Epping and Area History

Mar-April 2017 | Volume 10, Issue 2



Newsletter Schedule

Have we missed your group or event? Please let us know. Our purpose is to include as many Epping groups and events as possible.

The next issue (Mary-June) of this newsletter will be available in early May 2017. We will accept submissions through April 25, 2017 to be included in the next issue. Please send your content, including contact information, for consideration by using the CONTACT US section of our web site or by emailing us.

News From The Historical Society


Indian Massacre in Epping!

Before 1741, when we were separated from Exeter and named Epping by Gov. Benning Wentworth, we were called “Tuckaway,” and were an ancestral home to Native Americans and a new home to an increasing number of white settlers from England.

At first the settlers and Natives got along to mutual advantage. But in time the Natives found their lives so changed by the newcomers’ laws and the steady taking of their lands, that they became desperate to regain their losses. They started attacking their former friends in the same savage way they fought each other.  By the early 1700’s we were in full and bloody warfare during which an estimated ten percent of New Hampshire men were killed by Indian raiders in one year. The fearful settlers carried guns everywhere for protection. 

Three hundred summers ago near Hedding Campground, an Indian attack occurred which forever marked our history and gave the Natives some closure in theirs. Their target was Col. Winthrop Hilton, a brave daring soldier, adventurer and famous Indian fighter described as “tall, muscular” and “of the black eyes and bright gun.” Before the Indian uprising he had been very friendly with them, trading for furs, earning their trust, learning their language, customs and ways until he could coolly “out-Indian any Indian.”

Then, during the Indian Wars, he led several expeditions against them from New Hampshire to Nova Scotia and ultimately became a famous bounty hunter, paid for the scalp of every Native he took down. They had long decided he had to go.  One rainy summer day, the Indians silently waited and watched as the object of their fury worked in the woods with seventeen others, including his brother Dudley, cleaning up trees slated for England’s shipbuilding and masts. The ambush was sudden and swift for they knew better than to give the man time or opportunity to outwit them yet again. Hilton and two of his men were quickly shot and killed. Dudley, taken captive, was never heard of again. Without having fired a shot, the others ran back to Exeter village, sounded the alarm and returned with a rescue party to view a scene of massacre. The remains of one man were buried where he was found and he still lies in an unmarked grave somewhere deep in our woods. Hilton’s body, found with a tomahawk in his brain and a lance through his heart, was solemnly carried to his home in the present town of Newfields, close to the Epping line, and buried near the Lamprey River with great sorrow and full military honors. The gravestone that marks his resting place remains the most ancient and one of the most beautiful to be found in that town.

Six months after his murder, Hilton’s wife Anne gave birth to their son and named him after his father.  Seven years later, in 1717 and remarried, she put up for sale a “house, barn and a considerable quantity of land and marsh, being the home of the late Col. Winthrop Hilton.”

This column is affectionately dedicated to the memory of Richard “Buster” Sanborn, mentor to many enthusiastic Epping historians and truest and most encouraging of friends

This was originally the first in a historical series for this newsletter, reprinted from the September-October, 2010 issue.

Text/Research: Madelyn Williamson.    

Epping Historical Society

Only 20 days till spring!! Although we have had a mild winter, for the last two weeks the weather has been a challenge.  It seemed like every Monday and Tuesday we were closed due to weather. So now we get to play “catch up” with archiving our collections.  A couple of our volunteers are feeling a little under the weather, but they will return as their health allows. If you are interested in volunteering, contact us at the Society. There is always something to do. Our bucket list seems to get bigger, not smaller.

My interest in Epping history was inspired by my love of old cemeteries. I can never pass an old cemetery without stopping to see who is resting there. In 1970, Joy Canales and I started listing the names and information on the gravestones in many of our abandoned cemeteries. Last year, all the cemetery information we have at the Epping Historical Society was compiled and printed in one book. Now I am in the process of indexing all the names. This is a labor of love for the Society. Come by and visit and browse through our collections.

Do you need a special gift for someone who may be getting married or may have moved away? We still have cookbooks for sale for only $10.00 and you will recognize many of the contributors. This is a unique gift and you will be sharing memories with a loved one. Do you have friends and family that have moved from our wonderful town? Send them a copy of Cory Blanchard’s book, “Images of Epping.” It is only $22.00 and will bring a million dollars’ worth of memories. Books are available at the society or at the Town Hall.

Water and Wells

In all towns, when people moved in they built barns and houses. Shelters or barns came first and the people slept with the animals until their shelter was ready. Clearing the fields and planting of crops could not be done without animals. Of course water was of the upmost importance. They dug wells, usually near the house or barn where the animal and human waste was generated. Of course the water was soon contaminated, and folks became ill. Was it any wonder that adults and children drank beer instead of water?

The first town water system supplied the houses in the center of town, along Main Street to the Depot. The water was taken from the river and the pump and tank were located in the rear of the Town Hall. This line was laid in 1905, from the river to the newly constructed water tank at the Box Shop at the Depot (near where Pam’s Restaurant is now located), to be stored and used in case of a fire. The people along the route were to be allowed to tap into the water line if they chose. The State of NH got into the act and insisted the town find a new water supply. A circle of wells was drilled in a pasture on the north bank of the river and a water tank was built on the other side of the river next to Prospect cemetery. The lane to the wells was located off Prescott Road, opposite the John Hoar house. A rough road was made from the end of the lane to the riverbank, in order to haul in the pipe, lumber, bricks, pump and other supplies. When the new wells became operational, Mr. Archibald, who lived in the house at the end of the lane, was hired to check the pump and wells every day. The town plowed the lane as far as the house, but you had to walk down to the river.  When Mr. Archibald died, Mel Becker, a one-legged man took over the job. He decided it was too far to walk through the snow with his crutches, so he went in by the water tank on the other side of the river. Now he had the problem of crossing the river to access the pump house. He was a welder and mechanic, so he constructed a cable car to get him across the river. My father, Jack Thurston, maintained the pump house in 1945 and 1946. As a child I would go with him, and spent my time crossing the river, back and forth in the cable car. Kind of brave for a seven year old girl! As time went on, the wells started giving out and a new source of water was needed. Water was found near the junction of Martin Road and Fremont Road early in 1947. A well and pump house were installed on the south side of the road. A pipeline was installed down Railroad Avenue to Main Street. Twenty-five years later, new wells were drilled on the opposite side of the road and piped to the pump house.  Epping has quite a history of obtaining water for the residents of our town.

This research material came from the Don Sanborn collection at the Epping Historical Society. We are forever grateful to Don and Buster Sanborn for all of their many years of collecting Epping history.

We are open Monday mornings from 8:00 to 12:00, or when the flag is flying! Call for an appointment if this is not convenient for you. Call: 679-2944 or e-mail: joysgarden@hotmail.com.

Submitted by Joy True, curator

The Civil War Roundtable of NH

The Civil War Roundtable of New Hampshire’s welcomes anyone with an interest in the American Civil War who would like to be with others who share the same desire to learn more of this time in American history. We are an informal club with the only requirement being a Civil War enthusiast.  If you or a friend has an interest in the American Civil War, we invite you to come check us out. 

Founded in May 1991, the Civil War Roundtable of New Hampshire is a group of men and women, young and old, who share our interests, both blue and gray, in the pivotal era of American history known as the Civil War.  We are open to the public and welcome all!  As our slogan goes, “There’s no time like the present to join us in the past.”

For more information on the group and a complete schedule of meetings and news, please visit the web site: www.cwrt-nh.org or e-mail cwrtnh@gmail.com.

This is the upcoming CWRT-NH schedule:

Note: The schedule is subject to change without notice.  You can access the CWRT-NH website for the current schedule.  If a meeting is cancelled, a notice will be put on ETV.