, not being one to follow any crowd, Nick was headed for his own real-life revolution.
           As the 1970s dawned, Nick took to commuting between Hudson and San Diego, CA with the change of seasons. San Diego’s Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a protected environment for rare flora. Hikers and nature lovers are welcome, but only on the permitted trails. Predictably, Connell was far afield when he encountered a sandstone indentation in the cliffs, well off the trails. Here, allegedly in a vision, a white-haired man invited him to dig into the cliff, all the encouragement he needed. So with a Bowie knife and a screwdriver, and later a pickax and hatchet, he fashioned a tidy, comfortable two-room cave complete with carved-in bookshelves, window and sleeping platform. It was here, sheltered from New Hampshire winters, that Nick continued his studies of the world’s religions with the intention to write a book of life’s philosophy. Nick called his excavated refuge “East of Echo.”
          Here, two accounts collide, Nick had claimed that, even as a young boy, he felt the allure of solitary living. Much later, a soon-to-be-former wife suggested he go live in a cave…
          Unfortunately, he was dubbed “The Torrey Pines Hermit” (Nick always welcomed and entertained any visitor who could find him.) Over the years, he adorned the cave interior with impressive paintings and relief sculpture of religious and ancient symbolism. His visitors ventured off the permitted trails in the protected reserve to see the hermit in his unlikely lair. And even though it took 17 years, the park rangers eventually found the cave, and the hermit. There was reluctance on all sides concerning what to do. The cave and the artwork were splendid but even Nick agreed that a lot of laws had been and were being broken. His support reached all the way back to friends and well-wishers in Hudson, but in the end, 1991, East of Echo was filled with concrete and permanently sealed. Characteristically undeterred, Connell pursued various legal and physical means to resurrect his cave and his art. He even started new, more secret cave-carving in the reserve. For a while, the 70 year-old was hard to catch on the sandstone cliffs, but the rangers never gave up and he was repeatedly shooed off. Of note, towards the end of this period, Nick would write an occasional article in what was then known as “The Hudson News” entitled “View from the Cave.”
          Meanwhile back home, apparently restless while away from his cave, we have “1987 – Connell VS. Town of Hudson.” Nick risked arrest for photographing police activity at an automobile accident outside his home. He protested formally and finally received a written apology from the Chief of Police for his treatment at the scene. He sued anyway, and won (One Dollar, plus court costs.)
          With the cave adventure done, and confronting the relentless onslaught of old age, Nick stayed primarily at home in Hudson, but still visited the West Coast when he could. Not driven by material wealth, or notoriety, Nick Connell was an example of singular individuality and effort, even with occasionally dubious accomplishment. It was while in California that David Wesley Connell passed away on December 5, 1994. His remains were returned, here, to his hometown, where he rests. No doubt his gaze and his reach are finally infinite, like the imagination of the boy who braved the ice.