A Picture Worth at Least 900 Words

 

How many times have you found an old photo, and flipped it over to see if someone thought to write on the back.  Is there a date? A location?  The photographers name? We hope for any tidbit that can add to our understanding of the visual information captured on film, and so often find only disappointment.  God bless the folks who take the time to write a few words of what must seem obvious in the moment, for time surely has a way of dulling the details… especially when the photograph outlasts the photographer.  

Town Hall with Horse ShedHere we have a perfect example.  We don’t know when or why this picture was taken, nothing is written on the back, but most of us will quickly recognize the location.  Our historic Town Hall is familiar to all of us Mont Vernonites, though it looks surprisingly exposed without the cloak of trees obscuring its west end.  Look closer, and you may notice six windows on the first floor where there are only three at present.  Two of these old windows were boarded up, another, converted into a door.

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This horse shed still exists in Francestown, our neighbor to the northwest.

At first glance, the fire station seems nonexistent, what we see here is the horse shed.  In the days before automobiles, buildings like this would have been a part of every town’s center.  Think about how hot a car can get when it is parked in the summer sun, or how long it takes for it to warm up in the depths of winter, now imagine the engine is a living horse who must wait outside for you while you spend hours attending church services, or town meetings.  The horse shed was built to get these essential animals out of the worst of New England’s weather. Understandably, these antique parking garages lost their value as folks learned to rely more and more on roofed automobiles.

Town Hall with Horse ShedBut don’t give up on that Fire Station notion…  it is noted in the 1958 History of Mont Vernon, that the sheds were augmented in 1918 to house the town’s first fire truck, a Model T Ford ton truck, (the cost of which was split between the town’s seasonal residents, and the folks who lived here year round).  Can it be we see a hint of that improvement at the extreme right of this photograph?  If so, it is sliver of Mont Vernon’s first firehouse. *

Town Hall with Horse Shed 2Although the majority of people living in larger towns and cities had electricity by 1930, only 10 percent of Americans who lived on farms and in rural areas had electric power. At this time, electric companies were all privately owned and run to make money. These companies argued that it would be too expensive to string miles of electric lines to farms. They also thought farmers were too poor to pay for electric service (according to this website).  For once, our little farm town of Mont Vernon was ahead of the curve because electric lights began burning here as early as 1910.  Perhaps we can thank the expectations of our electric savy summer residents for the lines we see on the pole in this photograph.

Town Hall with Horse ShedOur Town Hall has had a clock for only half of it’s existence.  Before the building was moved in 1837, it didn’t even have a bell tower (click here to read more about this move).  The clock was paid for, like the first fire engine, by both the summer and year round residents.  It begain telling time in 1915. (click here to see a video about the clock and its workings)

Town Hall with Well sweepTo the left of the Town Hall, the ridgeline of the oldest house in the village peeks over the horizon.  It was built by James Woodbury in 1760.  In 1894 it became the porperty of Dr. Charles M. Kittredge who named it “The Hearthstone” and spent many summers there with his family.  Look closely and you will see some

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The Hearthstone well, as it looks today.

kind of contraption located between the house and Main Street.  Likely, this had something to do with the well that can be seen next to the road today.  Before electric pumps provided our homes with water, it had to be collected by hand.

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Well Sweep

Most of us are somewhat familiar with the hand pump, or the classic Jack and Jill bucket and hand crank, but the picture in question seems to indicate that the Hearthstone had a well sweep.

This machine was originally developed in Egypt more than 4000 years ago.  A long pole is held aloft by a Y topped post.  One end of the long pole is weighted, the other has a rope and bucket.  The user would lower the bucket down to the water level, then raise it again with the help of the weight’s leverage. (What is a well sweep?)  Seems like it would have been a lot easier than cranking a bucket up and down, and no priming necessary.

Now we have nearly 900 words for a photograph that had none.  Be sure to look closely at any of those vintage photographs you may come across, you never know how many stories are lurking in the details!

*After publishing this newsletter, Richard Carleton, to whom we send thanks for the photo that inspired this content, sent us another set of photos of the same area.

 

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There are no telephone poles, so this picture was taken before 1910.

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~~MEETINGS~~

The Society was happy to meet once again in August after a 4 month hiatus due to the pandemic.  We planned  to meet in the outdoors but original date, Tuesday August 4th, was rainy and windy due to the storm named Isaias.  We managed to meet successfully on August 18th in the backyard of the Old South Schoolhouse.  There weren’t many of us, and much of the usual topics for conversation have been postponed due to these historic Covid 19 conditions, but true historians persevere! Nothing stops history!

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, September 1st.  We will shoot for another back yard meeting at 13 Old Milford Road.  We will get started at 6:30 in hopes that we can finish our business before the solar powered lighting gives out.  Please bring a lawn chair to sit on!

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~~MEMBERSHIP~~

Covic 19 delayed our anual membership drive, now the MVHS is hoping to catch up on Membership Dues.  If you have not renewed your membership, please consider doing so now. Click on this link for more information. Thank you very much!!

 

 

Keith Pomeroy

Keith Pomeroy
Photo Credit: Earle Rich

This month’s newsletter is dedicated to Keith Pomeroy.  Mont Vernon born and raised, Keith came from a family who loved and participated in our town for generations.  Keith himself was a selectman, a farmer, a mail carrier, and instrumental in the creation of Mont Vernon’s Historical Society.

Keith did some writing for MVHS Newsletters.  In April 2019, we published 1934 Cattle Drive from Chelmsford, MA to Pitcher Mountain.  This month, we are grateful to have two more to share.

 

 

 

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Pomeroy Farm House etc
Photo Credit: Arthur Rounds

POMEROY FARM……………………………….by Keith Pomeroy

Ice house at Hartshorn's Mill
The photographer who took this picture was standing along Hartshorn Mill Road, looking north towards the pond we can see next to Rt. 13 today.  The park is located where the icehouse once existed.  The pond in the lower part of this picture no longer exists, but the dam is still visible.

Jess S. Trow, my mother’s father, purchased the farm in 1890.  The old barn, built in 1812, has a stable that would house fourteen cows on the second floor.  It also had three hourse stalls for a team of work horses and one light driving horse, a Morgan.  The cows were milked by hand, and the was milk cooled in a tank of running water fed by the spring up on the hill behind the house.  In the summer, Jesse would drive the Morgan horse and wagon once or twice a week to get ice from the icehouse that used to set beside Harshorn’s Pond on the road to Milford to put in the tank to help cool the milk faster in warm weather.  The milk was picked up daily by a neighbor who also had cows and taken to meet the milk train in Milford to be shipped to the Whiting Milk Company in Boston.  Later in life, when my grandfather got too old to take care of so many cows, he cut back and sold bottled milk at the door to several neighbors who no longer had cows.  When he died in 1942, the herd had dwindeled down in size so that we were only making milk for our own use.  In 1946, my brother-in-law, began shipping milk again to Haywoods Dairy in Nashua.

Keith on a Tractor
Mr. Pomeroy piloting the hay rides on a fine Lamson Farm Day around 1987.  Photo Credit: Sally Rorabacher

In the fall of 1952 I took over the farm, shipping milk and raising hay.  At that time, there were nine other farms shipping milk from Mont Vernon.  There are only six farms in Hillsboro County doing it now.   First I shipped milk in forty quart jugs, then I moved down stairs in the old barn I had twenty four stalls, a new milk house and a bulk tank.  The milk was picked up by a tank truck and taken to Producers Dairy in Nashua.  I shipped milk to them until the early 1970’s when they went out of business.  Yankee Milk picked up our milk until Agri-Milk formed in May 1980 and we have been shipping to them ever since.

Kevin and Gregory wanted to farm with me and in 1978 we built our first barn south of Amherst Road and started using it in 1980.  It could handle 66 head.  We formed Pomeroy Farm Partnership on January 1, 1982.  We needed more space for machinery and built a shop and shed in 1984.  In 2008 and 2009 we built our free stall barn for 100 head of cows with a milking parlor that can milk twelve at a time.  We have had to lease more land over the years to grow hay and corn to feed them, and to buy more machinery to harvest and bring in the crops.  Kevin and Gregory do most of the work now and make the decisions for operations of the farm.

Our work and additions to Pomeroy Farm over the years have not gone unnoticed and due to the boys’ hard work, Pomeroy Farm has received two honors in recent years.  In 2009 the New Hampshire State Grange Centurey Farm Plaque, and in 2010, the New Hampshire Green Pastures Program Dairy Farm of the Year award.

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Ramblings of a Retired Selectman……………………..by Keith Pomeroy

On March 8, 1977, with the passage of Article Five in the Town Warrant, Mont Vernon voted to renovate the lower town hall into town offices.  Prior to that time, each officer maintained his own office in his own house.  If you needed to register your car, you went to the Town Clerk’s house.  If it was time to pay your taxes, you went to the Tax Collector’s house.  The chairman of the Board of Selectmen maintained the selectmen’s office at his or her house, and if you weren’t having more than one or two visitors you had the Selectmen’s meetings there also.  We never needed to use the small meeting room downstairs for public meetings more than four or five times a year.  Town Meetings were held in the upstairs of the Town Hall.

Selectman
Keith Pomeroy, Jane Conant, and Darold Rorabacher sit on the board of selectman in 1983

When I first went on the board in 1962, we did not average a meeeting a month when all three Selectmen would sit down together.  If there was no need for all of us to meet, the chairman would make the checks out, gather up any other papers that needed our signatures, and bring them to each of our houses for signing and the leave the checks at the Town Treasurer’s house to sign and mail out.

I had the privilege of serving the Town of Mont Vernon as  a selectman for 30 years plus, and enjoyed it very much most of the time.  Many of the people I worked with as a Selectman and the other town officials were a pleasure to be associated with, to know and work with.  I was also able to learn about the workings of the town and its history, especially from two of my early board members, William Lamson, whose family has lived here since the 1770’s and Lonard Morrison, who wrote a text book on Town Government that I had the studied in my 8th grade civics class.  I also had the pleasure of serving with the first woman selectman, Jane Conant.

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Please click here to read Keith E. Pomeroy’s  Obituary

 

 

 

MVHS Donation's in Keith's name...

 

The Pomeroy Family has suggested that donations towards Keith’s memory be directed to  the Mont Vernon Historical Society, and we are so grateful for the generosity of his remembrances.

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~MVHS MEETING~

We are pleased to announce the next Mont Vernon Historical Society Meeting.  It will be held in the open air surrounding 13 Old Milford Road at 7:00 on Tuesday, August 4rth.  All are welcome, please bring your own lawn chair and a mask.

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~MEMBERSHIP~

May’s membership drive took a back burner to the challenges brought on by these Covid Times.  However, the need for funds has not diminished.  Please renew your membership today.  Dues are $20/adult, and $5/child.  Be a member for evermore by purchasing a lifetime membership for $200.

Follow this link for more information.

Mont Vernon’s Historical Society thanks you!

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~MUSEUM~

Because of the pandemic, the Museum is closed this summer.  However,  we may be able to make arrangements to accommodate research requests.

Click on this link to contact us

POMEROY Hay BARN

Mr. Pomeroy, you will be greatly missed!

The Second NH Turnpike

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The 2nd NH Turnpike is the straightest road you see in this snippet from the 1858 map. At the “Parting of the ways” near the bottom of this picture, you could choose to go north on Blood Road, or North West on the turnpike.

We hardly think about travel these days.  Our engines, roads and bridges take away most of the challenges the first folks living around here had to face each time they had a place to go.  Mont Vernon does not have any rivers, which were the best modes of transportation in the early days, but there were Indian trails.  It’s likely where most of our oldest roads got their start.  Trails like these would have changed with the seasons: washouts, fallen trees, brooks, frozen swamps, and muddy hills… the best routes were used for centuries before they were “upgraded” to roads. Even then, they must have been a regular battle to travel.

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Then Route 13 gained importance, the main flow of traffic outgrew blood road, so an alternative was built. The original route of the turnpike is wonderfully visible here, but to drive it you must take a left and then a right.

Enter the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike. In modern times, the locals around here know it as Boston Post Road and the Francestown Turnpike.  Originally commissioned in 1799 and completed in 1801, it became the main thoroughfare for travel between Amherst and Windsor, NH, and all the points beyond that would connect to those places.  Stage coaches, six horse teams haulers, herds of livestock… if it needed to travel it payed tolls on the turnpike, the best most consistent route connecting Boston to the southeast with destinations in Canada, Vermont and Western NH.  Mind you, this was still a challenging route, especially the parts that are now completely abandoned, but for 30 years, this turnpike would influence the economies and culture of (nearly) every town it passed through.

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Looking south, our Town Hall was originally closer to the Turnpike, but was moved across Rt. 13 in 1837. The original route plummets down the side of Mont Vernon hill, and was abandoned after the Freshet of 1869.

If you’re interested in more details about the impact of this great road, please join us for a presentation on Sunday, February 23rd in the Francestown Town Hall.  The Mont Vernon Historical Society has joined up with Francestown to take an evocative look at the impacts (or lack of impact) this road had on the towns all around us.  Everyone is invited to this event which will start at 1:30 and is free of charge.

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At the top of this picture, Rt. 13 climbs north towards our town center (off to  the right of what is pictured here).  Old Amherst road cuts across the bottom right hand corner of this photo.  The original Turnpike route breaks away from Old Amherst road, exactly where it meets Hillcrest Avenue, (the road on the right that connects Old Amherst and Rt. 13) and follows something of a ravine down into Amherst.  Unfortunately, that section of road shared the use of that ravine with a stream that was small enough most of the time… but must have regularly caused the already challenging climb a bunch of havoc.  It was finally abandoned after the Freshet of 1869.

POSTER – THE 2ND NH TURNPIKE – PROGRAM-2

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

***The February 4th  MVHS Meeting will be held at a Brand New Time! That’s right, folks, no more waiting around for 7:30. we’re getting the show started on the first floor of Mont Vernon’s town hall at 7:00 from now on!

***On Sunday, February 23rd, be sure to take the Francestown Turnpike up to the Francestown Town Hall to take part in the 2nd NH Turnpike presentation.  There will be many vintage photographs and many entertaining facts about the way things were over a century ago.  Come early for a good seat!  The show starts at 1:30.

***On Saturday, March 28, David Brooks will explore the Evolution of Town Technology… When did Mont Vernon first enjoy the power of electricity?  What were the first phones like?  Mark your calendars so you won’t miss it!! Location and time will be announced in the next newsletter.

 

 

Mont Vernon’s Maple Sugar Boom

 

 

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Sugar Maple trees planted in Mont Vernon’s Cemetery

They dazzle us with their brilliant colors at the peak of every fall, and bring us spring’s first sweetness as winter’s end approaches, the trees we’ve named Sugar Maple have grown naturally in our area for 8000 years.  At some point, the indigenous folks that evolved with this land learned to utilize the food value of the tree, a process that was shared with the Europeans as many as 400 years ago.  In their immigrant hands, Maple sugaring would have more of an  impact on New England’s economy than most of us realize.  The oldest trees we see today are all that is left of the tremendous efforts and innovations that went into creating America’s Maple Sugar boom.

In the Beginning…………..

Winter-Quilt
Some say it was squirrels that taught Native Americans the food value of Maple Trees.

There are no written records of exactly when the Indian Cultures of Northeast America began tapping trees, but there are dozens of wonderful origin stories (click here to see more legends).  The Abenaki tell about a village that becomes lazy as all the people are lounging under maple trees, drinking the syrup flowing in the branches though out the seasons.  When the creator catches wind of this, he teaches them a lesson by watering down the mix and shrinking its availability to a few weeks a year.  If the people wanted their sweet syrup, they now had to work for it.  However it started, the harvesting and processing of sap has consistantly taken place in our area for over a thousand years, quite possibly much longer, making it the most ancient of all the agricultural practices known in the northeast .  

Sugarbush……….

early-method
Birchbark containers were specially made… some for collecting the sap, some for processing it.

Each year, just as winter’s strength began to ebb, Indians would gather where Maple trees were known to grow.   They worked together to harvest the sap, utilizing some of it right out of the tree for cooking and drinking.  They knew how to intensify the sweetness of the sap by letting it freeze in specially made shallow birchbark trays, but they also boiled away excess water.  How could it be done without metal pots? They did it with deeper birchbark containers, suspending them to heat gently over (not in) a fire. Or, by heating a series of rocks that were dropped into the sap, removed and reheated.  The syrup would be used for culinary purposes of the harvesting season, but without canning or refrigeration, it did not preserve well enough for much else.  Maple sugar, however, is easier to store and transport.  It was something those who made it could trade.

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Currier and Ives Maple Sugaring print.

Europeans got their mapling skills from the Indians and ran with it.  Cane sugar had to be imported at great cost, but Maple trees were everywhere and the sugaring process was pretty simple.  At first they continued the annual Sugarbush gatherings, incorporating their own tools and ideas.  (Laura Ingalls recounts a wonderful description of just such a party in her Little House in the Big Woods p. 121).  But the demand for those pragmatic cakes of Maple sugar lead to more intentional manipulations of the process.  Presidents Washington and Jefferson hoped to compete with sugar cane operations and planted Maple orchards on their Virginia plantations.  Their idea failed  because Maple Trees need the cold temperatures to convert the starch stored in their roots into sugar.

Sugarboom…………

However, the Maple Sugaring business boomed around here.   Mont Vernon farmers could supplement their income by selling or trading maple sugar.  It was easy enough to encourage  Sugar Maple growth on their property by removing competing trees.  The town folk planted maples, too.  They used them to line many of our roads and historic driveways, providing shade from the summer sun, color in the fall, and an easily accessible economic resource that would peak in the 1860s.

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Old Milford and Purgatory roads would have looked a lot like this before the advent of  Maple poisoning road salt.

According to the 1880 census, more than 36,000,000 pounds of maple sugar were produced that year in the United States, along with a million or so gallons of “maple molasses”.  An 1880 dollar value of close to $4,000,000, an amount that would be comparable to just over $100,000,000 in today’s money.

Modern Times……….

Unfortunately, our Maples have suffered in the name of progress.  The brilliant idea of accessibly planting them along roadsides would spell their doom as the automobile culture caught on. The practice of “breaking roads” for sleighs gave way to salting roads in order to prevent sliding, and our sensitive old Maples were sickened.

Maple stump
Every year, more of our oldest Maple Trees look like the stump on the right.  40 years ago, my family tapped this tree and others along Old Milford road that have disappeared since.  Now this massive hunk of rotting wood supports poison ivy, bittersweet, and occasionally, oyster mushrooms.
modern maple
The view of plastic tubes and tank is with us year round on Old Milford Road.

Luckily, there are still younger maples to tap.  And like most every other industry going, plastic has become prevalent here, too, in the form of tubes and tanks.  I just read about a sap vacuum that doubles the output of a tree.  Modern sugaring will need more sap because climate change has increased the number of sap gallons needed to make one gallon of syrup.  It may well be our generation that witnesses the end of this eons old tradition… at least  in this area.

The next time you are out driving around Mont Vernon’s oldest and least improved roads, I hope that you will notice a few of these ancient Maple trees.  Perhaps, if the weather is right, they will be looking all Currier and Ives ~with each branch highlighted by snow against a mottled gray sky.  Be sure to take a moment to savor the how long and how well these trees have served the people living among them.  Think of how the humans who planted the oldest of these beauties did it with future generations in mind… a grass roots, coordinated effort we would be lucky to see the likes of again!

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A Tree to See on Old Milford Road…

Trow Maple
This tree was the inspiration for this month’s newsletter.
Maple fence
For more than 100 summers it has shaded Old Milford Road and the livestock in the pasture behind the generations of barbed wire fences it helped support.
Maple wires
It also leant its support to the nearby telephone pole.  The pole now has a new support system, but the company never bothered to remove the cable that once did the job, you can still see it hanging in the maple branches.

Rangeway Maples…

Looking east
These Maple trees have seen Rangeway road fade away, then get revived as farmland was developed for houseing.
barnage
The tree closest to Purgatory road in the last picture is seen again here, on the right.  This picture was taken in the early 1970’s when this barn was for sale.  Only the north and west foundations exist today, they act as retaining walls for a outdoor horse-riding rink.
Color of maple
Here is what that same tree can do in the fall.  Long may it grace our road!

To Save a Maple…

Purgatory road swerves for a tree

50 years ago, Purgatory Road went straight here, it climbed the hill in front of the old Richardson place, then headed down, across Route 13 on into Amherst.  That downhill to the intersection was a real problem in the winter.  I remember a chilly morning, riding on a school bus that tried to stop for the intersection, but slid right out into potential traffic.  Luckily for us, no one was coming, but luck is not to be relied on.  The town decided to do something about the problem.

There were more old Maple trees back then, on both sides of the road running past that farm house.  In order to save them, the path of the road swung wide to the south.  It was hoped that the needed excavations would be far enough away to preserve the trees on the south side of the original road.  It “worked” for a few years, but the only evidence of those trees now is the swerve at the end of Purgatory Road.

Purg Rt 13 intersect
From above it is easy to imagine the original path of the road.  If you look closely, you’ll see the telephone poles still follow it…

 

************In Other News************

November’s MVHS Meeting

~MVHS was proud to help honor local veterans by partaking in town celebrations on Veteran’s day.  The Amry Uniforms which were displayed on loan all summer in our museum were brought to the Town Hall’s selectman’s room for gathering to recognize Mont Vernon as a Purple Heart Community.  Thanks to Peter Eckland for facilitating the loan of the uniforms!

~Mont Vernon’s Fourth Grade students will be visiting our museum in the Spring. Thanks to MVHS’s MaryJo Marcely and MVVS’s Charlotte Jameson for setting this up!

~ MVHS is sponsoring 2 History Lessons this winter!  Anna Szok is working with Francestown’s Bill McAuly to put together some history of the 2nd NH Turnpike which has bisected our town since 1801 (more on to follow).  The event will take place in the Francestown’s newly renovated town hall on February 22, exact time to be announced.  In March, David Brooks will be presenting about Mont Vernon’s Firsts… when did electricity first come to our town? Phones? Etc…  We will keep you posted with exact details, soon!

Next Meeting:

Mont Vernon’s Historical Society did not meet in the month of December, but we will meet again in our usual spot on the first floor of the Town Hall on Tuesday, January 7th at 7:30.   

 

 

1858 Hillsborough County Map

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All of the photos featured here can be found along the edges of the 1858 map.

There are a lot of folks calling  Mont Vernon home these days. 2409 of them, according to Wikipedia.   That’s almost 2000 more than lived here just 50 years ago.  Our town has seen a slew of houses built, and all the requisite improvements that go along with a booming population.

Despite the intense march of progress over the last 50 years, the tracts and traces of 19th century life in Mont Vernon, (many primarily preserved by sheer neglect), continue to exist… you just need to know where to look.  Of course, we have our share of antique homes (in varying states of restoration).  Those of us  woods walkers may have stumbled across an old cellar hole or two.  And there are always miles of stonewalls  defining old boundaries and lining the travel ways that connect all the cellar holes, abandoned or built upon.

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 8.32.28 PMThose old roads fascinate me. I don’t blame anyone for wondering how I could find something so mundane and ubiquitous interesting, but I would ask you to take a moment to consider how Mont Vernon came to be.  Our first residents settled in the northwest corner of Amherst.  To go to church in town every Sunday they would travel on Old Amherst Road, a whopping 8 miles in one direction.  It would have been a sizable trip for a horse and wagon on a good day, but church is a year round commitment, no matter the weather or season. It’s hardly a wonder those folks got organized and built a church of their own.  They wanted a town of their own as well,  but it would take 20 years of requests before Amherst would grant them a charter (click here for more details on this part of the story).  What was it that finally changed their minds?  Likely it was the completion of a very special road… the 2nd NH Turnpike.    If you had a flock of sheep to sell, a herd of cattle to get to or from summer pasture, or if you were taking a stage coach anywhere between Windsor, VT and Boston, MA, this was the only consistently passable route that could get you there, and it went right through the center of what would finally become our town.

Now we know it now as Boston Post Road and the Francestown Turnpike.  When it first opened in 1801,  tolls were collected and the route was maintained by the Amherst Turnpike Corporation for 30 years.  Even after the road became “free” (and the town’s responsibility to repair), it drew through traffic which supported a number of taverns and other businesses in Mont Vernon.  The advent of railroads would end the daily stage coaches’ 50 year run.  As more travel options came to be, the turnpike lost its value.   Finally, in 1869, a freshet washed away parts of the old turnpike located on the steep section of hill that runs right under Carleton road, it was never repaired.  Parts of the prized route that enabled the beginnings of our town are now barely visible in the woods.Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 8.37.12 PM


If that story intrigued you,  you might find like to check out  the 1858 Hillsborough County, a map I am digitally blessed to share with you today.  Simply click here: 1858 Hillsborough County Map (the link will open in a separate tab)  The beauty of this format is the ease in which we can zoom in to see the hand-penned details, then zoom out to see the context

Did you click on the link?  Did you noticed none of the roads are named, yet every building is labeled?  Every business and church is identified, and each family residence is named.   There are initials that indicate the most common landmarks: School House (S.H.), Saw Mill (S.M.) and Black Smith (B. S.) (Anyone able to tell me what W.S. and D.P. stand for, I would surely be grateful!)

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 8.38.00 PMThe map makers thoughtfully included population information for each of Hillsborough’s towns: Mount Vernon had 720, that’s 2 more than Brookline had, but there were 968 inhabitants of Lyndeborough… (what was going on in Lyndeborough?!)  Mont Vernon pretty much topped out at that 720 number.  It could boast 725 citizens in the 1860 census, but the number dropped when the Civil War and the rock free acres of the West drained our hill of its people.  It would take another hundred years before cutting edge jobs involving computers the size of houses began to rebound population numbers, and by 1970 there were more folks calling Mont Vernon home than there had ever been before.  Our population has not shrunk since!

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 8.33.46 PMThis 1858 map does not only tell us how many people are in each town, it also tells us how many in the county were educated… we’ve got a number for the folks who cannot read or write, broken into the following categories: Males, Females, Native, Foreign, Colored, and one for those that are in school (same categories).   This map tells you how many babies were born (985), how many folks died (883), and how many got married (433… odd number, I guess they were counting marriages not married people).  But we’re just getting warmed up here.

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Notice the train, the boat… the rest of Manchester up on the hill.  I couldn’t locate the building on the map, but it must have been in the vicinity of Manchester’s famous Mill District.  How about the beautiful architecture of this building that was constructed for the purpose, basically, of incarceration.

According to the map, there were 4,707 horses in the county, but they were outnumbered by “working oxen” (6,682).  How about “milch cows”?  There were 13,692, but there were even more “other cattle” (14,996).  Sheep had them all beat, there were 22,706 of them!  All this livestock accounts for the acres and acres of cleared land… the fewest forests since the ice age.

Perhaps you are wondering what crops were  keeping Mont Vernon’s farmers so busy 150 years ago? This map can help you out there.  It has a count for Wheat, Rye, Indian corn, Oats, Peas & Beans, Barley, Buck-Wheat, and Grass Seeds.  The largest crop was Irish Potatoes… 340,719 bushels.  How about 1,014,774 pounds of butter?  I guess we earned our nickname, Cow Hampshire!  

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Dirt roads, horse powered traffic, boarded sidewalks and awnings, all were the sorts of mundane details 1858 folks would not have thought twice about.

We’ve got religious statistics on this map, too.  There are 12 varieties of churches listed, along with how many of each there were in the county.  And you didn’t need a ruler and a scale to figure out how many miles there were between points for this map features a nifty chart that lets you look up the distances between two towns, exactly the sorts of things that were the sorts of things that were really good to know back in 1858.

And to think that all of this information was meticulously recorded… with pen and ink. Now this map is a snapshot for the ages, made wonderfully accessible to your favorite device.

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

Experts agree that the best way to get November off to a great start is to attend the Mont Vernon Historical Society meeting at 7:30 in the evening, Tuesday, November 5.  You can find us gathered in the Selectman’s room on the first floor of our historic Town Hall.   We are putting together ideas for the coming season’s History Lessons… and so much more!  We welcome any historically minded folks!

 

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