Site No. 36Mill Overlook:   Imagine it’s March of 1823, and the road from Durham curves down nearly under your feet to the water’s edge, with its mills, wharves and ship ways.  Shops and houses and Branscomb’s Tavern are down there.  Behind you to the west is the Spring Pump Road; to the north by the river is the Widow Chapman’s house.

    When four men stepped off the stagecoach and walked around the village, they paid particular attention to Ebenezer Smith’s sawmill at the falls.  Within days, Agent Stephen Hanson was buying up property for the Newmarket Manufacturing Company.  Within weeks, Newmarket was a company town.  Main Street had to move 150 feet uphill—where it is today.  And a new road, High Street, soon ran west up to “Spring Pump Road” – an ideal place for mill worker housing.

    A century of mill history and construction is shown here, on the site of Wiggin Doe’s house.  Many townsfolk had sold their land readily, but Wiggin Doe refused—for years.  Then he signed the property over to his daughter—and she refused to sell.  Only after her father’s death did Deborah Doe sell, in exchange for company housing for herself and her mother.  The Doe house became the mill office for 100 years.  For nearly that long, locals described pig-headed people as “stubborn as Wiggin Doe.”

    The first three mills were right at water’s edge.  After the Civil War, the company added Mills 4, 5 and 6 up here by Main Street—with No. 6 built in 1892.  They all used water power.  With more mills came more workers.  By then, labor unions had become active on the national scene.  While there was some organizing in Newmarket, these mills managed to avoid major labor unrest until January 1929. 

    Once it began, there were pickets and meetings, lockouts and beatings.  Strikers in mill housing were evicted.  A tent city was set up on Durham Side, and hundreds of people moved out of town.  Just as the local court was ruling on the cases—from attempted manslaughter to eviction, the 1929 stock market crash brought the Roaring Twenties—and the thriving mill economy—to an end.

    The company would abandon all 256 of their buildings in town, in lieu of paying taxes.  It would take years—and a world war—to bring industry back to the mills.  A number of different industries set up shop here.  Sam Smith Shoe and The Macallen Company were major employers for decades.  And Abington Shoe, a 1969 transplant from Boston, would eventually morph into Timberland, with its trendy construction boots.

    Continue on Main Street to Site 37—the Veterans Memorial Bridge. 

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


    Here on the banks of the Lamprey at the first falls, a small village was turned into a commercial and business center that was at one time the fifth largest business community in New Hampshire. 

    The year is 1823 and we are standing in the dooryard of Wiggin Doe.  Imagine for a minute the sound of tumbling waters and gulls swooping overhead.  The main road through the village of Newmarket curves down along the bank of the Lamprey with its wharves, landings and ship ways, and with the house and store of Arthur Branscomb’s Tavern, and house of Attorney Tenney, and by the homes of the Doe, Pinder, Pinkham and Cram families.  The small home of the widow Chapman is nearby, up on the knoll behind us overlooking the falls.

    Other homes dot the hill to the west—the Bryant Smith house, the Murray residence and the Chapmans.  Local attorney and town official Benjamin Lovering lives further south in the old brick garrison with its orchards spreading down toward the village and out to the Piscassic falls. 

     The Beginning of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company

    On March 26, four strangers stepped off the stage from Newburyport and proceeded to walk the village, paying close attention to the sawmill of Ebenezer Smith at the falls. They then climbed back aboard the southbound stage and left town.  Stephen Hanson, a Quaker from Dover appeared soon after.  For the next four years he was the agent for a new endeavor called the Newmarket Manufacturing Company.  He was the first of twelve NMCo agents and his rate of pay was $600 per year, a very handsome sum at the time.  

    By April 21 news came that the house and sawmill of Ebenezer Smith had been sold. Soon the town was abuzz as the word spread that the Packers Falls Mill and House, Piscassic Estate and Mill, Savage House on Elm Street, Tenney’s Store, Doe & Pinder Shops and Houses, Wharf # 5, Cram’s Wharf & Blacksmith Shop, Elm Tree Wharf, Branscomb’s Store and Tavern and the Gale and Cram properties on Water Street had all been sold to the Newmarket Manufacturing Company.

     Benjamin Lovering sold orchard and pasture land to NMCo, and he hosted the first meeting of stockholders for the new company, many of whom were from Salem, Massachusetts.  A new road—High Street—was laid out, connecting the mill yard with “Spring Pump Road” (as present day Spring Street was known). 

     Half the town was excited at the prospect of good times and prosperity; but others felt that it would be the ruination of their sons and daughters, that life along the Lamprey and in Newmarket would never be the same.   And for good or ill, these mills built the community as we know it today.  They are still a major presence in the downtown, and their legacy will continue to shape Newmarket’s future.


    (photo circa 1900,  barefoot bobbin boys in front)

    The Story of Wiggin Doe

    After NMCo had acquired the entire waterfront area, the original Lamprey Village downtown was without a home, and the selectmen decided to relocate a main thoroghfare about 150 feet uphill to the present-day location of Main Street. This placed the house of Wiggin Doe between the new “Main Street” and the new NMCo  millyard.

    Try as he might, Agent Hanson could not get Wiggin Doe to sell his property. Mr. Doe remained a “fly in the ointment” for company plans for many years.  He got so tired of saying “no” to Hanson that in 1825, he signed his property over to his daughter Deborah, so the agent would have to deal with her. 

    Wiggin Doe passed away in 1831; only then would his daughter deal with the mills.  A tough negotiator, she demanded two things:  lifetime tenancy for herself and her mother in a company house on Chapel Street; and the sum of $500 in exchange for removing herself peaceably upon her mother’s demise.  Thereafter, any Newmarket resident that would hold out against all odds and the wishes of others, was known to be “as Stubborn as Wiggin Doe.”

    When the sale was finally concluded, excited employees wrote the owners in Salem:  “What do we do with the house in the middle of the yard?”  The reply came back, “Turn it into an office.”  So the Wiggin Doe house became the NMCo management center.   About a hundred years later it was demolished; and in 1937 the Fraternal Order of Eagles built on this site.  That in turn was demolished during the mill renovation project in 2013.  It has been replaced by this overlook.

    Wiggin, Mary and Deborah Doe were all laid to rest in the “new” town cemetery on Great Hill where their stones can still be viewed. 


    The Newmarket Manufacturing Company was never “laid to rest.”  It enjoyed a good century of growth before it—and the town—confronted serious labor unrest.   


    Roots of Labor Unrest

    For many of the earliest mill workers—the “factory girls”—hard work from dawn to dusk was no stranger.  Many had grown up on local family farms, where there was always something else that needed doing. And there, most likely, they may have worked for no pay at all.   

    But mill work was not all that rosy.  While it paid them for their time and labor, it afforded none of the variety of labor on a farm.  Many of these jobs involved one particular task which was done again and again until the closing bell rang.  The environment must have been nerve-wracking to say the least.  The noisy clatter of the huge machinery often made conversation next to impossible; the indoors environment was poorly lit; it was cold in the winter and stifling in the summer. 

    In the cotton mill, fibers hung in the air and would get stuck in nostrils, hence the importance of snuff to induce sneezing which expelled the offending fibers.  Workers had to be careful while in close proximity to some immense machinery.  Accidents did happen, and they were often disfiguring, debilitating or both.  Women learned quickly that hair should be kept well out of the way. 

    Whether it was Factory Girls or immigrant families, mill workers often coped with dangerous and unhealthy worksites and low pay.  Until the formation of unions, there was no recourse if workers wanted better working conditions.

    Several years after NMCo began operations here in Newmarket, the very first women’s strike in the country happened in nearby Dover.  On December 30, 1828, hundreds of mill girls at Dover’s Cocheco Mills walked out and marched through the town.[1]  At issue was the mill owner’s decision to reduce the wages of female workers by about 10%.    Men’s wages were not affected.  While there is no record of any such action at the NMCo this early in its existence, no doubt people knew about it – from Mill Agent Chase to the youngest bobbin boy.

    It would be several decades before workers here in Newmarket started becoming more publicly vocal.  There was talk of a strike in 1878, when NMCo announced a reduction in wages.   (The company cited a sagging market in textiles, yet in three years’ time, NMCo built yet another mill.)  Several years would pass before Newmarket workers went on strike, and it was prompted by a particular incident:

     Dover Inquirer, 27 August 1886

    Strike at Newmarket—-Saturday noon the boss weaver in the mills at Newmarket discharged Plumer Brenaan, one of the weavers, for starting up his work before hours. As soon as the other help learned of the discharge, they left the mill with him and 175 looms were still. The Knights of Labor held a special meeting Saturday night and adjusted the matter with the agent of the corporation so that all, including the discharged man, returned to work this morning.



    The Calm Before the Storm

    During the last decade of the 19th century until after the Great War, there were no reports of striking workers here.  The Newmarket Advertiser, published plenty of articles about strikes in various mill towns in New England, in Boston, and further afield— Chicago, Pittsburgh, even Havana.  These reports were generally unsympathetic to the plight of the workers in question. And in 1909 there was a lengthy article prominently placed, explaining exactly why unions were not such a good idea. 

    NMCo had a number of mill agents who worked to improve the lot of the workers, such as John Webster (who closed the hated “company store” and donated money for a library) and Ambrose Nichols (who had worked in a Rhode Island cotton mill at the age of six, and as agent, provided more family housing for workers).  Whether their efforts made for a more contented mill population is unknown, but there is little written evidence of union activism here until after 1920. 

    The Roaring Twenties

    In the summer of 1922 Newmarket mill workers went on strike.  That was soon resolved. Then again  in 1926 there was a weeklong strike.  This too was peacefully resolved.  Then came the strike in 1929.  It started in January, and it was the beginning of the end.  In an August 1929 newspaper article, the beginning was described:

    The trouble struck the ordinarily peaceful town last January, when mill managers and a handful of girl employees clashed over wages.  The result of the clash was a general strike by the workers of the mill, nearly 1000 of them.

    In the ensuing months, there were pickets, there were meetings; there were beatings of mill watchmen and beatings of strikers.  The company locked the doors and evicted strikers who were living in company housing.  The State Labor Commissioner came to town to investigate, and ruled in favor of the mill.  The strikers publicly refuted his findings.  Representatives of the national labor organization, United Textiles Workers of America came and set up a tent city on Durham Side to house any evicted workers.  Stores closed, and as many as 1000 people moved out of town. 

    (photo: millworks, 1928)

    In October, while the local court was hearing the various cases brought forth—from attempted manslaughter to eviction from company housing, the financial world took its giant tumble.  And the Roaring Twenties came to an end.  

    The end of the Newmarket strike would not be declared officially until October 1931. 


    The NMCo began walking away from their vast property holdings in Newmarket and had moved most of their operations to Lowell.  Workmen continued to remove more equipment until the company officially declared abandonment in February 1932.  When the workmen started removing windows from the frames, the town officers filed an injunction to stop them — the injunction was found in the town’s favor. 

    Over the next several years, town committees worked to find businesses to occupy at least some of the old mill buildings.  By 1937 the mill buildings were housing a woodworking shop and the Newmarket Shoe & Novelty Company.  It employed about 200 workers.  

    And there was the issue of the company’s various and vast non-mill holdings—housing and the like.  It would take decades to sort out the deeds to all of the properties that had been owned by the mills.  

    World War II and Beyond

    With World War II, Newmarket became a mill town once more.  Responding to the country’s wartime needs, a distillery was housed here for military use, Sam Smith Shoes made shoes for the military as well as for civilian men, women and children; also new to town was the Pioneer Manufacturing, specializing in the winding of rayon yarn for the textile industry. 

    In the 1950s, the Macallen Company, with its mica products used for electronic insulation, became another major employer.  Later acquired by the Essex Corp., Macallens would continue here into the 1990s.  There was also a Textron plant (which wove synthetic fibers) here in the 1950s.  It was managed—and then purchased—by Richard Gallant, son of the last NMCo mill agent. 


    Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman

    Newmarket was the birthplace of an upscale boot. 

    The story starts in the 1950s, when a Russian immigrant who had learned about the shoe trade bought a small shoe factory, Abington Shoe.  It was housed in a former piano warehouse in Boston’s South End.

    His sons, Herman and Sidney Swartz joined their father in the business and spent about 15 years strugglingto make a profit in the discount store market.  Abington Shoe made three different styles—an oxford, a work boot and a work shoe.  To economize, the brothers decided to try using a new technology — injection-molded soles for their product.  After managing to buy the equipment, they realized that times had changed in their neighborhood, and there was a shortage of skilled workers in the city. 

    As they searched for a good location, Newmarket emerged as a candidate.  There had been shoe shops here since the 1930s; and in 1969 there was one more—Abington Shoe.  Business went well, and after a few years the Swartz brothers discovered something interesting: their leather construction boots were popular with younger folk – even in the city.  It seems there was an emerging appreciation for the outdoor look in clothing.  To take advantage of this trend, they set up the Timberland subsidiary for their waterproof boots. 

    That was 1973; and they produced 2500 Timberland boots.  But they also filled orders for 490,000 of their customary Abington shoes.  Once they figured out how to market Timberland boots to fancy department stores, sales took off.  In 1979, their company produced a half a million boots with the Timberland trademark.   

    The boots became wildly popular in the inner city rap culture.  In a 2019 article, “The History of Timberland: Waterproof Boots and Rap Royalty”, the author noted:

    Obviously, Timberland has rap to thank for its success. Although the boot stands on its own merit, the world at large may never have snatched up the style had it not been for Biggie and his ilk.  A counterculture well outside white America’s comfort zone, especially in the 80s early 90s, black artists put white workwear on the map—and made it cool.[2]

    In January 1985 Timberland moved its operations to Mountain City, Tennessee, despite earlier assurances to their workers that they would “never leave Newmarket.”    


    [1] For the complete story about, visit