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Memories of the 1936 Flood

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Plane Crash of June 17, 1928

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Plane Crash Ferryall Field June 17, 1928

Sunday, June 17, 1928 began as a pleasant, slightly windy day at Ferryall Field in Hudson.  Among those present at the airfield was George “Chappy” Lennox, a 24 year old licensed aviator with a recently purchased American eagle type plane.  It had been flown several times the preceding week and had just returned from a short test run.  By all involved and observing at the field, the plane was running perfectly.  “Chappy” and the plane were set to fly and provide passenger rides over the Hudson/Nashua area.  Also present were two well known residents of Nashua; each hoping to be on the first passenger trip of the day.  Marcel Theriault, age 43, and Miss Kathryn L. Thomas, age 22 were engaged in a friendly discussion as to who would be the first passenger of the day.  Mr. Theriault yielded to chilvery and offered that Miss Thomas ride first.  She, out of respect, offered that he ride first.  They settled the discussion by agreeing to both be passengers on the first flight of the day.
 
Kathryn Thomas was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Thomas of Nashua.  He was a prominent official with the Boston and Maine Railroad and a friend of the Theriault Family.  Present with her at the airfield were a brother and her fiance Dr. Linwood Farrington of Lowell.
 
Marcel Theriault was native to New Brunswick, Canada and moved to Nashua at a young age.  After graduating law at Boston University in 1914 he entered into a partnership with a Nashua firm.  He left the partnership in 1920 and worked in Concord for a time and then returned to Nashua and purchased Riverside Farm (later Hayward Farm), one of the largest in the state.  Present with him at the airfield was his youngest son, Albert then age 15.
 
Both passengers wore helmets and flying goggles.  His was of canvas and hers of black felt.  The pilot drove the plane to the south corner of the field so as to take advantage of its entire length during take-off.  At a height of 50-100 feet the pilot saw flames in the cockpit and quickly  and intentionally banked the plane in an attempt to bring it down in adjacent ploughed ground.  The plane struck the ground head on.  The pilot leaped from the plane and then returned to it in an attempt to help the passengers.  The flames drove him away and he rolled to the ground to smother the fire which had ignited his clothing.  “Chappy” was taken to the hospital in Nashua in a nearby auto. He remained hospitalized in critical condition for some time.
 
Death to the passengers came in an instant.  The plane was immediately engulfed in flames when gasoline from the tank ignited and consumed the plane down to its steel framework.  This accident and death of two well known Nashua residents shocked both communities.  Mr. Theriault, a former lawyer and state senator, chose to be burried on his Riverside Farm on Broad Street.  In 1965, after a recent purchase and proposal for a shopping center, the Theriault family removed his remained from the secluded gravesite to Pine Knoll Cemetery in Hannover. 
 
Hudson Police Chief, Harry J. Connell was early at the scene.  Based upon his and other  investigations the tragedy was declared an unavoidable accident.  
 
The account of this accident appeared in the June 18, 1928 edition of the Nashua Telegrph.  Oddly enough, that same paper and the same page, told readers of Amelia Earharts’ flight over the Atlantic – being the first girl to accomplish such a flight.
 
This weeks photo shows the burned remains of the American eagle type plane at Farryall Field.  Behind the remains are James A. Sherlock, Harry J. Connell, and Fred Mears.  This photo and the newspaper article are a recent addition to our collection at the Historical Society.

 

Ferryall/Rowell Homestead C 1900

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Ferryall/Rowell Homestead Litchfield Road C 1900

This fine victorian home on Webster Street was erected in 1894 by George P. Woodward.  After a few years Mr. Woodward moved to Lowell, MA and by 1912 this home and the surrounding farm was owned by Abraham Ferryall.  It was home to Abraham and his wife Marslene; their son Fred and his wife Angelina (Salival) and their 10 year old daughter Zoula.  Abraham passed in 1915 and ownership of the house farm passed to Fred Ferryall.  Going back in history, this farm was part of the 500 acre land parcel granted to Joseph Hills in 1661.   
 
Much of the Ferryall Farm was located on the west side of Webster Street and bordered on the Merrimack River.  This intervale land was some of the best agricultural land in New Hampshire.  Despite this, the Ferryall Farm is noted in history for the various civic activities, local and national, which occurred here.
 
During World War I which the United States entered in 1917, Mr and Mrs Fred Ferryall donated the use of a  field as a landing place for airplanes and seaplanes which landed on the Merrimack River.  This land, known as Ferryall Field, was approved by the US Government as a landing place, and was placed on government maps.  Following the war use of this field continued as an airfield for the Nashua area until the Nashua airport was established in 1934.   This field was used to charter passengers for Nashua and area businesses, transport animals for Benson’s Animal Farm, as a pilot training school, and even as a recreational site for the flying circus. Fred Connell, well known from Hudson’s past, learned to fly in 1929 at the Manchester Airport.  He flew in and out of Ferryall Field carrying many residents on their first plane ride; air fair being set at a ‘cent a pound’.  These events  became so popular that a second plane was added.  At one time as many as 500 cars were parked on the field.  In June of 1928 there was a serious and fatal air crash at Ferryall Field.  The story of this event will be the subject of next week’s Remember Hudson When…
 
In 1923 Zoula Ferryall and Harold Clinton Rowell were married in Nashua and in 1925 their son Clifford was born.  The Rowell family lived for a time in Nashua.  In 1932 their son Fred was born.  At the time of the 1940 census Mrs Rowell and her 2 sons were living on Derry Road and she was employed as a secretary for the US forest service.
 
During World War II the donated use of the Ferryall property continued.  Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ferryall donated the use of part of their home for a Government Observation post. This post was manned twenty-four hours a day by civic minded Hudson citizens.  Among those who volunteered were Mr and Mrs Ferryall, their daughter Zoula Rowell.  Her son Clifton was Chief Observer and organized volunteers; those listed above plus Kendall Oliver, Gordon French, Vincent Rigg, and Mary Laflame a domestic employed by the Ferryall family.  Later the American Legion Auxiliary arranged for additional volunteers.  Any and all planes seen or heard were reported immediately via phone to a government number; giving direction of flight, where sighted or heard, and type of plane if possible.  This information was also logged for future reference.  A room in the house which had a separate entrance was furnished for the comfort of the observers.  The use of the phone, heat, and electricity was also donated.
 
The Ferryall/Rowell family donated the use of a section of the farm adjacent to the river to the government for army maneuvers.  The men camped and carried out their training which included the building of a temporary bridge across the Merrimack. During some of these years the Rowell family lived on Derry Road and used the Webster Street home as a summer home.  
 
Post WWII and as our town grew donated use of the family homestead continued.  The home was  the first or temporary Rectory and office for St. John’s Church until a permanent rectory was built.  Use of the field was also donated to the parish for their annual carnival.
 
Later Mrs. Rowell lived there with her son Fred.  When Mrs. Rowell passed, the homestead passed to her two sons.  After the death of Fred, the land and buildings were sold and the Sparkling River development began.
 
Through the years Zoula Rowell volunteered much of her time and energy to her town.  What stands foremost in my memory are the many hours spent as a member of the Historical Committee of Hudson Fortnightly and later as Chairman of the House Committee of The Historical Society which restored the Hills House for use as a museum of Hudson’s history.  Her sons Clifford and Fred were also active in town.  Clifton was a partner in an electrical business, Rowell and Miller, which had their office adjacent to the family homestead on Webster Street.  He later had a catering business ‘The Shop’ in the same location.  
 
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Ferryall/Rowell Homestead Litchfield Road C 1900

This photo is part of the Historical Society collection; being donated by an unknown donor.