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Sketch of Dunbarton, New Hampshire [electronic resource] online

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Sketch of Dunbarton, N. H.


Dunbarton is a town "set upon a hill which cannot be hid."
The highest point of land is on the farm of Benjamin Lord,
north of the Center, and is 779 feet above the sea level. From that
spot, and from many other places nearly as high, the views of
hills and mountains are beautiful and grand beyond description.

The twin Uncanoonucs are near neighbors on the south,
Monadnock, farther off on the south-west, and Keursarge twenty
miles to the north west. On the northern horizon are seen
Mount Washington and other peaks of the White Mountains.

The longest hill in town is the mile-long Mills hill, and mid-
way on its slope live descendants of Thomas Mills, one of the
first settlers. Among other hills are Duncanowett, Hammond,
Tenney, Grapevine, Harris, Legache, and Prospecc Hills.

No rivers run through the town, but there are numerous
brooks where trout fishing is pursued with more or less success.

No body of watet" is large enough to be called a lake, but
Gorham Fond is a beautiful sheet of water and on its banks
picnics are held. Stark's and Kimball's Ponds have furnished
water power for mills, the latter, owned by Willie F. Paige,
is still in use. Long Pond, in the south part of the town, was
the scene of a tragedy in 1879, when Moses Merrill, an officer
at the State Industrial School, Manchester, was drowned in an
ineffectual attempt to save an inmate of that institution.

One portion of the south part of the town is called Skeeter-
boro, another Mountalona, so named by James Rogers, one of
the first settlers, from the place in Ireland from whence he



came.^ East of the Center is Guinea, so called because some
negroes once lived there. The village of North Dunbarton is
also called Page's Corner; and not far away to the eastward is
a hill known as Onestack, because one large stack of hay stood
there for many years. A brook bears the same name.

Those who know Dunbarton only in the present can hardly
realize that 1450 people ever lived there at one time, but that,
was the census in 1820. The first census, taken 1767, was
271. In 1840 it was 1067 ; in 1890, only 523. The last census
gave about 575.

The first settlement was made in 1740^ by James Rogers and
Joseph Putney on the land known as the " Great Meadows,'*
now owned by James M. Bailey. They were driven away by
the Indians for a time. A stone now marks the spot where
stood the only apple trte spared by the Indians. Probably the
first boy born in town belonged to one of these families. James
Rogers was shot by Ebenezer Ayer, who mistook him in the dark
for a bear, as he wore a bearskin coat. He was the father of
Major Robert Rogers, celebrated as the leader of the rauger
corps of the French and Indian wars.

About 175 1 William Stinson, John Hogg, and Thomas Mills
settled in the west part of the town. Sarah, daughter of Thom-
as Mills, was the first girl born in town. Her birthplace was a
log cabin on the farm now owned by John C. and George F.

For fourteen years the town was called Starkstown in honor
of Archibald Stark, one of the first land owners (though not a
resident), and father of General John Slark, In 1765 the
town was incorporated, and was named, with a slight change,

1. Tim c.irly wiiters frenrrnlly rrcdiicd .J.imcR Rrprors with lieingof Srotch-
Irisli Diilivily, "wing lo ilio fact ili'it lie w.ts coiifiisoij wUli anot'nT per^mi of tlio
fiiiine name wli" UvmI in LonilDinleny. (Si-i' DruiiimoiMrd "J.mics Uo'.'-it.s of
Dunhaitoii ami .J.inie.-i Itoirers of Lunilondcrry.") Tlie Diinliarton Itotfcrs was un-
(lonliieilly of Kniilisli ' irlli, in wlnrh case the tenii " MmintMlona," or " Aloiitc-
louv." must have had some other derivation tliau tliat commonly ascribed to it.
— EuiTuii.

3. Probably 17i9. ami tlio U^Riirs fimllyat least cime from Massachusetts.
Thi-i vvltn tli<( i'litn.ty or I'udiiey faiuity seeiii to have been located iu the winter of
1839 1810. — Editor.


for Dumbarton^ in Scotland near which place Stark and other
emigrants had lived.

Dunbarton was one of the towns taken from Hillsborough
County to form the County of Merrimack. Its centennial was
duly celebrated and attended by a vast concourse of invited
guests and towns people. A report of its proceedings was com-
piled by Rev. Sylvanus Hayward. Though small in area and
population, Dunbarton occupies a large place in the hearts of
its sons and daughters. However dear our adopted homes may
become, we still feel that " whatever skies above us rise the
hills, the hil!s are home."

At the centennial Rev. George A. Putnam paid a glowing
tribute to his native town, saying : " Dunbarton is one of the
most intelligent and best educated communities in New Eng.
land. I think it will be hard to find another place where, in
proportion to its population, so many young men have been
liberally educated and have entered some of the learned pro-
fessions, where so many young men and women have become
first class teachers of common schools. My own observation
has been altogether in favor of Dunbarton in this particular.
And it is clear as any historic fact the superior education of
Dunbarton's children has been largely due to her religious insti-
tutions and Ciiristian teachers."

That the town is also honored by her neighbors is shown by
the following instances : Many years ago it was said that a
Dartmouth student from an adjoining town, when asked from
what town he came, answered : " From the town next to Dun-
barton." Recently the chairman of the school board in Goflfs-
town, in his annual report, compared the town favorably to
Dunbarton with regard to the number of college graduates.

Very soon after the permanent settlement of the town, a
committe was appointed to build a meeting-house at Dunbar-
ton Center. It was finished previous to 1767, and stood in the
middle of the common. Before that time it is related that

3. From DiiiiibriKon, the ancient name given to a fort raised by the Brittous on
the north bank of ihe CJyUe In early times. - EuiroiJ.


" Mr. McGregor preached in the open air, on the spot now con-
secrated as the resting place of the dead." This first building
was a low, frame structure, without pews, with seats of rough
planks resting on chestnut logs, and a pulpit constructed of
rough boards. It was replaced in about twenty years by the
building now known as the Town House. This was used only
for political purposes after the erection of the third church on
the west side of the highway.

About thirty years ago the interior of the old building was
greatly changed, the upper part being made into a hall while
the square pews were removed from the lower part, only the
high pulpit remaining. A selectmen's room was finished in one
corner, and in 1892, a room for the public library. The outside
remains practically unchanged.

The Rocky Hill Church at Amesbury, Mass., much like this
at Dunbarton, is still used in summer only. There is no way of
warming it, and people of the present day would not endure
the hardships their ancestors bore without a murmur. The
third church was built in 1836 on the site of a dwelling house
owned by William Stark ; in 1884 it was remodelled, the pews
modernized and the ceiling frescoed.

The vestry formerly stood on the opposite of the common
and contained two rooms; prayer meetings were held in the
lower room, while up stairs was the only hall in town. There
were held the singing schools, and the lyceum of long ago; also
several fall terms of high schools ; among the teachers were
Mark Bailey, William E. Bunten, and Henry M. Putney. More
than twenty-five years ago the vestry was removed to its present
location nearthe church and made more convenient and attractive.

For about nineteen years the church had no settled pastor.
In 1789 Waller Harris was called, and was ordained August 26.
He prt-ached more than forty years. Every man in town was re-
quired to contribute to his support for a time until some of the
other religious societies rebelled. The " History of Dunbarton "
says : " Dr. Harris appropriated the proprietors' grant for the


first settled minister, and located himself on the ministerial lot.
He also, by a vote of the town, obtained the use of the parson-
age lot, with an addition of seventy pounds a year, one-half to
be paid in cash, the other in corn and rye." His farm was
in a beautiful location houth of the center, and was afterwards
owned for many years by the late Deacon John Paige ; it is
now the propery of his son, Lewis Paige.

In respect to his farm, buildings, fences. Dr. Harris was a
model for the town. Two men once working for him were try-
ing to move a heavy log. He told them how to manage accord-
ing to philosophy ; finally one said : " Well, Dr. Harris, if you
and your philosophy will take hold of that end of the log while
Jim and I take this end, I think we can move it."

Dr. Harris was sometimes called the " Broad axe and sledge-
hammer of the New Hampshire ministry." He was a man of
more than ordinary intellectual endowments, and graduated
from Dartmouth College with high honors. Prof. Charles G.
Burnham said in his address at the Centennial : " The influ-
ence of the life and preaching of Dr. Harris is manifest today
in every department of your material prosperity, as well as upon
the moral and religious character of the people, and will be for
generations to come."

Dr. Harris was dismissed July 7, 1830, and died December
25, 1843. His successor. Rev. John M. Putnam, was installed
the day Dr. Harris was dismissed ; both were remarkable ex-
temporaneous speakers. Mr. Putnam was called one of the
best platform speakers in his profession in the State.

At the close of his pastorate he went to reside with his son at
Yarmouth, Maine ; he died in Elyria, Ohio, in 187 1. He was
dismissed the day his successor, Sylvanus Hay ward, was or-
dained. Thus for more than 77 years the church was not for
one day without a settled pastor. Mr. Hayward was born in
Gilsum, N. H., and has written a history of his native town ;
he was dismissed April, 1S66. His successors were Revs.
George I. Bard, William E. Spear, who is now a lawyer in


Boston, and at present Secretary of the Spanish War Claim
Commission, James Wells now deceased. Tillon C. H. Bou-
ton, grandson of Rev. Dr. Nalhanitl Bouton, for many years
pastor of the North Church, Concord, N. H., George Sterling,
Avery K. Gleason, and William A. Bushee. During Mr.
Bouton's pastorale a parsonage was built in the north part of
the village on land given by Deacon Daniel H. Parker.

The first deacons were chosen in 1790, and were James
Clement and Edward Russell. Others were Samuel Burnham,
David Alexander, John Church, Matthew S. McCurdy, John
Wilson, John MillSj Samuel Burnham (a namesake of the first
of the name), who with Daniel H, Parker served for many
years. They were succeeded by Frederic L. Ireland and
Frank C. Woodbury, the present incumbents.

Church discipline was very strict in ye olden time. What
would the people of the present day think of being called to
account for such a small matter as this? "A complaint was pre-
sented to the church by one brother against another for un-
Christian-like behavior in suffering himself lo be carried in a
light and vain manner upon a man's shoulders to the length of
a quarter of a mile. The church accepted the complaint, and
summoned the brother before it. He appeared, confessed his
fault and was pardoned."

Deacon McCurdy was noted for his strictness in keeping the
Sabbath. No food could be cooked in the house on that
day, and no work done at the barn except milking and feeding
the stock. He once, however, mistook the day of the week,
and took a grist to mill on Sunday, while his wife began the
the Saturday's baking. On arriving at the mill, he, of course,
found it closed, and on going to the miller's house, he learned
his mistake. He was so shocked that he would not leave his
grist, but carried it back home.

The Baptist Church was organized in Mountalona in 1828.
The first meeting house was built by Aaron Elliot, and Isaac
Westcoit was the first pastor. In the Spring of 1847 meetings
were held at the Center; Rev. John W. Poland (since fa-


mous as the maker of " White Pine Compound ") preached dur-
ing that season. The next year a church was built.

The pastors were Revs. H. D. Hodges (who, with Rev.
John Putnam, compiled a grammar), Samuel Cook, Horace
Eaton, Jesse M. Coburn, Washington Coburn, John Peacock
(as a supply), Stephen Pillsbury, Timothy B Eastman, Elias
Whittemore, Samuel Woodbury, Adoniram J Hopkins, Dr.
Lucien Hayden, J. J. Peck, Charles Willand, and the present in-
cumbent, S. H. Buffam. This list may not be exactly correct.
At intervals no services have been held. Nathaniel Wheeler,
John O. Merrill and John Paige were deacons for many years.
In 1899 the house was painted and otherwise improved.

The old house at Mountalona was used at times by the Bap-
tists. Methodist services were also held there. It was burned
about seventeen years ago.

A Universalist society was formed in 1830 by Nathan Gutter-
son, Joshua F. Hoyt, Silas Burnham, Alexander Gilchrist
and others and services were held in the old Congrega-
tional Church. Rev. Nathan R. Wright preached here for four
years and lived in a house near the late John C Ray's which
was burned about 30 years ago. It was afterwards known as the
Hope house from Samuel B Hope, one of the owners. Mr.Wright
was the father of Hon. Carroll D. Wright who was born in 1S40.
The family removed from town when he was three years of age.

In 1S64 oi" '865 Episcopnl Church services were held by
clergymen from St. Paul's School in school houses in the west
part of the town, afterwards in the Hope house. In the summer
of 1866 the corner stone of the church was laid on land given by
the Misses Stark. The money to build the church was collected
by their grand neice, Miss Mary Stark, a devoted churchwoman,
who died in 18S1. I'he church is a lasting memorial of her. It
is a beautiful building with a seating capacity of iio. The
fine chancel window was gi^en by the father of the Rector of
St. Paul's School. The church was consecrated in 1868, and
named the Church of St John the Evangelist. For about four-
teen years the services wore in charge of Rev. Joseph H. Coit,


the present rector of St. Paul's School. He was succeeded by
Rev. Edward M. Parker, a master of the school, who with the
assistance of Mr. William VV. Flint, lay preacher, holds services
in Dunbarton and Eist VVeare. In 1890 the church was taken
down and re-erected in North Dunbarton on land given by
David Sargent sou h of the school-house, in front of a beautiful
pine grove. A service of re dedication was held december 15,
1890. Frank B. Mills was organist and leader of the singing
with only a short interval until his removal from town in 1895.
The organist at the present time is Miss Sara E. Perkins.

After the removal of the church, a brass tablet in memory of
the Misses Harriet and Charlotte Stark was placed therein by
Rev. Joseph H. Coit,

Dunbarton has had many fine musicians within her borders.
Col. Samuel B. Hammond led the singing in the Congregational
Church for a long term of years, resigning in 1875. ^^e choir
was formerly large and numbered among its members Mrs.
Elizabeth (Whipple) Brown, her daughter, Mrs. Agnes French,
Olive CaldArell, now Mrs. Morrill of Minnesota, the daughters
of the late Deacon Parker, Mrs. Harris Wilson, Nathaniel T.
Safiord, William S. Twiss, and others.

Before the advent of the cabinet organ instrumental music
was furnished by a double bass viol played by Harris Wilson,
a single bass-viol played by Eben Kimball, a melodeon played
by Andrew Twiss, and one or two violins. When the church
was remodeled the organ and choir were removed from the gal-
lery to a place beside the pulpit. Mrs. Mary (Wilson) Bunten
is now organist. For several years a quartette, consisting
of William S. Twiss, Frank B. Mills, Horace Caldwell, and
Frederic L. Ireland sang most acceptably on many occasions,
especially furnishing appropriate music at funerals, until the
removal from town of Mr. Twiss in 1884. At various times
signing schools were taught by Eben Kimball, Joseph C. Cram
of Deerfield, " Uncle Ben " Davis of Concord, and at Page's
Corner, by Frank B. Mills.

The first School houses in town were few and far between,


with no free transportation as practiced at the present lime.
Hon. Albert S. Batchellor, of Littleton, in searc'.iing the col-
umns of a file of old newspapers recently, came across the fol-
lowing which will be of interest to Dunbarton people :

" Dunbarton May ye 15, 1787.
We the subscribers Promise to pay to Mrs. Sarah Ayers
Young three shillings per week for five Months to Teach school
seven or Eight Hours Each Day Except Sunday & Saturday
half a day, to be paid in Butter at half Pifterreen per lb. flax
the same or Rie at 4 shillings, Corn at 3s. Each. Persons to
pay their Proportion to what scollers they sign for Witness Our
Hands. Thomas Hannette 2 Scollers 'Fhomas Husfe i Jame-
son Galley 2 Andrew fofter i John Bunton 3 John Fulton 2 "

Before 1805 Dunbarton had three school districts. The first
house was at the Center. Rev. Abraham W. Burnham, of
Rindge, in response to the toast, "Our Early Inhabitants," at
the Centennial, said : " My brother Samuel, when so young
that my mother was actually afraid the bears would catch him,
walked two miles to school." This same boy was the first col-
lege graduate from town, in the class of 1795. Robert Hogg,
called Master Hogg, was the first male teacher, and Sarah
Clement the first female teacher.

Another teacher of the long ago was Master John Fulton,
who lived on the farm now owned by John W. Farrar. In
those days pupils often tried to secure a holiday by " barring
out " the teacher on New Year's Day. More than once
Master John Fulton found himself in this situation. On one
occasion he went to one of the neighbors where he borrowed a
tall white hat and a long white coat with several capes.
Thus disguised he mounted a white horse and rode rapidly to
the school house. The unsuspecting pupils rushed to the
door, when, quick as thought, Master Fulton sprang from the
horse, entered the school house and called the school to order.
At another time, while teaching in a private house in Bow, find-
ing himself " barred out," he entered a chamber window by
a ladder, removed some loose boards from the floor (the
house being unfinished) and descended among his astonished


pupils. Dr. Harris regularly visited the schools, and catechised
the children ; he prepared many young men for college and
directed the theological studies of those fitting for the ministry.

Many clergymen of the town served on the school committee.
Districts increased in number till there were eleven. In 1867 the
town system was adopted, and the number of schools reduced
to four or five. Notwithstanding the short terms, the long dis-
tances, .'ind lack of text-books (now provided by the town), Dun-
barton has produced many fine scholars, and has provided
a large number of teachers for her own and other schools.

I think no family has furnished as many educated members
as the Burnhams. A short time prior to 1775 Deacon Samuel
Burnham came from Esses^ Mass., to the south part of Dunbar-
ton. Of his thirteen children, four sons graduated at Dartmouth
College. In 1865 fourteen of his grand and great grand child-
ren were college graduates. Not all of them lived in Dunbar-
ton, but Samuel's son, Bradford, and most of his children lived
here. Henry Larcom, son of Bradford, was a successful teach-
er and land surveyor ; he represented the town in the Legisla-
ture and was also State Senator. The last years of his life
were passed in Manchester where he died in 1893. His son,
Henry Eben, is a lawyer in Manchester, and was for a time
Judge of Probate. He was born November 8, 1844, in the Dr.
Harris house, and is an honored son of Dunbarton. He was
elected United States Senator by the Legislature of 1901, for
the term of six years and succeeded Senator William E. Chandler.

Hannah, eldest daughter of Bradford Burnham, married
Samuel Burnham from Essex, Mass ; she died in November,
igoi. Her two daughters were teachers for many years ; the
younger, Annie M., taught in Illinois and Oregon until recently.
Two sons were college graduates, Josiah, ai Amherst iniS67;
William H., at Harvard in 1S82. The latter is instructor in
Clark University, Worcester, and a writer and lecturer of great
ability. A daughter of his brother, Samuel G. Burnham of
St. Louis, graduated from Washington University with high
honors, ranking second in a class of eighty-two.


Three sons of Henry Putney were students at Dartmouth
College, though the second son, Frank, did not graduate,
leaving college to enter the army in 1861.

Thirty or more of the sons of Dunbarton graduated at Dart-
mouth College, while ten or twelve others took a partial course.
John Gould, Jr., and Abel K. Wilson, died at college, Three
graduated at Wab.ash College, Indiana, two at Union College,
Schenectady, N. Y., and one each at Yale, Harvard, and Am-
herst Colleges, and Brown University. It is said that at one
time there were more students from Dunbarton in Dartmouth
College than from any other town in the State,

There have been several graduates from Normal Schools,
Ralph Ireland and Ethel Jameson from the school at Bridge-
water, Mass. The former is now teaching in Gloucester, Mass.,
and the latter in Boston, Mass. Ella and Leannette L. Mills
(the latter the daughter of Leroy R. Mills ), graduated from the
school at Salem, Mass. Lydia Marshall, now holding a gov-
ernment position in Washington, D. C, Mary Caldwell (now
Mrs, Aaron C. Barnard), and Lizzie Bunten (now Mrs. James
P, Tuttle, of Manchester)^ took a partial or whole course at the
school at Plymouth, N. H, Louise Parker and Mary A. Stin-
son graduated at Kimball Academy, Meriden, N, FI, Mnny
others have been students at McCollom Institute, Mount Ver-
non, Pembroke, and other academies, and several have taken
the course at the Concord High School. Among the teachers of
the long ago may be named Antoinette Putnam, Lizzie and Ann
Burnham, Jane Stinson, Nancy Stinson, Sarah and Marianne
Parker, and Susan and Margaret Holmes, The list is too long
for further mention.

Among college graduates who made teaching their life work
were William Parker, who died in Winchester, Illinois, in 1865 ;
Caleb Mills, who was connected with Wabash College, Indiana,
from 1833 until his death in 1S79. He was greatly interested
in the cause of education, and was known as the father of pub-
lic schools in Indiana; Joseph Gibson Hoyt, who was called
the most brilliant son Dunbarton ever educated ; he taught sev-


eral years in Phillips Academy, Exeter, and was Chancellor of
Washington University, St, Louis, Missouri, taking charge Feb-
ruary 4, 1859 ; inaugurated October 4, 1859 ; died November 26,
1862 ; Charles G. Burnham, orator at the Centennial, in 1865,
who died in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1866 ; Mark Bailey, who
has taught elocution at Yale since 1855, besides spending some
weeks of each year in former times at Dartmouth, Princeton, and
other places. Samuel Burnham, the first graduate, should have
been mentioned earlier. He was principal of tht academy at
Derry for many years; William E. Bunten taught in Atkinson,
N. H., Marblehead, Mass., and in New York, where he died in
1897 ; Matthew S. McCurdy, grandson and namesake of Dea-
con McCurdy, is instructor at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.
Although not a college student, John, brother of Thomas and
James F. Mills, spent many years in teaching in Ohio and West
Virginia; he died in 1879. Among those who have been both
teachers and journalists are Amos Hadley of Concord, Henry
M. Putney, now on the editorial staff of the Manchester Daily


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