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.
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.”
“Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences” Vol. 29 1894
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.
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.
Written by Elaine Clow, Librarian, Boscawen Historical Society
The Town of Boscawen had ten (10) United States Sharpshooters in the Civil War. To be a Sharpshooter you had to put ten bullets in succession within a ten-inch circle at 200 yards at rest, and another ten at 100 yards off hand. You could go off to war with your own gun, but our Boscawen boys were promised better. Hiram Berdan was an engineer, military officer, world-renowned marksman, and the guiding force behind the famed United States Sharpshooters during the Civil War. When Berdan recruited the Sharpshooters from NH, they were promised Sharp rifles. When Ichabod Goodwin, Governor of New Hampshire inspected his troops, and found they had not received their Sharp rifles, he threatened to pull his Sharpshooters from the conflict. In May 1861, as the Civil War began, Goodwin responded to the first calls for soldiers by borrowing funds against his own name to equip two regiments. The NH Legislature affirmed the Governor’s action when they came into session the following month.
Charles Pearson Shepard was one of Boscawen’s Sharpshooters. He came from a family with an extensive military history. The son of Jonathan C. and Almeda (Pearson) Shepard was born on February 26, 1842, in Grafton, NH. His great-grandfather, Daniel Shepard, went along with other Boscawen soldiers to Lexington, at the outbreak of the Revolution, where he was wounded. Daniel also trekked with General Stark over to Bennington for other action. Daniel’s father was involved in the skirmishes of the French & Indian war, in 1757-59 – the one that gave Boscawen its name change from Contoocook Plantation after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City; and turned what is now Canada into English-administered lands.
Charles Pearson Shepard enlisted on August 30, 1861, Company E. He was shipped to the front immediately, near Richmond, Virginia, where he lasted until July 1, 1862. At the Battle of Malvern Hill on the last day of a seven-day engagement, Charles was wounded.; shot through the abdomen by a Minié Ball. During the Civil War both the North and South used this rifle-musket, muzzle-loading, spin-stabilizing rifle bullet. It was one of the Civil War’s deadliest weapons on both sides of the conflict. The ball went straight through his body, “Letting the daylight shine through me.”
Charles did not fall immediately, but two comrades carried him bak out of action, leaving him for dead. At the battlefield hospital, he was examined and placed with the mortally wounded. The next morning, “It rained hot water,” and he believed that was what saved his life. Using his musket as a crutch, he started out for “God’s Country,” all by himself.
After traveling three miles, Charles met a wagon master that he knew from Canterbury – yes, the Canterbury across the river. This kind soul found him a place in an ambulance and gave him a tot from the flask he carried. The ambulance took Charles to an ambulance boat on the James River, bound for Washington DC. “They were packed in like sardines in a box.” He was stripped of his clothing, money, and all his possessions, and then he became unconscious of anything more until he reached Washington. When he came to, he found himself left alone naked, as dead.
Charles thinks it was July 4th morning that brought him to life again. He crawled out of the boat, started for better quarters, and soon met two government clerks. They proved to be Good Samaritans, indeed. They put him on a stretcher, covered him with some of their own clothes and carried him off to a church which was used as a hospital. They then placed him in the care of doctors and nurses, and also wrote home for him, informing his parents that he was mortally wounded. The manager of the hospital reported his case to the Surgeon General, who had Charles moved to an officer’s hospital in Georgetown, D.C.
Charles was treated there for four months until he was able to travel. He was honorably discharged on October 6, 1862 for disability, and returned home. He married twice, in 1871 to Martha Webster of Center Harbor, and they had two daughters. She died in 1876. In 1882 he married Carrie J. Evans of Manchester. She died in 1897, leaving no children.
Later in life, he was gored in the leg by a bull. It was more than a year before he could use the leg again. Even then the good Lord wasn’t ready for Charles Pearson Shepard of Boscawen, NH, one of Berdan’s Sharpshooters.
Charles died on May 1, 1922 ae 80 yrs, 2 mo, 5 days, and is buried in the Plains Cemetery, along with several other of the Boscawen Sharpshooters.
The Other Nine Civil War Sharpshooters From Boscawen were: James W. Bent, Jonas T. Boynton, Edwin H. Chadwick, Daniel Morse, Benjamin Morrison, Henry Pearson, Calvin W. Simonds, Nathaniel Thurston, and James S. Tyler.
At Gettysburg Hiram Berdan reported that during the three-day battle the Sharpshooters had 450 rifles that shot 14,400 rounds of ammunition.
From a Walking Tour of the Plains Cemetery notes by Henrietta Kenney;
The History of Boscawen and Webster, Charles Carleton Coffin 1878;
The History of Boscawen 1883 – 1933, Buxton’s;
The History of Penacook, David Arthur Brown, 1902,