Vol. XIX, No. 6 (December
A Sketch of Warner
By Amanda B. Harris
It cannot be taken for granted that everybody knows where Warner
is. Briefly then be it said at the outset that it is in the southerly
part of New Hampshire, near the centre of Merrimack County, on
what used to be spoken of, before the railroad was opened, as
the old stage route from Boston to Windsor, Vt.
The Warner River winds from the west to the south-east, dividing
the area of the township into nearly equal parts, and empties
into the Contoocook, with grist-mills, clothing-mills, bark mills
and tanneries all along its length. It was on this stream and
some of its chief tributaries that most of Warner's saw-mills
Governor Wentworth gave the town its name, reportedly for Jonathan
Warner, a member of his Council. Its charter was granted by the
government of Massachusetts Bay in 1735. Three years later the
committee appointed to make surveys for settlement reported that
they had laid out sixty-three house lots, containing about five
acres each. Lots were then drawn by men who held them until the
The proprietors had four log houses built, in 1749, not far from
where is now the Davisville cemetery. The men who came and put
up the houses were Thomas Colby, Moses Morrill, Jarvis Ring,
and Gideon Straw. Soon after, the French War broke out. Meanwhile
Indians allied with the French came up the Contoocook River,
crossed over and burned the houses and mill.
According to Rev. Henry S. Huntington in his "Historical
Discourse," there were forty-three men with their families
here in 1763 who had settled on the conditions of the proprietors,
each having a forty-acre lot of upland and five acres of interval.
Some of these names are familiar ones, such as Annis, Chase,
Currier, Davis, Flanders, Colby, Edmunds, Foster, Gilmore, Watson,
Sawyer, Heath. "Tom Pond" was named after Thomas Annis,
"Bagley's bridge after David Bagley (town clerk for thirty-nine
A townswoman of ninety-six remembers when there were thick woods
all the way down from Waterloo to Warner
village, in which there was just one little cabin, near where
the Dr. Eaton house now stands. The man who lived there was named
Cole Tucker. She remembers that people had no time for recreation.
"They used, however, to get together and sing. There were
so few of them that they were drawn together in kindly feeling
and used to go a long distance to see one another, two on one
horse or with an ox team."
Shortly thereafter came news of the battle at Lexington. The
War of the Revolution had begun. Warner had then only 262 inhabitants,
the majority of whom must have been women and children; yet the
number of men in the service does credit to the town. Seven volunteered
at once for three months: Charles Barnard, James Palmer, John
Palmer, Richard Bartlett, Jonathan Roby, Francis Davis, and Wells
Davis. Richard Bartlett, son of one of the proprietors, had already
occupied his acres on Burnt hill, where Thomas H. Bartlett now
lives. The two Davises were sons of Francis. Hubbard Carter,
Thomas Palmer, John Palmer, Wells Davis, Joseph Clough, and William
Lowell were in Stark's regiment at Bunker Hill.
When war with Britain broke out in 1812, more than thirty men
enlisted in a volunteer regiment under the command of Aquila
Davis, then commissioned as colonel. Warner
was well represented and has a record of good service. Names
familiar in the more than twice told tales of the campaign will
occur to readers of this sketch, Capt. Joseph Smith, Stephen
George, Daniel George, Nicholas Evans, Benjamin Evans, Daniel
Bean, and others, who received the military titles by which they
were known through life.
During the second year of the war the first post-office was established
in town, at the Lower village, then giving promise of being permanently
the business centre. Previously the mail had been brought by
post-riders. Henry B. Chase was made post-master, succeeded by
Dr. Henry Lyman, who held the place eight years, when Levi Bartlett
In 1823 a bill for constituting the new county of Merrimack passed
the senate on June 27. Warner was one of the four places designated
to hold probate courts. Sessions were held on the first Wednesday
of March and third Wednesday of September, at the office of Esquire
Chase, who was register. Henry B. Chase, of the family of Salmon
P. Chase, had opened a law office at the Lower village in 1804,
and there he continued until his death in 1854. Mr. Chase was
a man of fine appearance and superior ability and held at different
times many responsible offices, including those of clerk of the
senate and speaker of the house.
The only other lawyer in Warner during that period was Harrison
G. Harris at the Centre village, who came in 1816 and was here
till his death at eighty-five. These rival lawyers lived on fraternal
terms; and of neither can it be said that he ever furthered a
lawsuit for personal gain. Lawyer Harris was told to have refused
a client who was all on fire to begin a lawsuit against a neighbor
who had wronged him, with the advice, "you'd better go home
and settle it in someway. You don't want to get into a lawsuit
with your neighbors."
On the 8th of June, 1819, the corner-stone of a new meeting-house
was laid, on a site just below John
Tewksbury's. It was built by twenty-nine individuals of the Congregational
society, at a cost of $2,300. It was moved to its present location
in 1845, where it stands the representative, old-fashioned New
England meeting-house. It is the meeting-house of our fathers
and our fore-fathers, with its sky-piercing spire a landmark
among the surrounding hills.
There had been stores and storekeepers all along, but several
have been known for seventy-years or more. Harrison D. Robertson
came in his youth and his name is still perpetuated in the store
he built, know as Robertson's block, where Upton & Upton
are in trade. He carried on an extensive coopering business,
was much in public life, and interested in everything concerning
the prosperity of the town. Robert Thompson, one of the last
of the gentlemen of the old school, died a few years since at
an honored old age. The store which he built is occupied now
by Jewell & Putnam.
Up to 1849 travelers depended on the stage coach for conveyance,
but in that year we began to feel that we were really in touch
with the great world, when the Concord & Claremont railroad
was opened to Warner. No more of the old coach, swaying and swinging
with its sea-sick sort of motion, loaded down with passengers
and piled high with trunks. No more of the big teams.
There are some events the record of which should begin, as in
a medieval manuscript, with an illuminated letter. One was the
establishment of a free academy , for which the town is under
obligation to Franklin Simonds, who during his last sickness
planned it, selected a own board of trustees (to be self perpetuating),
and left an endowment of $20,000, to which his widow added $5,000
and gave an equal sum towards the building. The building was
erected in 1871, dedicated December 1 of the same year, and opened
December with 60 pupils, Edmund C. Cole, a graduate of Bowdoin
College as principal, Helen S. Gilbert of Concord assistant.
High School, Warner, NH
An agricultural fair
begun in 1873 took in the towns around the base of Kearsarge
mountain. Whenever there is a good institution or a promising
one hereabouts, a bank, a Bible society, or a Sunday school association,
Kearsarge will be included in the name, for the mountain dominates
the whole region. It asserts itself and cannot be ignored. We
could not in Warner lose sight of it if we would. And no man
or woman Warner born can fail to take pride in it. It is the
first thing looked for when home returning from long absence.
Whatever other landmarks
may have changed, Kearsarge is there.
The Kearsarge Mountain road opened July 4, 1874. Warner owns
a slightly larger portion of the mountain than any other town,
with ample foothold on the summit. Wilmot
comes next, then Sutton, next Andover, and Salisbury has a moderate
portion. To Warner belongs the sunny, southern side; and Warner
has to ask permission of no town to get to the highest place.
The old Tory hill road leads to the real mountain road, up past
the house of S. C. Pattee and the homesteads of Stephen Edmunds
and Walter Sargent to the toll-house at Hurricane corner-so named
as memorial of the awful tornado of 1821.
Then begins the delightful winding road, across the open upland
pastures where cattle are grazing up, up, over ledges to Mission
ridge, and on to the topmost point. Nothing grander can be beheld
in this part of the world than is viewed from the summit of this
high and lonely mountain which stands up, bare granite rock,
solemn and alone, as if all the other mountains and hills had
receded. in a circle and left it in its incomparable majesty.
A blue line of peaks and chains bounds the horizon. At the farthest
south may be seen Mt. Tom and Holyoke and Wachuset; at the west,
dim against the sky, the Green Mountain chain.
In Warner village,
the first two-story frame house in town is still standing,
and good for another hundred years. Built by the original, first
Francis Davis, it was successively the home of his son Aquila,
and his grandson, Nathaniel. The kitchen fireplace, usable yet,
is of the kind that takes in wood of a cord length, roomy enough
to do the roasting for a regiment; and a regiment may have dined
at the house for aught any body knows, for General Davis was
from first to last a military man.
Down from the village, Warner River goes tumbling over the rocks
at the falls, furnishing abundant water-power for mills. And
mills there once were, and a foundry, wheels whirring and machines
going for various purposes. The latest enterprise was the manufacture
of straw board, carried on extensively for several years by W.
Scott Davis and his brother, Henry. The Davisville people have
a right to great pride in the past, for the first Francis, as
well as his sons and his sons' have sustained the characteristics
of trustworthiness and decency which make the real worth of a
Many visitors come to Warner for the summer, among them Senator
Chandler. His first acquaintance with Warner reminds one of the
circumstances that led Daniel Webster to make Marshfield his
summer home. The Senator came up from Concord to fish in our
mountain brooks, and like most strangers was enthusiastic over
the scenery. When, several years later, the Noah Andrews house
on the hill became vacant, he bought it, and has spent more or
less of every summer here since. Here, in the unostentatious
way characteristic of the statesman, he finds the retirement
and repose imperative in a life so crowded with active duties,
and necessarily so much in the public eye.
Warner is a sizable town geographically, with a total area of
forty-four square miles. Only a long-distance trip takes on to
its remote corners, as with, for instance, the Howe district,
where still stands the very old Joel Howe tavern just as it used
to be, dancing-hall and all, occupied by one of the descendants.
To get to some of these out-of-the-way places, one has to do
as a certain artist said of some of the roads, "go somewhere
by way of anywhere."
It is no disparagement to the town that so many mills have gone
by. If we have
not 16 saw-mills and 8 gristmills, as we had in 1823, it is because
modern life has no need of them. Down on the river, at the most
picturesque turn, have been mills time out of mind. What is now
the Ela grist-mill was built in 1829 by Nicholas Fowler, one
of the worthy men of those days who could turn his hand to the
building of almost anything. This quaint old mill, the quaint
house of the miller nestled in the lap of the hill, the island,
and the romantic surroundings dear to an artist's eye, have been
the subject of many rural paintings.
Another place that suggests an idyllic landscape is the saw-mill
of M. T. Ela, across the river from his father's grist-mill.
A good deal, however, is going on there more practical than painting
a canvas, or inhaling the fragrance of pine logs or listening
to the rhythmic sound of the saw-mill, delightful way of passing
the time though it be. The mill is a busy place. Last year 700,000
feet of boards were sawed there, and 600,000 feet will this season
be manufactured into boxes.
To do justice to the libraries of Warner, the first of which
was incorporated in 1796, a separate article would be needed.
The most recent and munificent is the Pillsbury Free Library.
George A. Pillsbury, who was for twelve years in business in
Warner, and whose son, Charles A., was born here, gave to the
town, in connection with his family, the fine library building,
located on land given by N. G. Ordway, where formerly stood the
Kearsarge hotel. It is of red pressed brick and granite, in the
Romanesque Gothic style, is fire-proof, and has a handsome
reading-room and stack room, finished throughout in quartered
oak. It was opened in 1892, and started with over four thousand
volumes, the gift of Mr. Pillsbury and his family. The number
is now over five thousand.
Within the limits of a magazine article it is impossible to even
touch upon many incidents of interest. Many persons, many events
must necessarily be left out. but let us remember the soldiers
who fought for us in the War of the Rebellion. The men of Warner
responded immediately, and with enthusiasm. Never were more loyal
patriots or braver ones. The Roster of New Hampshire Soldiers,
lately published, gives the names of one hundred and twenty-five
men, natives of Warner, and thirty-seven not born here. Most
of them were in the Eleventh and Sixteenth regiments, and their
service was chiefly with the Army of the Potomac and in the Department
of the Gulf.
Walter Harriman, Main St., Warner.16th NH Regiment, fought at
Chicamauga and the Battle of the Wilderness, subsequently Governor
of NH. Wrote first "History of Warner."
Walter Harriman was commissioned colonel of the former, afterwards
made brigadier-general by brevet. Samuel Davis, educated at West
Point, was major of the latter. James H. Fowler, a native of
Warner, was chaplain in Colonel Higginson's colored regiment.
Several persons natives of Warner have added to the world's stock
of books. Levi Bartlett, well known as an agricultural writer,
compiled the "Bartlett Genealogy." To Walter Harriman
belongs the authorship of a "History
of Warner" and "In the Orient." Fred Myron Colby,
a constant contributor to many newspapers and periodicals, is
author of several books, the best known of which are "The
Daughter of Pharaoh" and "Brave Lads and Bonnie Lasses."
Henry E. Sawyer, an eminent teacher, has contributed to educational
works, "A Latin Primer, " "Metric Manual,"
and "Words and Numbers." John C. Ager has translated
seven octavo volumes of Swedenborg's writings.
Mrs. Olive Rand Clarke, for more than thirty years editorially
connected with the Mirror and Farmer, is author of "A Vacation
Excursion." Mrs. Flora Morrill Kimball, a woman of exceptional
ability, is author of two books for young people,
"The Fairfields" and "The Tyler Boys." Her
sister, Hannah F. M. Browne, for many years editor and publisher
of The Agitator, a paper denoted to social and political reform
in Cleveland, Ohio, wrote several books for children. She died
in 1881. Amanda B. Harris is author of books on gardening and
botany, as well as a series for young people.
Other Warner natives have become notable in the outside world.
Ezekiel W. Dimond was a Professor of Engineering and Architecture
at Dartmouth College. The town is the birth-place of three governors,
Ezekiel A. Straw, Walter Harriman, who was twice elected and
N. G. Ordway, for four years governor of Dakota. Five of her
sons have been mayors in the cities of their residence, George
Runels in Lowell; Henry H. Gilmore, Cambridge; John E. Robertson,
Concord; George F. Bean, Woburn; Byron Harriman, Waterloo, Iowa.
Warner women have been always ready for any service that had
a claim upon them. During the War of the Rebellion systematic
and generous work was done for the soldiers and the sanitary
commission. The town was represented in the Sandwich Islands
sixty years ago by the famed missionary Lois Hoyt Johnson.
Mrs. Flora Morrill Kimball, a native of Warner, is vice-president
of the board of managers of the California Worlds Fair
Commission, was appointed by the governor a member of the state
board of sericulture, has been seven years on the board of education,
and is director of a bank. Mention should be made of the literary
work of Mrs. H. M. Colby and Mrs. A. B. Bennett. Mrs. E. H. Carroll
is an accomplished teacher of music; Mrs. N. G. Stearns, a successful
artist; Mrs. M. F. Hayes has had many years of service at the
head of seminaries; Mrs. R. B. Seymour stands in the front rank
as a teacher of languages.
Today, the fate of Warner has been like that of most other New
England towns. Many of its enterprising young men have sought
careers in the large cities or in the West. There they have built
up a successful business or made honorable records
in other ways of life. They are publishers, editors, teachers,
bankers, political leaders, manufacturers, and in all the professions.
Their influence goes with them, but it is felt here. They are
not lost to their native town. It is said of Manchester-by-the-Sea
on Cape Ann that there is a certain spring of water there of
which if one drinks he will be sure to go back. Warner needs
no such a magic spring for her sons and daughters. Sooner or
later they come back.