greatnorthwoods.org - History of Lancaster

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You can find some surprising history od the discovery of Lancaster by clicking here

History tells us that Lancaster was settled by David Page of Petersham, Massachusetts, who secured a grant of the land from Governor Benning Wentworth. It is believed that an employee of Page, Emmons Stockwell, was a member of the famed Roger's Rangers and passed through here on his return from the ill-fated expedition against the St. Francis Indians. He was impressed by the fertile meadows of the Upper Cohoss (now Coos County) and prevailed upon David Page to petition for the grant. Originally this included land across the Connecticut River in what is now Vermont.

The first winter David Page sent his son David and Emmons Stockwell to brave the hardships of the wilderness and so it was that Lancaster became the first settlement north of Haverhill, fifty miles to the south in 1764. In the spring they were joined by others, including David Page's daughter, Ruth, who was the first white woman to settle here. Ruth and Emmons eventually married and it is an interesting fact that their descendants still live in Lancaster. Other settlers soon came to join them and Lancaster began to grow and prosper.

Through the years Lancaster has remained a residential and tourist town with only a few small industries, and perhaps it because of this that the town has kept its old New England atmosphere so many of our visitors speak of. They feel its charm and that is why so many of them have come to live among us. In the days of old there was a granite quarry in the Kilkennys, the mountains adjacent to the town, and it is said that the granite was of very superior quality. A company was formed and a branch railroad was built and for a time it prospered but at last went out of existence, perhaps forced out by more modern methods.

Although Lancaster is small in population it has had its impact upon the State for it contributed two governors to New Hampshire, Jaried W. Williams and Chester Bradley Jordon.

Also Lancaster leaves its mark on the Nation having contributed John Wingate Weeks, Secretary of War, who, when he was a senator from Massachusetts, sponsored the National Forest Bill. This bill the "Weeks Law" authorized the federal government to purchase lands to be "permanently reserved, held, and administrated as national forest lands," for the protection, development and use of their natural resources.

John Wingatge Weeks also personally purchased farm land that was then being abandoned as many of the state's less profitable farms turn to other sources. These purchases maintained the land and proved to be a conservation movement at the turn of the century. In 1910 Weeks bought several farms on Mt. Prospect, including the land at the summit. The Mt. Prospect Estate, built in 1913, encompassing 420 acres, provides a 360 degree panorama of the mountain splendor, and is a testament to Weeks' affection for the locale of his ancestry and birth. This estate is one of the best preserved of many grand summer homes built in New Hampshire during this period. Because of Secretary Week's prominent role on the national scene, his house became the setting for many distinguished gatherings. Among the more prominent guests was President Warren Harding. Weeks himself was put forward as a possible presidential candidate, but did not receive the nomination.

After his death his sister, Mrs. Katherine Weeks Davidage, and his son, Sinclair gave the Mt. Prospect Estate to the State of New Hampshire and the main house or "lodge" is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A fieldstone tower, built as an observatory, offers expansive views of the countryside and assures residents and visitors the experience of enjoyment of what is now WEEKS STATE PARK, a memorial to one who never forgot the wooded hills of his native homeland.

Sinclair Weeks, was Secretary of Commerce in the Eisenhower administration. The Sinclair Weeks family had a beautiful home on Martin Meadow Pond that is still in the Weeks family.

Going back further into history, Henry Dennison was Advisor to the Mikado of Japan. At one time the Japanese Government wished to erect a memorial to him upon what is now Cross Park, but was refused.

On our Main Street we have four beautiful parks, each one having a historical significance. There is CENTENNIAL PARK located in the center of town. This park hosts the fox statue, the band stand and serves as a place of recreation and relaxation. SOLDIER'S PARK is on the south end of town and it has a memorial to the dead of all wars in which the sons of Lancaster have died. CROSS PARK is located across the street from the Post Office and has a monument of Colonel Edward Cross who was killed leading the New Hampshire Fighting Firth at Gettysburg. DREW PARK surrounds the Information Booth and was given in memory of Senator I.W. Drew by his children.

Lancaster is most fortunate to have the COLONEL TOWN COMMUNITY FUND, left to the town through the generosity of Colonel Francis L. Town. This has come to be a cultural center over the years. The house with its auditorium is used as a meeting place, basketball court, and serves as a recreation center to the town. On the extensive grounds of the Colonel Town Community you will find ball parks, a public swimming pool, childrens' playground and several tennis courts. The Colonel Town Fund also maintains a Community Camp of the outskirts of town. This area provides residents with access to picnicking, swimming, hiking and often serves as a place to host family reunions. We are extremely fortunate to have this wonderful resource.

Lancaster also boasts of the PARKER J. NOYES FREE LECTURE FUND. Mr. Noyes founded the P.J. Noyes Laboratories and was the inventor of the first tablet machine. His business thrived here in Lancaster as he made pills and dispensed drugs through the pharmacy he operated. Mr. Noyes left to his estate an established free lecture fund whereby he requested the endowment to fund cultural entertainment such as ballets, concerts, comedians, and others. The programs are to this day well attended and his legacy lives on.

WEEKS MEMORIAL LIBRARY was given in 1906 by John Wingate Weeks in memory of his father, William Wingate Weeks.

WEEKS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL was given by Sinclair Weeks as a memorial to his wife Beatrice D. Weeks.


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Copyright 1998 by Ed Sanders.