A History of Union, New Hampshire (USA)



Louis E. Tibbetts

Chapter 1 - Overview

I have often wondered how Union looked before the settlement of the white men. Were there Indians in a teepee village? We know that Lovewell Pond in Sanbornville was a favorite place of the Indians, particularly along the Branch River north of Union, before the water was dammed to form Cates Pond (Union Meadows) many years ago. Possibly the spot resembled the Garden of Eden with its stately pines forming a natural cathedral ceiling bordering the west bank of this branch of the Salmon Falls River, where fish were plentiful and well fed from the cool mountain stream of the Hunneford which flows into it. No doubt it was well stocked with wild game, as it has been a favorite spot for hunters down through the years. As white settlers came to the surrounding areas, moving upward from the Exeter and Portsmouth area, the natives retreated.

The Piper District was the area of the first settlements and this was reached by the road now known as the Branch Hill Road. The first road to the west was the Governor's Road from Portsmouth to Lake Wentworth, where the home of Governor John Wentworth was located.

It was after the Piper District and part of Wakefield was settled, that two hardy pioneers, Samuel Haines and his son Joseph, probably following an old Indian trail, came to the Union Village area. Here they built a shelter on the forest clad banks of the west branch of the Salmon Falls River, near where the library stood in the 1970s and 1980s. They were the first white men to winter here in the year 1775. This land was Lot number 1 and Lot number 2, of the Masonian land grant encompassing all of Wakefield in the beginning. Other settlers followed, cleared the land, and built their homes with the plentiful lumber, as will be detailed in the pages that follow, while we take a geographical and chronological tour through the Union area. Map 1 shows the lay of Union relative to its surroundings.

By the 1820s, Union was a thriving village, with tannery, yarn factory, sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith, store, etc. Among the early settlers who prospered as did Union were Noah Barker, who first set up as a clothier in 1802, and then opened a carding mill in 1817. Before the railway arrived in Union, there was a substantial business in trucking goods to Union, and later, from the railhead in Union to points north. Chief among the beneficiaries of this business was Robert Pike, who, in addition to the livery and trucking business, ran one of the premier hotels of the region, adjacent to the railroad tracks, throughout much of the 1800s. (Here is one of Pike's postcards from back when they could be sent for 1 cent. The use of the words Postal Card instead of Post Card and the one cent stamp suggest this dates from about 1900.)

The town also boasted a thriving social scene, with many societies and organizations flourishing, many still to this day, including the Masons (established June, 1857), the Grange, Eastern Star, Women's Club, etc. Among the groups which are no longer going concerns are the lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars, instituted in Union on October 9, 1879, and nearly 100 strong in the late 1800s. They played a part in the building of the first Congregational Chapel on Chapel Street. Union also boasted Lovewell Lodge #1185 of the Knights of Honor, and Council #28, Sovereigns of Industry, in the late 1800s.

The breadth of industries that Union has seen, while not unusual for small towns of the 18th and 19th centuries, is certainly impressive. Sawmills, feltmills, chair and sawhorse factory, excelsior mills, marble shops, brass foundries, cornmills, cotton mills, carding mills, and so on. Although Union had to be largely self-sufficient in the early days, regularly scheduled mail service was available as early as 1786, and by 1820, the roads were in generally good condition, with regularly scheduled wagon runs. In 1854, when the railroad arrived in town, Union was fully connected with the outside world, and the shape it has today was largely formed.

A note on the chapters that follow: approximate maps of the various sections of town are included - in the written descriptions, each location is given a number which corresponds to a specific map, and a location on that map, i.e., location (3-2) means Map 3, Location 2. Ovals surrounding numbers indicate buildings (residences, businesses and cellar holes), while squares indicate cemeteries, the church, and the school.

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