There are so many varied and interesting markers in the Lakes Region that I am going to divide this section into two columns.
We started, with some difficulty, in Franklin. Our goal was to see the birthplace of Daniel Webster. We had been there with our children more than 40 years ago and thought we knew where we were going. At one point we stopped to confirm our directions with a workman on the side of the road. He said he had driven by the birthplace many times but couldn’t tell us exactly where to go.
This was much like us in years past, having driven by roadside markers without stopping. We persevered and found the nicely kept two-room cottage and grounds. The area looked much like I imagine it must have looked in 1782. Due to the pandemic, we couldn’t go in the house, but it is normally open seasonally on weekends. The marker reads “Daniel Webster was born here January 18, 1782. Statesman and lawyer, he served as U.S. Congressman from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Senator from Massachusetts and Secretary of State under Presidents Harrison, Tyler and Fillmore. A noted orator, he achieved national recognition in the landmark Dartmouth College case. He died in Marshfield, Massachusetts October 24, 1852 and is buried there. He was one of the first men elected to the U.S Senate Hall of Fame in 1957.”
The Indian Mortar Lot, a small downtown Franklin park, has two things from a much earlier time.
“The large mortar found here is in a boulder of glacial origin first hollowed out by water, then by many years of apparent use of Abnaki Indians, and later by the first settlers for grinding corn or maize which was made into cakes and baked over open fire. Also located in this historic lot is a boulder on which a shad is carved, perhaps by the red man to preserve a likeness of his favorite fish.”
In Belmont we stopped to see the former Belmont Mill and learn about the town’s efforts in stewardship and preservation. In 1833 the Gilmanton Village Manufacturing Company built the Belmont Mill for the purpose of spinning cotton and wool and weaving cloth. It was converted to hosiery knitting in 1865.
“In 1885, it had the largest annual production of hosiery in NH. With major renovation and mechanization in the 1920s, the Belmont Hosiery Co. was famous for its full-fashioned hosiery, distributed worldwide. The last stocking was knit in 1970, after over a century of local manufacturing in Belmont.” A second sign at the site reads: “Mostly abandoned in the 1970s, the mill suffered a devastating 1992 fire. In 1995, the mill was on the verge of demolition when citizens fought to explore re-use options…Press rededication reports in 1998 called the building’s new era as town and community center the ‘Miracle on Main Street’.” There are large signs along the street which describe the life of 19th-century mill workers and an attractive bandstand nearby.
We had parked in a small parking lot and walked across a small covered pedestrian bridge over the picturesque Tioga River to reach the mill. When we returned to the car we noticed a hiking trail along the river and decided to take a walk. Because of the drought the river was reduced to a rocky stream and there was no information about the length of the trail; we walked for about half an hour and then retraced our steps. This picture is taken from the covered bridge.
Gilmanton was once the second-largest community in New Hampshire. It is made up of two distinct villages. We saw the Four Corners Village with old stone walls and the original Town Pound where stray animals were penned. The marker on NH Route 106 is for the Old Province Road, one of the earliest highways in New Hampshire with the section through Gilmanton being built in 1770.
In Laconia we saw two mills on the Winnipesaukee River. “Constructed in 1823, the Belknap Mill is the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the U.S. Once a hosiery mill, it houses an intact hydraulic power plant and a bell cast by George Holbrook, apprentice to Paul Revere. The Busiel Mill, built in 1853 as a hosiery mill, was later used for the manufacture of clocks, electronic relays and organs.”
The Belknap Mill was one of the first mills to convert from weaving to knitting during the Civil War. Socks were made here until 1969 when the mill was converted to a cultural center. The Riverwalk traces the history and settlement of Laconia.
While in the Laconia area we stopped at Weirs Beach. Endicott Rock, located at the far end of the beach, does not have a roadside historic marker but the rock is worth noting. It marks the northernmost point of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was engraved by surveyors in 1652.
Railroads “…contributed greatly to the economic development of central and northern New Hampshire and to the growth of tourism in the Lakes Region and the White Mountains”. The construction of the Boston, Concord, and Montreal Railroad began in Concord in 1846 and was completed to Ashand in 1849. One of our stops was at the Ashland Railroad Station. The small museum in this passenger depot is one more place I want to visit when the pandemic is over.
Also in Ashland is “…the birthplace and childhood home of George Hoyt Whipple, pathologist, researcher, and teacher. Dr. Whipple’s most significant research led to the development of the liver therapy for pernicious anemia. For his work he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1934.” Whipple gave the home to the town of Ashland in 1970. It is now operated by the Ashland Historical Society as a small museum.
Nancy-Ann Feren is a native of Manchester, and a graduate of Machester Central High School. She has a BA from Wellesley College and MAT from the University of New Hampshire. She is a retired Manchester teacher and the author of Not Your Average Travelers: 40 Years of Adventures in All the U.S. National Parks. She and her husband have traveled to all 50 states (48 of them with their 3 children) and to all 7 continents. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org