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“Camel’s Hump” – A Favorite Picnic Spot

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Camel’s Hump – A Favorite Picnic Spot

As you were growing up did you have a favorite picnic spot?  Living on a farm near Robinson Pond we, as a family, would often pack a picnic lunch on Sundays, then after church take a short “road trip” for a picnic,relaxation and play before returning home in time for evening chores.  We often visited Butterfield Rock in Windham, the shore line of Robinson Pond near the sawmill (now Sawdust Island) or, when gas was unavailable, hike to the top of the hill above our farmhouse and picnic at our family picnic table.
Early on I was not aware of picnic spots in other parts of town.  Later, as I became active in the Historical Society I listened to Natalie Merrill as she reminisced about one of their favorite spots, “Camels Hump” – a natural formation, near a brook, and close to the Merrimack River.  Local residents in the bridge section of Hudson would visit this spot for an outing.  I did not remember anything about it’s location.
I heard and read about Tarnic Brook, Melendy Brook, and First Brook.  Gradually I learned by reading, listening, and looking at maps that these were just different names for the same brook!   It drained from Tarnic Pond into Melendy Pond (with help from a dam) and from there it meandered past Lowell Road and on to the Merrimack River just south of the right of way for the steam railroad tracks.  The information on “Camels Hump” came together for me a few years back as I was browsing through an old scrapbook which had been donated to the Historical Society.   The following details on “Camels Hump” are taken from an undated and unidentified newspaper article.
One of the prettiest spots in this vicinity for a day’s or a few hours’ outing is the Camel’s Hump.  Located just southeast of the railroad bridge in Hudson.  The brook that winds through the dell is as crooked as the imagination would desire, with its clear sparkling water flowing over rocks and smoothly flowing over shallow sands. In this area the grass grows just high enough for a clean grassy carpet.  The smell of the pine needles gives one a generous appetite.  The place known as “Camels Hump” has the most beautiful mingling of dell, meadow, and hills with cooling shade. As nice as this place is, few know of its of location and rare beauty.
First Brook flows into the Merrimack River a short distance south of the right of way(row) for the former railroad, now the southern section of Merrill Park.  To get to this park turn onto Maple Avenue from Central Street;  Merrill Park is located at the end of the street toward the river.  The entrance to the park is the old right of way for the railroad.  From a June 1981 map of the proposed Merrill Park we see that the park includes this town owned  row  plus two land parcels once owned by the Merrill/Nutting Family; a 6 +/- acre parcel north of the row and a 2 3/4 +/- acre parcel to the south which includes most of  First Brook as it flows into the river.
In today’s busy and fast paced times picnics have morphed into brown bag lunches, take out meals, or back yard barbecues. When was the last time a picnic became became a destination event as opposed to a matter of convenience?   This Post Card of Camel’s Hump  is part of the Historical Society collection.  It was published  by Daniels and Gilbert of the Hudson Bridge area.
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Railroad Handcar and Crew at West Windham

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Hand Car and Crew at the West Windham Station

Hand cars like the one shown here were used by railroad crews to travel from station to station in order to perform maintenance such as the removal of fallen trees, debris, or minor repairs to the tracks and the right of way. These vehicles were called hand cars because they were propelled by the hands, and muscles, of the people riding on them.

This crew and hand car were likely used to maintain the tracks between the West Windham station and the station in Hudson Center. The Hudson Center station was located just off of Greeley Street and behind the Town Hall (now Wattannick Hall). The station at West Windham was located on your left just beyond the intersection of Route 111 (Windham Road) with Route 128 (Mammoth road) in West Windham. The West Windham station has been destroyed by fire several years ago but it was located on the site of the present Kiddie Academy, an educational day care.

The single track line through Hudson crossed the river from Nashua just south of the Taylor Falls Bridge and then proceeded toward Hudson Center in a north easterly direction. After crossing over Lowell Road near Hammond Park the tracks crossed Central Street at “Long Crossing” and then continued to the Hudson Center station. From Hudson Center the tracks continued along or near the route of the present 111 into West Windham. “Long Crossing” was a street level intersection of the railroad line with Central Street. The name “Long Crossing” refers to the angle at which the two right of ways intersected;that is an angle greater than 90 degrees.

This undated photo of the handcar at the West Windham station is a part of the collection of the Hudson Historical Society.The identity of the crew members in this picture are not known.

 

The “Bee Hive” on Central Street

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The “Bee Hive” on Central Street

We’ve heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”. That is the case with this early 1940’s photo of the house, known as “the bee hive” located on what is now 73 Central Street; opposite what many remember as the home of Leon and Gerri Hammond. To the right and slightly behind this house we see two homes; the right most of these is located at 65 Central Street, home to Henry Frenette. The second, smaller home, is at 1 Lowell Road and home to Alfred Bastien.

A few first hand memories have been documented about the “bee hive”. The first is from Maurice “Nick” Connell who grew up in Hudson and later recorded some of his memories via a series of occasional articles in The Hudson News. In one such article (August 24, 1984) “Nick” recalls the “going’ swimmin'” routine of his gang of friends in the 1930’s. They would swim and dive in the Merrimack River near the railroad bridge abutments; then walk the tracks to the Lowell Road underpass and explore the “old haunted house” on Central Street near the overpass. He remembered this two storied, weather beaten structure also known as the “bee hive”. This nickname was applied to the house because of the strange and shady goings on there. This reputation added to the excitement of the barefoot summertime explorations of a group of young boys. They would walk the tracks to Melendy Pond, another popular “swimmin hole”. According to Nick, this house was torched by some unnown arsonist on November 1, 1945 and torn down on November 27, 1945.

Another memory of this house was left by Leo J. Gagnon. He recalled Anton’s restaurant and their parking area on the opposite side of Central Street – where a house called the ‘bee hive” once existed. By his memory this house was a half-way house. Other memories I have heard suggest it was a frequent and convenient “overnight” stop for individuals catching a free ride on the train as it passed through Hudson then on to West Windham, and Rochester, NH.

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1942 Hudson Zoning Map

Speaking of the railroad, the second photo shows a portion of the Hudson zoning map for 1942 from the Hudson Town Report. This map traces the route of the steam railroad from the river to the overpass at Lowell Road where the tracks crossed over Lowell Road and ran behind the ‘bee hive” house and continued on to Melendy Road, “Long crossing” and Hudson Center.

A few additional details are known about this house. According to the town report for 1947, the Walton land on which was situated the so called “bee hive” was purchased (at least in part) by the Town of Hudson from the State of NH.

By 1870, and possibly before, this house was home to Samuel Walton, (age 49), his wife Fanny (age 48), and their daughter Sarah (age 21) and son James (age 19). Samuel was born about 1817 in England and was employed in a shingle mill. Based upon census records Samuel lived here until his death in February 1892, at which time the home was passed to his daughter, Susan (Walton) Brown, and his son, James Walton. His wife, Fanny had predeceased him by a year. At the time of his death he had an ownership interest in the Melendy Mills. With Central Street in your front yard and the railroad tracks in your back yard, the lot upon which this house existed was likely reduced in size and attraction through the years. By 1897, Susan and James sold the house to William Fitzgerald of Nashua. Samuel Walton purchased the property from Joseph Fuller and Fred Steele in 1868. After being sold by members of the Walton Family this house had a variety of owners, tax issues, and foreclosures.

In February 1999 in an effort to remember those fire fighters who had fought and those who have fallen the Hudson Fire Department announced they were seeking to build a new and larger memorial. A modest memorial for fallen firefighter James Taylor did exist in front of the Library Street Station. Their plan was for a larger memorial which would be dedicated to all men and women of the Hudson Fire Department. A Memorial Committee, chaired by David Moran was organized and they proceeded to design and raise funds for such a memorial. The committee reached out to town and school officials for a suitable location. A number of sites were considered and by April 2000, their plans had cleared the final hurdle. Ground breaking began and by May 21, 2000 the Hudson Fireman’s Memorial was dedicated upon a grassy knoll at the intersection of Central Street and Lowell Road. The location of this memorial has been named Hammond Park in memory of firefighter and neighbor Leon Hammond. Hammond Park and the fireman’s memorial is located upon or near the site of the Samuel Walton home, more recently known as the “bee hive”.

Town Poor Farm (Alms House)

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Garnett Home at 154 Old Derry (formerly the Alms House)

 

This home, located at what is now 154 Old Derry Road, became a part of our town’s history in 1828 when it was purchased by Nottingham West (now Hudson) and used as the town Poor Farm or Alms House. In those days the resident poor were kept at the town farm; those who could worked the farm in an effort to produce food for all residents of the farm. The town maintained this farm for some 40 years until 1868 when the farm was sold and the few paupers which existed at the time were boarded out to private homes at the expense of the town. It was common for towns in this area to maintain a poor farm, supervised by the Overseer of the Poor. It was, in essence, their welfare system. As uncomfortable as this concept makes us feel, we need to realize there were no pension plans, no social security, no food stamps, no insurance to address medical and or hospitalization expenses. Any number of life events could have caused one to end up at the poor farm: living beyond ones means, mortgage foreclosure with no options to refinance, not making plans for your old age or for your widow after your death. Couple any of these events with no family able or willing to to care for you could place one in this desperate situation.

By 1869, with the Town of Hudson providing for the poor by boarding them in private homes at the town’s expense, the town farm on Old Derry Road was sold to members of the Senter family. Proceeds from the sale were used to assist families of veterans of the Civil War.

The home at 154 Old Derry Road, the former Alms House, is now the delightful home of Al and Marikaye Garnett and their family. The Garnetts purchased the home some 25 years ago in 1992. I had the opportunity to visit with Marikaye in the living room of their home just before Thanksgiving. As you enter the home from the steps leading to the three season room (previously a summer porch); you enter the beautifully rustic but modern kitchen. From there we entered the living room. Sitting on one of the couches I had a complete view of their back yard with a fenced in swimming pool. Beyond fence was a field leading to a wooded area. Just before the wooded area one could see the iron chain fence installed by the Town of Hudson to identify the location of the Poor Farm Cemetery.

We spoke of the master bedroom which previously was the common area or social center for the residents of the poor farm. The stone fireplace, paneled walls, and large picture window gave no sense or memorabilia of the town paupers who called this house their final home. Any such reminders are behind the dry wall or the paneling or on the beams of the attic. Prior to moving into 154 Old Derry Road the Garnetts performed a tradition common to their faith, a house blessing. They went from room to room praying and telling Jesus they wanted to use this house for His glory. O yes, they have heard stories and experiences of previous owners; but for themselves, these past 25 years the house has been at peace.

Within my memory this house has been home to members of the Farrington (1985 – 1992), Gould (1970-1985), Mazzarella (1966-1970) and Dube (1940 – 1966) families. In 1940 Albert and Lydia Dube moved their family of five (Theresa, Gertrude, Alice, Leo, and Claire) into the old farmhouse. A second son, Paul, was born a few years later. The farmhouse was on one side of the road; the barn nearly opposite the house on the other side of the road. Here the Dube family resided; working and living on the family farm, delivering milk to the local dairy for processing, attending local schools, and participating in 4-H activities. When farming activity had ceased Albert and Lydia converted the barn into a house for himself and his wife, Lydia. After the remainder of the farm was sold in 1966, they continued to live in what had been their barn. This house at 157 Old Derry Road is now home to their grandson Neil Lavoie and his family.
Attached to the garage ceiling is a large antique hay fork . This was used to lift the loose hay from the hay wagon up into the loft of the barn for winter storage. This relic remains as a fond reminder of the farming days of their family.

Of the six members of the Dube family, five are living in New Hampshire and one in Florida. The oldest, Theresa at age 90, lives in a retirement community on Webster Street here in Hudson. Gertrude, next oldest, lives in Florida. Alice and her husband George Lavoie reside in Londonderry. Leo, the oldest son, graduated from Alvirne, served in the Air Force and later established a veterinary practice in Henniker. He has since retired. Claire graduated from Alvirne and she and her husband Paul Bouffard live in Bartlett, and Paul, the youngest is living in Hookset.

Today’s photo, taken by the author, shows the Garnett home, the former alms house, at 154 Old Derry Road as seen today.

 

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.

Kimball Webster and His Family

Kimball Webster 1853

Hudson’s elementary students and those  familiar with Hudson History are aware of the significant work Kimball Webster achieved when he researched and documented his History of Hudson.  Published in 1913 his book is considered THE reference for the history of our town from 1673, when we were a part of Dunstable, MA until 1913.  This week we look at the life of Kimball Webster and his family.
Kimball was a 7th generation descendants from the immigrant John Webster.  John came from Ipswich, Suffolk County, England to Ipswich, MA  where he was made a freeman in 1635.  Before settling in the Pelham/Hudson area in the mid-1700’s  the Webster family moved from Ipswich to Newbury and then to Haverhill.  Kimball’s dad, John, was born 1791 in Pelham; his mom, Hannah Cummings, was native to Nottingham West and born here 1794.  They were married in August 1815.  John sold his Pelham farm in 1841 and moved to Amherst, returning  to the area soon thereafter.  He purchased a farm on Wason Road in Hudson; where he remained for 20 years.  By Kimball’s own records he had 12 siblings.  Kimball was the 7th child and the 3rd son of this large family.  John Webster was known for his honesty, great energy, and industry which enabled him to care for his large family and himself and Hannah in their later years.    ;
Kimball was born November 1828 in Pelham and educated in the schools of Pelham and Hudson.  Having grown up as a farm boy he was used to hard work.
In 1849 at the age of 20 1/2 he left home and became one of the California Pioneers.   Having heard of the great gold discovery in California, he traveled to Independence, MOi where he joined a company of 28 men, outfitted with pack mules and horses, to travel to CA.  The trip across the continent took 6 months with many hardships along the way. During his travels he kept a journal which he published  in book form as “Gold Seekers of ’49”.   He did work in mining for a short while, then  in 1851 went to the Territory of Oregon where he worked at and became a deputy surveyor.   In  1854 he returned to New Hampshire via the Isthmus of Panama.  In the next few years he was employed as a surveyor and worked for the Bodwell Granite Co. in Vinal Haven, Maine.  By 1857 he returned to Hudson, married Abiah Cutter of Pelham  and they settled on a portion of his great-grandfather Cumming’s farm.
Professionally Kimball was a surveyor and an engineer with 50 years experience tracing old lines and boundaries and finding lost landmarks.  In this he was considered an expert.  Politically he was a Democrat; serving  the town as selectman and as a member of the school board.  On two occasions he served on a committee to re-appraise property in town.  In 1881 he chaired the committee responsible for building the new iron bridge across the Merrimack to Nashua; and a member of the committee in 1909 when it became necessary to replace that bridge with the concrete bridge.  He served in the state legislature and he was a Justice of the Peace for about 50 years.  Fraternally he was the first Master of Hudson Grange and  served the grange at the county and state levels.
Kimball Webster was the right person (he had a knowledge of engineering and a kean interest in history), at the right place (living on  one of the earliest settlements in town that of his Cummings line) and at the right time (many of the early pioneers were available for him to learn from).  At first he had no thought of writing a comprehensive history of his town; rather he set himself out to collect materials, to copy significant portions  of the ancient records, document recollections of early settlers, and record records of cemeteries, with the idea that someone, sometime could and would such a history.
In 1884, D.H. Hurd was canvasing the county for material to be compiled and published for the History of Hillsborough County.  Mr Hurd suggested that Kimball prepare a 20 page history of Hudson.  This he did (actually expanded to 25 pages).  Perhaps this activity acted as a stimulus for him to attempt the more ambitious work of the History of Hudson 1673 to 1913.

Kimball Webster 1912

From the Historical Society collection we share two photos of Kimball Webster.  The first a painting copied from a daguerreotype  taken about 1853.  The second, and perhaps the image we more closely associate with Webster was taken later in his life and appears in the front matter of his History of Hudson.
Kimball and Abiah had 10 children; 3 boys and 7 girls.  Of these  only 5 girls survived into adulthood.    They had 2 sets of twins who died young and one daughter Latina Ray who passed at the age of 22.  Each of the surviving 5 daughters married into families which are known to us today.
Their oldest, Lizzie Jane (b:1858) married Horace Martin.  Their family of one son (Kimball Webster) and one daughter (Ina)  lived in Hudson.
Next was Ella Francis (b:1859) who married Frank Walsh, they moved to Nashua.
Then came Eliza Ball (b: 1862) who married Charles Leslie of Hudson.  They had one son, Eugene.  As an adult Eugene occupied the house of his grandfather, Kimball, on Webster Street.  Eugene served on the Board of Directors for the newly organized Historical Society in the 1960’s.
Julia Anne (b:1867) married John Abner Robinson and they lived in the Robinson Homestead on Robinson Road (now Old Robinson)Hudson on Robinson Road.  Julia shared her father’s interest in history and assisted him with the editing and marketing of the history.
Mary Newton (B:1869) married George H. Abbott,  Their family consisted of three sons (Clayton, Kenneth, and Roland) and one daughter, Marjorie.  Members of this family and their descendants reside in Hudson to this day.  Many of our readers remember Abbott’s Dairy on Derry Road.
The Abbott Family has placed a number of Kimball’s works at the Historical Society.  Among them are his 1849 journal while traveling to California, notes on some Hudson houses built in the 1800’s, vital records which he copied from the ancient town records, and details of various estates that he settled.  From the Martin and Leslie families are some of his household items, some native relics found along the Merrimack, and the painting of made from an 1853 Daguerreotype while  he was in Oregon.

Five Daughters of Kimball and Abiah Webster

Our third photo shows the 5 daughters of Kimball and Abiah (Cutter) Webster taken C1920 on the front porch of the Robinson Homestead on Old Robinson Road.  In the front row from the left are Julia Anne, Mary Newton, and Eliza Ball.  In the second are Lizzie Jane and Ella Francis (order not certain).  If any of our readers can assist with this identification please contact the society  at 880-2020 or HudsonHistorical@live.com and ask for Ruth.

Pizza Hut and Derry Road Car Wash

Pizza Hut and Derry Road Car Wash

For the past few years we have seen changes take place from 62 -68 Derry Road.  First with the conversion of the long time idle property of the former Hogan’s Garden Center into the Dollar Tree and O’Reilly Auto Part stores;  now with the Pizza Hut property, 62 Derry Road,  on the market more changes are in the works.
60 years ago, in 1961, this section of Derry Rad consisted of the home of Roy and Flora  L. Griffin at 62 Derry plus undeveloped land at 64 – 68.  The Griffins operated Banner Photo of Nashua.  Roy passed about 1966 and Flora continued  as President and Treasurer of Banner Photo and retained  her residence in Hudson.
The first change toward development came about 1959 with the opening of Hogan’s Garden Center and Flower Shoppe at 68 Derry Road.  Hogan’s was a popular place for trees, shrubs, garden supplied, and flowers.  They remained in business until the early 1980’s.  From that time until a few years ago the land and buildings remained idle; including the large green house used by both the garden center and flower shoppe.
In 1978 the site of the Griffin home was purchased by Pizza Hut of America and by 1981 the Pizza Hut Restaurant in Hudson was in operation.  Although changes did occur in the corporate ownership and structure of Pizza Hut this restaurant remained in business some 35 years; closing for business within the last year.  The property is for sale, so ‘stay tuned’ for further change.
About the same time, 1981, and adjacent to Pizza Hut  the Derry Road Car Wash opened for business.  Although operating under different names a car wash remains at this location to the present day,
More recently, in 2014, the site of Hogan’s was sold for new development.  The first to emerge was the new, stand alone, Dollar Tree in 2015.  That was followed soon thereafter by O’Reiley Auto Body in 2016.
As we pull back the layers of time we see the time line of development.  Our photo for this week is an aerial of 62 and 64 Derry Road  soon after 1981.  We see Pizza Hut and Derry Road Car Wash.  To the right, and off the photo, was Hogan’s Garden Center and Flower Shoppe.  Upon the sale and re-use of the pizza Hut facility we will have the opportunity to watch further changes.

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