Dr. Edwin Gillette and his family lived for several years in West Windham. Close friends of the Andersons, the two families were frequently in contact. In 1922, Mrs. Anderson sent gifts to the Gillette children for Christmas. Dr. Gillette wrote Mrs. Anderson just a couple of days after Christmas to thank Mrs. Anderson for her thoughtfulness in sending the presents. According to his letter, William Gillette "was delighted with the clucking hens and barking dog," so much so that he "had to show every one how they worked"; these were presumably windup toys. Robert Gillette received a windup cat, and evidently loved it as his father wrote: "I think the cat must have been wound up and traveled miles in the past two days." Dr. Gillette concluded his letter with informing Mrs. Anderson that "the gifts, all but yours came from Santa Claus, but I have told the children that your presents were from their Grandmother."
In 1893 the average American potato farmer produced just over 78 bushels of potatoes per acre, according to research compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. That same year, with help from some specially formulated manure, one local farmer was able to crush that average with a yield of 508 bushels per acre. Henry S. Wheeler was a farmer on the Windham/Derry line, on what was known as the "Fitz Farm". Wheeler lived on the farm with his wife, Hannah, a Derry native he married in 1877, along with their five children: Caroline, Sarah, Mary, Elizabeth, and Henrietta. With a family of seven to feed, Wheeler undoubtedly needed any advantage he could find in ensuring a successful harvest each year. In 1893 Wheeler tried Stockbridge Special Potato Manure, which resulted in a fantastic harvest of over 500 bushels of potatoes per acre. According to an ad for the product, it contained "plant food in the right forms for potatoes" in quantities "twice as much as an ordinary phosphate". With double the amount of ingredients as competing manures, Stockbridge was advertised as a time saving and money saving alternative to their competitors: "Don't haul and handle two tons when one ton will do the work and cost less." Such a proposition was undoubtedly attractive to Wheeler who was so successful with the product that the company took a photograph of his farm to use in their advertising.
Mrs. Edwin Gillette owned property on the West Windham / Londonderry line, in an area that was considered to be a portion of West Windham in the early 20th century. The Gillette family also owned a home in Arizona and would often summer at their West Windham home. When they were away from Windham, the property would be looked after by Thomas Waterhouse who worked for the family in this capacity. For a now unknown reason, Mrs. Gillette did not make the trip to West Windham during the summer of 1916, leaving Waterhouse to write her to inform her of the goings on in the community. In June of that year he wrote her that Mrs. Horne had passed away around Easter, and the Herberts, another West Windham family, had moved to Lowell. Evidently, the Gillettes would rent out their property as Waterhouse informed Mrs. Gillette that "a man by the name of Johnson wanted to hire the place. I referred him to you, but I would say no, as I do not think you want any more, thank you people over there."
Thomas Waterhouse had been responsible for taking care of the farming on the Gillette property and also wrote that he had "plowed up some of the land for corn and am doing the best I can with every thing." He gladly reported that "all the stock are well and in good condition." However, there had been little time for farming as Waterhouse had been busy with other work, including mowing lawns in Lowell twice a week.
Anderson Station in West Windham offered convenient freight shipping for the many businesses in that part of town. Not only did the Boston & Maine Railroad make use of the station, there was also an American Express agent. Long before becoming the credit card brand they are known as today, the company was a leading freight shipper. During the 1910s and 1920s, Frank A. Crowell was both the American Express agent and the freight cashier for the Boston & Maine Railroad at the West Windham station. Crowell was a resident of West Windham, and at one timed owned a single share in the Union Hall. Crowell undoubtedly had a busy job handling shipping for his neighbors and, according to the receipts shown above, was on the job from at least 1919 to 1928. According to "Rural Oasis", around 1910 the West Windham station "contributed more than a hundred carloads of wood and lumber a month during the winter season." In 1928, William Henry Anderson paid a total of $6.25 for a load of rough stone sent from to Dunstable to West Windham. However, not all shipping done at West Windham station was by the carload. In 1919, Edwin Gillette received a 2lb package from Boston that had been shipped by the American Express Company for just 31 cents including tax
Edward P. S. Andrews moved to West Windham from Arizona at the turn of the twentieth century. His trip to Windham was arranged by William H. Anderson, who was residing in Phoenix at the time. Anderson owned a large farm in Londonderry, as well as property in Windham. His Windham real estate included the mill at Beaver Brook, which he had just rebuilt following a fire; the mill had burned twice within a decade. To oversee the management of his grain mill, Anderson hired Andrews, who would spend the next decade overseeing the production of grain and feed at the West Windham mill. In 1905 the state Cattle Commissioners recorded a visit to West Windham for a "cattle and stable" inspection on the property of Andrews.
Not content with spending his days running a grain mill, Andrews turned to inventing, eventually filing a patent for a "Torpedo placer"; a "torpedo" was a detonating signal device, the size of a typical coin, that was placed on railroad tracks. According to Wikipedia, common uses for these torpedoes include: a warning/stop signal during heavy fog (when signals were difficult to see), to indicate a train is stopped on the tracks ahead, and to alert railroad workers if a train was approaching. Andrews' device was designed to place "detonating signals upon the tracks when while trains are in motion." His invention was "simple in construction and inexpensive to manufacture, which can easily be removably attached to a car for the placing of detonating signals upon the tracks." Just six months after filing his patent in the summer of 1908, the patent was granted by the US Patent Office.
Although the residents of West Windham likely recognized him as an inventor and operator of the local grain mill, he was most noted for his automobile, the first of its kind in West Windham. This car was memorable enough to be recorded in "Rural Oasis", where it is noted that the automobile was assembled from at least two early cars. While it may not have been a purebred, his car was registered in 1912 as a Ford, with a 14.5 horsepower engine. For comparison, a stock Ford Model T from the era would have left the factory with 20 horsepower, and Joseph Dinsmoor registered his powerful 25.6 horsepower E-M-F automobile the same year. Andrews received registration number 1753, with several thousand cars being registered in New Hampshire that year. Unwilling to leave his prized Ford exposed to the weather, Andrews made his own cement blocks and built a garage; this garage was likely the first automobile garage in Windham.
In the summer of 1904, readers of the classified ads in The Boston Globe would inevitably come across numerous ads for summer boarding houses located in the more rural areas outside of Boston. Promising an escape from the crowded, hot city, operators of boarding houses were able to generate additional income, and possibly even exchange room and board for some chores on the farm. An unidentified "private family" in Windham ran the simplest of ads, promising just a "quiet place, plenty of milk". While we'll likely never know how successful this one line ad was, it's basic amenities would certainly have appealed to some. Many of those running boarding houses in Windham were a bit more verbose and complete with their advertisements. At Beaver Brook Farm, F. L. Mottram rented a "limited" number of rooms at the bargain rate of $7 per week. For $7 a vacationer from the city could enjoy "attractive surroundings, abundant shade", conveniently located near a train station in West Windham.
$7 seems to have been the going rate at that time, as other boarding houses in town rented rooms at that low price. What bought pleasant surroundings and shade at Beaver Brook Farm would have also paid for a week's stay at Brookside Farm in West Windham. Brookside offered not only a "pleasant location", but amenities including a "good table", a piano, "large airy rooms", nearby fishing and boating, as well as "church accommodations." Moving across town, $7 also paid for a week at Elm Farm. For just $1 per day, boarders at Mrs. Kane's Elm Farm were treated to "good milk, eggs, cream, berries" as well as a piano and "free" church accommodations, and even a telephone connection! The lure of a few days in the country at a farmhouse endured for decades, as although the ads mentioned above date from the first quarter of the twentieth century, newspaper ads seeking summer boarders appeared in newspapers as far back as the 1880s. In that decade an unidentified Windham resident, with post office box #75, advertised "fun and comfort" and asked that interested parties inquired for more information.
The late 19th century is notable for a rise in medical quackery. Before increased regulations by the FDA in the first quarter of the 20th century, entrepreneurs throughout the nation capitalized on a trend towards the use of patent medicines to cure all illnesses from cancer to the common cold; whatever you had you could be fairly certain there was a bottle of something to cure it! Many of these "medicines" were combinations of herbs, alcohol, and often useless ingredients. While many of those peddling patent medicines never found great success, there are a few who built large brands and great wealth. One such operator was C. I. Hood of Lowell, MA. What started with a single medicine expanded into a line of liquids and pills, sold as being effective remedies for purifying the blood and curing any ailment you might have. Hood's Sarsaparilla was one of the company's best selling products, and its sales were supported by a significant advertising budget. Hood used a variety of advertising premiums, such as trade cards and souvenir photographs of the world, to market his most popular medicine. Included in the advertising strategy were newspaper ads which would have appeared in newspapers throughout New England. Many ads featured testimonials from those who saw their health improve after taking the famous sarsaparilla. Undoubtedly folks in Windham gave the miracle liquid a try, and according to an 1882 newspaper ad, a Mrs. Cole of Windham had great success with the concoction. According to the ad she was covered in 37 "terrible sores" and her life was saved after taking Hood's Sarsaparilla. Whether Hood's medicine was responsible for her recovery is unknown, but one can be fairly certain there was a bottle or two of Hood's Sarsaparilla in the homes of Cole's friends and neighbors once they witnessed her improvement.
While the shores and waters of Shadow Lake lie partially in Windham and Salem, the local prominence of Cobbett's Pond, the Windham shore of Canobie Lake, and the several other ponds in Windham, often shadow over that of Shadow Lake. However, on a summer day in 1953, Shadow Lake was given national attention likely never seen by another Windham pond or lake. On Monday, July 20, 1953, Lawrence W. Allen was sitting on a raft at Shadow Lake when a friend sharing the dock with him hit him on the back. The force of the friendly blow knocked Allen into the water, and when he returned to the surface he quickly realized he had lost his upper set of dentures. Not an experienced diver, Allen hired the services of a diver to attempt to recover his $150 set of false teeth. Sensing public interest in the mishap of Allen, the Associated Press picked up the story and, within just one day, readers across the nation were able to open their local paper and read about the search for false teeth at the bottom of a lake they had likely never heard of in the small town of Windham, New Hampshire.
There are several towns by the name of "Windham" located throughout the nation, located in Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, and other states. While these towns share a common name, the story behind the name varies from town to town. For example, Windham, Maine was named for the town of Wymondham in Norfolk, England. Windham, New Hampshire is generally accepted to be the namesake of Sir Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont.
Born in 1710, Sir Charles Wyndham was born into a politically powerful English family; his father, Sir William Wyndham served as Secretary of War and the leader of the House of Commons. According to Max Egremont, a descendant of Sir Charles Wyndham, and the current 2nd Baron Egremont, Sir Charles Wyndham was "the heir to a huge fortune, ... one of the richest peers in the kingdom." Charles Wyndham was educated at the Westminster School in London, as well as the historic Christ Church in Oxford. After completing his formal education, Wyndham "went on a Grand Tour of Europe, visiting Germany, France and Italy. While traveling through Europe, Wyndham developed an appreciation for art and collected paintings and sculpture, which were brought back to his family estate, the Petworth House; some of the art he collected still remains in the Petworth House, which is partially occupied by his descendants.
After returning from his jaunt through Europe, Wyndham became involved in politics, and served as a Member of Parliament from 1734 to 1750. During his tenure as a Member of Parliament, he became a close friend of Benning Wentworth, the colonial governor of New Hampshire from 1741 to 1766. When the residents of the portion of Londonderry that would become Windham petitioned for incorporation in 1741, they did so knowing approval from Governor Wentworth was required for their effort to succeed. Although, the identity of the person, or persons, who chose the name "Windham" are likely lost to history, it can be surmised the name was chosen to please Governor Wentworth; naming the town after a close friend of the Governor would certainly give the petitioners a leg up in the petition's approval process.
When Windham became a town on February 12, 1742, Charles Wyndham was just at the beginning of what would become a successful career, not only as a politician, but as a family man. In 1751 he married Alicia Maria Carpenter, the daughter of an Irish peer, and the couple raised four sons and three daughters together. Just a year after the birth of his last son, Wyndham was appointed secretary of state for the southern department, the most prominent position of his career. Wyndham's tenure as secretary of state is best summarized by Max Egremeont:
"He was competent rather than exciting, trying (and generally succeeding) to make peace with France on terms that were favourable to the British. In 1763, he was involved in the prosecution of the journalist and politician John Wilkes who had published supposedly libellous comments on King George 111 in his paper The North Briton."
Unfortunately, Wyndham would not hold his post for long. In 1763 he suffered and apoplectic stroke and died. Wyndham family legend holds that his death may have been caused by overeating, and that a few days prior to his death, Wyndham had remarked "but three turtle dinners to come, and if I survive them I shall be immortal." Alas, he evidently did not achieve immortality. However, his name has proved to be immortal, with North Egremont and South Egremont, Massachusetts bearing his name, and our town of Windham serving as a permanent legacy of Sir Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont.
While the annual boat parade on Cobbett's Pond has survived changing times over the past several decades, one related tradition has not. The inaugural Cobbett's Pond beauty contest was held in 1958, and quickly became a popular event in the community. Miss Cobbett's Pond was chosen by a panel of judges at a dinner and beauty contest held at Town Hall. Prior to the dinner, all of the contestants participated in a parade where their family, friends, and fellow Cobbett's Pond residents had their first chance to catch a glimpse of all the candidates before the title of Miss Cobbett's Pond was bestowed upon a single young woman a few days later. While the contest was only open to residents and campers of Cobbett's Pond, the committee included residents from surrounding towns; during the 1960 contest the head of the committee in charge of soliciting entries was a resident of Nashua. A committee comprised of local teenagers was tasked with canvassing the cottages and homes along Cobbett's Pond and registering girls between the ages of 12 and 18 as candidates in the annual contest. One lucky entrant, after being crowned Miss Cobbett's Pond, had the honor of being escorted around the pond during the annual boat parade, usually held a couple weeks later. Wearing a crown and riding on a small, decorated motorboat, the first Miss Cobbett's Pond, Marie Chadwick, is shown in the photograph above, taken during the 1958 boat parade.
Derek Saffie is an avid Windham historian who enjoys researching and sharing his collection with all those interested in the history of the New England town.