On January 10, 1801, John Dinsmoor, as the justice of the peace, signed a warrant to arrest James Wilson. According to the warrant, if James was found within the precinct, he was to be arrested and held so that he could make an appearance before Dinsmoor on Saturday, January 31 at two o'clock. Windham's constable, who may have served the warrant and attempted to arrest Wilson, was Abner Campbell. Like many of Windham's constables in that era, he was the town's only constable and served for just one year. In addition to arresting Wilson, who lived in the Burnham house at the Windham town center, his personal estate was to be attached for the sum of $20. When Wilson appeared before Dinsmoor that January afternoon he would have been confronted by David Morse, of Haverhill, a nail maker. Some time prior, Wilson had purchased "three pounds three shillings and six pence" of goods, presumably nails, from Morse, and failed to pay him. In 1801, the sum of British currency was equivalent to $12.25 according to the warrant; that amount is rounded up to $13 and somehow raised to $20 against Wilson's estate. While the outcome of the case is unknown, Wilson did not stay around Windham for long. During the War of 1812, Wilson found himself a seaman who had earned the moniker "Sailor James." While in England a "press-gang" found Wilson on the street and impressed him into the British service. However, Wilson was a fervent patriot and refused to fight against his countrymen. For his refusal to fight with the British ranks Wilson was imprisoned at Dartmoor Prison, but eventually released. Following his release from prison Wilson returned to Windham and married Mary Gregg. After living in Windham for a year, Wilson deserted his wife, went to Baltimore, and was never heard from again.
Philip Morrill is likely a name that has escaped much attention in the research of Windham’s history that has been done in the past one hundred-odd years. In fact, Leonard Morrison mentioned him only twice in his history of the town, and even then it is two brief lines in a section titled “Unassigned Births and Deaths.” There are several Morrills recorded by Morrison in his genealogical index, but they are not given a dedicated section, as are many families, and the list of Morrills fails to include Philip. However, extant records do help us piece together the life of Philip.
Philip Morrill moved to Windham from Pelham in 1805 after purchasing a property from William Davidson and William Shed, both Windham residents, for twenty dollars. His occupation at the time was listed as a tanner, working with leather. For his twenty dollars, Morrill became the owner of one acre of land near Beaver Brook. Two years after relocating to Windham, Morrill and his wife Sally became the proud parents of their first son, Alexis; Alexis’ birth on June 2, 1807 is the first birth in Morrill’s family recorded in Windham.
In August of 1808 Philip purchased two acres of land in West Windham, near Beaver Brook, from William Davidson for the sum of thirty dollars. This land was adjacent to the property already owned by Morrill, and he had now tripled his acreage for just thirty dollars. As neither this property, nor the previous property, had included any buildings, we can surmise Philip had built a home upon the first tract of land before his son had been born. Philip must have fancied himself being a success with real estate as he purchased more land in Windham in 1809. In March of 1809, Philip purchased eight acres of land from William McCoy, although it is not clear if this new tract of land actually bordered Philip’s homestead, or if he was simply expanding his acreage in town. Morrill paid sixty dollars for the land, amounting to just $7.50 per acre, a bargain when compared with the $10 - $15 per acre he had previously paid for land. Although Philip purchased his first tracts of land in Windham to build a home, he seems to have been quite a real estate investor. In 1811 Morrill sold a tract of land in West Windham to Josiah Butler for over $400, a handsome profit.
Flush with cash from his sale of land to Josiah Butler, in 1813 Philip purchased a property, which included two individual lots, in Windham for the princely sum of $395; this land was sold to him by Josiah Butler. It is in the deed for this property that the first mention of Morrill’s house can be found. For $395 Morrill became the owner of one eight acre lot near his homestead, as well as a likely larger tract for which the acreage is not provided in the deed. Shortly after his large land purchase, Morrill continued purchasing land in West Windham, paying William McCoy $54 for just two acres in that part of town. In August of 1813, Philip made his largest real estate transaction yet in Windham. He sold Solomon Hardy four acres of land in West Windham for a staggering $500.
For Philip Morrill January of 1814 must have been quite a month. Just a week after New Year’s Day of 1814 Morrill purchased approximately ten acres of land from Robert and Betsey Simpson. Unfortunately, Sally Morrill passed away sometime before 1814. Although the birth of her son was recorded in the town records, her death seems to have been overlooked, or at least Morrison could not find the information. However, by 1814 Philip had remarried, and his second wife Mehitable gave birth to the couple’s second son, Lorenzo, on January 27, 1814. Within a week of Lorenzo’s birth Philip was back to dealing in Windham real estate, purchasing a tract of land in the vicinity of Beaver Brook that at the time was commonly called “Commins field.” Morrill spent $170 for another tract of West Windham land just two months later.
In December of 1814 Philip sold eight acres of land near his home for just over thirty-seven dollars. He continued selling real estate in 1814 and 1815, selling a few hundred dollars worth of land in Windham; Philip also sold a few hundred dollar property in Nottingham. In 1817 Morrill sold off nearly one thousand dollars worth of property in West Windham; the two transactions mark the last time Morrill is recorded as living in Windham.
In the nearly three hundred years that have passed since Windham's founding, snow and winter weather has remained an unchanged characteristic of Windham's existence. As a heavy winter snowfall and occasional blizzard would be commonplace anywhere in New England throughout history, it should not be a surprise that Windham historian Leonard Morrison devoted a section in his tome on the town's history to snowshoes. Following a significant snow storm it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to travel upon horseback or on foot. When travel was necessary in such conditions many a Windham resident would have found a good pair of snowshoes invaluable. Morrison considered snowshoes such an important artifact from the town's early history that he describes in great detail the construction of a primitive pair:
"They were from two to four feet in length, and from a foot to sixteen inches in width, and one accustomed to their use could travel with them with ease. The snow-shoe was made of a tough piece of maple or ash, about one inch in diameter, and bent in the shape represented, and the ends riveted together. There were cross-pieces, to which and to the bow of the shoe was attached a strong netting of green hide or leather. The toe of the foot was slipped under the loop of the front cross-piece and fastened, while the heel was left free, though sometimes it would be weighted so as to trail in the snow."
Leonard Morrison preserved an interesting story about British soldier John Hughes, who deserted the British Army to join the patriots. After leaving his regiment, which was stationed in Boston, Hughes made his way to Windham where he trekked through the deep snow of winter to the vicinity of Bissell's Camp. It is there that "he was greatly alarmed by the prodigious tracks of some animal upon the snow. He wished he had not come to such a country, where the wild beasts were so enormous. He sighed for the 'flesh-pots of Egypt' [a Biblical reference to pots of meat] found within the English lines. Had he known all, there was no occasion for fear, for the tracks which alarmed him were merely those of a man on snow-shoes."
In these early times, before the advent of snow plows, "all the men and boys rallied to break out the highways," which were blocked by a winter snow. However, Morrison wrote that the proprietors of Londonderry Turnpike would more often than not neglect to clear the road of snow, relying on the road's heavy traffic to pack the snow enough to make the road passable.
While a team of men may have been able to clear many roadways after a moderate snowfall, there were several significant snow storms and cases of severe winter weather that plagued the town folk of Windham in its first one hundred years of existence. The one of the first "great" snow storm during Windham's existence occurred in October of 1801. In early October came the "Great Muster Storm." Training for the local militia took place in Derry, but when the companies of several towns, including Windham, were called to assemble, not a single company was completely represented on the training field due to a heavy rain. The inclement weather resulted in the dismissal of all the men who had braved the weather to gather for their training, but many were unable to return to their homes by nightfall due to poor road conditions. Major Gage of Pelham, as well as several officers and soldiers, were offered refuge in the home of James Cochran in Windham. By the next morning the rain had turned into sleet and then snow, with strong winds causing significant property damage throughout Windham and surrounding towns.
Another significant snow storm came along in 1816, which has since been referred to as the "Poverty Year" or the "Summer that Never Was." Throughout the nineteenth century Windham's industry was dominated by agriculture and a long period of cold weather meant hardship for many of Windham's farmers. Morrison reported that the corn crop of that year was dismal, but there was a fair amount of apples and potatoes. In June of 1816, snow several inches deep could be found in many parts of the state.
While the snowfall of the winter of 2017-2018 has not been extensive, when recalling blizzards of the recent past or contemplating future snow storms, it may be helpful to remember what Windham residents of the past faced every winter when it came time for snow to fall.
This collection of photographs documents a family's summertime stay at Fairview Cottage, circa 1904. While the identities of those photographed have been lost to history, the family is certainly representative of the numerous families that created lifelong memories at Cobbett's Pond. Summer cottages, which could be rented for a reasonable price, offered an escape from nearby cities. Cobbett's Pond offered children, such as those pictured, a chance to play and explore in the clear water of the pond and undisturbed woods around the shore. Hardworking parents and adults were given the chance to relax in the easy pace and fresh air of pond life. Although the summer cottages of the early twentieth century have long been replaced by year-round homes and much more modernized "cottages," Cobbett's Pond still offers the memory-making, relaxation, and fun sought by families more than a century ago.
This collection of photographs of the exterior of Fairview Cottage, circa 1904, show the rustic setting and appearance of a typical Cobbett's Pond cottage at the turn of the twentieth century. William Calvin Harris, who constructed the cottage, made ample usage of the New Hampshire white birch to build a railing around the cottage's front facing deck. To take advantage of the waterfront view, the deck of Fairview Cottage wrapped around the entire front of the cottage, and extended towards the side. The deck was filled with chairs of all sizes and varieties to create an enjoyable, relaxing experience for all members of the families who rented the cottage. Another essential element of a summer cottage is the boat dock. The wooden planking of the dock can be seen in the photograph above, as well as one of the photographs below. The craftsman who built the dock focused on functionality over appearance, leaving many of the boards uneven. At the edge of the dock was a flagpole from which an American flag was proudly hung; the flag can be seen in the bottom left photograph below. Lastly, the cottage featured its own water well, complete with a small wooden bucket to be used in drawing water from the well. As seen in the photograph at the bottom right below, the well was rather nicely constructed, using rocks found in the immediate area of the cottage.
Fairview Lookout was built in the boulders on the hill of the north end of Cobbett's Pond. As one of the high points on the pond, the lookout provided a clear view of the north end of the pond, and the relatively untouched shoreline in the early twentieth century; the photograph shows the view a visitor would have been treated to at the turn of the twentieth century. The picturesque spot also proved to be popular for outings and gatherings.
In 1895, William Calvin Harris constructed Fairview Cottage on the north shore of Cobbett's Pond, marking the beginning of a growing colony of camps on the pond. It was in the 1890s that cottages began to spring up all around the pond, and Cobbett's popularity began to grow among tourists and summer vacationers from the cities and towns of the Greater Boston area. William Calvin Harris' son, William Samuel Harris, wrote of Cobbett's Pond in 1898:
"There are and always will be multitudes of people to whom no spot is so dear in summer and so conducive to rest and recuperation of body and mind tired with the hustle of city life and the rush and worry of business cares, as the quiet nook on the shore of some of New Hampshire's numerous lakes and ponds, or the breezy hilltop overlooking these gems of landscape."
Around 1904, one family, whose name has been unfortunately lost to history, found themselves taken by exactly what Harris had described, and rented the Fairview Cottage. The family, with their several children, spent beautiful summer days relaxing on the front porch of the cottage, with a great view of the pond. On one such day, a chipmunk was friendly enough to find it's way into the laps, and hearts, of the vacationers, who eagerly fed the animal.
When Canobie Lake Park opened on the Salem shore of Canobie Lake in 1902, summer camps had begun to spring up on the Windham and Salem sides of Canobie Lake. At the turn of the century, summer vacationers still had the choice of either Granite State Grove on the Windham shore, or the newly built trolley park across the lake. To make their way around the 1.5 mile long lake, summer campers would often have to make the trek on foot, save for the few who may have had an automobile during that early period. While not a particularly daunting journey, a trip around the lake would have been a bit more than a short walk for many, and in the heat of the summer probably not an enjoyable one. That all changed in 1904 when an enterprising man from Lawrence, MA opened his own steamboat launch on Canobie Lake. Captain Robert J. Adams was a 73 year old Irish immigrant who lived with his wife on Stevens Court in Lawrence. Adams had emigrated from Ireland in 1868; his wife Mary left Ireland for America just two years later. Mr. Adams may have been striving to achieve his own version of the American dream as early census records list his occupation as "own income." This designation among pages of neighbors employed in the trades was certainly not very common.
In 1904, Adams' entrepreneurial spirit drove him to build and operate his own steam launch on Canobie Lake. Adams likely saw the opening of the new Canobie Lake Park and the scores of new summer camps being built on the shores of the lake as an opening for a business venture never attempted before on the lake. That year Adams brought the first steamboat to the lake, a small boat capable of carrying a dozen or so passengers. During the summer Adams would pilot his boat around the lake, picking up and dropping off passengers wherever they needed to stop. Not only did his service drastically cut down on the time required to get around the lake, but it also offered a scenic boat ride. It's likely this was the first steamboat seen by many of the summer vacationers and residents of Windham and Salem. Unfortunately, Adams' steamboat service may not have been a great success as he did not operate for long. However, thanks to a summer vacationer eager to document his vacation in photographs, we are fortunate to have the photograph shown above as a reminder of an entrepreneurial Irish immigrant and summers at Canobie Lake at the turn of the twentieth century.
Edward Francis Searles, castle builder and eccentric millionaire, maintained a well stocked library at his Great Barrington, MA home, "Kellogg Terrace." By 1897, his collection of books had grown so extensive that he published a catalog containing a listing for each book. Among the books recorded as being part of this collection is an 1871 edition of "Poems by Bret Harte," which is shown above. The book, like all others in his collection, contains his personal bookplate, as well as a corresponding number. While the numbers are not used in the published catalog of his library, it is possible that the numbers were used to indicate accession order.
Bret Harte was noted for his short fiction stories about life during the California Gold Rush. A book by Harte would have been an interesting choice for the library of Edward Searles, as the fortune of his wife, Mary, had been built by Mark Hopkins Jr., who began his career selling supplies to miners during the Gold Rush. "Poems by Bret Harte," the only book by Harte in Searles' Kellogg Terrace Library, included poems such as "San Francisco, From the Sea", as well as "What the Engines Said." The latter poem is a fictional account of the "Opening of the Pacific Railroad." Incidentally, this presents another connection between the book and Mark Hopkins Jr., as the fortune of Hopkins', and later his widow, was built primarily on the success of the Central Pacific Railroad. Although we may never know if Searles read the poem, or any others from Harte's book, the full version of "What the Engines Said", as Searles may have read it, can be found below:
What the Engines Said
Opening of the Pacific Railroad
What was it the Engines said,
Pilots touching,—head to head
Facing on the single track,
Half a world behind each back?
This is what the Engines said,
Unreported and unread.
With a prefatory screech,
In a florid Western speech,
Said the engine from the West,
“I am from Sierra’s crest;
And, if altitude’s a test,
Why, I reckon, it’s confessed,
That I’ve done my level best.”
Said the Engine from the East,
“They who work best talk the least.
S’pose you whistle down your brakes;
What you’ve done is no great shakes,--
Pretty fair,—but let our meeting
Be a different kind of greeting.
Let these folks with champagne stuffing,
Not their Engines, do the puffing.
“Listen! Where Atlantic beats
Shores of snow and summer heats;
Where the Indian autumn skies
Paint the woods with wampum dies,--
I have chased the flying sun,
Seeing all he looked upon,
Blessing all that he has blest,
Nursing in my iron breast
All his vivifying heat,
All his clouds about my crest;
And before my flying feet
Every shadow must retreat.”
Said the Western Engine, “Phew!”
And a long, low whistle blew.
“Come, now, really that’s the oddest
Talk for one so very modest.
You brag of your East. You do?
Why, I bring the East to you!
All the Orient, all Cathay,
Find through me the shortest way;
And the sun you follow here
Rises in my hemisphere.
Really,—if one must be rude,--
Length, my friend, ain’t longitude.”
Said the Union: “Don’t reflect, or
I’ll run over some Director.”
Said the Central: “I’m Pacific;
But, when riled, I’m quite terrific.
Yet to-day we shall not quarrel,
Just to show these folks this moral,
How two Engines—in their vision--
Once have met without collision.”
That is what the Engines said,
Unreported and unread;
Spoken slightly through the nose,
With a whistle at the close.
Philena Dinsmore Harris of Auburn, NH entered the annals of Windham's history when she married William Calvin Harris in 1853. However, Philena had ancestral connections to Windham through her great-grandfather David Dinsmoor, nephew of John Dinsmoor, the ancestor of all of the Dinsmoors in Windham. Philena and William began their family in 1857 with the birth of their first child, Albert-Miles. In 1861, the couple welcomed their second son, William Samuel Harris, into the world; William would go on to document the genealogy of the Harris family as well as preserve Windham's history in his numerous newspaper articles and publications. The couple's third, and last, child, Mary-Ella, was born in 1866. Just three years after the birth of Mary-Ella, Philena penned a letter to her friend Nellie, unknowingly documenting every day life in Windham during the 1860s for future generations.
Philena begins the letter by thanking Nellie for sending her "checked shirts" for Albert, and noted that he was already wearing the shirts. She then describes what a typical day would be for a housewife and mother in Windham in the era. She had "plenty to do, sewing, knitting, mending mittens, stockings & pants." Her letter was written in January, hence the need to mend mittens for her children. In one week, Philena had also "washed, ironed, cut & made my calico dress, made 21 pies, 15 loaves of bread (including biscuit, cake & c), mended mittens, stockings, put some ears on the boys caps, put sleeves on Ella's waist and finished a stocking for E, besides all the other daily routine of work." Although she wishes she "could accomplish as much every week," she writes that she does not plan on doing so.
Interestingly, Philena mentions a "big Festival" that was held at the Town Hall, which raised "$242.00 clear." The object of the festival was to "pay the Parsonage debt." The festival included a "prize tree, fish pool, post office, candy table, & tables of articles to sell." Not only did the affair draw residents of Windham, "the upper hall was well filled, people from Salem, Derry." There were also "5 long tables in the lower hall filled twice & the waiters eat at the 3rd table." After the dinner had concluded there were "so many pies & things left that with the addition of some oysters we had another supper the next night. The second supper drew a crowd of over one hundred people and raised a whopping $28.
Philena also wrote that "there is but little snow here, but has been first rate sleighing for some time." Her husband William had "been very busy getting logs to mill," and her two sons were attending school. In fact, Albert was also attending a singing school twice a week. She also writes of her relatives, relating that "Mr. Coult & Sally came down here last Monday" and that "Grandma has been nicely this winter so I have had an opportunity to go out evenings much as I please - so far." In addition to visits from family, Philena expected a friend of hers to move to Windham soon and was quite pleased with the idea: "Mr. & Mrs. Bond (Ann Plummer) are going to move to our village next spring, he has bought Milan Anderson's house, won't that be nice?"
Philena then concludes her letter by writing of the various Christmas presents received by herself and her family. Her husband received a pair of suspenders, she received a comb, "G" (possibly "Grandma") received a tippet (a shawl worn by women), William received a picture book, and Mary-Ella received a "little earthen dog." Curiously, she does not mention what, if anything, Albert received for Christmas. However, she does tell her friend Nellie that "[o]ur Christmas presents were rather small in comparison with yours."
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.