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Hinsdale in Cheshire County, New Hampshire — The American Northeast (New England)
 

Hinsdale and the Power of the Ashuelot

 
 
Hinsdale and the Power of the Ashuelot<br>(<i>marker panel 1</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, July 8, 2019
1. Hinsdale and the Power of the Ashuelot
(marker panel 1)
Inscription.  
The Village of Hinsdale
From Agriculture to Manufacturing
First settled as a farming community, Hinsdale received its New Hampshire charter in 1753. It was named for Col. Ebenezer Hinsdale, a respected early resident who had built a fort and gristmill here in 1742. General Arad Hunt originally owned and farmed nearly two-thirds of the land in the township. Upon his death in 1825, large tracts of his property were placed on the market, giving entrepreneurs access to the land and water. The power of the Ashuelot River was quickly seen as a valuable resource for the growing community. Over the years, Hinsdale Village developed as one of the busiest manufacturing centers in the Ashuelot River watershed.

The Power of Water
The McGoldrick Dam
The upper Hinsdale Dam (later called the McGoldrick Dam) and power canal were put into operation in 1828. The dam was 150 feet long and six feet high. It was built of heavy, squared logs pinned together to form stone-filled cells and covered with tight planking. The dam created a five-acre pond upstream. Water impounded by the dam was channeled into a half-mile
Hinsdale and the Power of the Ashuelot<br>(<i>marker panel 2</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, July 8, 2019
2. Hinsdale and the Power of the Ashuelot
(marker panel 2)
Click or scan to see
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canal that ran parallel to the river, passing beneath the road to remain at a higher elevation than the descending stream below.

The first industry to use the power of the canal was the forge and trip-hammer shop of Pliny Merrill, which opened in 1832. Other industries soon followed. The canal system was fully developed by 1845 and included the main canal, branch canals and flumes that supplied water to manufacturing sites. Over the years, the canal and flume system supported some 25 different companies.

The Canal Company
Water Power for Industries
By 1869, four of the major users of the canal's water power formed a Canal Company to ensure that they had water to run their industries. These included the F. W. Tilden Iron Foundry (later the Eagle Iron Foundry), the J. R. Holman Machine Shop, the G. A. Robertson Company (which manufactured manila papers) and the Amidon & Sons woolen mills. By 1900, the canal supplied power to these four companies, as well as to the W.B. Stacy box factory, the Jennings & Griffin chisel shop and the Granite State Mowing Machine Company. When the Granite State Mowing Machine Company became a member in 1931, the organization was renamed the Hinsdale Canal Company. The remaining portion of the dam and head-gate of the canal can be seen across the road from this location. Mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century foundations,
Marker detail: Map of Hinsdale in 1892 image. Click for full size.
3. Marker detail: Map of Hinsdale in 1892
likely associated with residences that supported local manufacturing, can be seen behind this sign.

The Industrial Boom
Wool, Boxes and Mowing Machines
The 40-mile-long Ashuelot River falls nearly a thousand feet from its source in Washington, N.H., to the Connecticut River. Manufacturers were eager to harness this power, soon making the Ashuelot one of the most heavily industrialized rivers of its size in 19th-century New Hampshire. By 1874, turbines on the Ashuelot were generating about 3600 horsepower.

The power of the river provided money and employment that drove Hinsdale's economy. Boydon and Amidon's Hinsdale Woolen Mill employed 23 men and 20 women, with an annual payroll of $15,800, to produce 230,000 yards of cashmerette (a fine wool fabric) each year; Wilder & Hopkins annually produced chisels and spoke shaves valued at $18,500; Newhall & Stebbins produced mowing machines valued at $52,000; the box factory produced products worth $10,000; the iron foundry produced castings valued at $14,000; and the machine shop produced $75,000 worth of products each year.

The Decline of the Industrial Age
Removing the Dam
Like manufacturing in much of New England, Hinsdale's industries began to decline in the 1930s as it became cheaper to produce goods in other places. After the mills closed their doors or stopped depending
Marker detail: Holman’s Machine Shop, circa 1880 image. Click for full size.
4. Marker detail: Holman’s Machine Shop, circa 1880
on waterpower, the canals began to deteriorate. By 1975, the western portion of the McGoldrick Dam's canal system had been filled, and other parts were in disrepair. Time, lack of maintenance and the natural force of the river eventually caused a break in the dam.

In 1998, the McGoldrick Dam was identified as a barrier to fish migration in the Ashuelot River. Although the dam was already partially breached, it still caused a constriction in the river, making it difficult for migrating fish like shad and river herring, as well as resident fish species, to pass. The owner did not want to maintain the dam, and so agreed to its removal. McGoldrick was the first dam removed in New Hampshire specifically to benefit migratory fish. This significant event signaled the beginning of a deliberate effort to restore New Hampshire rivers through selective dam removal.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EnvironmentIndustry & CommerceSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1753.
 
Location. 42° 47.297′ N, 72° 28.203′ W. Marker is in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, in Cheshire County. Marker is on Canal Street (New Hampshire Route 119) half a mile east of Chesterfield Road (New Hampshire Route 63), on the left when traveling east. Marker is located
Marker detail: Wilder Chisel Shop & Amidon Mill image. Click for full size.
Courtesy Hinsdale Bicentennial Committee
5. Marker detail: Wilder Chisel Shop & Amidon Mill
G.S. Wilder and Company chisel shop located on Canal Street circa 1890 (above). Amidon Woolen Mill crew circa 1910 (left).
in a pull-out on the north side of the highway. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Hinsdale NH 03451, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Story of Anadromous Fish (here, next to this marker); Hinsdale's Auto Pioneer (approx. 0.2 miles away); Newhall & Stebbins (approx. half a mile away); Nation's Oldest Continuously Operating Post Office Building (approx. 0.6 miles away); Ashuelot Covered Bridge (approx. 2˝ miles away); Historic Vernon Union Church (approx. 2.7 miles away in Vermont); Jemima Tute (approx. 3 miles away in Vermont); Fort Bridgman Marker (approx. 3.2 miles away in Vermont). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Hinsdale.
 
Marker detail: The McGoldrick Dam image. Click for full size.
Courtesy New Hampshire Fish & Game Department
6. Marker detail: The McGoldrick Dam
The McGoldrick Dam was identified as one barrier to fish migration in the Asheulot River. The dam once provided water to power mills in Hinsdale, but had fallen into disrepair and was no longer used.
Marker detail: McGoldrick Dam Removal image. Click for full size.
Courtesy New Hampshire Fish & Game Department
7. Marker detail: McGoldrick Dam Removal
McGoldrick was the first dam removed in New Hampshire specifically to benefit migratory fish by providing fish passage and restoring river habitat. Here, silt and other debris are blocked from flowing downstream as the dam is removed.
Marker detail: Ashuelot River image. Click for full size.
Courtesy New Hampshire Fish & Game Department
8. Marker detail: Ashuelot River
This section of the Ashuelot River is once again free-flowing. The removal of the dam is just one step in the strategy to restore migratory fish to New Hampshire's waters.
Hinsdale and the Power of the Ashuelot Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, July 8, 2019
9. Hinsdale and the Power of the Ashuelot Marker
(marker comprises the left and center panels of this three-panel kiosk beside the highway)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 1, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 1, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 153 times since then and 54 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on July 1, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Jul. 2, 2022