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20 Old Derry Road

20 Old Derry RMP 2019

The Colonial at 20 Old Derry

20 Old Derry road was once a part of a 100 acre farm settled by James Hills in 1737. James was born into the large family of Samuel and Abigail (Wheeler) Hills of Newbury, MA in 1697. By 1710, James, then a lad of 13, along with 2 of his older brothers, Nathaniel and Henry, built and lived in a garrison house on the east bank of the Merrimack River on their father’s land in the town of Dunstable, MA. By today’s landmarks this garrison was located on the east side of Webster Street a short distance north of Elm Avenue. Sometime before 1722 Samuel deeded the southern half of his Dunstable land to James and the northern half to Henry. The oldest brother, Nathaniel, had already purchased 900 acres adjacent to and north of his father’s property from Jonathan Tyng.

James married Abigail Merrill of Newbury, MA in December 1723; soon thereafter he sold his interest in the garrison land and took up residency and began his family in Newbury. About 1737 James and Abigail with their young family of a son, Jeremiah, and a daughter, Hannah, returned to New Hampshire. There had been 3 additional children but they passed at a young age before they moved from Newbury. Returning from Newbury James acquired 100 acres of unsettled land from his brother Nathaniel. It was here that James settled and established the farm. Three additional children were born to him after moving to what became Nottingham West, now Hudson. James lived the remainder of his life on this farm, passing about 1751. The farm remained with his family. By 1800 his grandson William owned the farm. William was born July 1777 to Jeremiah, the oldest son of James. William likewise lived out his life on this farm passing it to his second son, Granville in 1852. By 1877 the farm was owned by a Charles W. Hill(s). It is not entirely clear how Charles W. acquired the farm. Apparently the next family member in line to own the farm was living in the Midwest and choosing not to return he sold his interest to a cousin, Charles W. Hill(s). It is clear that the last Hill having title to the farm was Mary Elida (Hill) Robinson daughter of Charles W. Hill and wife of Frank L. Robinson. Mary Elida was born in Hudson May 1878 and married Frank Robinson in Nashua January 1909. At the time of her marriage she was employed as a teacher in Nashua and Frank was employed as a railroad worker in Nashua. In November 1926 the farm was sold outside of the Hill(s) family and purchased by Grant Jasper. A quick note before the reader gets too confused over Hills vs Hill. In July 1846 Grandville Hills changed his name and that of his family Hill by an act of NH Legislature.

The James Hills (aka the Granville Hill) Farm had been owned by as many as 6 generations of Hills over a period of 180 years. Over these years the farm acreage was reduced from 100 to the 40 acres which Grant Jasper purchased from Mary L. (Hill) Robinson in 1926. From 1926 until 1958 the 40 acre parcel changed ownership 4 times; in 1958 the owner at the time, Harry Tuft, sold 28 acres, including the colonial house, to Ralph and Nellie Weaver who later sold to Lionel Boucher in November 1962. This was the beginning of major changes in the landscape of the farm. Within a month a survey was done and the colonial home along with the current 1.39 acres was separated from the remainder of the farm and sold to John and Margaret Aldrich. The remainder of the farm was surveyed and subdivided for house lots. Our story line continues with the colonial home.

In February 1973 the home was purchased by William and Carol Murray and their son, Terrance. Owning this fine colonial home had a major influence on the lives of this family. They acquires an appreciation and love for antiques and the structure of this home. Much of the following information was reported by The New Hampshire Sunday News and published May 18, 1975.

Change became a two way street when the Murray family moved into this 1800 colonial home in 1973. Not only did they bring about changes by restoring the old colonial, living there changed their life style and interests. Carol developed a sudden interest to furnish her “new” home with period furnishings. Her fascination with “old things” began to rub off onto her family as both son Terrance and husband Bill develop an interest. Bill took to restoring the house; removing modern door knobs and replacing with period latches, all while using groves in the wood where the originals once were. Walls were torn down and replastered; wide floor boards were scraped and refinished. Old chairs were stabilized and in some cases the caning or rush seats replaced. Their interest was such that the Murrays planned to open an antique shoppe and augment the items for sale with some of Carol’s hand crafted items.

Parts of this house were likely built about 1800 during the ownership of William, grandson of James. There is evidence that the present building resulted from two separate buildings being melded together into one. This is shown by two massive beams 12 inches wide running one over the other the width of the house in the attic. Also, one of the upstairs rooms is at a different level, requiring a step up/step down to enter/exit the room. There are 9 rooms, 2 chimneys, and 8 fireplaces; all of which were functional. The kitchen fireplace is deeper than the others with evidence of a baking oven at one time.
This was found to be an old house with lots of hidden charm; one where the Murrays liked to reside in and where visitors liked to come. And here the Murray’s stayed for 27 years until Carol sold in August 2000. Since the Murray’s this colonial has hosted four owners; the most recent, Hughes and Titianta Lafontaine, took ownership a few months ago. Welcome to Hudson!!  Researched and written by Ruth Parker.

Route of the Steam Railroad Part 1

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Iron Railroad Bridge C 1912

Written by Ruth Parker

This is the first of three articles which traces the route taken by the steam railroad in it’s four mile stretch through Hudson.

The Nashua and Rochester railroad began operation of a single track route through Hudson in 1874 with a single station which was located in Hudson Center off Greeley Street and behind the Town Hall (now Wattannick Hall the home of Hudson Grange). This line provided passenger and freight services in both directions. After 1910 business on this line was on the decrease and the station closed about 1922 with passenger service continuing until 1934. O the station closed passengers boarding the train at Hudson Center would purchase tickets from the conductor. The line east of Hudson to Fremont, NH was abandoned by 1935; leaving Hudson as a branch line out of Nashua. Hudson remained an important stop because of Benson’s Wild Animal Farm and the Jungle train which brought passengers from Boston’s North Station to the Animal Farm on Sunday’s. The price of the train ride included admission to Benson’s.

Coming east from Nashua trains crossed the Merrimack River about 60 rods south of the Taylor Falls Bridge and proceeded on a north-east direction to Hudson Center and then on to Anderson Station in West Windham, a four plus mile route At first there was a wooden bridge across the river, but it was burned when set afire by sparks from a locomotive traveling on it. It was replaced in 1910 by an iron bridge, the metal later being salvaged for use during World War II to support the war effort. Our first photo shows the iron bridge C 1912 looking north (upriver) to the concrete Taylors Falls bridge. The abutments from the railroad bridge are still visible in the river as you cross from Nashua into Hudson. . These abutments can also be seen on the Hudson side of the river at Merrill Park. This park is located on land which includes the railroad right-of-way. Our second photo shows the entrance to Merrill Park which sits on the former railroad right-of-way. Part of the old railroad bed is also visible opposite the entrance to the Park and near the end at Fulton and Gillis Streets.

Entrance to Merrill Park

Entrance to Merrill Park former right-of-way

The trains climbed a grade from the river’s edge heading toward Hudson Center. The tracks crossed Lowell Road between the residence at 1 Lowell Road and the business at 5 Lowell Road. The train crossed Lowell Road and the street railway (trolley) on a trestle at the junction of Lowell and Central Streets as seen by our third photo. In this photo the home on the right is currently 65 Central and the house in mid picture is 1 Lowell Road.

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Railroad Overpass at Lowell and Central

The tracks then proceeded in a north of east direction along Central Street to a street level crossing of Melandy Road onto town owned land which was the former town barn, later the skate park, and now the pickleball court.

 

Revisit Lowell Road …. Tiny’s Garage

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Tiny’s Garage on Atwood Avenue C 1948

Tiny’s Garage was a legendary source for towing wrecked cars and salvaging and recycling usable parts. To find Tiny’s you traveled south on Lowell Road and took a right turn onto Atwood Avenue and stopped at number 7. Many remember the man called ‘Tiny’, his business, and the family who worked with him.

Chester ‘Tiny’ Sojka grew up in Derby, CN and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps as a young man. After Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Army and served as a tank mechanic; being stationed in North Africa and Italy. He met his wife Mary while on leave and they were married in December 1944. After his discharge in 1945 he started a garage repairing and towing cars. They settled in Nashua and later moved to Hudson and opened his business here. Over time the business evolved to include salvaging and selling used car parts, especially those which were hard to find. His business included the entire cycle: towing wrecked cars, recycling automotive liquids (gas, oil, antifreeze), breaking down the wrecked vehicle for usable parts, maintaining an inventory of these parts, and selling them to other mechanics and ‘do it yourselfers’ as they repaired vehicles of the same or comparable model. I’m sure many mechanics or DIYers remember going to or calling ‘Tiny’ to see if he had the needed part in stock. I myself recall an ad for Tiny’s that said: Please Drive Safely – We Don’t Need your Business.

The Old Youth Center aka the “portable”

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The Youth Center C 1976

This building which began as a school house in Peterborough, NH was moved to Hudson in 1929. It was moved a second time in 1941 where it found a permanent use by our town Recreation Department until it was replaced in 1985.

In 1929 Hudson was in the midst of the depression and money was tight. Extensive repairs had been completed to the Webster school building as the result of the recent fire. These repairs placed the facility in a better condition than before the fire. Hudson’s total school enrollment was 457 students: 356 at Webster, 58 at Hudson Center, 23 at No. 1 District school at Musquash, and 20 at No 9 District on Derry Road (now Old Derry Road). Yes!! Two of our local district schools were still operating at that time. Also, there were almost 100 Hudson students who were attending private elementary schools. Despite the depression it was apparent to the school board that an additional classroom was needed at Webster. They were fortunate to locate an available portable school house from the district of Peterborough. This building was secured, moved to Hudson, and placed behind the Webster school house in time for the 1929 school year. This annex to Webster immediately acquired the nickname of the “portable”.

The “portable” served Hudson quite well. It provided a make-shift class room which could be used for any grade(s) until another school building and/or school room became available. One year the “portable” was used for grade 1 and grade 3. Another year, for example, for grade 2 and grade 3. And so it continued. The depression continued into the 1930’s. The school board continuously looked for ways to decrease the cost of the elementary grades. At the same time the number of students attending Nashua Junior and Senior High was increasing. In 1933 the No.1 school house was closed due to cost and enrollment. This saved the district over $800 but added to the congestion at Webster. This situation continued until Hudson obtained a federal grant and made plans for a Junior High school building. Land was purchased and The Hudson Junior High school was built on School Street at the corner of what is now First Street near Oakwood Street. In 1939 the junior high was completed and Hudson students in grades 7,8,9 were schooled there; thus reducing the tuition spent to Nashua. This also relieved the pressure at Webster and made possible the closing of the “portable”. At that time grades 1-6 attended either Webster or Hudson Center’ graded 7-9 attended Hudson Junior High, and grades 10-12 were tuition students at Nashua.

The “portable” was used as a Webster annex until the end of the 1938 school year; almost 10 years. At the School District meeting in March 1939 the “portable” building was made available to the youth of Hudson. A short time after the building was moved from the rear of Webster onto School District land at the corner of First Street and Oakwood Avenue. A Recreation Committee of 5 persons was formed and organized activities for the youth of Hudson during the weeks of school summer vacation began to take root.

By 1953 there were 300 children and teenagers participating in the 9 week schedule of supervised summer activities ranging from playground activities, little league, and crafts. One special event such as doll show, pet show, bicycle parade, father and son baseball, or a trip to Benson’s was scheduled for each week. These events were held at the Youth Center on Oakwood Street and area fields: the ball field behind the Junior High, tennis courts located at the Robinson playground on School Street, and the ball field at the corner of School and Library Streets. This last field is now the site of the Leonard Smith Fire Station. At the School District meeting March 1954 the so called “portable” lot at the intersection of First and Oakwood Streets was deeded by the School District deeded to the town of Hudson for use by the town Recreation Committee.

Our first photo shows the Youth Center aka the old “potable” facing Oakwook Street C 1975. This building remained in use through the summer program of 1984 at which time it was replaced as a project of the Lions Club. The new building was 2,160 square feet and contained a large meeting room, heating facilities, an office, and space for a kitchen. The Lions Club donated the cost of this building with the assistance of many tradesmen, suppliers, and individuals in town who worked on the project at or below cost. The building committee consisted of Alvin Rodgers, Gus Piantidosi, Richard Millard, and Phillip Rodgers as chairman. The keys to the new youth center were turned over to Recreation Commission Chairman Paul Hamilton and Selectman John Bednar who thanked the Lions for their contribution to the community. While making this presentation Lions Club President Roger Latulippe stated that the new recreation building was donated to the town and its citizens as a token of gratitude for the many years of support shown to the club. Credit was specifically given to Paul Dawkins who wired the building at no cost and to the Snowmen snowmobile club who hung sheetrock at no cost.

Rec Center 2019

The Rec Center 2019

Our second photo shows the Rec Center at it appears in 2019. Under the direction of Dave Yates, Recreation Director our recreation department now includes activities at this location plus the facilities at Robinson Pond, the playground and ball field at Hudson Center, activities at the Community Center (previously Lions Hall), senior services at the North Barn, and numerous ball fields and playground distributed through town. The 1975 photo is from the collection at the historical society. The current photo was taken by the author.

57 Lowell Road

57 Lowell C1947 COMP

57 Lowell Road C1947

Now a dealership for previously owned cars this was the childhood home of John Simo. John was a member of the first graduation class of Alvirne High in 1951. John passed a short while ago but is fondly remembered by people in town and some of his Alvirne classmates.
By 1935 Nicolae and Cornelia Simo with their young family of Victoria and John moved from Nashua to this house at 57 Lowell Road in Hudson. The trolley and later bus services made it possible for Nicolae to commute to his job as a shoe worker at J. F. McElwain Shoe Company in Nashua. Cornelia held a position at Fort Devens in Mass. Daughter Victoria attended Hudson schools and graduated from Nashua High. She was active in 4-H, Scouts, and the youth activities of the Hudson Community Church. After High School she attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. She later married and lived in Conn. John was able to complete his high school in Hudson; being a member of the first class to graduate from Alvirne in 1951. He was also active in 4-H and the youth activities of the Community Church.
This weeks photo shows the Simo home about 1947; the woman seated on the front steps has been identified as Cornelia.
John was one of many Hudson teenagers who worked at Bensons Animal Farm during the summer months. Upon graduation from Alvirne, John and a high school friend of his traveled to Seattle, WA for summer work at The Jolly Green Giant Factory. His friend returned to Hudson to attend college. John remained on the west coast, traveling and working in various states for several years. When he did return to New Hampshire he married Glenda Pratt of Milford and made his home in Milford.
Cornelia passed in 1965; Nicolae continued to live in this house until about 1984 when he moved to Milford with his son John. Nicolae passed in 1989. John remembers his mother as an intelligent woman who was fluent in many languages. His dad had musical abilities with the violin; being able to repeat a tune after hearing it a single time.
By 1984 Lowell Road was becoming a busy commercial road; no longer the rural and residential road of the previous decades. As with many homes along Lowell Road this one at number 57 would transition into commercial use. Many of our readers may recall Dunkin Dogs, a self service dog shampoo parlor and grooming establishment. Today this site is the location of Stellar Motors, a used automobile mart. Thanks to John Simo of Milford for the memories; photo from the Hudson Historical Society collection.

Do You Remember Fast Day?

State House 1852 engraving

NH State House 1852 Engraving

Do You remembers Fast Day? A day of fasting and prayer was common during provincial New Hampshire. As time progressed this day lost most of its original purpose, even so Fast Day continued as a state holiday until 1985.

The first Fast Day was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the Province of New Hampshire in 1681 when our state was under the rule of the king of England and it was continued for some 300 years. We remember a holiday on the 4th Monday of April where schools and businesses were closed, state and town offices were closed, and many state newspapers did not publish. As this was not a national holiday the postal system remained open. The observance of Fast Day in NH continued until 1985 at which time it became optional. By 1991 it ceased to exist when the NH Legislature adopted Civil Rights Day in January. Later in 1999, under the governorship o f Jeanne Shaheen, that holiday was changed to Martin Luther King Day.

To most the tradition meant a day off from work or the beginning of April vacation in our schools. To some it signaled the beginning of our state’s summer tourist season. Some with longer memories may remember it as a spring Thanksgiving – signaling the end of winter and expressing hope for a good planting for the new growing season. Let’s step back in time and look at the origin of Fast Day

John Cutt along with two brothers Robert and Richard immigrated to the NH province from Wales prior to 1646. John settled at Strawberry Bank which later became Portsmouth. He was a merchant and after settling in Portsmouth he acquired a large parcel of land, became a farmer and a mill-owner. The Cutt brothers came to America in order to seek their fortunes as opposed to religious freedom; they brought capital and expertise to the area and became leading merchants and ultimately some of the wealthiest men in the New Hampshire colony. In July 1662 John married Hannah Starr and they had several children. She passed November 1674 and was laid to rest In his orchard. He married a second time about 1675 to Ursula Cutt.

In 1679 when the Province of New Hampshire was separated from Massachusetts the king appointed John Cutt as president of the council of New Hampshire which consisted of the president along with three men appointed to assist him The provincial government consisted of the council and an assembly which included representatives of each of the towns in the province. This was an earlier version of our present Governor and Executive Council. Two years later President Cutt, then in his 60’s, became seriously ill. The council proclaimed a day of public fasting and prayer for March 17, 1681 on behalf of the popular Cutt in an effort to improve his health. These efforts were unsuccessful as Cutt passed about two weeks later. Through his will he made provision for a family cemetery in his orchard where he had buried his first wife Hannah and his deceased children. He was laid to rest in this family burial ground

The council decided to continue the practice of an annual fast day and within a year they passed a proclamation making it a permanent holiday. History tells us that fasting and prayer were common in the early colonial days as a way of helping with the problems of the times.

By the late 1800’s fast day had lost most of it’s original significance was gone. The states of Maine and Massachusetts which had celebrated Fast Day discontinued the holiday in favor of Patriots Day. In 1897 then Govenor of New Hampshire Ramsdell urged the legislature to likewise discontinue the holiday. Rather than abolish they passed legislation in 1899 to make it a legal state holiday. The date was flexible but it became customary for the governor to declare Fast Day as the last Thursday of April. This continued until 1949 when legislation established the fourth Monday of April as Fast Day. This provided state employees with a long weekend. It also became the time for the April school vacation.

Today New Hampshire’s unique holiday has passed into history. Perhaps the single reminder of it’s existence is the April school vacation schedule for on the 4th week in April as opposed to neighboring states which take their vacation during the week of Patriots Day.

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NH State House

This photo shows the State House in Concord. This is the oldest state house in the country in which the legislative body still occupies the original chambers.

Revisit To Lowell Road and Scottie Industries

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Scottie Industries on Roosevelt Ave C 1976

As we continue down Lowell Road one of the earlier industries to establish itself was Scottie Industries; a manufacturer of sneakers and custom neckwear. Offered employment to many folks from Hudson.

Researching the history of an area makes one aware of the changes which occur over time. This is as true with Hudson as perhaps any other town; particularly along our major roadways like Lowell Road where we have seen a major shift from agricultural use to industrial use. By the 1960’s land use was changing and land values were on the increase. As a result taxes were also on the increase and local farm families were finding it harder and harder to earn a living. Younger generations were attracted to good jobs and professions off the farm. At the same time the older generations were of retirement age and were attracted to selling their land at what was, for that time, a good profit.

By 1969 a small industrial area off of Lowell Road on Roosevelt Avenue was under construction. By the summer of 1970 Scottie Industries, Inc was operating a plant for manufacturing canvas footwear. The facility included a warehouse, office area, and an outlet store. For the employees and their families Scottie’s also had a 42×18 foot indoor swimming pool maintained by reliable personnel. New Hampshire and Hudson offered an excellent business climate: lower acquisition costs, lower taxes, and an available labor force. Many from Hudson, particularly women, were employed here. In time full operation was moved to Hudson from Lowell, MA. Scottie’s also had a line of custom neck ware.

Scottie Industries remained in operation into the 1990’s when once again we see changes brought on from competition from larger shoe/sneaker manufacturers. The building at 8 Roosevelt Avenue is currently used as a warehouse for Ashley/Ashbrook Furniture.

This photo of Scottie Industries on Roosevelt Avenue was taken c1975 for use in preparation of “Town In Transition”.