Skip to content

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].

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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.”

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

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

Back to Top

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.


Back to Top

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]

Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

Mabel Lucretia (Lowell) Haseltine, daughter of Levi & Hannah B. (Hutchinson) Lowell, was born 15 Nov 1870 in Brookline, NH, and d. 20 Jan 1937 in Merrimack, New Hampshire. She married 22 Nov 1892 in Reeds Ferry NH to John Edward Haseltine, son of James G. & Mary J. Haseltine of Amherst NH. From the 1890’s through the 1930s this family was residing in Merrimack NH, and actively supporting the town through personal philanthropy. She, along with her sister, Mrs. Bertha Gordon, in 1924 gave to the town of Merrimack, the library in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Levi Lowell.

An additional biography of her son, Edward Haseltine can be found on this page. [see genealogy of the Lowell family].

[photo from annual report of the town of Merrimack NH 1960]

Back to Top

Walter Kittredge, ‘ The Minstrel of Merrimack’ was born on Bedford Road in the northern part of Merrimack known as Reed’s Ferry on October 8, 1834. He was the tenth of eleven children of Eri and Lucretia (Woods) Kittredge.

Walter Kittredge was a self taught musician, playing the violin, seraphine, and the meloden. He made many of his instruments from things he found growing in the fields near his home. His first instrument was made from the stock of a seed onion. He traveled as a minstrel both alone and with the famous Hutchinson family of singers of Milford NH. Many of their engagements were held at the Merrimack Hotel, also known as the McConihe Tavern. The hotel was located where the Library is today. It was moved across the street when the library was built and became a private residence.

In 1860, he married Annie Fairfield of New Boston, NH and built his unusual home on Bedford Road only a mile from where he grew up. It was here that he farmed between musical engagements. Walter and Annie had three children, Clara S., Walter E., and Annie.

It was about this time that he was struck with rheumatic fever, the results of this illness kept him from military service during the Civil War. However he served through his music, writing over five hundred songs and ballads. Many of the songs including “The War Will Soon Be Over”, “When They Come Marching Home”, and the world famous “Tenting Tonight On The Old Camp Ground” were sung by both the North and the South during the war.

In addition to his music, Walter Kittredge was a known temperance and abolitionist speaker famous for his precise diction and clarity of words.

At home in Reed’s Ferry, he held several public offices, was an active member of the First Congregational Church and a charter member of the Thornton Grange of Merrimack. It was at the 30th anniversary meeting of the Grange that he sang his last song.

Walter Kittredge died at his home on Bedford Road, July 8, 1905. He was seventy years of age. He is buried in Last Rest Cemetery on Baboosic Lake Road in Merrimack. A bronze marker graces the lobby of the State House in Concord in his memory.

We’re tenting tonight on the old camp ground,
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home,
And friend we love so dear.

Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old camp ground

We’ve been tenting tonight on the old camp ground,
Thinking of days gone by,
Of the loved ones at home that gave us the hand
And the tear that said “Goodbye!”

We are tired of war on the old camp ground,
Many are dead and gone,
Of the brave and true who’ve left their homes,
Others been wounded long.

We’ve been fighting today on the old camp ground,
Many are lying near;
Some are dead and some are dying,
Many are in tears.

Many are the heart who are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace
Dying tonight, dying tonight,
Dying on the old camp ground.
Additional articles about Walter Kittredge:

Tenting on the Old Camp Ground,” and Its Composer, by Gordon Hall Gerould, New England Monthly, Vol 20, March-August 1899, page 723-731. (PDF file format)

Back to Top

Maggi Parker was born in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1927, the daughter of Charles R. & Susan B. (Patterson) Parker. She was raised in her parent’s home on Boston Post Road in South Merrimack, New Hampshire. It appears that at an early age she was an individualist, plotting a unique path. In a 1969 TV Guide article She related: “Nobody smokes and drinks in my family but me.” In her younger days at home, whenever she came in late, her mother took a branch off a lilac bush and hit her with it. “After age 12, there wasn’t much left of that lilac bush,” Maggi said. In a later article her father Charles says that the line about the lilac bush was a “wee bit exaggerated,” but agreed that she and her brother were raised in a strict household.

In 1969 Maggie attributed her success as a teacher to her interest in acting. Although she majored in education at Keene State College in her native New Hampshire and at Boston University, she also studied drama, and she says, “Love of the theater made me a good teacher. Can you imagine Bob Hope as a teacher? Kids would flock to his classes – it’s the stimulation.”

Her work as an educator is impressive. In addition to teaching school in New England, she traveled and was principal on an airbase in Japan. Then she traveled to Madrid, Spain, where she taught school. From there she became a principal of a school of the American School for Air Force Dependant Children on the Island of Mallorca. Her focus and expertise turned to education for emotionally disturbed children and young adults.

She moved to Los Angeles to work on her doctorate at the University of Southern California. . There she was U.S. Assistant Professor of Education at California State University, Los Angeles session-Summer Session. She was there to study school administration, but instead married in 1963 and the following year moved to a location she fell in love with-Hawaii. Although she has continued to live in that island paradise for 49 years, she has visited New Hampshire several times to attend alumni celebrations for Keene State College (as recently at 2008), and also to travel in Europe (including Ireland; a river ship–The Bizet, in Vienna, sailing up the Danube, Main, and Rhine rivers for 14 days to Amsterdam).

Although she has continued to live in Hawaii for 49 years, she has visited New Hampshire several times to attend alumni celebrations for Keene State College (as recently at 2008), and also to travel in Europe (including Ireland; a river ship–The Bizet, in Vienna, sailing up the Danube, Main, and Rhine rivers for 14 days to Amsterdam)

1970 Photograph from the Nashua Telegraph picturing left to right:
Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, Charles R. Parker (Maggi’s father),
and Maggi Parker, at the Parker home in South Merrimack NH.

She was on the board of directors of Friends of Iolani Palace, working on the restoration of the palace. She assisted Harriet Lanihau Makekau, one of the Hawaiian royal family, to raise money for the Iolani Palace, and was on the board of the Kawananakoa Foundation until 1998. In September 1970 she escorted Princess Abigail Kinoiki Kawanakoa, a member of America’s only royal family, who visited New Hampshire and stopped with Maggi at the Parker homestead in South Merrimack, on their way to Europe. During this trip they hoped to locate heirlooms of the Hawaiian Royal family. At the young age of 86 she has not retired. She continues to consult three days a week at the Abigail K. Kawananakoa Foundation in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Maggi is a 10th generation descendant of Deacon Thomas & Amy Parker of Lynn and Wakefield, Massachusetts who immigrated in 1635 on the ship “Susan and Ellen.” She is also a 7th generation descendant of William & Elizabeth (Boyd) Patterson He came from the parish of Priestland, town of Glenluce, county of Antrim Ireland to Londonderry NH about the year 1724 and settled on Patterson’s Hill.

–Recap of Maggie Parker’s Accomplishments and Interests–

Hobbies and Talents:
– active in the Nashua High School band, playing the trumpet
– speaks fluent Japanese
– attended grammar school in South Merrimack, and Merrimack NH
– 1944, diploma, Nashua High School, Nashua NH
– 1948, Bachelors of Arts, Education – Keene State College, Keene, NH
– Master of Education in School Administration, Boston University
Professional Work:
– Educator, Nashua, NH and Cape Code, MA
– Principal of the Kimball-Webster School in Hudson, NH.
– Principal of an elementary school on an airbase in Japan.
– Educator at a school in Madrid, Spain
– Principal of a school of the American School for Air Force Dependant Children on the Island of Mallorca.
– U.S. Assistant Professor of Education at California State University, Los Angeles session-Summer Session
– Co-founder and partner in the Parker-Ames Center in Honolulu, Hawaii which offered psychological and educational services to emotionally disturbed children and young adults

– performed in Grange shows in Merrimack NH as a youngster
– performed with the Hudson Players, an amateur theater group in Hudson, NH
– Best Known For: starred in eleven episodes of the US crime drama Hawaii Five-O during the years 1968 and 1969, playing the secretary, May, a co-star to her TV-boss, Jack Lord.
– Television: I Dream of Jeannie, which did some shooting in Hawaii
– Movies: I Sailed to Tahiti with an All-Girl Crew, Hawaii, and Paradise Hawaiian Style
– plus many television and radio appearances, commercials, and roles in local theatrical productions.

Back to Top

Merrimack’s First Female Police Officer

She was born Betty Mae Mason in Damariscotta, ME on May 26, 1934, a daughter of Carleton K. & Myrtle L. (Clifford) Mason. She moved to Merrimack, NH with her family in 1946 and graduated from Merrimack High School in 1952. She married Ernest “Ernie”. Raymond a life-long resident of Merrimack and remained in our town to raise her family.

In the 1960’s female police officers were uncommon. She was the first woman to become a Merrimack Police Officer, serving from 1964 to 1986. She was also an original signer of the Merrimack Fire Department Auxiliary charter, and one of its former presidents (her husband Ernie was a call Captain for the Fire Department). She was also active in the American Legion Auxiliary.

In addition to working as a police officer, she was a book keeper for 52 years before she died 16 November 2007.

Her Mason family tree can be traced back to the 1700s in Carroll County, New Hampshire.

Back to Top

Passaconaway – Perhaps our most well-know notable was the great Indian sachem, Passaconaway (“child of the bear”), leader of all the native Americans inhabiting the Merrimack Valley.

In a treaty with the General Court of Massachusetts on April 9, 1662, Passaconaway formally made peace with the “white man” and was granted a tract of land in Merrimack 3 miles long and 1 and a half miles wide north of the Souhegan River. This tract included the two river island of Minnehaha and Minnewawa. The formal request made to Governor Endicott of Massachusetts was granted for 25 English pounds. The request is in the Massachusetts Archives. A few years later this same piece of land was granted to an Englishman.

It was rumored that Passaconaway lived well past the age of 100 and possessed magical powers. He was reported to have made water burn and sticks turn into snakes. His treaty with the whites was prompted by a vision with the “Great Spirit” who foretold their great numbers.

Passaconaway was believed to have fathered seven children. His second son but third child, Wonalancet was his successor as leader of his tribe. One of his daughters, Weetamo also had important positions of leadership within the tribe.

On his death the legend has it that he was carried off to heaven from the top of a white mountain on a sled drawn by wolves.

Back to Top

Forrest Percival Sherman, Rear Admiral. This native of Merrimack was born October 30, 1896 on Depot Street, son of one of the headmasters of the McGaw Institute.

He was a member of the Naval Academy class of 1917. A naval aviator from 1922, his peacetime service included aviation, surface, and staff assignments.

He was captain of the aircraft carrier “Wasp” (CV-7) when it was sunk by three Japanese torpedo hits in the Solomon Islands September 25, 1942. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism in command of the carrier. He later served as Chief of Naval Operations, and the destroyer, “USS Forrest Sherman” (DD-931) was named in his honor and launched February 5, 1955.

He died July 22, 1951 in Naples, Italy. Admiral Sherman’s framed photograph hangs in the original lobby of the present Middle School, formerly the high school.

His Sherman ancestry hails back to the 1600s in Massachusetts, Philip & Sarah (Odding) Shearman.

Back to Top

Louis Sperry was presented with the Boston Post Cane on April 4th, 2002 at a ceremony held at the Merrimack Town Hall.

Louis Sperry was born in Lincoln County, Kansas on March 16, 1908. He was the second of eight children (five boys, three girls). Sperry attended Sylvan Grove High School in Kansas, where he participated in football, basketball, and track. He would have liked to play baseball, but the school did not have a team. His first year of high school, his father would not permit him to play football because he was too small and worried he would get hurt. During his second year of high school, the football coach sat down with his father and convinced him Louis could play. The football team had a shortage of pads, so he had to use the pads of the players sitting on the bench. In some cases he used pads from some of the larger guys on the team, which made the pads stick out past his body on each side. He graduated from Sylvan Grove in 1927.

He married his first wife Pauline, with whom he later had one child who died at birth.

His first paying job was working for his uncle Lynn driving horses. For 10 days worth of work he received 3 stacks worth of quarters, with each one totaling $2.00 at his best guess. His first impression was the great amount of money it represented.

Louis took a job on a three-square cattle farm in Kansas, which equates to three square miles of territory he had to cover. He worked through the dust bowl. Mr. Sperry recalls dust storms so severe, someone lighting a cigarette 3 feet away looked like a flicker of light miles in the distance. Mr. Sperry also worked odd jobs for the railroad, which included track repair and worked in a rock quarry. He then moved to Washington State, where he took a job shucking oysters.

During the depression Louis would often catch animals to sell their furs for extra money. When he’d catch skunks he would keep them in a pit until mid december when their pelts would be at their thickest before claiming their hides.

In 1939, Mr. Sperry moved to New York City, where he sold pharmaceutical supplies to treat asthma. He then took a job in construction on Long Island, NY. He also worked at this time in restaurants as a cook.

In 1942, Louis Sperry enrolled in the Marines to serve his country. His troop was being prepared to be the fifth wave to invade Tokyo. However, the bombing of Japan by U.S. forces cancelled this mission. During his time in the Marines, he also served as a cook.

After World War II, Mr. Sperry moved to New Hampshire while he courted his second wife Bessie. When he first settled into Merrimack, he lived in a rooming house later known as Hannah Jack’s Tavern. At this time he worked for Bessie’s family selling pharmaceuticals. He and Bessie married and had four children together. Around 1949, Louis, his brother-in-law Bob Snapp, and family friend Lenny Berry built the home he still lives in today on D.W. Highway.

After selling pharmaceuticals, Louis took a position with Hood manufacturing ice cream in their plant in Manchester,NH. When Hood closed the plant, Hood reassigned all of its workers. When asked what position he wanted to transfer into, Sperry decided he wanted to take a position repairing refrigeration units. Hood asked, “Do you know how?” and Sperry responded “No, but do any of your employees come through the door with refrigeration repair skills?” Hood replied “No, so you can have the job.” The new job took Louis to Boston, where he commuted for a number of years from Merrimack daily. One day, he was called in and transferred back to Manchester, where he completed his career with Hood until age 65, when he was forced to retire.

He continued to work in refrigeration repair through agencies for several more years. He then went on to work as a cook in a restaurant in Pembroke. He finally retired in 1995 after working at Alexandria’s supermarkets (now Hannaford) collecting shopping carts.

When asked what Merrimack has become in his time here, he recalls watching D.W. Highway grow up around him. When asked what is the one thing he wants Merrimack to know from him, he replied “Merrimack is full of really nice people.”

For all of Louis Sperry’s hard work and loving life, he had much to show for it. He enjoyed his gardens and made wind chimes. Also In addition to his four children with Bessie, he left behind eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Louis passed away November 10th 2004. (Originally written by the Merrimack Historical Society, June 6, 2004)

Back to Top

James S. Thornton was born in Thornton’s Ferry (Merrimack), NH on February 25, 1827. He was the great-grandson of Matthew Thornton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. His father James B. Thornton died in 1838, while ambassador to Peru. His upbringing was taken over by future US president Franklin Pierce and Senator Atherton.

James S. Thornton Portrait by U.D. Tenney, 1874

On January 15, 1841, at the age of 14, James was appointed a midshipman in the United States Navy by Senator Atherton. He served on the frigate Columbia and John Adams, a sloop converted to a man-of-war. In 1846 he was sent to the Naval Academy and in 1847 to sea during the war with Mexico.

In 1850 James Thornton was engaged in coast survey work in the Pacific and after a dispute with his superior resigned from the Navy. He spent the next three years surveying the gold fields of California and in what is now Utah.

In February 1854 he was restored to his naval rank and went to sea aboard the store-ship Relief serving in the waters around South America. While on this duty he was wounded fighting a duel.

In 1857, James Thornton returned to Merrimack and married his cousin, Ellen Thornton Wood. The couple would have no children.

At the outbreak of the Civil War Thornton, who was serving on the brig Bainbridge, was transferred to Admiral David Farragut’s flagship Hartford as executive officer. He was aboard the Hartford during the capture of New Orleans and served on this ship in subsequent campaigns on the Mississippi River, including Vicksburg. It was while aboard the Hartford that Thornton devised the scheme to cover the sides of the ship with chains to repel cannon balls. He received high praise from Farragut for the idea.

James Thornton aboard the Kearsarge in 1864. Thornton is in the center with beard.

In August 1862 Thornton became commander of gunboat Winona which was stationed off Mobile, Alabama. In December 1862 he was assigned as executive officer the Kearsarge at the start of her cruise in search of the Confederate raider. The battle between the Kearsarge and the Alabama is one of the famous naval battles in American history. The engagement took place in June, 1864 off the coast of France. The commanding officer of the Kearsarge, Captain John Winslow, in a report to Gideon Wells, the Secretary of War, singled out Thornton’s performance:

“It would seem almost invidious to particularize the conduct of any one man or officer in which all had done their duty with a fortitude and coolness which can not be too highly praised, but I feel it due to my executive officer, Lieutenant. Commander Thornton, who superintended the working of the battery, to particularly mention him for an example of coolness and encouragement of the men while fighting, which contributed much toward the success of the action.”

Many of the crew also credited Thornton with playing a major role in the battle. The sinking of the Alabama was a major defeat for the Confederate States and a major victory for the United States. Thornton’s naval career was undoubtedly helped by his participation in the fight. For distinguished service in action, James Thornton received a Congressional vote of thanks and was advanced over others in his grade and given command of the Kearsarge.

After the war, he was stationed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard from 1865 to 1873 where he was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1872.

In 1873 Captain Thornton was given command of the USS Monongahela for a scientific expedition to Kerguelen’s Land. The voyage was undertaken with only the original charts made by Captain Cook. His mission was a success but on the return voyage he was thrown down by a sudden lurch of the ship and received a serious injury to his spine. At Cape Town South Africa, he was sent home by way of England. After being transported to Philadelphia, Captain Thornton died at Germantown, PA on May 14, 1875 at the age of 48. His body was returned to Merrimack and he was buried in Last Rest Cemetery. The US Navy recognized his distinguished service by naming the torpedo boat, “The Thornton” in his honor.

James S. Thornton was the last descendent of Matthew Thornton to carry the Thornton name.

Photographs above:
1) James S. Thornton Portrait by U.D. Tenney, 1874
2) James Thornton aboard the Kearsarge in 1864. Thornton is in the center with beard.

Back to Top

Matthew Thornton was born in Ireland about 1714. In his lifetime, Matthew Thornton was president of the Provincial Convention in 1775, was the 1776 New Hampshire delegate to Congress, was judge of the Superior Court of New Hampshire (he was a self-taught lawyer), and successfully ran Thornton’s Ferry after retiring from public life.

He was distinguished as a physician, judge, statesman, patriot of the Revolutionary War, and as one of New Hampshire’s delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was in his 60’s when he served as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War.

At the age of 48 Matthew Thornton married Hannah Jack of Chester, NH who was 18 at the time. Over the course of the next seven years they had five children together, many of whom became prominent in their own right.

In 1784, after he signed the Declaration of Independence, he retired from politics and in 1789, at the age of 75, moved with his family to Merrimack. He settled on the farm formerly owned by Edward Lutwyche and operated the ferry. From this time on the ferry was called Thornton’s Ferry, and that section of town is still referred to as Thornton’s Ferry. Matthew Thornton’s home was a large three story house with peaked roof. It stood on the bank of the Merrimack River near the railroad tracks. It was torn down about 1840 when the railroad depot was built.

He died in Newburyport, Massachusetts June 24, 1803 at the age of 89 and is buried in Thornton Cemetery in Merrimack. A simple stone inscribed “An Honest Man” marks his grave. In 1892 a monument was erected near the cemetery on route 3 in his honor.

Back to Top

Mattie (Kilborn) Webster, daughter of Charles Albert & Minnie Almira (Long) Kilborn was born 17 April 1885 in Webster, Merrimack Co., NH. Following her mother’s death when she was 5 years old, her father remarried to Emma Jane Fretts of Merrimack, and the family moved here. In 1911 she married Clarence L. Webster in Merrimack, New Hampshire. He was the station agent and telegraph operator for the B&M Railroad at the Reeds Ferry Station. They lived in a house at the corner of Depot and Pleasant Streets.

Mattie attended the Merrimack schools. Upon graduating from McGaw Institute in 1903 she taught in Bennington NH schools, and soon was teaching school in Merrimack. She also taught English to newly arrived immigrants at the Institute of Arts and Sciences in Manchester, NH.

She was one of Merrimack’s first historians, compiling and narrating the the history of the town during the Bicentennial celebration in 1946. She died in Merrimack on 18 April 1964, and is buried in Last Rest Cemetery in Merrimack. She had four children, Berwin H. Webster, Anna (Webster) Watkins, Ruth (Webster) Beard, and Margaret Webster.

In addition to raising her son and three daughters, Mattie found time to be the first president and one of the founders of the Reeds Ferry Women’s Club, a member of the Missionary Society, and of the Ladies Aid Society of the Merrimack Congregational Church. She was a member of the Puritan Rebekah Lodge, and the Narragansett Grange of Bedford. She was a prize winner in rug hooking.

She was one of Merrimack’s first historians, compiling and narrating the the history of the town during the Bicentennial celebration in 1946. She died in Merrimack on 18 April 1964, and is buried in Last Rest Cemetery in Merrimack. She had four children, Berwin H. Webster, Anna (Webster) Watkins, Ruth (Webster) Beard, and Margaret Webster.

Back to Top

Marilyn N. Warren, daughter of Oscar G. & Ida (Proctor) Warren, was born 15 January 1915 in Hudson NH and died 12 June 1998. She resided for many years at 57 Meetinghouse Road in Merrimack, NH. She married 9 October 1948 in Merrimack NH to Adelbert Nelson Woods, son of Sever Robertson & Tina (Blanchard) Woods.

She was a paraplegic due to polio as a baby, and was a resident of a Protestant orphanage in Nashua during middle and later childhood years. She became an activist for the handicapped.

She was a graduate of Nashua High School and Nashua Business College, and later worked as a counselor for the State of New Hampshire and also for Nashua High School. She was instrumental in founding the Leticia Pratt Home for the Handicapped in Nashua NH.

She served in many leadership positions, advocating on behalf of the disabled. She was a charter member and past president of the National Association of the Physically Handicapped (NAPH), charter member and past president of the Queen City Chapter of NAPH, member and past president of President Eisenhower’s United States Advisory Council for the Handicapped, and member of former Governor John Sununu’s New Hampshire Advisory Council for the Handicapped.

She was instrumental in arranging State of NH plates for the handicapped and was awarded lifetime handicapped license plate #1 by Governor John Sununu. She was the founder of New England Wheelchair Games at Crotched Mountain Center.

In 1967 she won five medals in wheelchair games during Pan American Paraplegic games in Canada. Later she took part in the International Wheelchair Games in Israel in 1968 and won gold medals in archery, shotput and javelin. She beat CBS’s Charles Kuralt in handicapped ping pong. Also in 1968 she attended the 20th Annual baseball dinner sponsored by the Manchester Union Leader Fund, Inc. where she was chosen the female athlete of the year.

She was a Mayflower descendant. For additional information, and her Warren Family Tree, see the article about her on Cow Hampshire: New Hampshire’s History Blog.

Back to Top