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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.
Where could you stand and have one foot in Hudson and one in Nashua? Many folks remember walking along the sidewalk of the concrete bridge (north side of the bridge); halfway across we would see this pink granite marker commemorating the building of the bridge and identifying the principals from Nashua and Hudson who served on a joint committee to oversee the construction of the bridge in 1910. Turning to face the plaque one could easily stand so as to have one foot in each municipality!
Prior to 1910 the bridge between Nashua and Hudson was an iron bridge built in 1882. At that time there were no electric cars (trolleys) crossing between the two villages. In 1895 the bridge was strengthened in order to allow electric cars in addition to horse drawn vehicles to use this bridge. By 1909 safety of the bridge became an issue; especially in regard to the weight of the trolleys which was now twice the weight previously planned for. The bridge was deemed unsafe by two different engineers. An article in the 1910 town warrant to replace the iron bridge with a new steel bridge was indefinitely postponed. The recently elected Board of Selectmen, Jesse S. Wesson, George N. Dooley, and Guy A. Hopkins were authorized to confer with managers of the street railway and representatives from Nashua to decide what should be done.
By May 1910 the plans were revised to build a bridge of reinforced concrete, consisting of 5 arches with 4 piers in the river and abutments at each end. A special town meeting was called and this plan was voted on: 194 votes cast with 192 in favor!! The three recently elected selectmen along with Kimball Webster and Nathaniel Wentworth were authorized to serve on a joint committee with the Mayor of Nashua and members of the Nashua public works department. The committee acted promptly; by June a contract was signed with Fred T. Ley and Co. of Springfield, MA. The bridge was 36 feet wide plus a 6 foot raised sidewalk on the north side. Construction proceeded quickly and the first horse drawn vehicle crossed the new bridge on November 17. A few days later on November 23 the first electric car was able to cross into Hudson on the new bridge. Work was soon completed on the bridge except for the need of additional reinforcement of pier #4 which was completed in 1912. The final meeting of the joint committee was held at the Nashua City Hall October 13, 1912. The final payment was made to the construction company. The total cost was $74,480. The only remaining issue was how to apportion this cost between the two communities. The photo of an early trolley on the new concrete bridge into Hudson was taken from the roof of the Old Baker building. This photo is part of our Historical Society collection, complements of Don Himsel.
This concrete bridge remained in service until 1971, despite repairs and work on the pilings to prolong it’s usefulness, when it was destroyed to allow for the construction of the present southern span. Just prior to the destruction of the bridge this granite marker was removed and placed on display at the Historical Society.
I have not heard or read of any particular dedication of this bridge; nor to I know exactly when the pink granite plaque identifying the names of the individuals on the joint bridge committee. Let’s look at who represented Hudson on this committee. First the three selectmen: Jesse Weston, George N. Dooley, and Guy A. Hopkins.
Jesse Weston was born February 1862 in Nashua; moving to Hudson about 1880. He married Agnes Willoughby in Nashua June 1891. While in Hudson he lived on Barretts Hill and worked as a mason. He served as a selectman and Representative to General Court. After the bridge was completed he returned to Nashua where he was employed as a foreman for Osgood Construction Co. and later engaged in the contracting business as Weston and Could. He passed in April 1941 and was buried in Nashua’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
George N Dooley was a Hudson native who owned and operated a farm on Old Derry Road previously owned by his father, Stephen. Father and son were active in town affairs. Each served as selectman and in the state legislature. George and his wife Ella (Hadley) Dooley had 4 sons. George N. passed in 1928 at the age of 57 from complications resulting from a farm accident.
Guy Hopkins, a bookkeeper, moved to Hudson from Nashua sometime between 1880 and 1909. He lived on the Lowell Road near Wason Road and continued to work as a bookkeeper in Nashua. While in Hudson he served as a selectman and on the joint bridge committee. He returned to Nashua about 1920.
Born in December 1843 in MA, Nathaniel Wentworth, enlisted with the 1st Mass Calvary in 1864 at the age of 21 and was discharged about a year later. He married Edwina Greeley in May 1870 and soon thereafter moved to Hudson. He spent most, if not all, of his remaining 53 years living in Hudson Center on Greeley street near the railroad depot. As a young man we was a mason, later he became the fish and game commissioner; a position he held for many years. He was active in town affairs; serving on the committee to build the D.O. Smith School in 1896. Later, after that school was destroyed by fire, he served on the committee to build it’s replacement. the Hudson Center School. In 1910 he was selected to serve on the joint committee between Nashua and Hudson to build the concrete Taylor Falls Bridge. He passed August 1923 and is burried in Westview Cemetery in Hudson Center.
Kimball Webster was born in Pelham November 1828; grow up on a farm he was used to hard work. In April 1849 at the age of 20 he left home and traveled to Independence, MO. There he joined a company of 28 men fitted out with pack mules and horses. He traveled over the trail to California in pursuit of the great gold discovery. He worked the mines for a while and then traveled to the territory of Oregon where he began a career as a land surveyor; first with public lands and later as an employee of the railroad. Mr. Webster married Abiah Cutter of Pelham and they settled on a portion of his grandfather’s farm in Hudson. Their adult family consisted of 5 daughters each of whom married and remained in the Hudson/Nashua area. Kimball had an extensive career as a surveyor, civil engineer, Justice of the Peace, writer, and historian. We are reminded daily of the contribution his ‘History of Hudson, NH’ has made to our knowledge of our past.
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