Site No. 3:  Corner of South Main and Maple Streets.  People have been walking along this way for over 300 years.  In 1657 there was a description of a “convenient cart way” here, leading up to Wadleigh Falls, with a huge oak tree right here in the middle of the path.  Colonial travelers passed around it on either side.  In 1752 the road to Wadley’s Grant was laid out, but the tree stayed.  It wasn’t cut down until the road was widened, in 1848.   

    Newmarket’s first jail was here too— a 9-by-12-foot log house— on the northwest corner of South Main and Maple Streets.  We’re not sure when it was built, but it was removed the same year as the oak tree—1848.  By then it had become little more than a convenient place to sober up.  Maybe after a night of drinking, with the oak tree gone, it would be too hard to find the little jail.  Whatever the reason, it was hauled off to Exeter Road and ended up at the town Poor Farm. 

    During the 1870s this road was known as Haley Avenue. A successful merchant and businessman Samuel Haley lived here in the house at 197 South Main St.  Mr. Haley was also Head Cashier of the Newmarket Bank.  Only after his death in 1892 was it discovered that Mr. Haley had engaged in some speculation and unsecured loans.  The bank stood to lose about $34,000, so the sale of this house helped cover some of that debt. 

    The next owners, Sarah and Woodridge Durell were among the first to have their house wired for electricity.  Mr. Durell, a successful dry goods merchant, was a veteran of the Civil War.   His military record speaks of amazing resilience.  During one battle, he was one of 45 men captured and sent to the notorious Libby Prison in Virginia.  Only five of those men managed to survive the horrific conditions.  Mr. Durell was one of them—and he lived to the ripe old age of 80. 

    In 1910, nuns sent by the Diocese of Montreal arrived in town to staff the new St. Mary School.  They spoke French and wore the ancient habits of their order—the Sisters of the Holy Cross, founded in France in 1837.   This house became their convent.  During the 1950s, Sister Rita taught piano here, in the front room.   For over sixty years, the St. Mary nuns were an everyday sight, walking along South Main Street to and from the school in their flowing black habits and white wimples.  In 1964, a local newspaper published a photo of them sporting their “new” more modern habits.

    After St. Mary School closed, the house was sold.  The new owners found themselves in a home with built-in ironing boards, loads of tall closets, and a sink in every bedroom. 

    Continue up the street for your next stop—203 South Main Street.

    END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.

    3 (So.Main & Maple) A TREE, A JAIL, (197 So.Main St.) AND A CONVENT 

     The Oak Tree: 

    As in so much of New England, Newmarket’s roads evolved from old cart paths and the like.  According to Nellie Palmer George in her 1932 book Old Newmarket,

    An early town warrant calls for a road to be laid out “where the sled path goes through in Winter”—somewhat difficult now to locate.

    In 1745 the Provincial Government of New Hampshire voted “that five hundred pairs of snow shoes and an equal number of mocasons be furnished to the inhabitants of Exeter and Newmarket…these to be kept at a convenient place…for the use of the inhabitants.”  Long periods of deep snow…required this planning and foresight.

    Whether or not this is the road that was once a sled path, she also writes:

    In 1657 there were “conveiente cart ways going from the upper to the lower falls of the Lamprey.”  Two years later mention is made of “a way going to Wadleys…

    There had also been mention of a huge oak tree at this location — in the middle of the path.  Colonial travelers passed around it on either side.  Perhaps something of a landmark, the tree was spared in 1752, when the road to Wadley’s Grant was laid out. 

    In her research notes on the house across the street, Historian Sylvia Fitts Getchell noted that a “big oak tree stood in [the] square in front of [the] house.”

    Newmarket’s first jail:

    The jail was on the corner of South Main and Maple Street and was adjacent to  the old oak tree.  The jail measured 9-by-12-foot and was primarily a log cabin.  While it is still unclear when it was placed here, it was removed the same year that the oak tree was cut down—1848.  By then the building had become little more than a convenient place to sober up.  Whether there is a connection between removal of the oak tree and that of the jail, we may never know.    

    Whatever the reason, in 1848 the old log cabin jail was hauled off to Exeter Road and the town Poor Farm.  (The Poor Farm extended for several acres from the Exeter Road near the old pound and Pine Hill school house—near Hersey Lane—eastward over to the tidal waters of the Bay.)   

    The House: 

    This land had belonged to the Newmarket Manufacturing Company since the 1820s.  The house at 197 South Main Street first appeared on an 1857 map—well after the removal of the humble jail. The proprietor was Samuel Haley, and he would remain here until his death in January 1892.  Although he died in January, the published  1892 Post Office map shown below lists him as the owner of the property on Main and Maple. 

    S.A. Haley had been a successful merchant, businessman, and holder of several real estate rental properties in town.  In the 1870s, after a successful real estate sale on behalf of a client, Mr. Haley purchased a complete 30-volume set of the Encyclopedia Britannia, and donated it to the Newmarket Public Library.

    In 1881, as the most desirable lots were sold off at the new cemetery (Riverside) he opened an adjacent field that he owned and sold additional lots.  His property was eventually absorbed into the town cemetery. 

    Mr. Haley had his failings though.  As Head Cashier of the Newmarket National Bank, he had had some questionable dealings regarding unsecured loans, speculation and other “bank irregularities.”  These resulted in a shortfall, which was discovered soon after his death; his brother, Benjamin F. Haley, was appointed by the Rockingham Probate Court to liquidate as much of his brother’s assets as possible to cover $33,950 in missing funds.   

    In August 1892 the property was sold at auction to Sarah E. Durell, wife of Woodridge W. Durell.  In 1902 the Durells had the house wired for electricity—one of the first ones to do so after electricity came to downtown Newmarket (1900).   From a store clerk like his brother James, Woodridge had become a successful dry goods merchant and owned his own store in the old wood Creighton block. 

     A particularly remarkable aspect of his life centers on his experiences in the Civil War – as a POW.  

    Woodbridge W. Durell was born to Newman and Sallie (Osborn) Durell.  At the age of 22 he left Newmarket and enrolled in Company L, New Hampshire Battalion, First Regiment New England Volunteer Cavalry.  Serving with distinction, he was promoted to Sergeant, and fought in twelve engagements from Fort Royal and Cedar Mountain, to Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Rapidan. 

    Then there was the Battle of Sulphur Springs.  On the early morning of October 12, 1863, 200 men of his detachment acted as escort for the 6th Army Corps and defended a ford.  By the time they were relieved at 9 pm, the Union Army had fallen back closely pressed by the enemy.  Sergeant Durell, while in command of the rear guard, crossed a stream and was fired upon; and the command was given “To Trot”.

    They travelled about a mile in complete darkness and rode through the enemy camp.  Eventually surrounded, 45 men were taken captive.  Searched and all valuables taken, the men were later moved to the notorious Libby prison where few prisoners ever left alive.

    Durell had managed to secrete some twelve dollars, which proved a godsend to himself and comrades.  That money saved them from starvation; even so, they fed day after day on less than a pint of the coarsest meal (corn and cobs ground together).  Forced to sleep on cold and frozen ground without blankets, of the 45 men captured, only he and four others survived the harsh conditions of Libby Prison.

    After the War, he married Sarah E. Smith.  The Town directory of 1872 lists him as a clerk for Benjamin F. Haley’s, living in a house on Prescott Street.  He received a $3.00 monthly pension starting in 1870, due to an abdominal injury sustained while a prisoner of war. 

    He was highly involved in town business, serving on many committees; he belonged to the Masons and was a member of Rising Star Lodge of Newmarket as well as a member the G.A.R..  

    Mr. Durell was a friend of Attorney Charles Smith who lived for a time at Site No. 7 (the Deacon Paul Chapman house—across the street). Upon Mr. Smith’s death, Mr. Durell was executor of the estate during the court battle that ensued between Mr. Smith’s sister and his mistress. You can read the whole sordid story at Site No. 7.

    Mr. Durell was 80 years old when he died on 11 Oct 1920; he was buried in Riverside cemetery.


    The Convent

    At the turn of the century, Catholic children were educated in the earlier St. Patrick’s Church (a result of the earlier Irish immigration), up on Zion’s Hill (Site No. 49).  But with the influx of French-Canadian immigrants, there was a need for another facility.   (In 1890, nearly half of the births in Newmarket were to parents who had come from Canada. By 1895 it was two-thirds.)  

    Newmarket was not alone.  In the 1880s, with the many French-Canadian Catholics who had immigrated to New England in search of employment, pastors of parishes in mill towns had looked to the Archbishop of Montreal for guidance in staffing their parish schools. He recommended the Sisters of the Holy Cross, an order with its origins in France and strong roots in French Canada. The schools would be bilingual (French and English), with a mix of both boys and girls.  Several parish schools in New Hampshire were already staffed by members of this order.  

    As preparations were made to open Newmarket’s new Catholic school, the Diocese of Manchester purchased this house. In December 1909, remodeling of the structure was completed; the Sisters of the Holy Cross began to move in the following year.  

    Between 1910 and 1972, faculty who taught at St. Mary’s School (today’s Town Hall—Site No. 9) lived here at 197 South Main St.  Residents included the eight nuns who taught in the school, a Sister Superior, and a music teacher who taught piano from the front room of the convent (during the 1950s and 60s, it was Sister Rita).  Sometimes a lay person would live and work there as cook and housekeeper.

    Until 1964, they wore the ancient habits that had been part of the order since its creation in France.   While they didn’t exactly blend in, the Sisters of the Holy Cross became an everyday part of the comings and goings along South Main Street.  In addition to their teaching responsibilities, the Sisters prepared children to receive the sacraments, trained altar servers, and served as sacristans.

    Several generations of Newmarket’s Catholic boys and girls attended St. Mary’s.  Among the nuns who taught them were…

    Sister Angela

    Sister Leona

    Sister Evelyn

    Sister Gerard

    Sister Mary Ann

    Sister Laurette

    Sister Paul

    Sister Yvette

    Sister Marguerite

    Sister Rita

    Sister Alice Louise

    Sister Albert

    Sister Anne

    Sister Charlotte

    Sister Superior Elisa


    The present owner of the house when asked about the challenges of turning a convent into a single family home, replied:

    “No major renovations (unfortunately) but there was a sink in every bedroom when we moved in (no doubt from the conversion to a convent).  I’ve hacked out more than a few over the years! There were remnants of a coal bin in the basement and an old boiler the size of a VW bus is still down there.  It looks to have been converted to oil at some point.  The heat was once steam and replaced by forced hot water. I can’t imagine how warm this house must have been when energy costs didn’t matter so much.

    “The area for the old altar in the living room still has a wood ceiling and a light. It now shines over the TV. We found the old shipping label for the statue of the Virgin Mary tacked to a busted crate in the old coal bin. We still have it. The number of closets and storage nooks in the house is simply unbelievable.  They had a specific place for absolutely everything.  The room out back (under an apartment) was once a porch.  The walls were lined by tall closets and a couple built-in ironing boards when we moved in. Those are gone and it’s now our family room. Word has it that the grounds were beautiful when the nuns were here. There are still perennials in places that bloom every year.”