Brief History of Merrimack, New Hampshire
was originally the home of the Penacook Indians. These Native
Americans were part of a confederacy of Algonquin tribes that
occupied the basin of the Merrimack River and adjacent regions
in New Hampshire. They called this area "Natukhog" or
Naticook. The word "Merrimack" comes from an Abenaki
term meaning either "the place of strong current" or
colonists settled here as early at 1655. In that year the Massachusetts
General Court laid out land in current-day Merrimack to the town
of Billerica, and John Cromwell is mentioned as having a trading
house here. He built a house on the bank of the Merrimack River
about a mile below Thornton's Ferry. The next permanent settler
is believed to be Jonas Barrett in 1722.
In 1658 the town became part of 'Brenton's Farm," and even
later, became a part of the town of Dunstable. In 1734 the General
Court of Massachusetts separated and granted the Town under the
name of Naticook (which included the current-day town of Litchfield
and the southern part of Merrimack). In 1741 the boundary line
dispute between Massachsetts and New Hampshire was settled, changing
several township boundary lines. On April 2, 1746 a petition was
granted which incorporated "Merrymac"--the current Town
original meeting-house was built in 1751 at the corner of Turkey
Hill and Meetinghouse Roads. This was considered the first Town
center. The west wing of Merrimack's current town hall was built
the American Revolution, Merrimack furnished eleven of the men
who participated in the battle of Breeds Hill (often called Bunker
Hill), and at least ninety-four men participated between 1775-1783.
Reuben Cummings, a sixteen-year-old drummer was the only Merrimack
soldier known to have died during that war, on September 13, 1776.
Captain Caesar Barnes of Merrimack, a slave of Thomas Barnes,
was an African American veteran of the American Revolution.
There were 17 known veterans of the War of 1812 (see list at "Records").
During the Civil War, or "War of the Rebellion" [1860-1865],
one hundred and twenty men [115 in a second source] were called:
83 volunteered, 25 citizens sent substitutes, 9 substitutes were
hired by the town, and 7 citizens re-enlisted.
Centennial Anniversary was held on April 3, 1846, and included
historical addresses, dinner at a local hotel, speeches, and the
planting of centennial trees. Merrimack's Bicentennial Anniversary
was held June 30, 1946, and included historical presentation,
plays, speeches and a parade. In 2006 Merrimack celebrated its
volunteered to serve during wartime.
. During World War I. The two who made the supreme sacrifice were
James Herbert Ferguson and Gilbert Duncan Fraser.
. Merrimack New Hampshire sent many of its young men and women
to serve in various branches of the military during World War
II. Warriner Playground at Veterans Memorial Park honors Weston
L. Warriner, killed during World War II, on December 28, 1944
at Leyte in the Philippines.
. In more recent history, Marine Cpl. Timothy M. Gibson died on
26 January 2005 when the CH-53E helicopter he was in crashed near
Ar Rutbah, Iraq. An athletic field was named in his honor.
to more History:
of Town of Merrimack, brief history and photographs - Official
Town of Merrimack web site
- ALSO SEE the Virtual Library
on this web site
of Merrimack's Notable Residents
on the links for more details OR visit the "People"
Sagamore of the Native People called Penacook, who urged his tribe
to maintain peace with the European settlers. In 1662 he was granted
a piece of land, 1-1/2 miles wide and 3 miles long on both sides
of the Merrimack River, including two islands (Nunnehaha and Minnewawa)
in the Merrimack River nearly opposite Reeds Ferry. He died about
The Burnap Sisters
(Abigail, Elizabeth, Hannah, Ruth, Susan and Lucy) were
daughters of Jacob Burnap, Merrimack's first settled minister.
They invented the making of "Leghorn hats," or bonnets,
made from "Dunstable straw," and there is a record of
one being sold for $50 in 1821.[Attached
notice with headline: Domestic imitation Leghorn Bonnet, in
the Boston Commercial Gazette of Boston MA, dated 2 August 1821Volume
58; Issue 10; Page 1. Reportedly General John Stark bought one
of the Burnap bonnets for his wife Molly, and it is housed at
the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH. [The Connecticut
version of this hat, referred to in the attached article, was
copyrighted in 1821 by Sophia Woodhouse of Wethersfield CT].
Matthew Thornton was both a physician and patriot
and born in Northern Ireland. He was one of the three signers
of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire. During
the American Revolution he held the rank of colonel. He pruchased
land in South Merrimack, moving there about 1780 and ran the ferry.
He is buried near the monument placed in his honor. That section
of town (Thornton's Ferry) is named after him. The inscription
on his tombstone reads, An honest man. The Thornton's home still
stands and was a restaurant, once called Hannah Jack's Tavern
(after Matthew's wife) and now called The Common Man.z
Emma Cross, Merrimack's
second librarian, was a direct descendent of Nathan Cross of Old
Dunstable, who was captured by the Indians while making turpentine
in the woods. She provided a home for the public library in the
front room of her home on Loop Road for many years. She was also
a talented artist and teacher.
was born on Bedford Road in Reeds Ferry in 1835. This self-taught
musician traveled with the then-famous Hutchins family of singers.
He wrote over five hundred songs and ballads including his most
famous "Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground." This
song was popular with both sides during the Civil War.
Forrest P. Sherman, USN, was born on Depot Street
in 1896 and was the son of the headmaster of the McGaw Institute.
He was 12th Chief of Naval Operations from 1949-1951. The U.S.S.
Sherman was named in his honor.
Abbie M. Griffin
was born in 1879 in Merrimack. Her father owned a grocery store
in Thornton's Ferry. She died in 1968 and in her will established
several funds that continue today to benefit the Town of Merrimack.
Brigadier General Edward
J. Haseltine was born in Merrimack, NH in 1909. He
graduated from Merrimack grammar and high schools, followed by
attaining a B.S. Degree in Economics from the University of New
Hampshire. He has a long and illustrious career in the U.S. Armed
Services, a 23-year career of public service to New Hampshire
and the Town of Merrimack, and ran a local business.
Mattie Kilborn Webster,
a graduate of McGaw Institute, then a teaching college, she was
a long-time school teacher in Merrimack, New Hampshire. She was
involved in most, if not all of the women-oriented clubs and societies
in the town, and was the first president and one of the founders
of the Reeds Ferry Woman's Club. She compiled the history of the
town for the bicentennial celebration in 1946.
Levi Franklin Lowell was the owner of Fessenden
& Lowell, a wholesale lumbering and coopering business in
Brookline MA and Merrimack NH. He and his family moved to Merrimack
in 1870. His daughters: Mabel (Mrs. John E. Haseltine)
and Bertha (Mrs. Albert Gordon) donated funds in 1925 to
build Merrimack's public library, as a memorial to their parents.
an Italian immigrant, owned and operated a farm in Merrimack on
the Daniel Webster Highway for many years. He had no formal education,
but valued it greatly, learning English from his housekeeper.
At his death in 1958 he left a substantial sum to the Town of
Merrimack to build a new school.
Among the most notable Merrimack residents would be the brave
souls who first settled in the early wildnernes, now known as
(Warren) Woods was a long-time Merrimack resident, paraplegic,
and advocate for the disabled. She worked as a NH State employment
counselor for the disabled, won numerous international sports
awards, and served the nation on President Eisenhower's U.S. Advisory
Council for the Handicapped. Former Governor John Sununu awarded
her handicapped license plate #1 for her service. She even beat
the noted television personality, Charles Kuralt, in handicapped
Relating to Merrimack NH
of the Merrimack Historical Society
The Merrimack Historical Society was organized at the Merrimack
Public Library in June, 1970. The purpose of the Society was
to collect and preserve history and artifacts of Merrimack.
The interim slate of officers listed Beulah Haseltine as president,
George Michael as vice president, Alice Dutton as secretary,
Franklin Haseltine as treasurer and Cynthia Jones doing publicity.
At that time they had a Board of Directors, consisting of William
McShea, Electa Pearson, Charles Nute, Ethel Smith and Charles
Morrill. They held their first official meeting in September,
1970. At that time, the interim slate of officers became official.
They met at the Library or in private homes.
they began work on Volume I of The History of Merrymac, under
the leadership of Joyce Bishop. They published this book in
1976, and included the early history of our town through 1800.
Volume II is currently being written.
1988, the Society acquired the 1847 Schoolhouse #12 on the Boston
Post Road in South Merrimack. Since the school itself closed
in 1947, the building was in use by the South Merrimack Community
Club. A major project was involved before opening to the public
in 1990, under the direction of Phil Crosier and a large working
crew. This involved refinishing floors, replacing walls and
ceilings, installing a furnace and air conditioning, and water
and sewerage system, as well as painting the exterior.
of Schoolhouse #12 from 1847-1947
(This building is located at 520 Boston Post Road in Merrimack
NH and now houses the Merrimack Historical Society)
the thumbnail photograph above to see a full sized version.
In 1846 the town of Merrimack authorized the
purchase of a plot of land in the southeast section of town belonging
to John and Isaac Parker. The land was to be used for as building
site for a schoolhouse for District #12. The town paid the Parker's
$6.25 for the property. The site was described in part in the
the north side of the road between R. D. Bennett's store &
Benjamin Kidders house. Said piece of land is about 16 rods
southeast of said Kidders house .........contains four and a
half rods square or one eighth of an acre by measure - said
land is to be for the location for a school house in said district."
was commissioned to construct the schoolhouse. A one-room schoolhouse
in the Vernacular Greek Revival style was built. The clapboard
structure rests on a granite foundation and has a low pitched
gable front facing the road. Granite steps lead to the front
was paid $272.88 for the construction, to be raised from a tax
in District 12. District 12 was comprised of:
at the southeast corner of William Patterson's homestead farm
thence northerly by the easterly line of the farms of William
Patterson, Benjamin Farley, David Lund and Jacob Clark to the
northeast corner of the homestead farm of Jacob Thinge, northerly
by said Jacob Clark's north line to Amherst line, thence southerly
and easterly by the town line to the first bound and comprising
all the territory within said limit."
was finished in time for the winter session of 1847. The first
teacher was the Reverend S. Dodge. He taught thirty pupils for
a total of 8 weeks and received $15.00 for his services. In
the annual report of the Superintendent of Schools, #12 schoolhouse
was described as follows:
the new district No. 12, they have erected a very neat and substantial
school house the past year. The house is large and the interior
construction is tasteful and convenient. The facilities for
warming and ventilating are such as we should be glad to see
in every school house. They had their first school the past
winter, which numbered 30 scholars."
year, 1848, a summer session of 8 1/2 weeks with 17 students
and a winter session of 8 1/2 weeks with 25 students were held.
Miss Catherine Carter and Miss Lucy D. Toleman were the teacher
for the two sessions.
In the 1840s,
female teachers were paid $5.00 per session and male teachers
were paid $10.00. By 1853 this payment had doubled. Teachers
often received room and board at one or more of the homes in
not held in the spring or fall because the children were needed
to help with the planting and harvesting on the farms. Merrimack
was still a farming community at this time.
the pupils were girls and few were over the age of fourteen
years. The school day started with one of the older boys starting
a fire in the wood stove and filling the water jug.
stove was situated at the front of the building and the stove
pipe ran across the length of the building to the chimney in
the back. This was done to provide heat from the pipe as well
as from the stove. There was no indoor plumbing until the year
2000. Electricity was not installed until 1931.
next few years the following comments were made about the school:
committee noticed three things in connection with this school,
which they regard as constituting the necessary elements of
a good school. First, a good teacher; second, a well constructed
school-house; and last, but not least, good scholars."
district has the best house in town, and the only one warmed
and ventilated upon correct philosophical principles. The only
fault in the construction is this - that the writing benches
are too far from the seats."
writing and arithmetic were taught to grades one through eight
by one teacher with the older children often helping the younger
ones. In the 1860s geography was added to the curriculum and
a set of Fowle's maps were purchased.
no library and no reference books. The students bought their
own books, and the teachers sometimes purchased extra teaching
materials. Common books used for teaching were: Towne's and
Holebrook's Progressive Readers, Greenleaf's National Arithmetic,
Well's Grammar, Town's Speller and Definer and of course the
Bible. District #12 schoolhouse did have a blackboard.
was later added to the list of subjects with Goodrich's History
being added to the list of books. Music was not added until
few extra books, little blackboard space and no repairs done
to the schoolhouse in the 1850s and 18670s. The average class
consisted of twenty pupils. Teacher salaries were between $8.00
and $20.00, depending on the length of the term. Parents of
the students provided wood for the stove and the older boys
did the janitorial work.
enrollment and the schoolhouse in some disrepair, the #12 schoolhouse
was closed in 1906 and students attended Schoolhouse #5 until
for individual schools for the 1900s were found. In 1923, the
#12 school was commended by Superintendent Louis Dewitt as follows:
it is contrary to my custom to especially commend any teacher
or school, I wish to call you attention to the work being done
in your #12 school. It is a pleasure to anyone, whether visitor
or inspector, to look into the faces of the children of this
school and observe the happy, contented, joyous spirit of the
boys and girls. The room is always orderly, clean and attractive
and the children busy. The results are such as would be expected
under these circumstances. The continuous service of a conscientious,
trained teacher is invaluable to the community." --
Louis DeWitt, Supt. Of Schools, Union #27
there were problems at the No. 12 school. The school building
was unsatisfactory and the Superintendent of Schools recommended
a committee of concerned citizens be appointed to study the
possibility of building a new two-room school. Nothing was done.
In 1945 the situation became worse. The No. 5 school had been
closed and the pupils transferred to No. 12. This caused overcrowding
at the school and the recommendation was made to build a new
school once again. A decision was made in 1947 to replace the
school. A special appropriation for $11000 to erect a new school
house at South Merrimack was made.
of South Merrimack felt that the community landmark should be
preserved. A article appeared on the town warrant and a vote
was taken to give the building to the Village of South Merrimack
for a community house.
Association of South Merrimack was formed in 1948, and the building
was sold to them. Reverend Charles Haynes donated the $1.00
fee for its purchase.
auctions, lawn parties and suppers, as well as meetings were
held in the building by the Village Club. The Sportsmen's Club
also met at the No. 12 Schoolhouse.
in the late 1940s, the Community Club added two additions to
the schoolhouse. A fully equipped kitchen was constructed and
a garage/woodshed moved from the Hall's property and attached
to the back of the building. Extensive repairs and renovations
were done by the club in 1958. Four windows were removed, eight
others were replaced. A new chimney was built, the old restroom
became a closet, and a new restroom was built in the shed. New
plasterboard and a new ceiling were installed.
meeting of the South Village Club was held in 1951. The following
years found the building being used by various civic groups
and private organizations.
the building had been vacant for some time. The Community Club
disbanded and the ownership reverted back to the Merrimack School
District. The Merrimack Historical Society bought the building
the Historical Society formed a building committee to research
all aspects of the property and estimate its potential. A master
plan was compiled, and after much debate, it was decided to
renovate the building and use it for meetings, research work,
and to display the town's artifacts.
most of the renovations were completed and the building opened
to the public, with volunteers to staff it.
At the present
time, the No. 12 schoolhouse, home of the Merrimack Historical
Society, has an extensive collection of historical and genealogical
data on the town of Merrimack and houses many of the town's
web site was created as a gift to the Merrimack Historical Society
by Janice Webster Brown, to honor the memory of her father,
Berwin H. Webster.