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For 70 years, from 1946 to the present, race enthusiasts of New England have participated in and watched events at the Hudson Speedway. Located in northern Hudson at what is now the corner of Robinson and Old Derry Roads is this 1/4 mile short oval asphalt track banked at 12 degrees. It was initially a dirt track and by 1953 it was paved.
Often times the racing schedule called for 11 individual races during a Sunday afternoon or evening. At one time as many as 4,000 race fans were reportedly on hand for these events. Some Hudson amateur, and not so amateur, drivers participated in events using stock cars they themselves modified and painted for the occasion. Local race fans Gary and Lorna Granger and their friends Bertha and Richard Ashford drove their cars (#68 and #69) at this raceway and the sister track in Epping, NH. Stock car races were of several types: sportsman, modified, demolition derby, powder puff, and spectator races. This current 2016 season the racing schedule runs from May to October.
The neighborhood and roadways around the Hudson Speedway have changed significantly these past 70 years. Before the early 1950’s the part of Derry Road (Route 102) from Old Derry Road just beyond the Hills House to the Londonderry Flea Market had not been built. The road we know of as Old Derry Road was The Derry Road. Robinson Road ended at what is now Old Derry Road at Potash Corner near the Senter Cemetery. There was an unnamed cross road from this corner to the Litchfield line. The intersection of Robinson Road, West Road, and Derry Road at The Irving Station and Dunkin Donuts did not exist.
The neighborhood was rural; Nadeau Dairy Farm, Jasper’s Poultry Farm to the south. On the north towards Londonderry there were there were 2 or 3 houses between the cemetery and the Londonderry line. The property on Old Derry Road between the speedway and Putman Road, where some 6 houses now exist, was undeveloped and one family lived there. The property was later owned by the town of Hudson for unpaid taxes and in 1955 sold at public auction and by 1971 again sold to a local developer. By the mid 1970’s there were some 6 families living adjacent to the speedway on Old Derry Road. Local property owners were issues seasonal passes to the speedway events.
With the increase in residency and continuation of the racetrack activities conflicts occurred and the local residents organized to seek regulations of the speedway. The speedway had been in existence for about 25 years before this occurred. The issues centered around noise, crowd and traffic control before and after races, litter along highway, and even trespassing on private property. Neighborhood fields were used for parking with property owners charging for parking; the hours of races were controlled so there were no evening races when school was in session the next day. To this day, Sunday races continue. To some of the residents in the area it is part of our neighborhood activities; to others, I am sure, the noise and activities is more that just an inconvenience.
The photo shown here is from an early postcard with the photo by A. Dallaire of Manchester, NH. It is an aerial view looking west to each over the track. Old Derry Road (Derry Road) is behind the bleachers with a field of the Nadeau Farm across the way being used as a parking lot. The post card was a recent donation to the Historical Society’s collection.
A trolley line through Hudson via Ferry Street was opened to the public in 1902. At the end of Ferry Street the line went through the woods behind Westview Cemetery, making a sharp turn right and crossing Central Street near Burger King and onto the Benson’s Property towards Bush Hill Road and behind the Haselton Barn, and then on to Pelham and Canobie Park in Salem. This line was popular because of the Canobie Lake Park destination; it was also the most dangerous because of the sharp turns and hilly terrain coupled with the desire to maintain speed.
Our photo for this week shows a lumberyard in the field behind the Haselton Barn on Bush Hill Road. Planks of sawed lumber have been stacked for drying before distribution or use. Evident are the tracks from the wagons used to transport to and from the saw mill. Although the tracks for the trolley line are not visible, we get a sense of where they were from the electric lines behind the barn and near the lumber piles. On the rear of the barn is a sign “Haselton”. Why place a sign on the back side of a barn? For the benefit of those traveling on the electric trolley.
This undated photo is from the collection at the Historical Society; but, my estimate is circa 1905. The trolley line is present and the cupola is on the barn. The donor indicated the lumberyard was operated by George Washington Haselton and his brother-in-law Clifton Buttrick. Buttrick was another prominent Hudson Center farmer living on Windham Road. He married Marietta Haselton about 1869. Unfortunately she passed in 1873 before her husband and brother were in the lumber business together.
For many years prior to his passing in 1802 Abraham Page, Jr (also known as Captain Abraham Page) owned and occupied a farm on Bush Hill Road. Mr Page and his wife did not have children but they brought up Nathanial Haseltine after he was 12 years old. In 1795 Nathanial bought the farm from Mr. Page; payment being 234 pounds and a life lease on the premises – thus Mr Page assured himself and his wife of living quarters and support for the duration of their lives. Nathanial Haseltine married Rachel Smith that same year and soon thereafter they changed the spelling of their name to Haselton.
According to Kimball Webster in his History of Hudson,NH there were 2 houses on this Page/Haselton farm as early as 1793. The first was the one built and occupied by Mr. Page; later (by 1836) removed from this farm to Hamblett Avenue in Hudson Center on the east side of and facing the common.
This week we have an early photo of the second house on this farm; built adjacent to the barn perhaps as early as 1793. This house, first occupied by Nathanial Haselton, became home to 4 generations of Haseltons. The first was Nathanial and his wife Rachel. The second was his son, Luther, and his wife Polly Ladd Smith; then George W(ashington) and his wife Lora Poor; and fourth Arthur W. and his wife Mary McCoy. Arthur W. and Mary were married in 1891 and lived here until about 1895 when they built and occupied the present farm house on the opposite side of the road. George W. Haselton remained in this old house until his passing in 1906; at which time ownership passed to his heirs. In 1942 the house and barn were sold to Ben Brintenal and just 3 years later again sold, this time to Ray Lathan and a group of businessmen who had purchased Benson’s Animal Farm. Between 1906 and 1942 the house and barn had various occupants and uses. By 1945 the house was dismantled and the materials used to build a smaller home on Ferry Street. The barn remains today and is part of the Benson Park property.
This is one of the earlier photos in our collection at the Historical Society; presented to us by a member of the Haselton Family. In this photo we see the Haselton Barn and adjacent house before the addition of the cupola. This photo is undated but according to the Benson’s Historic Structures Report prepared in 2003 for The Town of Hudson, NH the cupola along with other additions to the barn were completed between 1885 and 1910.
From Lowell Road take a left onto Wason Road which is between Market Basket and Goodwill. Stay on Wason and then take a right onto Musquash Road. In less than 1/4 mile, the observent traveler will see a relic of Hudson’s history – a cellar hole on the left at 20 Musquash Road; a reminder of an ancient homestead for many Hudson families.
The last family to live here was that of Leslie and Florence (Chadwick) Barrett. They moved to Hudson from Bowdoinham, Maine in 1938 with their family of 2 boys and 2 girls. By 1941 the family moved to “Happy Hills Farm” at 20 Musquash Road. Mr Barrett was employed at Bensons Animal Farm and later as a maintenance person in Nashua. After moving to Hudson the family grew to include 7 sons, one of whom died young; and 3 daughters. They all attended Hudson Schools. Mrs. Barrett passed in 1951 at the age of 40. In 1965 Mr Barrett retired and by July of that year had sold the farm. Members of his family were living elsewhere, working or attending college at UNH, or serving in the armed forces.
Today’s photo shows the charred remains of this landmark home after the unoccupied house was destroyed by fire in April 1966. The Hudson Fire Department used 5 pieces of equipment under the direction of Chief Campbell to fight the fire over a 3 hour period. This building had been a landmark in town for over 170 years. Local legend says this house was a stagecoach stop during the early days — entirely possible when you consider that before 1746 Musquash Road (then called Back Road) was the main road through the center of town!
From this photo and memories offered by family members we can imagine the homestead. The barn was on the opposite side of the unpaved road from the house, with a faded painted sign over the barn door “HAPPY HILLS FARM”. Mr Barrett used a team of work horses around the place. The farm included a few fruit trees, apple, pears, peaches; cows, a few goats, a sheep, pigs, and chickens. The barn was large with a central aisle and stanchions for cows on one side and pigs, sheep, and goats on the other. The Barrett children would play in the hay and on the barn floor during cold and rainy days.
It was a 3 story house with 4 large rooms on each floor, 2 massive chimneys and 8 fireplaces. Looking at the photo, you can see the details of the fireplaces and the separation of each of the floors. There were secret places to hide in the house with large closets accessible from the bedrooms. On the first floor, between the kitchen and living room, there was a small room with an 8 foot dutch oven built into the base of the large chimney, all brick faced, with iron doors for 2 large ovens. This dutch oven was not used by the Barrett family but it was the centerpiece of the house. The house was wired for electricity in the 1940’s and the family had a radio in the living room and an electric washer with a ringer for the laundry. The children helped with the household and farm chores; baking bread, pies, cakes, canning vegetables and fruits, jams and pickles. All these were stored in the cellar along with potatoes, squash, and cabbage for the winter. After helping with the chores the children would explore and play in the woods nearby.
Attached to the front and side of the house was a large porch about 8 feet deep. There were at least 6 pillars in the front of the house and 3 along the side. The lawn contained a large tree and a circular driveway.
The earliest family to occupy this house that we know much about was that of Zaccheus Colburn, born 1765 the youngest son of Thomas and Mary Colburn. He married Rachel Hills in 1788 and they purchased this home from Ebenezer Dakin. Little is known of Ebenezer except that he was on the tax list from 1745 to 1793. Zaccheus and Rachel has a family of three sons and two daughters. One son died young. The other two sons, Elijah and Zaccheus, studied for and became medical doctors. Dr Elijah began his medical career in Hudson about 1823 and by 1825 had settled in Nashua where he had a long and useful career. Dr. Zaccheus began his career with his brother Elijah in Nashua until 1831; then returned to Hudson and practiced until 1838 at which time he moved to Manchester. The youngest daughter, Molly, married Thomas B. Wason and they remained on the farm with her parents. Thomas was active in town affairs; serving as a selectman and representative to state legislature. In fact, it was Thomas who presented the motion to the NH Lesiglature in 1830 to change the name of Nottingham West to Hudson.
Title of the Thomas B. Wason place passed to their son-in-law Obadiah F. Smith who married their youngest daughter, Philena. In June 1891, James F(ranklin) Wilson purchased the farm of 190 acres. James Wilson was a farmer, in fact his father Franklin had owned a farm at the very southern end of Dracut Road. By 1909 James transfered title of his homestead farm to his son, Frank A. Wilson. By June 1917 the farm was sold to Matilda Parker. Ownership remained with this Parker family until 1941 when it was purchased by Leslie Barrett.
In 1988 a tax lien was placed on the property and in 1990 it was conveyed to the Town of Hudson and is near or part of the Musquash Conservation Area. Photo from the Historical Society Collection.
In this C 1930 photo we see a horse drawn wagon traveling west on Robinson Road just west of Robinson Pond near the present intersection with Parker Drive. On the wagon seat are Charles “Charlie” Parker, Whitney Westneat, and Alice (Mrs. Arthur) Westneat. In the wagon is the Rev. Arthur Westneat. Their oldest son, Arthur is riding horseback. Rev. Westneat, a former pastor of the Baptist Church of Hudson, and his family, were spending their summer vacation time visiting with John Abner and Julia Robinson. Photo complements of the Parker/Robinson Family and now a part of the Historical Society Collection.
In this C 1935 photo we are standing near 99 Robinson Road looking west C. 1930. At that time Robinson was pretty much a single lane roadway unless you happened to meet a car from the opposite direction. In that case the car coming east would ‘scoot’ off to the right until the oncoming car was passed. The utility pole seen here provided telephone service from the central at Hudson Center. Electricity was not available in this part of town until about 1946. Beyond the utility pole we see the barn which once stood at what is now 104 Robinson Road. Photo from the Parker/Robinson Family and now a part of the Historical Society Collection. (Published HLN July 10, 2015)