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Hudson’s Nick Connell, East of Echo

 

This week’s Remember Hudson When … article is by Stephen Kopiski.  He has an interest in our town’s history and personalities like Nick Connell.  

 
Nick Connell 1989 S

Nick Connell 1989

Hudson’s Nick Connell, East of Echo

 
          Consider around 1900, the Merrimack River would freeze over and permit winter recreation from NH to MA. Forty years later, with industrial and municipal development, the water warmed and the freeze was only a memory. True except for a nineteen year-old Hudson boy who decided on January 31, 1940, to lace up and skate to Lowell. Despite some harrowing watery encounters, he made it to Pawtucket Falls, 14 miles in a little over two hours. Not to be outdone, six days later, he skated another 14 miles from the Hudson bridge to Manchester. Too tired to skate back, he attempted hitchhiking, but ended up walking 9 of the miles in borrowed galoshes. The young man’s name was David Wesley “Maurice” “Nick” Connell, and he was just getting warmed up.
 
          That’s a lot of names and nicknames. A favored choice was “Nick,” so this story moves forward as such. Born September 21, 1921, Nick Connell was a man who saw goals and drove towards them his way, and with focus. A lot of claims are hard to verify; married 4 times, Nick maintained he’d had over 40 jobs; trapeze artist, elephant handler, policeman, railroad man, stone mason, vaudevillian and more. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of newspaper accounts and first-hand recollections of his exploits, for a glimpse into his extraordinary life.
          Nick joined the Navy in 1943 and served as a corpsman in WWII. Always a fitness enthusiast, the Nashua Telegraph archives offer multiple mentions of weightlifting meets and matches, many featuring his breaking numerous city and state records. One such meet had him breaking every record in the competition for his weight class (181 pounds in this case.) He even bested some of the heavyweights on that particular night. Along the way, Nick won the title of Mr. New Hampshire in 1948. This dominant heyday lasted from the early 1940’s until the mid 1950’s, but he maintained his bodybuilding and strength training discipline all of his life.
 
          A high school dropout, Connell was self-educated with a lifelong interest in the religions of the world. A heavy reader, he wrote and spoke with natural intelligence. In the mid 1950s, he dedicated himself spiritually and joined The Church of Latter Day Saints, The Mormons, and became the church’s State Commander (NH) in 1956. He remained a Mormon for life. Into the 1960s, his vocation had him living in Arizona and Salt Lake City, Utah where he performed his missionary service. Newspaper accounts from this period describe Nick as a researcher, a writer, even a lecturer for the church. But as this decade of cultural change and upheaval began to unfold, not being one to follow any crowd, Nick was headed for his own real-life revolution.
           As the 1970s dawned, Nick took to commuting between Hudson and San Diego, CA with the change of seasons. San Diego’s Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a protected environment for rare flora. Hikers and nature lovers are welcome, but only on the permitted trails. Predictably, Connell was far afield when he encountered a sandstone indentation in the cliffs, well off the trails. Here, allegedly in a vision, a white-haired man invited him to dig into the cliff, all the encouragement he needed. So with a Bowie knife and a screwdriver, and later a pickax and hatchet, he fashioned a tidy, comfortable two-room cave complete with carved-in bookshelves, window and sleeping platform. It was here, sheltered from New Hampshire winters, that Nick continued his studies of the world’s religions with the intention to write a book of life’s philosophy. Nick called his excavated refuge “East of Echo.”
          Here, two accounts collide, Nick had claimed that, even as a young boy, he felt the allure of solitary living. Much later, a soon-to-be-former wife suggested he go live in a cave…
          Unfortunately, he was dubbed “The Torrey Pines Hermit” (Nick always welcomed and entertained any visitor who could find him.) Over the years, he adorned the cave interior with impressive paintings and relief sculpture of religious and ancient symbolism. His visitors ventured off the permitted trails in the protected reserve to see the hermit in his unlikely lair. And even though it took 17 years, the park rangers eventually found the cave, and the hermit. There was reluctance on all sides concerning what to do. The cave and the artwork were splendid but even Nick agreed that a lot of laws had been and were being broken. His support reached all the way back to friends and well-wishers in Hudson, but in the end, 1991, East of Echo was filled with concrete and permanently sealed. Characteristically undeterred, Connell pursued various legal and physical means to resurrect his cave and his art. He even started new, more secret cave-carving in the reserve. For a while, the 70 year-old was hard to catch on the sandstone cliffs, but the rangers never gave up and he was repeatedly shooed off. Of note, towards the end of this period, Nick would write an occasional article in what was then known as “The Hudson News” entitled “View from the Cave.”
          Meanwhile back home, apparently restless while away from his cave, we have “1987 – Connell VS. Town of Hudson.” Nick risked arrest for photographing police activity at an automobile accident outside his home. He protested formally and finally received a written apology from the Chief of Police for his treatment at the scene. He sued anyway, and won (One Dollar, plus court costs.)
          With the cave adventure done, and confronting the relentless onslaught of old age, Nick stayed primarily at home in Hudson, but still visited the West Coast when he could. Not driven by material wealth, or notoriety, Nick Connell was an example of singular individuality and effort, even with occasionally dubious accomplishment. It was while in California that David Wesley Connell passed away on December 5, 1994. His remains were returned, here, to his hometown, where he rests. No doubt his gaze and his reach are finally infinite, like the imagination of the boy who braved the ice.  

 

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Revisit To Hudson Center … Benjamin Dean House – A House Twice Moved

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Benjamin Dean House on Hamblet Avenue C 1942

Continuing to revisit Hudson Center we stop at the Benjamin Dean House.  This 270 plus year old house is among the oldest, if not the oldest house in Hudson.  But I can state for certain that it is the ‘best traveled’ house in town.  For the first 91 years this house was located on Bush Hill Road as part of the Haselton Farm.  In 1838 the home was moved to Hamblet Avenue and remodeled by the owner, Rev. Benjamin Dean.  Here it remained for another 126 years until moving a second time about 1964 to  it’s location on Windham Road.
This house was built by Abraham Page about 1747 on Bush Hill Road on part of the old Haselton Farm.  Between 1747 and about 1838 this house was likely occupied by Abraham Page, Jr and early members of the Haselton family whom he helped to raise. In 1838 the owner, Rev. Benjamin Dean, moved and remodeled the house to a location on Hamblet Avenue just north of the Eli Hamblet house and facing the east side of the Hudson Center Common.  The second floor contained a large room with an arched ceiling, referred to as “Dean’s Hall”.  This room was used as a school and a place for public gatherings.  Rev. Dean occupied the home until about 1850.  The home had various owners until being purchased by the family of Claudia and Richard Boucher.  In the early 1960’s when the State of New Hampshire planned out the new route 111 through Hudson Center, this house was simply ‘in the way’.  The Boucher family sold the property to the state and later re-purchased the house and had it moved to its present (and third) location on Windham Road.  This 1942 photo from the Historical Society Collection shows the house at its second location on Hamblet Avenue.

The Cross Homestead on Barrett’s Hill Road

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Cross Farm on Barrett’s Hill Road

 

This undated photo of the Cross home on Barrett’s Hill Road came to the Historical Society from the estate of Jessie Gilbert and was later identified as being the home Arden Cross. None of the individuals in the photo were identified.

27 year old Hiram Cross purchased land on Barretts Hill Road from William T. Baldwin in 1846. By the end of 1847 Hiram and Sarah Savage were married in Hudson. The 1850 census shows Hiram and Sarah as supervisors of the poor farm (Alms House) along with nine clients ranging in age from 90 to as young as 9. Perhaps this position provided living space while they prepared to build their home or even provided some financial assistance. By 1860 Hiram and Sarah were living in their own farmhouse on Barretts Hill Road along with three sons; William (age 8), Addison (age 4), and Arden (age 2).

Hiram was a fifth generation descendant of Nathan Cross (B:1703 in England). Nathan settled in Dunstable and in 1724, while our town was still a part of Dunstable, MA, purchased a part of the Joseph Hills Farm along what is now Derry Road.

For 125 years or so, the Cross farm on Barretts Hill Road was operated first by Hiram, then by his son Arden (B:1855 D:1927), then by his grandson Nathan Erwin (B:1894 D:1991). Hiram passed in 1892, at which time he was survived by four sons. In addition to William, Addison, and Arden, there was a younger son Herbert some 9 years younger that Arden. Ownership of the farm passed to Arden as each of the other sons had moved to neighboring towns.

The second family to operate the Cross farm was that of Mary Willoughby and Arden Cross. Mary was native to Hollis and they were married in 1893. Their family consisted of a son, Nathan Erwin (B:1894) and a daughter Ruth Vivian (B:1898). We do have some ideas about the farming activities on the Cross Farm. Arden had a productive dairy herd. In 1906 he added two Jersey cows to this herd. The less stony fields surrounding the homestead were used to grow and harvest hay for the winter use. The stony fields were used to pasture the herd during the warmer months. The family garden and orchard was the source of most food supplies: potatoes, carrots and other root crops. apples and pears from the orchards. Neighboring farmers would often assist each other with work which required more than one person: haying, picking apples, digging and storing potatoes to name a few. One major winter activity was harvesting ice blocks from nearby Robinson Pond and stacking then in the ice house using sawdust for insulation.

The third generation was that of Emma Lane, from Claremont, and Nathan Erwin Cross (B:1894). They were married about 1920. There are indications that Nathan Erwin, often known of as Erwin, lived near Clarement prior to their marriage. About 1921 Erwin and Emma returned to Hudson to assist his father who was having difficulty with advanced age and poor eyesight. Erwin and Emma had one daughter, Helen, born about 1932. She attended Hudson Schools and then Nashua High School. After high school graduation she attended Colby College in ME. In March 1955 she married Edward Stabler of New York and made that state her home. Erwin continued with the farming operation until advancing age and poor eyesight required he retire. He continued to reside at the homestead on Barretts Hill as long as possible; spending his last few years with his daughter and her family in New York. The home in Hudson was vacant for many years and has since been demolished. The land which was the Cross Farm is located at the corner of Barretts Hill and Tiger Roads.

Let’s return to the photo for a few moments. It was taken by “Eaton Photographer Oppo. City Hall, Nashua, N.H.” according to the information on the back of the original photo. Thanks to research by Jim Hogan of Nashua we are able to isolate the date of this photo to be circa summer of 1870. Eaton Photographer was listed as a business in the Nashua City Directory but only once, and that was in the 1870-1871 edition. In the same edition, the residential section had a listing for “Eaton, Asa B., photographer, 91 Main St, opp City Hall, house at Hollis” This has also been supported by the 1870 census for Hollis.

Given the Cross family history this is a photo of the home of Hiram Cross, father of Arden. The man on the right would be Hiram (age about 51) and the younger man on the left would be his older son William (age about 18). Arden (age about 8) is not in the picture. Back next to and almost hidden by the shrub between the windows is a woman, likely Hiram’s wife, Sarah. The “photographic artist” placed the men away from the shade of the trees and had them remove their hats so as to make their faces more visible. Possibly Sarah shied away from being in the photo because she does not have on her fancy clothes.

The man and the horse and carriage might be a neighbor passing by who stopped to watch as the photo was taken. It may also be the transportation the photographer used that particular afternoon to drive through the country taking photographs. Notice that he seems to be holding the reins tight so as to control the horse. Also, the carriage is taking up most of the width of the dirt, narrow, Barretts Hill Road. Thanks to Jim Hogan, a historic writer and researcher from Nashua for sharing his work with the Society.

Hudson Center Revisited

This series on Hudson History began in August 2014 as a joint project between the Historical Society and the HLN as a way of sharing some of Hudson’s history with our readers.  To date there have been some 170 weekly articles and accompanying photos published in the paper and on RememberHudsonNHWhen.com.  I enjoy writing these articles and the research necessary to prepare for them.
 
Going forward there are still many sites and topics to write about. But, more time is now needed to do this research.  My plan going forward is to submit  Remember Hudson When articles every other week.  And, on the alternative weeks we will Revisit parts of town by re-printing articles from the past on a theme basis:  for example a Pre 1970 trip down Lowell Road or Restaurants in town, etc.  This week we begin a Revisit series on Hudson Center.
 
As always if there is  some historical site or photo you would like me to consider writing about, please contact Ruth via the HLN or the Hudson Historical Society by sending email to HudsonHistorical@live.com or a phone message at 603-880-2020.
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Prior to 1834 the only village in town was a small one around the Hudson Center Common.  This  consisted of three stores, a tavern, the north meeting house, one practicing doctor, the post office, and 8 or 9 residences. By 1888 the  Baptist Church sanctuary was built; the north meeting house was replaced by the town hall, and the only railroad station in town existed behind the town hall and off Greeley Street.  This C1888  photo of the Hudson Center Common shows the view from the home of Eli Hamblet  on Hamblet Avenue.
 
Straight ahead is the Baptist Church. The church where he was elected as deacon just a few years earlier in 1882.  The large vestry at the rear of the church had not been built, but I am certain the need for it had been discussed among the members.  To the right of the church is the home of Mrs. Mahalia Greeley; the widow of John Greeley, MD. Further to the right, not shown on this photo, is the town hall.   To the left of the church is the former home of Reuben Greeley, postmaster from 1818 until 1829; now occupied by his son Daniel Greeley.  Daniel was known to have a good nature and was well liked within the community.  
 
In the foreground and on the left of the photo is the Old Hudson Center Cemetery.  Up until a few years prior to this photo the cemetery was in disrepair and the town considered moving the remains from this site so that the size of the common could be increased.  This proposal did NOT meet with public sentiment and, as it turned out, a former resident of Hudson, John Foster, made a proposal to the town that he would build a stone fence and clean up the cemetery if the town would maintain it.  Immediately beyond the cemetery is a roof of a barn; possible from the barn connected to the Paul Tenney/Henry Brown House on the opposite side of the common.  Photo from the Historical Society Collection.
 

Water Towers on Highland Street

Standpipe On Highland Street

The first water storage and delivery system in Hudson was this wooden standpipe at the height of land at what is now 30 Highland Street.  The concept is fairly simple.  Water is pumped  into this vertical standpipe, stored; as needed the water  flows by gravity to the home or buildings in the area. This standpipe was constructed by George O. Sanders as early as 1891 to supply water to his buildings in Hudson and Nashua.
     Sanders was born in Hudson and at age 6, moved to Nashua with his parents.  His dad was a well known contractor in Nashua from whom he learned the trade by serving as an apprentice at the age of 17.  In 1873 he selected a prominent site in Hudson and proceeded to build what is known, even today, as one of the finest residences in Hudson.  It remains today; the elegant Victorian overlooking Library Park at the corner of Derry and Highland Streets.
      In 1882 he established himself in business in Nashua.  He purchased a parcel of land near the junction of the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers and soon had a sawmill and box factory.
     At first, Sanders supplied water to his residence from a well with a windmill operating along side his home.  In need of water for his factory as well as his residence he built the standpipe and power station on Highland Street.  He then pumped water from Little Tarnic Pond (aka Swamp Pond) into the standpipe to provide this water. He laid pipes from the standpipe under Highland and Derry to reach his residence.   To reach his buildings in Nashua pipes were laid in the river. He also extended the pipes to provide water to a few of his neighbors.  The first distribution of water through these pipes was in 1891.  Our first photo was taken as you proceed up Highland from Derry street.  The standpipe, on your left, is located on what is now 30 Haverhill Street.  Note that Highland is a dirt road and there are but a few homes in the area.
     The Hudson Water Works Company (HWWC) was organized in he spring of 1893.  After a short time the water from Little Tarnic contained sediment and was unsatisfactory for domestic use.  About this same time Sanders purchased a number of acres and  water rights along Tarnic Brook and what is  now Melendy Road. He transferred a part of this land to HWWC for a large well  and a pumping station.  Pipes were laid under Central Street and connected with the former system of pipes.  Water from this new well was pumped into the standpipe by a circuitous route.
   About 1901 the HWWC was sold to parties in Boston.  They failed to make the business successful and Sanders again became principle owner.  By 1903 all, or nearly all stock was transferred to parties in Portland, ME and by 1905 the Hudson Water Company(HWC) was incorporated.

Steel Water Tower from Highland C1978

     The vertical standpipe at the corner of Highland and Haverhill continued to operate by Hudson Water Company until a  water tower was planned and built in 1939.    This replacement was located across Highland from the standpipe.  According to a February 6, 1939 article in the Nashua Telegraph this new water tower was made of welded steel, stood 85 feet above it’s footings, weighed 65 tons, and had a storage capacity of 240,000 gallons!  This provided a 10 lb increase in pressure to  existing customers and extended to potential service area to 1/2 mile beyond the Hudson Town Hall at Hudson Center, now Wattannick Hall.   This tower was equipped with a gauge on it’s south side, making it possible to determine the amount of water in the tank from Ferry Street.  We have two photos of this steel tower.  The first shows the 85 foot tower and was taken from across Highland Street.  The second shows the tower from the intersection of Ferry and  Second Streets, looking between 66 and 68 Ferry at the tower.

Steel Water Tower from Ferry C1978

     Once the new tower was planned the land parcel upon which the standpipe sat was sold by HWC to Helen and Ray House, with the understanding that the old standpipe was to be removed before May 1939.  This new tower remained in use by HWC into the late 1970’s, perhaps as late as 1978; at which time it was demolished.  The photos of the tower shown here were actually taken by the author a the time of demolition.  Before this demolition a third water tower was built on a hill above Belknap Road at Gordon Heights.
     As time went on the HWC morphed into Consumer NH Water Company.  Then, in January 1998 at a special town meeting, the voters of Hudson authorized the acquisition of the water system from Consumer NH.  As a result of this action Hudson has it’s own water utility and Water Utility Department.
     My thanks to Gerald Winslow and Lionel Boucher for adding insight to this story. Jerry moved, with his parents, into his house on Highland Street, adjacent to the steel tower, in 1940.  I was curious if the younger generation rose to the challenge of climbing the tower or decorating it for Halloween. He replied, “not too often”.  However, he did remember that “Nick” Connell had an annual practice when he returned home to Hudson after wintering in California.  He climbed the tower and proceeded to do hand stands on the top.  What a site that must have been!!  Lionel worked a a building contractor in Hudson; he worked on the removal of the old standpipe and the construction of the home at 30 Highland Street for Mr. and Mrs. House.

 

Elm Avenue Industrial Park

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Industrial Park at Elm Avenue C 1977

Coming into the 1950’s the tax base in our town was primarily rural, farming, and residential.   In an effort to balance this base and provide a venue to attract industry into Hudson, the Hudson Industrial Associates was organized in the early 1950’s.  Their purpose was simple:  attract industry, improve the tax base, and make Hudson a better community.  This association consisted of some 16 public-spirited individuals including selectmen Edwin Steckevicz, George Tetler, and Frank Nutting.  Arthur Kashulines  was the first president, Ned Spaulding the clerk, and Paul Buxton the treasurer.  A brochure advertising the merits of our town was distributed and inquiries were received from various states.  In these and other ads Hudson was pictures as an alert New Hampshire community with a blend of traditional New England qualities with a forward look. We offered to industry level acreage with city facilities, room to grow, central location, and local government.  Write or call for full details.
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This group arranged for the purchase of land in different parts of town including previous farm land between Derry and Litchfield Roads along Elm Avenue. The result was a 26 acre industrial park.  The first industry to build here was The Newton Manufacturing Company in 1959.  Others followed, and by the late 1960’s the park was at full capacity.  Prior to this development the land parcels involved were owned by the family of Elijah Reed and the family of Carl Oliver.  Mr Oliver is remembered by many as a public school bus driver.
This C 1977 aerial photo of the Elm Avenue Park was taken from Webster Street looking north and east towards Derry Road.  At the top of the photo we see Derry Road and the Kopinski Homestead at 147 Derry Road.  The United Pentecostal Church (The Sanctuary) is just off the photo to the right.  At the time of this photo  this park was home to  five  industries:  North American Angenieus, Inc (Optical Laboratories), Contact, Inc. (Soldering Equipment, Wire Strippers), New Era Industries, Daw Tire and Supply Co., RDF Corporation (Temperature Control Systems).  RDF Corporation occupied two buildings.
As you approach this park today from Webster/Litchfield Road you will find the following industries on the left side of Elm Avenue:  A J Mac Contracting Electrician in a building  which did not exist in the photo; RDF Corporation which now occupies four buildings, Able Air (Compression Air Systems).  The final building before the intersection with Derry Road is being demolished.  That part of the Elm Avenue Park including the stretch along Derry Road awaits the next chapter in its industrial/commercial life.  And, we all get to watch as it develops.
The C 1977 photo of the Elm Avenue Park is from the collection of the Historical Society.  Much of the information re: the Hudson Industrial Associates and these industries was found in Town in Transition and Nashua/Hudson City Directories.

Main Street Station – Photo by Alice Peavey

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Main Street Station – Photo by Alice Peavey

Walter A. Peavey and his wife Alice were residents of the Crown Hill section of Nashua until 1910 when they, and their five year old son Walter H, purchased a farm and  moved to Central Street in Hudson.   Walter was born in Framingham, MA about 1863; his wife Alice Gorham was native to England  and became a citizen soon after immigrating to this country.
Professionally Walter was a machinist, being employed by Nashua Iron and Steel Co, Nashua Lockshop, and Fiather Machine Shop.  By avocation he was a farmer; growing vegetables and fruits on the fields behind his home.  Besides being a homemaker, Alice was a photographer.  The Historical Society has within it’s collection a number of her photographs of Hudson and Nashua, some of these photos were reproduced from the original glass negatives.
Their son, Walter H. married Julie McAlister of Salem, NH in December 1937.  After their marriage they resided in Hudson with his parents.   In 1978 a number of Alice’s photographs were presented to the society by her son Walter H.
The Peaveys were residents of Central Street in Hudson for 29 years.  He passed in April 1939.  From his obituary we see he was active in the Giddings Brotherhood (Men’s Fellowship) of the Hudson Community Church and Hudson Grange.  The Peaveys remained in Hudson a few yeas after his death.  By March 1942 the Peavey homestead was sold to a young, recently married couple named Leon and Gertrude (Gerri) Hammond.  The Peaveys returned to Nashua; Alice became a resident of the Mary Hunt Home until her passing sometime in the 1950’s.  Walter H. and Julia lived at various locations in Nashua.  During WWII Walter H. enlisted in the Navel Reserve and saw active duty.
This week I share with you one of my favorite photographs by Alice Peavey; the Main Street  Station of the  the Worcester Nashua and Rochester Line of the B & M Railroad  located on the site of the present Citizen’s Bank opposite city hall and near the intersection of East Hollis  and Main Street.   Going west from this station the tracks crossed Main Street just south of the present city hall.  Coming east from this station the tracks ran alongside  East Hollis Street into the Nashua Junction and then continued eastward and crossed the Merrimack into Hudson just a few rods south  of the Taylors Fall Bridge.  From there it took the familiar route into Hudson Center and on to West Windham (Anderson) Station.
Soon after 1940 this station was moved from its location, turned 90 degrees and became an addition to the Yankee Flyer Diner.  I have read that it was still in use 1953 and likely was still standing when the diner was moved to Massachusetts in 1965.  Today the area of the Yankee Flyer is identified with a  large mural.
In the 1990’s the rails were removed and in 2000 the Nashua Heritage Rail Trail opened  on the site of  1.3 miles of track  going west from Main Street.  Coming east into Hudson the rails have been removed and paved  to improve street usage or converted into commercial usage.
This photo of the Main Street Station was taken from a green space, called the railroad garden, between the station and East Hollis Street.  In this photo we are looking west across Main Street.

 

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