A History of Union, New Hampshire (USA)



Louis E. Tibbetts

Chapter 4 - West Union

The southern and western parts of Union, including Chapel Street, Railroad Avenue, the Poplar Yard Road, and Pigeon Hill are shown in Map 4.

Robert Pike converted a blacksmith shop (4-1) on the corner of Chapel Street into a home. This was the home of Henry F. Stevens, then of a Bickford, then Carl Durgin. It was bought in 1951 by Kenneth and Arlene Laskey (daughters Barbara and Debbie). An addition was built to the garage in the 1960s, followed by an additional garage across the street (towards the tracks) in the early 1980s.

The next lot (4-2) south was originally a chair factory owned by Reuben Sanborn that burned (thought to be arson) in 1891. The current building is the so-called "new" Post Office. It was built in 1960, and dedicated December 3, 1960, with Arthur Fox as master of ceremonies, and Congressman Chester Merrill as the main speaker - Winburn Dudley was Postmaster. He was followed as postmaster by Charlie Foster of Farmington and Arlene Laskey. When the newest post office opened on the south end of town in 1984, the old building was bought by myself and my wife Arlene. The building was converted to a home, and a garage, sitting room, and screen house were added, and the parking lot removed and replaced with a lawn and trees. The current buildings and grounds are shown in Figure 9.

The next house (4-3) was built by William M. Lord. The well that supplies the present house was dug for use of the steam engines when the railroad first came to Union. It was a large well, being five feet in diameter. It was later covered over and was practically unknown for many years. When water was needed for the present house, some older residents told of this well. After some hunting and probing it was located. Helena Downs owned the original building when it burned in the 1930s. The names of Haines, Frank Stevens, and Perley Downs also appear in reference to this early house. George Kimball built the present house and rented it. Annette Dunnels bought it in 1970. After her death, Malcolm Joy became the owner.

The Hiram Stevens house (4-4) was built by William M. Lord. Roland Stevens lived here a while when his father moved to Middleton Hill. Thoder Gilman owned it at an early date. Later it was the home of Mason and Mildred Joy, followed by John Marback in the 1960s. It was sold to Joseph and Marie Lynch in January 1974. They sold the house to Kerry McGee and moved north to Nashua in 1978. At the present time it is owned by the Howard family, whose beloved little dog Maggie is a frequent visitor throughout the neighborhood. When Union was the terminal of the early railroad, a turntable was believed to have been near this spot. The barn associated with this house was once a livery, where kids attending the school up the hill could leave their horses for the day, coming down to feed them at lunch.

Where the next three houses stand was formerly a poplar yard. One small building (4-5) was moved in by Arthur Fox. Russell Shea lived in it for a short while. Earlie Stevens moved in a trailer and lived in it while he was building the nice large house (4-6) which he and his wife and children now have for their home. The trailer was moved away, and the small building is now a hen house.

In 1956 Frank Gray moved the former filling station building from the freight house yard and this was the beginning of his present home (4-7). He also built a garage.

The next building (4-8), and the first one to be built in this area, was started by Dave Burroughs. Arthur Fox repossessed it and sold it to Edmund and Hannah Smith in 1929. They raised their family here. Their children were Edmund Jr. (Buddy), Dorothy, Sylvia, David, Lee, Richard, Shirley, and Jimmy. Edmund died in 1970. When Hannah went to a nursing home, Sylvia's son, David, purchased it and now lives there with his wife and two sons.

John Pratt's warehouse (4-9), at the foot of Pigeon Hill and on the south side of the road, was built in 1971.

Not shown on the map, and immediately up the hill from Pratt's warehouse, on the same side of the road, is the home of Peter and Glory Dalton of Brighton, MA. They built the house in 1975.

Presco Leighton's house (4-10), the first house on the right (going up the hill), was built on land of William M. Lord in the 1930s. Presco died in 1968. His wife Gladys and some of the children still live here. Their children were Doris, Albert, Evelyn, Buddy, Herbert, Francis, and Bernice.

The next house (4-11), built by Charles Drew (son of Iva (Reed) Russell) was built for James and Iva (Reed) Russell in the 1940s. They sold to Lloyd and Sarah (Fifield) Tanner in 1945. They had two girls, Blanch and Betty.

Next is the Frank Varney homestead (4-12). Frank had a greenhouse here before moving to his new greenhouse by the village cemetery in the 1920s. A real cold snap worried Frank one night for the safety of his plants. He sprayed his greenhouse with water and it was so cold the water froze immediately, sealing his plants safely inside. Frank's habit of keeping pigeons gave this area its name of Pigeon Hill. The place was bought by Arthur Fox, then Alfred Pippin, followed by Willis and Maude Nason, who lived here for five years in the 1930s. It was rented to George Fifield Sr., then sold to Carl Litchfield. John and Barbara Deming bought it in the late 1960s.

The Moulton Place (4-13) was owned by Millet Merrow, then Guy Varney, who had two sons Franklin and Stanley. The next owners were Charles Fifield and his wife Louise.

The last house (4-14), out in the field is the home of Eugene and Louise Littlefield, probably built in the early 1950s.

Donnie and Mary Ann Welch had a trailer between the Leightons and Tanners for a short time, until they built their home on Chestnut Hill in 1969. There was also a trailer of Ed and Gloria Bentzler in the area.

Coming back is the two room schoolhouse (4-15) on the hill, built in 1905, shown at about that time in Figure 10. Mr. Arthur Taft gave the land with the right of ownership to return to him or his heirs when it might cease to be used as a school. A desire for a centralized school has been sponsored by a group of Wakefield citizens for some time, but Union folks have persisted in maintaining our two room school. For a long time the building was a bit shabby, due to neglect by the responsible officers to keep it in proper repair. However, it was refurbished in 1975 and now holds the Wakefield Kindergarten and the younger first graders.

The next house (4-16) was built by Al Woods. Arthur and Maude Swift (and a daughter Mabel (Swift) Stevens) owned it for a while, then Frank Pippin. The house partly burned, but he rebuilt, and it is said he added three feet onto the building. The house passed to Harold and Dorothy (Wentworth) Pippin. Harold built a garage at street level, using the top as a sun porch attached to his house. They both died and the house is currently occupied by their daughter, Irene.

George Kimball built a woodturning mill (4-17) across the street in 1928, operating it until 1942. Once, when George was repairing his water pump outside the shop, a washer popped out and went rolling down the street. Apparently, a crow had been watching from on high in a tree, and, seeing this apparently tasty morsel within its reach, dove down, grabbed the washer, and flew away. Now the building is used as a workshop and for storage by his nephew, Lester, who purchased it. And the crows still keep a close eye on the surroundings.

Next is a house (4-18) owned by Albra Pinkham Hanson, later owned by Edwin Hamlin (who died in 1929). Then George and Clara Morrison (children Roger and Ruth) moved in. George Morrison was a member of the Wakefield School Board for many years. Visiting the school on the hill frequently, he enjoyed good discipline. Son Roger was full of fun and a real "cut up", sometimes going beyond the good ideals of the teacher. He then hesitated coming home, for many times George and Roger made a trip to the woodshed, to obtain a better understanding between right and wrong. Roger survived these ministrations, and eventually became a dentist in Farmington, dying in 1979. The house was later owned by George Kimball. It was rented by Lester (Porky) and Gladys Joy for several years, and then purchased by them in 1977. They spend their summers operating their mountain blueberry farms with the assistance of Malcolm (Moe) Joy. They spend their winters at Lake Parker, in Lakeland, Florida in a new home they built in the 1960s.

The following house (4-19) was also owned by Albra Hanson. Behind their house, Mr. Hanson built a miniature railroad, the "Forest Railroad", making a loop up behind of the school house (Forest Hill) and back down (see Figure 11 for a view of the "Great Bend" in the Union Forest Railway as of 1916). The railroad cars were pushed up the hill by hand one way, to ride down the other side. In 1919, George and Gladys Kimball (daughter Virginia) bought this house. Gladys died in 1937, and twenty years later George married Edith Griffith, a twin daughter of Walter and Catherine Harris of North Wakefield. George had a collection of castors second to none. In 1974, George and Edith were invited by Lester Joy to visit Lancaster to see Leslie's new house. As they approached the hospital in North Conway, George asked Lester if he would mind stopping, as he spent two months there 58 years ago, when he was injured while working on the railroad. It seems George was riding on the side of a freight car and didn't notice that there was not room to squeeze by the station finish, and as a result, he lost a kidney. He went in and asked a nurse if he could see some of the nurses who were working there 58 years ago. He also spoke of a man who died just previous to his stay there, who had a kidney removed, and it was then the doctor discovered he had only one.

The next piece of land (4-20) was bought for $125 for a chapel. At a Good Templars Lodge, holding a meeting in a hall over a blacksmith shop, with sixty members present, Daniel S. Burley offered to build a Congregational Chapel, giving $800 if the citizens of Union would raise $400. The offer was accepted and work began at once. The land was purchased and Frank Drew built the Chapel in 1888. After the $1200 was expended, Mr. Burley added $622 to complete the chapel and furnish the same, withholding payment of the debt by the Society as long as the building was used in a Christian way. After his death in 1910, his will had a provision to release the society of all indebtedness to the estate. The building was used for church suppers and meetings of several groups for 73 years.

The library was also located here from the late 1800s until 1960, when it moved into the Main Street building, where it stayed until 1991. Before the library was located in the chapel (1854-1886), it was strictly a circulating library, with all books in the member's hands. When the new Drew Chapel was built on the back of the church in 1961, this building was sold to George Kimball. He converted the downstairs into two apartments, the front occupied by Harris Lane until his death in 1975, the back one by Gladys Hobbs. The upstairs was used for the many antiques George bought through the years. The building is now owned by George's granddaughter, Connie Wentworth Kinville. Another apartment has been made upstairs and rented.

The Belle Sinclair house (4-21) is across the street from the chapel. It was built by Sam Hutchins for Lester Johnson. The carpenter was Fred Wentworth, father of Carrie Downs. Belle lived in Union 42 years, and died in 1935. The house was sold to Alfred and Maude DeLan, but after a short time they moved to Farmington, where Alfred died shortly thereafter. He was a retired railroad man. Willis and Maude Nason bought this house and lived here two years after selling the Frank Varney house on Pigeon Hill in 1942-43. Roger and Celia Wentworth, with daughter Joan, bought the place in 1957.

The house (4-22) beside the chapel was built by Joe Johnson for his son Myron. Myron kept two or three cows, and delivered milk around the village, Myron driving the car and his wife Winnie riding the running board and running to the house with the milk, before women's lib became so popular. Myron died in 1943, Winnie in 1955. George Kimball bought it in 1955. Since then, it has been occupied by Mary and William Hutchins, Ralph and Carol Cleale, and Everton and Edna Parkinson. Carol Cleale had a beautiful mare which had a foal while they lived there. Alan and Barbara (Laskey) Wentworth bought it in 1973. Alan and Barbara had four young steers there at one time, raising two of them from calves. It was bought in 1977 by Alan's sister, Joyce, and husband Carmen DiPrizio.

Joe Johnson also built the next house (4-23). Janet Stenberg Winslow lived in this house for 38 years, dying in 1977. Her first husband, Carl Stenberg, a 7-24 cigar salesman, died a long time ago. Her second husband, Ed Winslow, a retired railroad conductor has been dead for quite a few years. One son, Henry Stenberg, retired and lives in Acton, Maine. Gary and Sally (Shea) Burr bought the place in 1978, living here until they moved to their current Brewster Road home. It is now owned by Everett Huckins, who lives there with his son Wesley.

Figure 12 provides a winter view of Chapel Street, looking west. The Laskey house (4-1) is on the left, and the Huckins house (4-23) is on the right.

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