by Cynthia Van Hazinga
Some of us have lived here so long we no longer wonder; some of us are new here and have no notion of why parts of town have the names they do. In many cases, there’s a person . . . and a story . . . behind the name.
Hillsborough, the Town: Sure, it’s hilly, but our town was incorporated and named for the Englishman Col. John Hill of Boston, who was said to have paid Massachusetts Governor Wentworth about $50 when the territory was known as “No. 7.” In the early 1740s, the first brave homesteaders arrived, wielding axes. The settlement was, except for Charlestown, the most northerly outpost in New Hampshire, the borderline of civilization, as it was called.
2nd NH Turnpike: This state highway between Amherst and Claremont was opened to travel in 1801; for many years it was the main artery of business between Boston and Canada and was serviced by Kimball’s Tavern in the Lower Village and Wilson’s in the Upper Village, the regulation two miles apart.
Bible Hill: So called for the only large bible in town, owned by Deacon Joseph Symonds who settled in the 1770s on what was then called West Hill. Symonds was the most prominent and richest man in Hillsborough when it was incorporated. Bible Hill was also the location of the first tavern in town, operated by “Capt. Sam” Bradford, and it was there that the first town meeting was held, in November, 1772.
Beard Brook, Beard Road: Elijah was the first Beard to settle in town, in about 1785. He bought a tract of wilderness and cleared it to build a homestead. His son Jonathan built a saw and grist mill on the stream through the farm and laid out what came to be called the Beard Road, still one of the prettiest roads in the state.
Gleason Falls: This waterfall splashes through perhaps the most-photographed of the mortar-free stone bridges in Hillsborough. The site was the first acquisition of the town Conservation Committee; it also delights swimmers. Jonathan S. Gleason came to town in 1845, bought the “Beard Mill” here or near here, and those who look closely among the trees can find, and slide through the abandoned mill race that ends at Beard Brook.
Shedd Road, Shedd Farm and Shedd Brook: For generations, the Shedd family farmed on the road that now bears their name. It was first settled in 1778 by John Shedd, a Bunker Hill veteran from Billerica, MA. A 19th c postcard shows Farmer Shedd tending acres and acres of potatoes across from his house; he was said to be a jovial fellow and a great spinner of stories.
Contention Pond: At first it sounds contented, but Contention Pond was named for a long and bitter contention over ownership and boundaries. The pond lies less than a mile northwest from Loon Pond, and has considerable natural charm; it was once a favorite resort for beavers.
Cooledge Road: The two Cooledge farms, with sweeping pastures and trim brick houses, gave this road its name. The Cooledge (often Coolidge) family were prominent for most of the 19th century, active in church and town affairs.
Butler Park: Jennie Butler, daughter of Hillsborough merchant James S. Butler, gave this square of land to the town for a park. One of the Butler houses, with an allegedly lovely garden, stood here. James Butler was a prosperous businessman interested in real estate; in the mid 19th century he owned most of downtown and at least 40 tenements for mill workers. Jennie lived on the family homestead and wore a fashionable fur stole in her maturity.
Newman Street: Named for a family prominent in town in the late 19th century. Capt. Emmons C. Newman was chief of police and fire chief as well as state representative, and thanks to him that we are building Kemp Park on the riverbank today. Newman was involved in local real estate and worked to preserve the old stone oven that dated back to the huge celebration for the nomination of hometown boy Franklin Pierce as U.S. president in 1852. Newman was twice married, but his only child, Marion, moved to Detroit.
Whittemore Street: Named for the Whittemores, a public-spirited, musical family who came to Hillsborough from Antrim and stayed to participate in town life. Jacob B. Whittemore (1851-1903) had a number of political roles, from state rep to Postal Inspector and “Chinese Inspector” under President Grover Cleveland.
Grimes Field (aka the Fairgrounds): This large open area at the foot of Depot Street was named for the Grimes family, long involved in town affairs. James F. Grimes was the first Hillsborough man to volunteer for the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. He served with great distinction, rising in rank to Lt.Colonel, and upon his return to town in 1871, instituted the local G.A.R. and the Hillsborough Electric Light and Power Company. The Grimes family owned land on both sides of the river and granted the town some acres, where annual fairs and circuses were held. In 1928, it was voted at town meeting to accept the property, which included the fairgrounds, as a recreation and athletic field. A tall wooden grandstand was built at one end, and baseball became a town obsession. The field still sees heavy use for student teams, carnivals, firework displays and the occasional circus.
Fox Forest: There may be dens of wily red-tailed foxes living in the 1300 acres of Fox State Forest, but they had nothing to do with naming the forest. The land off Center Road was the summer home of Miss Caroline A. Fox of Arlington, MA, who donated it to the state in 1922 after some decades of summering in the old farmhouse there.
The Fuller Public Library: This fine institution, the social and intellectual heart of town, was named for Mark W. Fuller, a prosperous tanner (think leather, not salon) who also ran a grist mill in the Upper Village. He worked with his father and brother at tanning, served as selectman and state rep, and he left $2000 in his 1877 will for the establishment of a library. The bequest was not without strings: Fuller stipulated that the town had to match the sum annually and that his family plot at Pine Hill cemetery get perpetual care. Today, the library is housed in former governor John Smith’s elegant Queen Anne mansion and has a yearly circulation of about 40,000 books.
Danforth Four Corners: This junction of Cooledge Road and Danforth Road in the western part of town was named for the Danforth family. Jonathan Danforth who first settled near here after the Revolutionary War, fought in the battle of Lexington. At least four generations of Danforths succeeded him at the farm, as well as running a blacksmith business.
Manahan Park: Our public beach and 40-acre park on Franklin Pierce Lake was a gift to the town in 1960 from Mr. and Mrs. William Manahan, Jr. – he the local and renowned photographer, son of W.H. Manahan, prosperous auctioneer and real estate broker. In his day, Manahan the auctioneer was probably the most famous man in town. Like Richard W. Withington after him, he drew huge crowds. He sold beach property in Ogunquit ME, for 14 years; he monopolized auctioneering in Concord for 30 years and handled some of the biggest timber trades in the state. His son, also William was exceptionally talented: Starting in 1899, he ran the local photography studio (in continuous operation in Hillsborough from the early 1860s) for 54 years until Cyrus Phelps took over in 1953. In 2002, Donald McCulloch and Catherine Phelps McCulloch, the final proprietors, donated the image collection to the Hillsborough Historical Society.