Epsom History

Research Links


A program written in 1954 for a meeting of the McClary Grange on its 75th Anniversary which takes a look at Epsom and the world from 1885-1954. An interesting look back at live and times, with rotary phones being one of the highlights. Author unknown.


In planning a program for the observance of our 70th anniversary, we have wandered far from McClary Grange history. This grange has had its ups and downs as have other organizations, therefore to make a more interesting sketch of the years, we have included local and national highlights depicting the period.

When the Grange was organized it was thought to name it Fowler Grange for that name was a popular family name at the time as McClary was in earlier years and as the Yeaton name is today. No history is written however of a more worthy or influential family than the McClary's who first settled Epsom. This was the first town to push so far north into the wilderness.

And in the Beginning (1884-1894)

The opening pages of the records of the grange begins as follows: Short Falls, NH, Oct. 10, 1884. The petitioners for a Grange of Patrons of Husbandry met at Odd Fellows Hall and were called to Order by George R. Drake, District Deputy who appointed J. H. Dolbeer, Secretary for the evening and Winslow S. Parker, teller.

The obligation was then administered to thirty-one men and women. At a subsequent meeting two women who signed the petition for the Grange but unable to be present at this meeting received the obligation. Eleven Fowler's were charter members, one third of the total number. It is interesting to note that the present master, Richard Tripp Fowler is a descendant of the first master, Warren Tripp and that many members of the family have taken an active interest in the local grange.

It is remarkable to find that all of the meetings of the McClary Grange have been held in this hall with the exception of those for the month of June 1898 when the grange was forced to hold its meeting in G.A. R. Hall due to the extensive remodeling of Odd Fellows Hall.

In 1884 an addition had been built to the G.A.R. Hall - the present Gossville store. This building was formerly the church located where the Baptist Church is. The building was moved by oxen to its present location. While in transit it became necessary to stop halfway due to road conditions and as this was Saturday night moving was not resumed until Monday morning - consequently church services Sunday morning were held at this temporary location.

As was noted, oxen helped the early farmers to do their heavier work. Many of the stone walls on the New England landscape were built with the help of oxen. Horse and buggy were more common for transportation. Many remember when grange members drove to Short Falls, unhitched the wagon and the horses were sheltered in the basement of this hall. Some meetings were quiet, but often someone was required to leave the meeting to endeavor to silence the horses.

The bicycle was fast becoming the talk of the year. It was not uncommon to cycle to York Beach or Boston and arrive for lunch. A yearly fair was held that drew record crowds to cheer favorite heroes of bicycling racing, Concord being one of the favorite stomping grounds.

In the nations spotlight, Grover Cleveland served two non-successive terms in the White House, Benjamin Harrison being the winning candidate in the 1888 election.

Gay Nineties (1894-1904)

There are many of us who can either remember the gay nineties personally or remember pa and ma telling stories of that gay period in our history.

Records of McClary Grange prove that many a happy hour was had at the Odd Fellows Hall in Short Falls. Gay enough so that four of its officers were united in marriage and a joint reception held for the happy couples. It has been suggested that grange might have done much in helping Dan Cupid. Another couple will not admit that grange introduced them to each other but neither will they deny that the time spent was enjoyed. I doubt if they urged the old gray mare to travel at top speed.

All was not fun though - the officers of 1898 after much drilling and some misgivings, went to Manchester to the State Grange meeting and conferred the first and second degrees with much fear and trembling. That was then - but today they would be proud to have been chosen for the honor. It was the only time that this grange has had this distinction.

What is now Epsom was then a busy town. In 1893 the town hall had a face lifting, nine windows were purchased for $23.25 and lumber for the floor and door cost $20.24 and only $12.72 was paid out to lay the new floor. For 15 days labor to paint the interior, a man received $22.50. How many of us would like to build a home based on these prices compared with today's ?

The Gossville school was built in 1894 and added to in later years. A student of those days remembers going to school there and entering through the window. It seems as though the first to arrive on the first day had first choice of seats and this eager child had two older brothers to help her achieve her ambition.

1895 brought the first telephones to town. The three stores could accommodate those who wished to call out of town and a representative called at the stores once a month to tally the storekeepers collect the toll fees. The phones were fastened to the wall and everyone knew your business or pleasures. Later the party line introduced into many homes became the cause of much joking due to listening friends. According to more than one story the conversations were so interesting the listening friends joined in - a mistake never lived down. How different from our dial phones, private lines and phone booths of today.

If you were a Gossville resident of 1896 you undoubtedly tell first hand of the 102 foot barn which burned, including the 22 head of cattle housed there. The remains were buried as soon as possible but the general store must have done a thriving business in coffee for that was the necessary commodity burned for days on the stove in order to endure the odor.

The early 1900's was politically inclined as the Rough Rider, Theodore Roosevelt, was in the White House following the assassination of William McKinley. Mr. Roosevelt served two terms and four years later due to his increasing coldness toward Taft, he changed his thinking and ran for a third term on the newly formed Progressive ticket. The split ticket won the election for Woodrow Wilson.

It was following the assassination of President McKinley that guarding the president became the task of the Secret Service. These men are employed for the Treasury Department by order of Congress and cannot be ordered by the President to go away and leave him alone, otherwise he is their boss.

Horseless Carriage (1904-1914)

The first automobile built in New Hampshire was by Peter Harris in Manchester in 1896.

The writer has asked many members of our community who owned the first cars in Epsom. One told of a vehicle owned by the Pennell brothers who lived in the old Zinn house. Many a time they started around the circle with it but never quite made it. Later they owned a Stanley Steamer which a neighbor can remember seeing horses being allowed to become acquainted with it.

It seemed to be a toss up between Frank Hall and Dr. Roscoe Hill as to be the first gasoline car in town. Mr. Harry Silver remembers going in 1913 with Mr. Benjamin Towle to Penacook to buy their first cars. Mr. Towle had drove before but Mr. Silver had not, so was literally petrified of the thing. By previous arrangements Mr. Frank Hall met them in Concord to ride home with Mr. Silver. When the car needed repairs on what is now Bean Hill, Mr. Hall made the necessary adjustments and drove the rest of the way home as Mr. Silver had lost all courage.

Many of us in the Epsom of today remember waiting for the Suncook Valley train and wondering if it would be on time. Quite a difference in 1912 - the train frequently waited for the one cylinder Graybosky mail truck coming from Northwood to Gossville.

In the olden days people used to be more neighborly than now. How often we have heard that phrase. If you lived near to or on a hill as did the Harry Silver's, - car or no car - you stayed home and waited for your neighbor to get stuck in the soft sand and the women passengers will be in to visit while the men folk labor with shovels and lay planks in order to be on their way again.

In this day of T.V. and all night radio shows it seems hard to believe that those who had electricity had to have lights off at 10 pm. Electricity was generated by water power at the shoe factory near the Baptist church and only a few homes were accommodated. When in 1916 the factory, then a silk weaving establishment, burned, Charles Huckins took over the task of supplying electricity to four homes and the store with a generator run by gasoline motor - later using a Delco battery and a meter system for recording amount of service used. Mr. Oliver L. Lombard was offering the same service at this time to some of the homes in Short Falls. Previous to this the Odd Fellows had their own battery system in this hall.

Concord Electric Company brought electric service to Epsom about 1925 or 1926 and in1927 Mr. Huckins realized his service was not profitable and practical enough to continue. It seems strange to think of sidewalks and street lights from Gossville to the church, but they tell me they were there.

Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. The nation mourned with him in the death of his wife in 1914. Late in 1915 Wilson married again. If the song "Oh! You Beautiful Doll" had not already been a popular song, Pres. Wilson helped to make it so as he serenaded his second wife.

It was said of Wilson's re-election - "The Republicans celebrated and the Democrat's won."

The First World War (1914-1924)

With the entrance of 1914 had come the rumors of conflict in Europe. Every country seemingly wanted more power and would stop nowhere to win or take it. All, that is except for the United States - it was rumored of her that she was afraid to fight, but President Wilson was using every means within his power to avoid war. When Germany announced a campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare it was inevitable that the United State would be effected. On April 6, President Wilson signed the document which declared the United States in a state of War.

Loyally, as ever, Epsom responded and a history written in 1927 listed seventeen names of its sons who gave of time and effort to stop the war which was to stop all wars. Cease firing was sounded by bugles at 11 am on Nov. 11, 1918. The first assembly of the League of Nations met in Nov. 1920 - 48 countries represented.

Red Cross: While the boys had marched away to France to fight for freedom, the women folk made the knitting needles fly as they knitted the necessary garments to protect our soldiers from the bitter cold.

On July 27, 1918, the chairman and vice chairman of local organizations met to form the Epsom branch of the American Red Cross. The object of the meeting was to ask cooperation in the financial support of said Red Cross. McClary Grange was asked to be the first to put on a benefit. Then, as always, the grange and its members responded to another worthwhile community project.

Epsom is still a thriving community. In the early twenties the two garages had their beginning. Rather odd that at the location of both there was once a blacksmith shop.

Mentioning garages brings to mind the story of the gentlemen who after completing necessary repairs on a Ford, suddenly realized his work must be undone and corrected. He had assembled the rear end so as to give the vehicle two speeds in reverse and one ahead.

One of the first tractors in town arrived in 1916 on the farm of Samuel R. Yeaton. It was a two cylinder Avery and How, the farm work horse would of laughed (if only horses could) when the mechanical work refused to immediately respond. This tractor is still in existence today, although replaced with more modern machinery. The neighbors no longer stare at a new tractor but wonder what make it is and how many and different attachments go with it.

Highlights of Epsom would not be complete without more comment here about the Suncook Valley Railroad. The road was built in 1869 and was part of the railroad known as the Concord-Montreal Railroad. The engines were wood burning and named for prominent men. In 1889 the Barnstead Extension was opened. After 1924 it operated as the Suncook Valley Railroad. In 1927 engine No. 1 was purchased and years later a diesel engine winded its way up the valley. The Suncook Valley Railroad has had a glorious life - having served the communities it passed through faithfully. As well as bringing mail, grain, coal and doubtlessly numerous other commodities to town, it has also taken away its surplus. Logs and lumber piled in winter where Huckin's oil tanks now stand, in the spring were hauled away by rail. In the summer months it was not uncommon to see cars on the side tracks being loaded with crates of blueberries. Horses and teams brought them in from Deerfield as well as all parts of town and often two cars a week where shipped out to other communities. Thus its nickname, the Blueberry Express. It was also the milk train for the farmer who supplemented his income in this way. As they rolled by and the road be sagged, trucks came into being and the train lost its speed, dependability and usefulness. So the "Toonerville Trolley" named for the newspaper comic, went through bankruptcy. Since 1952 we need not wonder if the train is off the track. Regardless of the humor it brought forth, we miss its whistle as it rolled up and down the valley.

In 1923 death again visited the White House and Calvin Coolidge was in the position to sit at Warren Harding's official desk. Coolidge was elected to a full term in 1924. His Inaugural Address of march 4, 1925 had the distinction of being the first to be broadcast.

The Fabulous Era (1924-1934)

With the fabulous era came the champions - that crazy Lindbergh really did succeed to fly the Atlantic alone; Gene Tunney knocked Jack Dempsey from his throne; Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel; Bobby Jones ruled the golf links and Babe Ruth was crowned Sultan of Swat. There were champs even in the underworld - Al Capone was behind bars and outlaw Dillinger was so famous they put songs of him on the phonograph records. Millions became lawbreakers mixing dreadful concoctions from raw alcohol and dress suits had big pockets for hip flasks.

Radio, more popular daily, told remote communities of distant doings. Ear phones were necessary and the evening called knocked in vain for with the radio, everything else was secondary.

This was a happy nation - buy a lot in Florida, sell it tomorrow and get rich overnight. Two chickens in every pot, two cars in every garage. The came October 24, 1929. The crash was as great as the boom. Prosperity instead of being permanent was "just around the corner." Our songs reflected the misery "Brother can you spare a dime?" The answer "No!" The lines instead of forming at the nearest movie house haunted the nearest bank.

To return to Epsom in 1927, everyone either took part of was there to see the pageant pt on by a local cast to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the town. It was not a display of talent by rather a tribute of those who had weathered the hardships of early years to form a new community for themselves and future generations.

In the early thirties local folks began to realize the needs for fire fighting equipment and the knowledge to operate such equipment. Consequently a volunteer department was organized and the January 1935 town report lists a fire engine with other town property. They had purchased a brand new 1934 Chevrolet truck. Today the new fire house across from the Baptist Church houses two fire engines and a tank truck. The department has also grown in membership - and has over 100 members. When the dial phones came to town in 1954 the red phones came to and with the help of the new siren, quick response was realized when a fire is reported.

The crash of 1929 had lowered everyone to rage and penny pinching. That is all but the Rockefeller's and Vanderbilt's.

Then came Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House and the New Deal delved into the alphabet to come up with the N.R.A, C.C.C., W. P A. and P W. A, remember?

Then the radio had a new use, the fireside chat delivered by President Roosevelt to calm the confused nation. In 1936 the labor boys were choosing sides in the civil was between the A.F. of L. and the C.I. O. Then the kidnapping and murder of the Lindberg baby to fill the people's hearts first with fear and then indignation, climaxed with the trial and execution of Bruno Richard Hauptman.

The medical world pondered and gloried in the birth of the Dionne Quintuplets; Great Britain mourned the loss of a King and eagerly awaited King Edward the VIII's personal decision to marry the "woman I love" or rule a mighty nation.

1940 saw the draft law go into effect and every young fellow in every hamlet of the United States signed up to wait a physical and classification to train and fight for Uncle Sam. Even so Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack. As they marched away the boys begged their girls "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else but Me." All America was misty-eyed as Kate Smith sang "God Bless America."

As the young men of our country were needed to man the guns and tanks, the girls took over desk jobs. Many disapproved, war was no place for the weaker six, but the W.A. C.'s and WAVE'S were popular nevertheless. Mother's, sisters and wives also helped out on the assembly line to hurry necessary planes, ships and ammunition to their sons, brothers and husbands.

Our boys were on foreign soil again and all America pitched in to bring them back quick. At home the folks really stayed home as gas and tires were rationed along with sugar, coffee, meat, butter and canned goods.

The once green lawn became the garden plot. War bonds and saving stamps sprung into being over night.

Age of the Atom (1944-1954)

President Roosevelt was re-elected for a 4th term, the only man ever elected to so serve his country. It proved to be a short term for death took the president in April 1945. Harry S. Truman took over but Roosevelt's shoes were hard to fill. Nevertheless he was elected to another term in the White House.

D-Day had brought new encouragement to soldiers and civilians alike. It was quickly followed with a new burst - the first bomb on Japan by the new B29 Super fortress.

Early in 1945 Germany surrenders unconditionally. The atomic bomb blast on Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in Japan's accepting surrender terms. The to write the peace.

Princess Elizabeth gave romance and glamour to the war ravished world when she married St. Philip Mountbatten. Five years later she rules Great Britain as Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, following the death of her father George the sixth.

Politically speaking 1952 was the end of an era. For almost 20 years the Democrats had reigned. The Republican's chant went across the nation - "Its time for a change." And change we did - into the White House came a General. Looking back on two decades of depression and war, how better to characterize the era than in the words of Britain's Winston Churchill: "Blood, toil, tears and sweat."

Today the United States is stunned to learn of communism. Its power and presence in our midst. Those who have television got the news first hand. Many listened and watched daily to the Senate hearings, Army vs. McCarthy.

In this jet age, history is rapidly being written and with it a changing world and through always keeping foremost our rights of "Life. Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness" it is the desire to achieve that which all free men are looking for, a lasting peace and in so doing may we also preserve our civil liberties of freedom of speech, the press and religion.