Jackie Brown’s video series about Chester resident Benjamin Brown French
The Governor John Bell Homestead/Rev. Ebenezer Flagg Homestead/Dr. Emerson Homestead/Albert Warren Homestead
It was originally granted to Rev. Ebenezer Flagg, The 1857 map owner is Mrs. Bell. The 1892 owner: Dr. A.L. Emerson. There are three distinct sections to the Douglas building. The original house (now the ell) was reportedly built by Rev. Ebenezer Flagg, second minister of the Congregation Church, in 1736 on land purchased from Moses Hale. The Rev. Ebenezer Flagg was ordained as minister of the Congregational Church in 1736 and served the congregation for 60 years. He built the simple ell section and lived there for the rest of his life. Governor John Bell bought the property in 1802. He turned the house around and added an impressive Georgian front section in 1806.
This property now took its place with other beautiful homes on Chester Street. The Governor made important decisions here, not only for Chester, but also for the state of New Hampshire. Dr. Arthur Emerson opened his medical practice here in 1883. He added the Victorian turrets the porch and the elaborate entrance that gave it a Victorian appearance about 1900. He served as Surgeon General for the State of New Hampshire and was active in the community. The town purchased the property in 1929 from Mrs. Lurette Emerson, Dr. Emerson’s widow. A trust fund had been growing over several years to establish a home for the elderly. It was called the Wilcomb Townsend trust fund. In 1930, members of the trust decided to establish the home here. The home never met the town’s expectations and in 1946 it was sold to Albert Warren.
Bert Warren collected milk from local farmers in large tank trucks and the spacious barn was perfect for his needs. It was purchased by White Pines College (now Chester College of New England) in 1976. It was named Douglas Hall, after Mrs. Samuel (Spin) Douglas who was the first chairman of the Board, and a close friend of Faith Preston. The following year a $10,000 photography facility in the attached barn opened to house a new degree program in Professional Photography and a double tennis court on the grounds of Douglas Hall was completed in 1977. In 1999, the college received a gift from an anonymous donor to renovate the Douglas Photo Barn. Due to a continually growing enrollment, Douglas Hall was converted into an Art Building in the summer of 2000. Enrollment decreased and the school closed in 2012. When the building went up for sale Bittersweet Blessings Shop purchased the property and is now located there.
Written by Roy Noyes
Towle School #6 built 1858 – Knowles School #8 – These two schools share their history. You will have to follow closely to understand their complex relationship. Towle School was located on the corner of Fremont and Towle Roads. It was town property but built on land owned by the Towle family. It burned in November of 1968. Knowles school was located on Raymond Road a short distance before the Rod and Gun Club. With a change in enrollment it was necessary to redistrict. The Towle family ran a boarding house at the farm and welcomed the chance to buy the Towle school building from the town. It was then decided to move the Knowles School to a more central location. Working with a turnstile on December 6, 1920, three percheron horses moved it to its present location on Towle Road. Emma Lane and friends gathered at church homes to watch the activity. A holiday spirit prevailed. Why the Knowles building was renamed the Towle School is unclear. Possibly there were more Towle’s than Knowles attending. Muriel Church tells of fun times sliding with the children when she taught at Towle school. Recess allowed enough time for one slide down the big hill and across the open field. This was written by Evelyn Noyes and Gladys Nicoll.
Daniel Chester French took the name Daniel CHESTER French because he loved his Chester so much. He spent his summers in Chester with his Grandfather Daniel French. Sad to say Daniel French’s house burned down but the cellar hole is still there. When Daniel built his studio to sculpt in Stockbridge, Ma. he called this home and studio “Chesterwood”. He totally reproduced his grandfathers living room from Chester for his home in Stockbridge. Daniel “CHESTER” French was born in 1850. He grew up in Concord, Ma. He was briefly educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by sculpture lessons by Abigail May Alcott, Louisa May Alcott’s sister. Daniel also apprenticed with John Quincy Adams Ward in 1870. He also took evening drawing classes at the National Academy of Design. He was only twenty-three years old when he received his first important order for the “Minute Man” statue. This bronze statue was completed at the Ames Works in Chicopee MA, and was unveiled on 19 April 1875 at Concord MA, and it stands near the Old North Bridge on the Concord battle-field where the militia stood in 1775. Important speakers at the unveiling included Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, and George William Curtis. Previously in 1836 that spot had been marked by a plain monument. Daniel Chester French was Benjamin’s Brown French’s nephew. Benjamin Brown French wrote in his journal that it was the Minuteman sculpture that made Daniel Chester French famous. Benjamin Brown French was the commissioner of all public buildings in Washington DC and one wonders if that is how Daniel got the job.
Daniel Chester French’s paternal grandfather, Daniel French, was Attorney-General of New Hampshire, and his maternal grandfather, William Merchant Richardson, Chief Justice of the same State. His grandmother, Sarah Flagg French has a connection to Daniel Webster, while his great-grandmother, Dorothy Whittier, was related to the poet John Greenleaf Whittier. He was a neighbor and friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Alcott family. Daniel Chester French is the most famous American Sculptor. And did you know that he sculpted “The Lincoln Memorial” !!!!!! Love, love Chester History!
Daniel French was the father of Benjamin Brown French
Daniel French’s grandson was Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French was the nephew of Benjamin Brown French
Daniel Chester French
The Minutemen Statue
If you look very closely going toward Raymond on Raymond Road, directly across from Rod & Gun Rd..look into the woods and you will see a cellar hole. The house pictured below stood there. This was originally built by William Locke in the 1700’s. Sadly the house burned April 10, 1905 when Martha Sheare owned it. It had been called the Glass house for years as a Mr. Glass lived there and was found hung in the woods behind it. Suspicion was that Mr. Glass was killed by his son-in-law. The Locke’s came to Chester to what was called the homestead by the branch. The branch is the river on the Raymond line. The Locke family has the oldest family Association in the United States. They still today have a reunion every year. William’s Grandfather, Capt. John Locke bought the property in Chester for William, his grandson. John came from England and settled out at the Rye coast. The story goes that he was out in his field working, out in Rye, when an Indian came alone and killed him. But before he died he cut off the Indians nose! The NH History Museum has the sickle under glass which was used to cut his nose off with the story! And in their storage area his sword also is preserved. The descendants of William Locke lived in Lockehaven over 100 years. Rufus Moore and Margaret Locke, daughter of Capt. Wm. Locke bought the house in 1854. Henry Moore and Laura lived at Lockehaven. Laura was born to Abigail Locke. All Locke’s up to this point are buried at the cemetery on the Raymond line. James Locke was a cooper (barrel maker) Found in a wall in Lockehaven was a board which has his barrel stamp on it. James’ daughter Eleanore Locke was a teacher in Chester and after she retired from teaching Eleanore ran Lockehaven as an Inn here in the late 1800’s when the trolley brought people from the cities to Chester in the hot summers to be cool. She also sold dinners at the Inn and a board (nothing was ever wasted) was found in the wall that said “Chicken Dinners 1.00”. Three post cards were sold at Wilcomb’s Store of “Lockehaven”. The key to her trunk was found in the attic and is framed today in the house along with her picture. Eleanore never had children and left her home to a niece Clementine Locke/Backman when she passed away in 1932. Both James and Eleanore Locke are buried in the Village Cemetery. When Clementine Locke/Backman inherited the house from Eleonore they started Backman Greenhouses which then moved to Derry, NH as Backman Florist. Much glass has been found out in the back yard from the greenhouses! Backman Florist is still in Derry today but owned by someone else which has kept the name.
Lockehaven is a center chimney house, post and beam. It has 5 working fireplaces. Luckily poor people always lived here, thus so much of the original 1700’s still stands intact. The house has its original windows and as you drive by you can see the wavy glass. But it was not the Locke’s who built the house. The property Lot M was owned by the first minister Rev. Hale and then sold to the second minister Rev. Flagg. Rev. Flagg which lived in the “L” at Bittersweet Blessings gave it to his son Josiah Flagg. Josiah Flagg and his wife died within weeks of each other (possible small pox?) in 1799, the same yr. that George Washington died. They left young girls to a guardian. Girls could not inherit property therefore the house was sold by what is called a straw man. This has created a problem in doing research on the house as 50 yrs. is missing from 1799 to 1854 when the Locke family bought it.
The first “Locke” house on the Raymond line
The trolleys that ran from Derry to Chester were called electric cars. They began in 1886 and the track 7 ¾ miles long. This trolley not only carried people but also brought milk, mail and freight. After 1919 the popularity diminished from the competition from the automobile. The last trolley ran in 1928. The Company was owned by 2 Derry families. Construction began in May 1896. 150 imported track laborers and many local men were employed to grade, lay the cedar railroad ties and spike down the steel T-rails. Importantly it began at the Boston and Maine Railroad at Railroad Square in Derry to further transportation of freight and people. Land was taken by eminent domain. Entering Chester the track ran up Derry Road turned into where the Granite State Telephone Company is now and stopped east of Wilcombs Store and convenient to the Chester Inn, which was at the westerly end of Geromes Ice Cream Shop now until it burned down. Poles were installed which feed the railways cables and later the telephone wires. Amazingly an 18 foot high trestle was built to accommodate the big dip in the road going from Bell Hill to the Chester St. The electricity came from the Derry Electric steam plant. Oh what a celebration took place for Chester when the first trolley rolled into town! Houses were decorated with buntings, ringing of bells and several hundred people came in front of the Hotel. Derry Brass Band, dinners and socials took place with many speeches. And cannons were fired (most likely the cannons Don Brown rebuilt a couple of years ago). The schedule was made to coincide with the B&M Railroad in Derry. The timetables were adjusted in the summer for the influx of city people coming to Chester for its cooler temperatures and constant breeze high on its center of town. More than 127,000 passengers traveled on the trolley between Oct-June during the first year. The passenger trains only had a hand brake and two crew which were a motorman and a conductor. There were open and closed passenger cars, freight cars and snow plow cars. Oh boy!! This is when Chester became a booming town! There were at least 14 Inns or boarding houses due to the trolley coming to town. Many people opened their homes to cash in on this trade. Also the trolley made travel easier during the muddy spring months getting up our high hills! Feb. 5th a storm of the century hit Chester and the travel was suspended on the trolley line until St. Patricks day. 80 men Chester and 100 from Derry shoveled out the tracks! Chester residents could now take a pleasure ride to Beaver Lake Pavilion, bring their wares to be sold in Derry and students could travel to Pinkerton and adults were now employed at Derrys shoe factories. Special tickets were issued for students and workers. The Chester Historical Society which is open the second Sat. 10-12 every month has some interesting memorabilia from the trolley years. Financially the Derry Chester Trolley never made profit and barely covered expenses. Its demise came due to personal transportation, the automobile. The Derry Chester Railroad was closed on June 4, 1928. Today there is no longer a B&M train that goes to Derry. While doing research at the Derry Library on their microfiche of Derry News I found some interesting articles. One written Jan. 5. 1909 included stopping at John Wasons, her son who recently lost his leg by a trolley car is doing nicely. Aug. 3, 1909 rural letter carrier Edson Eastman has purchased a Buick auto for his mail route. Walter Lane still sticks to his trotters.
‘Trolley going over the trestle bridge between Bell Hill and
Chester Street, where Derry Road takes the big dip!’
Handmade Freight Car
Please visit the Chester NH’s Fire Department History page, chesternhfd.com/history-of-chester-fire/