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Merrimack NH: People of Note

Since 2016 the Merrimack Historical Society web site has provided brief biographies of its most notable citizens. They came from all walks of life, with varying talents and abilities, and were well-known and admired during their life-times. We should know and remember them. Additions to this list are welcome, however living people are usually excluded. Please contact us if you have a suggestion, an addition, or a correction to a current biography.

People included here are: The Burnap Sisters, Emma Cross, Frank French, Albert Gilbert Gordon, Bertha (Lowell) Gordon, Abbie Griffin, Brigadier General Edward J. Haseltine, Mabel Lucretia (Lowell) Haseltine, Marguerite (Bushee) Henderson, Martha (Marsh) Jones aka “Nettie Vernon, ” Walter Kittredge, Claude Maker, James Mastricola, Irving F. Mower, Maggi Parker, Betty (Mason) Raymond, Passaconaway, Forrest Percival Sherman, Louis Sperry, James Sheppard Thornton, Matthew Thornton, Mattie (Kilborn) Webster, and Marilyn (Warren) Woods.

THE BURNAP SISTERS: Elizabeth, Ruth, Rebecca, Abigail, Susan and Lucy
The daughters of Jacob Burnap, Merrimack’s first settled minister, were the town’s first business women. Elizabeth (who later married Hon. Joseph Read, Ruth, Hannah (who married Samuel Buel), Rebecca, Abigail, Susan, and Lucy (who married Hon. Joseph Read) discovered a special kind of grass they called “Dunstable Straw” and wove it to create beautiful “Leghorn hats.”

According to a history written in 1946 by Mattie (Kilborn) Webster: “Some of these bonnets were of black leghorn straw trimmed with peach colored crepe, and crowned with a beautiful bouquet of half-blown roses, lilacs and field flowers. They were often ornamented with a bow of ribbon, long ends or streamers on one side. A bouquet of wild poppies was sometimes placed in front surmounted by a plume of marabout feathers. The ribbon was either straw colored or striped. A little later the style changed. Pieces of brim was cut away at the back and drawn up at the crown with a large bow. Strings and rosettes were over the right ear. Some were sold in Boston for as much as $50. John Stark bought one for his wife Molly. They not only made bonnets but other things from grass or plated straw.”

Norfolk County Advertiser, August 1821. Reprinted in Boston Commercial Gazette (Boston MA), 2 August 1821, Volume 58, Issue 10, page 1. “On Monday last was sold at auction at Merchant’s Hall the elegant Bonnet which has been for several days exhibited at the store of Messrs. Hall J. Howe & Co., made by Misses Bernaps (sic) of Merrimack, N.H., of a wild grass discovered by them in that town. It was knocked off to Josiah Bradlee for Fifty Dollars. The execution of the Bonnet was very superior to the one lately sent to England from Connecticut. We understand that one of the above mentioned young ladies is now visiting at Medford and that the money was presented to her yesterday afternoon. Thus shall the skill and industry of our countrywomen ever be rewarded.”

Although some would like to claim that Sophia Woodhouse of Wethersfield Connecticut, who had a similar business, patented her design in 1821 before the Burnaps did — in fact documents at the U.S. Patent Office show otherwise. Lucy Burnap patented her “hats, weaving grass” on 16 Feb 1823, the first entry for such an item. [SEE the Burnap Genealogy].

Emma Cross. Colorized photograph.

EMMA AUGUSTA CROSS, daughter of Joseph & Deborah P. (Wilder) Cross was b. 6 June 1850 in Manchester NH, and died 7 November 1933 in Merrimack NH. She was a direct descendant of Nathan Cross, of Old Dunstable, who was attacked while making turpentine in the woods, and taken captive by the Native People.

She graduated from the Manchester High School in1868. She was elected to serve as an assistant teacher for the intermediate school the following year. In 1870, after attending training institutes, the Manchester School Committee awarded her a teaching certificate for the intermediate school, entitling her to a position as a full teacher. She remained in that position until 1875, when she gave up her job to help her parents set up a farm in Merrimack, NH.

In 1884, she removed to Boston, where she was employed as a photo-retoucher. Also while in Boston, she attended Boston’s Evening Drawing Classes, which she successfully completed and was presented with a diploma in May 1886.

Around 1895, she returned to Merrimack, where she made the farmhouse the temporary home for her two nephews and her often-traveling artist brothers. She provided room for Merrimack’s public library in the front room of her house on Loop Road, and was appointed library director when the library was moved to a more public building (In 1907 the library and its 3,000 volumes were moved to rented quarters in Ayers’ Store).

Emma Cross also served on Merrimack’s school board. She is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester NH. A collection of some of her and her sibling’s artistic creations may be found in a collection at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA. A framed photograph of her is located in the Merrimack Public Library.

Frank French, artist. Self Portrait.

FRANK FRENCH, son of Hiram & Lydia Wolcot (Batchelder) French, was born 22 May 1850 in the Pittsfield/Loudon area of Merrimack County, New Hampshire, and died 20 Feb 1933 in the Reeds Ferry section of Merrimack, New Hampshire. He married about 1875 to Alice Hendricks. They had two children: Frank Allison French and Mabel Edna French.

This noted artist is considered the “dean of American woodcarvers.” French also did commendable work as a painter. While serving as the art director for the Manchester “Mirror and Farmer” newspaper under John B. Clarke, he held an exhibition of paintings by Boston artists to stimulate art interest in Manchester, New Hampshire. This was the first fine art exhibit in the city, and soon after he helped organize the Manchester Art Association.

By 1880 French was working on a regular basis for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, mostly producing the engraved reproductions of paintings for which he was highly regarded. His major work, the book ‘Home Fairies and Heart Flowers: Twenty Studies of Children’s Heads,’ was published in 1887 by Harper and Brothers; the models for some of the heads were his own children.

In 1893, he was awarded a medal at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and his engraving of Deschamps’ “Beggar Girl” won the gold medal at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. Many of his works are part of the Currier Art Gallery’s permanent collection in Manchester. N.H. The Merrimack Historical Society owns one of his paintings.

Arthur Gilbert Gordon. Colorized photograph.

ARTHUR GILBERT GORDON, son of Francis A. & Martha D. (McGaw) Gordon, was born 27 January 1876 in Merrimack, Hillsborough Co. NH, and died 27 July 1958. His family before him had been active in town affairs. Mr. Gordon had served as a member of the Board of Selectmen and as representative to the Legislature and had devoted much of his time to the growth and development of the town. He was instrumental in organizing Merrimack’s first volunteer fire department in 1924. At the organizational meeting of the department Josiah N. Henderson was elected Chief and Arthur G. Gordon its Deputy Chief which office he held until his retirement in 1949. He served the town as its forest fire warden for many years. His interest in the growth and development of Merrimack were not confined to the Fire Department alone. He devoted much of his time to the Last Rest Cemetery Association, Wheeler Chapel, to the industrial aspects of the Town’s growth, and was, at the time of his death, Senior Deacon of the Merrimack Congregational Church. The Town’s new fire station will long serve as a memorial to his many civic efforts. Merrimack’s fire station was given to the Town of Merrimack by Bertha Lowell Gordon in memory of her husband, Arthur G. Gordon, February 21, 1960.

Source: Annual Report of the Town of Merrimack NH for the year ending June 30, 1959, and independent research. SEE the Gordon Family Genealogy.

MRS. BERTHA (LOWELL) GORDON was born 7 Apr 1874 in Reeds Ferry (Merrimack) NH, daughter of Levi F. & Hannah B. (Hutchinson) Lowell and died April 4, 1960, age 85. In the library report for 1960 it is fitting that the town made note of her passing. She, along with her sister, Mrs. Mabel Haseltine, in 1924 gave to the town of Merrimack, the library building in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Levi Lowell. Bertha Lowell married Albert Gilbert Gordon (biography and photograph above) in whose memory she donated money to build the Merrimack Fire Station and the Congregational Church parsonage. ALSO SEE the Lowell family genealogy.
[photo from annual report of the town of Merrimack NH 1960]

Obituary, Nashua Telegraph, Monday April 4, 1960
Merrimack, April 4 — Mrs. Bertha (Lowell) Gordon, life-long resident and widow of Arthur G. Gordon, died at her home Daniel Webster Highway Reeds Ferry, yesterday morning after a long illness. Mrs. Gordon and her late husband had been town benefactors for many years. In 1924 Mrs. Gordon and her sister the late Mrs. Mabel L. Haseltine, gave the Lowell Memorial Library to the town. More recently Mrs. Gordon gave the Arthur G. Gordon Memorial Fire Station in memory of her husband, and it was also through her interest and help that a new Merrimack Congregational church parsonage is in the process of being completed. She was a member of the Merrimack Congregational Church and of its Ladies Aid Society; member of Puritan Lodge of Rebekahs and a charter member of the Reeds Ferry Women’s club. She was a graduate of the Tilton school in Tilton and when it was a seminary, and attended Mount Holyoke college, South Hadley, Mass.

ABBIE MAY GRIFFIN was the daughter of George Byron & Sarah Frances (Spalding) Griffin of Merrimack NH. She was born on May 4, 1874 in Merrimack, New Hampshire and died February 3, 1968 at Memorial Hospital in Nashua NH. Her father was a local grocer, and she was one of three daughters born into this family. They lived on a farm located on the Daniel Webster Highway (in the location of the current Residence and Comfort Inns). She is buried in Reeds Cemetery on Camp Sargent Road.

She lived her entire life in the town of Merrimack, very much interested in the welfare of her neighbors. At one point she learned that the local school band did not have enough funds to attend a national competition, and she provided them. Upon her death it was learned she had established trust funds through her will to assist the town, Merrimack residents who could not afford health care, offer scholarships to local young people for college, and funds for the police and fire departments. Those funds continue to benefit Merrimack residents today.

On September 12, 1996, on Merrimack’s 250th anniversary, the Board of Selectmen named the bandstand area, near the town hall, the “Abbie Griffin Park” in her honor. (The bandstand area was made possible by the generous financial donations of local residents, business owners and volunteers). This park is a gathering place for Merrimack’s musical and social events.

A 17-page booklet about Abbie Griffin, A 17-page booklet about Abbie Griffin, with photographs, was recently written by Ruth Liberty. A copy is available for $5.00 at the Merrimack Historical Society.

MARGUERINE MILLER (BUSHEE) HENDERSON, daughter of Capt. Andrew T. & Alice (Miller) Bushee was born about 1875 in Donaldsonville, Louisiana and died June 1970 in Hampton NH at the age of 94. She married 14 April 1900 in NH to Josiah N. Henderson, son of William & Annah E. (Mitchell) Henderson. In 1927 he was foreman at D.P. Jones.

She lived in Merrimack, New Hampshire for 76 years, and at the time of her death was the town’s second oldest citizen. She had resided in Rye, NH with her daughter for four years. A graduate of Plymouth Normal School before the turn of the century, she taught in New Boston and Merrimack Schools. She was the librarian of Lowell Memorial Library in Merrimack for 35 years. She was a member of the First Congregational Church, Puritan Rebekah Lodge and the Thornton Grange. She was a charter member and first president of the Merrimack Community Club. She was survived by her son, Lawrence W. Henderson; two daughters Mrs. Ruth Rarer and Mrs. Lorraine Cameron.

The Town Report of Merrimack NH duly notes: “Mrs. Marguerite Henderson, former librarian, for approximately 37 years has resigned. She had been associated with the library about 50 years, serving as an assistant to Miss Emma Cross, then librarian. Mrs. Henderson was a conscientious and untiring worker, giving much time and thought to the library in all its aspects for the good of the people and the town.”

Brigadier General Edward J. Haseltine, U.S. Air Force, retired, was born in Merrimack NH, 23 January 1909, the son of John and Mabel (Lowell) Haseltine. He graduated from Merrimack High School class of 1927, and the University of New Hampshire in 1931 (Bachelor of Science in Economics). At that time he received an ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Infantry, and was assigned to the Army Air Corps in 1942. [See more information about his military service here].

After an extensive career with the U.S. Air Force, General Haseltine hae been active in many civic groups and state legislative committees dealing with labor issues, flood control and community developments.

He worked for the N.H. Bureau of Labor Unemployment Compensation from 1936-42. In 1981 he was serving as Chairman of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board for NH. He was appointed a member of the Administrative Committee on Municipal Courts by the New Hampshire Supreme Court and had served as a Merrimack Municipal Court Judge. During his tensure, he devoted much of the court’s time to study juvenile problems in the community.

General Haseltine served as the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen and director of the Merrimack Medical Center. He also served as a State Representative. In Sept of 1965 he was master of ceremonies at the dedication of the (then) new Merrimack Post Office. He was dubbed “Mr. Merrimack” and was honored at a testimonial banquet attended by about 350 guests, in recognition of his 23 years of devoted service to the town of Merrimack.

He was also a local businessman, and treasurer of a family-owned business,Haseltine Brothers, a lumber manufacturing firm in Merrimack NH. His many contributions to this community will not be forgotten. General Haseltine died on November 11, 1998 in New London, New Hampshire, and is buried at Last Rest Cemetery in Merrimack NH.

Martha F. (Marsh) Jones aka “Nettie Vernon” Colorized photograph.

MARTHA FRANCES “MATTIE” (MARSH) JONES was a teacher, author and poet. For many years using the pen name, “Nettie Vernon” her writings were published in many of the leading magazines and literary papers of the time, including Arthur’s Home Magazine. Her official biography, published in Granite State Magazine of June 1906 states, “She was an estimable woman.” [Read two of her poems].

Martha Frances Marsh, the daughter of Deacon Enoch S. Marsh of Hudson NH was born 20 April 1836 at Hudson NH. She married 3 May 1864 in Hudson, NH to James Thornton Jones, the son of David & Dorothy (Tewksbury) Jones. She was educated at the Nashua Literary Institution and at Appleton Academy in Mont Vernon NH, preparing her to teach school. As a married couple James & Mattie Jones at first removed to California where he had been employed as a teacher, and where two of their children were born. They returned to New Hampshire in 1875, and resided in Merrimack NH. She died 5 Feb 1906 in Merrimack NH. She and her husband are buried in Last Rest Cemetery. They had 2 sons, James E. and Leslie E., and two daughters, Grace M. (who married Louis Hoffman) and Idella M.

See the Jones Family Genealogy

CLAUDE MAHLON MAKER, son of Elwin C. & Margaret A. (Wilson) Maker was born 24 January 1894, and died 24 March 1973 in Nashua NH, at the age of 79. He married 1 Aug 1917 at Pembroke, NH to Flora E. Cushing, daughter of Charles E. & Rosie M. (Clark) Cushing.

He was a resident of Merrimack for over 60 years and served 30 years as a member of the School Board. For fifteen years he was the Town Tax Collector and for 24 years the Town Clerk. He also served as a representative in the State Legislature. He was a member of the New Hampshire Town Clerks Association, a member of the First Congregational Church, and was active in the Souhegan Lodge, I.O.O.F and the Puritan Rebekah Lodge of Merrimack, and the Ancient York Lodge, F. and A.M. of Nashua. He was also a Justice of the Peace.


Irving Mower

IRVING F MOWER, son of Charles M. & Ida May (Litchfield) Mower was born on February 16, 1907 in Portland Maine, and died 16 October 1973 at the age of 67 in a Manchester NH hospital. He married 12 April 1934 at Exeter, NH to Edna M. Esty.

Mr. Mower served the Town of Merrimack twenty-five years as trustee and treasurer of the Lowell Memorial Library. A resident of the Town for thirty-five years, he also served as treasurer of the Merrimack Historical Society. A retired navy lieutenant commander with World War II service in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, Mower was a charter member and first commander of the Merrimack Post of the VFW, and a post commander of the local post of the American Legion. He was a member of the First Congregational Church.

[SEE Mower Genealogy]

James Mastricola

GIACAMO MASTROCOLA aka JAMES MASTRICOLA was born 27 March 1878 in Casacalenda, Italy. He immigrated to Montreal, Canada when he was 17 years old, working on the railroad. After moving to Nashua NH, he sold fruit from a pushcart with his brother, Peter. (Peter was killed in an accident in 1925, aged 53).

After many years of hard work, James Mastricola was able to buy a farm in Merrimack, New Hampshire where he then lived for over 50 years. When he died at age 80 on 6 March 1958 it was learned that he had invested well, accumulating the small fortune of $143,000.

Never having had formal schooling, he valued education, and in his will he left his estate to the town of Merrimack to build a school. First used as a high school, the James Mastricola School became Merrimack’s junior high school in 1966. In 1973 after more construction was completed, the school was renamed the James Mastricola Middle School in his honor. Today there are two schools named after Mr. Mastricola: James Mastricola Elementary School 7 School Street, and James Mastricola Upper Elementary School, 26 Baboosic Lake Road, both in Merrimack NH.

A portrait of James Mastricola hangs in the school today, inspiring all who look at it, of a man who had great faith in his adopted country. The Nashua Corporation is now located on the property of the Mastricola farm.