Site No. 42. No. 1 Mill & Dam

    A view from the footbridge shows the current dam structure dating back to 1887, but there have been dams and mills here since colonial times.  Downstream, the foundation of a pedestrian covered bridge can be seen, built sometime after 1830.  At high tide, it was awfully close to the water, and the 2006 Mother’s Day Flood swept the entire structure out to Newington.  Also here is the Newmarket Fish Ladder, installed in 1971 to encourage Coho salmon to swim upriver and spawn.  Other fish—such as alewives—still use it.  New Hampshire Fish & Game often help them on their way upstream.

    The immense granite waterside foundation of Mill No 1 shows the earliest construction done by the Newmarket Manufacturing Company.  There were also canals laid out to divert the river’s energy to where it was needed in the mills.  Many of their arched openings can be seen. 

    It was all about the water power.  Mill Agent Steven Hanson had the rivers surveyed—the North, Piscassic and Oyster Rivers, as well as the Lamprey—all the way back to Pawtuckaway Lake.  He laid foundations.  For the first four mills, the owners opted for the pricier granite rather than brick, so Mill No. 1 cost over $11,000.  The lower walls were 42 inches thick and tapered to 18 inches five stories above.  Each floor rested on the floor below, carrying the weight and vibration from the machinery. The whole stone building would gently rock when all 90 looms were running “in sync”.

    The pace of construction must have been dizzying:  a dam, blacksmith shop, workers’ housing, a machine shop, the agent’s house, a canal and wharves. 

    Over on Mill No. 2 is the cupola with the mill bell that marked the time for employees, who entered directly below.  That entrance is now about 10 feet up, as the road surface has been excavated.  But the worn stone threshold is still there.  Many of the mill’s first workers were the “factory girls”—often from local families.  By the Civil War, Irish families were immigrating to work here; after that French-Canadian emigres journeyed south to join the mill’s work force.  Other cultures were represented as well—Polish, Russian and Italian, to name a few.

    While the mill often denied using child labor, written history and photos say otherwise.  In 1843, after Bradbury Jewell’s father died, the nine-year-old boy worked 14 hours each day—for sixteen cents. He was allowed to attend school for three months of the year. 

    Head up the stairs to Main Street and the crosswalk.  Your next stop is across Main Street at the Library.   

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

    Site No. 42. No. 1 Mill & Dam 

    Water Power & Local Granite 

    The water power of the Lamprey River attracted the investors from Salem, Massachusetts to form the Newmarket Manufacturing Company (NMCo) at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  As agent for the new company, Steven Hanson hired Daniel Durell, Seth Shackford, Seth Walker and Jonathan Smith to survey both banks of the Lamprey River back to its source at Pawtuckaway Lake.  Eventually the company would acquire all the water rights on the north, Piscassic and Oyster Rivers as well as the Lamprey.  Their goal was to be able to power the looms of the new mills being built at the first falls, and these waterways were needed.

    While the surveying was being done, Hanson laid the foundations for Mill No.1.  Building the mills of brick would have been $1,091 cheaper than locally quarried cut granite, but the owners chose the more enduring and imposing cut granite.  Consequently Mill No.1 was built at a cost $11,197.94. The company built all remaining mills and storehouses in cut granite until after the Civil War, when the stone mill on Main Street was constructed of “trap rock.”  Due to that early decision, Newmarket now boasts one of the best examples of cut granite mill architecture in the Northeast.  All of the later structures were built of brick.

    When Mill No.1 was first built, it boasted five stories with wide windows taking advantage of natural light; it held 90 looms. The lower walls, although straight on the outside, are 42” thick, tapering to 18” five stories above. This allowed each floor to rest on the floor below, carrying the weight and vibration from the machinery housed within. The whole stone building would gently rock “in sync” whenever all the looms were running “in sync”.

    The next few years saw a massive building boom as Steven Hanson built a dam, a blacksmith shop, workers’ housing, a machine shop, the agent’s house, a canal and wharves.  During his tenure, foundations for Mill No.2 were laid.  And the beginnings of the Mill No.3 foundations were begun before Mill No. 2 was even up and operational.



    After the 1857 fire, the top two floors were removed from Mill No. 1.  Connected to its south end was Mill No. 2, and at some point the Mill No. 2 tower became the main entrance for workers. 

    It’s in the pre-1869 photo of Mills 1 & 2, and is visible today, worn down by the feet of countless workers climbing the stairs and passing over it on their way to and from work. (The original granite stoop is now 8-10 feet off the ground, above the historic plaque.)   That early photo also shows the cupola on Mill No. 1.  It is unclear when it was moved to Mill No. 2. 

     The weathervane remains, with its gear adornment it’s a fitting icon for this mill town. The bell in the tower marked beginnings and ends of work days.  It was also the fire alarm bell, alerting the mill’s fire brigade of flames somewhere on the property.  (Fires elsewhere in town were announced first via the church bell.  Only if extra help were needed would this bell be rung too.)



    Who were these workers? 

    The Factory Girls

    At first, they were women from the surrounding farms like Sally (Vincent) Emerson who around age 17 left the family farm on Durham Point Road to work as one of the first women to operate the first loom in the first mill.  During the next 20-30 years, “factory girls” might move from mill town to mill town, seeking better pay or working conditions.  Somehow, despite their long work hours, many of them read and contributed to publications written by and for the working women of the factories all over the Northeast. 

    The U.S. House of Representatives Treasury Report of 1833, (compiled by one Dudley P. Palmer) reports on the workers that Newmarket Manufacturing Company had at the end of 1831: 

    • 59 men and 613 women.
    • The average wage for males—mostly supervisors—was $6.24 per week including board;
    • Women’s salaries were $2.74 per week including board.
    • No children under age twelve were employed, and only a few under age fifteen.
    • Employees worked an average of 12 hours per day, 6 days per week, for a total of 310 days a year. 
    • Due to reliance on natural daylight, they worked fewer hours in the winter than in the summer.

    Mr. Palmer stated in his report that the average clothing expenditure per Newmarket family was more than that for neighboring towns; Newmarket families on average made only about a third of their clothing, purchasing the remainder.  He also noted that “the making of the clothes is not taken into the estimate of expenses.” Since most home-made clothing was likely made by women, this infers that the economic value of women’s work in the home was not worth mentioning.   Or maybe Mr. Palmer assumed that women somehow should be able to work upwards of 70 hours per week and still make their own clothes—without a sewing machine.

    Bestsy Chamberlain & “The Lowell Offering”

    The Yankee “factory girls” (who bought—rather than made—some of their clothes) saw things differently.  In her 1843 letter to a Factory Girl publication “Octavia” from New Market makes clear how little money she earned, and how precious little “free” time she had:

    Mr. Editor: … What are we coming to? …the time I give to the corporation amounts to about fourteen or fifteen hours.  We are obliged to rise at six, and it is about eight before we get our tea, making fourteen hours.  … Here am I, a healthy New England Girl, quite well-behaved bestowing just half of all my hours including Sundays, upon a company, for less than two cents an hour, and out of the other half of my time, I am obliged to wash, mend, read, reflect, go to church!!! ...

    The exact same letter from Octavia was also published in the Exeter, NH   ”Factory Girl and Ladies’ Garland”  but in that article she was working in the Exeter Mills and not Newmarket.  Many of these publications such as  “The Factory Girls’ Garland,” “The Factory Girl”, “The Factory Girl’s Album” and  “The Messenger”, “Wreath and Garland,”  used an array of boiler plate letters such as Octavia’s.

    Judith Ranta, a New Hampshire History Professor  who has spoken on a few occasions at the New Market Historical Society Stone,  has published a book titled:  “THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF BETSEY CHAMBERLAIN: Native American Mill Worker.” printed by the  Northeastern University Press, 2003. (avavilable at bookstores and Amazon)

    Professor Ranta writes “In the 1830s, Betsey Guppy Chamberlain became a textile mill worker and wrote for several workers’ periodicals including the “Lowell Offering”. Like most of the other writers, she published her writings under pseudonyms.”

    Harriet Hanson Robinson, who worked in the Lowell mills from the ages of ten to twenty (1835-1845) and knew Betsey Guppy Chamberlain, published a book about her mill experiences in 1898, Loom and Spindle, or Life among the Early Mill Girls. The book includes this biographical sketch of Chamberlain:

    “Mrs. Chamberlain was the most original, the most prolific, and the most noted of all the early story-writers. … Mrs. Chamberlain was a widow, and came to Lowell with three children from some community, where she had not been contented. She had inherited Indian blood, and was proud of it. She had long, straight black hair, and walked very erect, with great freedom of movement.”

     The “community where she had not been contented”  may very well have been Newmaket, where she worked prior to moving to Lowell.  She apparently lived in  Newmarket between 1831 and 1837 as those are dates of deeds where she lists her address as here in town.   

    The narrator of Chamberlain’s “Christmas” explains that she dwelled in “a cottage of two tenements, sharing one with two young ladies who boarded with me, and slept in an adjoining room opposite”. (pp. 181,184).  That Chamberlain may have worked as a seamstress (perhaps in addition to mill work, as did some factory women) is suggested by the narraotor’s remarks that she “had engaged to finish a piece of needle work that evening, toiling until nealry midnight”. (p.182).  Newmarket, with its  opportunities for both mill work and sewing, provided Chamberlain and her sister with a ready livlihood, as did textile mill towns for thousands of poor women.

    Nellie Palmer George in Old Newmarket, writes that working conditions were far from easy, the early workdays spanned some twelve hours and wages were low.  Weavers earned from $1.80 to $2.29 per week.   In winter, the partially heated mills were sometimes so cold that women could not work.  Nellie’s memoirs corroborate Chamberlain’s narrator’s recollection of  English and Scotish immigrant neigbors.  George wrote that the antebellum workers included New England natives as well as “English or Celtic” immigrants.  She added that the NMCo. built many “double tennement houses” for workers.  The harshness of Newmarket workers’ lives prompted an anonymous poet to contribute a verse, “Lines For Newmarket” in 1845, and published in a local paper.  The poem reads:

    Thy Labors are driven forth  to unrequited toil —

    Crime revels unrebuked in church,’   in Mill and on the soil.

    Betsey’s move to  the Lowell mills was not (employment-wise) a great improvement from Newmarket.  Working conditions in the Lowell Mills were just as bad with  a 12 to 14 hour workday/ 6 days a week.  

    Professor Ranta writes: “In the periodical’s first few years when Chamberlain’s pro-Indian writings were published, the “Lowell Offering” was edited by a local minister, Abel C. Thomas, who had been reared in a Quaker family which had been active in aiding Native people and supporting women’s rights. As Harriet H. Robinson wrote in “Loom and Spindle”: “The fact that Mr. Thomas was the grandson of a noted Quaker preacher may account for his inheritance of the idea, first promulgated in this country by that sect, that women have the right and the ability to express their thoughts, both in speaking and in writing”.   Several of Betsey G. Chamberlain’s local-color Lowell Offering writings recall a nostolgic, happier time of socializing with Quakers in the Wolfeboro, N.H., area.”

     Professor Ranta states that  Chamberlain’s writings are good examples of the unacknowledged influence of Native people on American culture. Her writings reached many people over a wide geographic area. Sales of early issues ranged between three and five thousand copies from subscribers in all of the states, except some Southern ones, and overseas in countries including England, Scotland, Ireland, and France. “… I think she was trying to reach out and change white people’s views/treatment of Native people and show the humanity of Indian people.”

    The Factory Girls Move On

    Eventually the practice of employing and boarding only factory girls from local Yankee families changed.  By that time, it was cheaper to hire whole immigrant families from Ireland and Canada. These new workers remained on the payroll far longer than the farm girls, and their children could be hired for pennies on the dollar.  Many of the women employed in the 1840s-1860s were Irish immigrants, having come to the United States during the great potato famine.   Expanding business and demand for workers during the American Civil War led the owners to advertise in Canada.  By the 1890s most female employees were from French Canada where a series of harsh winters and an economic depression had become a major incentive to relocate.


    Child Labor

    Mr. Dudley Palmer’s assertion that child labor was not used rings a bit hollow.  Written accounts before the Civil War and photographic evidence later on show that children as young as nine or ten were indeed worked in the factories. 

    •  1827:  Samuel Slater reported on the factories in Newmarket, noting that there were nine girls and three boys under the age of 15—all of whom lived with their parents, and were working due to a “family circumstance.”  All were reported to work only six months a year, attending school for the other six months.   
    • However, an 1837 poem was left in the Cocheco Mills, Dover NH millyard by women protesting  working conditions, and their documented accounts differed considerably from management’s. 
    •  1843:  When Dr. Bradbury Jewell died young in Newmarket, he left a destitute widow and two sons. His wife opened a boarding house for factory girls, and her 9-year-old son, Bradbury Jewell Jr.,  worked in the cotton mill from 4:45 a.m. till 7:30 p.m. – for sixteen cents a day.  He worked nine months out of the year, with three months allocated for school.  He did this until age 14, when his health started to deteriorate, and his mother pulled him from the mills.

    The Macallen Dam

    Crossing the River:

    The date on the existing dam structure is 1887.  It’s just upstream of the current footbridge.  In preparation for the 2020-2021 repairs, the water was drained in September 2020, uncovering the vestiges of an earlier dam—possibly a crib dam or another type of wooden dam typical of pre-Industrial Revolution mill needs.[1]  While there is mention of Lamprey River having other dams, there have been few specifics about them before NMCo took over. 


     The foot bridge 

    The current footbridge replaced the steel  bridge with a rotting wooden walking  deck that was built in the mid 1950s. This current bridge was constructed in October 2002 with the use of an oversized crane hoisting three pre-fabricated pieces and welding them into position. This bridge spans 120 feet and stands about 18 feet from the Lamprey River, depending on the tides.

    Once across the river, a look back at the foundation of Mill No. 1 gives a glimpse of the original granite block foundation—one of the earliest structures put in place by NMCo, built right at the river’s edge.

    Surviving diagrams of NMCo engineering show any number of canals and penstocks shunting the energy of the flowing water to and from various openings near and under the mills.  The vestiges of them are still visible.  One such arched opening has been bricked in on the side of Mill No.3 across the river.

    The photo on left shows a bricked-in penstock.

    Coho Salmon in the Lamprey River

    In 1961, local wildlife guru Richard Schanda did an informal survey of salmon in the Lamprey River and then petitioned NH Fish & Game for a fish ladder next to the dam, which was installed in 1971.  Within five years, there were large salmon to be found in the Lamprey; but as the years passed, N.H. Fisheries efforts to introduce Coho smolt into the upper Lamprey languished—partly due to difficulties with diseased stock and a ban on importing West Coast eggs.  Current numbers of adult salmon are unknown.

    However, other fish do use the ladder to head upriver to spawn.  Alewives in April get a free ride from NH Fish & Game from the top of the fish ladder to places upstream.  According to one local fisherman:

    Alewives run up from Great Bay, up the river and to the fish ladder.  They trap them in the top lock and then transfer them further upstream to ensure they reach their native spawning grounds.  They’ll open the gates and let them run freely up the river, but the largemouth, smallmouth bass and pickerel hammer them as they school upstream.  They do the same thing at Wiswall Dam in Durham.  For all of us largemouth bass fishermen this just means the bass will be feeding heavily on them in the river before the pre-spawn.


    A Bridge Between the Mills

    Sometime between 1830 and 1857, a covered footbridge stretched across the river downstream from the current footbridge.  It was constructed to allow direct access from Mills No. 1 & 2 to Mill No. 3 (It appears on an 1857 map).  The supports for that pedestrian bridge can still be seen.  Photos taken downstream from the bridge in 1906 (low tide) and 1972 (high tide) show just how close to the bridge the water could reach.  The covered bridge was swept out through the Bay to Fox Point during the Mother’s Day Flood of 2006.


    They also show how this area changed over 66 years.  

    The 1901 Mill No. 7 and its surroundings appear in the center background of both photos. 

    The center brick mill in the 1906 photo on the left was built in 1901. 

    It was a three-story brick building in the #3 mill yard on the bank of the lamprey to help increase the company’s weaving capacity. 

    That mill was later demolished and the newly constructed concrete building seen in the 1972 photo on the right was constructed as the home to the Macallen Corporation in 1954. The  building was later demolished when the Chinburg Corporation purchased the property and renovated Mill#3 into Bryant Rock Condominiums.

    [1] For more information about early dam  construction, see The Construction of Mill Dams, James Leffel and COmpany, Author and publisher, Sprinfield, OH. 1874.