At thirty acres in area, Rock Pond never rivaled the approximately three hundred acre Cobbett's Pond as a summer destination for families in the greater Boston area. However, Rock Pond was at one time home to several dozen summer camps, and was considered a peaceful, quiet alternative to Cobbett's Pond. Originally named, Goldings Pond, the name was likely changed to Rock Pond near the turn of the twentieth century. While the reason for the name change is likely lost to history, it has been theorized that the nearby Deer's Leap may have given the pond its current name. The earliest camps on the pond were constructed in the early twentieth century and were much cruder than some of their Cobbett's Pond counterparts. According to Rural Oasis, some of the names of the early camps included: "The Only House on the Beach," "Recreation," and "Peace-haven." By the mid-1970s, there were almost five dozen seasonal summer camps on the shore of Rock Pond. Due to its relatively small size, much of the fishing and travel done on the pond was via canoe and rowboat as opposed to the motorboats that were commonplace on Cobbett's Pond by the mid-twentieth century. However, like Cobbett's Pond, summer tourism at Windham's ponds eventually diminished, leaving only memories and photos as reminders of the heyday of Rock Pond.
On March 26, 1935, a large cabin airplane began to descend over Windham, eventually landing on George Butterfield's farm. At 9:45 that Tuesday night, Paul Myers, the 17-year-old neighbor of George Butterfield, heard the sound of a plane "buzzing" not far overhead. Concerned that the plane may strike Myers' home, the quick-thinking teenager turned on all of the lights in order to alert the pilot to the possible obstruction. With the house lit up, Myers jumped in his car and drove over to the field on the Butterfield farm where the mysterious plane had landed. Upon arriving, he observed that the plane was adorned with the words "Stenson Taxi Service" of New York; it is very likely The Portsmouth Herald misspelled the name of the air taxi service, the company actually being "Stinson."
Once at the scene of the landing, Myers approached the four occupants of the plane who had begun to make their way to two awaiting automobiles. The only detail Myers could later recall of his interaction with the four occupants, were that two were elderly. Although his attempts to ascertain where they had come from were fruitless, the group did ask to use Myers' phone. Myers agreed to their request, and proceeded back to his car so he could lead the way to his home. He had expected the group to follow him back in their two cars, but instead he noticed that they began to load their baggage into their cars before driving away and abandoning the aircraft. Myers noticed that the four cases unloaded from the plane appeared to be heavy.
When Myers arrived back at his home, he alerted the police to the suspicious airplane landing, and the Windham and Derry police sent officers to investigate. Windham Chief of Police, William Brown, and Motor Vehicle Inspector Henry Parent were selected to lead the investigation. Inside the cabin of the plane, the officers recovered two pistols. The flares that had been dropped by the plane started several small fires after landing in the field, and the Derry fire department was called to extinguish the flames. A potentially dangerous fire had been started near the Butterfield home, with other fires burning on the nearby properties of Carl Albrecht and Herbert Russell.
The Butterfield family and Paul Myers assisted the police in the recreation of the night's activity, from which the police were led to believe the landing was prearranged. Following onsite investigative work and the reconstruction, the police were led to the conclusion that the plane likely flew up from the south, and circled the area of Butterfield's farm several times before dropping flares. The Manchester Airport, being the nearest airport, was contacted, but officials reported that no planes were expected that night and no planes had taken off from the airport that night. As a flight at that time of night would've been unusual for the 1930s, investigators were unable to determine exactly where the plane may have came from.
Further investigative work revealed that the plane had been registered to a Harry Clayford of Willoughby, Ohio. Despite the recollections of Myers, the reconstruction by the Butterfields, and the investigative efforts by the Windham and Derry police departments, many questions remain about the incident, even eighty-two years later. The occupants of the airplane were never identified, nor were drivers of the two automobiles that were waiting in the field. Where the plane originated from, why the occupants chose to land in Windham, and the final destination of the group of four remains unknown to this day.
By the mid-1930s, Cobbett's Pond had become summer destination for those living in nearby cities, especially the Greater Boston area. It was also during that period that motorboats became more commonplace on the pond, a result of increased affordability. James Hallett, a native of Malden, MA, was just one of many summer camp owners at Cobbett's to be the proud captain of his own motorboat during the summer of 1936. Possibly after a summer of constant operation, Hallett spent an October Tuesday repairing his motorboat at his camp. While making the necessary repairs, Hallett fell into the water, and began to drown. Fortunately, his wife witnessed the accident and began to cry for help. Hearing the cries of Hallett's wife, men from nearby cottages ran to rescue Hallett, and were able to pull him from the water. As Hallett was in need of medical treatment, the Methuen Fire Department was called to send an ambulance to transport Hallett to Lawrence General Hospital. At Lawrence General, Hallett was treated for immersion, and likely released shortly after. The accident and heroic effort on the part of Hallett's neighbors were covered by The Portsmouth Herald just a day later.
Construction on the Manchester & Lawrence Railroad, Windham's first railroad, began in 1848 and lasted until 1849 when the project was finally completed. Much of the building was done by Irish laborers, who were notorious in the area for their countless shanties. Leonard Morrison wrote that "the workmen and their teams swarmed as thick as bees near the place of construction." The workmen lived in temporary structures built in pastures and fields along the railway track, evidence of which still remained nearly forty years later. With an abundance of granite, primitive blasting techniques were employed to clear the way for the railroad track.
On Tuesday, April 17, 1849, two Irish laborers were fired from the railway construction crew for a now unknown reason. Feeling that they had been wronged by their former employer, the two men concocted a scheme to seek revenge. They planned to blow up a large quantity of blasting powder that was stored in a building near the construction site. In total, there were forty-six wooden kegs of powder being stored in the building on that day. Despite the obvious danger, the men decided all they needed to do to safely execute their plan was to light the powder with a match. According to the Lowell Courier, the men must have supposed they could light the powder in such a manner "with perfect impunity and safety to themselves." Unfortunately, this was not the case. The Lowell Courier reported that "the explosion was terrific, having been felt like the sound of an earthquake, in the neighboring towns. One of the Irishmen, probably the one who applied the match, was blown sky high to atoms." The other disgruntled railway worker fared much better as he was "farther from the scene of operations, escaped without much injury, except a good singing and blacking. When found, he was screaming, murther, in terrible fright." As one might have assumed, the building where the blasting powder was stored was blown to pieces.
The advertising shown, above and below, dates from the mid-1950s. The Ames House conveniently added a small map to their ad, in order to show their close proximity to nearby attractions such as the Windham Playhouse and Cobbett's Pond. Joe's Pizza attempted to capitalize on the crowds drawn by the Windham Playhouse, by serving up meat pies and pizza to eager customers both before and after shows. If neither Joe's Pizza nor The Ames House appealed to Cobbett's Pond vacationers or summer theater-goers, there was also Gurry's, situated right along the Windham town line.
On February 28, 1907, the men of the Pelham Fishing Club made their way to Cobbett’s Pond with hopes of a bountiful catch. Without a record of the weather in Windham in February of 1907, it is difficult to say whether the pond was frozen over on that day. The most primitive ice fishing techniques had been developed by the American Indians centuries earlier, and it is possible the Pawtuckets, who lived along the shores of Cobbett's Pond had ice fished. Regardless of the weather conditions, the Pelham Fishing Club had a good turnout of members that day. In attendance that day were club members:
When W. S. Beekman, his wife, and a son of Professor Edmund Angell made the trip from Derry to Butterfield’s Boulder in Windham, they did so in search of a geological oddity that had fascinated so many other tourists and locals. In the late nineteenth century it would not have been uncommon for a . When the Beekmans and their young companion finished inspecting the glacial erratic, the photographer that accompanied them to take their photograph, possibly Professor Edmund Angell himself, positioned his camera on the ground in an attempt to show the underside of the boulder. According to the photographer’s notes, he wanted to show the ledge wall that appeared to him as though it was slanting upwards. However, he noted that “it is quite difficult to see when looking directly at rock.” As well as recording his brief physical observations, the photographer wrote a few lines as to the scientific nature of the boulder. He noted Butterfield’s Boulder is “granite with garnets” and measures approximately twenty feet by eighteen feet by fifteen feet.
Incidentally, according to Nutfield Rambles, Professor Edmund Angell of Derry was an inventor, chemist, photographer, and served as headmaster at Pinkerton Academy. Angell and his wife had two sons, Everett and Ralph; Everett was the eldest son. In March of 1890, young Everett became very ill, and a local doctor diagnosed the boy’s ailment as tonsillitis. Soon after the diagnosis, Everett passed away at the age of nine, and the family doctor noticed black spots on the boy’s arms, which indicated scarlet fever, and not tonsillitis. Ralph Everett was just five years old at the time of his brother’s passing. It is unknown if the Beekmans’ young companion for their trip to Butterfield’s Boulder was Everett or Ralph. As Professor Angell was a noted photographer in the area, it is possible he went along for the trip to Windham to photograph his son with Beekmans. Given his scientific background it is likely he would have had the interest to record a brief scientific description of the boulder, as well as notes on how the boulder was best photographer.
Just six short years after Canobie Lake Park was reopened by Pat Holland, following its closing in 1929 when the trolley company that owned the park went bankrupt, the park was hit by its second major catastrophe. On September 21, 1938, one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes struck southern New Hampshire, including Windham and Salem. As the storm raged through region, the strong winds that felled many trees also took with it the power and telephone lines, leaving Windham’s residents in the dark. Incidentally, at the time of the hurricane there were still several areas of Windham where homes did not have access to electricity.
According to Rural Oasis, the homes along Haverhill Road did not have electricity until shortly before the hurricane struck. Several residents on Lowell Road refused to spend $1,500 on poles, and did not reach an agreement with the electric company to bring electricity to their homes until 1939; the residents eventually were allowed to pay just a $5 deposit, with interest paid on the deposit by the electric company being used to install the poles. In 1945, seven years after New England’s most historic hurricane brought down the existing power lines of Windham, all of Windham had access to electricity. For the benefit of posterity, Rural Oasis also recorded details about the power transmission to Windham, as it would have been at the time of the hurricane.
In 1929, a project began to bring a 220,000 volt power transmission line to West Windham. The New England Power Company cleared a strip of land 350 feet wide from Monroe, New Hampshire to Tewksbury, Massachusetts, a distance of approximately 125 miles. At one time during the construction of the southern portion of the transmission line, a group of almost 100 men from the power company briefly stayed in West Windham. All of the steel for the local section of the line was sent to Anderson Station in West Windham, and delivered by truck to wherever it was needed. Once unloaded near the site, a team of horses was used to haul the steel to the site where the tower was to be constructed.
Although, New Hampshire was spared the torrential rainfall that had hit states further south, such as Maryland and Delaware, it was not spared from countless felled trees, extensive structural damage, and the sheer destructiveness of the storm. Salem, NH: Volume 1 relates an interesting account of the storm’s impact on Rockingham Park. During a race at the track, when the hurricane was not at its full strength, jockey Warren Yarberry was blown off of his horse. The track itself also suffered damage, including many stables left without roofs.
When the storm subsided soon after, extensive property damage in both towns was reported, especially along the Windham and Salem shores of Canobie Lake. Numerous buildings and structures at Canobie Lake Park were destroyed, closing the park for months while repairs were made. With a substantial amount of trees felled, there was debate over what to do with all the trees in order to facilitate a quick clean-up. Eventually the decision was made that numerous logs from Derry, Pelham, Salem, and Windham would be dumped into a section of Canobie Lake. The downed trees in New Hampshire totaled approximately 1.5 billion board feet.
However, not all of the lumber from Windham was carted off to the shore of Canobie Lake and summarily dumped into the lake. Reverend Leslie C. Bockes, who ran the West Windham Builders’ Camp as a summer camp for inner city children, saw that much of the fallen trees in West Windham did not go to waste. With hundreds of acres of downed trees on his several hundred acre property, Bockes enlisted the help of teenage boys to clear debris and cut the lumber into more manageable sizes. There was such a great amount of fallen timber that Bockes constructed a sawmill on the property to turn what otherwise would have been wasted material, into usable, saleable lumber.
John Evans and his wife, Emma, were natives of Lawrence, Massachusetts, when they made the trip to Windham in 1923 to purchase the Bella Vista Farm. Located along the shore of Cobbett's Pond, John Evans planned to clean up the marshy waterfront of the farm, and transform the property into a swimming beach and summer day trip destination. Before opening Bella Vista Beach, Evans had began his working career as a dealer in wood and coal, and eventually became a contractor and a building mover. He was known for being a hard worker, a trait which was undoubtedly useful in clearing the marsh at the former Bella Vista Farm. After two years of hard work, the Evans opened Bella Vista Beach to locals and vacationers alike. The property featured a dance hall, which was constructed above the water; Evans contracting skills would have certainly proved useful when constructing the building. It would not have been unusual for a crowd of several hundred to gather at the dance hall and dance to the music of a fine orchestra. Unfortunately, the dance hall burned in 1931.
The Evans took up residence in what was formerly known as the Chadwick House (the house was recently demolished), situated behind Bella Vista Beach, along Range Road. The couple had four children: Ethel, Preston, Clifton, and Bernice. As with any family business, John and Emma had children ready to help wherever needed at Bella Vista Beach. Preston Evans often helped with the boat rides, which were an attraction at all of the beaches along Cobbett's Pond. One day, a young Preston Evans was giving boat rides at Bella Vista, and happened to bring a young lady for a cruise around the pond. When Evans docked the boat at Bella Vista at the end of the ride, the two had formed a relationship that eventually led to marriage. However, they were very young and the romance did not last.
Following his divorce, Preston's son, John, moved in with his grandparents in their house along Range Road. John and Emma enrolled their grandson in the Boston Latin School. Sadly, his grandmother, Emma Evans, passed away on March 11, 1937 in Methuen, Massachusetts. Upon graduating from Boston Latin, with World War Two raging, John Evans II joined the Army and served in the European Theater. While serving as a signal officer, he was wounded at Monte Casino in Italy. His bravery and service was not forgotten by his hometown, as his name was forever memorialized upon a plaque along with the names of other Windham veterans.
Just after the end of World War Two, John Evans II, who had achieved the rank of Captain, married a Parisian French woman, who had been trapped in France during the Nazi occupation of the country. She had three children from a previous marriage, her first husband was killed at the beginning of World War II, all of whom were sent to the countryside to live with relatives; she had stayed behind to take care of her elderly parents. During the war, she played a role in the French Resistance, while being forced to work in a German weapons factory.
When Captain John J. Evans II returned home, he purchased land in New Hampshire and settled down. While he was away fighting in World War Two, two major events occurred in the Evans family. First, John Evans Sr., owner and operator of Bella Vista Beach, passed away November 26, 1942; both John and Emma are buried in the family plot in Windham. Just five years later, the Evans heirs, namely Ethel Evans Bahan, sold Bella Vista Beach to the Thwaites; John Evans II was disappointed that his family's business had been sold.
Although the family business had been sold, all of John and Emma's children were very successful in their lives and work. All but Preston moved to the Panama Canal Zone, where they either worked on the canal, or were married to canal workers. Ethel, who had inherited Bella Vista Beach and the family home, married Cecil Bahan, who was a master dredger on the Panama Canal. Ethel and Cecil were eventually joined in Panama by their niece, who met a canal engineer, and eventually married him. Ethel's brother, Clifton, was a also a dredger on the canal.
Even though the family dispersed and led successful lives away from Windham after the passing of John and Emma Evans, the Evans family remained impacted by Windham. The lives of the Evans family will forever be intertwined in the history of Windham, as will the history of Windham be forever intertwined with the Evans family, all because of John Evan's entrepreneurial spirit and foresight to open Bella Vista Beach.
This 1950s bank envelope from the Salem Co-Operative Bank features advertising from several businesses in Windham. Included are ads for businesses of well-known men in town, including Armstrong, Brown, and Butterfield. The only business with a Windham exchange telephone number was Brown & Sons, with a telephone number of 582-W3. All the other Windham businesses featured on the envelope use Salem exchange telephone numbers, even the Butterfield Insurance Agency located on Golden Brook Road. The first telephone in Windham was installed at the turn of the 20th century by George Clark, who ran a telephone line from Hudson to his store on Mammoth Road. Not long after Clark installed his telephone, William H. Anderson had a telephone installed at his gristmill in West Windham. Shortly thereafter, telephone lines began to spread throughout Windham; different regions of Windham were serviced by the exchanges of four different towns: Nashua, Derry, Salem, and Pelham. The use of the various exchanges began to fade out by the 1960s and 1970s.
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.