Here are a few photos of our progress:
|Removing the furnace.|
|Thank you for all of the hard work!|
|The remains of the furnace...|
|Removing the furnace.|
|Thank you for all of the hard work!|
|The remains of the furnace...|
Before there were trucks and adequate highways, Exeter was a seaport by necessity. The Squamscott River provided the only reliable transportation network available – but it had some severe limitations. Originating on Great Bay, the Squamscott’s waters, like all the rivers in the Piscataqua estuary, ebb and flow with the tide. Combine this with its treacherous currents, described as “cross-grained and wily waters” by the late William Saltonstall, former principal of Phillips Exeter Academy and local historian, and one can easily imagine the difficulties involved in shipping goods up or down the river.
To tame the rivers of the Piscataqua region a new type of vessel was required. It needed to be rugged, maneuverable, and low-keeled. It had to haul heavy loads without overturning and it had to handle the shallow waters of low tide. By the colonial period, movement in the Piscataqua region was dominated by the packet – a small sturdy vessel powered by wind and tide. It was excellent for transporting people, but the keel was too deep for heavy loads and shallow water. Shipwrights began to create a flat-bottomed barge suitable for transporting large loads of lumber. By the early 1800’s, the design had been perfected to meet the needs of the region with a spoon shaped bow and elegantly rounded stern. A lateen sail was added to take advantage of wind power. This sail, on a short mast, could be lowered to pass under a bridge. A rudder and leeboard provided the maneuverability required to glide into and out of deep currents.
The gundalows were never meant to be used on the open sea, although there are a few accounts of trips made to Boston. Their job was primarily to shuttle goods between the port of Portsmouth and the inward towns of Exeter, Dover, Berwick, and Newmarket. Although similar craft were found in Maine, the triangular sail marks the Piscataqua gundalow as a vessel unique to the region. That they traveled with the tides is clear in the ledger of Joseph Fernald, an Exeter shipper who operated several gundalows from a wharf once located on the current site of Swasey Parkway. Fernald charged Exeter business men for “freighting” and noted in the ledger the goods going “down” river to Portsmouth, or “up” river to Exeter.
Captain Fernald’s busy gundalows hauled lumber, paper, furniture, and leather goods to Portsmouth on the ebb tide and returned later on the rising tide with molasses, lime, fish, candles, and rum – lots of rum. Exeter was a thirsty place before the temperance movement got going. The flat-bottomed gundalows could strand on the mud-flats and wait out the tide if necessary (not a particularly fun experience if you’re unprepared). Gundalow crews were scorned by other seamen as the lowest of their profession and schooner captain Johnson Stevens of Kennebunk was once quoted as saying, “A man that would sail a Gundilo would rob the church yard.” Perhaps all that rum was too much of a temptation when stranded on the mud flats.
Notwithstanding the good Captain’s comments, the gundalow’s crews were really able seamen considering the difficulties they encountered on their hauls. Gundalow traffic began to falter when steam powered vessels began to move barges up the rivers. By the turn of the twentieth century, gundalow traffic had all but ended on the Squamscott River.
In July of 1847, President James K. Polk decided to take a goodwill tour of the northeast. Washington, D.C. is well known for its unlivable climate in the summer, and Polk’s Attorney General, Nathan Clifford, hailed from the breezy and cool state of Maine. The President yielded to temptation and boarded a train north.
Polk dearly needed to raise some support for his programs. Most New Englanders weren’t entirely convinced, as Polk was, that the United States’ “manifest destiny” included extending the nation all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They were also highly suspicious of the on-going Mexican American War that would result in the annexation of Texas. They knew that Texas would bring with it vast tracts of slave-owning territory that would upset the careful balance of slave and free states. Still, both Maine and New Hampshire had supported Polk in the 1844 election, so it was considered friendly territory.
Whether Polk had planned to stop in Exeter is unknown. Although Rockingham County had gone for Polk in the election, Exeter had not. According to the Exeter News-Letter, “Exeter gave the largest Whig majority” in the returns of 1844.
But the election was three years gone by the time Polk planned his New England excursion and Exeter seems to have remembered its manners. Although it wasn’t quite certain whether the President’s train would actually stop, a suitable greeting was readied.
“On the arrival of the cars,” noted the News-Letter, “a national salute was fired and the bells of the several churches were rung.” This seems to have been enough to get the president’s train to stop, although the noise of the train probably drowned out the church bells. Weare Shaw, of Kensington, later remembered, “The station then was at the crossing on Front Street in a little building that spanned the track. The part on the west side of the tracks was used as a freight room.”
“The President immediately stepped from the cars to the front of the Depot,” reported the News-Letter, “where he was received on behalf of the citizens by Henry F. French, Esq. in a short and appropriate speech, and which was replied to by the President.” Judge French served in the New Hampshire Court of Common Pleas, but he has become better known as the father of sculptor Daniel Chester French, who produced Concord’s Minuteman, and the Lincoln that now gazes down from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Although French would later become an anti-slavery Republican, in 1847 he was a Democrat and therefore the most appropriate local dignitary to greet President Polk.
The Exeter News-Letter continued, “He then was introduced to many of our citizens who availed themselves to shake hands with the first President that has ever honored Exeter with his presence since the visit of Washington.” One of those citizens, recalls Shaw, was a crusty veteran of the southern Indian Wars and the War of 1812 named Waddy Cobbs. “Cobbs was an old soldier and could not walk, so was wheeled up on his chair and into the station, and when the cars stopped the President was then told of his being there. He came out of the cars and greeted Cobbs very pleasantly.”
Traveling with the President were a number of other dignitaries, including Henry Hubbard, the former Governor of New Hampshire and future President James Buchanan, who was then serving in the capacity of Secretary of State. They, along with Nathan Clifford, Attorney General, Edmund Burke, Commissioner of Patents and a few others, were all introduced to the crowd.
The visit to Exeter was short, lasting only a few minutes before the President’s train pulled away from the depot to continue on to Portland.
Abraham Lincoln later visited the town of Exeter in 1860, arriving at the same Front Street depot; but Lincoln hadn’t been elected President yet when he was here. There would be no other presidential visits to town until Benjamin Harrison arrived in 1889. Polk had pledged to serve only one term in office and followed through on his promise. The election of 1848 found New Hampshire men supporting another Democrat, Lewis Cass – a native of Exeter. Although the town voted heavily for its native son, the Whig candidate, Zachary Taylor, won the Electoral College. Perhaps if Taylor had made a visit to town before the election he might have fared better in the election returns from Exeter.
"Historically Speaking" by Barbara Rimkunas, Exeter News-Letter, June 25, 2010:
At the dawn of the 20th century, river shipping on the Squamscott had declined to a trickle. In earlier times, the river was necessary to haul raw materials to town for the factories and mills. The Exeter Manufacturing Company shipped raw cotton up river and then sent finished cloth out to market. The Flagg and Wiswall paper mill brought in loads of rags to make into paper and the town's many merchants used the river to bring in goods from Boston.
But by the mid-1800s, the railroad had taken over most of the transportation of goods. Newer factories were built on the western part of town clustered around the depot. The only materials shipped on the Squamscott were heavy goods — lumber, coal and bricks — that were still best moved by water.
Harry Anderson didn't give up on the river. By the turn of the century, the town had developed an insatiable hunger for coal. Coal ran the steam machinery of the Exeter Manufacturing Company. It heated the homes, schools and public buildings in town. Exeter's Eagle Steamer fire engine pumped 7,000 gallons of water per minute through the use of a coal-fired engine. Anderson was well aware that the cheapest and quickest way to transport hundreds of tons of coal was by water. In 1893 he almost single-handedly revived river transport for a brief period of time.
Anderson had a great love of sailing and put this to good use by bringing his coal supplies up river on schooners. Nancy Merrill, in her history "Exeter, New Hampshire: 1888-1988," states that "at one time (he) owned five schooners home-berthed in Exeter." One was the Lizzie J. Call.
Built in Portsmouth in 1886, the Lizzie J. Call had a regular crew of five, including the captain. During the six-month-long coal strike of 1902, she brought in the last load of anthracite coal; preferred for heating because it burned hotter and smoked less than soft coal. But even that load wasn't quite enough. "Schooner Lizzie J. Call arrived Saturday morning with 250 tons of broken coal for H.W. Anderson, her managing owner. It was bought the day before the coal strike, 300 tons not being available," wrote the Exeter News-Letter. During the next six months, only inferior soft coal was available and this was snatched up by the Exeter Manufacturing Company and the town. Anderson scrambled to purchase coal from Wales — but only at an increased price. When the Pennsylvanian coal miners finally resolved the strike in mid-October, it took another month before coal was available to householders.
The Lizzie J. Call nearly met her end in 1908. The Exeter News-Letter reported on June 5, "After narrowly escaping being sent to the bottom by passing steamers on three different occasions, the three-masted schooner, Lizzie J. Call, of Exeter, was driven ashore on the rocks at Winthrop, Massachusetts, during the gale early Sunday morning, and those on board gave up all hope of rescue." Heading out of Perth Amboy, N.J., with a load of 278 tons of coal, the ship had encountered dense fog — so dense that three times they were almost struck by passing ships. The gale increased and the ship soon found itself in great danger. The Exeter News-Letter account tells what happened next:
"They were peering through the mist when suddenly the vessel crashed onto the rocks off Winthrop at 12:30 Sunday morning and her masts nearly went by the board when she struck. She was thrown higher up on the beach by the tremendous seas, and the waves beat against her hull and dashed high into the rigging. The men on board were drenched to the skin, and they clung to the rigging to prevent being swept into the sea.
"The vessel pounded so badly that her seams opened and she began to leak. The tug Leader happened along and seeing the predicament of the vessel ran down to render assistance. A heavy hawser was made fast to the vessel and the tug straightened out and pulled on her. After considerable tugging the schooner began to move and she was soon hauled into deep water."
The ship had taken on so much water that even after her rescue from the rocks she was still in danger. The bilge pumps barely kept her afloat long enough to make it to port in East Boston. There she was repaired enough to make it home to Exeter.
The Lizzie J. Call continued to travel up and down the Squamscott River until barges and trucks proved to be more efficient. Anderson sold his coal company to William McReel in 1910. McReel preferred to ship his coal from Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine by barge and the swift running schooners were no longer needed for long trips at sea. Once coal faded from use in the late 1940s, the days of dusty coal mounds piled alongside the river were over. The days of the schooners on the Squamscott River were also over.