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John King Lord's History of Hanover

by John King Lord

from A History of the Town of Hanover, N.H.

Chapter IV: Etna


The village, which since 1884 has been called "Etna," was before that time known as "Mill Village" or "Mill Neighborhood," or, after the division of the town into school districts in 1807, was spoken of as "District Number Five." On the establishment of a post office there in 1884, a new name being necessary as there was already a "Mill Village" post office in another part of the State, this office was called "Etna" by the desire of its inhabitants, the name being suggested by Miss Laura A. Camp, afterward Mrs. William L. Barnes, but for what reason I have been unable to ascertain.


This village, which stretches somewhat sparsely along rather more than half a mile of the original "two-mile road," owed its existence to the series of falls in Mink Brook, on the banks of which it lies. Here was laid the principal "mill lot," and here was the official gristmill of the town, built by James Murch in 1769. It stood, according to Chase's History, "substantially on the site of the present grist mill" in that village. Murch was not a millwright, only a contractor, and tradition says that the mills were actually constructed by Simeon Dewey, a blacksmith from Springfield, Massachusetts, who settled here about that time. The sawmill, that was the necessary companion of the gristmill, stood apparently half a mile farther down the brook, in easy reach of the "pine lots," not far above the present fork of the road as one goes to Lebanon or the College Plain. The mill lot of sixty acres granted to Murch about that time, covered both banks of the brook from the gristmill as far as the head of the falls.

The original mills have all disappeared, but there was an upper sawmill, of later construction, built nearly at the head of the falls, still standing on its early site, though the dam has been rebuilt about ten feet above its first position. It was bought in 1882 from William Dewey by Horace L. Huntington, who changed the upright saw to a circular saw, and in 1896 put in a gasoline engine as supplementary to the water power. Mr. Huntington also built the house adjoining the mill in 1888, and at one time used the mill for a cider press. Above the sawmill and above the present bridge there was, across the brook, in early times a filling and cloth-drying mill, belonging to Moses and David Woodward, passing in 1800 into the hands of Henry D. Chandler, and later to Cushman and Walker, but it has entirely disappeared.

An eighth of a mile below stood the gristmill, originally built, as has been said, by Simeon Dewey for the contractor, Murch, from whom it passed to Asa Hill. It was once a busy place, having four runs of stones, for wheat, provender, and so forth. The first mill lasted about sixty years and was replaced about 1828 by the present structure, which was built by John Williams, a Quaker. It is impossible to follow out the sequence of owners with the times of their occupancy; but with a break after the first, probably from Williams' time, the mill passed through the hands of Deacon Asa Worth, his son, John, and then his son-in-law, Jonathan Howe, from whom it passed to John Sanborn, then to Orren P. Kinne, who sold to Corzoe S. Bastright and he to Truman S. Johnson of Lebanon who assigned it to the estate of Eunice B. Fitch and from that it passed to J.W. Spaulding. During this last ownership the old dam went out in 1884, and the expense of its restoration was so great that in the next year Spaulding sold to E. O. Ingalls. In 1889 Horace L. Huntington, who had the mill on a four years' lease, put in a water wheel and built a small addition, which he used as a shingle mill, but which he sold on the expiration of his lease to J. W. Spaulding. From Ingalls the possession passed in rapid succession to Burt W. Heath, George N. LaBombard and Burt O. Church, the last of whom tore out the mill fixtures and turned the mill into a ladder factory. Church later sold the machinery to Dean Poland, and the mill, which was dismantled, to R. E. Barrows, and he sold it to Alvin Bland in September, 1922. In 1868 John Sanborn, who then owned the mill, added a small grocery store. He was an illiterate man and could not "figure," and one day, when a man named Corey, of similar lack, bought some tea, neither could tell to how much it came. Corey suggested that they should "jump at the price," to which Sanborn assented. The sawmill just below the gristmill was built in 1873 by John Gould and Joseph F. Smalley.

The original sawmill near the "Pine Lots" was farther down the stream, not far above the bridge over the brook on the road to Lebanon. The site of the old dam and the contour of the mill yard may still be easily made out.

[Etna Store]

A store with a hall over it was built in 1833 by Ashel Packard with the help of contributions made by the inhabitants of the village, on the condition that they were to have the hall free for all gatherings to which a paid admission was not charged. It was occupied for a considerable time by the Universalists for their Sunday meetings. From Packard it was purchased by Horace and Walter Buck, who built an addition at each end of the building. To the business of the store the two Bucks added the opening of a hotel, which they kept for several years and then sold to Joseph Tenney. This was the only hotel that the village has ever had. The store passed in 1837 to Sanborn and Bunker, to Davis and Eaton in 1839, to Joseph Tenney in 1847, and before 1850 to A. Conant, who, after taking into association Morgan and Dodge, dropped out in 1852 and left the business to them. From 1857 to 1864 the business was carried on by Dodge and Huntington, then by J. W. Dodge, and after him by H. H. Clough, who merely rented the hall. C. W. Hayes succeeded him, and in 1914 he was followed by W. H. and M. C. Trumbull, who sold it in 1918 to R. E. Barrows, who at the same time bought the brick house adjoining. 

The first town meeting held in the hall was in March, 1844, and afterward until its destruction it was the regular place for holding such meetings, except as presidential elections, since 1912, have been held also on the College Plain. The hall, which was without conveniences or means of ventilation, was remodeled and improved in 1917, but the building burned together with the brick house on April 3, 1922. Apparently taking fire from a defective furnace, about the middle of the day, it was totally destroyed with its contents. Its site was between the present houses of G.M. Bridgman and R. E. Barrows. 

The parade ground in front of the Baptist Church was bought of Ithamar Hall, December 11, 1829, and given for a parade ground and other public exercises. Funds for the purchase to the amount of $120 were secured by subscription and the deed was made out to individuals. In course of time, these all having died and the tract no longer being required as a parade ground, the heirs of those to whom the land was deeded by Mr. Hall were brought, through the efforts of Carleton H. Camp in 1909, to give their consent to the passage of the land to the ownership of the town, in whose possession it now is. Clarence H. Camp, who then owned the Hall place, maintained that as the ground had been sold for a parade and was no longer used for that purpose, it reverted to the Hall estate. A controversy of some extent arose and was settled by the town's fiving a quit claim deed to a lawn and driveway in front of Camp's house and by his giving a similar deed to the town for the rest of the land.

At the beginning of the last century the Universalists, partly as the result of the disagreements in the churches at the Center, gained a considerable position in the town and had a strong hold in the "North Neighborhood" and in "Mill Village," Benjamin Miller and Eleazar Wright being the leading spirits. With them was associated a considerable number of deists, who had for good many years an infidel library at Mill Village. Most of the deists belonged to the Democratic party and soon after 1830 they determined at a Democratic caucus that no man should be chosen to a town office who was a professor of religion. It was this sentiment that at an earlier time drew so many of them to the support of President John Wheelock in his controversy with the Trustees of the College, in which he posed as the champion of liberal theology and a martyr to orthodoxy.



The eastern part of the town has always had a strong community feeling, of which the village of Etna is now largely the center. This has been manifested in its relations with the western portion of town in vigorous assertion of its claims to full representation in all town matters, and also in movements from time to time intended to advance its own welfare and to meet its own needs. In nothing has this spirit been shown more happily than in several attempts to establish libraries for the use of that part of the town, though none of them, until the last, has been permanently successful, owing to the lack of a suitable place for keeping the books.

As early as 1801 there was established by special charter, dated June 12, "The Proprietors of the First Social Library of Hanover." The corporators were Joseph Curtis, Samuel Kendrick, Silas Tenney, Otis Freeman, John Durkee, Leonard Dow, Zenas Coleman and Isaac Houston. The first meeting was to be called by notices posted at the "north and south meeting houses." The library seems to have been kept at the house of one of the members, changing perhaps as different members took the charge of it, but no records have been found to show how large the library became (though one volume, numbered 143, remains) or how long the organization lasted.


Probably it was not active for many years, as on June 30, 1819, there was chartered the "Second Library Association in Hanover" with Henry Chandler, Silas T. Vaughn and Harvey Chase as incorporators. This organization was more effective than its predecessor, gathering a library of more than 700 volumes and continuing in existence until January, 1874, when it disbanded and the books were sold at auction. The library was maintained by an annual assessment of one dollar on each member was open from the drawing of books on the last Saturday of each month. It was kept, at first, at the house of a member, but later for many years in the hall over the store in Etna, where the town meetings were held.

Still another library came into existence during the life of the "Second Library Association," known as the "Hanover, Lebanon, and Canaan Philosophical Library," which was chartered, June 27, 1835, with William Hall and Amos Tenney of Hanover and Thomas Peabody of Lebanon and their associates as incorporators. Little can be learned about this library save that "the meetings for the drawing of books were of a somewhat migratory character, being held alternately in the towns named." It is not known how large the library was, how long it continued, or what became of the books.

The successor to the last two organizations, growing out of the desire for social intercourse and library privileges, was the "Etna Library and Debating Society," formed at Etna in December of 1883. whose object was well stated in its name, and which looked toward the intellectual and social improvement of its members. The membership fee was set a two dollars, and there were to be fines for failing to return at the proper time books drawn from the library.

There were the usual officers, but the care of the library was put into the charge of the directors, while the preparation of the programs for meetings for debate was entrusted to a committee on programs. The meetings were to be held weekly during the winter months, beginning about Christmas, and the regular program consisted of a debate on a question by disputants appointed two weeks in advance. There was always an opportunity for volunteers to the debates, and it was generally improved, and after the debate the presiding officer decided on the merits of the debate and the meeting on the merits of the question. The subject of a debate partook of the academic, with but a single intrusion of anything relating to current events. The last subject of discussion, at a meeting held February 12, 1886, was: "Resolved, that man's efforts as related to the business of life are more deceptive than truthful," from which the society never recovered.

A declining interest received its death blow and four more meetings at intervals of one, six and three years were mere formalities preceding dissolution. After the first years, meetings were enlivened by spoken dialouges by younger people and by the reading of a paper called the "Etna Enterprise" edited by one of the women members.

Membership was confirmed by a certificate, issued on the payment of the entrance fee and renewed on the payment of succeeding annual dues. The highest number of members recorded was seventy-seven.

The library, purchased with the fees and the fines, was kept at the house of one of the members, who acted as librarian and who, after the first, received five dollars a year for his services. A library of 300 volumes was accumulated, but after the demise of the Society the books were given to the new town library located in Etna.

This library was established in 1903 in accord with the "library act" of the legislature, approved April 11, 1891, by which the State gave a sum not exceeding $100 to towns that should provide to the satisfaction of the library commissioners of the State "for the care, custody and distribution of books furnished" by such gift, and that should appropriate not less than $50, if their last assessed valuation exceeded $1,000,000.

The satisfactory care and custody of the books were assured by the construction in 1905 of the present library building through an appropriation of $2,500 made by the town. The work was entrusted to a committee, consisting of H.W. Hoyt, Chandler P. Smith and Robert Fletcher, which drew the plans for the building and superintended the work. The structure, which was of brick on a granite underpinning, was rectangular in shape and one story in height. The interior, consisting of a single room of twenty-five by thirty-three feet, had a paneled ceiling of hazelwood, which was also the material of the interior finish, while the walls were plastered. To insure the building against dampness, as far as possible, an air space was left between the double exterior walls, which were eight and four inches thick, and there was a second air space between the brick wall and the plastering. A fine approach to the building was secured by a flight of granite steps and abutments, a gift of Henry C. Whipple in memory of J.W. Dodge. A fire proof vault on the north side of the building, four and a half by nine by eight feet, was added by a special vote of the town. The total cost of the building was a little over $2,800/

The administration of the library is in the hands of two trustees elected annually by the town.

The library is but one manifestation of the community spirit of which Etna is the center. The tendency to the improvement of social life indicated by the library organizations was also shown in the formation of a Village Improvement Society in 1903, of which the results are seen in the erection of lamps for lighting the streets, the planting of ornamental trees, the construction of walks and a general movement toward the neatness of the place. In 1925 there was built a small structure as a place for the housing of fire apparatus, at a cost of $1227.36 of which the town furnished $1,000, and also as a meeting place for the fire company. Equipment was purchased which cost $566.79.

The post office in Etna has been unusually free from change of postmasters. The first incumbent of the office was B.B. Holmes, who took it from 1884 to 1886. He was followed until 1889 by H.Y. Miller. The office was then held for a year from 1890 to 1891 by Carrie L. Knowlton and from the latter date until the present by W.G. Spencer.

It is impossible to give with exactness the history of all the houses in the village. Memory and record alike fail to furnish complete information, but, as far as I have been able to learn, the details of construction and partial ownership are given in connection with the accompanying map.


Lord, John King (1928). A History of the Town of Hanover, N.H. The Dartmouth Press.

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