Lesson 6: The People of the River 3


Thomas H. Wiswall was the son of Thomas and Sarah Wiswall of Exeter. He was born in 1817 and went to school in Exeter. When Thomas was only 16 years old, he began working in his father's pa­per mills. His goal was to learn everything there was to know about the manufacture of paper. In 1846, he took charge of a paper mill in Dover. After 3 years in Dover, he worked for another paper mill in Exeter.

In 1853, Thomas and Isaac Flagg leased a dam, mill building, and water rights on the Lamprey River from Moses Wiggin. The rent was $350 a year. In the lease, Moses Wiggin agreed to dig a mill canal and build a two-story mill building equipped with two water wheels. The canal increased the water power capabilities of the site. Water wheels were built that turned the gears to operate the machinery.

In 1854, Wiggin dug the canal and moved a machine shop from Newmarket to the site on the river, now called Wiswall Falls. Wiswall and Flagg converted the machine shop into a paper mill with modern machinery that produced wallpaper.

Flagg later sold his share in the business to Howard Moses. When Howard died, his father, C.C.P. Moses, took over his son's share in the partnership. At this time the company's name became T. H. Wiswall and Company.

When Moses Wiggin died, Wiswall and Joshua Parker bought all the mills at the site for $4,900. Wiswall got the paper mill and Parker got the grist mill and the sawmill. Parker's mills had four water wheels. All of these buildings were two stories high.

In 1858, Thomas Wiswall bought Parker's share of the property and water privileges for $3,300. Thomas also bought out C.C.P. Moses’s share of the business for $1,650. Since running all the water wheels was nearly impossible during the dry seasons, having one person who owned all the water rights was better for business.

By 1860, the sawmill was producing only half as much lumber as it had when Wiggin operated it. The grist mill had one employee who ground 2,000 bushels of cornmeal per year. That amount of corn­meal had a value of only $2,400. Eventually, the unused mills became run down and the opera­tion of the grist mill was discontinued. The paper mill, however, was making money. It employed 8 people and produced 200,000 yards of paper a year. That amount of wallpaper was valued at $30,000. The wall­paper was transported by wagon to the train depot and shipped to Boston to be sold. The main building was enlarged and two buildings, a bleach house and a stock house, were added.

In 1868, the dam was rebuilt. Four houses for mill workers were constructed on the north side of Wiswall Road. Austin Doeg also operated a store there. (Three of the houses are still stand­ing.) The sawmill was at the edge of the mill pond and the paper mill was on the island formed by the canal. An office was located near the canal. T. H. Wiswall Company was one of the largest industries in Durham.

By 1870, the sawmill was only producing 90,000 feet of boards worth $1,620, but the paper mill had doubled its output. The 12 people working there produced 309 tons of wallpaper valued at $69,365. The mill also had a steam engine powered by burning wood or coal.

By 1880, there were 15 workers, both men and women, who produced 309 tons of paper, but the value had dropped to $45,000. Wages ranged from $.90 to $1.10 for an 11- hour day.

On November 1, 1883, fire destroyed the paper mill and most of the other buildings at Wiswall Falls. The sawmill, however, did not burn. The newspaper reported that two women were burned in the fire. Following the fire, Mr. Wiswall retired from the paper business, and the mill buildings were never replaced. He was unable to sell the property. He maintained the dam and ran the sawmill until 1896. Wiswall’s business venture ended when part of the dam was washed away by spring floods.

In 1899, Mr. Wiswall sold the land and mill privileges to James Burnham, President of the Newmarket Electric Light, Heat, and Power Company. Burnham built a small hydroelectric station where the paper mill had been. On February 20, 1900, the first electrical power in Durham was supplied to Highland House and the homes of James Burnham and the Griffiths brothers.

To view videos about Thomas Wiswall and his mills, click here
Resources for Thomas Wiswall:

Bolian, Charles E. and Maymon, Jeffrey P. “Phase I:  Cultural Resource Assessment.”  Wiswall Falls Hydro-Electric Project. Durham, New Hampshire.” Prepared for Southern New Hampshire Hydroelectric Development Corporation, 1985.

Harvey, Joseph. “An Uncharted Town:  Newmarket on the Lamprey – Historical Notes and Personal Sketches.” The Granite Monthly. February and March 1908: 33-122.

Kenyon, Victoria. “Cultural Resources Review, Wiswall Falls, Durham, N.H.” Report Prepared for the Town of Durham. June 13, 1986.

Maymon, Jeffrey H. “A Preliminary Cultural Resource Survey of the Lamprey River Drainage” Independent Reading and Research. 1983.

Scott, Peter H.  Registration and Description of the Wiswall Falls Mill Site. P.H. Scott Consulting Services for the National Park Service. 1987


Epping is famous for its brickyards and at one time there were at least 14 brickyards in town. The first one opened in 1822. Other towns in the area also had brickyards, but Epping is fortunate to sit on deposits of blue marine clay 20 to 30 feet thick.

Why is the blue marine clay there? During the ice age, the weight of the ice sheet caused the land in southern New Hampshire to sink below sea level, so the ocean covered the land from the coast inland, including Epping. The sediment that settled to the bottom of the ocean formed the blue clay.

What are brickyards? They are places where bricks are made. They are probably called brickyards because after the bricks were shaped out of the wet clay, they were laid on the ground to dry in the ”yard.” In the early days the wet bricks were laid on the bare ground to dry in the sun, but later they were put on racks and rolled into the sun. The racks covered 2 acres. After 3-4 days, men, women, and children hand-turned the bricks for 10-25 cents a rack.

After the bricks had dried in the sun, they were fired in a kiln. Each firing required a new kiln and each kiln was used for 2 weeks. Hardwood and pine logs fueled the kiln fires to maintain a temperature of 1850 degrees for 7 days. Cooling the kiln took another 7 days. The kiln was then torn down and the bricks were sorted. The upper part or body of the kiln produced deep red face, light flask, dark flask, ringer, and black face bricks. The arches and base produced smooth antique, semi-rough, rough, red antique, black headers, and sewer bricks. The bricks closest to the heat had the most color and shape distortions.

Before 1872 most of the bricks made in Epping were sold locally. When the railroads began passing through Epping all that changed. The Boston and Maine traveled north and south on what is now Route 125 and the Nashua and Rochester traveled east and west. At one time, as many as 100 trains passed through Epping in a day. They provided an easy way for bricks to be shipped from Epping to other parts of New Hampshire and beyond.

W. S. Goodrich was once the largest manufacturer of water struck bricks in the USA. At the height of production, the brickyard made 6,000,000 bricks a year. Goodrich bricks were used to restore Faneuil Hall in Boston and construct new buildings for Bentley College, Phillips Exeter Academy, St. Anselm’s College, and at UNH, the Paul Arts Center, Stoke Hall, and the Field House.

The company eventually had to switch from using wood as a fuel to oil. It took 8000 gallons of fuel every other day to fire the kilns at a cost of $1000 a day. The company stopped making bricks in August 25, 1976; it was unable to make a profit because of the cost of fuel.

W. S. Goodrich is still in business selling stone and granite products, but the clay is still there. The new Goodrich office on Route 125 sits on 27 ½ feet of clay. The water behind Lowe’s was once a clay pit for Goodrich bricks.

 Official Seal of the Town of EppingOfficial Seal of the Town of Epping

The three stars represent the three NH governors who came from Epping. Should a fourth governor come from Epping, another star can be added…as are the stars for new states on the US flag. The wavy lines represent the Lamprey River, Epping’s most prominent physical feature. This is featured in the center of the design because it is the reason the town was settled and its course unites all sections of the community. The red area represents the products made from Epping’s abundant clay deposits which make possible the town’s renowned brick industry and historic Epping redware.


Resources used for article about brickyards in Epping:

Blue binder with the title Epping Brickyards in the Epping Historical Society compiled by Robert Goodrich and Leo and Nancy Grimard with news articles and photographs about Epping’s brickyards.

“Epping Company to Discontinue Making Bricks.” The News-Letter, Exeter, NH. September 1, 1979:  A12.

Evening program at the Epping Historical Society presented by Robert Goodrich about brickyards in Epping on October 20, 2011.

Randall, Peter. “W. S. Goodrich, Inc. Water-struck Bricks Since 1887.” New Hampshire Profiles.  November 1969:  30-36.

Sanborn, Richard B.  A Bicentennial History of Epping, New Hampshire. Seabrook, N.H.: The Whitney Press, Inc.: 1976.


Religious camp meetings were held in South Newmarket from 1857 to 1862. In 1862, a committee was formed to buy land and create a permanent camp location. Reverend Calvin Holman, agent for the committee, bought land from Ezra and Daniel Barber of East Epping. The site was chosen because the Lamprey River crosses the northern edge of this property and provides the camp with access for swimming and boating activities.

The organization was incorporated as Hedding Camp Meeting Association in honor of Bishop Hedding. The Association consisted of pastors in the New Hampshire Conference and owners of the cot­tages within Camp Hedding. Some of the land was cleared and the first meeting was held there in 1863.

At first, the meetings were held in a grove of trees, where a large circle of seats was constructed. Families came to relax, listen to the sometimes fiery preachers, and enjoy camping in tents. Because many people attended these meetings, the Concord & Portsmouth Railroad constructed a track from the East Epping station right into the camp­grounds. In 1887, Chautauqua Hall was built where meetings, sum­mer school, and lectures were held. Eventually, many cabins were built on the grounds, along with a library, bakery, recreation hall, and community hall. In 1891, a fire destroyed ten cabins, so a water system was installed in 1892.

The names of the East Epping Post Office and railroad station were changed to Hedding in 1896. In 1902, electricity was supplied to the buildings within the campground. The following year, the camp sold spring water. In 1916, Camp Hedding for Boys was established, followed by Camp Hedding for Girls in 1918. The camp’s natural character changed significantly when the Great Hur­ricane of 1938 blew down a thousand of the largest pine trees on the grounds.

Hundreds of people still spend their summers at Hedding and religious meetings continue to be held on the grounds.

Resources for Hedding Camp Meeting Association

Sanborn, Richard B.  A Bicentennial History of Epping, New Hampshire. Seabrook, N.H.: The Witney Press, Inc.: 1976.

Tilton, John J. History of Epping, New Hampshire 1741-1941. John J. Tilton:  1941.

West Epping

Mary Evelyn Folsom was born July 8, 1881, in West Epping. She was the daughter of Thomas Folsom and Mary Bickford. She was a direct descendent of Joshua Folsom, the first Quaker to move to Epping. Joshua built a grist mill on the Lamprey River in approximately 1746. The family owned land on both sides of the river in West Epping and eventually built a dam and other mills there.

In 1918, Mary married Edmund Blair and they moved to a house located on Route 27 in West Epping that was built by Thomas Folsom around 1870. What do you think was in her house? Could there have been things handed down from her family? In the Epping Historical Society, there is a newspaper photo of Mary wearing a shawl which her grandmother wore to her own wedding in 1823. Another article mentions a brass bed-warmer and blankets woven by Mary’s ancestors.


Mary taught school for 50 years, mostly in a combined 5th through 8th grade classroom. The school had 2 classrooms, a kitchen, wood shed, and bathrooms. She taught 30 to 35 students per year. Mary also served as the school’s principal.

Photo courtesy of Epping Historic Society.

Forest True, one of Mary’s students, told about going to school on School Street in West Epping. Forest said being in a room where you heard the older students doing their school work helped him learn. Students also tutored one other. Students read the Bible, historical adventure books, and stories and poems by Charles Dickens, Henry W. Longfellow, and Robert Frost. They often had spelling bees with each grade making a separate line.

When Forest was in grades 7 and 8, he was one of two student janitors. Mary paid him $2.00 a week out of her own pocket. Each room had a big pot-bellied stove. Although the town delivered wood for the fires, Forest had to gather dry wood and go to Beede’s store to buy kerosene to start the fires. He also carried water from a well when the school’s water pump wasn’t working, so the toilets could be flushed.

Mary always did special things on holidays. The students made Valentine’s cards and put on holiday plays. They made props for the plays and people from the community helped. For Memorial Day, the students gathered greens and then constructed wreaths. Some students made the wire hoops, others tied the greens in bunches, and another group attached the greens to the hoops. At the annual Memorial Day program, each child’s wreath was dedicated in honor of a soldier ancestor. People from the community drove the children around to various cemeteries so they could place the wreaths on the graves of soldiers.

Eighth grade graduations were held at the Town Hall at the end of the year. The eighth graders received awards and diplomas, while students in grades 4 through 8 sang, danced, and performed skits. Mary made sure everyone had special clothes.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, before there was a school lunch program, Mary began serving lunches to students. Many students, like Forest, walked home for lunch, but Mary planned, paid for, and prepared meals for students who did not have a lunch. A typical lunch might include corn chowder, a mug of cocoa, and bread and butter. She provided ½ pint bottles of milk, which cost 5 cents each, for students who did not have the money.

Mary herself was active and she encouraged her students to go outside for recess. They had rope swings and a settee around a huge spruce tree. She supervised games like “steal the old man’s eggs”, which is something like capture the flag. On warm days she took the students outside to study birds, nests, rocks, or the area’s history. Sometimes they had picnics on the banks of the Lamprey River. On especially hot days, she sent the children home for bathing suits, packed lunches, and left a note on the board: “School’s in session at the swimming hole.” She taught many children to swim, paddle a canoe, and row a boat.

Have you ever been in a 4-H club? Mary was a life-long 4-H leader and was one of the first 4-H leaders in New Hamsphire. She was a pioneer in the 4-H camping movement. When she was 78, she took her first jet plane trip to receive the Friend of 4-H Award in Chicago, Illinois. At 87, she was still holding the Wee-Sew-Some 4-H Club meetings in her house. The activities ranged from sewing, cooking, and farm projects to nature studies, music, and drama.

In 1925, Mary founded the Greenwood Forestry Club for boys. When she was younger, she would gather club members and gear and hike to Pawtuckaway Pond to camp. Mary also had a camp on Pawtuckaway Lake, called Arkady, where she gathered friends, family, and students for swimming parties, picnics, canoe rides, and skating parties.

Through her teaching and involvement in 4-H, Mary dedicated her life to enriching the lives of children. She wanted to leave land on the Lamprey River where the children of the area could enjoy the outdoors. On September 26, 1971, Mary E. Folsom Blair Community Park was dedicated. Mary was 90 years old. The inscription on the plaque was:

Mary E. Folsom Blair

In appreciation of her loving service to several generations of Epping residents, her pioneer encouragement of outdoor recreation and her embodiment of the Folsom tradition in West Epping.

Mary died at age 91 on January 14, 1973, and is buried in the Friends (Quaker) Cemetery in West Epping.

To view a video about Mary Blair and Mary Blair Park, click here

Resources for Mary Blair

Black binder with the title Folsom compiled by members of the Epping Historical Society with news articles, photographs, and other inforamtion about the Folsom family.

"Edmund Blairs Are Guests at Two Anniversary Parties." Portsmouth Herald. April 19, 1968.

"Epping Woman Is Dedicated 4-H Worker." Manchester (NH) Union Leader. October 9, 1968.

Interview of Forest True on September 15, 2011. Mary Blair was Forest's teacher and relative.

"New Park Named after Nonagenarian: Mrs. Blair, 90, Honored." Manchester (NH) Union Leader. October 2, 1971.

Sanborn, Richard B. A Bicentennial History of Epping, New Hampshire. Seabrook, NH: The Whitney Press, Inc.: 1971.

Wells, Ann. "Blair Park Dedicated." The Goffstown News. October 7, 1971.

Willey, Virginia. "Seacoast Profiles: Mary Blair." New Hampshire Profiles. June 1967: 45, 70-72.