A History of Union, New Hampshire (USA)



Louis E. Tibbetts

Chapter 3 - South Main Street

As we cross the town and county line from the town of Milton and the county of Strafford, we enter the town of Wakefield and the county of Carroll, as illustrated in Map 3. This area is the village of Union. On July 4, 1822 a group of citizens met to celebrate Independence Day and give the village a permanent name. It was proposed to name it Federal Village, but, as one republican objected, a compromise was effected, and the name of Union was adopted. This name has stood ever since. However, Carroll County was not created until December 23, 1840, when the state legislature passed an act forming the county out of parts of Strafford County. Carroll County was named for Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The first house (3-1) on the left was known as the Millet Merrill house. It was bought by Mr. Lafeyette Rhines of Lebanon, Maine for his sister, Etta Andrews, who lived there many years. After her death it was looked after by a Mr. Jaeger, the adopted son of Lafeyette Rhines. The next owners were Glen and Helen Weeks, who bought the house in 1960, and remodeled and modernized it and came here to live after he retired as civil engineer for the city of Melrose, Massachusetts in 1961. Glen had to go to a convalescent home around 1974, and died in 1977.

The Abbie Came house (3-2), first her home in 1905, later was her summer home for many years. It had previously been owned by Edsel Came, and after her death by a nephew, Ralph Came, an insurance man from Rochester. Then the house passed to his wife at his death. John and Martha Pratt were the next renters. The house was then sold to Delwood and Lee Garvin in 1971. The well was drilled in 1972. Restoration proceeded, with a small building erected in 1974. They retired in December 1975, and this became their permanent home in the spring of 1976. His wife, Lee, died in February 1980.

The next house (3-3) was built by Joe Mitchell. Bowdys lived here in 1895, then John Cloutman, who sold the place to Oscar Kimball. The place was next sold to Winslow and Ada Alley, and later bought by Abbott and Pearl Joy about 1952, then Abbott and Dorothy Joy. There was a fire after Abbott Joy had been here a while (around 1954), but the prompt action of the local fire department controlled it quickly and aside from heavy smoke damage, the house was not badly damaged.

The location of a cellar hole (3-4) tells the story of the loss by fire of the next house (known as the Michel Place) in the winter of 1914. Earlier, this place was owned by a Nichols. At the time of the fire, Emerson and Josie Dame, with their son, Howard E. (Buddy) were forced to flee in the frigid weather. The house was never rebuilt.

The two greenhouses (3-5) were built by George and Harold Drew for Frank Varney who had a very successful business for many years, growing good plants. People came from near and far to buy from an honest and reliable man. Frank did house painting in his off-season. He also built a barn which outlasted the greenhouses. Guy Varney, his son, operated this business after Frank's death in 1940. He sold to Payson Littlefield in 1958, who discontinued it in 1964. Mother nature assisted Payson and mostly demolished the remains. In 1986, the US Postal Service built the latest Post Office on this site.

Special mention should be given to the Village Cemetery (3-6). Although it shows carelessness on the part of road crews that have wrecked the iron fence near the highway, and some neglect in the care within its boundaries, it still retains the charm of bygone days, and shows the loving thought and care the people of that era had for their loved ones who were called to their permanent home. The stone steps and curbed lots, the lovely monuments and stones that have braved the frosts and storms of many seasons, and convey to us the thoughts and deeds, dates and names, so adroitly carved by talented craftsmen who cared and took pride in their work. Two stones, or, better still, two monuments, for David Davis Esq., who died in 1860, and wife Sarah W. E., who died in 1850, depict the work of a master engraver, with the lovely messages inscribed and in perfect condition, the stones still upright in their solid bases. Another old flat rock upright appears to be inscribed as follows - Jo. M. Borno - 1711 - it is worth anyone's time to pay this cemetery a visit and maybe meditate. There is also a monument to a dog from long ago. The last burial space left was for Helen Leighton, beside her husband Fred who died in 1951 (born 1879). Helen was born in 1877, and died in 1974. Sometime in April 1975, someone with a warped mind broke some of the stones, marring the beauty of this eternal resting place, but repairs have recently been made, and the fence painted.

Stopping here next to the road leading to Pigeon Hill, and going back to the east side of the highway, we arrive at the Ray Stevens house (3-7), next to the Milton town line. This house was built by Asa Merrill about 1880, passing though the hands of William and Laura Wiggin, followed by Ray and Mabel Stevens (Ray died in 1958). Bought from Mabel by Edjar and Louise Sargent in 1961, then by John and Martha Pratt in 1963. An addition was built on the north side in 1972 for Martha's mother, Edith Bailey Woods. It is a beautiful suite of rooms, cathedral ceiling and marble faced fireplace in the living room. In 1973 a piazza was added to the east side of the house.

The Remick house (3-8), later owned by Charles Wentworth, then Roscoe and Blanche Wentworth, followed by Emil and Blanche (Wentworth) Turshman, is next along the road. It is now owned by a young man who runs a floral shop in Farmington. The house has a new addition and has been greatly improved in outward appearance.

Next is the Levett house (3-9), later known as the Keyes house, followed by Blodgett. George and Ruth Pratt bought it in 1934 (George died in 1967, Ruth in 1970). John and Martha Pratt were the next owners in 1966, followed by David and Sandy Pratt and their children.

Then comes the house (3-10) of Edward C. and Alla Mitchell, who sold it to George Mackee in 1896. James and Mae Reed came to Union, and this house, in 1913. They had three children, Blanche, James Jr., and Gladys. James Sr. died in 1971.

The following house (3-11) was built by the father and mother of Ernest Walker (1872-1962 - Ernest's wife Myrtle lived from 1879-1960). The house passed to Robert Metcalf, who sold it to Joe O'Hearn, who died after a very short time. O'Hearn's son released his claim so that M. Dowming's sister from Milton Mills, who was his housekeeper, could sell the house to Stephen and Ruth Harris in 1966. Ruth died in 1978.

Built by Joe Mitchell, the next house (3-12) was the residence of Hatta Mitchell, who was born in this house, lived here her entire life, and died here at age 57 in 1927. Later it was owned by George Morrill, then Larson and Washburne. A retired serviceman, James Showers, came here with his wife Alice and daughters April and Diane in the 1940s, before returning to his native state of Oklahoma, where he died suddenly. His widow went to Nashville, Tennessee, later marrying a retired Army officer. The house was acquired by Roy and Ida Taft. Roy, the son of Arthur Taft, came from Madison, Maine in September 1951, and was an executive in a textile mill. He was a victim of a shock, and only enjoyed a few years back in his native village, dying in 1953. Ida died of smoke inhalation as a result of a fire in her home in 1969. Eddie DeForest and mother Laura DeForest moved in during 1971, and made major improvements.

Most of the houses on this stretch of South Main Street were built by railroad men. This more or less dates the age of them, as Union was the railroad headquarters from 1855 to 1873.

The next house (3-13) was formerly a shoe shop, then Aunt Lovey Sanborn kept house for a railroad man, Wesley Abbott, until he moved north with the extension of the railroad in the 1880s. She also kept house for Joe Gilman until he died, and the house was left to Charles Woodman. Lovey Sanborn celebrated her 89th birthday in 1924. Her twin sisters came to Union to celebrate their 85th birthdays with her, at which time they were the oldest living twins in NH. Known as the Trafton place in the late 1800s, it was bought by Hilton (1860-1940) and Stella (1868-1924) Goodwin in 1898. Their son Harry G. deeded the house to Charlotte (Eastman) Morrill in 1941. Later Harriett Eastman came to live with her after Louise died. After the death of Harriett and Charlotte, in 1964, Eleanor Eastman bought the house and made extensive repairs.

Going back to the west side of the highway, the house (3-14) next to the railroad was built by Joe Mitchell and owned by a Wilcox, followed by Mrs. Ella E. Moulton. It was later occupied by Reverend and Mrs. Edward Payson Eastman, the father of Grace Littlefield, Louise, Harriett and Charlotte Morrill, and one son, Fred. Isaac Lord lived here awhile after his large house in town burned in the fire of 1923. He died in 1956. His daughter Pauline has lived in Springvale, Maine most of the time since she graduated from Nute High School in 1922. Guy and Eliza Varney then bought this house - Guy died in 1963, Eliza in 1973. Willis and Maude Nason bought the place in 1972, returning to Union after living in Sanbornville for 25 years.

Next is the Lydia Mitchell place (3-15), built by Mitchell. The subsequent owner was Winslow Alley, followed by Harriett, Louise, and Charlotte Eastman, who bought it in 1918-1919. Then Jimmy and Corrine (Dame) Thomas acquired it, followed by Edmund (Buddy) Smith Jr., and his wife Monique (a war bride from France).

Reuben Sanborn and wife Carolyn (Cook) built the next house (3-16) before 1900. One half was left to Helen Leighton's mother, who was a cook, and one half to Helen's brother who was committed to the Concord State Hospital. Then Helen and Fred Leighton bought it in 1916. They had been living on the Middleton Ridge Road. Fred had a beautiful chestnut horse, and fascinating wood sawing machine that evoked much interest. They were married in 1904 and spent seven years on the railroad, Helen as cook and Fred working on the track. Fred was born in 1879 and died in 1951. Helen died in 1974, and was laid to rest in the final space in the Union Cemetery. The house was bought by Wilbur and Edith Cash in 1977.

Next is the former parsonage (3-17) of the Congregational Church. The land was given by a Mr. Smith for a parsonage, Lewis Plummer donated the lumber, and it was built by a Chamberlain. This was probably about the year 1890, just prior to the forming of the Ladies Aid in 1893. The well was begun on the first of October 1932. Next owner of this building was John McInnerney, followed by Richard Pike in 1972. Pike was a local mail carrier (Milton Mills and Lebanon, Maine) and had a barbershop for part time barbering.

The next house (3-18) was built by Jacob Adams, then occupied by Aunt Lovey and Myra Adams Sanborn. It was then bought by Orpheus and Carrie L. Smith. Orpheus was a hard working man - he cut hundreds of cords of wood, dug many ditches, wells, etc., a laborer everyone wanted to hire when they needed that kind of a job done. Carrie died in 1936. Orpheus sold to Daniel and Florence Wilson on July 25, 1944, and moved to the house opposite the Pleasant Valley Road in Middleton. He died in 1960.

George Brigham owned the next house (3-19) around 1882, living here for 48 years. Arthur Fox bought it in the early 1930s and his sister Betty Kingman and boys moved in after her husband was killed in an accident. Prisco DiPrizio lived here for a while, and Charles and Gus DiPrizio built one of their first fireplaces. Howard (Buddy) and Virginia Dame bought it in 1944. Their daughter Corrine D. Thomas and family moved in after Buddy and Virginia bought and had a mobile home moved to Route 109 overlooking beautiful Lovell Lake.

Across to the east side of the street is the John Prescott house (3-20), which was owned by Tom Smith, a liquor dealer from Massachusetts, in 1870. John Prescott ran a hotel in Sanbornville for four years and had summer boarders in Brookfield before coming to Union in 1877. He lived here 33 years and served 18 years as postmaster. George Stevens' first wife Grace Mooney lived here with her folks, Mr. and Mrs. William Mooney, and they (George and Grace) started housekeeping upstairs. A railroad man bought this house and it was deeded to Mary Grace as they planned to get married, but he died suddenly. She sold to Reid and Bessie Dixon in 1933. The upstairs tenement had several different families live there at different times, including Charles and Dorothy Paris, Ralph Linton (schoolteacher) and his mother, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Chefalo. Homer Lowe lived here when he bought the monument business from Myron Johnson in 1930. The current residents are Craig and Lorna Hill. The place is once again being restored as a two tenement house.

Known in recent years as the Jackson house (3-21), the next house, built in the 1880s by a Dr. Scruton. He married a Hersom from Lebanon, Maine and, after she died, he married her sister. He passed on in 1895. He was followed in the house by Dr. Swinerton, and then Dr. Jackson. Dr. Scruton had an alarm clock connected with the damper that controlled his steam furnace, so that it would open in the morning. A note of 1880 states that the temperature was 30 below zero outside and forty inside. There is also an interesting dumbwaiter still in the house. The house was vacant for a long time. Dr. Jackson's widow spent a few weeks here in the summer during the 1930s, but her home was in Lebanon, Maine. In 1958 Glen and Marion Nason bought the house and redecorated it. A fire in the barn in 1964 did some damage, but was repaired by Glen and his boys. They have also done a lot of restoring and refinishing on the inside.

Next is the Miller house (3-22), built by Arthur and Nellie Taft about 1895. Lyle and Harriett Drew, with children Ernest and Esther then moved in. Ernest was a casualty of World War II in the Pacific, and his body was never recovered. Drew Chapel was named in his memory as Harriett was a pillar of the church for many years. Next owners were Justin and Sylvia Hill, who moved to a mobile home on Chestnut Hill in 1971. Then Brian and Cindy Abbott lived in the house briefly, before moving to Dover. They were followed by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Semprebon in 1973. The place was sold again in 1974 to Richard and Sadie Reardon. They sold to Jack Bowles, a marine engineer, in 1976.

In back of the house is a two car garage and a long shop used by Lyle Drew for woodturning, until he built the present mill (3-23) on the site of the old woolen mill operated by Arthur Taft until it burned in 1908. The mill was known for producing the highest quality wool in the area. The long shop became Lyle's paint shop, until he died in 1961 (born 1891 - Harriet was born in 1889, died in 1960). After Lyle died, his daughter Ester, wife of Dr. Eastman of Somersworth, opened the mill as a novelty shop, managed by Justin Hill. After a couple years, the mill was sold to Bernard Cowell, realtor, who in turn sold to people from Massachusetts, who left it unoccupied until Harvey Fox rented it for storage in 1974. In 1977, Jack Bowker took on and restored the mill, lands, and power plant, operating it until he sold it to a New York firm that manufactures brass beds.

The lower mill pond formed by the dam used to power the Drew mill has in past times been a center of winter activities for Union. Winter mornings would find ice fishermen present, while on afternoons and weekends the ice would be cleared for hockey matches.

[Briggs House (South Main Street) in 2003The next house (3-24) was built by Ed Junkins and sold in 1895 to William and Julia Lord, who came to Union from Acton, Maine in 1891. Lord built an exceptionally large barn attached to the ell of the house from lumber he was unable to sell. Julia had two pet dogs buried on the island in the river back of the house. Julia died in 1935. After William's death in 1944, the house was owned by Robert Duchano of Sanbornville, followed by John and Betty Briggs (with children John and Diane) in 1956. John (who died in 1991), was a well-regarded poet, with several published volumes to his credit. They moved to Sanbornville and sold the house to William Shea from Epping in 1975.

Mr. Lord gave land to the state that was planned to be the largest fish rearing station in the United States. It was located west of the village in the towns of Middleton and Milton. Work started in the severe cold of the winter, during the depression years when jobs were so scarce and relief to families was so badly needed. Much work was accomplished against great odds - the terrain was mostly rocks and little dirt. A dam was built, pools were made, a large log two story building was erected, but water was scarce and not capable of filling the pools so essential to fish life, and eventually the whole project was abandoned. A fireplace and chimney are all that remain of this effort.

During the late 1800s there was a heel shop (3-25) in a small building between the big culvert and the cemetery (3-26). A corner stone is still there. John Hall operated this shop after leaving the heel shop by the Masonic Hall. During the 1910s-1920s, Dr. Larsh Gilman of Nebraska, and a nephew of Pike Gilman, original owner of the Union Hotel, had his dental office here. I remember visiting him to have a tooth filled about 1921. Later, the building was to be moved away, but hard luck struck during the attempt when it collapsed. It was then dismantled and taken to Pine River Pond, the lumber used in a building that Mr. Lord and Arthur Fox built.

This cemetery is the burial place of the first two men that settled in Union, Samuel Haines and his son Joseph. They built their house opposite the Veterans Home, where the Union Library stood until 1991. The people buried in this early cemetery are: Samuel Haines (1716-1786); Joseph Haines (1745-1825) who was in the First NH Contingent during the Revolutionary War; Betty Haines (died 1803); John Haines; Ann Haines Colby; and Enoch Haines; the last three are at the back of the monument. A marker sponsored by the Grange as a community pride project was installed in the early 1980s.

[Shea House (Kennefick's Store) in 2004The next two and one half story building and large ell (3-27) has a long history. Reuben Trafton had a barbershop in one corner until he moved upstairs in the former library building. As a store, it had many owners and several occupants. After the railroad came to Union, Robert Pike had grain come in by the carload. He laid a track across the road and transported the grain from freight car to building by way of this track, presumably by some form of small platform car. In later years he built a walk across the road for his own use and objected when it was removed to rebuild the road. The Post Office was located here at different times - when a storekeeper became postmaster, the office was moved to his place of business.

Some of the owners and operators were Maddox, Lester Wiggin (postmaster 1911), Ralph Wiggin (who was an undertaker in Dover for many years, before leaving to run successive stores on Cape Cod and in Centre Ossipee, before returning to Union to retire), George Giant, Joseph Gilman (whose wife was a sister of Robert Pike), William Alley, Clayton and Mary Pollock (1932 - Clayton died in 1974 in West Ossipee), Frank Crowley and wife Marion, Sam McKenzie and wife Alice (bought from Dr. Crowley about 1945), Robert and Gordon Anderson, John Kennefick (closed as a general store in 1968).

Carroll (Snooky) Shea bought the place in 1972, and opened it as a rug showroom, painting and doing some needed repairs. The tenement upstairs has usually been occupied. As of the early 1970s, John Kennefick was living in the ell. John died on May 1, 1974, at 73 years of age, while out fishing on the pond in back of the store. He and the boat went over the dam, and after his absence was discovered, a search was made and he was found, about 200 yards downstream. Early in December 1973 a sixty foot mobile home (3-28), after a few attempts and cutting of some maple trees, was able to find its resting place close to the back (east) of the store. Snooky, with his bride Susan, moved in during March 1974. Snooky recently moved his rug store out and made another rental apartment in the lower level.

Across the street is the railroad freight house (3-29), bought by Charles DiPrizio and Sons for a storage shed for their lumber products after the station closed in 1956.

A building was erected by Harold Drew just north of the freight house for a filling station about 1935. It was owned and operated by Winburn Dudley until he went to work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard just prior to World War II, about 1940. Dudley sold the property to Rowell Watson (Tydol Oil Company) of Dover, distributors of gasoline. Porter Durkee operated it a short while, followed by Gladys and Forrest French until they bought Howard Atherton's Garage. They were followed by Roscoe Wentworth, George Holman, and Edward Pastuzyh from Massachusetts. The gas pumps were taken out and Vera Peaslee served lunches. Mary Lessard of Milton followed her for a short time. The building was bought by Frank Gray in 1956, and moved to the former Poplar Yard, south of the school, and became the first step toward his new home.

The early railroad was the Great Falls and Conway railroad, later to be absorbed by the Boston and Maine. The railroad signals were installed in 1954. The old familiar crossing signs of Stop-Look-Listen are long gone. The old wooden grates or cow catchers that were a part of the fences at crossings to prevent cattle from wandering along the track right of way are also long gone.

[Union Railroad Station in 1995Crossing the tracks and on the left is the railroad station (3-30), built in 1912. This station was supposed to have been built in Sanbornville, but due to friction within the railroad personnel, Guy Wiggin, the man in charge, switched the plans. Our plans did not call for a cellar, but with the rearranged plans, we had the cellar and Sanbornville had none.

It was here in the 1930s and 1940s that Franklin Varney and Janet Shea learned telegraphy under the tutelage of James Reed. This started them on their way to be telegraph operators and station agents. The station closed in 1956, but Jim Reed, who was postmaster as well as station agent, was successful in having a part of the waiting room partitioned, and had the post office moved in a few years previously. It remained here until the new post office was built in 1960. The station was bought by James Reed and conveyed to his daughter Gladys (Mickey) and her husband Lionel (Red) Harris. They converted it into a comfortable home with a television repair shop on the south side, in what had been the baggage room.

In 1854 the Portsmouth and Great Falls railroad completed building the track to Union, which enjoyed the business of being the northernmost terminal of the railroad. For 17 years this prosperity continued, until rights-of-way were obtained, and the track moved on to Wolfeboro Junction (now Sanbornville) in 1871. The following year (1872) the main line went on towards North Conway. A branch left Sanbornville for Wolfeboro as well. In those days, business followed the railroad, and Union was no longer headquarters for the trains and train crews. However, business continued with the trains passing through with freight and passenger traffic. This continued for many years, with at least one freight train and two passenger trains each way every day. In the summers, express trains were placed in service.

With the advent of the automobile, business was not hurt for many years, but, as people became more independent and trucks made their debut for carrying freight, the railroad began to feel the loss of business. Diesel engines replaced steam locomotives, but even these improvements couldn't keep the railroad in business. Budliners took over for fast passenger service, but these too soon disappeared, followed by the freight runs, and closure of the stations. Today the only train is the gravel train, hauling carloads of sand and gravel from Ossipee to points south (as seen here). The old railroad station was located closer to the crossing and was moved to become a part of Atherton's Garage.

The present lawn of the Harris' house (the last railroad station) was the location of a former marble shop. Herbert F. Stevens had an extensive business for several years before selling to Charles W. Lowe. Joseph Johnson, and later his son, Myron Johnson, operated it and moved it across the tracks on Bridge Street and later sold out to Homer P. Lowe in 1931.

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