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Natural Descent of the Merrimack River

Iron Taylor’s Falls Bridge in Moonlight

Hudson’s western boundary is marked by a delightful section of the Merrimack River; stretching from Litchfield on the north, some 6.5 miles south to the state line with Ma. River crossings to Nashua occur at the Sagamore Bridge at the south near Walmart and at the Taylor’s Falls Bridge and Veterans Memorial Bridge near the Nashua River. There has been a Taylor’s Falls Bridge in this area since 1811. Initially a wooden toll bridge, then an iron bridge, a concrete bridge, and now the southern bridge of the twin span which dates to the 1970’s. So, the question is: Where were the Taylor Falls and what became of them?

The Pawtucket Falls in the Merrimack River at Lowell, MA was an important fishing ground for the Pennacook Indians during the pre-colonial times. “Pawtucket” is an Algonkian word meaning “at the falls in the river”. These falls were a barrier to commercial travel along the river to the early settlers, leading to the construction of the canal in the late 1700’s. In order to maximize the hydro-power and control the flow to the canal, a dam was built at the top of the falls in 1820 and expanded in 1840. The final structure exists in much to same form today, consisting of a stone dam topped with five foot wooded flash boards, This dam had the effect of raising the level of the river some 8 feet near the dam to 4 feet as far north as Cromwell Falls in Merrimack; eliminating any falls or rapids in the river from Lowell to Litchfield/Merrimack.

Besides the Pawtucket Falls there were three sets of rapids or waterfalls of significance to the early settlers; The Wicasuck Falls in Tyngsboro, the Taylor’s Falls in Hudson, and Cromwell’s Falls in Merrimack. The building of the Pawtucket Dam displaced each of these falls.

The Wicasuck Falls were about 4 miles north of Pawtucket where the river swept around a considerable island of the same name. This offered good fishing for the Indians and early settlers. The island played a significant part during King Philip’s War when Captain Jonathan Tyng “overlooked” a party of praying Indians that lived on this island for some 10 years thus keeping them out of the strife. In consideration of this the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony granted this island to him in December 1693, It became known as Tyng’s Inland.

A series of rapids known as Taylor’s Falls were located some 8 miles north of Tyng’s Island and one mile south of the junction of the Nashua and the Merrimack Rivers which is located just north of the Taylor’s Falls Bridge; placing them a little over 1/2 mile below the bridge. John Taylor built a garrison on that part of the Joseph Hills grant that was deeded to Gershom Hills and later the Charles W. Spalding farm. This garrison was built behind the house toward the river. The Spalding farm house is now the site of Continental Academie on Derry Road. Little is known of this John Taylor except that the Taylor’s falls were most likely named for him and clearly the Taylor’s Falls Bridge was name for the falls.

Joseph Cromwell was an early fur trader in Old Dunstable on the Merrimack side of the river. The site of his trading post is identified by a marker between the Anheuser-Bush brewery and the Clydesdale Hamblet in Merrimack. Cromwell Falls was visited by Henry David Thorreau and his brother John in September 1839 and this visit chronicled in his book “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers”. In this book he stated that the Cromwell Falls were the first falls they met while traveling on the Merrimack; thus indicating that the river level had been raised by that date.

Today the smooth surface of the Merrimack gives no indication of the underlaying rapids and falls were eliminated between Pawtuck and Cromwell Falls. Most of the information in this brief article is from Webster’s History of Hudson. The photo of the Taylor’s Falls bridge in moonlight is from a post card within the collection of the Hudson Historical Society. Researched and written by Ruth Parker.

Baker Homes and Baker Street 1890’s

Early 1900 photo of Baker Residence at 4 Baker Street

Baker Street was laid out July 23, 1889 on land owned or previously owned by Kimball Webster. This street went from Main Street (now Ferry Street) near Derry Road and proceeded northward to land set aside for the Methodist Church parsonage and then eastward to Derry Road (now a part of Highland Street). By 1892 when the Hurd Atlas of New Hampshire towns was published there were only four houses on Baker Street; corresponding to 4, 6, 8, and 10 Baker Street of today. Each of these four homes were built between 1889 and 1892 by/for John H. Baker, Ezra A. Martin, Gerry Walker, and Abi A. Sanders restively. . A short time after 1892 a house was built on what is now 12 Baker Street and land at 13 Baker Street (now the corner with Highland Avenue) had been designated as the site of Methodist Church parsonage, replacing their parsonage which was destroyed by fire on Central Street a few years earlier.

Lovisa Underwood (Webster) and John Henry Baker moved from the Pembroke, NH area between 1856 and 1858 with their son John Julian. A daughter Mittie and a son William Wallace were later born in Hudson. John Henry was a stone cutter and a farmer. In October 1888 he purchased a 22,800 square foot lot from his brother-in-law, Kimball Webster. This lot was located near Derry Road on a proposed street to be named Baker Street. His Victorian style home was the first to be built on that street and it became the family home for 3 generations of Bakers. John Henry lived here for the duration of his life; passing in January 1916. His wife, Lovisa pre-deceased him in March 1900. They were laid to rest in Sunnyside Cemetery. This house became home to siblings Mittie and John Julian. Their other sibling, William Wallace, also resided here until his marriage to Sarah Lee Oldell in December 1899 about which time he secured the lot at 6 Baker Street.

After receiving their education John Jullian and William Wallace each spent a few years working for their uncle, Nathan Webster, in his grocery and grain business on Central Street. In 1890 these brothers became business partners as they took over the operation and ownership of the store.

John Julian passed in February 1942 at the age of 89 and Mittie passed in July 1949 at the age of 89. After settling the estate of Mittie Baker title for the home at 4 Baker Street went to her nephew, John Earl. John Earl lived there until August 1965 when the home was sold outside the Baker family to Fred and Hazel Felber. who owned it for 28 years until it was sold from her estate in 1993. In the intervening 26 years to the present time this property had had 3 owners. At the present time it is a 3 family complex.

William Wallace Baker Residence at 6 Baker Street C 1933

The first home at 6 Baker Street was built by Ezra A. Martin about 1889 and unfortunately destroyed by fire by in 1890. There is no evidence he rebuilt as the lot was taken over by William Wallace Baker and he built his own residence there in 1899. From this home William Wallace and Sarah (Oldall) Baker raised their family of 3 sons; John Earl (B:1901), Sidney (B:1902), and Walace Grant (B:1907). William Wallace and Sarah continued to reside here. He passed in December 1932 and by October 1941 the house was purchased by James and Ethel Hopwood. James was employed in Wilton, NH and Ethel was teacher in the Hudson School System; teaching primarily at Webster School. By the mid 1950’s they had retired. The Baker Street house was then sold to George A. Fuller and Roland Levesque in November 1961. It was converted to a multi-family residence and has since been owned by members of the Cassavaugh Family and now by Alexander Croker.

Our first photo is from an early 1900 post card of the John Henry residence. The second shows the William Wallace home decorated for the 1933 town bi-centennial.