Site Number 44:  The Agents House.  When the first mill agent Steven Hanson bought this property from the Chapman estate, he moved the Chapman house further up Elm Street to be used as a tenement house.  The present brick house was built between 1825 and 1830; the mill’s second agent Stephen Chase was the first to live there. 

    For 90 years it would be home to nine more mill agents.  Most left their mark in one way or another, although not much can be said about John Burton who only stayed for two years; but he did convert an Elm Street house into a quarantine hospital during the smallpox epidemic in 1903. 

    Three of the 19th century agents stand out.  Captain John Webster, George Washington Frost and Ambrose Nichols.

    Captain John Webster, was known for his fairness to his employees and for closing the hated Company Store.  More enduring was his donation of funds for a public library.  Done with little fanfare, Webster had already left town, so most people didn’t know the full extent of his generosity until after his death.  While in town, he and his wife Martha had cared for her orphaned niece, also named Martha.  The sampler she made at the age of 7 is on display at the Stone School Museum. Her half-brother was George Washington Frost and she stitched his initials into the sampler.

    On his honeymoon in 1848, George Washington Frost brought his bride to Newmarket to visit his aunt Martha and uncle John Webster.  He was offered a job, and the family moved in and stayed for over 30 years. In 1869 he built Mill No. 4—the last one to be made of granite.  He was the only agent to visit southern cotton plantations – and that experience made him valuable to the Union Army during the Civil War.  He enlisted as a Private and was soon jettisoned to the rank of Lt. Colonel. He survived the war but died suddenly while on vacation with his sons—at a beach on Coney Island.

    Ambrose Nichols, at the age of six had worked 12 hours a day, six days a week as a card tender in a Rhode Island textile mill.  Self-educated, he had only six months of formal education.  His advances to higher positions must have been noticed outside the Rhode Island textile industry, as he was invited here in 1879 after the sudden passing of Mr. Frost.  During his tenure here he moved the mills away from cotton into silk production, he built Mills No. 5, 6 and 7, and reached out to a new employee base—immigrant families.  And he built 23 tenements to house them.  That’s how Nichols Avenue got its name.

    Walter M. Gallant had already made a name for himself in the silk industry and had done some work in Newmarket before Agent Nichols retired.  By 1913 Gallant was the new mill agent.  He moved his family into this house—the last mill agent to do so. His six years here were eventful to say the least.  He built the huge weave shed, Mill No. 8—which required moving High Street and dozens of other buildings around other streets—Elm, Washington, Lincoln, and Nichols Avenue.  When the US entered World War I, it brought both challenges and opportunities.  It was harder to get supplies, and there were all sorts of shortages and demands on everyone in town.  But he began developing and weaving nylon parachutes, rayon cargo chutes—and importantly—rayon and silk coffin liners.  That saved the Newmarket Manufacturing Company during the war, the 1918 flu pandemic, and into the 1920s.

     When Mr. Gallant retired due to ill health, his son Walter B. Gallant took over as mill agent.  Walter B. grew up in the house, but he did not live here once he was married.  And it was Walter B. Gallant who dealt with the striking workers—and eventually the closing and abandonment of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company in town.

    This building was later sold and turned into apartments.

    The next stop is Site #45—and you’re on it—Elm Street!

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

    SITE # 44 The Mill Agent’s House



    Agent’s Mill House of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company (NMCo.). 1822-1930.   Photo taken before the barn fire of April 1959 

    The 1800 Savage Map shows the property belonging to David Chapman.  The land was bordered on the east by the “Road to Durham”, on the north by the Newmarket/Durham town line, on the south and east by the Path to the Piscassic.   John Savage sketched in changes made after 1823 by the NMCo  when they laid out the streets off the main road.

    Revolutionary War veteran, Major (Esquire)  Joseph Young sold the house, barn and 100+ acres to David Chapman in 1790. 

    David and Daniel Chapman

    While there are few details about David Chapman’s life, one story must have been handed down.  In the July 10, 1914 Newmarket Advertiser, local folklorist Rev. S. C. Kimball told this story:

    Mr. Durgin was a carpenter, and this leads me to mention Mr. David Chapman, who was the ancestor of the Chapmans, Murrays, Stilsons, Walkers, Bracketts, and of some of the Smiths.  Mr. Chapman left seventy grandchildren.  He lived where the agent’s house now stands.  When he had need of a carpenter, he would go to his back door and shout to Mr. Durgin to come and bring his broad ax.  Mr. Chapman’s numerous descendants can know from this that their honored ancestor was a man of powerful voice, as the distance, in an air line, must be full half a mile.

    David’s son Daniel and his wife Nancy Smith Chapman lived there until Daniel’s death in 1815; at age 32 he left Nancy with four young children aged 8, 6, 3, and 1 year old.  The elder Chapman had willed the house to his son, but Daniel died without a will.  His father David died the following year in 1816, so Nancy turned to Benjamin Lovering for legal assistance. She petitioned the court to grant financial guardianship of her children, entrusting them to the care of Mr. Lovering whom she knew and trusted as he was a town businessman and had served with her father-in-law on many town committees.  The court granted that request, and later granted the request to sell the property at auction by Mr. Lovering.  Benjamin handled many legal estate claims, and he was also the owner of Lovering Tavern (in the old Smith Garrison on South Main  Street—Walking Tour Site No 9 - Kittredge Square). Lovering later sold his property to NMCo, and he facilitated the sale of the Chapman farm to the NMCo. as well.  He sold it all — barn, pastureland, and woodlots totalling 90 acres.  It is not documented what exactly happened to the missing 10+ acres sold by Maj. Young in 1790.

    The Waterfront Home for the Mill Agents

    The old Chapman house was moved to a spot immediately west of the Granite Engine House on Elm Street in 1822 and used as a 2-story tenement corporation house. In 1880 it was moved again to be used as a lumber shed in the pasture by the company’s large barn (in the Lincoln Street area today).


    (Photo 1911)


    The brick Agent’s House itself was built between 1825 and 1830.   Mill Agents also had a meeting room for executives and stockholder consulations in a quieter environment, away  from the din of the factory.  Several agents over the years opened the house to the public for special events, concerts and recitals  during the holidays.

    There was a large “Company” dairy and poultry farm operated by and for the NMCo., and all the produce not used by the mill agent was sold to employees in the “Company Store”.

    When the Mills walked away and abandoned all property in 1932, the building was eventually sold to Nick Zuk and Marcel Blanchette.  Mr. Zuk turned the building into an apartment house, and Mr. Blanchette outfitted the outbuildings into his heating and plumbing business.   The huge two-story barn was completely destroyed by fire on April 13, 1959.  It contained about $1,000 worth of plumbing supplies, two boats, a car and a bowling alley.  It was never rebuilt.

    For close to a hundred years, this was perhaps the most prestigious home in Newmarket. There were a total of twelve mill agents between 1823 and 1930.  Only two did not live in the house – the very first and the very last.  The first agent was Stephen Hanson who kept his home in Dover, and the last agent was Walter B. Gallant who grew up in the house but he and his wife desired a more modern home and renovated the old Haines Mansion on South Main Street.   



    During the first twenty-five years of its existence the NMCo. had four agents; all of these men were of the old school, who conducted the business of the company with the old-time transportation methods -packet ships and gundalow, and not by rail.   They also had a Salem, Massauchussetts connection.

    1)    Stephen Hanson  (Agent 1823 – 1827)

    (b. 1774, d. 1847)

    A Quaker from Dover, Mr. Hanson was the first agent of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company. He ran an earlier cotton mill where the Sawyers Falls factories were later built along the Bellamy River in Dover.  He became agent of the NMCo. barely a month after the company was incorporated; his yearly salary was $600 plus board while on the job.  Hanson managed the local affairs of the company during those years that saw the construction of the first two mills and the creation of a new street plan.

    He also began building 2-story wooden boarding houses for the young girls working in the mills on the south side of Elm Street, and four 1 ½-story double cottages opposite.  Across from the mill yard on Main Street the company supplemented its wooden boarding houses with two long brick houses in the late 1820s, perhaps based on similar ones put up in Dover and Somersworth in 1824.

    Examples of these types of wooden houses have disappeared in other New England mill towns; however, a great many of Newmarket’s were later moved between 1916 and 1917 (to make room for the Weave Shed) to new sites on Elm, Washington and Lincoln Streets.


    In an early act of industrial sabotage, the “gentle Quaker” Hanson, indicated to some Dover mill girls that they would lose their reputation in that city as “all kinds of characters were employed at the factories and all kinds of practices were carried on at the Boarding House.”  To others he stated that “we should be so well satisfied at New Market that we should never want to go back to Dover” and that he “was going to have some nice women from Newburyport and Salem to keep the Boarding Houses, who knew how to cook and treat company; and if we did not like them, then we might board where we pleased.”

    (photo: one of the large brick boarding houses used by the factory girls in the early period of the company’s time in Newmarket.)  

    Running a boarding house was considered a respectable job for widows.  Betsy Chamberlain, a widow and native American from Wolfeboro came to Newmarket with three children to work as a Boarding Lady for the mill girls.  She is credited with publishing the news flyer “The Factory Girl” which gave a listing of local events, lectures, poetry, stories and mill-related/abor information geared toward the young factory girl.  This form of newsletter soon morphed into a standard in the mill boarding houses throughout New England.  Mrs. Chamberlain was only in town a short time, as she left for “a more lucrative position” in Lowell.

    After his brief tenure as Agent in Newmarket, Stephen Hanson was hired as the first “building agent” for the Exeter Manufacturing Company in 1827.


    2)    Stephen A. Chase  (Agent  1827 – 1837)

    (b. 1797, d. 1876)

    Mr. Chase was one of the original stockholders from Salem; he constructed the third mill and put it into operation with the constant advice of the directors.  Correspondence, preserved from 1827-1829 in a letter-book of the N.H. Historical Society, shows the Salem stockholders’ daily concern for the detail of building and production. Chase was assisted by Benjamin Wheatland, an early Director who later became Agent.

    Chase was on site from the beginning and was the first to live in the newly constructed Mill Agent’s House.  He volunteered to work on town committees, serving on the Newmarket School Committee in 1823, and as Town Auditor in 1826.

    The US Secretary of the Treasury published a very detailed report in 1833 on all types of manufacture in all the towns in New England.   The details for the NMCo  compiled by Mr. Chase are quite interesting. At the end of the year 1831:

    1)      There were 2,554,961 yards of shirts, sheets, and printed. Chase estimated that over 3 million yards would be produced by the end of 1832.

    2)      The mills used 1,023,000 pounds of cotton; 3,000 gallons sperm oil.

    3)      For sizing: 230 barrels flour, 17,000 pounds potato starch and 362 pounds isinglass.

    4)      Fuel used in the mills:  510 cords of wood, and 35 tons of coal.

    5)      Employees: 59 males (average wage=$6.24 per week); 613 females (average wage=$2.74 cents per week, including board).  No children under age 12; and a few under age 15.

    6)      Work week = 12 hrs/day – 310 days /yr.   The workday is shorter in winter, and longer in the summer.

    7)      Most of the fabric is sold in the US along the eastern seaboard, a portion is sold in South America and the East Indies.

    8)      Nearly all cotton is domestic from plantations in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

    (The document cover shown here can be found on Google Books)

    The comments at the end of New Market’s entry written by a Treasury official, state the town population was 2,013 people with 280 families.  “It costs the inhabitants in town more for clothing than in other towns because they are involved in manufacturing and women buy their clothes rather than make them  at home as in other communities”. (He goes on to berate the businesses he surveyed.) “The great body of the mechanics were so ill prepared to give answers to questions put to them, that I found it not only tedious, but difficult, to gain such information as was desirable.  The mechanic shops are very numerous in town, and but a little business done at each of them.

    New Market, April 26, 1832   signed by  Dudley P. Palmer.   There certainly comes across a smug, superior beaucratic tone in his this “official governemt document”.  And he doesn’t appear aware  that for most women working 12 hours a day, six days a week, there was neither the leisure time nor the inclination to make clothes in the boarding houses—and sewing machines had not yet been invented!

    On July 26, 1830 Mr. Chase married Anna A. Robinson (1801-1878)  of South Kingston, RI (also a Quaker) and the couple moved to Newmarket. Seven years later, upon his return to Salem, Mr. Chase worked as a merchant and became a superintendant for the railroad. He is listed as “a gentleman” in the 1870 Census indicating he was a man of means;  indeed he listed a personal estate of $60,000 and a real estate value of $45,000. ($105,000 in 1870 would be equivalent of slightly more than $2,374,000 today, even accounting for 2022’s high inflation).  He was a trustee for Brown University in RI from 1854-1869. 

    He testified before the Massachusetts State  Legislature in 1865 about the reliability of women working in factories.  This was in support of a bill put forth seeking state funding for the New England Immigrant Aid Society which was designed to send suitable young immigrant women from Massachusetts to Oregon where there was a great need for women in all aspects of manufacturing and business.  Oregon had put out a public plea for women to move to the state. Also, the Immigrant Aid Society saw this as a convenient way of moving the recent influx of immigrants (mostly Irish) away from Boston.

    He and his wife had a son Stephen A. Chase, Jr. who died young.  Stephen died in 1876, Anna died two years later and willed the entire family estate to her brother. The Chase family is buried in the Quaker cemetery in Salem.


    3)    Benjamin Wheatland   (Agent 1837 – 1846)

    (b. 1801,  d. 1854)  

    Mr. Wheatland was involved with the NMCo. since its inception in 1822; he arrived as part of the original clandestine scouting party and was involved in buying up a considerable amount of property for the company.  He also was an original shareholder from Salem, Mass. 

    His father was the wealthy Salem merchant and sea captain Richard Wheatland (1762-1830) involved in maritime trade in the Caribbean, the East Indies and Canton China.  Benjamin graduated from Harvard  in 1819 and studied law in Salem.

    First employed as a paymaster with the NMCo., he was appointed Agent in 1837.  He bought local supplies whenever possible.  Around 1840 there was a mill called the “Bobbin Factory” on the Pissasic river lower falls (Packers Falls Rd);  the owner David Jewell employed 28 men to produce wooden spindles, bobbins and shuttles designed for cloth production.  Jewell’s products were eagerly bought up by Agent Wheatland.

    Benjamin Wheatland was a founder of what would later become the Newmarket Congregational Church; and he was a charter member of the Rising Star Masonic Lodge in town.  In 1846, Wheatland returned to Salem and served as Treasurer of the Company for several years and died at age 53 , a  very young—and very wealthy—man.

    He was survived by his wife Mary Bemis Wheatland (1811-1864).  Their daughters Martha and Elisabeth both were born and died in Salem, Massachussetts:  Martha (1828-1885) and Elisabeth (1831-1839) both unmarried.  



    4)    John Webster  (Agent 1846- 1855)

      (b. 1804 , d. 1891)

     Of all the mill agents, John Webster was perhaps the most beloved not just by the mill employees, but by the entire town. 

    His father, a prominent businessman in Kingston, NH moved the family to Salem, MA shortly before John’s birth in 1804.  He attended Salem schools, graduated from Bradford Academy and attended a year at a mathematics institute.  He worked for a brief time in a grocery store and then in an auction house.

    Before coming to Newmarket, Mr. Webster lived a fascinating seafaring life, one which calls out for a screenplay.  During his life as a mariner visited many of the ports on the east coast of Africa, and became well acquainted with the lives, customs and languages of the local people. 

    When he turned 21, he set sail as a Captain’s clerk on a vessel bound for the Red Sea.  His second voyage was to Bermuda, and while homeward bound, the vessel was wrecked in a storm and ran aground.  By his own efforts most of the cargo and property was saved;  51 days after the disaster, what was left of the ship was brought into port.  For his faithful service, Mr. Webster was presented with an expensive and elaborately scripted silver pitcher by the ship’s insurance company.  He sailed on two more voyages; on the last he was Master.  

    Closing his life as a sailor in Salem, Capt. Webster became connected with the Newmarket Manufacturing Company in 1832; he first served as a paymaster, working often with the mill Treasurer.  In 1838, during such a session, Treasurer Nathaniel Saltonstall suffered a heart attack and died in Webster’s arms. 

      In 1846 Webster was elected Agent of the corporation—a position he held until 1855, when he was appointed Treasurer.  He resigned that post in 1882 due to failing health, completing a service with the company that had covered nearly 50 years.  More remarkable, he never lost a day’s time for illness.

    His success in the management of Newmarket’s mills was familiar to every cotton manufacturer in the country.  When he first arrived there three small mills and 14,000 spindles, and a business that was struggling.  The 28 Salem-based stockholders were keeping the company solvent.

    His first few years as Agent saw the first of some cyclical industry-wide business depressions.  Rapid expansion of competitive markets in Lowell, Nashua and Manchester swamped the markets with bolts of finished cloth.  By 1848 “low prices and slow sale of goods” forced his hand, and he closed Mill #2 while reducing wages.  However, at the same time he reduced the cost of rent for employees in company houses. 

    Insufficient waterpower had been a difficulty from the beginning; this was resolved when he built more efficient steam engines and created new reservoirs to better control water flow.  He got the business on solid footing financially, resulting in larger dividend returns for his investors.

    After retiring as Agent he returned to Salem.  There he was elected president of the Salem Common Council in 1856; he became a member of the board of aldermen in 1863 and 1864.  For nearly 50 years Webster had served on the Board of Directors of the National Exchange Bank of Salem.  Back in Salem, he became president of the bank until 1887.

    He was a man of means and noted for his generosity in Newmarket.  On behalf of the NMCo employees he donated $17,000  for the specific purpose of housing a town library.  NMCo donated the land at the corner of Elm and Main streets for this purpose, but Webster’s donation was from his own pocket.  And in his will he bequeathed to the town $10,000 in trust for the use of the library and for purchase of books.  The building also had reading and amusement rooms.  He did this without publicity, indeed, the grant was not well known by townspeople until after he left town. The $10,000 of  willed money wasn’t made public until after his death.

    In Salem, prior to coming to Newmarket, he married Martha Buffington,  the daughter of another seafaring man.  He and Martha had one son, John Buffington Webster, who at age 12 in 1847 enrolled at Phillips Exeter Academy.  Four years later while in a Massachusetts boarding school he was accidently killed by the discharge of a gun in the hands of a schoolmate.  Devastated, the Captain had a life size oil portrait of his son displayed in his study in Salem in tribute to a life cut short.

    (photo:  John Webster miniature)

    Captain Webster was a dignified, quiet and religious man who taught children in the Methodist Sunday School in town. Politically he was a Republican, but he never sought political office on the state or federal level.  Most importantly, he is remembered for dealing fairly with his employees.

    Other than the library, he is best remembered for closing the hated “Company Store”.  That store had started out at the top of Water and Main Streets, and later moved to the Brooks Building.  By its closure, competitive markets opened up along Main Street as employees purchased more goods and services than had been offered in the old-world model of “the company store”.  Due to his closing the store, downtown commerce mushroomed and thrived. 





    5)    George W. Frost   (Agent 1855-1879)

     (b. 1824,  d. 1879)     

    George Frost was the last of the Salem-born mill agents.  During his tenure Mill Number 2 was rebuilt to its present appearance after a fire in 1857.  In 1869 he oversaw the construction of Mill Number 4, the last stone factory (the home to Sam Smith Shoe Corporation during WW II ), which stands along Main Street and opposite the rebuilt Mill Number 2 in the mill yard. He was an able manager whose family occupied the Agent’s House for about thirty years up until his death  just 2 months shy of his 55th birthday. He died suddenly while bathing at the beach on Coney Island, NY.

    George Washington Frost was born in Salem, Mass., September 14, 1824.  His father, John L. Frost, was one of the old-fashioned masters of the merchant marines who travelled the globe in service of Salem merchants.  His father’s first wife and  George’s mother was Lucy Frye (1787-1824) who died giving birth to George.  His father remairred Hananh Buffington (1808-1837)  in Salem.   George attended Salem schools, and went to Brooklyn New York to work and live with his older sister Sarah (Frost) Hicks and her family.  There in 1848 he met and married Isabella Taylor. They came to  Newmarket on their honeymoon to visit George’s Aunt and Uncle, Martha and  John Webster.  That visit culminated in an employment proposition to clerk in the office of the NMCo.

    The “uncle” connection is as follows:  John Webster’s wife Matha was the sister of George’s stepmother Sarah Buffington. 

    George liked the NH seacoast area and accepted the position.  Soon after working as a clerk, his employers and associates soon recognized both his marked ability and his devotion to business. In 1855, when Mr. Webster resigned as agent, Mr. Frost was unanimously chosen as his successor.  In spite of his extreme youth (he was 31 years old at the time), his administration was remarkably successful.

    During the Civil War, mindful only of his duty when the call for men was made, he sacrificed the lucrative office which he held and was one of the first to join the Union cause.  He enlisted from Newmarket on 2 Oct 1862 at age 38 as a Private in Company K, 15th NH Infantry.  But he soon rocketed up the military ladder.  Once again, his ability was quickly recognized: five days after his enlistment he was appointed Major of the 15th Regiment, but before he was mustered in (16 days after his enlistment) he was promoted to be Lieutenant-Colonel.   Another factor in his quick rise in military rank was some earlier travel experience.  Colonel Frost was no stranger to the ports of Louisiana and the south.   He had travelled on business to Louisiana plantations for NMCo, with his last trip (accompanied by Timothy M. Joy acting as his assistant clerk) in 1862 just prior to his enlistment.  

    Colonel Frost was responsible for the logistical movement and acquisition of resources for the regiment’s deployment.  The following is taken from a 7-page paper written by another local Civil War veteran Alanson Haines in his 1900 recollection “A trip from Newmarket to New Orleans in 1862” of his deployment with Colonel Frost in December 1862: 

     “…We spent our Thanksgiving there [Union Trotting Park, New York]  and about the 1st of December four companies broke camp and were ordered to Brooklyn where we were put on board the James S. Green, a small canal boat with an extra deck built on, the boat being so small that Colonel Frost refused to place but two companies on board. Consequently, he was placed under arrest and sent to New York where very soon he was released and ordered back to his command…

    On February 14, 1863 Col. Frost had to resign his commission on account of medical disability from Climatic Fever—an illness that afflicted hundreds of Union soldiers sent to the southern ports of the Mississippi Delta.  It was a loss to the Union Army that Frost served for such a short time.  But during those few months his sharp mind and focus on details were instrumental in staging and implementing the Regiment’s deployment.  Alanson Haines’ recollection is testimony that Frost cared about and took responsibility for the troops under his command.  Haines’s letters home further described how, despite his illness, Frost still maintained command and dealt with the details of moving troops about on the battlefield.

    Frost returned to Newmarket, and as soon as his health permitted, he resumed management of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company’s affairs, which he continued until his sudden death at Coney Island, NY, a few months shy of his 55th birthday.  He had been on an excursion to his sister’s home in Brooklyn with his two sons Edgar and Albert.  They were with him at Coney Island at the time of his death.  The coroner’s inquest held in Brooklyn rendered a verdict of “death by acute congestion of brain from effects of the sun.” Isabella his wife and their daughters were at their Rye NH beach cottage when they received news of his death. 

    The Frosts had been part of the Newmarket community for 31 years.  Frost was remembered for his genial disposition and an affable and courteous manner.  He had greatly endeared himself, not only to the employees of the mills, but also to his fellow servicemen and to the citizens at large.  Col. Frost was the only Mill Agent who had a funeral service at the Agent’s House; and he was buried at Riverside Cemetery with both civic and military honors.  In 1915 his wife, Isabella died at age 90 at her home on Little Boars Head in Rye, where she lived with her daughter Mary.  Isabella, Mary, Edgar and Albert are all buried in Riverside Cemetery.

                   The Frost Family

    (photo: Isabella Frost, wife Capt. George W Frost)

     All of Colonel and Mrs. Frost’s children were born in Newmarket and went to Newmarket schools.

                   William T. (1850-1857), died at age 7 in Brooklyn, home of his grandparents; he is buried in Brooklyn.

                    Anne L. (1853-1918), married Edmund Wilson in RI, her family remained in Rhode Island, and is buried in Providence. She had 2 children.

                    Mary F. (1856-1939), Never married, after her father’s death she and her mother moved to their summer home at Little Boars Head in Rye.

                    George N. (1858-1862) Died age 4, buried in Brooklyn alongside his brother William.

                    Edgar G. (1865-1929) Buried Riverside. Was a fisherman and operated a Boat yard in Newton, MA

                    Albert W. (1868-1896) a merchant in Nashua. Died of tuberculosis; buried at Riverside. He was married with two daughters.


    On display in the Stone School Museum is Martha Webster Frost’s “New Market Sampler”  which was professionally preserved and framed (funded by a special collection of donations by the Historical Society members).  It was sewn in Newmarket in 1841 when she was seven years old.  Her stepbrother was George Washington Frost, whose initials “GWF” are stitched into the bottom margin of the sampler. 

    Martha Webster Frost was born in 1833 the daughter Captain John L. Frost and his second wife Hannah Buffington.  Captain Frost was a wealthy Sea Captain who sailed as far as Ceylon trading spices, textiles and other goods. Her mother was the daughter of another Salem Sea Captain James Buffington.  Martha’s aunt was  Mrs. Martha (Buffington) Webster.

    In 1837 when Martha Webster Frost was 4 years old her mother died shortly after giving birth to her second child.  Between 1837 and 1841 Martha moved to Newmarket to live with her Aunt Martha and Uncle John Webster in the Agent’s house on Elm Street. Her older stepbrother George Washington Frost and his wife were also living in the house.  It was during this time period that she completed her sampler.

     By 1850 she was 17 years old and living in Brooklyn NY at the home of her older half-sister, Sarah (Frost) Hicks. In 1855 when her Aunt and Uncle Webster moved from Newmarket back to Salem, Martha returned to Salem to stay with them.  In 1856, at age 23, she married the Webster’s next door neighbor Benjamin Franklin Fabens who also was a sea captain and quite a successful merchant. His business papers are on file with the Peabody Essex Museum which include business information on over 20 vessel voyages by Fabens while in Salem-Zanzibar trade route.

    Martha died in 1869 at age 35, one month after giving birth to her son Frank.  Besides her husband and her son, she left a daughter. Martha is buried at Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, MA  beside her husband who lived another 57 years and died in Jefferson, NH at age 94.


    6)    AMBROSE J. NICHOLS   (Mill Agent 1879- 1902)

    (b. 1834, d. 1911)

    Despite the New England textile mills’ denial of using child labor, Ambrose was just six years old and working 12 hours a day for six days every week in 1840 as a card tender in a Providence, Rhode Island cotton mill.  He only had six months of schooling in his whole life, yet he educated himself every night by reading books on history, mathematics, literature, and more.  As he grew older he was given better jobs and gradually moved to higher positions in the company.  He was known for his honesty, charity and friendliness.

    Then in 1879, at age 45, he was asked to be the manager for the Newmarket Manufacturing Company.  Mr. Nichols occupied the position for 22 years, the company continued to flourish, and under his management fair dividends were paid out to the stockholders.

    In the decades following the Civil War, many textile factories headed south to be closer to cotton.  Near the end of his tenure as Agent, there was a slump in the demand for cotton and Nichols saw the need for an alternative product.  In keeping with his curosity and determination to keep the NMCo solvent,  he began to learn about the silk industry.  He soon hired an experienced “silkman” Walter M. Gallant who had a made a name for himself in the Patterson, NJ textile mills.    Once he knew what his mills needed in order to produce silk cloth, he converted some of the looms and moved them into the the newly-built Mill #7.   He installed the necessary machinery and began the manufacture of silk.  This feature of the business proved a success and soon about 2,750,000 yards of pongees, satins, mulls and taffetas were produced annually. When he retired, the company was producing 18,000 yards of silk cloth each week—enough to make hundreds of silk dresses and shirts for the wealthier people of the northeast.  For the expertise for this venture he relied on Water Gallant.

    As times changed, so did the employee base.  Nichols finalized the transition that Colonel Frost began at the end of the Civil War — from the old model of the Yankee Factory Girl housed in a company-owned boarding house, to an employee base that was more family centered.  He built 23 new double tenement houses for employees.  First known as “Little Canada”, Nichols Avenue was later named after him for this reason.  Typically such a residence would initially house many families, until each “temporary family” saved enough money to move out on their own.  This trend continued well after Nichols’s tenure as Mill Agent.  The 1910 Census on Nichols Avenue shows as many as 17 people living in one 4-bedroom house, with most of the adults employed in the mills. 

    Under Ambrose Nichols, NMCo advertised for weavers in Ireland, French Canada and later the Slavic countries. He gave his employees incentives to recruit other skilled family members from back home.  It was much more cost effective for families to care for one another, rather than having the company pay for room and board for workers.   (Basically, manufacturing corporations throughout New England turned a blind eye towards living conditions. That problem became an issue for the municipalities to work out, not the employer.) 

    When Nichols first came to Newmarket there was 36 looms;  under his management 23 years later when he left  there were 2,344.  He built 5 new factory buildings.  He also added water wheels to provide more power to run the new engines he installed. He improved the water supply to the mill, and when electricity came to town, he replaced gaslight with electric.  When the old dam collapsed with the freshet of 1886, he oversaw the building of the new dam in 1887 and improved the penstocks.  More importantly Nichols laid the framework for a crucial switch in production—from cotten to silks and synthetic fibers.  He hired his brother Charles to work for him as foreman, which he did for 20 years before moving to Connecticut.  Charles Nichols was a Civil War veteran and member of the George  Gay Post of the G.A.R. in town. 

    Nichols was well respected in town and was appointed as Justice of the Peace in 1884.   In 1891 he personally donated $100 to each of the Newmarket Fire Companies and $100 to the Mill Hose Company in appreciation of how quickly they had handled the fire in Mill #1.   He was very particular about the company farm (a holdover from the days of “the company store”). When he leased out the extensive NMCo. farm operation, he took a personal pride in its prize herd of dairy cattle; Nichols was (as the old Yankee term described him) “a Sticklah ‘bout his cows”.  The farm’s produce ended up on the Agent’s table and was sold in local stores.

    In March 1902, in a display of admiration for his accomplisments as Mill Agent and for his commitment to the families of workers and the community at large, 85 of the leading citizens of town honored Ambrose Nichols with a farewell reception and dinner.  He was given a proclamation which was signed by over 150 of Newmarket businessmen expressing appreciation for his good work, as well as good wishes for his upcoming retirement. 

    The Ambrose Nichols Family

    Ambrose was born in Coventry RI in 1834; he married Mary E. Brown (1839-1901) in RI,  and they had a son Frank in 1859.  Mary died of pneumonia here in Newmarket at age 62.  She had lived in Newmarket for 20 years, was active in community affairs and was much respected.  Her funeral services were from the Agent’s House and she is buried in Riverside Cemetery.  She and Ambrose also had a daughter Mary (Mrs. William C. Chesley of Portland, ME) in addition to their son Frank I. Nichols, who became a machinist in town. 

    In March 1902, the year after his wife Mary died, Ambrose retired after nearly 23 years in Newmarket. He moved to Providence, RI, and three months later at age 68 he married Joanna Sullivan, age 47 (1855-1930).  Her parents were Irish immigrants Michael and Catherine Sullivan who had worked in the Newmarket cotton mills.  In 1911 Ambrose died suddenly and his body was brought back to Newmarket for burial next to his wife Mary in Riverside.  There was no mention of Joanna in his obituary in the local papers.  (Did she go to the funeral?!)  At some point Joanna relocated to Dover where she died at age 75; her brief obituary at least states she was the widow of the late Ambrose J. Nichols.  Joanna was laid to rest with her parents at Newmarket’s Calvary Cemetery.

    Ambrose and Mary Nichols’s Two Children:  Frank Ide Nichols &  Mary (AKA May) Nichols

    (1) Their son Frank Ide Nichols (1859-1941) was born in Hebronville (a subset of Attleboro) MA in 1859.  Like his father, he left school after the 4th grade and started working in the cotton mills.  He became a weaver and then a machinist; by 1900 he was working as a foreman in the NMCo Cotton Mills and owned a home on Bay Road.  In 1882 he married Dollie Twitchell (1860-1915).  They had three children—two of whom pursued higher education at Bates College (unlike their father and grandfather).  By 1910 Frank and his family had moved to Manchester, NH where he worked as a loom fixer.  In 1915 Dollie died there, and her body was brought to Newmarket and buried at Riverside in the Nichols family plot.   A year after his wife’s death Frank remarried (not unlike his father).  His children were on their own, and in January 1916 the 57-year old widower married a 21-year old housekeeper Alice Lawrence.  By then he was living in Auburn Maine and working as a musician and music teacher.  In January 1941 Frank died at age 81; his body was brought back from Auburn to Newmarket for burial alongside Dollie in Riverside Cemetery.   Alice remarried in 1954 to Frank Abendroth and the couple remained in Maine.  

    Frank and Dollie’s Children:

                         Florence (1884) was born in Newmarket, graduated from high school and worked in cotton mills all her life.  Never married, she died in Eliot, ME in 1970 at age 86.  

                           Mary E. (b. 1892  in Salem, MA) graduated from Bates College with a Masters in Mathematic Education and became a teacher.   By 1920 she was living with her sister Florence in a woman’s boarding house, teaching in Manchester. The following year 30-year-old Mary married 57-year-old widower Clemens P. Berlson, a Russian-born mill worker.  Clemens died of prostate cancer in 1925, and Mary soon moved to Eliot, ME where she taught math for many years at Eliot High School.  She lived there for the rest of her life with her sister Florence.  Mary, at age 79 died the same year as Florence.  And like her sister, they are both buried in Newmarket’s Riverside Cemetery in the Nichols family lot. 

                                                                         (photo:  Mary E. Nichols Berlson, faculty photo, Eliot ME High School)

                          Ambrose J. (b. 1889 in  Salem, MA) also graduated from Bates College like his sister Mary.  He lived in the Auburn, ME area until he moved to Manchester in 1918, working as a high school mathematics teacher.  He had married another high school teacher Frances Perry in Maine in 1914, but unlike his sisters Ambrose died young, succumbing to Bright’s disease at the age of 29.  He is buried in Fairhaven, MA.  He and Frances had no children, and she never remarried, living another 30 years in Brookline, MA until her death .  

    (2), Mary Nichols (AKA May) (1871-1943)   the daughter of Ambrose and Marywas born in Providence, RI and was attending school in 1880 while in Newmarket. She was a talented soloist and was instructed in music by Martha Walker. During 1890-92 school years   she gave several recitals in the town hall.  On June 14, 1893 May married William C. Chesley (1860-1933), and the couple moved to Concord, NH where they began their family.  At some point May and William divorced, and she later moved to Illinois and remarried at age 71 to Louis Alexander.  Not long after her marriage, she died on Sept. 11, 1943 in Hinsdale, IL.  She is buried there.

    Mary Nichols and William Chesley’s Children:

             Marion Chesley b.1894 in Concord, NH

             Carroll N. Chesley (1900- 1919) enlisted at age 17 in the US Navy. He was assigned Sgt. 1/c Medical corps and was in Richmond, NY when he died of a traumatic hemorrhage on Dec 15, 1919. He is buried in his father’s family lot in Concord, NH.   

               Marjorie b. 1898  was a stenographer in 1920 living with her mother in Connecticut.




    7)     Joseph Daniel Aiken  (Agent 1902- Feb-April)  

    (b.1862, d. 1953)

    In February 1902, Mr. Aiken became Agent for the NMCO., coming from Conn.. He was 39 years old, single with a withered hand.   He attended the farewell dinner for Ambrose Nichols on March 28th,1902; and then on Wednesday, April 22, he resigned his position and immediately left town. That’s all there is, he just left town.  He is listed in the later censuses living in a boarding house, working as an assistant mill manager at the Pomona Mills in Norwich, CT.   When he retired, he returned home to  South Carolinia where he died at age 91. He never married.


    8)    John L. Burton   (Agent  1902 - 1904)

    (b. 1838, d. 1930 )

    Born in Scotland, he immigrated in 1879, and naturalised in 1892.  He  was involved in the textile manufacturing trades for over 50 years before his death. In November 1902 ( after the national coal strike ended)  he received a scow load of coal  at the town dock, which he sold to the emplyees of the company for $7.50 a ton, the actual cost.  This coal was  purchased directly at the mines and delivered to operatives’ homes at no cost for cartage.   In 1904 he and his daughter sailed to Europe for a month’s long study tour various silk factories.  He is best remembered locally for his efforts in turning a mill townhouse on Elm Street into a “Temporary Hospital Emergency Detention Center” during the smallpox epidemic of 1903.  A complete lockdown with police 24/7 coverage to insure a complete quarantine.  Special nursing, and kitchen staff were hired to take care of the sick and infected.   He left the NMCo. to become Mill Agent for the Nashawena Mills in New Bedford, MA.  where he later died. He is known nationally for his inventive creativity for using silk and synthetic fabric in aircraft during WW I for the US Government.  Many a pilot’s life was saved due to his ingenuity.   



    9) William H. Garner (Agent 1904 - 1910) 

      (b. 1858, d. 1947)

    Mr. Garner served as seven years as Mill Agent for the NMCo.; he made a great many changes and improvements in the property during his adminsitration. An addition was built in 1909 to No. 4 mill, and a great amount of the latest machinery has been put in. The mills had been very prosperous until 1910 universal depression in the cotton and silk business, which was general throughout New England.  Prior to the depression, under his management the company paid the first dividends to its stockholders for many years, and he oversaw a modern plant and a first-class executive force.

    Born in Middleboro Vermont he attended local schools and at the age of nine with his parents moved to Lewiston, Maine where he continued his studies until age 14. He found employment as an office boy at a bleachery, and in a few months was promoted to shipping clerk.  After working a year, he enrolled in the Auburn (Maine) private school for one term, and in 1874 entered the employ of the Bates Manufacturing Company to learn the business of making cloth.

    Here he won several promotions by his industry and ability, and in 1885 was placed in charge of the spinning, spooling, warping and slashing departments of the cotton mills at Reading, PA., which position he held for six years.  He then was called to Massachusetts and worked as superintendent of the B.B. and R. Knights mills at Dodgeville, PA. and Hebron, Mass.

    He was successful in bringing these mills up to a high standard of excellence. He also worked on the municipal level to improve working conditions for his employees.  He stayed with Knights Mills for thirteen years before being offered the position of Agent with the NMCo. In 1904 when Mr. Garner left as Agent for the Hebron Manufacturing Company his son Stephen who had worked alongside his father, was chosen to replace him.

     In October 1904 William was elected to serve on the board of the New England Cotton Manufacturer’s Association.

    In February 1879 he married Arai Belle, daughter of Stephen H. and Mehitable Roberts of Manchester, NH.  They had three children: Stephen, Amy and William.

     While living in the Agent’s house, when Amy married in December 1907, a special train brought wedding guests up from Boston.  They arrived at the town Depot 11a.m., an elegant wedding was held at the Agent’s House at high noon, and the train then left back to Boston at 4 p.m..  Amy was very well known and a very popular girl in town who would invite several local girls to the family Hampton Beach cottage over the summers.

    Mrs. Garner opened the Agent’s house for a Valentine’s ball for several years.  She was very active in the Newmarket Womans’ Club, serving as Club president for more a few years and opening her home for several meetings and events sponsored by the club.

    Under his management Newmarket Day at Hampton Beach was instituted in 1906.

    (Photo: ad in July 1910 for the 4th Annual Newmarket Day outing.)

    An active Republican in town and state politics. He ran for several positions, school board and selectman.  He was chosen to head a committee to study and then eventually build a town electric power plant.  He sat on the board of water commissioners and at the time of his leaving he was chairman of the board of selectmen.

    In May 1908, he reseeded, improved the company baseball fields in the area of sliding rock, created a cinder walkway, built a bridge over the brook, fenced in the entrance way built a ticket booth and renamed it Pine Grove Park.

    Upon his retirement after almost 7 years spent in Newmarket, a large, elegant banquet was held in John Webster Hall attended by 80 Newmarket professional men.

    He told the ADVERTISER at the banquet,  that during the 35 years he had been engaged in the cotton business, he had never had over a week’s vacation at one time, and felt the need of a long rest. He will go to Attleboro, Mass., where he has business interests, and where two of his children reside.  He and his family did return to Attleboro, Mass., and by 1940 they were living with their son, William, Jr. who was a manager of a Silver Factory.



    10)    George E. Spofford    (Agent 1910  - 1913)

    (b. 1871, d. 1956)

    George E. Spofford came to manage the mills in 1910 from the famous Blackstone River Mills in Rhode Island.  He stayed three years here before accepting a very lucative position as General Manager for the Langley Manufacturing CO. Langley, S.C. with mills in Langley, Bath, and Clearwater South Carolina and New York City.

    During the nearly three years he had been in Newmarket, the mills had been very prosperous.  He was credited as being a good man for the company and for the town, and all were very sorry to have him and his family leave.  Mrs. Spofford was involved in the Women’s Club and served on its board of directors, and their children Helen & George, Jr. were active in the schools.


    11)    Walter M. Gallant    (Agent 1913-1919)

    The last Mill Agent to live in the Agent’s house.

    (b. 1864, d. 1927)                                                     

    Born in London, his parents immigrated when he was seven years old. He became involved in the textile industry working in mills in Deli, New York.  He was appointed superintendent of the silk mills there, and  in 1904 he was offered employment by the NMCo.  He moved to Exeter while working here in the silk mills until he was chosen as Mill Agent in 1913.  He kept the Exeter residence, while the family lived in the Agent’s House.

    Walter was a pioneer in the weaving of viscose, an acetate rayon in the late teens and early 1920s.  He built the massive Mill # 8 “The Weave Shed” at a cost of $750,000.  A huge and expensive undertaking that required (starting in 1916) the removing of two streets of all houses to lots farther up Elm Street and to lots on Lincoln, Washington, and Nichols Avenue.

    He saw the future was in synthetic fabrics and was going to be prepared to meet that demand.  He had adopted many progressive methods and the growth of the company had been phenomenal.  The Portsmouth Herald at the time wrote:

    “The Town of Newmarket is on the eve of a business boom as the NMCo. is preparing to erect a new brick and steel mill, 700 feet in length.  When the new structure is completed it will have the largest floor of looms – 2,400 in number — of any mill in the country.  This will make an increase of 500 looms…. It is not generally known that the company makes the highest grades of silks in the country in addition to the weaving of cotton.

     Agent Gallant believes in the co-operation with his employees and since he assumed charge has co-operated with them in their efforts for outdoor sports and other forms of recreation. A strong baseball team has represented the company on the diamond.”


    High Street before 1917


    High Street - Mill # 8, after 1917


                                                         THE WEAVE SHED GRAND OPENING May 25, 1918

    The Grand Opening of the Weave Shed was quite a celebration on May 25, 1918.  The mill was open to the public, and the Newmarket Cornet Band, consisting of 33 pieces opened the ceremony with a short concert. Brief addresses by prominent officials followed, then quartette and vocal solos. The evening ended with a public dancing to the cornet band.  It was held inside a room of over four acres of floor space, with walls and ceilings all enameled white, with gray dado trimming; modern plumbing, slate toilet rooms, rest rooms, porcelain-lined wash sinks with bubbling water fountains with water drawn form an artesian well. Very impressive for its time.

    During WW I he was in the industries committee developing and weaving nylon parachutes and rayon cargo chutes.  He had introduced the Jacquard looms.  Products associated with Jacquard weaving are linen damask dapery, apparel fabrics and damask bed linen, anything with a brocade pattern.  Jacquard weaving uses all sorts of fibers and blends of fibers, and it is used in the production of fabrics for a variety of end uses.

    When the NMCO closed the mills in town after the strike, these looms were transported to Lowell, whereas the cotton looms were “liquidated”.  

    During his tenure, there had been a recession around the time of The Great War, coal and other supplies were difficult to come by.  He spent time lobbying the Governor & State legislators for assistance in getting the Federal Government to loosen restrictions on the railroad lines, so coal, especially could be delivered.

    The Pandemic of 1918

     The Pandemic of 1918-1919 put a major strain on the millworkers as over 500 had been ill with the Spanish Flu, and during October 1918 the mills closed for a brief period.

    (Photo: Walter M. Gallant, Jan 1912)

    The explosion of deaths throughout the country and the world created a demand for silk coffin linings, a demand that the NMCo. was quick to fill by rapidly switching production to more silks and taffetas. This quick turn to fill a gruesome need, turned the company ledgers from the brink of red to full black.  The company boasted that one third of all casket cloth in the Unites States was woven in Newmarket.

    During his management he worked in the best interests of the company and employees. Besides the new weave shed, he was responsible for other improvements in the older mills, new and better machinery, improvement in the home conditions and the hiring a nurse for employees and their families, new houses.


    WWI – Walter M. Gallant & the War Bond success despite the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 

    George Kibbe of Manchester, of the New Hampshire Liberty Loan Committee, published the following in the Manchester Union, Oct 1918:

    “Newmarket’s work in the Fourth Liberty Bond Drive— Newmarket has a quota of $74,000.  The town has a splendid record for war work.  It has raised every quota for everything. Moreover, it has certain activities of its own by which it keeps in the closest touch possible with its men.

    “The Newmarket boys leave home amid scenes calculated to impress upon them the affection of their townsmen.  Their photographs are collected and kept on exhibition, so that they shall be held inconstant remembrance, not only by their relatives but also by the whole town.            There was every expectation that the town would raise its loan quota. Then   came the influenza.  Newmarket is a mill town with a large foreign-speaking population. The disease fairly swept through the mills and the homes of the workers.

    “It swept the whole town.   It paralyzed industry and business. It knocked the loan committee to pieces. It closed all public places and abolished public gatherings. There were 500 cases of the grippe in the town yesterday, with only one well physician to care for them, and a few nurses who were doing doctors’ work. In these circumstances, four men went to work for the loan.  W. B. Greene, chairman, P. H. Burrowes, A. J. Sands and W.M. Gallant, agent of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company.  Their committee associates were down. They had a few assistants, but the bulk of the work was done by them, and they raised that $74,000 quota and then got more. Up to last night they had secured $77,850.  They did better than put it over the top in the first week.”

    Mr. Gallant was certainly public-spirited, and he was involved with local government and steering committees.  He enjoyed the goodwill of his employees generally. The tasks of the job during wartime, and during the pandemic was too much for his health. He was forced by his doctors to take a six-months leave of absence and he was warned that he should not return as mill agent. 

    He died in 1927 at age 62 at a Boston Hospital.  He was buried from his home on Pine Street in Exeter.



    12)   Walter B. Gallant   (Agent 1920- 1932)

    (b. 1889, d. 1973)   

    The Last Mill Agent of the NMCo. 1929-strike/lock out/ mill closing/Abandonment 1932  


    Walter M. Gallant appointed his son, Walter B. as Mill Agent effective December 31st, 1919.

    Walter B.  had worked under his father for 12 years prior to the appointment.  After he married Miss Grace Pease,  he and his wife lived in mill housing for supervisors at 9 Beach Street, with his promotion they moved first to WW. Durrell’s house [ site # 3 on the Historic DTN Walking Tour  ] then to the old Haines Mansion on 215 South Main Street.

    Mrs. Gallant was very active serving in several offices in the church, Women’s Club, and scouting programs.  She also founded the Newmarket PTA.  A talented musician, she performed in local events, and opened her home for yearly piano recitals showcasing local young talent. Likewise, she performed  solo musical concerts and invited other artists in her home to perform as well — they were always opened to public.

    Mr. Gallant was well respected among his employees and was chosen president of the Newmarket Mills Baseball team in 1914, (the same year the new law went into effect – a  55-hour workweek for women and minors.)   If there were championship baseball game to be played out of town, he would arrange for a special train to and from the game for players and spectators alike.  He created a baseball league, and was instrumental in managing the annual Hampton Beach excursions.

     He also was responsible for donating land for the Field of Sports, a baseball field (today’s Beanie Howcroft Field) off Nichols Avenue.  The field was opened in July 1915, as the games were played after work they were known as the Sunset League.  He closed the old Pine Grove baseball park as being too far out of the village. The field was more accessible by Elm or Nichols Avenue, than trudging out to the sliding rock site.

    He created Newmarket Park on top of Elm Street in July 1913 with a dance pavilion, spot for evening concerts, electric lights, playgrounds for kids.  The park was open to all residents.   The nomenclature of “Park Hill” replaced “the previous “Shackford Hill” and is still called “Park Hill” to this day.

    (photo: old Newmarket House prior to the 1920 makeover)

    Walter B. also oversaw the overhaul of the old Newmarket House Tavern into a completely refurbished boarding house and cafeteria for mill workers. The interior finish was changed to all- natural wood with wood floors throughout.  There were 32 bedrooms for female employees only, each is a double room equipped with two twin beds.

    On the first floor was a dining room with several small tables where male employees could eat as well.  The other side of the hall was the girl’s parlor, with a small men’s waiting room in the rear.  There  was a large modern bathroom on each floor. A newly constructed commercial kitchen on the same plan as in the largest modern hotels was under the charge of Mrs. H.D. Gove who had charge of cooking, etc..  There was a large pantry, and a large laundry in the basement, with steam piped in from the NMCo. plant.  The house was managed by  George Willey of Hotel Willey, and the matron was Mrs. Cyrus Willey of Middleton., NH.  There was a Grand opening in June 4, 1920 which was open to the public and toured by large number of townspeople.

    The Call of the Lamprey, Town Pageant 1927

    By June 1927,  Mrs. Gallant was instrumental in the production of the Town’s Historic Pageant, The Call of the Lamprey — celebrating the 200th anniversary of incorporation of Newmarket as a chartered town.

    The Gallants had opened their home on South Main Street – the former Haines Mansion. The grounds which was large enough to stage the  170 townspeople who participated in the performance, with hundreds more watching from the lawn.  The opening of the event began with the narrator arriving from the brook out back of the house by canoe and coming up the embankment to the podium.  Mrs. Gallant taught the chorus and several singers their musical numbers and she herself performed solos.  The entire event was a gigantic artistic and community success.

    The generosity of the Gallants in opening their grounds for this undertaking, and the enormous amount of work that went into the production and their financial support to help with the – lighting  systems, amplification, costuming, refreshments, use of the barn for props and storage, and as scene changes…was very much appreciated.   

    Time took a dark turn

    But all the good will Walter B. Gallant had enjoyed amongst his employees soon soured.

    Times were changing and most employees felt wages were not in proportion to work/hours spent in the factory.  There were rumblings and shorter strikes in June & again in August 1922 resulting with a .50 hourly wage increase; and again a stop action in Jan 1926.   After a March 1929 walk out of employees and lock down by management, and a protracted period of non-negotiations Mr. Gallant got a court injunction prohibiting any former textile worker from interfering in any way with the operations of the mill and with any workers wanting to return to work.  In April the mills reopened after a seven-week shut down due to a wage dispute; however, only 30 employees out of 800 returned.  It was a tense and ugly period in the town’s history. Neighbor v. Neighbor, Town v. Industry, Union Organizers V. Workers.

    Scores of strikers promenaded along Main street to “spot” those who returned to the plant, while 15 extra police officers patrolled the entrances to the different mills.  There had been two arrests of workers for assaulting a police officer hired by the NMCo.  Some returning workers were jostled by the crowd.  Mr. Gallant warned “that the mills would remain open for an indefinite period to give the employees an opportunity to return.  If they fail to return, it is probable that the plant will be shut down.”  

    In November 1931, Mr. Gallant announced to the  workers that there would be a general downward re-adjustment  of wages due to the general business conditions of the company. No definitive percentage was made public. Some wage scales would be lowered considerably, others not at all. He stated in order for the company to make and sell goods in a very competitive market, these cuts were necessary.  He announced that the company had a very large order in hand which was bid at a lower cost in order to keep the company operational.  An additional 150 looms would be online for an indefinite period.   He also announced that mill housing rents for mill housing and tenements would be reduced by 10% .

    Strike issues continued to plague the corporation until February 1932 when Mr. Gallant notified workers that the shareholders of the corporation voted to “Abandon” the Newmarket plant, and all machinery had been moved to Lowell.  All supervisors and executives were transferred, and” all other employees would be taken care of — if they wished to move to Lowell, and as openings became available”.

    After the “abandonment, “Mr. Gallant and his family left Newmarket and moved to Lowell. He was promoted to vice president in charge of manufacturing in 1946.  He built the first new textile plant in New England in over 20 years at Machias, Maine in 1948 and he finally retired from active management in 1957 after 50 years in the cotton and synthetic weaving industry.

    William B. was a 50-year member of the Rising Star Masonic Lodge in Newmarket, and served as president of the C.Q. Yorick Club of Lowell 1942-1947.  He was a life member of the Northern Textile Association.

    During WW II he served on the US Government’s Industry Committee, developing and weaving nylon parachustes and rayon cargo shutes.

    Walter B. Gallant died at age 83 in 1973 at his farm on Oyster River in Durham.   

    All three of his sons were involved in the textile trade:

    1)      Walter B. Gallant, Jr (worked for the Newmarket Manufacturing Company, first in Newmarket, then in Lowell).

    2)       Thomas Gallant  served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II and then turned to textiles working was a woolen manufacturer with American Woolen, he moved to Maine in 1948 as a manager of Guilford Woolen  Company.  Then, following his true calling,  he became a middle school teacher in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine for 25 years.

    3)      His youngest son Richard Gallant served in the Army Air Force during WW II, and later returned to Newmarket, bought out the Textron corporation and created the Gallant Manufacturing Company in 1955. He retired from the Textile business twenty years later in 1975 when he purchased the Oar House Restaurant which he ran until 1993.   Richard was a member of the Lamprey River Watershed association, and a partner in Moody Point at Great Bay.  He was a gundalow and tugboat captain for many years and a member of the National Maritime Society. Shortly before his death in 1996 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce for his many contributions to that community including the waterfront beautification and land improvement projects of Ceres and Market Streets. In keeping with his love of sailing, his ashes were scattered at sea.  


    A View from the Lamprey River of the Agent’s House taken October 2022 by Janice Rosa