The Boscawen Stamp

Worcester Webster, a cousin of Daniel Webster, served as postmaster in Boscawen from February 5, 1841 to January 15, 1852. In 1846 he created a “Provisional” postage stamp that was attached to an envelope addressed to Miss Achsah French, a 14 year old relative of Webster’s who lived in Concord. The stamp was dull blue ink, hand-stamped on a thin piece of yellowish handmade paper, with an adhesive to affix it to the envelope. Provisional stamps predate or take the place of the first official US stamps which were issued in 1847, as Congress set the postal rates, but had not yet printed stamps.

Since that day 168 years ago, this small envelope has found its way in to some very important stamp collections and has become known one of the rarest stamps in existence. It entered into a private collection for the first time in Washington DC in 1865. For twenty years it was in the possession of H.H. Lowrie who had received it from the the chief clerk of the general post office of Washington, DC. It was sold in 1894 and then again in 1912 to a French count who paid $5000 at auction and took it home to France. In 1922 the stamp returned home to America when a collector in Utica, New York purchased it for $11,000. The stamp has changed hands a number of times since then: in 1933, 1937, 1964, and most recently in 1989. In the 1989 sale it was purchased by an overseas buyer for $166,000.

In June 2010 the Boscawen Historical Society received a letter from a George Masnick of Hamilton, Montana, who wished to donate an unpublished manuscript from the 1930’s that he had in his possession titled, “Boscawen 1846: a Settlement, a Sailor, and a Stamp”. Mr. Masnick was at one time a teacher at Harvard University; one day while in Brookline, Massachusetts he found a collection of stamp books in the trash. He had given the collection to his brother, who was a stamp collector, and when he died it was returned to George.

The manuscript:  Boscawen 1846: a Settlement, a Sailor, and a Stamp

Weir Family Farm

In March 1969, Mr. Elmer Carl Anderson, husband of Isabel Weir, compiled this brief history of the Weir family’s arrival in Boscawen.

Their story begins in 1854 when James Weir and his sister Olivia purchased a little over 31 acres of land in the area off present day Weir Road, off from Queen Street. By 1903 the farm had grown to nearly 200 acres and was a successful wholesale, and later retail, milk producer. The farm itself was self sufficient in many respects with it’s own blacksmith shop, portable sawmill and ice-house.

In 1938 the Weir farm came to an end. John Weir, who was born in 1866, was finding it difficult to run the farm due to a lack of help, his own ill health and shrinking finances. His health finally forced him to move from the farm and live with his sister-in-law Myrtie Weir. He eventually deeded the farm to the Town of Boscawen and spent his final years in a nursing home.

Please click on the link below to read the full story in PDF format.

Weir Family Farm

Moses Gerrish Farmer

Moses Farmerby Steven Green

Born February 9, 1820 to Colonel John and Sally (Gerrish) Farmer in Boscawen, New Hampshire, Moses Gerrish Farmer was an inventor and pioneer in the field of electricity.

He attended Phillips Academy, Andover MA in the autumn of 1837 and later Dartmouth College in 1840. He was soon teaching at the Academy at Eliot, Maine, where he met and married Hannah Tobey Shapleigh, one of his students. They had one daughter, Sarah Jane Farmer.

In 1847, Farmer moved his family to Framingham, Massachusetts for a short time. While there he constructed and exhibited an “Electro-Magnetic Engine & Railroad” that could carry two passengers on a track a foot and a half wide. In December of that year he accepted a position as wire examiner of the electric telegraph line between Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts. He learned telegraphy and in July 1848 was appointed operator in the Salem, Massachusetts office. Farmer later took charge of the telegraph between Boston and Newburyport, Massachusetts.

In 1852, he and his partner William F. Channing patented the first electric fire alarm system, and installed it in Boston that same year.

In 1855, he discovered the means for duplex and quadruplex telegraph, i.e. sending more than one message over the line at the same time. He successfully demonstrated this between New York and Philadelphia in 1856.

In 1858, he installed a form of incandescent lighting in one of the rooms in his home in Salem, Massachusetts, illuminating it for a number of months. This was some twenty years before Thomas Edison’s success.

In 1872 Farmer was appointed to the office of electrician at the United States Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island. For the next nine years he helped advance torpedo warfare until his health forced him to resign. He acted as consulting electrician for the United States Electric Light Company of New York for several years before retiring with his family to their summer home at Eliot, Maine where he established a public library.

His wife, Hannah Tobey Shapleigh Farmer, was an outspoken suffragette who operated the Rosemary Cottage, a rural retreat for urban unwed mothers and their children. The Farmers’ home was a way station on the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape the South.

Moses Gerrish Farmer died at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago on May 25th, while he was preparing an exhibit of his inventions.

The following describes an article written for the Dartmouth Alumni magazine by one of his classmates at Dartmouth, Ralph S. Bartlett.

The current issue of the Dartmouth magazine contains an article written by Ralph S. Bartlett of the Class of 1889, the secretary of that class. The article is entitled “An Early Dartmouth Inventor”, and begins like this: “Sixty-five years ago this June a letter was received in Hanover by the 1889-class secretary a few days before commencement. This letter was written by Moses Gerrish Farmer, a native of Boscawen, N.H., a member of the class of 1844 at Dartmouth, who in retirement was then living in Eliot, Maine, in which town your secretary was born.”

After mentioning Mr. Farmer’s brief spells of office work and school-teaching Mr. Bartlett goes on to say: “It was not long however before his brains and hands were busy with mechanical and electrical appliances. His active life brought him in contact with some of the best minds in the country. His own intellectual powers were stimulated by conversations and discussions with Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph. He firmly believed it possible for a car to be equipped with electrical power sufficient to operate for the transportation of people. Finally success came. The invention was brought to completion, and on July 26, 1847 the first electrically-operated car was exhibited and operated in Dover, N.H.”

Other paragraphs state: “Farmer invented a fire alarm system, later used in Boston.” “Some of the products of invention in general use today are the results of inventions originally made by him, and later developed to their present state of perfection”. “This inventor lived in several places, but his longest stay in any one place was at the Torpedo Station in Newport R.I. He was busily engaged in experimental work and developing his many discoveries and inventions in the chemical and electrical laboratories erected under his direction.”

The article closes thus: On July 26th 1897, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers held its annual meeting at Greenacre-on-the-Piscataqua in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of exhibiting and running of the first electrically-operated car., invented by Moses Gerrish Farmer in Dover N.H. A distinguished group of electrical engineers and scientist attending the meeting; including the late Charles Proteus Steinmetz, famous consulting engineer of the General Electric Company. Upon exhibition at this meeting was the original electrically-operated car, brought there specially for this meeting from the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC, where it was deposited many years ago for permanent preservation.”

Further reading:

“Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences” Vol. 29 1894

Foote, Brown & Co.

Foote, Brown & Co

 by Steve Green

One of the most successful businesses in the village of Penacook, it was built in 1855 by brothers, H.H. and J.S. Brown. The store was located on the spot the Davis and Towle building now sits. Through the years it had a number of proprietors, one of the first was a gentleman named Greenough McQuesten. He was also a Deacon at the Congregational Church up until the time he took a position with the Concord Railroad. 

Then there was Deacon William H. Allen, who ran a successful business up until 1862 when Deacon David Putnam took over the business. He took a partner named Moses H. Bean and together ran the store under the name Putnam and Bean.  In 1865 Mr. Putnam took a new partner, Lyman K. Hall, they ran the store under the name Putnam and Hall until 1870 when Mr. Hall took a new partner, Charles T. Foote.

In 1875 Lyman Hall left the business and David A. Brown, brother to the builders, joined Charles T. Foote in the business. It ran under the name Brown and Foote until David sold his interest in the store to his nephew Stewart I. Brown in 1886. At that time the store was renamed Foote, Brown and Co. as it appears in the photo.

Stone Porch Lodge








by Elaine Clow

The Marshall family owned a large poultry farm, and with it a guest house called Stone Porch Lodge, where they took paying guests.  They also ran fruit and vegetable markets and grew strawberries.  Now they have pumpkins.  Ken says:

“Walter Marshall moved to Center Strafford from Norwood, Massachusetts.  They lived in a little cape with six acres of land, but Walter wanted to farm.  Dr. Arthur Rowe of Penacook, Walter’s uncle, had purchased the property in 1917, after there was tragedy in the Dustin family during the Asian flu epidemic.  There were six children in the family, and the mother and father died a year apart.  Dr. Rowe adopted the girl, Muriel, and one of the boys also stayed with them.  Two boys were farmed out to a family in Penacook, and two went to a family in Vermont.

Dr. Rowe settled the affairs of all six Dustin children, and purchased the Dustin property which he rented out for a while.  He convinced Walther that if he wanted to farm, he better do it on the Dustin farm in Boscawen and not in isolated Center Strafford!  So Walter sold his little cape on six acres of land in Center Strafford and purchased the Dustin property in Boscawen from his uncle, Dr. Rowe.  This was in 1919.

Family history says that Walter and Bessie Marshall packed their dump wagon with all of their furniture and a crate of chickens on top, with a cow hitched to the back and a calf trailing and headed to Boscawen.  They stayed overnight in some kind person’s barn on Rt. 129 and the next night were at home on the Dustin property.  The three children then, were already at the uncle’s home in Penacook.  Dr. Rowe was one of the first people in the area to own a car and he had brought them to Penacook earlier.  Three more children, including Ken, were born in Boscawen.

Uncle Rowe took care of the family, purchased the property, and rented it out.  Walter owned a cape in Center Strafford, and sold it to buy the property in 1919 from Dr. Rowe so he could farm. The family lore says that Walter packed all his worldly goods onto a wagon, along with a cow and calf and crate of chickens on top of the furniture.  They trekked across route 129, and stayed in somebody’s barn overnight in Loudon and came on to Boscawen the next day.  Three of the children were born in Center Strafford and three in Boscawen, (including Ken).

Walter got a job as a bookkeeper at the Freight railway station in Penacook, and farmed on the side.  Walter was a bookkeeper for the B & M Railroad, and was never a telegrapher. The first roadside farm stand was built about 1920.  Walter was a long-time Master of Halloween Grange in Penacook, and auditor for the Town of Boscawen with Alice Keneval for 36 years.  He died in 1970.

Walter had fixed up a small chicken coop on the property to brood his first batch of baby chicks.  Everything was ready.  The oil-fired brooder stove was working and the baby chicks arrived by train.  He brought them home and put them down in the coop under the stove hover.  On May 3, 1926, a very windy day, the oil burner flooded, and a fire started.  The upper bay doors of the barn were open and sparks ignited the hay.  By that evening all that was left (besides shambles) was the Stone Porch on the end of the house next to the highway.  Mr. Dustin had been a stone mason and constructed the porch.  In later years one of the Dustin boys stopped by and asked for a piece of the stone porch, as he had lived and grown up there; after the fire there were two posts left behind.

Bessie Marshall had an older brother, Lenley Boultby, in Goshen, N.H., who was a carpenter and he came and reconstructed the house as it is seen today.  The children were farmed out and Walter built a lean-to from scrap, salvaged a bed, and lived there until reconstruction was complete.  A former Penacook fireman told Ken that he was at the fire that day, and it was so windy that the fire burned all the way to the Merrimack River.

From 1927 to the war years, the family took in summer boarders, at a charge of $10.00 per week per person, including meals for a couple, or $12.00 for singles.  Bessie had wonderful help. The family raised chickens, both layers and broilers, as well as ran a hatchery that distributed chicks all over the state.  The chicken business ran until 1963, along with the fruit and vegetable stand.  Up to 10,000 chicks per week were distributed throughout the northeast, and they regularly attended poultry shows.  In 1949 the Marshall hatchery had the honor of receiving the “Best Baby Chick” award.

During the war years Walter had a contract to produce chicken and eggs for the war effort, through Purina poultry feeds.  At the time they had 6,000 hens and incubators to hatch the fertile eggs; they had incubators in the cellar, and also in the barn.  Ken’s brother, Sumner, was in charge of the hatchery, and did the work of two full-time men for the required labor.  On January 10, 1944 there was another fire, this time in the house at the kitchen end.  Several rooms fell into the cellar. Potatoes had been stored against the south foundation, and they had to be hand-picked over to sort out the soft and burned ones. There were several rooms in the cellar, one containing potatoes stored near the south foundation.  They had to be hand-picked over to sort out the soft and burned ones.”

Ken remembers that he had just gotten a new woolen red and black plaid shirt for Christmas, and tried to rescue it, without success.  Another of the uncle contractors did repairs to the house after the 1944 fire. This was one of many times when students were kept out of school to work in the fields or on the farm.  Ken was selected as valedictorian for his eighth grade class, but he wasn’t sure that he would be able to give his speech as his father often kept him home to work.

Ken attended UNH after the war, often hitch-hiking back and forth on the weekends to work on the farm, and do the egg route in Concord.  He graduated in 1951.  He married, and lived in the upstairs apartment with his wife Kay, and eventually their four children.   In 1953 Ken took over the poultry business, and ran it until 1963, as well as the farm stand.

In 1960 Ken established a second farm stand on the Plain that he ran during the summer until 1977.  He had plots of land in Canterbury, where he often traveled with his tractor to work on his crops.  This travel gave him a chance to work on his parts for various performances held during Old Home Day celebrations, where they had musical entertainment, drum & bugle competitions, plays (Often written by Winnifred Lethbridge from the County Farm), food and a dance after the play.  During the winters he worked for Gould Hill Orchard, where he pruned apple trees and worked at the Apple House controlled atmosphere storage facility in Penacook, after his farm stands closed in the autumn.

In 1977 Ken went to work at New Hampshire Farm Bureau, and farmed pumpkins on the property on the west side of Route 3, leasing the property on the east side to John Hugron of Canterbury.  Today the pumpkin operation is run by Ken’s grandson, Josh; and Ken operates their Home Garden to provide for area food banks, and does all the harrowing and tractor work for the pumpkin operation.”  (Interview with Ken Marshall, 2013)


During the first half of the 20th century poultry farms thrived in New Hampshire, and indeed, in all northern New England, both for egg production and meat birds. Not only did Walter Marshall own Stone Porch Lodge, but J. Paul Jones was operating a large egg, poultry, and grain business at what is now the Crete Farm. Ralph and Ethel Sweatt had an operation on King Street, as did Richard Sweatt on Long Street. Charlie French on Water Street, I.E. Coulson on Route 3, and the Knowlton Family on Knowlton Road/ Corn Hill Road/ Water Street all had large poultry operations.

Charles Carleton Coffin

Boscawen’s Historical Author, and more


By:  Elaine Clow

Charles Cofin    The stone and bronze plaque at the front of Jim and Sue Richardson’s Ice Cream Emporium reads:  “Birthplace of Charles Carleton Coffin, Born July 26 AD 1823, Historian of Boscawen, Author, War Correspondent “Carleton,” Legislator, and Business Man, One who loved and respected his native town.  His is also one of the names listed on the “Notable Citizen’s” sign at the park at the intersection of routes 3 and 4 near the church.
Charles Coffin’s formal education was limited to the local district school near his home on Water Street, the Academy on the Plain (now the Boscawen Historical Society building), and one term at Blanchard academy in Pembroke, supplemented by extensive reading and self-tutoring. During the winter of 1842, he took up the study of land surveying and the rudiments of civil engineering. In 1845, he joined the engineer corps making the preliminary surveys of the Northern Railroad and was later employed in its construction.
On February 18, 1846, Charles Coffin married Miss Sallie Russell Farmer, daughter of Col. John Farmer, and bought a farm of his own in 1848.  He soon found that failing health was an obstacle to any success and returned to his previous career as a civil engineer.  In the fall of 1849 he constructed the telegraphic time line between Harvard’s Astronomical observatory and Boston’s main railway station. In 1851, he was in charge of the construction of Boston’s first telegraphic fire alarm and sent out the first signal over the system on April 29, 1852. 
Coffin’s journalistic career began by writing for several New Hampshire newspapers and journals, and he began contributing articles to Boston newspapers in 1851. From 1855 to 1860, he held several positions with the Boston newspapers “Journal,” “Atlas,” and “Traveller.” During the last year before the war, Mr. Coffin served as a reporter for the Boston Journal, traveling to Canada to cover the visit of Britain’s Prince of Wales – the future King Edward VII after Queen Victoria died.
Mr. Coffin attended both the Democratic and Republican Party conventions that chose candidates for the 1860 election. He spent the last winter before the war, 1860-1861, as the Journal’s Night Editor, preparing much of its reporting on the election won by Abraham Lincoln.

Untitled 2“Carleton” the Boston Daily Journal’s War Reporter during the Civil War was present at the first battle of Bull Run, reaching Washington during the night and sending a full account of the action on the following morning. He covered most battles, both in the north and south. During the Gettysburg campaign, Mr. Coffin rode between 250-300 miles in the saddle and another 900 miles by railway, and was on the battlefield three days and nights, producing one of the earliest and most authoritative accounts of that battle. In 1864, when Gen. Sherman reached the sea, Mr. Coffin went south and was the first to report that the flag of the Union was once more floating over Fort Sumter. During Grant’s 1864 campaign, Charles “Carleton” Coffin witnessed every engagement from the Wilderness to Petersburg, nearly all of the battles around Petersburg and Richmond, and was one of the first Northern journalists to enter the fallen Confederate capital upon its occupation by Union troops.

    After the war in 1866, Mr. Charles Carleton Coffin and his wife embarked on a global expedition, and he entered a further most prolific career as a historian/storyteller. I discovered Charles Carleton Coffin in the form of a huge stack of his books in the Boscawen Historical Society Library.  “Hmm, I wonder if he is still readable,” say I to myself. My first choice to ponder, chosen at random: “The Story of Liberty” published in 1888, opening at the Magna Carta, with selection of significant turning points of history ending at the first Thanksgiving in the new world. It is well-written and readable.  While not a serious study of actual history, he provides an entertaining interpretation of what might or might not have happened amongst the people involved during some of the changing ideology of western civilization, including the printing press, the Spanish Inquisition, Henry VIII and his various wives, and the reformation.
Young adults of more than a hundred years ago gained an understanding about where and how some of the concepts leading to current political and religious thought originated, though some of his deliberations were of that day, and not necessarily politically correct in today’s society.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the progression of political thought and concept, though with the caveat that often his conjecture becomes “we know,” through a leap of faith, rather than documentation of his data.  His books spoke mostly to the youth of the United States, with supporting resources presented in the form of copious drawings, diagrams, glossaries, maps, plates, and illustrations that do provide wonderful information, substance, and side tangents to explore independently.
Though he died in 1896, shortly after his and Sallie’s Golden Wedding Anniversary, Mr. Coffin’s numerous books are still in reprint editions, and collected in The Gutenberg Project and Open Library websites.  Most can be read on-line for no fee at the website and through  They are also available in both new and used copies through  Mr. Coffin is the creator of Coffin’s History of Boscawen and Webster published in 1878.

A partial list of his works:

Eyewitness to Gettysburg
Caleb Crinkle
Following the Flag
The History of Boscawen and Webster
Marching to Victory
Our New Way Round the World
The Boys of ‘61
Winning His Way
The Seat of Empire
Abraham Lincoln
Four Years of Fighting: A Volume of Personal Observations with the Army and the Navy
My Days and Nights on the Battlefield
The Story of Liberty
The Great Commercial Prize
Dan of Millbrook 
BIOGRAPHY:  Charles Carleton Coffin, War Correspondent, Traveler, Author, and Statesman, by William Elliot Griffis 1843-1928 (Also available on line)

Elaine Clow is Librarian at the Boscawen Historical Society.  The next book she will read that was written by Mr. Charles Carleton Coffin will be Our New Way Round the World, the story of Mr. and Mrs. Coffin’s world trip begun in 1866.  Not bad for a homespun boy who grew up at what is now 170 Water Street in our town, is it?

Special thanks go to Jim and Sue Richardson of Richardson’s Orchard and Farm Stand, 170 Water Street, for finding and moving the Town of Boscawen commemorative stone and plaque for Charles Carleton Coffin, and providing it prominent display.

Who is E. G. Cate?

Written by Willard E. Flanders in 1912, Grandson of Josiah Flanders

Erwin G. Cate was a Civil War veteran. He was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. After a partial recovery, he was discharged from the army and came to Boscawen and purchased a farm from Josiah Flanders, another veteran he may have met while in the service. This home was a Cape Cod house with a long ell which contained a woodshed, workshop and carriage house. The barn just beyond was about 30ft. by 50ft. as well as several hen houses, a hog house and a sheep barn. There were about 36 acres in the plot with the house, including a woodlot at the rear, and in the side of the hill in the woodlot about one quarter of a mile from the house was a well, which was piped to the house and connected to a barrel at the end of the sink with a faucet in it. The pressure was supplied by gravity and as the stream was small the faucet was only open when the barrel needed filling. On the opposite side of the street were two pastures running parallel, one for cows and one for sheep. An apple orchard in one of the pasture below the pastures was a 16 acre field which was bounded by the B&M Rail Road.

Erwin Cate married a woman from Minnesota. He had one daughter Alice, who married Ira Colby of Canterbury. The four lived and labored together as they produced butter, cheese, poultry and eggs. They always dressed off two hogs in the fall which usually weighed 400 lbs or more, one for market and one for the family. The hams and bacon were smoked and other parts were corned to keep them for the coming summer.
After shearing the sheep in the spring the wool would be sent to a woolen mill to be cleaned, carded and prepared for spinning. Mrs. Cate was an expert at spinning and one of the few to follow this art. The writer always enjoyed watching her spin as she was the only one I ever knew who did it. After the spinning she would dye the yarn and from there on would be busy knitting stockings and mittens for the men. They were hard working people and uncomplaining. They were Methodist by faith and Mr. Cate always sat down after breakfast and read from the Scriptures and prayed before entering upon his days work. He always attended the Memorial Day exercises at school and often would tell of his experiences in during the war. He never fully recovered from his abdominal wound and was constantly under the care of Dr. Graves, who always went away with several pounds of butter for his pay.
About 1916 a chimney fire caused the loss of their buildings and belongings. Their lives were all that were saved. They have all passed on now and the memory of a truly good family is all that remains. The fields and pastures have all grown up to woodland as has been the case with many other old farms. This information may be of interest in years to come as there are no descendants.

Mattie Pillsbury

Charleton Seminary

Martha Susan Pillsbury (Mattie) was born in Boscawen on February 15, 1836, the daughter of Deacon Joseph Pillsbury, who had just moved to Mount Pleasant Farm (still standing on Goodhue Road).

Mattie Pillsbury was a student at Castleton, Vermont Seminary on February 15, 1852, her 16th birthday, the day she started her diary. Three years later she was living and teaching in pre-civil war 1855 Virginia, and living with her aunt. She gives insight into the south, and slavery of the time. She married Daniel Dana Webster, son of the doctor in Boscawen, on April 24, 1867; they had one daughter, Alice Emily, and lived in Middlebury, Vermont. This diary ends on December 27, 1859 and is currently being transcribed from tiny cursive penmanship in faded ink, to a digital presence we hope will appear in the next couple of months.

In the meantime, in between pages of her diary are individual aphorisms she had cut from a treatise of the time. We hope you will enjoy these thoughts she collected from nearly 160 years ago:

  • Mend your manners, and that will mend your fortune.
  • Modesty is not only an ornament, but a guard to virtue.
  • Consult not with a fool, for he can neither give nor keep counsel.
  • Comply with no vicious desire, however secret its performance.
  • No one pretends to hate an injury more than he who offers it.
  • Never do that by force which may be done by fair means.
  • Be cautious of believing ill, but more cautious of reporting it.
  • Begin nothing until you have considered how it is to be finished.
  • Be slow in choosing a friend, but slower in changing him.
  • Of all enemies of idleness, want is the most formidable.
  • Opinion is the great pillar that upholds the commonwealth.
  • Passion is a fever that leaves us weaker than it finds us.
  • By reading we enrich the mind, by conversation we polish it.
  • By entertaining good thoughts, you will keep bad ones out.
  • Mean fortunes and proud spirits are like fuel and fire.
  • Moderate your appetite, so that with little you may be content.


The Boscawen 1913 Guy Lowell Library

By: Elaine Clow, Trustee Boscawen Public Library
Librarian, Boscawen Historical Society
Recording Secretary, 1913 Library Restoration Committee

The Town of Boscawen voted to adopt the Public Library Act at Town Meeting in March 1892, and Library opened in the Town Hall in 1893. Conditions in Town Hall became congested, “so it was hailed with joy when it was announced that a new home was to be given to the people.” Five associates: John Kimball, Benjamin Kimball, Frank Gerrish, Augustine Ayers and Henry Gerrish shaped plans and secured the lot donated by Frank L. Gerrish for building a new library.
Guy Lowell, a noted American architect of Boston, was asked to design a Colonial Revival Beaux Arts library and provide specifications for the new public library and hall of records. He was approached to build what he called “my little gem” at the time he designed the New Hampshire Historical Society and restored the Merrimack County Bank. Other of his important structures and gardens include the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Charles River Dam and Embankment, the NY Supreme Court, the Planting Fields Arboretum, and numerous Harvard buildings. In an architectural ranking of the top seven Guy Lowell buildings, the Boscawen Public Library is #1, Merrimack County Bank is #3, and the New Hampshire Historical Society is #6.
This library has held a reading room, meeting room, the town vault, Selectmen’s Office, Municipal Court, and Civil Defense Shelter and Headquarters. Dedicated on August 22, 1913, the words spoken about libraries are as valid now as they were the day the building was dedicated to the town of Boscawen as a cultural resource:
•    “A gift of incalculable value, a safeguard of character, and a treasure house of knowledge.”
•    “An object so complete, so symmetrical in its architecture, so well proportioned, so ornamental to our street, as well as the utility of furnishing information and instruction, for boys and girls; men and women.”
•    “What is this library for?  Well, the building is pretty to look at.  It is a thing of beauty.  Its Colonial architecture, symmetrical proportions, solidity, beautiful finish and convenient appointments within cannot fail to please the severest critic.”
•    “You can cross the threshold of this library and be in a different climate from this weary and work-a-day world in which you daily live.  You will not change your geography very much, but you can change your mental attitude, your environment, and your mood in five minutes.
•    “A fitting place for the records of the Town.”

The 1913 Library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 28, 1981, and served the town until 2007 when the library collections were moved to new quarters in the municipal complex, about two miles south. In August 2013, at the centennial of the building, a committee was convened by the Board of Selectmen to preserve and protect this building for future town use.  

Thus far the 1913 Library Restoration Committee has:

•    a “Seven to Save designation from the NH Preservation Alliance,
•    a matching funds LCHIP grant, and donations and pledges for the grant requirements for phase one of three for the project (roof repairs and architect’s report)
•    a quote for fixing the slate and copper roof (to be done this fall),
•    a community-based forum discussing future uses of the building
•    an inventory and storage of books and artifacts off-site
•    removal of  compromised drywall and insulation,
• (Please LIKE us)

Although some repairs have been made, there are areas of deferred maintenance that now require prompt attention to prevent accelerating deterioration. Roof repairs are the highest priority, followed by restoration of exterior masonry, and exterior woodwork. Once the exterior has been sealed, interior plaster, paint, and restoration of wood surfaces will be addressed.

The library retains its original shelving and woodwork, in good condition.  The original lighting fixtures remain, including an unusual lamp embedded in the leaded glass fanlight over the front doors, along with chairs, tables, and other furnishings. Most of the hinges, latches, locks, and other hardware elements are in excellent condition.

Mechanical systems are adequate; rewiring was accomplished by routing new romex through original conduit, and grounded outlets were installed. The forced hot air furnace is in working order, as is the plumbing on the lower level. A PVC waste line exits through the southeast corner of the foundation to a recent tank and leach field.

The site presents the challenge of no room for additional parking, without severely
compromising the facade. If sod was replaced by pavement, few parking spaces would be gained, as you can’t back onto a state highway. ADA accessibility can be met only by making modifications to the building. These challenges will be addressed as we move into phases two and three. This historic structure should remain a source of pride for many generations to come.

If you have any stories and memories about our 1913 Library (or wish to make a donation) please contact us at 1913 Library Restoration Committee, 116 North Main Street, Boscawen, NH 03303, or email them to

We need volunteers, we need elbow grease, we need enthusiasm, and we need financial support to get the building open to the public again.  We need to meet the needs of safe and adequate parking, along with ADA compliance.  We also need to make the necessary repairs to ensure this building will stand and serve the community for another hundred years.

Panama Hat’s in Boscawen N.H.?

A Standard Panama Hat

– Elaine Clow, Librarian, Boscawen Historical Society
A request came in from a descendant of the Raymond family that owned the Tannery at the intersection of Raymond Road and Route 4 in Boscawen.  It was to find out whether or not Palm Leaf hats were manufactured in New Hampshire, and more specifically in Fisherville, Franklin, or Boscawen, or nearby.
Census data from the 1830s and 40s indicate there were seven manufacturing establishments employing 57 males and 125 females in the towns of Enfield, Fitzwilliam, Nashua, *Northfield*, Pelham, and Plainfield.  The manufacture of Palm leaf hats was also a household industry throughout the state, and a cottage industry of the Shakers.  These hats were exported to Cuba, the West Indies, South and Central America, and throughout the British Colonies (think world-wide distribution), although they were not as popular in our colder climate.
The census data goes on to say that most industrially-produced hats were manufactured by “factory girls, where the supply of workers was far greater than the demand. “  Factory girls were generally aged 14 to 21 years of age, and only had part-time employment.  The Census statistician of the time went on to report: “the only time which they economize is their sleeping time; and their food is economized for them by circumstances over which it would appear they have but little control.  They work for 20 of the 24 hours for $2.50 to $3.00 per week, with room and board of $2.00 per week deducted from the pay. Boarding houses are not favorable women generally, and strangers have difficulty in getting good board.”   For many “good” families of this time, a young woman who sought employment in the mills was the social equivalent of a prostitute.
Charles Carleton Coffin had this to say on page 641 of his 1878 History of Boscawen and Webster, after a discussion of the transition of carding and spinning from the home to the mills:
“The industry that in part took the place of spinning and weaving was the braiding of palm-leaf hats.  The palm-leaf was purchased in bales by the traders, who supplied it to families who split and braided it into hats.  The industry was not a universal one.  The merchants paid cash only in part, making, of course, a large profit on the goods sold.  Families in comfortable circumstances would not engage in an employment in which they would be at the mercy of the merchant, who, though he might be scrupulously honest, yet could fix his own profit and their measure of gain.  It was a jug with only one handle, and that in the hands of the merchant.  Notwithstanding this drawback, the industry gave employment to a large number of women and girls, who otherwise had little chance of earning money.”
“By the piece,” production from the cottage industries brought from $1.00 to $1.50 for a dozen hats, and a good worker could earn from $6.00 to $8.00 a month.

You can read more about Boscawen’s early history, and what Mr. Coffin had to say about it at The History of Boscawen and Webster From 1733 to 1878  by Charles Carleton Coffin.  Please pay us a visit on line, or stop and see us when the OPEN flag is displayed at 226-228 King Street.