A Brief History of Commercial Street

EmeryHarrisIt was about 1790 when Jeremiah Chandler built the first gristmill at the lower falls of the Contoocook River near its confluence with the Merrimack River. The mill was located on the south end of Commercial Street between the dam and the future site of the Harris woolen mill. It was only ten years later that Richard Kimball and Jeremiah Abbott introduced the first woolen processing mill in the area, a carding and cloth finishing mill. In 1847, Almon Harris purchased the land these mills occupied and built the three story 75’ x 40’ stone building pictured here.

In 1893, his grandsons, Robert Lincoln Harris and Almon Greene Harris made extensive improvements to the mill and incorporated it under the name Dustin Island Woolen Mills. In 1906 Arthur B. Emery became a partner in the business and by 1911 had formed a new company, Harris-Emery Company, which then purchased the holdings of the Dustin Island Woolen Mills.

In 1820, a sawmill was built a short distance downstream from that first gristmill on a site that would one day become the Stratton & Company flourmill. It’s owners; William and Richard Gage, Job and Timothy Abbott and John Eastman would operate the mill in turns. The Gages would run the mill for two weeks, then the Abbott’s for a week and then Eastman for a week.

The first flour mill was built in 1857 by Calvin and John C. Gage at the north end of Commercial Street. Within two years of its construction it was sold to John H. Pearson & Co. of Concord. He operated the mills and a warehouse until 1867 when he sold the business to Barron, Dodge & Co., who ran the flour business until 1871, when the Whitcher & Stratton Company was formed. Upon the retirement of Mr. Whitcher, Henry C. Merrill of Manchester joined George L. Stratton and William K. MacFarland to form Stratton, Merrill & Co.; they re-built and modernized the mills.

At the turn of the 20th century the Stratton & Company mill was the largest flourmill in New England, producing three hundred barrels of flour and five hundred bushels of corn meal daily. The land and buildings of Stratton & Company were sold in 1953 to the Boscawen Development Corporation.

In 1942, Nathan Brezner acquired the old New Hampshire Spinning Mill on East Canal Street in Penacook and converted it to a modern tannery. The Brezner Tanning Corporation was New Hampshire’s largest and most successful tannery from its establishment in 1942 until 1987 when production ended at the facility. In 1952 the company was sold to the Allied Kid Company of Boston, a large conglomerate engaged in the manufacturing and tanning of goatskins, in Wilmington, Delaware. At the time of the Brezner purchase, Allied Kid had plans to expand production to include upper leather sides, a higher quality leather made from cowhides. To find the space necessary, the old Stratton & Company buildings and the Harris Emery Woolen Mill on Commercial Street were purchased. The Stratton property was used as a hide receiving station while the preparation of split leathers took place in the former Harris woolen mill.

In 1972 the Allied Kid Company and Brezner Tanning Corporation merged to become Allied Leather Company and by the mid 1970’s had become a part of the General Hose Company of New York. In 1978 Lowengart Corporation, a subsidiary of Feuer Leather Corporation of New York acquired Allied Leather. Through the early 1980’s millions of dollars was spent to increase production and modernize equipment, only to end in bankruptcy in 1987. Allied cited a tight labor market and state environmental regulation as reasons. The buildings were left abandoned for more than ten years during the bankruptcy proceedings.

On April 8, 1997 the Allied Leather Corporation filed a quitclaim deed transferring all Commercial Street properties and buildings to the Hannah Dustin Holdings, LLC.

Today the Town of Boscawen owns much of the property along the south side of Commercial Street.

An article about the Stratton Flour mill, “A Unique New England Industry” in a 1927 issue of the Granite Monthly magazine 

Ambrose Tavern

By Willard Flanders – (Sept. 1897 – Jan. 1995)

Ambrose Tavern

Of the many interesting historical blocks in Boscawen, this old Tavern on the north side of the Church is worthy of mention. Just when it was built and by whom, is a question. We first find David Ambrose as the owner who was succeeded by Justin S.(Sam) Ambrose who operated the Tavern. It was a regular stopping place for the stage coaches. The Tavern was a large square Colonial house and the barn was across the street, which a few of us remember as having a cupola and weathervane representing a running horse.

The name Keneson(Charles Kenison) has been mentioned as selling it to John E. Rines in 1891. He was born at Gilmanton N.H. April 24, 1837.

John Rines operated a brickyard, which flourished until his death December 1902. He ably served as County Commissioner and as Selectman of the town and in various other positions of honor and trust. He was a public benefactor.

In 1910 Dr. A. C. Alexander, Trustee of the Estate, sold it to Francis H. Rowley, D.D., President of Mass. S.P.C.A.. Dr. Rowley renovated the house and barn, making sleeping quarters upstairs in the barn. He then leased it to G.F.D. Paign, a member of Paign Furniture Company of Boston. He was a Civil War veteran and a man of much influence. Paign brought to Boscawen a different style of living, than most country folks are accustomed to. He had a large Peerless Touring car with a black chauffeur dressed in livery. The Peerless in those days considered one of the best automobiles, known then as the three P’s, Peerless, Peirce Arrow and Packard.

Servants in the home consisted of a cook and laundress. Servants occupied the rooms in the barn.

Paign had traveled extensively in the Orient, capturing much of that life with a camera. He became a regular attendant at church services and was a benefactor in many ways. He gave slide programs of travels had shades made for all of the windows of the church to make his programs successful. They did much touring and took the Pastor and his wife with them. It was a policy to always have pennies in his pocket to give the kiddies wherever they stopped. A penny in those days would buy a piece of candy and for many a kid a penny was hard to come by.

In 1912 Dr. Rowley occupied the house and this time instead of an automobile, a horse and stylish cut-under carriage was used. Mrs. Rowley always drove and enjoyed caring for the horse. The Rowley’s were a great asset to the town and he was frequently called on as a speaker for many occasions.

In 1927 Edwood Webster(Edward Webster) bought the house and sold it in 1936 to Frank Beede, President of Beede Electrical Company of Penacook. In 1950 Beede sold it to William Cook. The old tavern has had some changes over the years. While it was owned by John Rines, the house was rebuilt, giving it a hip roof as we see it today. The fire demon has also brought about some changes.

Finally, it can be said, the old Tavern and its distinguished owners have had a good moral influence in the community.

Ambrose Tavern 2

We the undersigned………..

A petition written during the early to mid-1800's requesting the Select Men of Boscawen not to license tavern keepers that run "disorderly houses".

To the Select Men of Boscawen

We the undersigned being inhabitants of said Boscawen, are conscious that the Laws relative to Taverners and retailers have not been duly observed, we fear that many of our young men are forming bad habits, wasting their time and spending their money and perhaps destroying their Souls! and it is evident that some families suffer in consequence of these evils which prevail among us. We therefore think it our incumbent duty to notify you of the danger of granting licenses to those who keep disorderly houses, to prevent

Which we request you not to grant Licenses for Taverners and retailer to any person excepting those who have good orderly houses agreeable to the Laws of the State of New Hampshire

Nehemiah Cogswell

Isaac Chandler

Samuel Choate

Joseph Ames

Jacob Gerrish


John Geenough

John Cogswell

Ephraim Plummer

William H. Gage

Jeremiah Morrill

Joseph Atkinson

Daniel Carter Jr

Simeon Atkinson

Ezekiel Webster

George Jackman

Theodore Atkinson

Jeremiah Gerrish

Joseph Morrill

Enoch Gerrish Jr

Royal Choate Jr

Samuel Mo…….

Enoch Gerrish

David Flanders

Samuel M Durgin

Standard Bearer – Fisherville N.H. – July 5, 1881

In 1880 the Rev. J. H. Larry assumed the position of Principal of the Penacook Academy in Fisherville, N.H. and established the “School of Practice”. For the next three years the school published a semi-monthly newspaper called “Standard Bearer” which had a circulation of around 1,000 copies per printing. In 1883 the school closed and the newspaper was no longer published.

UntitledThe listing from the 1883 edition of Rowell’s American Newspaper Directory.

Published Fortnightly   –  By the “School of Practice”   –  FISHERVILLE, N. H.

“Here we unfurl our Standard, and enter the ranks of Virtue against Vice, Knowledge against Ignorance, Labor against Idleness, Truth against Skepticism.”

Click the image to read the complete July 15, 1881 edition.

Fisherville Standard Bearer 1881






Hannah Dustin Memorial Site Cleanup

The Boscawen Historical Society would like to thank Student Conservation Association, AmeriCorps and the State of New Hampshire Division of Parks Recreation for the hard work that was put forth at the Hannah Dustin Memorial Site.

Click here to read the entire story.

Click here to learn more about the Student Conservation Association

Click here to learn more about AmeriCorp

Click here to learn more about the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation


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