Roadside History: Only 1 of Weare's 22 Piscataquog River Mills remains
June 16. 2017 10:50PM
Date placed: 2005 in Weare.
Location: Route 114 in north Weare by the Piscataquog River.
What the sign says: "Twenty-two mills in Weare, located along the Piscataquog River, were the economic life-blood of the town from 1752-1979. The mills furnished employment, goods and services locally and afar. They manufactured toys, textiles, wood and metal products, hosiery and shoes. Many of the mills were destroyed by the hurricane and flood of 1938. The Amos Chase Mill, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is the only mill building to survive into the 21st century."
The back story: Stands of large white pine and red oak growing in the Piscataquog River watershed attracted settlers to harvest the massive trees, some of which were reserved by the king of England for British Navy ship masts. The Piscataquog, a tributary of the Merrimack River, provided essential resources for these early inhabitants. In the late 1700s and into the 1800s, the primary use of the river was as a source of power for numerous mills and shops.
A site along the river holds claim to being home to the first shoe factory in the nation, which produced nearly 23,000 pairs of boots in its first year.
In 1831, Moses Sawyer created the Weare Woolen Mills, which helped aid the railroad extension from Manchester through Goffstown, Weare and into Henniker. The railway transportation significantly helped the development of many early industries.
The Amos Chase Mill was built in 1849, adjacent to the circa-1836 Amos Chase House, a 2½-story Greek Revival-style home. Both buildings have been altered only modestly since their construction.
The mill survived the New England Hurricane of 1938, although its waterwheel was washed away. The hurricane sent gale force winds and heavy rain into the area, causing the Weare dam to collapse, leading to a massive flood that engulfed a large section of the town.
The mill race that provided water to the mill from the Piscataquog is still visible on the property, as is a dam built by Chase, who was a tool manufacturer.
Sources: state of New Hampshire, generalstarkbyway.org, Weare Historical Society, Wikipedia.