Marking Time: Roadside Markers in New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region

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“In Honor of the Wives and Mothers of 1776.” Photo/Richard Feren

Markers for cemeteries, meeting houses, mills, and civil rights activists can all be found in the Monadnock Region.

The state marker in Temple is for the Temple Glass Factory which was founded in 1780 and was the beginning of glass-making in New Hampshire. Right next to that sign is one erected by the Temple, NH Historical Society for the Village Cemetery. Most of the first settlers in

Temple were buried here with the first burial recorded in 1772. We particularly liked the sign at the entrance which reads “In Honor of the Wives and Mothers of 1776”

The town of Jaffrey has a marker which commemorates two people, Hannah Davis and Amos Fortune. “Buried behind Jaffrey’s colonial Meeting House nearby are “Aunt” Hannah Davis, 1784-1863, resourceful and beloved spinster who made, trademarked and sold this country’s first wooden bandboxes; and Amos Fortune, 1710-1801, African-born slave who purchased  his freedom, established a tannery and left funds for the Jaffrey church and schools.” 

I first learned of Amos Fortune as a child when I read Amos Fortune, Free Man, which won the 1951 Newbery Medal for NH author Elizabeth Yates. I later read it to our children and we drove to Jaffrey to find Fortune’s grave. Later I read it with my fifth-grade students; Yates came to McDonough School to speak with them. 

On our most recent trip to Jaffrey we found the graves of both Amos Fortune and Hannah Davis.

Grave of Hannah Davis, 1784-1863, “resourceful and beloved spinster who made, trademarked and sold this country’s first wooden bandboxes.” Photo/Richard Feren

I didn’t think I had ever heard of Hannah Davis but I was wrong. This summer, when our family couldn’t come home from Hong Kong where our son and daughter-in-law teach, I read (thanks to online technology) The Wonderful Fashion Doll by Laura Bannon to our youngest granddaughter, Lily, age 8. I had loved this book as a child but had not read it for many years.  The fictional story, set in Peterborough, NH,  tells of a little girl’s search for a fashion doll which had been hidden by her great-great-great grandmother in 1832. As I read aloud, I was surprised and delighted when the little girl found a small box with the label “Warranted nailed BAND BOX manufactured by HANNAH DAVIS  East Jaffrey, NH,  the same Hannah Davis whose grave we had just seen. Until now I hadn’t realized that there was a connection from the book to a real person who had lived in New Hampshire.

The Ringe meetinghouse still embraces some of the religious and civil affairs of this community and stands as a monument to pure democracy. Photo/Richard Feren

In Rindge we saw the Second Rindge Meeting House. “It was built in 1796 when church and state were intertwined . . . This building of simple colonial architecture still embraces some of the religious and civil affairs of this community and stands as a monument to pure democracy.”

Continuing to New Ipswich, “the birthplace of New Hampshire textile mills”, we saw the Warwick Mills, the oldest textile mill still in production in New Hampshire. It was originally built in 1807. After burning down twice, it was rebuilt with brick which was forged on site and completed in 1864.

Warwick Mills, the oldest textile mill still in production in New Hampshire. Photo/Richard Feren

Sometimes markers are hard to find even if you know where they are supposedly located. This is an example of one where we had to do a bit of bushwhacking in order to read that this is the site of the Wilder Chair Shop where the Wilder family “made over 25,000 spindleback wooden seated chairs in forty or more designs. Stools, settees and rockers were also made here until the freshet of 1869 when the dam went out”.

As a child I went to see the outdoor production of Denman Thompson’s “The Old Homestead” so was interested to see that the Potash Bowl in Swanzey where the play was performed merits a historical roadside marker. The play ran for 70 consecutive years ending in 2016.

We had to do a bit of bushwhacking in order to read that this is the site of the Wilder Chair Shop. Photo/Richard Feren

Stoddard has one of several stone arch bridges which we saw in various places around the state. The marker for this bridge reads: “This twin arch structure, built without mortar and sustained solely by expert shaping of its archstones, is typical of a unique style of bridge construction employed primarily in the Contoocook River Valley in the first half of the Nineteenth Century. These bridges are a significant part of our American architectural heritage.”

Another stone arch bridge can be found in Gilsum. That one has the “highest vault of any dry-laid bridge in New Hampshire.”

Stoddard has one of several stone arch bridges which we saw in various places around the state. Photo/Richard Feren

Outside St. James Episcopal Church in Keene is a marker commemorating the life of slain Civil Rights activist Jonathan Daniels. “While studying for the priesthood, he went south to assist with voter registration. On August 20 1965 in Haynesville, AL, Daniels was shot and killed as he stepped in front of a young African-American coworker, saving her life.” 

Each marker tells a unique story of New Hampshire people and places.


makrking timeNancy-Ann Feren is a native of Manchester, NH 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.

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