Monthly Archives: January 2012

Merrimack River Ferries


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Inasmuch as the proprietors of Penny Cook were to live on both sides of the river, a frequent crossing of it would be a necessity. To meet this, preliminary action was taken by the proprietors at a meeting holden on the 15th day of May, 1728. At this meeting it was voted :

” That Mr. Ebenezer Eastman, Mr. Abraham Foster and Mr. Joseph. Hall shall be a committee to agree with some suitable person to keep a ferry on Merrimack river, at Penny Cook, in the most con­venient place they can find for that purpose ; and that they lay out and clear the best way they can to the ferry place, and after they have stated the place where the said ferry shall be kept, that the ferry-man shall have and receive the prices following, viz., For fer­riage of each man and horse, six pence ; for each horned beast, four pence ; and this establishment to remain and be in force for six years.”

A year later, on the 6th day of May, 1729, at a meeting of the pro­prietors holden at the house of John Griffin, in Bradford, Mass., it was voted :

” That Mr. Nehemiah Carlton be desired to build a ferry boat of about nineteen feet long, and a suitable breadth, to be well timbered, and every way well built, workmanlike, at the charge of the com­munity and to be done by the 20th of May current. Said boat to be delivered at Penny Cook for the use of the society.  And a pair of good and suitable oars to be made by the said Carlton, for said boat. Said boat to be well and sufficiently caulked, pitched or turpentined, and finished, fit to carry people and creatures.”

And later, at the same meeting, it was also voted :

” That the sum of seven pounds, eighteen shillings and six pence, paid by several persons and several subscriptions to the sum of forty-one shillings and six pence, be put into the treasurer’s hands, and by him paid to Mr. Nehemiah Carlton for the ferry boat when it is fin­ished,—which was accordingly delivered to the treasurer.”

Ten years later still, when the plantation had been pretty fully peopled and had become the town of Rumford, it was further voted:

” That Mr. Barrachias Farnum, Mr. James Osgood and Mr. George Abbot shall be a committee to agree with any person to take the Ferry against Wattanummon’s and make a return of their doings to the Proprietors for their acceptance.”

Some eleven years later (April 26, 1750) the proprietors appointed a committee, consisting of Dr. Ezra Carter, Lieut. Jeremiah Stickney, and Capt. John Chandler, ” To dispose of the Ferry against Watta­nummon’s Field, so called, to such persons and upon such terms as they shall think will be for the Proprietors’ advantage.”

This ferry seems to have been known for a time as ” Eastman’s ferry,” and later, as ” Tucker’s ferry ” or the ferry of Lemuel Tucker, to whom the legislature, in 1785, granted the exclusive right of ferriage across the river for one mile above and below his house.

There was also another, possibly the one first above alluded to, near the south end of Main street, known as Merrill’s ferry, operated for many years by Deacon John Merrill, who came to Concord in 1729, and upon the organization of the church, the following year, was elected its first deacon. This ferry subsequently became the property of Samuel Butters, and was known as ” Butters’ ferry.”

Midway of these two, at the east end of Ferry street, Benjamin Kimball operated a third, between Hale’s Point and Sugar Ball, which was continued in use until 1831.

Of these three ferries, Tucker’s seems to have been the only one operated under the privileges and limitations of a charter, eleven only having been previously incorporated in the entire state. Its charter provided :

” That the sole and exclusive right and privilege of keeping a Ferry over said river in any place within one mile of the now dwell­ing house of the said Lemuel Tucker be and hereby is granted to and invested in the said Lemuel Tucker, his heirs and assigns, he and they from time to time as the same fall, giving bond, with surety, in the sum of one thousand pounds to the clerk of the Court of the General Sessions of the Peace for the county of Rockingham, that the said ferry shall be well kept and constantly attended.

” That if any person or persons shall for hire or reward, transport over said river within one mile of the said dwelling house, any per­son, creature or thing, such person so transporting shall forfeit and pay forty shillings for each person, creature or thing so transported, to be recovered by action of debt before any Justice of the Peace in said county, one moiety of which shall go to the complainants, and the other moiety to the county of Rockingham.”

In -addition to these, in the early part of the last century, a fourth ferry was established at the south end of Hall street, near the head of Turkey Falls. It appears to have been a private enterprise, and was managed for a time by Col. John Carter. For lack of sufficient patronage, or for some other cause, its maintenance was not of long continuance.



When this village was first settled there were, of course, no bridges over the Merrimack or Contoocook rivers, and it was soon found necessary to establish ferries. The first was established in 1737 by the town of Boscawen, on the Merrimack river near the site of the present iron bridge, and Stephen Gerrish, the first settler on the intervale on the east side of the river, was the first ferryman. Later, towards the close of that century, the ferry at this village was owned by a private corporation known as Blan­chard’s Ferry, and was doing a large and profitable business as late as 1800. The landing on the west side of the river was just above the freight station, and near the lower railroad bridge. All travel from the south was here carried across to Boscawen and to Canterbury for many years. This ferry continued in business until the first bridge was built across the Merrimack. at which time the stockholders of the bridge bought a controlling interest in the ferry, and the bridge corporation made a suitable contract with the remaining shareholders of Blanchard’s Ferry to compensate them for loss of business by reason of opening the bridge for public travel.


In the early days of the present century the land now occupied by the railroad station buildings, and extending from the Merri­mack river west to the street running parallel to the tracks, was a public landing, and was used by the lumbermen for depositing logs and sawed lumber before putting it into the river to be floated down to market. Lumber was here made up into rafts of suitable size to be passed through the locks of the Middlesex canal, and so delivered to the Boston market. This lumber business was quite extensive about 1825, and was the leading industry of the village, the business being carried on by the Rolfe and Gage fami­lies at the lower falls, and by the Elliott and Morrill families at the Borough. Lumber was also brought to this landing from Hopkinton and Warner, being run down the Contoocook river as far as the upper falls at the Borough, and then taken out of the river and hauled overland down to the public landing, the Mer­rimack river at that time being the only available way for trans­porting lumber to the markets in Boston and the other cities of the coast.


PENACOOK, NH — When settled and by whom.


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Taken from The History Penacook, N.H. by David Arthur Brown

Concord was first settled in 1726, being at first called Penny Cook; one of the original proprietors of the town, Henry Rolfe, acquired land on the south side of the Contoocook extending from the Merrimack river to the Borough, but when the first of the Rolfe family settled on this land can not be determined. Probably some of the sons of the first Henry were the first settlers of this land, as it is recorded in the history of Concord that Benjamin Rolfe came to live on the Rolfe farm in 1758; being then but sixteen years of age, it seems probable that he came to live with some of the older generation who had settled there before that date.

The first settlers of Boscawen (first called Contoocook) came up from Newbury, Mass., in the spring of 1734. One of the first party was Stephen Gerrish, who secured land on the intervale on the east side of the Merrimack river and settled there, as in 1737 the proprietors voted” that Stephen Gerrish shall have six pounds paid him by the proprietors for his building a ferry boat and keeping said boat in good repair, and giving due and constant attendance to ye proprietors to ferry themselves and their creatures over Merrimack” . The ferry was located at the bend of the Merrimack, just above the mouth of the Contoocook river, that being the same location as the present bridge. Another of the first party of Boscawen settlers was William Dagodan, and tradition affirms that he built a cabin at the foot of what is now called Dagody or Dickeatty hill. John Chandler was one of the proprietors of Boscawen, though not one of the first party of settlers. He was grandfather of the John Chandler who built the old tavern, and secured the land on the Boscawen side of the river from the Merrimack back to the vicinity of Hardy’s brook. His son John was probably a settler on this land soon after 1734.

At the Borough end of the village the first white settler was Joseph Walker, who built a log hut near the present residence of  George E. Flanders about 1750. He remained but a short time, as the Indians were not desirable neighbors. The next settler in that part of the village was Richard Elliott, who arrived about 1760, and came to stay. Two of his brothers, Jonathan and Benjamin, came in 1768, and Joseph Elliott came in 1778. These families all came from Newton, and their descendants were the principal families at the Borough for three generations. Mrs. Lydia Elliott, wife of Joseph Elliott who came to settle at the Borough in 1778, had the distinction of being the oldest person that ever lived in this vicinity. She was born January 30, 1753, and died June 24, 1856. For many years the family lived in a log house. On the hundredth anniversary of her birth a religious service was held at the house of her son, David Elliott, with whom she resided. The exercises were conducted by Rev. Asa Tenney of West Concord, and Rev. Dr. Bouton of Concord ; many of the prominent citizens of Concord were present, as well as many neighbors. Mrs. Elliott was in good health at the date of this meeting. On the morning of that day she rose in season to breakfast with the family, dressed herself without assistance, and made the bed in which she slept. She was at that time quite deaf, yet possessed her bodily and mental faculties in a remarkable degree. In earlier years she often walked to church at Concord, many times carrying an infant in her arms. She said that she never had a physician in her life except at confinement with her children ; never took physic, or an emetic, or had a tooth drawn, or was bled. Mrs. Elliott had eleven children, all of whom reached mature years, and ten were married. Her grandchildren, at the hundredth anniversary, numbered seventy ; her great-grandchildren one hundred, and of the fifth generation there were at least eight at that date. She was truly a very remarkable woman.

Narrative of the Captivity and bold Exploit of Hannah Duston by Dr. Cotton Mather


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On the 15 March, 1697, a band of about 20 Indians came unexpectedly upon Haverhill, in Massachusetts; and, as their numbers were small, they made their attack with the swiftness of the whirlwind, and as suddenly disappeared. The war, of which this interruption was a part, had continued nearly ten years, and soon afterwards it came to a close. The house which this party of Indians had singled out as their object of attack, belonged to one Mr. Thomas Duston or Dunstan, in the outskirts of the town. Mr. Duston was at work, at some distance from his house, at the time, and whether he was alarmed for the safety of his family by the shouts of the Indians, or other cause, we are not informed; but he seems to have arrived there time enough before the arrival of the Indians, to make some arrangements for the preservation of his children; but his wife, who, but about a week before, had been confined by a child, was unable to rise from her bed, to the distraction of her agonized husband. No time was to be lost; Mr. Duston had only time to direct his children’s flight, (seven in number,) the extremes of whose ages were two and seventeen, and the Indians were upon them. With his gun, the distressed father mounted his horse, and rode away in the direction of the children, whom he overtook but about 40 rods from the house. His first intention was to take up one, if possible, and escape with it. He had no sooner overtaken them, than this resolution was destroyed; for to rescue either to the exclusion of the rest, was worse than death itself to him. He therefore faced about and met the enemy, who had closely pursued him; each fired upon the other, and it is almost a miracle that none of the little retreating party were hurt. The Indians did not pursue long, from fear of raising the neighboring English before they could complete their object, and hence this part of the family escaped to a place of safety.
We are now to enter fully into the relation of this very tragedy. There was living in the house of Mr. Duston, as nurse, Mrs. Mary Neff, a widow, whose heroic conduct in sharing the fate of her mistress, when escape was in her power, will always be viewed with admiration. The Indians were now in the undisturbed possession of the house, and having driven the sick woman from her bed, compelled her to sit quietly in the corner of the fireplace, while they completed the pillage of the house. This business being finished, it was set on fire, and Mrs. Duston, who before considered herself unable to walk, was, at the approach of night, obliged to march into the wilderness, and take her bed upon the cold ground. Mrs. Neff too late attempted to escape with the infant child, but was intercepted, the child taken from her, and its brains beat out against a neighboring apple tree, while its nurse was compelled to accompany her new and frightful masters also. The captives amounted in all to 13, some of whom, as they became unable to travel, were murdered, and left exposed upon the way. Although it was near night when they quitted Haverhill, they travelled, as they judged, 12 miles before encamping; “and then,” says Dr. Cotton Mather, “kept up with their new masters in a long travel of an hundred and fifty miles, more or less, within a few days ensuing.”
After journeying a while, according to their custom, the Indians divided their prisoners. Mrs. Duston, Mrs. Neff, and a boy named Samuel Leonardson, who had been captivated at Worcester, about 18 months before, fell to the lot of an Indian family, consisting of twelve persons, two men, three women, and seven children. These, so far as our accounts go, were very kind to their prisoners, but told them there was one ceremony which they could not avoid, and to which they would be subjected when they should arrive at their place of destination, which was to run the gantlet. The place where this was to be performed, was at an Indian village, 250 miles from Haverhill, according to the reckoning of the Indians. In their meandering course, they at length arrived at an island in the mouth of Contookook River, about six miles above Concord, in New Hampshire. Here one of the Indian men resided. It had been determined by the captives, before their arrival here, that an effort should be made to free themselves from their wretched captivity; and not only to gain their liberty, but, as we shall presently see, something by way of remuneration from those who held them in bondage. The heroine, Duston, had resolved, upon the first opportunity that offered any chance of success, to kill her captors and scalp them, and to return home with such trophies as would clearly establish her reputation for heroism, as well as insure her a bounty from the public. She therefore communicated her design to Mrs. Neff and the English boy, who, it would seem, readily enough agreed to it. To the art of killing and scalping she was a stranger; and, that there should be no failure in the business, Mrs. Dutton instructed the boy, who, from his long residence with them, had become as one of the Indians, to inquire of one of the men how it was done. He did so, and the Indian showed him, without mistrusting the origin of the inquiry. It was now March the 31, and in the dead of the night following, this bloody tragedy was acted. When the Indians were in the most sound sleep, these three captives arose, and softly arming themselves with the tomahawks of their masters, allotted the number each should kill; and so truly did they direct their blows, that but one escaped that they designed to kill. This was a woman, whom they badly wounded, and one boy, for some reason they did not wish to harm, and accordingly he was allowed to escape unhurt. Mrs. Duston killed her master, and Leonardson killed the the man who had so freely told him, but one day before, where to deal a deadly blow, and how to take off a scalp.
All was over before the dawn of day, and all things were got ready for leaving this place of blood. All the boats but one were scuttled, to prevent being pursued, and, with what provisions and arms the Indian camp afforded, they embarked on board the other, and slowly and silently took the course of the Merrimack River for their homes, where they all soon after arrived without accident.
The whole country was astonished at the relation of the affair, the truth of which was never for a moment doubted. The ten scalps, and the arms of the Indians, were evidences not to be questioned; and the general court gave them fifty pounds as a reward, and numerous other gratuities were showered upon them. Colonel Nicholson, governor of Maryland, hearing of the transaction, sent them a generous present also. Eight other houses were attacked besides Duston’s, the owners of which, says the historian of that town, Mr. Myrick, in every case, were slain while defending them, and the blood of each stained his own door-sill.