Dover Public Library
73 Locust St. Dover, NH 03820 (603)516-6050 Mon-Wed 9-8:30,Thur & Fri 9-5:30, & Sat 9-5
                                                                                               
Search our Catalog         Home    Children's Room Historical Photographs  

Railroads Coming into Dover

By Mrs. John Scales
Read to the Northam Colonist Historical Society in1906

I will say right here I do not wish to be sworn in before I read this paper. I have obtained information from various sources and have put the stories together to the best of my ability as I have understood them, but in reading before an audience able, and accustomed to criticize there may be found, I fear, some statements which I cannot prove. In 1839 about the time the B.&M. had crossed the state line from Massachusetts and was being built to Exeter, the following questions were sent to Mr. Gibbs the editor of the Dover Gazette to publish in his paper.

Questions propounded to Mr. Gibbs. Almost every state in the Union has, or is constructing railroads. I wish to ask the following questions. What benefit is a railroad to a poor laborer? Will it not be a damage to the farmer? Is it not best that all men shall be engaged in some honest employment? If a few men have al the power so as to do all the work what will the rest do? If all our merchandise brought in cars what will there be for the coasting vessels? Will it not increase idlers? Are not these incorporate bodies against the government? Will it not put us under the tyrant’s power? If there is no use for stages would there be any need for a stage tavern at Lamprey river that now employs three or four hands and consumes 2000 bushels of corn and 60 tons of hay. These and more similar questions Mr. Gibbs was asked to answer through his paper.

The history of the B. & M. In 1833 the people of Andover, desirous of obtaining railroad accommodations for their town, petitioned the legislature for authority to locate and construct a road to connect with Boston and Lowell R.R. at Wilmington. The charter was granted Mar. 15, 1833, under the name of Andover & Wilmington. The length of the road was less than 8 miles and nearly 3 ˝ years were consumed in its construction. It opened August 8, 1836. The people of Haverhill in April 1835 obtained authority to extend the road to Central village Haverhill. It was opened to Bradford Oct. 26, 1837. The road was extended across the River to Haverhill, then only a small village, which gave the road a small amount of business. One entire day’s receipts were less than $3. In 1837 authority was granted to extend the road to the N.H. state line. In 1878 a charter was granted to extend it through the state. The road was opened to the public as fast as any point of importance was reached in its construction; East Kingston Jan. 1, 1840, Exeter June 26 and Newmarket July 1841.

Road open to Coffins Cut. The road to Dover was completed in August and the cars ran over it for the first time Sept. 1, 1841 bringing a number of stockholders to town, also the stockholders of the Cocheco MFG. Co. who held their annual meeting on that day. Although it was a stormy day there was a large gathering of spectators, both at the station and along the route to Newmarket, to witness the transit of the cars. No accident occurred to retard them and though their progress was necessarily slow, they arrived in town in good season. As the station was in an unfinished state and further operations upon the grading were required, the trains did not run regularly during that week. The cars ran only to Coffins Cut. The station for passengers and freight stood on the east side of the track back of where is now the residence of J.Q.A. Swain, and all passengers and freight were brought into the village by carriage of truck. About a year was consumed in getting through that cut. Ground was broken at a little hill just south in the rear of where now stands the McAlpine house.

The foreman of the crew was Thomas Flynn who with his brother Nicholas were stalwart sons of Erin’s Isle. They boarded with Mrs. Sarah Foss, mother of Everett O. Foss on Waldron St. Thomas was a rollicking, even-tempered, good natured fellow who was well fitted for a railroad foreman. He would come in on the coldest day in winter laughing and slapping his hands and face saying "Mother, have the skeeters bit today". The road from Littleworth to South Berwick was built from both ends toward Dover. The Irish immigrants who did the work lived in tents. They were just large enough to sleep in, the bottom being covered with straw for a bed. The cooking was done outside. As the work progressed these huts were moved on. The men probably received but small compensation. Joseph Cate now living in Barrington remembers of driving a one horse tip-cart at 50 cents a day and working as long as the daylight lasted. The bridge was not completed until after the rest of the road was finished and the station built.

The land upon which the new station was erected had been used by the Cocheco Mfg. Co. as a wood yard which extended from Third to Fourth Street and was surrounded by a high board fence. Mr. Abbott, father of John Abbott of Broadway, had charge of it. The depot was a wooden structure of imposing appearance for that time. It had pillars in front. It was painted a dark gray and sanded. It stood over the track and the cars went through it, there being large doors at each end. In severe winter weather these doors were closed, being opened only for the passage of the trains. This practice was soon discontinued, however, as the smoke from the wood burned in the engine was stifling. This depot stood till 1875 when a new one was built of brick on the same site. The building committee were John E. Bickford, Amos Paul, J.D. Bradley and President White. This is the building at present in use. For a freight the small building which had been used for passengers and freight at Littleworth was moved to the spot now occupied by the water tank. It was moved across the bridge on a Sunday by Thos. J. Canney of this city whose business was bridge building and heavy trucking. He was grandfather of Mrs. Seavey. This freight house was burned April 5, 1848 about 4 o'clock in the morning. It was completely destroyed with all its contents belonging to individuals and companies. No freight charges were made at that time and people took away their goods when convenient. The Cocheco Mfg. Co. lost cases of goods, C. P. Moses, a quantity of paper, Mr. Webster, $800 worth of leather. The entire loss was estimated at $40,000. The fire originated in a pail of waste belonging to Norway Plains MFG. Co. A larger brick freight house was built in the same place. The freight house on Broadway was built in 1870 but as the traders objected to going over to Rollinsford for the freight the old one was still used. In 1874 the Eastern road came into Dover and in order to compete with that road in convenience to freight house the new one was not used until the B. & M. took control of the Eastern.

South Berwick branch. The road to South Berwick junction was opened February 2, 1843. On that day free rides were given all day, the train making several trips, all the trains were crowded. The cars were short with small windows. The seats with slat backs were upholstered in black haircloth. The engine was the Antelope weighing about 7 ˝ tons. On the last, trip when the train was on the bridge over the Salmon Falls river, the water gave out. The engine was obliged to go to Rollinsford to fill the boiler. On its return the train came on to Dover having been delayed about an hour. Mrs. Mann of Broadway was on this train with her sister and mother, Mrs. Canney and she distinctly remembers the events of the day, being about 10 years old. Crowds of people were at the stations and along the way. The trains had a speed of about 20 miles an hour and when a speed of 30 miles was reached it was called a fast train. There was a train run from Boston to South Berwick in 2 ˝ hours. It was called the steam boat express. It made few stops, not even stopping at Dover, as much time and power were lost in stopping the train and starting with the small engines. In the earliest cars a brake consisting of a lever worked by the foot was used. Later came the wheel brake which required a brakeman at every car. The man on the last car applied his brake first and on to the next. The coupling was called the link pin coupling which left a little play between the cars. The engines were first named for Indian chiefs, then for presidents, then for generals, then for stations along the road and finally they were numbered as they are today. Mr. Nathaniel Twombly says he remembers the first train that came into Dover when the station was at the foot of the hill west of Arch St. He was at work at Boston at that time as a young man house carpenter and came home on that train. There was a great crowd of people from all the county round; and all the farmers and their hired men who never had seen a locomotive before, looked on with astonishment at the wonderful machine and made all sorts of remarks, One man when asked what he thought of the engine said "Oh you can’t fool me, there is a horse in there somewhere. As they talked with Mr. Twombly they were astonished to know how fast the train could travel and they looked upon him as a young and very brave hero.

Demeritt Place Esq. of Strafford who is tenacious in memory of events, though now past 90 years of age, remembers the first train into Dover very well, and talks interestingly about it. For more than 60 years he was engaged in carrying poultry and produce from Strafford to Boston, beginning several years before any railroad was commenced, though talked of. As soon as they commenced running trains on a part of the road, he would put his poultry aboard at the first point he reached them; so his team route from Strafford gradually shortened by shipping from every point he could till he reached Dover, and the first train from here that carried any baggage he sent a basket of poultry. He says great excitement was manifested by the people as they crowded around the engine and looked with astonishment at its construction, some got down on their hands and knees to look under it in order to see everything. Mr. Place says it was very amusing to hear them make comments. He continued to bring his poultry from Strafford to Dover and go on the train once or twice a week with it to Boston regularly for 55 years and after that he made occasional trips till he was considerably past 80 years of age. He has never been sick though now 92 years old. For half a century from its beginning no business man was better known by the Boston & Maine railroad men than Demeritt Place.

Berwick Branch. The main line of the B.&M. was now extended from Wilmington to South Berwick, 58 miles. On the completion of this road a junction was made with the Portland, Portsmouth and Saco and on Apr. 1, 1847 a contract was entered into between that road, the B.&M. and the Eastern whereby the joint use of the former was given to the B.&M. and Eastern which was continued 23 years. On the 19th. Of July, 1870 the P.P. & S. served a notice on the B. & M. that they would terminate the Contract on Jan. 20, 1871. This left the B. & M. with a road 74 miles long terminating in the woods at South Berwick. Unable to make any arrangements for continued use of the road they obtained a charter to extend the road from South Berwick to Portland in February 1871. In building this road they were obliged to cross the Eastern at North Berwick as they wished to lay their rails along by the seashore to Old Orchard. At Portland they were again obliged to cross the Eastern track in Portland to reach their station on Maple St. In each case there was a violent quarrel. In Portland the dispute was at Smith’s wharf on Commercial St. over the right of way.

Quarrel at Smith’s wharf. A newspaper account of September 1873, of the last stand taken by the Eastern at Smith’s wharf at Portland gives an idea of the fierceness of the quarrel. The Eastern had track and frogs across Commercial St. arranged for their own use. The B. & M. tore up the track and put in their own frog. A great crowd was present and a head light gave illumination. Six men were stationed to watch the track, A force of men from the Eastern road went to the spot where the frog had been put in, tore it up or threw it aside and ran a locomotive over the disputed spot and kept it there over the place the frog had been. A large mob was in attendance. When the Grand Trunk was to pass Supt. Furber ordered the Eastern engineer to remove his engine which he would not do, where upon Furber gave his men orders to move the engine out of the way. The Eastern engineer made some resistance and finally succumbed, the engine was removed and the switches spiked. The trains were delayed but the disputed frog was reinstalled by the B. & M. The dispute went into the courts.

On the 6th Day of December 1872 the last rail was laid on the extension to Portland and the 15th Day of February 1873 freight trains commenced running over the road from Boston to Portland and a month later passenger trains.

(March 1873) Mr. Gilman, known to us as Hade Gilman, took the first passenger train the new road from Kennebunk to Portland. He remained conductor on this train till June 1883 when he came to Dover and was conductor on the train from here to Portland till his death. He began service on the B. & M. in 1853 as freight conductor and at the time of his death lacked only a few months of 50 years of service on this road.

Road back to Boston. The cars of the Boston & Maine came out of Boston on the Boston and Lowell road till 1845. They completed the road to Berwick in February 1843 and Somersworth July 1843 and had their cars running to Portland before they built back from Andover to Boston. They went into Boston over their own rails July 1, 1845 to a temporary station where the present Union Station now stands but the charter compelled them to build Haymarket Square where the permanent station was ready for use May 6, 1846.

D. & W. R.R. In 1841 an endeavor was made to build a railroad from Dover to Weirs. A petition was sent to the legislature for a charter ,signed by Andrew Pierce, Moses Paul, Francis Coggswell, Joseph W. Smith, Hateirl Knight, Chas Bennett, Noah Tibbetts, Benjamin Barker, Herbert Clark, James Burley, John Riley, Samuel Wyatt, Stephen Hanson, Richard Kimball, John P. Hale, Watson Hayes, Calvin Hale, Dominicus Hanson, John Roberts, Thomas Kittredge, John H. Wheeler, Benjamin Wiggin, William Twombly, E.J. Lane, Asa Tufts, and Silas Moody. A charter was obtained under the name of the Dover & Winipisiogee and at a meeting held at the New Hampshire hotel May 29, 1841, Herbert Clark, Timothy Famer, John Riley, Thomas W. Kittredge and Andrew Pierce were elected directors. They organized by choosing Herbert Clark president and Andrew Pierce clerk. The necessary money could not be obtained and nothing was done until 1847 when another charter was obtained under the name of the Cocheco R. R. Samuel Ashburner of Boston was consulted in regard to surveys and estimates. He made an examination of the route, gave a plan and profile of it from Dover to Meredith with the cost of building and equipment, and directions for the same. The distance was 44 miles, cost of construction 864,965, equipment $951,265.95

In a communication to the directors in January 1848, in regard to the business that would come to the road, signed by A. Freeman and George Barker, was enumerated the following: the passengers then carried by stage coach; the freight received in Dover by water to be carried up north; the goods sold at wholesale in Dover, stating that trade going north through Rochester in 6 months was 1200 tons; the cattle and sheep from Brighton, the manufactured goods along the Cocheco, the stone form the quarries at Farmington, the travel to the White Mountains by the lake, the immense quantities of wood along the route both for exportation and fuel for the engines. While it would bring down from the North ship timber oak & hard wood which now amounts to 3000 tons a year and the country produce from the upper part of the state, Vermont & Canada. At that time this freight came down in winter in pungs and on sleds through the Notch and Rochester to Dover, Portsmouth, Newburyport, Salem, Lynn and Boston. The farmers usually made one trip in a winter, from one to two miles of these teams coming in company in order to help one another through the drifts and be of assistance in case of accident, they brought timber round logs, oats, butter, cheese, and other farm produce. Their methods of travel, food &c have been recounted in former papers of this society. On the return journey they carried salt, molasses, rum and other family supplies dry good and hardware. All this freight the new road which was proposed from Dover to Weirs hoped to secure.

On the 12th of April 1848 a large meeting of citizens was held in the town hall to adopt measures for the immediate construction of the Cocheco road Noah Martin chairman, Benj. Barnes Sec. Resolutions were submitted by Chas. Woodman urging that the public good demanded the road. Addresses were made by C.W. Woodman, Joseph H. Smith, Wm. B. smith, Solomon Jenness, William Hale, T.G. Morse of Dover and Louis McDuffee of Rochester. A further subscription of stock was taken up. A meeting was held in Rochester April 22, 1848. It was announced that enough stock had been taken to build the road to Rochester and the people were urged to take shares. In half an hour $14,820 was subscribed in Rochester and 7000 in New Durham & Alton (the rest is indecipherable) June 1,1848 for grading and masonry from Dover to Rochester. The work was divided into six sections contracted for by six persons, Augustus Stackpole, Robert McManus, William Burke, Henry Hughes, William Flynn. Masonry—David Wilson, and Daniel Murray. Ground was broken at Hornes Hill, where speeches were made by William Hale president of the road, and by other prominent citizens. A large and enthusiastic company was present. The road was built that year as far as Farmington when the money gave out and it was operated to that point till September 1, 1851 when it was extended to Alton Bay. It was expected that the road could be built for 500,000 but the cost was 800,000 beside equipment. The money raised by stock subscriptions was insufficient to meet this cost which necessitated putting a mortgage on the road. When default occurred in payment of interest on the mortgage, a foreclosure was effected, and a new corporation was formed under the name of the Dover & Winnipesseogee. In 1863 it was leased to the Boston & Maine that road having purchased slightly over 50% of the stock thereby getting control. In 1892 the B. & M. absorbed the outstanding stock paying for it in B.&M. shares and the Dover and Winnipisseogee corporation went out of business.

The Dover & Portsmouth R.R. Ground for this road was broke November 25, 1872. The Dover Gazette gives and interesting account of the ceremonies.

Extract from the Dover Gazette P.&D.R.R. Monday November 25, 1872, at noon, amid the ringing of bells and music from the Dover Cornet Band, ground was broken on the P.&D.R.R. directly back of the Dover Jail in the William Twombly lot. The sound of music brought out a large crowd of people among whom were prominent citizens from Portsmouth, who marched to the ground by the way of Silver St. headed by George H. Pierce, cane in hand for a baton, accompanied by the band. Probably 500 hundred persons had assembled at the spot for breaking ground. After a few remarks by Hon. Frank Jones, president of the road, pick axes were brought into play by Mayor William R. Stevens of this city and Mayor Marvin of Portsmouth amid loud and enthusiastic cheering from the crowd. Two wheelbarrows were quickly filled and the contents were dumped a short distance away.

Extract from the Dover Gazette P.&D.R.R. Thus the first stroke had been made for the long talked of road for which its friends had been at work for the past 25 years, but which had never been begun as they feared to encounter the swift and deep flowing tides at Dover Point. A season of speech making followed. Among the speakers were Mayor Marvin, Oliver Wyatt, Chas A. Tufts, John Bracewell, P.A. Stackpole, Benj. Barnes, Chas. W. Horton, Col. Daniel Hall and Samuel Wheeler. A dinner was served to invited guests at the New Hampshire house. The contractor was Geo H. Pierce, the engineer E.F. Johnson. They worked all that winter cutting through the hill. In December 23, 1872 Trickey and Avery commenced to fell the beautiful grove that stood west of the High School house. In March 1873, 200 laborers went on a strike. They wanted their pay raised from 1.50 to 1.75 per day and be jarbers they were going to have it. The wages were advanced, subscription books were opened in June 1873. C. H. Horne was subscription agent. The books were in the hands of Mark F. Nason at the store of Benjamin Collins on third Street, 6% and no taxes. The road was leased to the Eastern for 60 years. Portsmouth and Dover took each 5250 shares. This amount would really complete the road so that immediate construction was assured. In August many of the timbers of the bridge were in position, the cut on Silver St. was nearly completed and the rails were being laid on the Portsmouth end. On the 22nd of September the first passenger train passed over the road going as far as Piscataqua Bridge. On the train were President Frank Jones, Ex Gov. Goodwin, Mayor Marvin, Ex Mayor Fernald, members of the board of Aldermen and other prominent citizens, filling one car. The bridge across the Cocheco was completed October 16. The truss at Piscataqua Bridge was swung into position December 18, 1873. Two schooners were used to float it and two tugs for power. It is 200 feet long, forty feet wide and 25 feet high. The work was done under the direction of James Ward, Miss Emma Bean of Newington, was the first to cross it. The first engine came over the road December 21, 1873.

Pres. Jones, Supt. Prescott & Mananger Hatch decided to take the Jonas Townsend house on Second Street for a passenger depot and the Lothrop stables for a freight house.

These were used till the B.&M. got possession. This made it necessary for the Lothrops to leave their fine old mansion which had been one of the most desirable and pleasant residences of the city. The house was built about 1840 and was previously occupied by Mr. Bridge mechanical agent for the Cocheco Mfg. Co. and by Andrew Pierce 3rd. It was removed by Dr. P.A. Stackpole to First St. where it was converted into a boarding house. The grand old Oak, 300 years old, which stood in front of the Lothrop house was felled at this time. Four trains daily were to run each way. Geo Dunn owner of the Dover & Packet line entered the express business of the road. The road was formally opened to public travel February 9, 1874. It was celebrated by the ringing of bells in both cities and cheers over the arrival of the trains. Free rides were given all day and thousands of people availed themselves of the privilege.

In the connection of the breaking of ground for this road, a story was recently told to me by a Northam Colonist. Several years after, Dr. A.J. Seavey was riding along Garrison Hill with ex Mayor Marvin of Portsmouth. Dr. Seavey said "this is the residence of Wm S. Stevens" Mr. Marvin expressed a wish to see him and recounted their joint office of breaking ground. Dr. Seavey stopped at the gate, stepped down form his carriage and approached Mr. Stevens who was in his yard. Dr. Seavey said " Mr. Stevens there’s a man out here that wants to see you; he says he used to shovel dirt with you on the railroad". Mr. Stevens slightly offended drew himself up and walked with his accustomed dignity to the carriage but when he saw who his fellow laborer was, greetings were cordial.


B&M Railroad Roundhouse on Oak Street

The Dover Horse R.R. In the early part of 1882 the idea of a street railway was first conceived by Mr. Harrison Haley. Many thought it impracticable, they thought it too great an undertaking for so small a city, that the cost would be enormous with consequent lack of funds, that the streets were too narrow and some even ridiculed the enterprise. But Mr. Haley persevered in securing the necessary capitol of $20,000. Many who took stock felt that it would be for the public good, that it would give a business like appearance to the city, and place us well up in the ranks of other cities in matters of this kind, even though they might never receive returns for the money subscribed. The directors Mr. Z.S. Wallingford, Harrison Haley, Chas M. Murphy, Chas H. Sawyer, James E. Lothrop, Washington P. Hayes & Cyrus Littlefield.

At a meeting held at the office of Mr. Wallingford, he was chosen president, Thos. J. Smith, clerk and Harrison Haley, treasurer and general manager. Proposals for building the road were examined and the contract was awarded to the firm of Kidney & Libby of Boston, the road to be completed by the first of July next. The ground was broken in April 1882 at Garrison Hill, Mr. Wallingford removing the first shovel full of earth. The road ran to Sawyers Mills with a turnout at Central Square. It was opened to travel July 4. The stock consisted of 14 horses and four cars, two closed and two open, and they ran on 30 minute time. The road was well patronized and greatly appreciated by the people. Some dividends were paid but most of the money was put into improvements of the road. In 1891 the road was sold and the horse cars gave place to modern and expensively fitted trolley cars. The road was extended to Somersworth and Rochester, and Central Park comprising 20 acres was laid out. The York Beach R.R. which was opened into this city in 1904 gives pleasant transportation to the seashore of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The companies which control the street railways in Dover and vicinity provide unrivaled facilities for public pleasure and convenience and we should not forget that but for a beginning gull of obstacles, real and imaginary, met with the indomitable energy and perseverance of Harrison Haley Esq. we might not be enjoying the privileges of today for which let us be duly thankful.

This historical essay is provided free to all readers as an educational service. It may not be reproduced on any website, list, bulletin board, or in print without the permission of the Dover Public Library. Links to the Dover Public Library homepage or a specific article's URL are permissible.