The Merrimack Historical Society  is located in the town of Merrimack, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire
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History of Merrimack NH

A Brief History of Merrimack, New Hampshire

Some of Merrimack's Notable Residents

Records Relating to Merrimack NH

History of the Merrimack Historical Society

History of Schoolhouse #12

A Brief History of Merrimack, New Hampshire
Merrimack was originally the home of the Penacook Indians. These Native Americans were part of a confederacy of Algonquin tribes that occupied the basin of the Merrimack River and adjacent regions in New Hampshire. They called this area "Natukhog" or Naticook. The word "Merrimack" comes from an Abenaki term meaning either "the place of strong current" or "a sturgeon."

European colonists settled here as early at 1655. In that year the Massachusetts General Court laid out land in current-day Merrimack to the town of Billerica, and John Cromwell is mentioned as having a trading house here. He built a house on the bank of the Merrimack River about a mile below Thornton's Ferry. The next permanent settler is believed to be Jonas Barrett in 1722.

In 1658 the town became part of 'Brenton's Farm," and even later, became a part of the town of Dunstable. In 1734 the General Court of Massachusetts separated and granted the Town under the name of Naticook (which included the current-day town of Litchfield and the southern part of Merrimack). In 1741 the boundary line dispute between Massachsetts and New Hampshire was settled, changing several township boundary lines. On April 2, 1746 a petition was granted which incorporated "Merrymac"--the current Town of Merrimack.

The original meeting-house was built in 1751 at the corner of Turkey Hill and Meetinghouse Roads. This was considered the first Town center. The west wing of Merrimack's current town hall was built in 1872.

During the American Revolution, Merrimack furnished eleven of the men who participated in the battle of Breeds Hill (often called Bunker Hill), and at least ninety-four men participated between 1775-1783. Reuben Cummings, a sixteen-year-old drummer was the only Merrimack soldier known to have died during that war, on September 13, 1776. Captain Caesar Barnes of Merrimack, a slave of Thomas Barnes, was an African American veteran of the American Revolution.

There were 17 known veterans of the War of 1812 (see list at "Records"). During the Civil War, or "War of the Rebellion" [1860-1865], one hundred and twenty men [115 in a second source] were called: 83 volunteered, 25 citizens sent substitutes, 9 substitutes were hired by the town, and 7 citizens re-enlisted.

Merrimack's Centennial Anniversary was held on April 3, 1846, and included historical addresses, dinner at a local hotel, speeches, and the planting of centennial trees. Merrimack's Bicentennial Anniversary was held June 30, 1946, and included historical presentation, plays, speeches and a parade. In 2006 Merrimack celebrated its 260th anniversary.

Many volunteered to serve during wartime.
. During World War I. The two who made the supreme sacrifice were James Herbert Ferguson and Gilbert Duncan Fraser.

. Merrimack New Hampshire sent many of its young men and women to serve in various branches of the military during World War II. Warriner Playground at Veterans Memorial Park honors Weston L. Warriner, killed during World War II, on December 28, 1944 at Leyte in the Philippines.
. In more recent history, Marine Cpl. Timothy M. Gibson died on 26 January 2005 when the CH-53E helicopter he was in crashed near Ar Rutbah, Iraq. An athletic field was named in his honor.

Links to more History:
- Description of Town of Merrimack, brief history and photographs - Official Town of Merrimack web site

ALSO SEE the Virtual Library on this web site

Some of Merrimack's Notable Residents
(click on the links for more details OR visit the "People" page)

. Sagamore of the Native People called Penacook, who urged his tribe to maintain peace with the European settlers. In 1662 he was granted a piece of land, 1-1/2 miles wide and 3 miles long on both sides of the Merrimack River, including two islands (Nunnehaha and Minnewawa) in the Merrimack River nearly opposite Reeds Ferry. He died about 1673.

The Burnap Sisters (Abigail, Elizabeth, Hannah, Ruth, Susan and Lucy) were daughters of Jacob Burnap, Merrimack's first settled minister. They invented the making of "Leghorn hats," or bonnets, made from "Dunstable straw," and there is a record of one being sold for $50 in 1821.[Attached notice with headline: Domestic imitation Leghorn Bonnet, in the Boston Commercial Gazette of Boston MA, dated 2 August 1821Volume 58; Issue 10; Page 1. Reportedly General John Stark bought one of the Burnap bonnets for his wife Molly. [The Connecticut version of this hat, referred to in the attached article, was copyrighted in 1821 by Sophia Woodhouse of Wethersfield CT].

Dr. Matthew Thornton was both a physician and patriot and born in Northern Ireland. He was one of the three signers of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire. During the American Revolution he held the rank of colonel. He pruchased land in South Merrimack, moving there about 1780 and ran the ferry. He is buried near the monument placed in his honor. That section of town (Thornton's Ferry) is named after him. The inscription on his tombstone reads, An honest man. The Thornton's home still stands and was a restaurant, once called Hannah Jack's Tavern (after Matthew's wife) and now called The Common Man.z

Emma Cross, Merrimack's second librarian, was a direct descendent of Nathan Cross of Old Dunstable, who was captured by the Indians while making turpentine in the woods. She provided a home for the public library in the front room of her home on Loop Road for many years. She was also a talented artist and teacher.

Walter Kittredge was born on Bedford Road in Reeds Ferry in 1835. This self-taught musician traveled with the then-famous Hutchins family of singers. He wrote over five hundred songs and ballads including his most famous "Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground." This song was popular with both sides during the Civil War.

Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, USN, was born on Depot Street in 1896 and was the son of the headmaster of the McGaw Institute. He was 12th Chief of Naval Operations from 1949-1951. The U.S.S. Sherman was named in his honor.

Abbie M. Griffin was born in 1879 in Merrimack. Her father owned a grocery store in Thornton's Ferry. She died in 1968 and in her will established several funds that continue today to benefit the Town of Merrimack.

Brigadier General Edward J. Haseltine was born in Merrimack, NH in 1909. He graduated from Merrimack grammar and high schools, followed by attaining a B.S. Degree in Economics from the University of New Hampshire. He has a long and illustrious career in the U.S. Armed Services, a 23-year career of public service to New Hampshire and the Town of Merrimack, and ran a local business.

Mattie Kilborn Webster, a graduate of McGaw Institute, then a teaching college, she was a long-time school teacher in Merrimack, New Hampshire. She was involved in most, if not all of the women-oriented clubs and societies in the town, and was the first president and one of the founders of the Reeds Ferry Woman's Club. She compiled the history of the town for the bicentennial celebration in 1946.

Levi Franklin Lowell was the owner of Fessenden & Lowell, a wholesale lumbering and coopering business in Brookline MA and Merrimack NH. He and his family moved to Merrimack in 1870. His daughters: Mabel (Mrs. John E. Haseltine) and Bertha (Mrs. Albert Gordon) donated funds in 1925 to build Merrimack's public library, as a memorial to their parents.

James Mastricola, an Italian immigrant, owned and operated a farm in Merrimack on the Daniel Webster Highway for many years. He had no formal education, but valued it greatly, learning English from his housekeeper. At his death in 1958 he left a substantial sum to the Town of Merrimack to build a new school.

Among the most notable Merrimack residents would be the brave souls who first settled in the early wildnernes, now known as Merrimack.

Marilyn (Warren) Woods was a long-time Merrimack resident, paraplegic, and advocate for the disabled. She worked as a NH State employment counselor for the disabled, won numerous international sports awards, and served the nation on President Eisenhower's U.S. Advisory Council for the Handicapped. Former Governor John Sununu awarded her handicapped license plate #1 for her service. She even beat the noted television personality, Charles Kuralt, in handicapped pingpong.

Records Relating to Merrimack NH

History of the Merrimack Historical Society

The Merrimack Historical Society was organized at the Merrimack Public Library in June, 1970. The purpose of the Society was to collect and preserve history and artifacts of Merrimack. The interim slate of officers listed Beulah Haseltine as president, George Michael as vice president, Alice Dutton as secretary, Franklin Haseltine as treasurer and Cynthia Jones doing publicity. At that time they had a Board of Directors, consisting of William McShea, Electa Pearson, Charles Nute, Ethel Smith and Charles Morrill. They held their first official meeting in September, 1970. At that time, the interim slate of officers became official. They met at the Library or in private homes.

In 1971, they began work on Volume I of The History of Merrymac, under the leadership of Joyce Bishop. They published this book in 1976, and included the early history of our town through 1800. Volume II is currently being written.

In April, 1988, the Society acquired the 1847 Schoolhouse #12 on the Boston Post Road in South Merrimack. Since the school itself closed in 1947, the building was in use by the South Merrimack Community Club. A major project was involved before opening to the public in 1990, under the direction of Phil Crosier and a large working crew. This involved refinishing floors, replacing walls and ceilings, installing a furnace and air conditioning, and water and sewerage system, as well as painting the exterior.

History of Schoolhouse #12 from 1847-1947
(This building is located at 520 Boston Post Road in Merrimack NH and now houses the Merrimack Historical Society)

Click on the thumbnail photograph above to see a full sized version.

In 1846 the town of Merrimack authorized the purchase of a plot of land in the southeast section of town belonging to John and Isaac Parker. The land was to be used for as building site for a schoolhouse for District #12. The town paid the Parker's $6.25 for the property. The site was described in part in the deed as:

"On the north side of the road between R. D. Bennett's store & Benjamin Kidders house. Said piece of land is about 16 rods southeast of said Kidders house .........contains four and a half rods square or one eighth of an acre by measure - said land is to be for the location for a school house in said district."

David Lund was commissioned to construct the schoolhouse. A one-room schoolhouse in the Vernacular Greek Revival style was built. The clapboard structure rests on a granite foundation and has a low pitched gable front facing the road. Granite steps lead to the front door.

Mr. Lund was paid $272.88 for the construction, to be raised from a tax in District 12. District 12 was comprised of:

"Beginning at the southeast corner of William Patterson's homestead farm thence northerly by the easterly line of the farms of William Patterson, Benjamin Farley, David Lund and Jacob Clark to the northeast corner of the homestead farm of Jacob Thinge, northerly by said Jacob Clark's north line to Amherst line, thence southerly and easterly by the town line to the first bound and comprising all the territory within said limit."

The schoolhouse was finished in time for the winter session of 1847. The first teacher was the Reverend S. Dodge. He taught thirty pupils for a total of 8 weeks and received $15.00 for his services. In the annual report of the Superintendent of Schools, #12 schoolhouse was described as follows:

"In the new district No. 12, they have erected a very neat and substantial school house the past year. The house is large and the interior construction is tasteful and convenient. The facilities for warming and ventilating are such as we should be glad to see in every school house. They had their first school the past winter, which numbered 30 scholars."

The following year, 1848, a summer session of 8 1/2 weeks with 17 students and a winter session of 8 1/2 weeks with 25 students were held. Miss Catherine Carter and Miss Lucy D. Toleman were the teacher for the two sessions.

In the 1840s, female teachers were paid $5.00 per session and male teachers were paid $10.00. By 1853 this payment had doubled. Teachers often received room and board at one or more of the homes in the district.

School was not held in the spring or fall because the children were needed to help with the planting and harvesting on the farms. Merrimack was still a farming community at this time.

Most of the pupils were girls and few were over the age of fourteen years. The school day started with one of the older boys starting a fire in the wood stove and filling the water jug.

The wood stove was situated at the front of the building and the stove pipe ran across the length of the building to the chimney in the back. This was done to provide heat from the pipe as well as from the stove. There was no indoor plumbing until the year 2000. Electricity was not installed until 1931.

During the next few years the following comments were made about the school:

"The committee noticed three things in connection with this school, which they regard as constituting the necessary elements of a good school. First, a good teacher; second, a well constructed school-house; and last, but not least, good scholars."

"This district has the best house in town, and the only one warmed and ventilated upon correct philosophical principles. The only fault in the construction is this - that the writing benches are too far from the seats."

Reading writing and arithmetic were taught to grades one through eight by one teacher with the older children often helping the younger ones. In the 1860s geography was added to the curriculum and a set of Fowle's maps were purchased.

There was no library and no reference books. The students bought their own books, and the teachers sometimes purchased extra teaching materials. Common books used for teaching were: Towne's and Holebrook's Progressive Readers, Greenleaf's National Arithmetic, Well's Grammar, Town's Speller and Definer and of course the Bible. District #12 schoolhouse did have a blackboard.

History was later added to the list of subjects with Goodrich's History being added to the list of books. Music was not added until 1947.

There were few extra books, little blackboard space and no repairs done to the schoolhouse in the 1850s and 18670s. The average class consisted of twenty pupils. Teacher salaries were between $8.00 and $20.00, depending on the length of the term. Parents of the students provided wood for the stove and the older boys did the janitorial work.

With declining enrollment and the schoolhouse in some disrepair, the #12 schoolhouse was closed in 1906 and students attended Schoolhouse #5 until 1910.

Few records for individual schools for the 1900s were found. In 1923, the #12 school was commended by Superintendent Louis Dewitt as follows:

"Although it is contrary to my custom to especially commend any teacher or school, I wish to call you attention to the work being done in your #12 school. It is a pleasure to anyone, whether visitor or inspector, to look into the faces of the children of this school and observe the happy, contented, joyous spirit of the boys and girls. The room is always orderly, clean and attractive and the children busy. The results are such as would be expected under these circumstances. The continuous service of a conscientious, trained teacher is invaluable to the community." -- Louis DeWitt, Supt. Of Schools, Union #27

By 1944, there were problems at the No. 12 school. The school building was unsatisfactory and the Superintendent of Schools recommended a committee of concerned citizens be appointed to study the possibility of building a new two-room school. Nothing was done. In 1945 the situation became worse. The No. 5 school had been closed and the pupils transferred to No. 12. This caused overcrowding at the school and the recommendation was made to build a new school once again. A decision was made in 1947 to replace the school. A special appropriation for $11000 to erect a new school house at South Merrimack was made.

The citizens of South Merrimack felt that the community landmark should be preserved. A article appeared on the town warrant and a vote was taken to give the building to the Village of South Merrimack for a community house.

The Community Association of South Merrimack was formed in 1948, and the building was sold to them. Reverend Charles Haynes donated the $1.00 fee for its purchase.

Whist parties, auctions, lawn parties and suppers, as well as meetings were held in the building by the Village Club. The Sportsmen's Club also met at the No. 12 Schoolhouse.

Sometime in the late 1940s, the Community Club added two additions to the schoolhouse. A fully equipped kitchen was constructed and a garage/woodshed moved from the Hall's property and attached to the back of the building. Extensive repairs and renovations were done by the club in 1958. Four windows were removed, eight others were replaced. A new chimney was built, the old restroom became a closet, and a new restroom was built in the shed. New plasterboard and a new ceiling were installed.

The last meeting of the South Village Club was held in 1951. The following years found the building being used by various civic groups and private organizations.

In 1987, the building had been vacant for some time. The Community Club disbanded and the ownership reverted back to the Merrimack School District. The Merrimack Historical Society bought the building in 1988.

In 1989, the Historical Society formed a building committee to research all aspects of the property and estimate its potential. A master plan was compiled, and after much debate, it was decided to renovate the building and use it for meetings, research work, and to display the town's artifacts.

In 1992, most of the renovations were completed and the building opened to the public, with volunteers to staff it.

At the present time, the No. 12 schoolhouse, home of the Merrimack Historical Society, has an extensive collection of historical and genealogical data on the town of Merrimack and houses many of the town's artifacts.

This web site was created as a gift to the Merrimack Historical Society by Janice Webster Brown, to honor the memory of her father, Berwin H. Webster.



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