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Hills Homestead on Barretts Hill Road

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Farmhouse at 25 Barretts Hill Road C2003

Paul W. Hills is the last Hills descendant to live on Stoney Ridge Farm at 25 Barretts Hill Road. Paul was born in Marlborough, MA to Orlando Greenleaf and Lillian Hoffman. He grew up on a farm and was educated in schools local to that area. Paul proudly served our country in the Korean War and was discharged as a Corporal. Paul and his first wife Patricia had a family of one son, Paul W. Jr., and two daughters; Nancy and Cynthia; each of whom have families of their own and are living outside of NH. It is notable that in addition to Paul Sr. each of his children also served in the military. Patricia and Paul are divorced and Patricia lives elsewhere in NH. After returning home from the service Paul enjoyed a career as a truck driver until his retirement. He had a passion for farming; raising animals, birds, horses, cows, and pigs. About the time of his retirement Paul and his second wife Margaret moved to Hudson to live with his Aunt Sylvia (Hills) Flemming. He remained a resident of Hudson and Stoney Ridge Farm until his passing in April of this year. Those who knew Paul remember his garden, his peacocks, chickens, beef cows, and his love for the outdoors; traveling his acres on his ‘trike’ when walking became a challenge.

Silas Hills was the earliest ancestor in Paul’s direct line to settle on Barretts Hill. Silas was born 1813 in Windham. His parents were Jeremiah (b:1773 in Nottingham West) and Margaret Davidson (b:1781 in Windham). By 1837 Silas married Roxanna Farnum of Londonderry. Not sure when he actually began working his farm in Hudson but it was between 1841 and 1844. He operated a saw mill and grist mill on nearby Glover Brook whenever there was sufficient water flow to provide the necessary power. He did have some successful years but ultimately the mill fell into decline. Silas and Roxanna had 1 daughter, Addelisa; and 3 sons, John, George, and Orlando G.

Orlando G. (b:1855) remained on the family dairy farm and married Antoinette “Nettie” Young of Hudson in 1889. According to the 1892 map of Hudson and old deeds, Orlando G. and Nettie lived in the 25 Barretts Hill Road farmhouse. This map shows a cellar hole on the opposite side of the road which had been occupied by Silas. A part of the farm house dates to 1791.

Orlando and Nettie had 1 daughter (Sylvia B 1897) and 3 sons Orlano Greenleaf Jr. (b:1890) Harland (b:1891) and Lyman (b:1894). The 3 brothers served in France during World War I. Lyman had a 32 year career with the US Infantry beginning with the China Expedition and continuing to World War II. Orlando Greenleaf, Jr moved to Marlborough, MA where he and Lillian Hoffman raised their family of 3 daughters and 2 sons, the youngest being Paul W. Harland and Sylvia remained on the farm in Hudson. Over time ownership of the farm passed from Nettie to her daughter, Sylvia.

Sylvia Hills attended St. Josephs Hospital School of Nursing and was certified as a Registered Nurse in 1929. By July 1941 she married Alfred Flemming and they settled on the farm. Alfred conducted the farming operations and Sylvia continued her nursing career engaging in private duty work and later operating a nursing home at her residence. Alfred and Sylvia decided upon the name ‘Stoney Ridge Farm’ even applying to the State of NH for the use of that name. Sylvia was well known and respected in Hudson: a member and deacon of the Baptist Church, serving on the Historical Committee of Hudson Fortnightly Club, a founding member and director of the Historical Society, and a member of both the National Society Daughters of American Revolution and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic. Alfred passed in 1965 and Sylvia continued to live on the farm, phasing out her retirement home over time. By 1980 Sylvia’s nephew, Paul, moved to the farm, thus keeping the farm in the Hills family.

Some readers may ask what the relationship is between Paul W. Hills and Dr. Alfred K. Hills. Their family lines merge at their common ancestor, James Hills (b:1697). James was the youngest of the three grandsons of Joseph Hills who built and settled the Hills Garrison.

In 1989 Stoney Ridge Farm received an award from the United States Department of Agriculture; recognized for being in the same family since the birth of the US Constitution. This award went to only two farms in Hudson and only a handful in the state of NH. From that day forward Paul proudly displayed his Bicentinial Farm sigh next to the Stoney Ridge Farm sign.

When Silas settled in Hudson this section of town was a wilderness dotted with a few farms. Today we find the Stoney Ridge Farm to be 45 acres of undeveloped farmland and woods. A haven and refuge for wildlife, surrounded by hundreds of acres of residential land and commercial development plus some acres waiting to be developed. In 2001 Paul Hills entered into an agreement with the town of Hudson which, in essence, was designed to protect this 45 acres from being development. Mr. Hill sold the development rights of his farm to the town of Hudson. This farm land is no longer owned by a member of the Hills family. It was recently sold by Paul’s estate to a local homeowner. This person owns and has use of the land for agricultural purposes. The photograph of the Hills farmhouse is from the collection of the Hudson Historical Society.

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The Farm at ALVIRNE High School

Hills’ Farm house and barn in the early 1900’s

The story of the ALVIRNE High School farm is linked to the birth of the high school and before that time to the Hills family of Hudson.  The 180 acres +/-  which make up our high school and school farm were a part of a 900 acre parcel  purchased by Nathaniel Hills from Jonathan Tyng prior to 1733.    In 1733 this land was a part of Nottingham, MA and according to the tax list the only resident was Nathaniel Hills.  He had left the garrison and settled on the northern portion of his land near the river where the Hills’ Ferry was later established.
The parcel where the high school and farm reside was transferred from Nathaniel to Elijah Hills, a descendant of James, the youngest brother of Nathaniel.  From there it passed to Elijah’s son Elijah, Alden, and Alfred Kimball. Today the farm is known as the ALVIRNE High School farm; but previously it was known as the Alfred K. Hills Estate, the Alden Hills Farm, or the Old Hills Farm.
This farm was the birthplace and childhood home of Alfred K. Hills.  He was born October 1840, a 7th generation descendant of the immigrant Joseph Hills.  After local education he attended and graduated  Harvard College about 1862.  In 1865 he married Martha Simmons in Boston.  Within a few years they moved to New York City and he had graduated medical school and he began his medical profession of 40 years.  In June 1885 Martha (Simmons) Hills passed away.
A few years later in June 1887 Alfred and Ida Virginia Creutzborg of Philadelphia were married.  Soon after they  purchased the old homestead from his family.  To keep the farm working, Dr Hills hired a resident farm manager.  Alfred and Virginia built a spectacular summer home (called ALVIRNE) upon a knoll and across the street from the farmhouse.
They had two daughters (Gladys and Mary) who died as infants.  Virginia herself passed suddenly in 1907.  As a memorial to his wife Dr. Hills built ALVIRNE Memorial Chapel by 1908.  When the chapel was completed and consecrated the remains of his wife, Virginia, and their two daughters were laid to rest within the chapel.
By 1911 Alfred married a third time to Jessie Norwell of Nashua.  Dr Hills, his third wife Jesse, and second mother-in-law Mary Creutzborg continued to frequent the summer home. He passed in 1920 and his will was filed for probate in 1928. By his will he left funds to the town of Hudson for the construction of a high school to be named ALVIRNE.  In order to secure these funds for the town, a school must have been established within 20 years.  To meet this requirement a six week summer session was held on the grounds of the Alfred K. Hills Estate.  Classes in agriculture and forestry for the boys using the farm and classes in sewing for the girls were held in the meeting room of the summer home.  By August 1947 the courts ruled that the remaining assets of his estate be released to the town for the construction of ALVIRNE High School.  Thus, his farm and summer home became property of the Hudson School District.  Design and construction were begun soon thereafter.  
 
The current farm house was built C1875 after the previous, and perhaps the original, set of farm buildings were destroyed by fire in 1874.  The earlier buildings were typical to New England; a large square two story home with an ell from which a shed was connected.  The large barn was connected to the other end of the shed.  This barn was the first to burn as flames broke out in the hay at the end of the barn furthest from the house.  It was impossible to check these flames and save the cattle.  With the buildings so connected, and without adequate water supply and fire fighting equipment, little could be done to save any of the buildings.  Many priceless heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation in the Hills family were lost.  Damage was estimated at $5,000 including 10 head of cattle, 2 horses,and farm equipment,  The loss was partially covered by insurance.  

             ALVIRNE Farm house C 1980

 
We have two photos of the ALVIRNE farm house to share with you.  The first dates to  the early 1900’s.  We see the two story farm house and an early view of the barn.  The identity of the people in front of the farmhouse are not known.  The farm house received extensive renovations in the 1960’s under the supervision of the school board.  Our second photo shows the farm house C 1980.
The ALVIRNE barn has also been victim to fire.  After the 1874 fire the farm buildings were rebuilt; but, the barn and out buildings were not connected to the  residence.  A second fire in 1911 destroyed the barn and all out buildings except for one shed.  Again, the fire began in the barn and quickly sent up flames which could be seen from Nashua.  Two pieces of Fire fighting equipment were  quickly dispatched from Nashua.  One of these arrived at the scene in time to help the local bucket brigade to save the residence and farm animals; but, not in time to save the buildings.
A third fire which destroyed the barn of the Wilbur H. Palmer Vocational Center occured in 1993.  The barn we see there today was built following that fire.  The photos are from the collection of the Historical Society.  Description of the ancient farm buildings and of the 1874 and 1911 fires were found in September 11 and 15, 1911 editions of the Nashua Telegraph.

Some Ancient History of the Hill Family of Hudson

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Aerial View of Garrison Marker

The immigrant ancestor for the Hills Family of Hudson was Joseph Hills; born in England in 1602 he sailed in 1638 on the “Susan & Ellen” and settled in Charleston, MA (later set off as Malden) where he became active in town affairs.  He was a lawyer, leader of the militia, and held many important officers.  He later moved to Newbury.  In 1645, he served on a committee to set off lots in Nashaway Plantation and  In 1648 he wrote the first laws for the colony of Massachusetts.  In return for his services to the colony, he received a grant of some 500 acres in what is now Hudson in 1661.  Of these acres, 450  ran from a few rods north of the Taylor Falls Bridge, north along the east side of the river  beyond Derry Lane to include the site of Hills Garrison.  When the Town of Dunstable, MA was chartered all 450 acres were within the boundaries of that town.
Joseph passed away in 1688.  By his will he divided the 450 acres into 9 parcels  and passed ownership to members of his family.  With one exception no settlement occurred on any of these parcels until ownership passed at least one more time and outside the Hills Family.  The one exception was the northern most parcel of 89 acres he passed to his son Samuel.  By 1710, Nathaniel, Henry, and James, three of Samuel’s sons, built and occupied a garrison house on their father’s land.   Nathaniel was about 27, Henry about 22, and James about 13 years old.
By 1721 Samuel deeded the northern half of his land to Henry and the southern half to son James.  In 1723 James married Abigail Merrill and a few days later he sold to Samuel Whiting and they moved to Newbury.  Some time before 1732 Nathaniel purchased a 900 acre parcel of unsettled land from Jonathan Tyng.  This parcel also bordered on the river and was adjacent to and north of what had been his father’s 89 acres.  Samuel passed away in 1732.
Some time before 1733 Nathanial and his family moved from the garrison onto his 900 acres.  He set up a dwelling about 1/2 mile north of the garrison and near the bank of the river.  He later established and operated a ferry across the river, known as Hills Ferry.  This was operated by him or one of his descendants until 1827 when the first Taylor Falls Bridge was built.
In 1733 the town of Nottingham, MA was chartered to include all Dunstable land east of the river.  In 1734 the town of Litchfield, MA was chartered.  This charter established the southern boundary of Litchfield at the northern most part of the Joseph Hills grant.  Thus, the acres owned by Henry were in Nottingham, MA.  The acres Nathaniel had just purchased were in Litchfield.  About 1739 or 1740 Henry sold his land and the garrison to Deacon Roger Chase.  Henry then moved 1/4 mile east and established a farm on his brother’s land.  By that time none of the Hills Family had any ownership interest in the garrison or the Hills Grant. The families of Nathaniel and Henry were residing on the western part of Nathaniel’s 900 acres.  James, his wife and 4 small children had returned to Nottingham, MA and settled on a farm (now 20 Old Derry Road) which he acquired from his brother.
In 1740 the boundary between NH and MA was established and by 1746 Nottingham West, NH and Litchfield, NH were chartered.  These charters established the boundary between those two towns as we know it today.  During this period of uncertainty over state and town boundaries there were a number of residents  in nearby Londonderry which were of the opinion their homes would become a part of Nottingham West.  When this did not happen these residents petitioned to be annexed.  This became final in 1778 when some 4600 acres of Londonderry became a part of Nottingham West.
Henry Hills remained on his farm until he passed in 1757.  A few years later it was conveyed to his nephew, Elijah Hills.  Elijah was the grandfather of Alden and the great-grandfather of Dr Alfred K. Hills.  Alvirne High School and the surrounding grounds, including the Hills House, are on land which was a  part of this farm.  As time progressed Henry Hills Jr purchased the  farm  which is now 34-36 Old Derry Road.  Also, Nathaniel Hill Jr established a farm (now 62-64  Old Derry Road) upon part of his father’s land.
From 1661 to 1780 the one constant was the land and the location of the land that Nathaniel, Henry, and James and some of their descendants lived on.  Around this many things changed:  What state are you in?  What town do you live in?  Are we being taxed by more that one town?  What county seat do we use to record land purchases?  In the next few weeks we will be Remembering … some of these properties along and near Old Derry Road. This weeks photo, an aerial view of Garrison Farm, shows the original location of the historic marker  for the Hills Garrison.    The marker is in the open field behind the barn left of the roadway through the field.