Site No. 41.  Bryant Rock. Down by the water is a good spot to imagine what the earliest colonists might have seen.  The indigenous Squamscots had a settlement here to the left, along the shore.  At first their customary planting grounds were declared off limits to the English settlers. By 1652 at least one mill had been established on the Lamprey.  Depending as they did on the bounty of the Bay, the Squamscots must have been horrified to see colonists damming up the river and interfering with the annual migration of salmon, alewives and other fish.  By 1672 the indigenous settlement was gone.

    Meanwhile, colonial Lamprey River Village took form.  Across the river on the right there was Main Street with its stores and taverns.  Commerce continued downstream with shipbuilding, wharves, warehouses and gundalows.  And “20 rods from the foot of the falls,” there was a huge rocky outcropping.  A challenge for any boater, its exposed tip “at high tide” was a boundary marker in many colonial property deeds.  Named after its first owner, Bryant Rock must have been hard to miss. 

    But by 1823 the Newmarket Manufacturing Company was beginning construction on Mill No. 1 up by the dam.  At low tide Bryant Rock was a real inconvenience to river traffic up to the construction site; so Agent Hanson had it blown up.   The owners of the old Bryant estate, Edward and Walter Bryant Smith were furious.  When the agent offered them $300 for some land to lay out a street linking Main Street to Spring Pump Road, the Smith brothers not only refused.  They sued. 

    Once word got out, Elizabeth French Murray who lived up the hill by Spring Pump Road wrote to Agent Hanson.  For $500, the Murrays would open up a road downhill through their apple orchard.  Years later, with the lawsuit settled, the Smith brothers finally sold the land for Central Street. The agent paid them $300.

    The Newmarket Manufacturing Company would dominate the town until 1932, when labor unrest and sagging profits prompted it to abandon its Newmarket properties.  Not until World War II would the mills once more fill with workers.  Sam Smith Shoe, Macallens, and Timberland were major employers during the decades until the 1990s.

    The Bryant Rock vestibule here in Mill No. 3 has a display open to the public.  It has artifacts and information about the mills.  This was the last mill made of the thick granite slabs cut from Durham Point.  Mill No. 4, up on Main Street, was built with the leftover “rubble rock”—like the Stone Church and the Stone School.  Later mills were brick—including the huge Mill No. 7, which used to occupy this parking lot. 

    Follow the path to the footbridge near the dam.  

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

    41 (Bay Road)  BRYANT ROCK.  The museum display in the  condominium vestibule and the scenic waterfront vista tell part of the story.

    The Original Settlement at the Falls:

     Looking to the left is the Heron Point Sanctuary, with no mills, no roads.  In the early maps of this area, there were indications of an indigenous settlement here.  While details are scant, it must have been a good place, with fresh water nearby and the bounty of the Bay at hand.  According to local historian Sylvia Fitts Getchell:

     “A small tribe of Squamscot Indians had wigwams on the east bank of the Lamprey River below the first falls. The Indian name for the river was Pascassooke. The name Pascassooke probably came from the three words: pos(great); cooash(pine); auke(place), meaning “great pine place”.

    “These peaceful Indians fished in the river, using nets, flint or bone fish hooks and weirs made from willow. They dug clams and harvested the oyster beds around the Bay. The salmon and alewives (or river herring) were plentiful, as were shad and smelt. There have probably been fish weirs below the first falls of the Lamprey for more than five hundred years. Birch bark canoes plied the rivers and the Great and Little Bays.


    “In the forests the men hunted with bows and arrows and trapped game using snares. In fall and winter the Indians travelled farther into the forests in the season when hunting game was best. In the fishing seasons they spent more time at their village by the falls, also farming small fields of Indian maize, pumpkins, beans and squash. The women did all of the work with the crops.

     ”Every year in November the Indians burned over the underbrush in the forests which kept their routes of travel open. The taller trees in the vast forests were unharmed by this practice.  The paths and trails used by the several tribes of New Hampshire Indians often became the first roads in our settlements.

    “The Squamscots were a part of the Pennacook branch of the large Algonquian family of Indian tribes. These eastern Algonquins spoke related languages.

    “They fashioned clothing from deer skin and other hides. Their homes were called wigwams and were low dwellings constructed of bent saplings, bark, and skins. In early times many white settlers also built “‘wigwams” as their very first homes or used them as hunting shelters on their scattered land holdings.

    “A plague had stricken many New England tribes from 1616 to 1619, and when our first settlers arrived, there were far fewer Indians than there had been in earlier years. It is estimated that the Algonquian tribes which may have numbered as many as 30,000 in 1602, were less than 8,000 after the plague. 

    “In the early years of the first settlers, the Indians’ customary planting grounds were reserved for the Indians’ use and settlers were forbidden to use or buy them without permission from the town. 

    “There is no written record of any conflict between the Squamscots and the first white settlers here. The tribe migrated in 1672 to an area on the Hudson River near Troy, N.Y.”

    Later on however, there was conflict.   Whenever the France and England went to war there followed tribal raids, killings and kidnappings which increased all along the Bay, including in Newmarket.  The French and Indian War period was one of those times.  There are several instances of women and children being kidnapped and brought to Canada.  Some were ransomed, some escaped on their own, and others stayed on with their captors. But that’s another story  that you can read  on our website by going to this link: [ ]

    Where is Bryant Rock?

    In the entry vestibule of Mill No. 3, the Bryant Rock condominium complex houses a small display of artifacts and information about NMCo, including the story of Bryant Rock.  The vestibule is open to the public. 

    After High Street was laid out, Mill Agent Hanson then set to work developing another road to connect Main and Spring Streets.  He was interested in the land south of the High Street property.  But there was a problem.

    In the water at the shoreline, close by the old rivers-edge Main Street was a huge rocky outcropping. It was known locally as “Bryant Rock” after the family that had initially owned it.  The exposed tip of this rock—at high tide—had been a boundary marker since the earliest colonial times, and it was a part of many existing deeds.  Bryant Rock was “20 rods from the foot of the falls”— about 330 feet.  As a downtown landmark, it must have been hard to miss—especially at low tide.  Gundalow and boat travelers probably knew its underwater dimensions during high tide. 

    In the attached photo:

    Lamprey River below the falls (also called Salt River). 

    On the left: Before 1672, an indigenous settlement was here.

    On the right: Before 1823, Main Street ran along the shoreline.

    The large stone named Bryant Rock would have been visible at high tide,  just offshore, at the southerly side of Mill #2 — at the  O mark.

    When NMCo began construction of the mill and their new wharves, this huge rock jutting out into their construction site got in the way; so, they just blew it up, thus wiping out the survey marker for all of downtown Newmarket and adjacent lands along the Lamprey. 

    The rock had been the cornerstone of the old Bryant Estate which included land extending directly west up the hill.  With the unannounced destruction of the marker, then current owners Edward and Walter Bryant Smith were furious.  When Agent Hanson approached, offering them $300 for the land he wanted for another road thru their property, they not only refused.  They sued. 

    And the plot thickened.  Further up the hill by Spring Pump Road, Deacon Murray’s wife Elizabeth saw an opportunity.  She wrote Agent Hanson, offering to open up a road through their apple orchard “six rods wide” for the sum of $500.  NMCo accepted her offer.  Not to be outdone, the nearby Chapman family offered the same opportunity.  That is how Newmarket developed Chapel and Church Streets, two of the steepest downtown streets on the NH Seacoast. 

    The lawsuit between NMCo and the Smiths went on for years.  When it was finally settled in 1836, the Smith brothers did sell the land to the mills.  They wanted $500, but the mill owners wouldn’t budge from their 1825 offer of $300.  Thus Central Street became the fourth street leading up the hill from the newly-laid Main Street.

    A walk along the brick path down to the water gives a good view of the salt river and its surroundings.  Looking to the right at Mills No. 1 and 2 across the river, Bryant Rock might have been 30-40 feet beyond the downstream end of Mill No. 2.  It would have been a major landmark for anyone—whether on land or on water.  Upstream of Bryant Rock would have been the old Main Street; downstream would have been the wharves, storehouses, and shipbuilding yards. Assuming that the base of the outcropping was spread out along the river bottom, it’s easy to see why NMCo wanted to remove it.  Low tide could have made boat passage through that part of the river nearly impossible. 


    The Mills and the next 100 years

    Built in 1827, Mill No. 3 was the last of the granite block built mills.  The covered bridge connected it to the other mills—the access for most workers. 

    After the railroad reached town, the mills relied less and less on the river for transport.  The next three mills were placed up by the present-day Main Street, but still used water power.  Mill Agent George Frost oversaw the construction of Mill No. 4 shortly after the Civil War – it was built of local trap rock rather than the huge granite blocks.  Mills No. 5 (1881) and 6 (1892) began the era of building with brick. 

    (photo: bales of cotton moved from the warehouse to the mills for spinning)

    When NMCo expanded, immigrants arrived here to work, and many of them stayed.  Unlike the years of the Factory Girls, whole families now settled in town—first predominantly Irish, and then later the French Canadians.   In 1901, Mill No. 7 was built, and was the first mill not to rely on water power.  It was crammed right here next to Mill No. 3, and has since been demolished.

    Newmarket Manufacturing Company must have seemed invincible—especially with the construction of Mill No. 8 which erased High Street and moved company housing like so many dominoes along Elm Street and out Nichols Avenue.  But the huge one-room weave shed, built in 1918 during the Great War, would outlast the company that created it.  After the 1929 strike and the Company’s failed attempts to lower their assessed tax rate, the NMCo Board of Directors voted in February 1932 to abandon the town and move all operations to Lowell, Massachussetts.  Newmarket would struggle to find tenants for the empty mills during the Great Depression. 

    After Abandonment

    After the NMCo. declared abandonment and were forced by the courts to stop dismantling the physical buildings, the town created a committee to actively intice other industries to town.  A number of smaller concerns and several larger ones moved in (and out) over the next sixty years.  There was a distillery here during  World War II, and Sam Smith Shoes came in during that time as well.  Later on there was a woodworking shop, then MaCallens which fabricated insulation for electronics from mica.  Macallens took control of the dam and its offical names became the “Macallen Dam.” 

    There was also one more effort at a textile factory here in the mills. It focused on synthetic materials, and its owner had a familial link to the old Newmarket Manufacturing Company.   Richard Gallant was the son of the last mill agent.  Later yet, Timberland got its start here.