Articles on the Short Falls Bridge and Grist Mill in pdf format

A Sketch of the Mills and Water Power

in the Town of Epsom, New Hampshire
by Hiram A. Holmes

Down the river with a fall of 55 feet we come to Cass Dam where there is seven feet head (referring to the little Suncook River). November 3, 1803 Francis Locke entered into a contract with John Chesley, Daniel Philbrick, John Downes and Philip Stevens to build a saw and grist mill to be leased to them for 20 years. Soon after the contract closed the mills were allowed to go down.
July 13, 1830, Ephraim Locke sold the right to run a carding and fulling mill to Dearborn Lord, who sold the same right to Joseph B. Cass on September 19, 1846, together with a right which he had bought of Bennett Lawrence, who was running a hat factory with water across the road from the dam. J.B. Cass took out the machinery and put in a lathe for making bobbins for the Lowell cotton factories. He continued running the carding mill for many years. (Near Mary Framback's home)
In 1846 the saw mill privilege was bought by George Batchelder and sold by him to Hiram A. Holmes, March 4, 1865.
Down river a half mile, with a fall of 50 feet was Isaac Libbee's fulling mill, with ten feet head. He sold out to a man named Kyer or Currier, who soon sold the machinery and let the mill go down.
About a quarter of a mile further down river with 8 feet fall was Capt. Samuel Locke's saw mill and grist mills, with 8 feet head. He sold out to a company of which Deacon Frederick Sanborn and his brother were members. They rebuilt the mills, Benson Ham was the millwright. (Across from Knowles' Store).
About 1858 Alonzo Wallace bought the mills and sold them in 1859 to a man named Smith. He reconstructed the saw mill putting in a circular saw machinery. About 1867 he sold out to Albion Locke. James D. Paige was the millwright and miller. About this time Mr. Paige moved the grist mill to the dam on the south side of the stream and added a shingle mill. Mr. Locke sold to Ephriam Heald in 1871. He had the mills rebuilt in 1873, millwright on the grist mill was William Shackford; on the saw mill was Hiram Holmes. (Ed: This is probably where Slab City got its name.)
At 12 o'clock on a September night in 1877, the mills were burned with all their contents. Mr. Heald sold the dam and privileges to Henry Knox, who sold it again in 1878 to Henry Knowles who built the grist mill now standing in 1880, as a merchant mill fitted with elevators and storage bins. Albert Ladd was millwright.
A half mile down the river with 25 feet fafl is Horace Bickford's dam with 11 feet head. At this place on March 12, 1778, Capt. James Gray bought the mill privileges and grist mill of Isaac Libbee (Libbey). Capt. Gray soon added a saw mill just below the grist mill which was afterward burned. Present saw and shingle mill build by Horace Bickford in 1870, with H. A. Holmes as millwright. In 1873 H.A. Holmes built a planing mill for himself and in 1875 added a grist mill, in 1894 moved them both away.
Down river a quarter of a mile with a fall of 12 feet is the shoe factory dam with a head of 12 feet. Dam and factory were built in 1880 by the Epsom Shoe Factory Company. The factory was built by J.C. Philbrick, the dam by H.A. Holmes, who also put in the machinery. Eight companies have carried on the shoe business there. From the shoe factory to the next mill there is an 8 foot fall. (Across from the Baptist Church on the river.)
Mills on the big Suncook River
At the first dam there is a 6 foot head. This mill and dam were built in 1872 by Morrill D. Bickford and William Tripp for the manufacture of lumber and boxes. H.A. Holmes was the millwright. William Tripp sold the box shop to Guy Marden who sold to George H. Burnham in 1889. About the same time Mr. Burnham bought out M. D. Bickford, added a water wheel and grist mill and is doing a thriving business.
The water from this mill flows nearly level to the next mill pond where the dam has 8 feet of head. The first saw and grist mill at this place was built by Jeremiah Gordon. Mr. Gordon granted to Nathan Bickford right to run a carding and fulling mill at the dam. Afterward he changed it to a shingle mill which was burned, rebuilt, and burned again. It was again rebuilt by M. D. Bickford and moved away.
In 1817 Jeremiah Gordon and Exekiel Burnham built a dam of timber cut on the river banks, some of the timber is still in the bottom of the dam. They also built a saw and grist mill which were washed away. Mr. Gordon built a saw mill after the company's mill washed out and sold it to Jeremiah G. Marden. September 2, 1847 he sold to William Goss and John Clark who soon sold to Stickney and Joseph Robinson. They sold to Atrel Boynton on March 16, 1850. Boynton paid $2,500 for this mill. By September 5, 1857 the mill ;had again been washed away and the mill privilege was sold to Isaaih Lane.
Samuel Bickford bought the mill privilege in 1860 and built a saw mill on the old site. In 1862 he sold one half of all to Capt. B.A. Noyes and the following year the machinery was changed from upright to a circular mill and a shingle mill was added. H.A. Holmes was again the millwright. Capt. Noyes bought out Mr. Bickford, the machinery was moved away, and the mill taken down. The mill privilege was sold to Freeman Marden on September 12, 1896. who also bought the right which M.D. Bickford owned to use the power from the dam, and built a shop for making doors, sash and general job work.

After passing down the rapids of Long Falls, with a fall of 14 feet, the water stands nearly level to the dam at Short Falls where there is a 6 foot head. About 1786 John Tripp built a dam and sawmill. A paper mill was built here and burned April 30, 1839. The present dam and grist mill were built in 1839 by a company consisting of Jeremiah Tripp, Winthrop Fowler, Squire Martin, James William Knox and Norris Cofran. Theodore Elliott was the millwright. The mill was reconstructed in 1873, with new flume, water wheels and machinery. H.A. Holmes was the millwright. This mill has been the most successful of any in the vicinity. Farmers have brought wheat thirty miles to be ground. There have been but five millers during the 63 years that the mill has been run. Millers; John Harvey assisted by James Marden and later Andrew Ladd for 8 years, Worcester Preston for 30 years, William Burnham for 7 years, to James W. Marden who has filled the place for 25 years. Long may he last!
To all to whom I am indebted for information is regard to the mills, I extend my hearty thanks.
signed: Hiram A. Holmes. Hiram A. Holmes was born in 1838 and died 1916.

by Earl P. Robinson, County Agent
Published in Granite Monthly about 1925 Vol 55-525

Some places they are taking about quitting farming and moving to the city. But over in Epsom they say that the carpenters are all rushed with work and have more jobs scheduled with farmers than they can do in weeks. And furthermore, the writer did not hear the doctrine of reduced production advanced. He did learn that many were increasing their enterprises. In fact the activity of carpenters is in considerable part due to the expansion of business on poultry farms, and in lesser degree to the setting up of new poultry establishment. Since there are so many communities in Northern New England where a decreasing population, a decreasing number of farms in operation and a reduced acreage of crops and number of livestock indicate communities hastening on to dissolution, it seems the part of wisdom for all public spirited citizens to study communities that seem most successful stemming the tide and swinging back toward vigorous and healthy development. Epsom is such a community. Once a thriving dairy town with milk shipped out to Manchester and Boston, it later experienced hardship, discouragement and defeat.
Then something happened. They gave up dairying for poultry.
The story beginnings appear to be about like this. Mr. S. W. Bickford, becoming dissatisfied with the unsettled condition of and small returns from dairying about fifteen years ago, began to look around for a more remunerative type of agriculture, and noticed Mr. A. N. Peaslee of South Pittsfield, who had been in the poultry business for years and appeared to be very successful. Mr. Peaslee was helpful in his advice and encouragement with the result that Mr. Bickford got a good start with poultry more than a dozen years ago, and had progressed rapidly since then.
Mr. Bickford states that the introduction of the coal burning brooder stoves had considerable to do with his expansion of the business. This new apparatus enables a man to take care of much larger flocks of chicks than does the old style of brooder with lamps. Another man who was a pioneer in the business in Epsom was Mr. W. C. Burnham.
Another thing that has been of great importance in the development of the industry is the fact that Senator Walter Tripp of Short Falls, for years a merchant in the community, watching the developments taking place, noted with deep concern that there was less and less milk being shipped out each year. Realizing that a decreased output from the town meant a decreased income and consequent hardship and perhaps failure in the end, his voice was soon upraised in encouragement of the poultry enterprises that were starting in a small way. Mr. W.C. Pickard, employed in Mr. Tripp's store, was also spreading the gospel of poultry raising, with a good success. There undoubtedly were others in the community pointing the way toward a happier economic situation.

These men were among the to first recognize that Epsom was not holding its own with the old type of agriculture, and with considerable courage and initiative, they launched into something that from the evidence looked more profitable. And subsequently developments seem to have proved the wisdom of their choice.
Today Epsom is known far and wide as a poultry center. The assessors figures give it the largest number of hens of any town in New Hampshire. In January, 1923, one thousand and eighty-five cases of eggs were shipped from the two railroad stations of the town, bringing in close to 30,000.00. The buyers of baby chicks from many states come to Epsom, and even New York City commission men accorded distinction by establishing buyers at its two shipping points, Epsom Depot and Short Falls Depot.
Within the past six years, Professor A.W. Richardson of the State University, with his sound advice, infectious enthusiasm and substantial help in improving methods and meeting the problems of the business, has rendered a splendid service.
The store-keepers report that the increased prosperity is clearly reflected in the improved business and the prompt payment for goods. And they tell stories of laboring men and others who, once having a pretty stiff fight to keep even with the world, now have from 500 to 2,000 hens each and are rapidly getting ahead. One of the leading poultrymen is quoted as saying that with 300 hens well managed, a laboring man would find himself as well situated as with steady work at good wages working out.
The writer, having the prosperity of the community as a whole in mind, did not
investigate cases of individual poultrymen to see what the profits are. But the
success of this community is significant because New Hampshire needs encouragement.
And she also needs examples. What do we get from the success of Epsom that will turn
other towns from their drift toward failure, right-about-face toward permanent success:
In the first place many communities will have to make radical changes to adapt themselves to changed conditions. Once the cities of Southern New England were under the necessity of buying their dairy products near-by. That practically settled the question of the type of agriculture for thousands of farmers near the cities. Now dairy products are easily secured from a more distant zone, and at the same time strong demands for vegetables, fruits and other heavy perishable products make their product relatively more attractive. That calls for readjustment of agriculture in many communities. The writer does not imply that there is no longer a place for dairying, but he does insist that in view of the rapid and decisive changes that have taken place in industry - including agriculture -every farmer needs to subject his farming enterprise to a most vigorous test to see whether it does shape up well with the new conditions. Try to see where one is likely to arrive in twenty years.
Such a forward view by a prominently successful dairyman in Peterboro has led him to the policy of starting an orchard on some of his rough fields that are difficult to cultivate. In his case dairying has been and still is profitable, but he is looking forward to the time when he will no longer want to wage the stubborn battle with boulders in a rock-strewn field, and when that time comes he wants to be prepared to fall back on a crop that will give him returns and satisfaction comparable with the business he has for years handled so successfully.
In the second place Epsom community forcefully emphasizes the fact that our fortunes are very closely bound up together. Failure for a part of any community is in some measure failure for all. And success for many also betters the fortunes of all.
Take the matter of production. There is no place so favorable for a beginner to start as in Epsom or some other community where there are many successful Ipoultrymen. He can get his stock easier, can watch the methods employed and learn from the failures as well as the successes. In such communities new discoveries and better methods make their first appearance, and there also warnings of danger are first sounded. The writer believes also, from his brief survey of the community, that Epsom realizes that any failure in the community hurts all of the members. There is therefore, a sympathetic interest in the new ventures and hope that they will meet with success.
And marketing, that great unsolved problem of the farmer, becomes much simpler where a large volume of business develops in a given community. One man said it amused him this past summer to witness the discomfiture of hucksters who previously had done a flourishing business there, who now return to their home towns in Massachusetts almost empty-handed, because local representatives of two large wholesalers from New York, recently established in Epsom and Short Falls, have put the market above what it had been. There are rumors that these firms plan to establish a service of carload shipments of poultry. That means reduction of handling and shipping costs, which will at least in some measure benefit the poultry raiser.
It appears, therefore, that Epsom has prospered. That should encourage every community in the state and should suggest the means of turning the tide where it is now flowing in the wrong direction.
There has been little written about the poultry business in Epsom. However, during the era of this writing, there were large poultry plants all over town. Cow barns had been converted into hen houses, many long one or two story buildings built to house large numbers of chickens. Ernest Dowst had a large plant next to Webster Park. Scott Monroe had large hen houses where Rick Harkness now lives, Fred Fife on route 28, John Cox up at the Center are some of the larger ones that I remember. Most every farmer had some chickens. The general stores each had grain rooms. I remember the incubator house at home that my father had built. The basement had that long wooden structure with doors that opened into the many compartments that held wire trays for the eggs that were to hatch. There was a crank that was used to move the trays and the eggs several times each day so that one did not have do this by hand. The incubator was heated by a coal heater at the end
I believe that eggs sold for about SI.00 a dozen making them a valuable crop. Herbert Hoover's campaign promise to put "a chicken in even.' pot" was to be a step up for the working class. The crash of 1929 took its toll on the poultry industry as it did on all other industries. However, many survived that set-back and continued to make a living with their chickens for years after that. Robert Cass is a poultryman who could tell a great deal about a successful poultry business that he shared with his father in the Mountain District.