Taken from History of Northfield 1780-1905 by Lucy R. H. Cross
The book can be downloaded from the UNH Library at History of Northfield, New Hampshire.
Northfield Factory Village, later known as Smithville, was so distinct a part of the town, I have recorded it entirely separate from • the other portion. It had great natural advantages and was early settled. Before 1800 a dam had been erected above the Sanborn Bridge, which was located somewhat farther up the stream. This dam was probably built by Mr. Folsom, of whom I can obtain no data save that he had a sawmill on the north end of it, which was carried down the river by an ice freshet. Jeremiah Sanborn, who had come from Hampton in 1778, rebuilt on the Northfield side. There was a road by the river bank extending quite a distance. A canal was cut through this road, later, from this dam to the Daniel’s Bridge, on which several industries were located. This Sanborn sawmill was afterward removed to the site of the Folsom mill.
Dam No. 2.—In 1821 Boston John Clark, who has been called an “unlettered genius,” who was, however, a born mechanic, built for Kendall 0. Peabody the next dam below, long known as the Aiken dam. He also erected a mill where Mr. Peabody soon began the manufacture of paper. Mr. Peabody had come from Peterborough a few years previous and established a bakery in the west village. He used to send out carts with his ginger¬bread, crackers and cakes and among other things rags were legal tender. A large accumulation of these, first suggested a new business. Robert Crane, a professional paper maker, became associated with him in the enterprise.
A paper mill, the first in the country, had just been established at Exeter and Daniel Herrick, a born inventor, mechanic and skillful machinist, was sent there, clad in the garb of a Quaker, to study the machinery. He returned and built the machines for the new mill. The work prospered and the mill was greatly enlarged. After five years, it is said, Mr. Peabody, with his brother James L., and Isaac, the brother of Mr. Crane, bought seven acres of land and the water privilege attached to dam No. 3 (of which we shall speak hereafter) and with the addition of Jeremiah F. Daniel, removed the business to the Peabody village, where it has ever since been the leading industry of the town. The old paper mill became a gristmill, owned and run by Mr. Darling for many years. This site is now occupied by Stevens’ mill.
SMITHVILLE FACTORY OR YELLOW MILL.
For many years a long stretch of waste land extended from the Sanborn Bridge down the river bank to the old stable and tavern kept long ago by a Mr. Hoyt and later by John H. Durgin. Next in line stood the Batting Mill and beyond, in the midst of a broad common was erected a cotton mill about 1821 by three Smith brothers and John Caliender, all of Peterborough. A store extending out into the street was built and a row of four double boarding houses erected on the river bank which are still there. The canal lay in front of them, on which the new mill was built for the manufacture of cotton cloth. They were all painted yellow and in later years were known as the “Yeller Mill” and “Yeller Row.” The grounds about were kept in fine condition, shade trees planted and a library established for the free use of their operatives and others for a nominal sum. This has ever since been in existence and was the precursor of the present Smith Library. A family named Annan, also of Peterborough, were engaged in the enterprise, all of whom were a power for good in the business, social and religious life of the little village. William Smith died at Smithvile ; Robert, who had studied law previous to coming. to Northfield, removed to St. Louis, Mo., and James, who married Persia Garland of Salisbury, also removed there and afterwards was honored by a seat in the United States Senate. The Peabody brothers afterwards owned this mill, which was used for various purposes until its destruction by fire in 1853.
Peter Goodnow was the proprietor of a mill in connection with the cotton cloth manufacture for the making of batting, of which. Mr. John Lewis had charge. It continued after the mill ceased. to be used for cloth.
Hiram Hodgdon and John Gould made straw board in the counting room of the old cotton mill for a time. Mr. Hodgdon sold to Mr. Gould, who, in turn, sold to J. F. and W. F. Daniell, who continued the business until the burning of the mill.
A. L. Fisher manufactured wrapping paper from straw in the old batting mill. This business eventually passed to Peabody & Daniells. The history of the sawmill on the canal has been given else-where, so we will pass on to Dam No. 3.
The site now occupied, by Subway’s Mill was early used for manufacturing purposes. Dearborn Sanborn built a dam here in 1818 and established his shingle mill. Thomas Elkins had a large sawmill on the Northfield end of it, where an immense business was done and large rafts taken down the river to better markets.
It is said that Ebenezer Blanchard and Ebenezer Eastman had a woolen mill here, but no facts can be obtained. It probably antedated the Elkins sawmill. A double house stood next and then the open space to Rowe’s store. The Carlton house is the only remaining dwelling and the blacksmith shop, long since modestly retired to the rear, and the cooper shop became the Marsh shoe store. The long building called the Tontine, with basement on the north aide, was considered a fine house 75 years ago. Robert Crane built it when he came with his brother, Isaac, and others to begin the manufacture of paper. He occupied a part of it and James Lewis (see Mills), the other. After the departure of the Cranes it was used by the Welches as an extensive tailor’s shop. It was removed when the Franklin and Tilton Railroad was built. None of the fine churches were built in 1858 and the dwellers there sought church and extended school privileges at Franklin Village. All south of Main Street was an open pasture, extending to the south and east. On the south side of Central Street one has found nothing for many years but the little red schoolhouse, where a school was established in 1827, formed from several other districts. Here all the children from the Leighton, Cross, Gerrish, Heath, Hancock and Kezar families used to congregate and your historian, in 1851, and again in 1858, tried with varying success to urge some forty or fifty “tardy loiterers” up the rugged hill of science. This school was united with the one across Sanborn Bridge in 1858 and together occupied Lyceum Hall building. The old schoolhouse now does duty as a laundry and grain store. The Brockway and Carlton houses still exist in a changed condition, but the old-timer looking for familiar scenes would find but little in and around the railroad station and side hill to remind him of the old-time cow pasture and marsh land. A copy of the school register for 1851 is in existence, when Angeline T. Sweatt was teacher and every other name on the list was Kezar.
There was a job printing office established long ago on the site of the Sulloway Mills. The style of the firm was Peabody, Daniells & Co. and the Co. was Eliphalet Ayer. They had quite a business in printing Bibles, testaments and Worcester spelling books. It is known that three of the Bibles are now in existence. The office was in a yellow shop on the left, a little below the entrance to the Daniell’s Bridge. Charles P. Hill had a job printing office for many years, until his death in 1888, on Bay Street. He had a reputation for extra fine work. After his death the business was transferred to Tilton and became the property of H. A. Morse. Another office established by George W. Baker was in the upper story of the remodeled Whittier store, opposite the optical works. A shaft was extended underground from the dam across the street and thus power was obtained. It was destroyed by fire and never restored.
The board of selectmen, March 11, 1903, voted the privilege to erect poles in the streets and highways of Northfield to the New England Telegraph and Telephone Company. Conditions were made and duly recorded on page 266 of the town records for that year. There are no country line exchanges in Northfield, except one on High Street.
CITIZENS’ TELEPHONE COMPANY.
This line came from Laconia and Henry Davis was first manager for Tilton and Northfield. Permission to erect poles has been, granted from time to time, until all the farming districts have been covered. The first machine was installed during the autumn of 1895 or 1896 and they now number 115. The present manager is Harry W. Muzzey.