Lincoln, New Hampshire

A Brief History of Lincoln, NH

Lincoln's history actually goes back to 1764, when Benning Wentworth, the Royal Governor of The Province of New Hampshire, in the name of King George III, granted 32,456,acres to a group of about 70 investors from Connecticut. The leaders of that group were James Avery and Jeremiah Clement. It's likely that neither they, nor others of their group, ever saw their new town. They were land investors, not settlers. No one lived in Lincoln until about 1782, when Nathan Kinsman, and a few other hardy folk moved to Lincoln. The 1790 census list 22 residents in Lincoln. The somewhat complicated early history of the town is well told in the "Bicentennial Commemorative Book of the Town of Lincoln, New Hampshire, 1764-1964." Interestingly, in the early days, the actual town was not where it is today; it was north of it's present location, along the road to Franconia Notch.

Lincoln eventually became the second largest town in the state. Farming was never a profitable occupation. The 1896 "Gazetteer of Grafton County" states that "the town has very little good farming land". However, there were two major sources of income for the early settlers. In 1808, Stephen Russell opened a hotel just below the Flume. Hotels flourished near that site for over 100 years. In 1824, Simon Tuttle moved to town and opened a tavern, known as Tuttle's Hotel. The building of the railroad, which reached N. Woodstock in 1882, brought more tourists and more hotels, and prosperity to the Lincoln/Woodstock area. Many visitors spent the entire season at one the large resorts in the area. Competition between the hotels resulted in fine buildings, fine food, and the latest improvements, which, as time went on, included running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, telephones, telegraph, etc. Much has been written about the hotels in the area, some of which survived repeated fires, and operated successfully until the coming of the automobile changed the way tourists travelled.

Image: Seated are J.E. Henry and his wife, Eliza. Standing are their Three Sons, John, George, and Charles.

Logging was the other major source of income for residents. By 1853, the Merrimack River Lumber Company was logging on the East Branch of the Pemigewasset. Several small sawmills were functioning in town. Things changed forever when In 1892, James E. Henry bought thousands of acres of virgin timber and moved his experienced loggers from Zealand. (He had built the town of Zealand, which included a large steam operated sawmill, boarding house, company store, company houses for the workers, a large home for his family, a logging railroad, charcoal kilns and more.) Henry and his men set up operations in the area we know today as the Town of Lincoln. J.E. Henry and his family were very good at what they did, and that was turning trees into lumber, and later into paper, for a rapidly expanding national economy. They built the town and one of the longest running logging railroads in the state. They owned the town: mill, school, company store, hospital, jail, boarding house, hotel, and just about everything else in town. Henry family members were Selectmen, Post Masters, Justices of the Peace, etc. As market conditions changed, and technology improved, the Henry's went into the paper business, and eventually what started out as a sawmill enterprise became a large paper making company. 

They, and their successors, became the dominant industry in the area and the largest employer. Although certainly not the only sawmill in the area, they were the largest, and, one way or another, did business with most of the lumbermen. In addition, many other area businesses derived a part of their income from doing business with the mills and the growing population. J.E. Henry died in 1912, having become a wealthy man. His three sons, who had been active with him in the business, sold the company and the town to the Parker Young Company in 1917, for $3,000,000.

The original Mr. Parker and Mr. Young started out with a starch mill in Lisbon, in 1843. But that's another story.

Image: Lincoln in 1906. The Catholic Church in the center was built in 1905. Also shown are the boarding houses, grist mill, and engine house. Photo Provided by Thomas Lessard

As the 20th century progressed, time, market conditions, and public attitudes, changed. As a reaction to the type of logging practiced in the early years (when virtually nothing known about sustainable forestry) residents and visitors concerned about the loss of forest lands, banded together and formed environmentally active groups like the Appalachian Mountain Club and The Society For The Preservation of New Hampshire Forests. Eventually, through the efforts of groups like this, the White Mountain National Forest was created. Eventually, the aging paper mill could not meet increasingly stringent pollution control requirements and in 1981 the mill was shut down. Today, the site of the mill complex built by J.E. Henry over 100 years ago is a modern shopping center. And the economy of the town has returned to serving the tourist, visitor, skier and camper. Nearly all vestiges of the sawmills, the paper mills, and the logging railroad, are gone. In 2009, the last remaining buildings of the mill complex were demolished. 

Suggested Reading:
1. J.E.Henry's Logging Railroads" by Bill Gove
2. Logging Railroads of the White Mountains" by C. Francis Belcher
3. "Lincoln Woodstock A Photographic Journey Into The Area's Colorful Past"  by Mike Dickerman

All are available at the Lincoln Public Library; Their website is

Image: The Woodshed, as it appeared c.1983. It's now a restaurant in the Village Shops.

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