Hope you can join us for this interesting talk about Meetinghouses!
The Grantham Historical Society was established in 1992 by a small group of Grantham residents. Its mission: a nonprofit organization that will collect and preserve Grantham's history and to generate interest in the town. In 1995, the Selectmen formally established the Grantham Town Archives and appointed a town archivist. Together, these two town resources have assumed responsibility for gathering and preserving Grantham's past. The archives are open every Friday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. at the old Town Office building on Dunbar Hill Road. Visitors are welcome; no appointment is necessary.
Mission: The Grantham Historical Society was established as a non-profit organization to collect and preserve Grantham's history and to generate interest in town history.
Hope you can join us for this interesting talk about Meetinghouses!
t's hard to believe it today, but the narrow strip of land at the northeast corner of the intersection of Routes 10 and 114 once held a large store building. Known as the Ira Walker Store and built by 1850, it was one of several general stores that served Grantham Village in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Like the other general stores in town, the Ira Walker Store sold a variety of merchandise, including foodstuffs, hardware and farm equipment. The building burned in 1940; since then, road widenings have consumed a significant portion of the lot, leaving the small lot that remains.
These foundations, located on the west side of Route 10 just south of the Methodist Church, are the only evidence visible from the road of a thriving saw and grist mill that operated from the early 19th century until World War II. Known in the mid-nineteenth century as the Fowler Mill, then later as the Dunbar Mill and by the turn of the century as the Reed & Buswell Mill, it used the power provided by the Sugar River to saw lumber and to grind such grains as barley and wheat. By the early twentieth century it employed upwards of a dozen men and was the largest single employer in town. The foundations on Route 10 are all that remains of the associated mill caretaker’s house and carriage house.
Unfortunately, the mill operation declined during the Depresssion and was abandoned by the onset of the Second World War. The mill building was dilapidated and considered a public hazard, and demolished soon thereafter. The site became overgrown until just a few years ago, when it was purchased by Grantham native Paul Osgood, who cleaned up the site, including these foundations.
Due to a condition issue, the Archives/Grantham Historical Society Building is temporarily closed. An assessment is scheduled and hopefully we'll know more by the end of the month, but for now the building is not open, which also means that we'll be cancelling the regular Friday afternoon office hours until further notice. Please stay tuned!
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With Memorial Day fast approaching, it's important to remember all the veterans who are no longer with us. Grantham has had its share of men and women who served in the armed forces, dating back to the American Revolution. Many of their names are memorialized in the plaques placed in front of the Dunbar Free Library. All of us should make a point of taking a few minutes to stop by these monuments, read the names and remember them. They bear mute testimony to the sacrifice made by towns small and large throughout our nation, and to the part Grantham played in the conflicts throughout our nation's history.
"Many long-time Grantham residents will remember Reney's General Store. Formerly located in Grantham Village, in the building that now houses Sugar River Flooring, Reney's Store began operation in 1947. The current building was built in that year to replace a mid-nineteenth century structure that burned and which itself had operated as a store since its construction. Maurice "Hap" Reney and his wife Eleanor began this as a small general store that grew gradually through the years, especially after the establishment and growth of the Eastman community. They retired and sold the store in the mid-1980s, and new owners operated it for another ten years until it ceased operation. The closure of Reney's Store wrote the final chapter in the long history of mercantile stores in Grantham Village, of which there had been several through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."
Mark your calendars!
The Donas J. and Margaret Reney Memorial Forest is located just east of Grantham Village and named for the original Reneys to settle in town. It was a generous gift from two of their heirs, Everett "Mike" Reney and Lena Cote. Formally created in 2003, the 413 acres includes the eastern and western slopes of what was known in the 1800s as Barton Hill. Donas Reney purchased much of the property after his arrival in Grantham in 1901 and harvested timber from the hillsides through World War II. In addition to its rich timbering history, the forest includes such cultural features as stone walls and wells, probably connected with neighboring farms formerly located on the eastern slope of the hill and in the village. Today the forest is managed by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) and offers both controlled timber harvesting and recreational opportunities for hikers, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. It is one of Grantham's best success stories of the preservation and vital reuse of a historic and natural landscape.
Grantham doesn't have a lot of connections to the world of glamour and celebrity, but back in the 1960s, it did. Songwriter Alan Lee Gordon (1944-2008) grew up in Massachusetts and began playing music by the early 1960s. Before long he penned music that would be recorded by artists as diverse as Petula Clark, Barbra Streisand and Frank Zappa. He was best known for having co-written the song "Happy Together," which became such a hit for the band The Turtles that it knocked The Beatles "Penny Lane" from the top of the charts in 1967.
After his parents divorced, his father remarried and started a second family. After having four more children, this marriage ended also, and by the early 1960s his second ex-wife Callie brought her children to live in a house on Dunbar Hill Road. While Alan lived elsewhere, he remained close to his extended family in Grantham and visited occasionally."
Volunteers from the Grantham Historical Society spent a winter afternoon measuring and photographing the historic John Dunbar House, now part of the Gray Ledges community.
Enjoyed the book signing with the lovely SueAnne Bottomely. A big thank you and shout out to Missy Walla for her dedication to this project!
The Grantham Historical Society will be here! Come see us!
The role of water power in the history of our town is significant indeed, and remnants of it can be found everywhere. Among the most visible is the foundation of what many know as the Reney Mill on Route 114, about a mile east of Grantham Village. The mill that stood here actually predated the Reney family (who didn't arrive in Grantham until 1902) and was known in the late 1800s as the Collins Shingle Mill. A mill house (now gone) stood on the hillside to the west, which served as the residence for the mill operator, and a dam further upriver helped divert water through a sluiceway that powered the wheel. The Reneys operated their mill here until before World War II, when they relocated elsewhere in town, eventually ending up at the well-known site on the shores of Stocker Pond. It is not known when the actual mill building was removed, but it was gone by the early 1960s.
The Grantham Historical Society presents “Grantham’s Historical Places”, a new children’s book beautifully illustrated by New London artist Sue Anne Bottomley. Read the history behind these wonderful places and then use the accompanying map to visit them for yourself. The book makes a great Christmas or birthday gift for the young and for the young at heart. All proceeds benefit the Grantham Historical Society.
Copies are $25 and available for purchase at the Grantham Historical Society on Fridays from 1-4pm or reserve a copy by emailing [email protected].
Sue Anne Bottomley will be having a book signing event at the Dunbar Free Library on December 8th from 10am-1pm. Books will be available for sale at this event.
"Mark your calendars and join us the evening of Thursday, December 13 for an evening of holiday music. Musician and living history presenter Adam Boyce, who delivered his presentation on entertainer Charles Ross Taggart to the historical society last fall, returns to treat us to a selection of yuletide music with keyboardist Sue Hunt. The event begins at 7:00 pm and will be held in the downstairs room at Grantham Town Hall, located at 300 Route 10 South in Grantham. Please join us for an evening of holiday fun!"
Many have noted with great interest the work going on with the historic Howard barns, located east of Route 10 and just north of the Croydon line. New owner Ernie Collier’s attempts to stabilize the barns and rehabilitate at least one of them for a horse barn revealed a number of structural issues that have only increased the challenge of preserving them. One of those issues arose from the connector between the two barns. While the age of this connector was unknown, it was clearly not original, and the type of lumber used led many to believe it was added in the twentieth century.
In the course of researching the history of these barns – with the goal of getting the best information possible about their construction history – Ernie talked to many people and sources, including the historical society, state historic preservation officials, and local residents. However, it was an interview with former property owner and long-time Grantham resident Connie Howard that provided the best information. Connie confirmed that the connector between the barns wasn’t built until the 1940s, and that the barns had stood separate until then. This knowledge gave Ernie the confidence to move forward with the removal of the connector so that he could then focus on the preservation of the individual barns, without having to concern himself with the structural impact each was having on the other.
Much work remains to be done, and the future of the southernmost barn remains in doubt due its own structural issues. However, in the course of the work already completed Ernie has actually restored the barns to their older configuration, effectively taking the farm’s appearance back to an earlier time. We congratulate Ernie on the commitment he has shown to the Howard Farm and wish him the best as he moves forward.
Happy Labor Day!
As important as railroads were in opening up rural areas and connecting the coasts, one of the great curiosities within the industry is New Hampshire's own Cog Railway. Built just after the Civil War, the three-mile railroad connected Crawford Notch with the summit of Mt. Washington. The idea of building a functioning railroad up such a steep grade was considered insane at the time, but the technology was developed to develop a gear system that would literally pull the locomotive up the mountain. It worked and 'The Cog,' as it has come to be known, has operated ever since.
Early on, railroad workers developed a device for descending the mountain known as The Devil's Shingle. Basically a sled designed to run on the center rack, the brakes were applied using the handles on the side. And that was all the controls there were. Legend has it that workers could descend the mountain on one of these in 6 1/2 minutes.
Celebrating and supporting our neighboring Historical Societies!
Located on the east side of Route 10 and just north of the speed limit sign at the southern end of Grantham Village is the remnant of a triangular, light gray reinforced concrete bollard placed about ten feet from the pavement. Motorists driving by it will hardly notice it at all, as the top half broke off some time ago and the base is all that remains, but this artifact is actually an important reminder of the growth of Route 10 and how the road adapted to evolving technology, both mechanical and structural.
Milepost and directional markers have a long and storied history in terms of providing travelers information regarding how far they’ve come, where they are and where they’re going. However, like all things, these markers changed with the times. Horses and horse-drawn conveyances provided the ‘state of the art’ overland transportation until the arrival of the railroad; and even then, railroads didn’t serve every community. It was automobiles that changed the game, allowing surface travel at greater speeds than ever before imagined, and requiring a network of maintained roads that could accommodate them. Every state government responded with the creation of agencies in charge of road maintenance and development; New Hampshire’s was put in place by 1915. One of the first accomplishments of the state highway department was the establishment of three north-south ‘trunk lines,’ which would provide the principal overland access for the eastern, central and western sections of the state. Route 10 was the westernmost of these.
Early on it was understood that especially in rural areas, mileposts would be important so that motorists could know how far they’d come and, used in conjunction with the state highway maps that were being issued for the first time, how far they had to go. Although stone had been popular for such monuments, a stone marker at every mile would prove far too expensive, so many highway departments turned to the use of what was then a new technology: reinforced concrete (actually, reinforced concrete had been used by the Romans – it became a lost construction technology during the Middle Ages, but was rediscovered by French architects in the late 19th century). The loss of the top half of the Grantham milepost took with it the actual mileage number that would have been inscribed at the top (like the example in the photograph), but the mileage would have been the number of miles from the Massachusetts border.
Today, the metal poles with their small reflective green signs are the modern version of these mileposts, but the concrete versions (a number of which survive along the length of Route 10) were the first attempt at providing motorists with this information. They remain important reminders of early automobile-era highway development.
One of the less visible bits of Grantham history is the engraved granite town line marker on Bouldervale Road. Up until the 1930s, this road was Route 10 and served as the main north-south overland road in this part of town. While the date of the marker is unknown, the style of the finish and the engraving appear to date it to the early nineteenth century, and may well be connected to the boundary dispute between Grantham and Croydon that was finally adjudicated by an act of the state legislature in the first decade of the 19th century. It was certainly the most visible reminder of the boundary line well into the twentieth century. It survives today as a reminder of the original location of the main road connecting the two towns and an original artifact revealing how such boundaries were marked two-hundred years ago.
Along with Ella Reney, Allen Walker co-founded the Grantham Historical Society in 1993. Allen grew up here, in the house his parents moved into in 1925. Located on Route 114 just east of its intersection with Route 10, this Greek Revival-style residence was built c. 1850, during a time when the village was becoming the commercial and civic center of town. While a number of other historic residences designed in this style survive, the Walker House retains a significant amount of original detail, especially on the elevation facing the road. The window trim, gable returns and single-leaf entrance, flanked by five-pane sidelights, are all signature elements of this important historic American architectural design idiom.
When Allen died in the early summer of 2012 his heirs made it clear they intended to sell the residence. Many of us were concerned about what might happen to the house and whether or not the new owners would respect its historic significance. A great deal of work needed to be done to upgrade the interior, including modernizing of the electrical and plumbing. The good news is that the initial purchasers, and the two owners since then, have maintained the historic character of the house and have not removed significant exterior details. The Walker House remains an intact and vital element of the historic fabric of Grantham Village.
34 Dunbar Hill Road - PO Box 540
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