Edgar Gilbert.

History of Salem, N.H. online

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Millville, named thus because of the mills and factories which
were built on Hitty Titty brook, at the foot of the southern slope
of Zion 's Hill, is a small gathering of about ten houses, a school-
house, and a shoeshop not at this time in operation.

Messer's (now called Hampshire Road, though we keep the
old name because of its historical significance) lies at the extreme
southeast corner of the town, and consists at the present time of
about twenty houses, a railroad station, and a schoolhouse nearly
three quarters of a mile away. The only industry is represented
by the blacksmith's shop, which at the present time is not in
use. This settlement flourished long before the building of the

Wheeler's Mill derives its name from the factory of John W.
Wheeler, standing on the bank of the Spicket a little over half
way from the Center to North Salem. The hills here are very
abrupt, forming a deep ravine through which the river flows. In
this neighborhood were formerly to be found many spots attrac-



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tive because of their natural beauty; but the recent years have
seen many a noble pine beside the winding road felled to earth,
bearing with it the travelers' joy, of which it was the source.

Besides the mill here are fifteen houses and a schoolhouse,
scattered along the road for a distance of a mile and a quarter.


Taking as our base of calculations the land at the townhouse,
we begin at an altitude of one hundred feet above the sea level.
The central part of the town may be considered a rolling plain,
approximately enclosed by the Turnpike, Bluff Street and the
Spicket. From all sides the land slopes gently upward, here
and there rising to a considerable height. The highest point
within the town is the summit of Spicket Hill, which is three
hundred and fifty-four feet above the sea. The outlook from
this point is charming, revealing the surrounding villages and
towns hiding among the wooded hills, which rise one above the
other until they fade, indistinguishable in the dim distance. The
river can be clearly traced, twisting its crooked way like a huge
serpent through the broad meadows, now swirling along the foot
of the great hill, now by a broad bend carrying its murmured
message to the silent dwellers in the graveyard yonder.

The second highest land is along the Salem-Windham bound-
ary, between Hitty Titty Pond and Crank Corner. It is away
from the road, therefore not very familiar to many residents of
the town. It is about three hundred and twenty-five feet high,
and covered with woods.

About equal in height to this is the hill on the Cross farm near
Canobie Lake, where the highway is in one part more than three
hundred feet above the sea.

The crest of Zion's Hill, toward the north part of the town,
rises to a height of two hundred and forty-eight feet. Unlike
Spicket Hill, this elevation has very little timber growth to ob-
struct the view, a fact which renders it one of the most sightly
spots in the town. As the road leads directly over the summit
the view from here is more easily accessible than that from the
higher eminence to the south.

The highest part of Policy Street, near the residence of Mr.


Arthur Hall at the Depot village, is almost exactly on a level with
the top of Zion's Hill, or nearly, two hundred and fifty feet high.
We have already spoken of the scenery in this locality as being
particularly charming.

Two hills in North Salem should be mentioned here, one near
King's Corner being twenty feet higher than either Zion's Hill
or Policy Street, the other known as Pattee's Hill, the same
height as Zion's Hill, southeast of Cowbell Corner. Toward the
foot of Providence Hill on the east, and also in the southwest
part of the town, the land rises slightly above two hundred feet
in several places. Many of the roads are very conveniently ( ? )
laid out directly over these steep hills, a condition, however, by
no means peculiar to Salem. The early settlers, as a safeguard
against Indian surprises, built their homes upon the hills. To
these homes the roads were gradually trodden until they became


While the preceding description of the high lands of Salem
shows them to be scattered fairly uniformly over the town ex-
cept in the central and southern parts, it is clearly evident that
there is a general slope toward the south, where the low lands
open out to join the broad valley of the Merrimack. This south-
ern declivity is plainly shown by the direction of the water
courses. The entire area of the town is drained by the Spicket
River system, which drains seven ponds, four within the town
and three lying in the neighboring towns to the northward. Each
of these in Salem, namely, Canobie, Hitty Titty, World's End
and Captain's, pours out its waters through the brook which bears
the same name. The entire system is located and traced here by
separating it into its six members. The convenience of giving
at this time the history and importance of each member seems
sufficient justification for digressing from the strictly topo-
graphical treatment of this part of our subject. Such informa-
tion as may more properly be placed in some later part of the
work has been reserved.



The derivation of the name Spicket is not absolutely certain,
several accounts having been handed down. The most likely and
acceptable is that it was taken from a tribe of Indians who in-
habited the region about the falls in Methuen, known as the Spig-
gott Indians. Certainly the name has all of the "ear-marks" of
Indian origin. The spelling is found as Spigot, Spiggot and
Spigott. The clerks having the responsibility of casting the
early records were not always proficient in the matter of spelling,
nor so imbued with the spirit of research as to always trace the
name to its proper form. This was as true of their own names as
of the common words of every day usage. But the clerk of
Haverhill at the time the Spicket was first known to the settlers
was fortunately a man of rare qualities, a scholar graduated from
Harvard, Major Nathaniel Saltonstall. His spelling of the name
of our river, at the time when the Indian name was not yet a
mere memory, is not the same as we spell it today, but Spiggott.

Someone has discovered a record of later date, bearing the spel-
ling "Speekit, " and has ingeniously formulated the theory that
the original Indian name of the river was too difficult for the
white men, who requested the Indians to "speak it" again, that
they might catch the sound. But this is certainly a mere corrupt
spelling, and from an illiterate source long after the true name
had been firmly established.

The Spicket is generally supposed to have its source in Island
Pond, just beyond the northern boundary of Salem, lying in
Derry, Atkinson and Hampstead. However, Wash Pond in
Hampstead empties its waters into Island Pond, and if we con-
sider this brook to be a part of the river, then the Spicket must
be said to flow through Island Pond. Still there are several
other large inlets to this body of water, while there is certainly
no evidence of an integral current in Island Pond. Thus it
seems reasonable to designate this pond as the origin of the river,
rather than Wash Pond.

About a half mile below the outlet of the pond the Spicket
enters Salem near Cowbell Corner. The course is along a decliv-
ity, affording a location for a dam. Formerly the water power
here was used for various industries.


Following its southward direction, the stream descends to
North Salem village, where a second dam was located, at the site
of the Bickford mill. This has gone to ruin since the erection of
the large dam at Taylor's mill, near the meetinghouse. Just be-
low this is the fourth dam on the river after its entry into the
town. This one is near the Atlas Worsted mill, at the crossing of
the river and the road. The cut here presented gives a partial
idea of the scene, showing the ruins of the Taylor mill in the

The fifth dam is a third of a mile down stream at Duston's
mill, and is not plainly seen from the highway. From here the
river gradually widens out until it comes into the millpond at
Wheeler's Mill, which is a very pretty little sheet of water close
beside the road. It was formerly known as Allen 's Pond, named
from the builder of the dam.

Below Wheeler's Mill the river flows without artificial obstruc-
tion beyond the town limits to the dam at Methuen. Before it
has gone far, however, it receives its first tributary, Providence
brook, and again close by, the second, Captain's Pond brook. And
not much over a half mile further on, the stream is again swollen
by the waters of Hitty Titty brook, very near the farm lately
owned by the town. Here the river flows beneath the highway
for the fifth time, and winding its way through the broad Spicket
Meadows flows through the old "Causeway," on again in the
meadows to the old bridge near the town house.

There are three other bridges before the state line is reached —
that near Thorndyke Foster's, formerly known as Clough's
Bridge ; the double bridge on the Turnpike near the Kelley farm ;
and the covered railroad bridge close by the last named.

A quarter of a mile below the railroad bridge the Spicket re-
ceives its most important tributary, Policy brook, bearing the
overflow from Canobie Lake. This is its last increase within the
town, as World's End brook enters the river after passing into

The whole course of the Spicket is crooked in the extreme, due
to the uneven composition of the soil. The solid, compact earth
is often found in close proximity to the softer and more yielding
varieties, turning the current away here and giving away before





it just beyond. The length of the stream within the town limits
is something over ten miles, taking into account the various short


Having its origin in Johnson's Pond, a small body of water
about a mile south of Hampstead village, Providence brook flows
in a southerly direction, entering Salem at Hale's Bridge, near
the present residence of James Cullen. This bridge is on the
town line, two thirds of it being in Salem and one third in At-
kinson. The stream then flows through Providence Meadows,
where many years ago large crops of hay were gathered by the
early settlers, and joins the Spicket near the Moores Bailey
bridge. The length within the town is about a mile and a half.

captain's pond.

This sheet of water lies in the extreme eastern corner of the
town, and covers an area of about one hundred acres. The ori-
gin of the name is somewhat obscure. It was formerly called
by another name, as spelled in the Haverhill records of 1723,
"Copls Pond." This may have been intended for Corporal's,
the spelling being as correct as that in the rest of this record.

The pond lies in a hollow between two long ranges of highland
which open toward the west, allowing the passage of the outlet.
This flows in a northwesterly direction to the Spicket, which it
meets soon after passing through the ruins of an old dam, form-
erly the site of Johnson's sawmill. The length of the brook is
one and one fourth miles.


The name as here given is in accordance with spelling em-
ployed for more than one hundred years, having been derived
from the name by which the Indians designated this really
charming lake. It has lately been corrupted into "Hitatit" and
"Hit-Tit," without any reasonable justification so far as we can
ascertain. More recently the name Shadow Lake has been ap-
plied to it, but the old name still holds sway. This is the pond
about which historians have raised so much discussion — it is the


"Satch well's Pond" of the Haverhill Proprietors' book of rec-
ords. Many have declared this pond to be "somewhere just
west of Methuen village," etc., not having at hand sufficient
local information to enable them to locate it correctly. Under
the chapter on Settlement will be found the full statement of the
facts of this controversy.

It lies in a wooded hollow among the high hills of the north-
west part of the town, at the angle in the "Windham line. The
highway follows the east shore for the entire length of the pond,
affording one of the most beautiful drives in Salem. Summer
visitors have recently erected several cottages in the groves along
the lake-side.

In years gone by, when the lake filled this entire valley and
extended far beyond its present limits, the stream from the west-
ward flowed through the lake near what was then its center;
but as the waters receded, the higher part of the bed, toward the
south, was the first to be left above the surface, thus bringing the
south end of the lake (or that shore toward Canobie station),
nearer and nearer the entrance of the brook. It must be under-
stood that this brook, then as now, flowed through the lake.
Then a still farther recession of the waters left the brook entirely
outside the lake on the south, in the channel it had been wear-
ing through so many years. Some of the oldest residents today
can remember when this was the condition. But this barrier
between the brook and the lake was gradually worn away by the
severe freshets of successive springs, and they once more joined
their waters. As is well known, the brook now just cuts the
south end of the lake, then with the augmentation there received,
hurries eastward to join its sister streams.

A mile and a half from the lake it is formed into a mill pond
by the dam at Millville, crossing the highway twice near the
Nathaniel Woodbury place. On through the meadows it flows,
to "Dud Jones' " bridge on the road to North Salem, then into
the upper Spicket meadow to join the river near the old town
farm. The length of the brook from Hitty Titty pond to the
Spicket is three and a quarter miles.



With the exception of Island pond in Hampstead, Canobie
Lake is the largest sheet of water in this vicinity. It lies on
the western edge of the town, being about five ninths in Salem
and four ninths in Windham, and has an area of over five
hundred acres. The shores are almost entirely of a rocky na-
ture, with fine sandy beaches here and there. The marshes and
bogs that are common to most ponds are almost lacking here,
with the result that the waters are very pure and clear. Fine
growths of timber have fringed the lake until within a few years,
when several lots have been cleared, leaving, however, a number
of groves remarkable for their heavy timber.

This lake was first known to the settlers by the name of
"Haverhill Pond," derived from the fact that the original west
line of Haverhill came close to the east side of the lake. But it
is doubtful if this name was ever used after the time of building
in Salem, for we have references to "Policy Pond" in records
long before the town was chartered or the province line estab-
lished. The origin of "Policy" is obscure. Hon. J. S. Howe of
Methuen traces it to the name of an Indian chieftain, who held
authority over the neighborhood of this lake. This conclusion is
based partly on an old map which was drawn probably prior to
1700 and is now in the county commissioners' office in Essex
County. The spelling here is Polls' Pond, clearly a possessive-
form. Moreover, the cognomen Polis was by no means uncom-
mon among the Indian tribes of New England. And the change
from Polls' to Policy is entirely in accord with the phonetic simi-
larity of the names. This derivation is by far the most satis-
factory that has come to our notice, as it is in keeping with that
of many another name accepted during the early days of the

The next change was the deliberate giving up of the name
Policy, and the adoption in its place of the more euphonious
Canobie Lake. This was made official by the change of the name
of the railroad station in 1885. This change took place at about
the time the lake began to receive the patronage of pleasure seek-
ers from the neighboring cities. Camps were built about the
shores, and increased capacity given to the picnic grounds. Fin-


ally whole groves were opened up for house lots, and the beau-
tiful park of the Southern New Hampshire Electric Railway laid
out on the east shore. A description of this park will be found
in another chapter of this work.

Policy brook forms the outlet of this lake, leaving at the
flume of the Methuen Company, near the southeast end, and
maintaining a general southeast direction throughout its course.
In some places this brook is very attractive, as it splashes its
way over small rocks in its bed or glides beneath overhanging
trees and bushes, revealing through its crystal waters the silvery
sands below. The purity of this water is an evidence of the good
sense of the citizens of Salem, who selected Canobie Lake as the
source of the town water supply.

About a mile below the flume the brook is checked by the dam
at the site of Titcomb's mill and Hall's grist-mill, both burned
many years ago. From here it turns eastward, crossing Pleas-
ant Street, the Boston & Maine Railroad and the Turnpike,
thence doubling on its course to recross the Turnpike and the
railroad. It flows through Rockingham Park, then receives the
waters of Porcupine Brook, which rises near Gage's Ledge, and
crosses the highway twice near the Littlejohn place. Here is
another site of a grist-mill, the mill-stones still lying there. A
mile below it flows into the Spicket a quarter of a mile down river
from the covered railroad bridge, after flowing four and two
thirds miles from the lake.

world's end pond.

In the southeast corner of the town, in a low hollow among the
hills, lies World's End Pond. Its level is more than forty feet
below that of Canobie Lake, while the character of the shore is
as much different as its low position would indicate. The pond
is surrounded by swamps, or wet land for a large part of the
distance, with here and there a slight elevation. It is smallest
of the four sheets of water in Salem, with the exception of Hitty
Titty Pond. The latter is very long and narrow, while World's
End is more nearly round. It covers an area of about one hun-
dred and thirty acres. The bottom is covered with a very deep
layer of decayed vegetable matter, which forms a yellowish-






h- 1



brown mud. The author has pushed a birch pole twelve feet
into this soft mud, where the water was only six feet deep. The
entire pond is rapidly being filled with this deposit, as the
growth of reeds and various aquatic plants is so vigorous and
extensive as to leave during the summer months only a compara-
tively small area of clear water, near the middle of the pond.
As may be supposed, the water lilies here are not to be surpassed
in luxuriant growth, beauty or fragrance, by those of any pond
in New England.

The name World's End was applied to it by the explorers of
the region, who were the early settlers of Haverhill. After they
had laid out all of the workable lands near the center of the
town then clustered about the mouth of Little River as it emp-
ties into the Merrimack, they began to push out west and north
toward what is now Methuen. Doubtless this pond did seem to
them almost like the outskirts of human possessions, consider-
ing the difficulties of traveling through the wilderness, and the
proximity of a threatening foe. The name now applied to the
entire territory around the pond is Stillwater. It is the estate of
Mr. Edward F. Searles of Methuen, and is described and illus-
trated in a subsequent chapter.

The outlet of World's End Pond is the brook of the same name,
which flows southwest to join the Spicket beyond the state line.
The length of the brook in Salem is about one and one third
miles. It crosses the highway just south of the number nine
schoolhouse, and again on the Turnpike about seventy-five rods
above Hampshire Road. Here it also crosses the railroad line.

To the south and west of the pond, and along the brook, are
rich and extensive meadows which were early sought by the set-
tlers as a source of an easily obtained supply of hay for their
cattle. In fact the entire Spicket River system is surrounded to
a considerable degree by these meadows. This is due to the level
nature of the land, the frequent damming of the streams, and the
rich deposits of alluvial soil.


In general the soil of Salem is light and sandy. In many
places the surface layer is only a few inches deep, while in others


there is not sufficient soil to cover the sand beneath. However,
where the land is of the rolling nature, very good grass land may
be found; and in the low lands or broad valleys the deposit is
not infrequently of sufficient depth and richness to admit of
profitable farming. The rolling hills in the western part of the
town furnish good crops of hay and fruit, while the land in the
southwest is the most productive of general farm crops. A few
good farms are also found along the Spicket valley in the south-
eastern section. But with few exceptions the Salem farmer finds
himself at a great disadvantage when compared with his neigh-
bor who cultivates the fertile lands along the banks of the Merri-
mack in the towns nearby. In fact the poor quality of the soil,
■combined with the several streams from the hills, has tended
to make Salem an industrial rather than a farming community.

Among the farm products the most noteworthy are such staple
varieties as corn, potatoes and beans, as well as the common gar-
den vegetables. In the fruit line the Baldwin apple is easily the
leader, while the other varieties common to New England are
grown in small quantity.

Another source of income in the town has been the forests of
heavy timber. Most of these have been cut off within recent
years, and in many cases the new growth is still light. The old
growth was principally soft pine, which is superseded by red and
white oak, maple, birch and some hickory. In a few sections
are found a few hard pines, and still fewer cedars. Spruce is
found here and there in the western part of the town.

The shade trees of the town are principally elms and maples,
some fine specimens of both being seen in all three of the villages.
Firs and hemlocks are occasionally used as ornamental trees,
although their growth in the forests of the town is comparatively

We have not attempted to treat with any degree of complete-
ness the vegetation of Salem, but merely to mention its principal
features. Nor do we deem it advisable in this present work to
take the space necessary for a discussion of the local climate.
We consider both these elements of a topographical description
•of the town too well known to the majority of our readers to re-
quire more than a passing comment.



It would be impossible to understand even a most superficial
history of the town of Salem without first having a knowledge of
at least an outline of the history of the mother town, Haverhill.
Much more is this fact true of our present work. We are to
study in all of its details the life of Salem, the life of its institu-
tions — yea, even the lives of many of her individual citizens.
These institutions and men are the children of similarly situated
agents in the development of Haverhill. Even the same names —
indeed the very men themselves, were living in what is now
Salem, but were then citizens of the more ancient town.

We are interested in the methods and means, the customs and
personal traits, the hopes and ambitions, of the early makers of
our town. The prototype, the raw material, the essence of these
is more clearly defined by going back beyond the beginning of the
life of the town as such, to the days when the first settlers began
to mow the meadows and fell the forests within the present
bounds of Salem.

We shall begin then with the settlement of Haverhill, select-
ing from the wealth of historical material at hand only such fea-
tures as will throw light on the pages that are to follow. Yes,
there is a wealth of historical material, thanks to the men who so
-carefully kept the records of the proceedings of the settlement,
for the books of the Haverhill Proprietors are a marvel of care
and neatness, especially when we consider the great difficulties

Online LibraryEdgar GilbertHistory of Salem, N.H. → online text (page 3 of 57)