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Chapter VIII

Railroads, Autos, and Covered Bridges

THE RAILROAD ERA

A gazetteer of New Hampshire, compiled by Alonzo J. Fogg and published in 1874, relates that at that date "no iron horse had ever wound its way beside her river banks or through her mountain passes, and its shrill whistle had never echoed through her deep, dark forests; but today, nearly every hamlet in the State can hear the clarion sound of the locomotive and see the white, curling smoke as it hovers o'er the track of the swift passing train."

Now, more than a hundred years later, the great railroad era is over. The last passenger train stopped at Warner on November 4, 1955, and the last freight in 1961. In the latter year the tracks through town were torn up and sold as scrap iron.

The railroad through Warner was originally charted as the Concord and Claremont Railroad on June 24,1848. Six of the seventeen incorporators were from Warner, namely, Harrison D. Robertson, Robert Thompson, Franklin Simonds, Stephen C. Badger, Samuel Jones, and Daniel Bean. The other eleven were from neighboring towns.

The sum of $139 was raised on July 3, 1848, from thirty citizens of Warner for the purpose of making a preliminary survey of the route. The individual sums contributed, ranging from one to fifteen dollars, were allowed as a credit against the first assessment of stock taken in the railroad.

Construction commenced on November 19, 1848, and about ten months later, on September 21, 1849, the railroad was formally opened to Warner. To celebrate the event a train of nine cars with 500 people from Warner and other towns was dispatched to Concord in the morning. At eleven o'clock an expanded train of about eighteen cars, carrying 800 people, started the return journey. Two locomotives were required for this extra heavy trainload. One was placed in the front and the other in the rear. A fatal accident occurred when a coupling broke and a young man fell under the train. Several other people were injured This unfortunate incident cast a shadow on the subsequent festivities, but the train continued on to Warner, arriving at about one o'clock. There, a procession guided by Daniel Bean as marshal and headed by the Fisherville band, marched along Main Street and back to the speakers' stand near the depot. Speeches of a congratulatory and encouraging nature were made by Governor Hill, General Low as president of the railroad, Joseph A. Gilmore, Walter Harriman, and others. Bountiful refreshments were provided by the citizens of Warner, and then the train returned to Concord late in the afternoon with nothing further to mar the Occasion.

The length of the railroad from Concord to Warner was eighteen miles. When the line was extended to Bradford on July 10,1850, the trackage was increased to a little more than twenty-seven miles. Unfortunately, expenses were greater than receipts, and by 1852 the Concord and Claremont Railroad was bankrupt. It was merged in January of the following year with the New Hampshire Central Railroad to form a new corporation named the Merrimac and Connecticut Rivers Railroad Company. By 1874 this had merged with the Sugar River Railroad and the Contoocook Valley Railroad, again to form the Concord and Claremont Railroad, but this time under the control of the Northern Railroad. It eventually became the Claremont branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad, and by 1916 Warner had three passenger trains a day each way on week days in winter and one train each way on Sundays. In summer there was additional service, with Pullman cars attached to the trains. There were also daily freights each way, besides the Monday morning special and the express service.

William Henry Dole was the first station agent at Warner in 1849 with a salary of $1.25 per day, and he was followed by John Kimball in 1851. Kimball was succeeded by Frank P. Harriman and D. W. Waldron, and later by John Mace. In the spring of 1868 Augustus Putnam became the agent and served until his death in 1888. J. M. Holmen served from 1888 to 1896, when George E. Brockway became agent. He stayed until 1937, when Osborn Smith was appointed.

The old station building in Warner Village is thought to date from about the time the railroad was established there. A hall on the third floor was for years used as a meeting place for various organizations, notably the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. An outside stairway, which led to the hall, was removed in October 1893. The Warner station was occupied by a laundromat for a number of years. Currently there are apartments within the building and in the additions that have been added.

The other six railroad stations within the township of Warner were:

Dimond - A small unheated flag station. After it closed it was moved in 1939 to a location a quarter of a mile from the tracks and used as a summer cabin.

Bagley - A small unheated flag station. In 1941 the building was bought by John Kirk and moved to Tom Pond in Davisville.

Lower Warner - Another small unheated flag station. It was eventually bought by Pat Quinn, track supervisor, and moved to Tom Pond. A story told by an old-timer related that school children used to hitch a string to an apple and let it down to the engineer or fireman when the train stopped under the bridge at Lower Warner

Waterloo - There were two stations at Waterloo. The first one is part of a house formerly belonging to Leon Pingree; the other was converted to a bowling alley which ran for a few years and currently is the home for Brayshaw Printing.

Passenger, express, and freight service to Waterloo, was discontinued in May 1941. The station, serving the western section of Warner as well as East Sutton, had been a flag stop. John D. Gage was caretaker for the railroad and postmaster. Mr. Gage tendered his resignation as postmaster, and his position as caretaker was automatically done away with by the closing of the station. Gage, and before him his father, Roger S. Gage, had served Waterloo as postmasters and station agents since 1885. During their tenure railroad traffic through Waterloo declined from a peak of eight passenger trains a day, two freight trains, and need of a twelve-car siding, to an occasional freight and four passenger trains a day that no longer stopped. Formerly the summer home of Sen. William E. Chandler and Nehemiah G. Ordway, governor of Dakota Territory, Waterloo had been the destination of many distinguished politicians, diplomats, and business leaders.

Roby's Corner - This station stop, later known simply as Roby, was named after its first station agent, Moses H. Roby, who served from 1886 to 1909. Herbert O. Colby was the next agent. The station was dismantled in 1940 and moved to Tucker Pond in Salisbury.

Melvin - This was a combined railway station and post office managed by W. T. Melvin and his son Walter. The December 17, 1943, issue of the Kearsarge Independent and Times tells how an accident was narrowly averted here. Leonard Rowell and Justin Thorpe had been hunting at Melvin Mills. Crossing the railroad track, they saw that a gigantic spruce tree and a small maple had been blown down across the track just above the trestle beyond Melvin, and quick thinking on their part averted what could have been a bad train wreck. They realized that it was time for the 5:19 down train to come roaring through. Rowell started running up the track toward Melvin. Before he got there he saw the train rounding a curve and bearing down on him; the train had not stopped at Melvin that evening. Rowell whipped out a red handkerchief and flagged the train to a stop. Then he hurried home, got axes and saws, and he, Thorpe, Walter Craig, and the train crew went to work to remove the trees. Soon section gangs from Warner and Bradford arrived and the chips began to fly. Even so, the train was held up for nearly two hours.

Cattle, hogs, and sheep from Warner were loaded into freight cars every Monday morning. It was said that the crew would load anything that could walk, but nothing that had to be dragged in. Carloads of apples were among the many other Warner products shipped by freight.

In 1931 the first "snow train" operated by the Boston and Maine Railroad carried more than 100 passengers from Boston's North Station to Warner. As interest in skiing increased, the railroad began to offer weekend excursion trips from Boston to Warner. The round-trip fare was $3.75. Eight hotels in Warner advertised accommodations for winter-sport enthusiasts.

On the hundredth anniversary of the railroad in 1949 a group of Warnerites, dressed in Halloween costumes and led by Jack Chandler and Douglas Ladd, swarmed unannounced into the last car of a train, where they passed out candy, cigars, and cigarettes to the startled passengers and crew. Only a handful of passengers were aboard, one of them asleep. Chandler shook him awake, and with his black mask and costume really gave him a scare. No doubt he thought that his time had come.

Aside from the railroad, the only other means of transportation available in Warner before the turn of the century were shanks' mare and vehicles drawn by animals. Both oxen and horses were used for lumbering, farm cultivation, haying, and harvesting. Horses hitched to carriages of various kinds were used for family travel.

THE FIRST MOTOR CARS

It was not until 1899 that an automobile was seen in Warner. The first one was demonstrated at one of the last of the Warner fairs. On September 14, 1899, before a crowd of from 2,500 to 3,000 people, it was driven around the racetrack to the astonishment of the onlookers. It was accompanied by a farmer from the Mount Kearsarge area who, with his bull hitched to a wagon, drove onto the track with his entire family aboard as the automobile was making its rounds. On the side of his wagon was a sign that read "Horseless Carriage."

Sen. William E. Chandler was the first person in Warner to own a motor car-a Stanley Steamer. Frank G. Wilkins owned the second one, a Pierce Arrow with engine number eighteen. He kept it for five years and then sold it for fifty dollars.

A report for the year 1908 lists the eleven owners of motor vehicles in Warner as well as their license-plate numbers: George W. Annis (1892); E. H. Carroll (725); George C. Chase (1859); Carl L. Cutting (2008); Henry C. Davis (815); Theodore L. Davis (1320); Mason T. Ela (790); Charles H. Hardy (2018); Herbert N. Lewis (1859); John F. Merrill (2221); and Fred H. Savory (2156).

These individuals, with the exception of Theodore L. Davis, also had driver's licenses. Two persons had their registrations cancelled during the year for reasons not stated. In view of present-day speed limits, it is interesting to note than in 1908 a motorist was breaking the law if he drove his car at a speed of twenty-two miles per hour.

With the coming of the automobile, garages and service stations began to appear on Main Street. Among the early ones were those operated by Herbert N. Lewis, the Jewell brothers and Alvin A. Jepson, George Chase, Cloues and Sawyer (later Sawyer and Howlett), and George Guimond.

Bus service to and from Warner is no longer available. Most recently The Vermont Transit Company operated one bus a day with a stop at Warner in each direction on its Boston-White River Junction line. Service into Warner was discontinued about 5 years ago.

On November 25, 1968, the last section of Interstate Route 89 through Warner was officially opened to traffic. The limited-access superhighway, eight and one-half miles of which pass through Warner, extends from Interstate Route 93 in Bow to the Canadian border in northwestern Vermont, providing easy transportation through some of the most scenic countryside in New England.

The road was designated by the New Hampshire legislature as the "Frank D. Merrill Highway" in honor of Major General Merrill, who commanded the unit known as "Merrill's Marauders" in World War II. General Merrill was a resident of Hopkinton and until his death served as state commissioner of public works and highways.

The cost of constructing the part of the highway that traverses Warner was approximately $6,697,000, or $784,294 per mile. There are three interchanges with Route 103 in Warner, two of which provide access for both north and southbound traffic at Warner Village and Dimond Corner. The third interchange, in Lower Warner, has an "off" ramp for northbound traffic and an "on" ramp for southbound traffic.

The nearest airports to Warner with scheduled plane service are those at Lebanon, Laconia, Manchester, and Keene.

In recent years Warner, like many other rural communities, has seen a great increase in the number of motorcycles, snowmobiles, bicycles, and saddle horses. There is little evidence, however, that shanks' mare is becoming any more popular as a means of getting around.

COVERED BRIDGES

"Shunning the black top highways, taking to the gravel roads, creeping along slowly in my car, coming upon many a beautiful vista missed by the sixty-mile-an-hour tourist, I used to look forward with pleasure to a bend in the road that would bring me beside one of New Hampshire's smaller rivers and a hidden covered bridge. These old bridges came to be friends of mine, and each time I look forward to seeing them, with their weather-beaten sides, loose clapboards, and floors worn with the traffic of many decades. As the years went by, I began to realize that some of my old friends had disappeared. Here and there as I came to a crossing, a new steel or cement structure had replaced the old 'pal' I had known." So wrote W. Edward White in his 1942 booklet Covered Bridges of New Hampshire, and since then the tempo of the covered bridges' disappearance has increased.

Warner possessed three covered bridges as late as December 28, 1966. On that date the Bagley covered bridge was trucked away, having been sold for one dollar. The town showed no interest in preserving it, and at the time there was no local historical society to try to protect it. The bridge crossed the Warner River at Bagley, and its dimensions were: Overall length, eighty feet; roadway, seventy-two feet; width of roadway, fourteen feet. It was built about 1800 and may have been the oldest surviving covered bridge in New Hampshire. It was what is known as a "Town" bridge, since it employed the lattice-truss type of construction named after its inventor, Ithiel Town.

The two covered bridges still here are the Dalton and Waterloo bridges. The Dalton bridge spans the Warner River, and is eighty feet in overall length; roadway, seventy-five feet; outside width, seventeen feet; inside width, thirteen feet. It is said to have been built sometime after 1800. It is a Haupt-truss bridge, named after General Haupt, an engineer in charge of railroads for the Union forces during the Civil War. In 1962 the Dalton bridge underwent extensive repairs and rebuilding at a cost of more than $10,000. In 1990 it was repaired and re-roofed by the State of New Hampshire Bridge Department at a cost of $18,000.

The Waterloo Bridge crosses the Warner River just above the falls at Waterloo. Its overall length is seventy-six feet; outside width, seventeen feet; inside width, fourteen feet. It is supposed to have been built in the 1840s, then completely rebuilt in 1857. It is a Town lattice-truss bridge. It was again rebuilt in the 1980's

Harriman's history states that the first bridge in town was built in 1773. It stood about "20 rods" down the Warner River from the present bridge near the Lower Warner cemetery. At first it was an uncovered bridge; later it received a roof. At one time there were at least eight covered bridges in town. They included, besides the aforementioned ones, a railroad bridge at Bagley; a railroad bridge and a highway bridge at Roby; one covered with a roof, near the old fairgrounds; and one at Davisville which was swept away in the flood of 1936.

An examination of Warner town reports dating back to 1852 reveals much about the cost of repairs to bridges and who did the work, but does not always identify the particular bridge by name. It is therefore of considerable interest to record here the details of two old bridge contracts that have come to light, dealing specifically with the old Davisville bridge. One is dated 1839, for the repair of an older bridge swept away in a flood. The other, dated 1855, is for building a completely new bridge. The outer cover of the first document bears the following notation: "Articles of Sale for building the bridge near Nathaniel A. Davis in Warner. Will be sold as follows in one Job putting up of said bridge & the furnishing of the following materials-1 new pine Post 20 by 20 inches square, 1 new brace 12 by 14 inches square, 2 Inside traces 6 by 6 inches square, 1 Cap Piece 20 feet long 16 by 16 inches square, and half of said bridge to be covered with Hemlock or pine plank 3 inches thick of sound stuff. The railing of said bridge to be the same & finished as said bridge was before it was swept away by the late freshett and the pier of said bridge to be planked on each side with 3 inch plank from the bottom of the cap piece 5 feet towards the water and to be aided in the posts of said Pier 4 inch by 3 deep-and all to be done in a good and workmanlike manner.

"The above sold at Auction February 8, 1839, to Thomas Chase for fifty dollars-by the selectmen of Warner."

"Second Job. The drawing of the strings and all the plank and other materials now in the vicinity of said bridge and to be delivered as near said bridge as can be done with oxen. The stuff as follows-10 Strings, 2 Caps, 1 brace, I post etc., etc."

"The above sold to Auction Feb. 8, 1839, to Charles Davis by the Selectmen of Warner for twenty dollars."

"Mr. C. Davis Job done & paid Feb. 19, 1839, In his receipt." The second contract, dated 1855, reads as follows: "Lewis Holmes, J. M. Harriman, Ruben Clough, Jr., Selectmen of Warner in the County of Merrimack & State of New Hampshire and Dutton Woods of Concord, County & State aforesaid agree as follows:

"The said Woods for considerations hereinafter named agrees (at his own expense) to furnish all the Labour-Pins-Bolts & Nails for the construction of a Truss Bridge across Warner River at the Davis Village (so called) & on the site of the old Bridge now standing.-Said Bridge to be built according to the plan shown the said selectmen. To be 16 feet wide in the clear roadway- sides to be sheathed with rough square edged boards-Roof to be covered with 18 inch shingles.-The work to be done in a thorough and workmanlike manner & the Bridge to be completed ready for travel in three weeks after the stone work is ready for the reception of the same.

"The said Selectmen in behalf of said Town of Warner agree on their part to furnish (at their own expense) all the timberboards & shingles necessary for said bridge & according to the bill furnished them by said Woods. The timber to be free from ware-of suitable quality-well sawed & delivered to the acceptance of the said Woods. The old Bridge to be kept standing for a scaffolding to raise the new one upon.

"The opening between the abutments not to exceed 66 feet in length. The stone work to be completed ready for bridge on or before the 20th day of Sept. next. The timber to be delivered on the ground near the south end of Bridge free of expense to said Woods by the first day of Sept. next.

"The said selectmen in behalf of the Town of Warner agree to pay the said Woods three hundred dollars when the Bridge is completed as above agreed on his part." Aug. 28th 1855. Signed sealed and delivered in presents of Seth Low and Dutton Woods

This bridge lasted quite a long time, receiving major repairs by J. H. Dowlin and crew in 1870 and new shingles from Davis Brothers in 1889. Following the disastrous flood of 1936, when it was destroyed, an ordinary concrete replacement was erected, which is still in use.

Numerous theories have been advanced as to why bridges were covered. One reason was, of course, to protect the wood from the elements. The sides were also a comfort to anyone driving a skittish horse, and the roofs afforded a welcome haven during a sudden shower, especially if one was caught with a load of hay. They were not without their glamour, too. No doubt many kisses were stolen while passing through the pleasant seclusion of a covered bridge.