Warner, N.H.

Here is a picture of Warner, N.H, where WCD grew up. It was settled in the seventeenth century by settlers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and was formally granted its colonial town charter in 1735. In the nineteenth century it flourished by supplying farm and dairy goods to the Boston metropolitan area. WCD can still remember taking the train from Warner to Boston when he was small. You got on the train by going to the station at the bottom of the hill by the river and went all the way to North Station, where your grandmother was waiting to meet you Now the train is gone and the tracks have been taken up. It is sad.

The population when WCD was growing up was 837. The town had three covered bridges, two of which were still in active use. The countryside was beautiful, and elms still grew on Main Street. It was a lost and better world.

The mountain in the background is Mt. Kearsarge. WCD's younger brother Tom, who was a national-level marathoner, used to start right down there at the bottom of Kearsarge Mountain Road -- the street that runs diagonally up the hill from Main Street -- and run all the way up to Mt. Kearsarge without stopping. (In the lower right-hand corner of the picture you can see the church where
Tom Dowling's memorial service was held . He is much missed by everyone who knew him.) WCD's surviving brother John, who in 1997 was N.H. Masters Runner of the Year, still does this occasionally. On the other side of Mt. Kearsarge is New London, New Hampshire, which is also a beautiful little New England town.

Pillsbury Library

f you look very closely at the picture, you can see the Pillsbury Library, which is where WCD got his education. Also the Dowling house, which is right at the bottom of Tory Hill. Also the town hall, where WCD made his first appearance in a school dramatic production. Also the vegetable heap out in back of Horace Martin's IGA store, which is where the townspeople obtained objects to throw at the stage after having seen WCD's first-night performance.

Town Hall, Warner, NH


 The Granite Monthly
Vol. XIX, No. 6 (December 1895)

A Sketch of Warner

By Amanda B. Harris

It cannot be taken for granted that everybody knows where Warner is. Briefly then be it said at the outset that it is in the southerly part of New Hampshire, near the centre of Merrimack County, on what used to be spoken of, before the railroad was opened, as the old stage route from Boston to Windsor, Vt.

The Warner River winds from the west to the south-east, dividing the area of the township into nearly equal parts, and empties into the Contoocook, with grist-mills, clothing-mills, bark mills and tanneries all along its length. It was on this stream and some of its chief tributaries that most of Warner's saw-mills were located.

Warner River, Warner, NHH

Governor Wentworth gave the town its name, reportedly for Jonathan Warner, a member of his Council. Its charter was granted by the government of Massachusetts Bay in 1735. Three years later the committee appointed to make surveys for settlement reported that they had laid out sixty-three house lots, containing about five acres each. Lots were then drawn by men who held them until the actual settlement.

The proprietors had four log houses built, in 1749, not far from where is now the Davisville cemetery. The men who came and put up the houses were Thomas Colby, Moses Morrill, Jarvis Ring, and Gideon Straw. Soon after, the French War broke out. Meanwhile Indians allied with the French came up the Contoocook River, crossed over and burned the houses and mill.

According to Rev. Henry S. Huntington in his "Historical Discourse," there were forty-three men with their families here in 1763 who had settled on the conditions of the proprietors, each having a forty-acre lot of upland and five acres of interval. Some of these names are familiar ones, such as Annis, Chase, Currier, Davis, Flanders, Colby, Edmunds, Foster, Gilmore, Watson, Sawyer, Heath. "Tom Pond" was named after Thomas Annis, "Bagley's bridge after David Bagley (town clerk for thirty-nine years).

A townswoman of ninety-six remembers when there were thick woods all the way down from Waterloo to Warner village, in which there was just one little cabin, near where the Dr. Eaton house now stands. The man who lived there was named Cole Tucker. She remembers that people had no time for recreation. "They used, however, to get together and sing. There were so few of them that they were drawn together in kindly feeling and used to go a long distance to see one another, two on one horse or with an ox team."

Shortly thereafter came news of the battle at Lexington. The War of the Revolution had begun. Warner had then only 262 inhabitants, the majority of whom must have been women and children; yet the number of men in the service does credit to the town. Seven volunteered at once for three months: Charles Barnard, James Palmer, John Palmer, Richard Bartlett, Jonathan Roby, Francis Davis, and Wells Davis. Richard Bartlett, son of one of the proprietors, had already occupied his acres on Burnt hill, where Thomas H. Bartlett now lives. The two Davises were sons of Francis. Hubbard Carter, Thomas Palmer, John Palmer, Wells Davis, Joseph Clough, and William Lowell were in Stark's regiment at Bunker Hill.

When war with Britain broke out in 1812, more than thirty men enlisted in a volunteer regiment under the command of Aquila Davis, then commissioned as colonel. Warner was well represented and has a record of good service. Names familiar in the more than twice told tales of the campaign will occur to readers of this sketch, Capt. Joseph Smith, Stephen George, Daniel George, Nicholas Evans, Benjamin Evans, Daniel Bean, and others, who received the military titles by which they were known through life.

During the second year of the war the first post-office was established in town, at the Lower village, then giving promise of being permanently the business centre. Previously the mail had been brought by post-riders. Henry B. Chase was made post-master, succeeded by Dr. Henry Lyman, who held the place eight years, when Levi Bartlett was appointed.

In 1823 a bill for constituting the new county of Merrimack passed the senate on June 27. Warner was one of the four places designated to hold probate courts. Sessions were held on the first Wednesday of March and third Wednesday of September, at the office of Esquire Chase, who was register. Henry B. Chase, of the family of Salmon P. Chase, had opened a law office at the Lower village in 1804, and there he continued until his death in 1854. Mr. Chase was a man of fine appearance and superior ability and held at different times many responsible offices, including those of clerk of the senate and speaker of the house.

The only other lawyer in Warner during that period was Harrison G. Harris at the Centre village, who came in 1816 and was here till his death at eighty-five. These rival lawyers lived on fraternal terms; and of neither can it be said that he ever furthered a lawsuit for personal gain. Lawyer Harris was told to have refused a client who was all on fire to begin a lawsuit against a neighbor who had wronged him, with the advice, "you'd better go home and settle it in someway. You don't want to get into a lawsuit with your neighbors."

On the 8th of June, 1819, the corner-stone of a new meeting-house was laid, on a site just below John Tewksbury's. It was built by twenty-nine individuals of the Congregational society, at a cost of $2,300. It was moved to its present location in 1845, where it stands the representative, old-fashioned New England meeting-house. It is the meeting-house of our fathers and our fore-fathers, with its sky-piercing spire a landmark among the surrounding hills.

There had been stores and storekeepers all along, but several have been known for seventy-years or more. Harrison D. Robertson came in his youth and his name is still perpetuated in the store he built, know as Robertson's block, where Upton & Upton are in trade. He carried on an extensive coopering business, was much in public life, and interested in everything concerning the prosperity of the town. Robert Thompson, one of the last of the gentlemen of the old school, died a few years since at an honored old age. The store which he built is occupied now by Jewell & Putnam.

Up to 1849 travelers depended on the stage coach for conveyance, but in that year we began to feel that we were really in touch with the great world, when the Concord & Claremont railroad was opened to Warner. No more of the old coach, swaying and swinging with its sea-sick sort of motion, loaded down with passengers and piled high with trunks. No more of the big teams.

There are some events the record of which should begin, as in a medieval manuscript, with an illuminated letter. One was the establishment of a free academy , for which the town is under obligation to Franklin Simonds, who during his last sickness planned it, selected a own board of trustees (to be self perpetuating), and left an endowment of $20,000, to which his widow added $5,000 and gave an equal sum towards the building. The building was erected in 1871, dedicated December 1 of the same year, and opened December with 60 pupils, Edmund C. Cole, a graduate of Bowdoin College as principal, Helen S. Gilbert of Concord assistant.

Simonds High School, Warner, NH

An agricultural fair begun in 1873 took in the towns around the base of Kearsarge mountain. Whenever there is a good institution or a promising one hereabouts, a bank, a Bible society, or a Sunday school association, Kearsarge will be included in the name, for the mountain dominates the whole region. It asserts itself and cannot be ignored. We could not in Warner lose sight of it if we would. And no man or woman Warner born can fail to take pride in it. It is the first thing looked for when home returning from long absence.

Whatever other landmarks may have changed, Kearsarge is there.
The Kearsarge Mountain road opened July 4, 1874. Warner owns a slightly larger portion of the mountain than any other town, with ample f
oothold on the summit. Wilmot comes next, then Sutton, next Andover, and Salisbury has a moderate portion. To Warner belongs the sunny, southern side; and Warner has to ask permission of no town to get to the highest place. The old Tory hill road leads to the real mountain road, up past the house of S. C. Pattee and the homesteads of Stephen Edmunds and Walter Sargent to the toll-house at Hurricane corner-so named as memorial of the awful tornado of 1821.

Then begins the delightful winding road, across the open upland pastures where cattle are grazing up, up, over ledges to Mission ridge, and on to the topmost point. Nothing grander can be beheld in this part of the world than is viewed from the summit of this high and lonely mountain which stands up, bare granite rock, solemn and alone, as if all the other mountains and hills had receded. in a circle and left it in its incomparable majesty. A blue line of peaks and chains bounds the horizon. At the farthest south may be seen Mt. Tom and Holyoke and Wachuset; at the west, dim against the sky, the Green Mountain chain.

In Warner village, the first two-story frame house in town is still standing, and good for another hundred years. Built by the original, first Francis Davis, it was successively the home of his son Aquila, and his grandson, Nathaniel. The kitchen fireplace, usable yet, is of the kind that takes in wood of a cord length, roomy enough to do the roasting for a regiment; and a regiment may have dined at the house for aught any body knows, for General Davis was from first to last a military man.

Down from the village, Warner River goes tumbling over the rocks at the falls, furnishing abundant water-power for mills. And mills there once were, and a foundry, wheels whirring and machines going for various purposes. The latest enterprise was the manufacture of straw board, carried on extensively for several years by W. Scott Davis and his brother, Henry. The Davisville people have a right to great pride in the past, for the first Francis, as well as his sons and his sons' have sustained the characteristics of trustworthiness and decency which make the real worth of a town.

Many visitors come to Warner for the summer, among them Senator Chandler. His first acquaintance with Warner reminds one of the circumstances that led Daniel Webster to make Marshfield his summer home. The Senator came up from Concord to fish in our mountain brooks, and like most strangers was enthusiastic over the scenery. When, several years later, the Noah Andrews house on the hill became vacant, he bought it, and has spent more or less of every summer here since. Here, in the unostentatious way characteristic of the statesman, he finds the retirement and repose imperative in a life so crowded with active duties, and necessarily so much in the public eye.

Warner is a sizable town geographically, with a total area of forty-four square miles. Only a long-distance trip takes on to its remote corners, as with, for instance, the Howe district, where still stands the very old Joel Howe tavern just as it used to be, dancing-hall and all, occupied by one of the descendants. To get to some of these out-of-the-way places, one has to do as a certain artist said of some of the roads, "go somewhere by way of anywhere."

It is no disparagement to the town that so many mills have gone by. If we have not 16 saw-mills and 8 gristmills, as we had in 1823, it is because modern life has no need of them.
Down on the river, at the most picturesque turn, have been mills time out of mind. What is now the Ela grist-mill was built in 1829 by Nicholas Fowler, one of the worthy men of those days who could turn his hand to the building of almost anything. This quaint old mill, the quaint house of the miller nestled in the lap of the hill, the island, and the romantic surroundings dear to an artist's eye, have been the subject of many rural paintings.

Another place that suggests an idyllic landscape is the saw-mill of M. T. Ela, across the river from his father's grist-mill. A good deal, however, is going on there more practical than painting a canvas, or inhaling the fragrance of pine logs or listening to the rhythmic sound of the saw-mill, delightful way of passing the time though it be. The mill is a busy place. Last year 700,000 feet of boards were sawed there, and 600,000 feet will this season be manufactured into boxes.

To do justice to the libraries of Warner, the first of which was incorporated in 1796, a separate article would be needed. The most recent and munificent is the Pillsbury Free Library. George A. Pillsbury, who was for twelve years in business in Warner, and whose son, Charles A., was born here, gave to the town, in connection with his family, the fine library building, located on land given by N. G. Ordway, where formerly stood the Kearsarge hotel. It is of red pressed brick and granite, in the Romanesque Gothic style,
is fire-proof, and has a handsome reading-room and stack room, finished throughout in quartered oak. It was opened in 1892, and started with over four thousand volumes, the gift of Mr. Pillsbury and his family. The number is now over five thousand.

Within the limits of a magazine article it is impossible to even touch upon many incidents of interest. Many persons, many events must necessarily be left out. but let us remember the soldiers who fought for us in the War of the Rebellion. The men of Warner responded immediately, and with enthusiasm. Never were more loyal patriots or braver ones. The Roster of New Hampshire Soldiers, lately published, gives the names of one hundred and twenty-five men, natives of Warner, and thirty-seven not born here. Most of them were in the Eleventh and Sixteenth regiments, and their service was chiefly with the Army of the Potomac and in the Department of the Gulf.

General Walter Harriman, Main St., Warner.16th NH Regiment, fought at Chicamauga and the Battle of the Wilderness, subsequently Governor of NH. Wrote first "History of Warner."

Walter Harriman was commissioned colonel of the former, afterwards made brigadier-general by brevet. Samuel Davis, educated at West Point, was major of the latter. James H. Fowler, a native of Warner, was chaplain in Colonel Higginson's colored regiment.

Several persons natives of Warner have added to the world's stock of books. Levi Bartlett, well known as an agricultural writer, compiled the "Bartlett Genealogy." To Walter Harriman belongs the authorship of a "History of Warner" and "In the Orient." Fred Myron Colby, a constant contributor to many newspapers and periodicals, is author of several books, the best known of which are "The Daughter of Pharaoh" and "Brave Lads and Bonnie Lasses." Henry E. Sawyer, an eminent teacher, has contributed to educational works, "A Latin Primer, " "Metric Manual," and "Words and Numbers." John C. Ager has translated seven octavo volumes of Swedenborg's writings.

Mrs. Olive Rand Clarke, for more than thirty years editorially connected with the Mirror and Farmer, is author of "A Vacation Excursion." Mrs. Flora Morrill Kimball, a woman of exceptional ability, is author of two books for young people, "The Fairfields" and "The Tyler Boys." Her sister, Hannah F. M. Browne, for many years editor and publisher of The Agitator, a paper denoted to social and political reform in Cleveland, Ohio, wrote several books for children. She died in 1881. Amanda B. Harris is author of books on gardening and botany, as well as a series for young people.

Other Warner natives have become notable in the outside world. Ezekiel W. Dimond was a Professor of Engineering and Architecture at Dartmouth College. The town is the birth-place of three governors, Ezekiel A. Straw, Walter Harriman, who was twice elected and N. G. Ordway, for four years governor of Dakota. Five of her sons have been mayors in the cities of their residence, George Runels in Lowell; Henry H. Gilmore, Cambridge; John E. Robertson, Concord; George F. Bean, Woburn; Byron Harriman, Waterloo, Iowa.

Warner women have been always ready for any service that had a claim upon them. During the War of the Rebellion systematic and generous work was done for the soldiers and the sanitary commission. The town was represented in the Sandwich Islands sixty years ago by the famed missionary Lois Hoyt Johnson.

Mrs. Flora Morrill Kimball, a native of Warner, is vice-president of the board of managers of the California Worlds
Fair Commission, was appointed by the governor a member of the state board of sericulture, has been seven years on the board of education, and is director of a bank. Mention should be made of the literary work of Mrs. H. M. Colby and Mrs. A. B. Bennett. Mrs. E. H. Carroll is an accomplished teacher of music; Mrs. N. G. Stearns, a successful artist; Mrs. M. F. Hayes has had many years of service at the head of seminaries; Mrs. R. B. Seymour stands in the front rank as a teacher of languages.

Today, the fate of Warner has been like that of most other New England towns. Many of its enterprising young men have sought careers in the large cities or in the West. There they have built up a successful business or made honorable records in other ways of life. They are publishers, editors, teachers, bankers, political leaders, manufacturers, and in all the professions. Their influence goes with them, but it is felt here. They are not lost to their native town. It is said of Manchester-by-the-Sea on Cape Ann that there is a certain spring of water there of which if one drinks he will be sure to go back. Warner needs no such a magic spring for her sons and daughters. Sooner or later they come back.