1852: The Only Road to Milford… Part 3

Since we started our trip to the Milk Train with Elbridge Trow, we have passed several houses and farms. (Click here to read Part 1.) We’ve met some school children beginning their day of lessons, and some farmers making their way home from the local saw mill. (Click here to read Part 2) Now we are closing in on the Trow Farm where Elbridge’s great grandparents, Martha and Joseph Trow, first began sustaining themselves and their family in the 1780’s. (Click here to see a 10 minute video of Martha telling her story).

Elbridge hands us the reigns to search out his pipe and get it lit again. This proves to be a bit of a challenge as a breeze has picked up and keeps blowing out his matches. Soon enough, he adds a puff of earthy, hay like aroma to the air whirling around our milk wagon. He clears his throat and tells us his Trow and Dodge ancestors came here from the area of Beverly Massachusetts. It was pretty rough at first, but folks worked hard to turn this wild area into productive farms. The Trow family was more successful than some, and not as successful as others. One thing is for sure, they are a productive family. Elbridge explains that Great Grandma and Pa had 12 children in all living together in their log cabin when they first started out here in what was then the northwest corner of Amherst.  Elbridge’s Grandpa Joseph was the oldest, and the first to venture out to start his own family. He took up with Betsy Perkins (remember that first house by the Old Maple Tree at the four corners? Yup, that’s where she grew up.) They married and started farming in the north end of town. They raised 6 children; Elbridge’s father and 5 sisters. All but one of those sisters married and had children of their own, mostly in town or nearby. As soon as he was able, Elbridge’s father, Joseph Trow the third, acquired Abidjan Wilkin’s farm. That’s where Elbridge and his sister Almira, and brothers Joseph and Henry live currently.

We’ve had a view of the Trow Homestead for the last mile of our trek. Now we are close enough to hear the cows low and the sheep bleat in hopeful expectation at the sound of our wagon. Elbridge does not slow the wagon, however. Great Uncle Jesse’s cows are in need of freshening, so they are not making enough milk to sell just now. We catch a glimpse of a young man splitting wood near what must be the kitchen door, and learn that he is Elbridge’s second cousin Danny, named after the famous New Hampshire Congressman, Daniel Webster. Elbridge figures Danny’s brother Arthur Allen is probably down at the mill with Uncle Jesse.

Click here to read more about the Trow Family Farm and see more pictures!

We’ve been heading almost due south on this rolling dirt road, but as we pass the Trow farm, we turn more towards the west. The stone walls lining both sides of the road, are broken periodically by sets of gates, placed almost, but not quite, across from each other. It really is like another world without all the trees we have become so accustomed to in our modern age. As we crane our necks to look behind us, we are afforded a stunning view of the village surrounded by fields neatly defined by more stone walls countless lines of maple trees planted on either side of almost every road.

Looking back up Old Milford Road, to the northeast. Except for the abundance of trees, and the modern fence, not much has changed in the last 170 years. Image captured March 2023.

The horse plods along and we begin to realize what a time commitment any sort of travel is when relying on horse and wagon. Elbridge is naturally unfazed. He begins to tell us his hopes for having a farm in town one day. It is a dream his brothers Henry and Joseph have as well. He figures the number of Trow Farms in Mont Vernon is likely to double, or maybe even triple in the next decade or so.

Much of the land along this part of Old Milford Road came to be farmed by one Trow or another, hence the name of this road. Here we are in March of 2023, and we still have a Trow descendant living on Trow road.

The road begins to climb upwards again, and we catch a glimpse of another house between the Maple tree trunks. Elbridge points with the stem of his pipe and comments on how the Hopkins family first settled right here in the 1780’s. James Hopkins built the house, and his son, James Jr., who is an old man now, continues to live there with his wife Azubah. They raised 8 children together, and all have gone off to start their own households. Their daughter Margaretta and her husband, Alexander Carson do most of the farm work these days. Once our wagon reaches the peak of the hill by their house, we can see clear across the Souhegan river valley, to the hills on the south side. Like most of the country side, they are covered with fields. The only wooded areas are on hillsides too steep and rocky to be useful for farming or pasture.

To see the far side of the Souhegan River Valley in modern times, you must climb the hill Trow Road is built on and look south. Our current Trow resident has cut down the woods that were growing on this hill, and the elevation allows us to see what Elbridge could see during most of his commute to the milk train. Mystic Brook runs through what is left of this farm land, which continues to support horses, sheep, goats, chickens and other poultry to numerous to mention. This image was captured in March of 2023.

The road curves to the left, and we are back to heading due south. On our right, where the Isola Mansion is in current times, we notice another old farm. Elbridge tells us that the Tupper family lives and works there. Mr. Tyler Tupper has started his second family. His first wife died and he had to give up their three children. Now he has married again. As our horse plods along, we can see a girl in her teens attempting to wipe mud off a two year old’s face with the hem of her apron. At this age, boys and girls are dressed very similarly, but Elbridge tells us that the young one is Henry, and the face washer is his older sister Abby. He calls out to Abby, asking after her mother who has been sick for sometime. Abby thanks him for his concern, and tells him they are all praying that Mother feels better soon.

In 1885, while the Parsonage was being moved to make room for the new Victorian Shingle Style Church, Mr. Charles Isola was demolishing the farmhouse and outbuildings that existed here since before the American Revolution. He purchased the property in 1894, and needed the buildings razed to make way for his dream house designed by the Church’s Architect. All of this happened 30 years after our trip down Milford Road with Elbridge. (Read more about the Grandest House in Mont Vernon here) Image captured March, 2023

Elbridge leans onto the back of the wagon’s bench, and inhales deeply. All around us are lush fields, sturdy stone walls, a few orchards, and the ubiquitous Maple tree. Eventually, we see an astounding barn built into the hill on the west side of the road. The end near our road seems conventional enough, but the other end is several stories taller than you would think a barn should be. Elbridge urges his horse over to the barn’s door, then hops out to tie him to a handily placed hitching post. We get out, too, to stretch our legs, and peer over the edge of the road and marvel at the engineering feat accomplished by the barn builders. Way down below, behind the barn, a growing pile of manure ripens while it awaits the manure spreader for relocation. As we head round to the south side, we see a cow yard, an enclosure that allows bovine access to the second level of the barn. Elbridge brings an 80 pound milk can out and places it in the back of the wagon. He takes a second to point out how hay, stored in the loft of the barn, can be tossed down to the cows. Milking takes place on the main, or road level floor of the barn. We hope the cows enjoy the view as much as we do!

The Raymond Homestead. Image captured October 2022.

Once the wagon is loaded with the day’s milk, Elbridge hops aboard, tells the horse to, “walk on” and guides the wagon past the farmhouse. He explains that his great grandmother’s younger sister, Phebe Dodge moved here after marrying Nathaniel Raymond, back before the war of Independence. The sisters were so close, Martha’s husband, (Joseph Trow the First) acquired land just to the north of the Raymond homestead, and Phebe named her first daughter Martha. That was 2 generations ago, and like the Trows, Raymond progeny has spread through out the town, while maintaining continuous occupation of the original farm. Elbridge observes that the trend is continuing as Andrew Raymond and his wife Abbie have had 4 children already, and will likely have more before they are done!

Our Households book says the oldest parts of this house were built in the 1760’s. In this image, we are looking to the north-east. Back in the day, this farm had a first rate view all the way up Mont Vernon hill, to the town, and eventually the Hotels. Image captured in April, 2023.

There is a bit of a hill as we pass the Raymond place. We cross a small brook, and the wagon begins to climb again. To our left, we can’t help but notice another farm, tucked in along the brook’s valley. Elbridge assures us that this property, like so many of the others we’ve seen, has been farmed continually since the second half of the 1700’s. The original owner was Captain Benjamin Parker, a man who fought in the War of Independence. Mr. James Averill took over the place in 1810 and raised 3 daughters with his wife, Lucy. Mr. and Mrs. Averill live there still, with their eldest, spinster, daughter, Mary Ann. Elbridge tells us their youngest daughter, Helen, married Joseph Crosby Fitch, and they are basically running the farm now. He expects they will inherit the property eventually.

And this concludes the Mont Vernon portion of our ride down to Milford’s Milk Train. Please tune in next month as we attempt to find the “Hutchinson Place(s?)”

~~~~~~~~~In Other News~~~~~~~~~

Our Second History Hangout was attended by our Hardiest Historical Society Members who’s enthusiasm for history motivated them to brave the snow and make their way to the Cleaves Sawmill Site in the northwest section of town. We learned that this part of town was Lyndeborough up until 1853 (Whaaat? A new road to Milford AND an expansion of town in the same year? Coincidence or connection? Historical minds want to know…). The mill ruins are lovingly conserved by the Fimbel Family that has resided here since the 1980’s. There is an exceptional dam, and mill foundations. They have found the remains of a house nearby, the existing house being of more modern origins. The water that powered the mill is the same stuff that carved the rock around Purgatory Falls, which is not a far hike directly through the woods downstream. The Historical Society would like to thank Zoe and Mike Fimbel for being such lovely and informative hosts!

We did livestream the event through Facebook. Click here to check it out.

~~~~~~~~~Secretary Wanted~~~~~~~~~

The talented and lovely Claire Choiniere is stepping down from her role as MVHS Secretary. All of us on the board agree that she has been a wonderful secretary to our little group. She demonstrated a calm, firm force that kept things in the proper places, and motivated us to be organized as any proper society should be. What’s more, she consistently participated in a kind and thoughtful manner. Claire spearheaded last summer’s Cemetery Walk which, under her direction, gave MVHS a brilliant shot we very much needed. Ms. Choiniere will be missed more than she will ever know, leaving a large hole in our group, but also a wonderful blueprint of how this position is to be filled. We all wish her great success and happiness moving forward. We will always be grateful for the talent and time she shared with Mont Vernon Historical Society.

Claire Choiniere (on the right) poses with the cast of characters she wrangled into informative entertainment in October 2022.

And so we are now looking to hire a replacement. In these desperate times, we are ready to offer twice what we paid Claire… Click here to send your letter of interest.

~~~~~~~~~MVHS April Meeting~~~~~~~~~

The next meeting of Mont Vernon’s Historical Society will take place on Tuesday, April 4. All members, and potential members are invited to attend! We meet on the first floor of our Historic Town Hall in the Selectman’s meeting room. The official start is 7:00, but there is some nice unofficial chat time if you come a little early! Hope to see you there!

~~~~~~~~~The Next History Hangout~~~~~~~~~

We’ve had a Hangout at an old Schoolhouse, and we’ve had one near a saw mill, where will the next one be? It is guaranteed to be somewhere historic. This event is proving to be a most interesting way to share and learn about Mont Vernon’s history! If you are on my email list, I’ll send you details for April’s gathering. Not on my email list? Click on the Contact link and tell me! I will be happy to get you on it! Live in an old building? Perhaps you would like to host?! Just let me know!


1852: The Only Road to Milford… Part 2

Let us continue our virtual trip down to Milford to meet the Milk Train in the year 1852. (This is the route marked by orange dots in the 1858 map here.) When we left off in Part 1, we were in a horse drawn wagon with young Elbridge Trow. He has lived his whole life in town, and made this particular trip countless times. Elbridge is glad to have our company and happily shares his knowledge of the families and landmarks along this arduous, round-about route that will be improved upon in 1853 with the creation of a more direct route connecting the Maple Tree with Hartshorn’s Sawmill (marked with blue dots in this picture).

So far, we have traveled due west along a road we now know as Purgatory. We’ve passed a cluster of houses, and then some lovely fields on both sides of the road. We notice the sound of the harness rhythmically swaying with the horses stride change slightly as the road begins to lose elevation. Rather than pulling the wagon, the horse is now pushing backwards on it, slowing it down… a literal brake made of muscle and bone. The line of maples on the right side of the road is interrupted by a driveway that loops up around a large white house. Elbridge knows something of the previous owners, the Langdell family. He tells us they were some of Mont Vernon’s original settlers. William Langdell was born in England, settled in Beverly, Massachusetts, then moved to the Northwest Parish of Amherst with his son, Joseph. Joseph’s son Mark Langdell ran this farm until 1829. Elbridge isn’t sure who owns it now. A Mr. Langley lived there for a year or two, but he was only renting. The house looks rather run down compared to the one we know today.

The Langdell house as it looked after Henry Dodge bought and improved it in the 1880’s. A descendant of the Langdells, Henry is the 14 year old we are about to meet on our 1852 journey to Milford. He would be the one to bestow this building with the name, “Sunnyside Farm”.

Sunnyside Farm as it looked in 2021. The porch is gone, save the portion that has been converted to an all season room. Note how much the Maple tree has grown in the last 120 years!

In front of this house, the road forks. Either way presents a fairly steep hill, a familiar obstacle every Mont Vernon traveller must learn to contend with. If we were to continue west, we would pass the farm the Carleton family has cultivated since the 1760’s. Elbridge stops the wagon and hops out to place a neat metal skid under one of the rear wheels. A chain keeps the skid solidly under the wheel. When we head down a steep slope, the skid will stop one of the wheels from moving, making the horse’s decent down the steep hill much less work.

But before Elbridge can hop back on the wagon and urge the horse on the southerly route to the left, we notice three children carrying lunch pails climbing the hill to our right. The oldest, a boy of about 14, calls out a friendly good morning, and Elbridge offers them a ride down the hill on the wagon’s tailgate. These are the Dodge children, Henry (pictured in the vintage photograph above), is the oldest. He lifts his littlest sister Emily (7 years old) onto the wagon, while his other sister Abbie (12 years old) deftly climbs aboard. Their family’s farm is on Purgatory Hill, and the children walk this route daily for lessons at the South School House. Like many families in Mont Vernon, the Dodges place great value on education. Emily is cute as a button and tells us how much she loves reading and writing.

Emily Francilla Dodge is remembered as an “accomplished woman and a poetess of merit” (p. 59 in our 1906 History). We know she attended school in the South School House because of this notation on p. 51 in the same book, “June 17, 1884. New school-house in the South District dedicated, with historical address by the Hon. Charles J. Smith, and a poem written by Mrs. Emily Dodge Simpson of New York, daughter of Henry C. Dodge, and in girlhood a pupil of the school.” Emily’s poems are utilized in several ceremonies recorded in our 1906 history.

The top of Old Milford Road as it looked in February 2023.

The wagon starts forward, jostling its riders and cans of milk. Elbridge tells us we are coming up to the farm that has been in the Trow family since the 1780’s. At the bottom of the hill, we can just make out a small white house on the east side of the road. It was built for his Great Uncle Levi Trow who was the last son born to Elbridge’s great-grandparents Joseph and Martha Trow. In 1811, it was the first house built with wood milled up in the newly completed Saw Mill located just a bit further down the Hartshorn Brook valley. Henry jokes that Levi must have really wanted out of the Trow family log cabin for that house to be such a priority! Elbridge laughs, but clarifies that his uncle got married 1812, which is often the inspiration for house building in these parts. However, something must have soured his relationship with his parents, because Great Grandpa Joseph left Uncle Levi the sum of one dollar in his will, a cold last wish considering how well the family farm was doing when he passed 30 years ago, and how evenly he divided the rest of his assets… Perhaps it was of little consequence, as Great Uncle Levi left town in 1825 and moved to Goshen where he assumed the honorary title of “Captain Levi Trow” the most remarkable Tavern proprietor there. (Trow’s Tavern).

As we near the house, Elbridge tells us that Rodney K. Hutchinson lives there now, with his father-in-law John Hartshorn. Mr. Hartshorn has two grown daughters and a son, Rodney will marry and father 5 children with the older Hartshorn daughter, Susan, and then 4 more with the younger daughter, Sarepta upon Susan’s death. (page 82 in our 1906 Town History). Sounds like a made for TV movie to our modern ears, but this sort of thing was quite common. Back in the day, single parenting was practically unheard of!

The house originally built here in 1812, (8 Old Milford Road) was for Levi Trow and his young bride, Betsy Averill. The couple never had children, and moved to Goshen, NH 14 years later. In 1889 the house burned. Elmer E. Carleton built the one we see today. This image was captured in February, 2023.

Hartshorn Brook as it flows towards Old Milford Road from the west. This image was captured in February 2023.

As we near the bottom of the hill, we can hear the soft song of Hartshorn Brook finding it’s way through the woods to the west, then under the road and into the field to the east. Elbridge gives the horse a signal to stop, and jumps down to remove the skid. Henry, Abbie and Emily jump off as well, choosing to walk the rest of the way with the three Hutchinson children who have appeared at the end of their driveway. Alfred, 10 years old, shows Henry the bat he is carrying, and asks about playing ball later. Rodney, 10 years old, hopes to play as well. Mary is 6 years old, and runs to hold her friend Emily’s hand. Abbie remembers to thank Elbridge for the ride before heading up the road with the other children.

The Old South Schoolhouse was built in 1815. The original building may have burned, or just fell into disrepair. Our 1906 town history tells us it was fixed up and rededicated with pomp and circumstance in 1884. The school was closed in 1912, as all students reported to the center school in town (it had plenty of room and 2 teachers!). In the 1920’s the Old South Schoolhouse was converted into a residence and has been occupied ever since.

This image captured by current resident, Anna Szok, in February 2023. As of this date, the house has been in her family 52 years.

Ahead, we see another wagon making its way across the rocky, wet field on our left. Elbridge recognizes the rig as belonging to John Carleton Sr., and believes he has his son, John Jr. with him. Their flatbed wagon has a heavy load of freshly sawn boards. Elbridge has heard that the Carletons have plans to construct a new building on their farm, and is interested in the details. When we arrive at the “gate” pictured below, Elbridge tells the horse to Whoa, and fishes around in his coat for a pouch of tobacco. He fills his long stem pipe and has a few puffs while we wait for the Carleton team to reach the road.

It is difficult to see in any season, but there is a break in the stonewall here on the east side of Old Milford Road. The field it opens onto is comparatively narrow, with thick stonewalls on the north and south sides. Back in the day, this was the wagon road to the Trow Sawmill and up to the Towne House and shop. The old trail continues on downstream, then crosses the brook (the abutments can still be seen for the low bridge that has long since washed away). After the bridge, the road turns north, and heads uphill, back to the mill, and then on to the road we now know as Secomb Road. All of these roads are easily more than 100 years older than the road that became Rt. 13!

We hear a distant shout of “Hurry Up!” and two young boys appear on the wagon road. Their pace quickens as the school teacher begins ringing the school bell. Elbridge remarks that they are James and George Towne, 12 and 10 years old, his second cousins. He tells us their father, James Towne, married Jane Trow, something of a shotgun wedding considering how soon after the nuptials young George was born. James works at the mill and farms some, and is quite active in the running of the town. Great Uncle Jesse gave the couple some land near the mill to build their house on the year they were married. As the boys approach our wagon, Elbridge calls out, “Where is Nancy?” to which young George replies, “Our little sister was coughing some this morning, Sir, so Ma kept her home.”

The school bell heard by these students, has been preserved with the house. Click here to see it and hear it ring.

By now, the Carletons have pulled their wagon alongside ours. There are some congenial remarks about the weather before Elbridge asks about the freshly milled lumber securely tied to their flatbed wagon. “We’ve been talking about building a black smith shop for a while now” says John Sr., “Decided to use the trees we felled for the back pasture towards that end.” Over the last several weeks, the men have brought several loads of logs to the mill. Elbridge asks how much wood they have. John Jr. answers, “We’ve got 1619 board feet milled up, of course, it will take a few trips to get it all to the building site.” They have arranged for Rodney Hutchinson, who is a carpenter, to help with the framing, and hope to be shoeing their own horses before summer’s end.

This vintage photograph was swiped from the internet. It shows a pile of 1500 board feet of wood to the left of the serious looking gentleman.

According to the Trow Mill Ledger, John Carleton did quite a bit of business in 1852:

to sawing boards 1619 feet
to sawing posts 25
to sawing one bunch log
to taking lone and carting to Milford one bunch log
Cr by one bunch log
Cr by plank 644 feet
Cr by birch timber
Cr by account
Cr by Cash to balance account
January 27 1853……….$40.23

His curiosity satisfied, Elbridge bids them good day, and urges his horse onward. On our right, the lush Trow Farm hillside fields form a sun-hugging bowl with the road making a sweeping curve along the bowl’s lip. As we travel southwest, the neat lines of a Hickory Tree grove hypnotically change perspective. When we crane our necks to look back up Mont Vernon Hill, we can see most of Purgatory road. At this point in our round-about trip to Milford, we have traveled about half the distance from the Maple Tree to Mont Vernon’s southern border. There is plenty more to cover, but for now, faithful readers, we will pause our story.

In the left picture, we enjoy the view looking northeast. There was a time when the Grand Hotel could be seen from here. The right picture, taken from roughly the same spot, shows the view to the south east. A variety of buildings have been built, repurposed, and/or torn down around the Trow homestead. Click on this link for more about the Trows and view some vintage photographs of the farm and its inhabitants.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~In Other News~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MVHS Members will be meeting on Tuesday, March 7. We are pleased to gather in one of our most Historic Buildings, Mont Vernon’s own Town Hall (circa 1781!!) where we will make use of the Selectmen’s Meeting room on the first floor. We like to start at 7:00, but feel free to come a little early for the pre-meeting chat. All are invited, and count me grateful for each and every attendee!


History Hangout: Due to popular demand, we are planning a second History Hangout in March! This one will be graciously hosted by Zoe Fimbel. I will send out an email with the finer details. If you are interested in this event, but are not on my email list yet, please let me know by contacting me at annaszok@yahoo.com.

The Old Maple Tree

“In 1853 was built the new road from “the Maple tree” to Milford, a direct line through the woods and passing what is now Hartshorn’s Mill. Formally to get to Milford, Mont Vernon people had to go round by the south school-house, and the Raymond and Hutchinson places. The new road is much shorter and easier.” (1907 History of the Town of Mont Vernon, p. 47)

For years I wondered where this darn “Maple tree” before the answer was finally found in our Households book. And this week, thanks to Richard Carleton who has the great gift of finding the most wonderful historical nuggets sent me this picture.

This is a picture of the “four corners”, or what we now know as the junction of Rt. 13, Purgatory, and Amherst roads. A row of maple trees was planted in front of the house, 2 survive to this day. If you look closely, you can see a rather big tree, which I am guessing is “The Maple” referred to in the description above. It has a few signs plastered on it (an indication of how slow traffic must have been at that time, now-days folks could never read that little print!). According to our 1957 History Book, that old maple was cut down on November 29, 1926. Notice the electric poles? Mont Vernon did not have electricity until 1910, so this picture was taken sometime between 1910 and 1926.

Here is what the area looks like today. Only two of the four youngish maple trees survive. Purgatory road was moved down hill in an effort to make the intersection safer, but the electric wires continue to follow the old route. Funny how flat things look in this picture, but anyone who has tried to traverse this crossroad in slippery conditions can tell you it is the worst kind of hill!

1852: The Only Road to Milford… Part 1

“In 1853 was built the new road from “the Maple tree” to Milford, a direct line through the woods and passing what is now Hartshorn’s Mill. Formally to get to Milford, Mont Vernon people had to go round by the south school-house, and the Raymond and Hutchinson places. The new road is much shorter and easier.” (1907 History of the Town of Mont Vernon, p. 47)

Route 13, formally the “new road” to Milford heads south, down into the Souhegan River Valley between the trees. In the foreground, the road currently called “Purgatory” runs east/west at the bottom of this hay field. Other names for this road include, “Old Milford Road” and “Lyndeborough Road.”


Love it, or hate it, Route 13 is a regular part of most every Mont Vernoninte’s daily life. In recent years, improvements on Wilton Road may have made that route to Milford more traffically attractive, but only if you’re headed west, or maybe to Market Basket or Zizza Pizza… If it is the center of Milford you need, or points south, Route 13 is the ergonomic way to go. For us modern folk, it’s hard to imagine a time when this “shorter and easier” road was not an option.

One might wonder why they waited until 1853 to make this “much shorter and easier” route? Probable answers can be found in the old maps… for one thing, Milford was Amherst until it was incorporated in 1794. More importantly, the original farmers avoided that Rt. 13 area. In fact, for the first 150+ years of its existence, this “new road” was only ever “through the woods”, passing no houses or farms, or buildings of any sort until the Hartshorn/Wilkins Mill in Milford. With the exception of Secomb Road, which granted access to the Trow Sawmill from the eastern side of Hartshorn Brook, the area between Old Milford Road and the Amherst Town line has historically been a no-man’s-land… unimproved, except maybe for regular logging.

Screenshot of the
1858 Map of Hillsborough County, NH.

The 1858 map was created when the new road to Milford had seen only 5 years of use. The blue dots highlight the “direct line” they cut through the woods, connecting the “Four Corners” with the road built to access the Hartshorn Pond mill (circa 1808) with Milford. Years later, with the improvements of Rt. 13, the mill, yard, and ponds were bypassed as the new highway kept to the east of the brook.

The orange dotted route begins on what we now call Purgatory road. Then it veers towards south on Old Milford Road, which turns to Jennison as it crosses into Milford. Finally, North River Road takes us to where the two routes meet once again. When you consider the main mode of transportation around 1853 was two footed or perhaps four footed, it’s no wonder saving steps was much on folks minds!


Just for historical fun, let’s imagine it is 1852 and we are standing under that first landmark, the “the Maple Tree”. We need to get to Milford, and have no choice but to slog along the lone, all be it circuitous, route available to us. According to The Historic Mont Vernon: Vol. 1 -Households, 1750-1957, our Maple Tree is located by the first house (literally, it is their #1 listing on page 3 of the book). Richard Carleton found a Picture of this Maple Tree, click here to see it!

Approaching Mont Vernon village from Milford in 1957, the first house is at the “Four Corners,” now owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Perham. About 1775 or 1776, Joseph Perkins and his wife Emma Dodge Perkins and their children moved from Beverly, Mass. to the “Northwest Parish” of Amherst, NH, later to become Mont Vernon. He built a log house. Family tradition says that Joseph Perkins’ son, later known as Captain Joseph Perkins, jumped from a window and ran away to the “War of Independence.” Captain Joseph served on a privateer. He was captured and confined in Mill Hill prison in England, where he was taught tailoring. Captain Joseph married Hannah Woodbury, daughter of James Woodbury, and lived in the house near “The Maple Tree” at the Four Corners, about halfway up the “Big Hill.” The Maple Tree was cut down November 29, 1926. Either Captain Joseph or his father built the house. Tradition says that Captain Joseph used the little ell on the northeast corner for his tailoring.

Coming towards us from the east is a wagon with several 10 gallon milk containers. It is Elbridge Trow (who ran the farm that now belongs to Pomeroys for sometime before selling it to Jesse S. Trow in 1890). He is making his way to the new Milk Train in Milford. This train is a big deal for local farmers, because they did not have access to city markets before the railroad tracks were finished in 1850. Elbridge is part of the fourth generation of Trows living in Mont Vernon. Not only would he have known this particular road well, he would have known everyone on it. With only 722 souls in town, everyone pretty much everyone. Lucky for us, he stops under that Maple tree and lets us climb aboard.

#1 Purgatory Road is on the left, next to that iconic red barn. Once this entire road was lined with Sugar Maple trees, there are only a few left now, and they are fading fast. In 1853, “the Maple Tree” a landmark cited in several sources, grew near this house.

Elbridge tells us that William Richardson and his wife Phebe live in that white house by “the Maple Tree”. Mr. and Mrs. Richardson moved here after marrying in Billerica, MA, and had two sons. Sadly, the oldest died in 1845, at the age of 23. Their youngest son, now 30 years old, seems destined to look after his aging parents, and does not seem likely to marry.

Across the street from that big red Richardson barn, is the cute little white house referred to as the “Widow Kittredge Place” in our Household’s book. Elbridge would probably have known that the original occupant was Joseph Perkins, who lived here more than 40 years beginning in 1786. There were a few other owners after that. During our 1852 trek, ownership credit goes to the “widow” Mrs. Relief Kittredge, wife of Deacon Josiah Kittredge. Elbridge is sure to mention something about the current renter, Mrs. Mary Carleton Smith. Her son, Charles J. Smith, was a mover and shaker in and around town, (the man would eventually play a big part in recording Mont Vernon’s history in our first History of the Town of Mont Vernon; 1907). Because of his mother’s address, Charles had voting rights in Mont Vernon, but it’s hard to imagine he spent much time there. In 1852, he would have been in the middle of his 11 year teaching stint, his students were in NH and in MA. Charles was active in town as well, serving on several public boards and offices. Elbridge would not know this, but Ex-President Franklin Pierce would come here to call on Mr. Smith in the 1860’s.

Next up, on our left, is the Kittredge Farm. Elbridge has a lot of explaining to help us understand the family dynamics here. Originally, the farm was established by Jonathon Conant (from Beverly, MA) in 1770. In 1815, the property passed to (perhaps) Ingalls Kittredge. Ingalls was a well educated man, he studied medicine and seems to have spent his entire life in Massachusetts, rubbing elbows with abolitionists, and doing good deeds in Beverly. He had his brother, Solomon, run the farm in Mont Vernon, and eventually Solomon’s son Josiah took over. Josiah had faith great enough to become a Deacon in the church, and he would need it as the grim reaper called at his house many times. Two of his first 5 children were taken young. He then lost his first wife, Hannah, and their one year old son, Charles in 1828. With 3 surviving children, Deacon needed a wife fast, and married Nancy 3 months into his widowerhood. Nancy gave him a son, but died 4 months after his birth. Wasting no time, Josiah found relief in a woman named Relief, who became a mother to his 4 children, and provided him with 2 more. Unfortunately, he died in 1836, leaving her with 6 children ranging from the ages of 2 to 18 years old.

With no man to run his farm, Ingalls Kittredge sold the farm to another nephew, Deacon’s cousin, Capt. Timothy Kittredge in 1837. The Captain had been farming his father’s land, but sold it to the town to become Mont Vernon’s Poor Farm. Presumably, he allowed Relief and the children to stay on, as she is credited as owning (what is now) 4 Purgatory Road, but was not living in it.

The Kittredge barn as it looked in the early 1970’s.
The foundations of the Kittredge barn surround the Immorlica horse riding rink (this image captured November, 2022). The back of “Widow Kittredge’s Place” can be seen near the top of this photo. The Kittredge farmhouse was located to the west of that big barn, however, it burned in 1884. The barn was torn down before the Immorlica house was constructed.

Elbridge makes a quick stop at the sizable Kittredge barn to pick up some more milk to bring to the train. With a quick “giddy-yup” we now find ourselves passing the Coburn place on our left. Elbridge tells us that Mrs. Judith Coburn lives there now, but the building was originally constructed by Deacon William Conant to serve as a mechanic shop. Of course, we remember the good Deacon as an affluential citizen in Mont Vernon’s early days. He also made and sold boxes. Ms. Judith’s sons bought the place from him after their father died in 1826, making it a residence for her to live out the rest of her life.

As the Coburn house disappears behind us, we have some time to take in the views. The Souhegan Valley stretches out to our left in a patchwork of stonewall lined fields and orchards. On our right, the slope up Mont Vernon hill is mostly open as well. On either side of the dirt road, adolescent sugar maple trees grow where the future minded farmers planted them. We enjoy their shade as the milk wagon bumps along. For the next 100 years, they will provide searing color each fall. And each spring, the Milford Road residents will harvest the sap to partake in New Hampshire’s Sugar boom.

Elbridge sighs, and observes that our trip is only just beginning. At the next house, we will make a turn down the hill and head towards the next farm with dairy cows. There is a lot more history in that house, but for now, dear readers, we will pause our story until next month!

~~~~~~~~~In Other News~~~~~~~~~

We had our first ever History Hangout this past Saturday. After more than a week of intermittent snowstorms, the weather broke and allowed 12 of us local historians to gather in the wood-heated living room of the old School House. Sally Rorabacher Benjamin, Nell Trainor, Amy Wyman, Claire Choiniere, Richard and Maryanne Carleton, Alice Corbett, Eloise Carleton, Sandy Kent, Tim Berry, Kirk Pomeroy, and Anna Rorabacher Szok literally attended. We got our Facebook Livestream up and running and had a few guests virtually attend as well. June Hoar and her twin sister Mary tuned in from South Carolina and Pennsylvania respectively.

Topics of discussion began with a brief history of the School House itself, as related by Anna and Tim, then Alice Corbett shared some of her knowledge of the Native populations that inhabited the area for millennia. Richard Carleton, our best historical scavenger, shared artifact and photos of Mont Vernon memorabilia. Free form conversations flowed, covering topics from dairy farming to Mont verses Mount Vernon! We rounded up the experience with some first hand information about the town’s acquisition of the Lamson Farm from Sally, who was instrumental in enabling this transaction which has continuously benefitted residents for almost 50 years, and will not stop any time soon!

Don’t be sad if you missed it, we have a tolerable recording due to the Facebook Livestream, and you can watch it by clicking on this link: January 2023 History Hangout. Folks who did attend gave me such nice feedback, I will work to set up another Hangout in February, and I will keep you posted as to the exact day!


The next best thing to a History Hangout is a Historical Society Meeting, and we have one coming right up on Tuesday, February 7th, 2023. We will gather in our usual haunt, the Selectman’s room on the first floor of our Beloved Town Hall at 7:00 sharpity sharp, and there is always plenty of room for new faces! Please come on down!

A Walk Through History One Gravestone at a Time

If you were lucky enough to purchase a ticket for this event, then you know how well it went… the weather and the foliage could not have been better… the enactors and the guests were top notch. It was like the whole day was meant to be.

But, of course, aside from the weather, the greatness of the event stemmed from the amount of time and effort a crackerjack team of our MVHS members enthusiastically volunteered over the better part of the year 2022. We met, made plans, researched, wrote, memorized, made costumes, organized publicity, all in hopes of raising much needed money, and bringing some of Mont Vernon’s history to light in a way that is meaningful for modern folk. And we met all of our goals!! Everyone wants more, so we’ll be back again next year. Meanwhile, here is what we have to add to the town’s historical collection…

From left to right: David Brooks played Deacon John Carlton, Tom Wahle played William Bruce, Mary Katherine McNamera played Sophia Daland, Anna Szok played Martha Dodge Trow, and Zoe Fimbel played Nancy Adams

~~~~~~~~~~Martha Dodge Trow 1746-1843~~~~~~~~~~

Our oldest citizen in the group is Martha Dodge Trow. Born in 1746, she married a Minuteman, had 4 children before the start of the American Revolution (she had 13 in all) and moved to Mont Vernon after the war ended. Before she died at the age of 97 in 1843, she had this photograph taken.

Martha’s narrative was researched, written, and performed by Anna Szok.

This is a link to the text.

This is a link to a video performance.

~~~~~~~~~~Deacon John Carleton 1762-1838~~~~~~~~~~

Deacon J. Carleton was born in Mont Vernon to a family that continues to populate this town today. He fought in the Revolutionary War, and helped build the Town Hall where he spent much of his time serving the town in both the church and government.

The Deacon’s narrative was researched by Eloise Carleton,
written by Claire Choiniere,
and performed by David Brooks.

This is a link to the text.

This is a link to a video performance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Nancy Adams 1810-1820~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Adams family had a civilizing effect on the frontier that Mont Vernon was at the time. Nancy was one of the Adams daughters who died just before her 10th birthday. She tells us how her highly educated family was active in the town. Nancy also recounts the life of her younger brother, “Doc” who went on to become an important forefather of baseball as we know it.

Nancy’s narrative was researched, written, and performed by Zoe Fimbel

This is a link to the text.

This is a link to a video performance.

~~~~~~~~~~William G. Bruce 1819-1883~~~~~~~~~~

Born and raised in Mont Vernon, William was part of the 3rd generation of Bruces to live here. He served in the town government in a variety of facets… but his biggest passion was fox hunting. His gravestone is perhaps one of the most notable in our cemetery as it includes a sculpture of his fox hound, Jack.

William’s narrative was researched and written by Claire Choiniere,
and performed by Tom Wahle.

This is a link to the text.

~~~~~~~~~~Sophia G. Daland 1825-1899~~~~~~~~~~

Sophia’s remarkable life began in near destitution. Through some good luck and lots of hard work and frugality, she left the town a magnificent legacy, it’s first public library building.

Sophia’s narrative was researched and written by Claire Choiniere,
and performed by Mary Katherine McNamara.

This is a link to the text.

This event is the result of a boatload of work and collaboration, and the whole process was a ton of fun! Thanks to all who participated and… who will we reanimate next year? If you have an idea, let us know!!

Click here to inspire us!

~~~Special thanks to Lea Hardwick for taking these photographs~~~

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