History has informed us about the Greeley Public Library but this week we look at the man behind this library, Adoniram Judson “AJ” Greeley, MD.
A Hudson native he was the oldest son of Joanna (Merrill) and Reuben Greeley. Reuben owned a farm in Hudson Center adjacent to the Town Common; a prominent leader in town he served as postmaster, town clerk, selectman, representative to the legislature and an early members of the First Baptist Church. AJ’s mother, Joanna, was born in Sedgwick, Maine where her father, Rev. Daniel Merrill, was the pastor of the local church. Rev. Merrill served in the Revolution and graduated from Dartmouth College. He first served as a Congregational pastor but converted to Baptist and became a leader in the Baptist movement in New England. Rev. Merrill and his family moved to Hudson, then Nottingham West, in 1814 when he accepted the call to be the pastor of the Baptist Church here in Hudson. One could say the rest is history as Reuben, a prominent young man, and Joanna, the pastor’s daughter, were married in Hudson November 1817.
In September of the following year their first child was born and named Adoniram Judson Greeley in honor of the first protestant missionary sent from North America to serve in Burma. He was a New Englander and a Baptist, so it was natural that Reuben and Joanna named their first son in his honor.
AJ’s childhood home exists today at 234 Central Street, the parsonage of the First Baptist Church with the church located next door at the corner of Greeley and Central Streets. Much of the land surrounding 234 Central was Reuben’s farm; including the site of the church, and extending up Greeley Street and west along Central Street. During these early years the Baptists met in the north meetinghouse located near the site of the present Wattannick Hall. The Baptist meetinghouse was not built until 1842 when AJ was 24 years old. Neither did the church have a parsonage, Rev. Merrill and his family occupied a home on Kimball Hill Road.
AJ’s early education was from his parents and a local one room district school; most likely district #4 located on Kimball Hill Road. His high school education was at the Academy and Theological Institution in New-Hampton, NH. Following high school he attended Brown University in Rhode Island graduating in 1841. He then did medical studies at Harvard and received his MD in 1845. He practiced medicine in Searsmount, ME for about 10 years moving to Clinton, MA for a short period and then settled in or near Providence, RI area where he practiced nearly 40 years until his sudden and unexpected death in 1893.
In addition to medicine he had an advocation for antiquity. He traveled to various countries and was particularly knowledgeable about Europe and Egypt. He was known to have a sizeable estate which included his personal library of nearly 3000 books. In his will he bequeathed some 500 volumes to the town of Hudson for a library.
Dr. A. J. Greeley died unexpectedly at the age of 74. He was found unconscious in his office and passed away the next morning at a local hospital. A local police officer was doing rounds and noticed a trail of blood outside in his doorway. He followed the bloody trail to the doctor’s office where he was found unconscious. At first his passing was considered an accident, suffering head injuries as the result of a fall. Dr. Greeley did leave a blood stained note instructing whoever found it to get in touch with his brother, H.C. Greeley, the executor of his will. Following his death and an examination of his body the medical examiner declared his injuries were not consistent with an accident and his death was considered a homicide. The theory being he was attacked during a robbery as he was known to carry money on his person. It is unclear if anyone was prosecuted for this crime.
The rest is history. His brother was the executor of his estate. Through AJ’s generosity and the generosity of his heirs nearly 2000 volumes of his books came to Hudson over the next few months to form the nucleus of the Greeley Public Library. A.J. himself was returned to his hometown where he was laid to rest in the family lot in Westview Cemetery along with his parents and four of his siblings. Our first photo is of the book plate of the Greeley Public Library showing the early method for cataloging books. The second photo shows Dr. A. J. Greeley’s memorial in Westview Cemetery.
The Jette farmhouse is located at 117 Lowell Road and has been owned by Wesley Tate since 2004. He operates Jette Farm Auto Repair and Restoration at that location.
Edmond L. Jette and Rose M. Boissoneault married in August of 1933 and lived on the Litchfield Road in Hudson. By 1944 their family had grown to include five children and they needed more space. They then purchased a farm house as well as 30+ acres of farmland. Edmond was a machinist as well as a great father and farmer. Rose took great pride in her family and was always pleasant and friendly to everyone she met.
In 1944, the farm at what is now 117 Lowell Road was owned by the Pelletier family. It would soon be known to all as The Jette’s Garden Farm. Fresh vegetables were harvested and sold daily by a large and loving family. Edmond, Rose, and ultimately, all ten children worked hard together. Cows were milked for cream, milk, and butter. These items for the family were also swapped for chickens and eggs from their neighbors, the Maynard family.
In 1971, 59 year old Edmond passed away. Rose was left to care for her family and continue the farm stand as well as operating her weekend garage sale. Rose, in memory of her husband and the children in memory of their father, donated some of the farmland off County Road to The Town of Hudson. Today, close to a fenced in baseball diamond, there is a granite memorial identifying Jette Field; a great gesture and memory for all to enjoy. The plow on the marker symbolizes Edmond’s love of the land. In the spring of 2013, 102 year old Fernand, brother of Edmond, threw out the first pitch to begin the baseball season.
Over the years family members tapped from the trees seen in front of the house. Sap was boiled down maple syrup was made by and for family members.
You can still drive by 117 Lowell Road and look upon the old homestead as it stands today. The farmland was sold when Rose downsized. Rose passed away in 1996. Although you are driving by the old farm land for memories, much of it has evolved into Fox Hollow as well as Teledyne, the memories are never to be forgotten. Thanks to Angela Rose (Jette) Dickman, grandaughter of Rose and Edmond, for the memories and photo of 117 Lowell Road. Written by Ruth Parker.
Hills Memorial Library at the corner of Library and Ferry Streets was dedicated June 11, 1909 and opened for the first day on June 12. Let’s look at the history behind the planning and construction of the library which served our town for over 100 years.
Prior to June 1909 our town library, The Greeley Public Library, was located on the third floor (Webster Hall) of the Baker Brothers Building on Central Street; named for Dr. Adoniran Judson Greeley a Hudson native. By his will and the generosity of his heirs some 1,878 books from his private collection were selected for the library. This library was organized in 1894 and was located at the home of George A. Merrill on Maple Avenue for about one year. The books were then moved to the third floor of the Baker Building on Central Street where it remained for some 14 years. During these years the ‘bridge section’ of our town was growing! The bridge to Nashua plus three trolley lines were transforming the Bridge Area into the business center of Hudson.
In July 1903, almost 6 years before the opening of the Hills Library, Kimball Webster purchased land at the corner of Ferry and Sanders (now Library) Streets from the Nashua Coal and Ice Company. Yes, an icehouse did exist on the lot at the time. Webster realized the need for a permanent and centrally located building and realized that suitable sites were being taken up for other purposes and prices were increasing. He purchased this lot with the intent of having it for a library building when the time came. He gifted it to the town in September 1904 with well considered stipulations. The lot was for a library building facing Sanders Street with no buildings between it and the street. The town had the obligation to erect a reasonable and respectable building. In no case was the town ever to sell, dispose or convey these premises or any part to any person or corporation. If sold or attempted to sell the land would immediately revert to the donor or his estate.
With this gift the town was assured of a prime location for a library and waited for a proper building!! Hudson did not have long to wait. The right people were Dr. Alfred K. Hills, his wife Ida Virginia, and her mother Mary Creutzborg.
Dr. Hills was born in Hudson, October 1840, to Alden and Nancy (Currier) Kimball Hills. Alden was a direct descendent of James Hills who, with his brothers, were the first settlers of this town. Dr. Hills married Martha P. Simmons, June 1865. She passed in June 1885; they had no children. Soon thereafter in June 1887 he married Ida Virginia Creutzborg of Philadelphia. Dr. Hills purchased his family homestead on Derry Road, where he built their summer residence which he named “Alvirne”. It was here that he and his wife spent the summer seasons for many years, residing in New York during the winter. They had two daughters who passed in infancy. Mrs. Hills passed I May 1908.
Mrs. Hills was an educated and refined lady with a happy and cheerful disposition with a generous, philanthropic nature and prominent in town for more than 20 years. Dr. and Mrs. Hills had a vision to erect a building for a town library. His own library at “Alvirne”, a product of Mrs. Hills’ brain in conjunction with their architect Hubert Ripley, was a working model for such a building.
Soon after her passing Dr. Hills proceeded with her wishes. Working with the architect plans were made for a building of stone which would be ornamental and convenient. A plan was presented to the selectmen with the request they call a special town meeting for its consideration. Here, on September 1, 1908 the town voted to accept the gift from Dr. Hills. In essence he would build the library at his expense which would be essentially like the sketch presented at the meeting. This sketch is a part of the collection of the Historical Society. Named “Hills Memorial Library”, it would be built on the lot previously donated by the Honorable Kimball Webster, house the collection of the Greeley library and be maintained by the town as long as it exists. Construction began in October of 1908.
In a report to the town in early November 1908 Dr. Hills acknowledged the thanks and well wishes of the people. With the passing of his wife that same year, their planned gift would occur earlier than expected. He also announced that he would be joined in the endeavor by Ids Virginia’s mother. With solid progress so early it was his hope that the roof would be on by the end of the fall so that interior work could occur during the winter months. On June 11, 1909, the twenty-second anniversary of Dr. Alfred Hills and Ida Virginia Creutzborg, the Hills Memorial Library was dedicated. It was opened for the first exchange of books on June 12, 1909.
The second photo shows the construction crew on the unfinished steps of the library. The roof is complete or nearly completed. I date this photo as late all 1908.
By the early 1980’s the expansion of the library services began to outgrow the capacity of the building. These pressures were eased by a bookmobile in 1977 and later with two satellite buildings in the rear of the main building. Attempts were made to expand the building but the plans did not get the approval of the voters. In 2007 a donation from the Rodgers Brothers was made and graciously accepted for a new library facility in memory of their parents, George and Ella M. Rodgers.
In 1984 the Hills Memorial Library Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2012 added to the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places.
In preparing this article I have relied upon various sources: History of Hudson, Documentation presented for inclusion on the National Register, Library history prepared by Laurie Jasper, and newspaper articles from the Nashua Telegraph. Written by Ruth Parker and edited by Steve Kopiski.