Rye History Topics

The text of many of these topics can be found below the photo. For any content not shown, please request from me directly at – [email protected]. For the statement of how I view history see bottom of ABOUT tab

Musicians who performed at the Farragut Hotel

Courtesy of Rye Historical Society

Text of Topic Narratives

History of African Americans in Rye

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023, edits welcome

In American history race and the oppression of minority groups is the central theme that must be faced if we are to fully understand our past and promote reconciliation. At the very least we must acknowledge this difficult past and, if we then feel moved, to try to spread our understanding and remove obstacles that still exist to full equality of opportunity for all Americans.

Slavery and its legacy are still with us and will be until we face up to this part of our history and deal with it in a constructive way. If one criticizes or condemns the support of and practice of slavery, they must admit to one of the following three scenarios: They might well have been owners of enslaved people or they might have been like the majority who silently accepted and did not criticize it or they might have been part of that growing minority such as the Quakers who spoke out against it, at risk to their life and laid the foundation of the abolitionist movement which led to the Civil War.

The idea of race is an invention, a social construct. It was put forth in writing and then publicly espoused in Europe as early as the 1400s to justify the beginnings of the Atlantic slave trade in which Africans were forced against their will on to European slave ships and brought to the Americas. The central race idea was that people of color were inferior to Caucasians, to white people and therefore it was acceptable to enslave them. Thus, the idea of whiteness was invented. (See the book: Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram Kendi, 2016, which profiles five well know Americas who were proponents of this view of race.  Many other books also document this fact. Kendi’s definition of racist means someone who supports policies which discriminate against blacks or other minority groups).

When European settlers began their migration to North America in the 1600s, they had been propagandized by racist writings into believing they were superior to other races. Today we would call this a big lie, but at that time these beliefs demonized and dehumanized Africans, and in the mind of European colonists it “justified” the practice of slavery in the new world. This new form of slavery, pioneered in Barbados before being imported to north America, was a life-time sentence, often broke up families and was brutally enforced. It was far more deadly than old world slavery which did not break up families, was less brutal and held out the possibility of working toward freedom. This new “institution” was driven by the European imperialist, world -view in which it was believed that the stronger kingdoms had a right to take over and exploit other parts of the world. This practice would reap huge fortunes for the few and its deadly legacy is the cause of many challenges that face the world today.

The first enslaved Africans were brought to Virginia in 1619 and soon slavery had become an established institution in the south. Africans first appeared in Portsmouth in 1641 and became servants for life, unable to work off their indentured servitude which white servants were able to do in seven years.  (See Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African American heritage, Valerie Cunning Ham and Mark J. Sammons, 2004.) The histories of Portsmouth and neighboring seacoast towns are very intertwined in the 1700s.  While the practice of slavery in the north may not have been as brutal as in the south, that was only because there was not as large a demand for such labor as on southern plantations. But it was northern ships, including some from Portsmouth, which Rye men may have helped to build and could have served on, who participated in the murderous and lucrative trans-Atlantic slave trade.

We do not know when the first enslaved person was brought to Sandy Beach (Parish of Rye in 1726), but by the 1700s some families owned enslaved people. The Seavey’s had Hampshire, who ran away, as well as Titus, Hannah, Bow and Jenny. The Odiorne’s had Jack, the Wallis family had Phyllis and Caesar, the Berry’s had Peter Long and Old Black Peter. The Garland’s had Black Prince, the Jenness family had Nimshi and Prince and the Libbey and Parsons family also owned people, and there may well have been others, not recorded.  It was not uncommon for enslaved people to escape their owners, but it was a perilous flight into the unknown. More people would have owned slaves if they could have afforded to because it was a widespread and generally accepted practice.  Quakers were one of the first groups to speak out against slavery and would have chastised Rye people who owned enslaved people. See info about Quakers and slavery at bottom of this history. *

See: Patriot’s Reward by Stephen Clarkson, 2007, a fictional account of a real enslaved person, owned by the authors ancestors in Rye/Portsmouth, who fought heroically in the American Revolution and with other blacks, petitioned for his freedom in 1779 in Portsmouth. That petitioned is highlighted at the African Burying Ground Memorial site in Portsmouth between State and Court Streets.

 Had people become numb to the idea of enslaving other human beings? For many it was not a gross injustice. What did the rest of the population of Rye think about slavery in their midst? When European servants worked off their servitude, Africans, the only group to come to America involuntarily, remained in permanent bondage. How many Rye residents were not comfortable with having enslaved people in town and formed the nucleus of what would later become the abolitionist movement in the early 1800’s? How much conflict did the existence of slavery and its legacy create in Rye?

According to the History of Rye NH, by Langdon Parson’s, 1905, there were 19 enslaved people owned by Rye residents in 1773, twelve male and seven female.  Because census records were unreliable at that time, the number could have been higher. Rye families owning slaves at this time were Seavey, Odiorne, Libbey, Parsons, Wallis, Berry, Garland, Jenness and probably more not recorded. (See Color Me Included: The African Americans of Hampton’s First Church and its Descendant Parishes, 1670-1826 by Deborah Knowlton, 2016, for more details on Rye owners of enslaved people; RPL has a copy). More would have owned slaves if they could have afforded to because it was a widespread and generally accepted practice.  Because slave holding was common practice, many may have become numb to the idea of enslaving other human beings and they thought nothing about investing in businesses and institutions which benefited from slave labor and many did not see it was not a gross injustice. Slavery is as embedded in the fabric of our history.

Two enslaved people, Nimshi and Prince, were freed on the eve of the war by their owner Job Jenness and fought and died in that conflict. New Hampshire did not officially ban slavery until 1857 and by that time Rye and most other northern communities had ended this practice of human bondage, but it was a relative freedom as blacks in America suffered from wide spread discrimination and no rights. Could it be that some enslaved people in Rye were buried in unmarked graves in some of the over sixty identified farmstead graveyards in town?

After the Civil War, Reconstruction began in 1865 to support the newly freed people, (13th Amendment). But there was a fatal flaw in this amendment which allowed people to be arrested for no good reason. Especially in the south, this loophole resulted in many southern blacks ending up in the brutal convict lease system, slavery by another name. In 1866 the Ku Klux Klan was established and began its persecution and murder of southern blacks, in spite of   occupation by the US Army.  Under the 14th and 15th Amendments, blacks gained citizenship rights (voting, run for office, etc.), but the controversial election of 1876 ended Reconstruction and southern blacks were now at the mercy of the heinous southern segregation laws which started a century of racial terror. (These laws are generally referred to as “Jim Crow” laws, but that term is meaningless unless it is defined as the racial terror that it was.) It was “de jure segregation, by law, where as in the north, blacks suffered from wide spread discrimination and had few rights, de facto segregation in practice, not by law. What did people in Rye know about all of these actions? What did they read in the papers or learn by word of mouth and what did they think? 

In the early 20th century, one of the most racist periods in our nation’s history, Rye photographer Clarence Treffery captured images of Afro-Americans in Rye. RHS has a binder dedicated to these photos. Some are clearly performing musicians for hotel guests, especially the Farragut hotel. Others were employees of the hotels and are several photos at the Farragut Hotel of black men boxing, sitting on what appears to be their employee quarters, and one riding a bicycle who may have been the Farragut hotel chef. Others pictured may have been tourists as well as people doing domestic work. Valerie Cunningham, founder of the Black Heritage Trail in Portsmouth, reviewed the photos and her comments follow here.

1) Photo of man with ceremonial sash — the sash is from the Prince Hall Lodge of Masons. This person may be a member of the Octagonal Club in Portsmouth, an affiliate of the Prince Hall Lodge. Because the African-American population was not big enough to be considered a full lodge, the Portsmouth branch was formed as club.

2) Photos of Boxers (fighters) — Samuel Langford was a regionally/nationally well-known black boxer. In nearby Newington, a local black boxer, no relation, took his name and was known as K.O. (Knock Out!) Langford.  These photos may show K.O. — the elder could be Samuel? Valerie C. believed whoever they are, they were in the area for a boxing match.

3) Band photos — she believes these are traveling musicians hired to entertain guests. They could be either from Boston or a traveling band from one of the black colleges down south that toured the country to raise monies for the school.

4) Photos of individual men and women — there was a woman in Little Boar’s Head who ran a black-only boarding house. Perhaps some of these photos are of people who were staying at that boarding house and touring the coastline.

In the book, Oceanside History of Rye Beach and the Farragut by Tom Clarie, 2013, he documents Rye Beach history through historic newspaper articles, some of which may give clues to those pictured in these photos.  How were African Americans received in Rye at that time?

In the 1920s, the height of influence of the Ku Klux Klan nationally, they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and one of their members was the governor of Indiana. Soon thereafter their influence was diminished due to successful court actions against their criminal behavior.  In 1924 the Portsmouth Herald ran an ad inviting people to come to the Rye Town Hall to hear a national Klan speaker, Rev. A. O. Henry. In 1926 Rye was again in the paper reporting two Klan gatherings, on in a field in July at Wallis and Brackett roads where a cross was burned.      

By the mid- 1900s, especially, because of Pease Air Force Base (1956), there were some black officers and some of their families lived in Rye.

In 1979 Aldrich Mitchell, a black man, was elected to the Rye Select Board to serve along with Dave Patterson and Ralph Morang Jr.

In 2014 Black Heritage Trail founder Valerie Cunningham and executive director JerriAnne Bogus gave an excellent presentation at the Rye library on NH Black history, but it was very poorly attended.

In May 2015 a special reinterment ceremony was held at the new African Burying Gound in Portsmouth between Court and State streets. This was the culmination of a years- long effort after infrastructure workers found human remains in what had been the African American Graveyard starting in the 1700s. Many people from Rye attended this historic event and later the film at the Music Hall: “Shadows Fall North: The Overlooked History of Racism in Northern New England.” By 2023 The Black Heritage Trail had become a state-wide organization with headquarters at 222 Court Street, not far from the African Burying Ground, with some Rye residents numbered among their volunteers.

In facing up to all of our history we will learn that Black people are central in the nation’s story, having built so much of the nation’s infrastructure, both as enslaved people and as exploited laborers after the Civil War under the brutal convict leasing system in the south that was legalized by the racist state “Jim Crow” laws. The four million enslaved people in the US on the eve of the Civil War constituted by far the largest driver of the American economy and every white person in the country benefited from their labor.

We have made significant progress in race relations since the mid 1900s, but much work remains to be done.


There is an abundance of resource material (books, magazine articles, documentary films, etc.   which document all the positive contributions blacks have made to the US over time. It is a history of great courage, culture, economic development, and resilience.  I have a significant list of them which I will supply on request. This list also includes works that chronicle the history of slavery in America, the brutal post-Civil War “Jim Crow” segregation laws in the south and the de facto segregation in the north, as well as the progress made toward ending these practices through the Civil Rights movements of the 1900s and the status of current race relations in the US.


*Additional material below from Kimberly Tucker Langdon in PA – relating to slavery in Rye

This is the article I wrote for my Quaker Meeting’s February newsletter. I did not name the Marston’s in it – keep it simple but I have sent more detailed information to Mike Berry in the past and he helped me sort out the various William Seavey’s. If you are updating Rye history, I am hoping that Hampshire’s story can more fully be told. Amos Seavey became his enslaver when Amos’ elder brother included him in a deed shortly before William died and in it was disposing of all his property, real and personal. Hampshire had a very compelling reason to leave Rye and the number of possessions he took with him and where he went suggest that rather than running away, he traveled by water.

After reading about the 339 Manumissions and Beyond Project” in Friends Journal (which seeks to follow the lives of the 339 enslaved individuals whose freedom documents are in Swarthmore College’s archives) I decided to share my research about a formerly enslaved man, Hampshire, who lived in Rye,NH in the mid-1700’s,

During Covid I began sorting through my parents’ New England genealogical research, going online to try to verify and expand what they had. Although it was not among my mother’s notes, I recalled that she had told me about a married woman with a family surname who had given birth to a Mulatto child and given the baby away to save her marriage

Surprisingly it only took a little Googling to bring up a history blog with the story. Eunice Seavey was a July bride who gave birth in December 1753 and her husband, John Odiorne, knew by math alone that he could not be the father. He wanted out and filed for an annulment.

Eunice’s parents were deceased, and she had no means to support herself. As a child born to a free woman her child was free, but Eunice gave her to an older married couple on February 1, 1754. On December 24, 1755, Eunice put her “X” on a contract confirming the arrangement and binding Lucy Hampshire to this couple for a term of twenty-five years. Eunice married again on February 18, 1756 and had four more children before becoming a widow and having eight more with her third and final husband.

The married couple had Lucy baptized with their surname in September 1754, leaving nothing in the church records to explain why they had her and mystifying a present-day pastor who wrote a history of Black congregants. After that she disappears from any records, likely having died young as so many children did. Her original surname, however, was the one and only name of a young man enslaved since childhood by Eunice’s relative Amos Seavey.

Hampshire is one of the better documented enslaved individuals in seacoast New Hampshire because after he escaped Amos ran advertisements in a Boston newspaper beginning on April 4, 1756 which, although not naming him, described him in detail as well as what he took with him. He was reported to have been seen in Rhode Island at the time of the American Revolution, but no effort was made to seize him.

No historian seems to have made the connection between him fathering a child with Eunice; his inability to marry her due to his enslavement; her disposition of their child and remarriage, and his departure. The facts that there was no governmental punishment; the child was given his name and Amos ‘willingness to pay for his return suggest that this was consensual relationship. Unlike many slave ads, no injuries or physical marks were listed.

In records in Newport RI, I found the person I believe is Hampshire, who lived as “George Hampshire” and became a member of the Free African Union Society in 1789, one of the first Black benevolent associations. He would have been an anomaly in that organization however because unlike many of the members he had no personal connection to Africa, nor likely any desire to go there, and he did not remain a member for long. The ad placed by Amos Seavey described him as born in New England and “light-complected” suggesting that he may have had some White ancestry.

In the first U.S. census in 1790 George Hampshire is listed in Newport as the head of a three-person household but that census does not name household members. After his death one of those members is identified in his Will probated in September 1805. He appointed his wife “Jenny” to administer his estate.

Finally, there’s a Quaker in here. By 1810 Jenny had become incapacitated and Job Townsend petitioned the Court to handle her affairs. Job Townsend was a lesser-known member of the extended family of Quaker cabinetmakers. He did do work with the poor but whether this was done because of a personal relationship with George, whose enslaver was a woodworker, or as a civic responsibility is being explored by Newport historians. He was appointed as her guardian and presented a detailed accounting to the court following her death in 1812.

Jenny and George Hampshire are buried in a now-unmarked grave in “God’s Little Acre” in Newport, the largest and most intact colonial-era African American burial grounds in the country.

In confirming that Amos received Hampshire as a result of a deed what has surprised me is the dates:

Per his Deed to Amos, William (the clothier) received the land he’s conveying as a gift from his parents, William and Mary Seavey, dated September 10, 1744.Since he was conveying everything by a Deed rather than a Will, he had to personally appeal to acknowledge it. The witnesses signed that he did this on September 22, 1744.

That’s the date that’s listed as his death date although the document relied upon is not shown online. Another place has it September 24,1744 but there’s no documentation there either so it could just be the date he was buried. His father appears to have already lost two sons and that would leave Amos as his only male heir.

If his mother was Hannah Dudley, her death date is listed as September 20, 1744. but she’s also been listed as the wife of a Joseph Seavey so maybe there wasn’t quite so much sadness. Still, it surprises me that Amos married Mary Langdon barely a month later on October 25, 1744.

Was the property divided by the parents in contemplation of a marriage and if so, whose?


History of Anniversaries/Holiday Observances/Community Gatherings (Military, Political, Patriotic, Religious, Agricultural, Social)

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

From the beginning of settlement, people always recognized solemn occasions and celebrated joyous ones. This was true of native peoples with their big annual harvest gatherings on the beach with rituals, food, games etc. to give thanks to nature for its bounty.  We know that European settlers also had their own version of such gatherings to celebrate and give thanks. (“Thanksgiving” was not recognized as a national holiday until the 1860s.)

As colonial settlers in Sandy Beach built their community, more gatherings were added to the calendar, including that of house and barn raisings where everyone gathered to work on the raising. These were occasions for great feasting and revelry once the “roof tree” was attached to the top of the building frame, a symbol of thanks for nature’s bounty of trees. By 1726 when the parish of Rye was established, the town now had a Meeting House to gather for the annual Town Meeting to discuss and vote on issues facing the town.  The building was also used for festive occasions. The large piece of land in front of the church was also used for community events, especially for militia musters. The men would march up and down the “parade,” part of Washington Road today, and then it was time to feast and party in the town center with the great fest prepared by the women. All of this former “parade land” from the church steps outward, is still owned by the town. As early as the 1750s, there is evidence of annual agricultural fairs in town, the ancestor of the ones we still see in some New Hampshire towns today.

After the Revolutionary War and Rye becoming an independent town in 1785, it is assumed the town had some kind of annual July 4th event. We know that Rye people often traveled to Portsmouth for these celebrations too. By the 1820s, Rye citizens had fought and died in several wars and it is believed that those who both served and died in combat were recognized in some way on an annual basis. It is assumed these services of recognition would have been held in the church and also at the family farm burial plot over sixty of which are preserved today. At some point after a store was built in 1805 at the corner of Washington and Lang Roads, a 20’ x 30’ raised ceiling dance hall was added to the second floor. Here was Rye’s first social center where people could dance the minuet or maybe even something faster to a folk tune.

By 1873 when Rye opened its Town Hall in the former church, there was a new place to gather for every occasion. Aside from Town Meeting, every imaginable event was held here including live entertainment such as theater, music concerts, lectures and dances. By the early 1900s the word had gotten out to Portsmouth and special trolley cars would be scheduled for big events. By the 1920s, very rough, semi-pro basketball games were held in the auditorium, much to the delight of locals. In 1940 a Town Green was established by the cemetery for special events. By mid-century There were annual church fairs in the Town Hall and the Rye Players theatrical group entertained with a robust schedule of comedy and drama including the Pulitzer award winning play “Harvey” staged in 1953. Lawn Fetes were also common at the scho0ol, staged by the Parent Teachers Association.

Over the years, Rye continued to hold the annual events mentioned above. As to when parades began, they may have been a staple in town for years, but it is well documented that starting in 1975 or earlier, a huge 4th of July parade ending with speeches at the Town Green and followed by all day events was established practice. By 1980 the food and fun events part of the all- day celebration of the nation and the town was held in the newly town owned Parson Field and was the largest community gathering of the year.  it continued well into the 1990s and then ended, probably due to lack of volunteers.  Also, during the late 1900s Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, was commemorated with a large parade from the school to the Town Green followed by speeches and other rituals. The RJH band as well as the nationally famous PHS band always participated, but by the turn of the century that event had ended as well and the town was bereft of two very important gatherings.

The last gathering in the Town Hall auditorium occurred in 1985 when the historical society sponsored “Rye history Days,” a two-day event of exhibits and other activities to celebrate the town’s Bicentennial. In 1986 the town began to partition off the auditorium for office space, but now that the Town Hall Annex has opened, the process of restoring the auditorium can begin

During the 1990s RJH principal George Cushing established a very successful program called “Our Town,” in which small groups of students would work with a town mentor once a week for the year on a Rye topic of their choosing and then present their research at the end of the year in a big community celebration at the school. For a time, this event expanded to include activities in Parsons Field, but ended due to lack of volunteers early in this century.

Town meeting ended in 1999 when Rye transitioned to the SB format where a Deliberative Session in early February set the wording for the final warrant articles to be voted on in March election. This increased the number of voters four- fold   but most of them had not been educated about each item they would vote on because less than 150 attended the Deliberative Session.

Before 2002, the Rye Veteran of Foreign Wars chapter and the Fire Department began hosting an annual Holiday parade the first Sunday in December from Websters at Rye to the Junior high school. The VFW provided financial support each year for parade expenses, but it merged with the Portsmouth VFW post in 2012 and Rye Rec took up the slack. This parade continues to this day with the added event of a short speech by the parade Grand Marshal followed by the tree lighting in Parsons Field.  

Prior to 2001 three VFW members gave a speech at the War Monument with no attendees. They also helped place the flags on the graves in the cemetery. To revive the Rye Memorial Day commemoration, in 2001 Rye veteran Jim Cullen organized a meeting of Girl and Boy Scout leaders, Fire and Police, VFW and Rye Rec.  After the September 11th attacks there was no problem generating interest. On May, 27, 2002 the town revived its Memorial Day with a parade and ceremony which included the honoring of police and fire as well as veterans.  

The effort was a nice blend of the Town, organizations and citizenry.   Lee Arthur of Rye Rec was especially helpful in using its Patriotic fund pau for the pipers, flags for the cemetery, and organize the essay and poster prizes and print the programs. Currently Rye veterans place the and war monument flags from Memorial Day to September 12.      

At some point in this century RJH social studies teacher Ron Fortier and librarian Mary Coombs organized a great WWII program at the school. Students researched WWII topics and learned about Rye’s role in the war. They borrowed items from the museum and created a WWII museum int eh school library. They made contact with and interviewed Rye’s WWII veterans. The culmination of the program was a USO show in the school gym complete with speeches by the invited veterans, students dressed in 1940s style and a big dance. The program ran for several years until the two staff members left the school.

In 2019 the first annual Goss Farm Harvest Fair happened in September which attracted hundreds of people, a huge success. This was an opportunity for people to see the restored barn, a display on the history of the farm, the many gardens and booths set up by Rye organizations. The heritage of Rye’s rich agricultu7ral history was on full display.

In 2021 another successful Goss Farm Fall fair was held

During 2022 there was great planning by the new Rye400 committee, part of RHS, for many events during the 400th anniversary year of Rye’s founding by European settlers in 1623. All agreed that these many events during 2023 brought people together for a great diversity of cultural and historical events. The committee is to be congratulated for its fine work and its legacy will endure.

On August 19, 2023, as part of Rye 400 festivities, a full day of activities took place in Parsons Field called “Rye Day.” Two members of the local Penacook tribe of native peoples opened the day with stories, drumming and chanting and it was acknowledged that Parsons Field was originally part of native land for thousands of years. 25 vendors included many town groups and artists. There were also  food trucks, live music, and games. The fine community spirit was reminiscent of the July 4th “Rye Days” from the 1970s to the 1990s. There was a great consensus among those attending that Rye could make this an annual August event as so many towns do to celebrate their town.

History of Archaeology in Rye and the Seacoast

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

The roots of modern archaeology trace back to the incredible excavation of Pompeii in the 1700s and 1800s. Pompeii was a wealthy Roman city near Naples, Italy, which was covered with up to twenty feet of volcanic ash in 79 CE (Common Era). Another great excavation was done by Heindrich Schlieman at Troy on the west coast of Asia Minor (Turkey) in the 1800s. In the 1900s, one of the great finds was made by Howard Carter in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings where in 1922 he found the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Another highlight was the discovery of human remains in Tanzania by Louis & Mary Leakey, which pushed back the age of known human ancestors to nearly two million years ago.

Archaeology has had a profound influence on revisions to the historical record. Their dating of both urban empires and other areas all over the world and here in the US has drastically changed the view of the past and pushed that historical record much further back in time. In North America, two of the earliest archaeological discoveries that expanded the existing historical narrative were both in New Mexico. In 1908, George McJunkin, a formerly enslaved cowboy, identified the Folsom site, which contained projectile points dating from 13,000 to 12,000 years before the present. In 1929, Ridgely Whiteman discovered what are now known as Clovis points (named for the nearby town), which pushed human history even further to 13,400 years ago. Both of these tool styles have since been found in much of North America.

Two well- known sites in the American southwest where ruins have revealed highly developed habitation by indigenous peoples are found at the Anasazi (Ancient Ones or Ancestral Puebloans) ruins at Mesa Verde National Park in south west Colorado and the Chaco Canyon History Park in northwest New Mexico. Significant archaeological work has been done with sites of the Aztecs in Mexico, the Mayans in Central America and the Incas in Peru. In all cases archaeologists in each of those regions have worked with international archaeologists to raise awareness and enlightenment about the greatness of these Indian civilizations of the Western Hemisphere.

Wentworth Cheswill of nearby Newmarket is considered the godfather of New Hampshire archaeology and may be one of the first in the entire United States. In addition to his late 18th century digs, he is also the first known person of African descent to be elected to public office in the United States. Thomas Jefferson, the second president of the United States, excavated Indigenous burial mounds in Virginia around the same time.

One of the most significant digs that reveals the story of Native peoples was within the Seabrook-Hamptons Estuary in advance of the construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. In 1973-1975, Charles Bolian of the University of New Hampshire led intensive excavations off of Rocks Road which revealed periodic occupation from the Late Archaic Period into the 1600s. This site revealed many shell-filled pits, human burials, metal items, and many different projectile points and pottery styles dating back 5,000 years. At a nearby intertidal site, another team, led by Brian Robinson of the University of Maine, worked during low tide, uncovering many stone and bone tools, seeds, and wooden posts. This area was occupied until rising sea levels submerged it around 3,400 years ago. Some of the identified animal bones belonged to the great auk (Pinguinus impennis), which went extinct in the mid-1800s.

In addition, the nearby Edgerly Farm and Hunt’s Island sites are of the same caliber of significance. Three of these sites had organic materials preserved by the salt marsh, which is rare in northern New England. For details on these and other sites in NH, see: The Archaeology of New Hampshire: Exploring 10,000 Years in the Granite State by David Starbuck (2006).

Another important archaeological discovery is that of African Americans buried in Portsmouth. In 2003, construction workers stumbled upon hexagonal coffins beneath Chesnut Street.  Documentary evidence, as well as cultural materials recovered and subsequent scientific analysis, indicated that this burial ground was for colonial-era African-Americans, both free and enslaved. In a special ceremony in May of 2015, all eight individuals that had been exhumed from the dig were reinterred on site which is now a memorial park. The African Burying Ground has enhanced our understanding of the hidden history of slavery and the struggles of African Americans in New Hampshire that had either been forgotten or oversimplified by the 21st century. (See the documentary film: “Shadows Fall North” 2016)

The Seabrook-Hamptons estuary sites reveal what archaeology might well find if more such digs were done in Rye and the seacoast. There is much about Indigenous life yet to be uncovered, but the archaeologists of today are limited to state- or federally-funded “ground-breaking” projects (such as highway construction or utility improvements), as well as privately-funded endeavors.

There is also much to learn about the 400 years of settlement by Europeans in the seacoast. There was one state of NH sponsored dig at Odiorne Point State Park in the 1980s seeking clues to the first structures built there by David Thomson in 1623. That site was probably destroyed by the excavation for gravel in building Ocean Blvd in 1902-04, but some information was gleaned about Odiorne farmhouses in the 1600s. There may well have been more digs in Rye, both professional and amateur which further research will reveal. Please notify me if you know of any.

Archaeologists cannot work unless they are invited and permission is granted. Sometimes these digs are funded by public and private grants, often times by universities. Today there are professional archaeological services such as the one who excavated the remains of the African Americans in Portsmouth early in this century off Court St. The remains were then re-buried at a new African Burying Ground where they were found in a special ceremony in May 2015.

Parcels owned by the Town of Rye and the State of NH, as well as privately-owned property are all potential sites for archaeologists to work, but town government and land owners have to take the initiative to make that happen. In addition, historic institutions can sponsor archaeologists to educate the public about what is both known from past excavations and the possibility of future discoveries beneath our feet.

Finally, there are metal detectorists, some of whom are serious amateur archaeologists. Brian Mc Dermott of Newmarket has found some very interesting material from colonial times on my Lang Road land, including a small sundial, c. 1721. Instead of big digs deep beneath the surface, they often find very historic material just below ground level.

History of Atlantic and Farragut hotels

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

                            A True Fish Story: The One That Didn’t Get Away

                          The Birth of Rye’s Golden Age as a Victorian Resort       

In the 1830’s Ephraim Philbrick and his family, including son John, had a farm near the end of Central Rd (1729) on the right side not far from the ocean. (Many farmers also fished and used seaweed for fertilizer).

Today there are two cottages at Bass Beach on the Rye/No Hampton line, one called “Rye on the Rocks.” Originally those were fish shacks from the early 1800’s and people used to ride or walk down Central to these shacks, passing the Philbrick farm, and buy fish directly from the fishermen there. On their way back they would sometimes stop and chat with the Philbrick’s and sometimes they would be invited in for a fish fry and have a grand old time and apparently it got to be a late hour and they may have gotten into the cider, and some stayed overnight. 

By the 1840’s the railroad had come to the seacoast and these party/overnight gatherings at the Philbrick’s had become a regular thing and one night at dinner John said to his father: “We should get the oxen to haul our house across the road and put a third floor on it and open a small hotel!” They did just that in 1846 when they opened the Atlantic House, Rye’s first hotel, thus ushering in the town’s great Victorian Resort Era that lasted until the 1970’s. (Eight hotels and over 30 boarding houses in late 1800’s). John Colby Philbrick went on to build the first Farragut Hotel in front of the Atlantic House in 1864, which burned in 1882. It was replaced by the grand dame 2nd Farragut that was torn down in 1975, along with the Atlantic House, which had become a dorm for the Farragut help and gift shop on first floor. For almost a century, the Farragut had become the great live entertainment center of the seacoast. What a loss to the town and to the tourists.  The Farragut Playhouse, scene of gambling, church services, dancing, parties and films, was moved onto Church Road and became a private home. The town museum has several artifacts and many photos from the Farragut hotel.

The moral of the story: Be friendly to passers-by and you never know how big a fish you will catch.

History of Baseball

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

“Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd, buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks,

 I don’t care if I ever get back, So its root, root, root for the home team,

If they don’t win it’s a shame, cause its 1, 2 3 strikes and you’re out, at the old ball game.”

Baseball, more than any other sport or pastime, is a deep part of American history and culture as so well illustrated in Ken Burns monumental documentary “Baseball” from the 1990s. It also mirrors American racial history in very public ways. (i.e. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and what he suffered in that cause.

In the 1800s  – a traditional ” 300’ round style  “was played which some groups have rived  and still play today. There were pro teams in Boston by late 1860s such as the Boston Braves, one of the early National League teams. It is likely that Rye residents journeyed to the city to watch them play. The American League emerged in 1901 with the Boston Red Sox and other teams

There are historic photos of Rye baseball teams from the early 1900s on
RHS web site. Rye entrepreneur Charlie Speare had a town baseball team

In the late 1800s and early 1900s there were exciting games played in front of the Farragut Hotel by teams made up of Farragut guests, a town team, neighboring town teams and even a team from a ship being worked on at the Navy Yard. The batter faced the ocean and many home rums ended up in the Atlantic with scores of 33 to 25 and over a thousand cheering them on a band playing on the hotel porch

Babe Ruth visited Haddon Hooper at farm in Rye c. 1918/19 after they met at Fenway and Haddon behind Sox dugout had handed Babe a flask of his hard cider and Babe said – I want more!

Rye school teams – when did they begin? 20’s?  town museum has photos of school teams over the years incl 1930s and maybe some pics from 20s

Little League – when begin? post war?

     Don Chick memories Little League

Coach Leavitt coached the Cardinals, Don’s team; Don was short so he walked a lot and maybe only got 10 hits in 4 years but one was a good one; they had a lot of fun, great camraderie from age 8-12 starting in 1953; Other players on his team – Greg Beal, Pete Maines, Mike Webber was the best – hit and pitch; 12 players on a team; kids who were good enough played on jr high and high school teams and at age 13 played Babe Ruth league in summer so had two seasons of baseball

Little League field was at RES in back, complete with dug outs starting in 1956 when school opened? Before that played at Rye School in center? At some point after 1960s, field moved to new Rec area

Pick- up games and playing “500” at RJH field; baseball field there started out with Homeplate and back stop close to Wash Rd., but later switched to up in back corner of field because of too many foul balls hitting cars.

Rye Little league won NH state championship in 20??

Ask LL folks today for a history

Rye folks Fenway memories

History of Carberry’s, Philbrick’s, Common Roots Beach Store and Soda Fountain

A Centennial History

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, March 2023

Sometime in the 1920s, so the story goes, Honest John Carberry (according to his relatives, he wasn’t!) came from Hampton or moved his business from Hampton and opened it on Ocean Boulevard in Rye, between Perkins and Cable Roads. (Today this building is the home of Common Roots, 2203 Ocean Blvd, but it is not known when the building was constructed.) We would like to think that the soda fountain was part of the store, along with beach sundries and light groceries, but of course no beer or wine during Prohibition, at least not for sale in plain sight, but readily available in many not -so -secret places in town. Rye had become a dry town in 1899, but in many ways, it was still very wet.

 The 1920s was the first full decade of regular automobile traffic and it was heavy in the Roaring Twenties with easy credit to buy a car, the Pagoda Dance Hall/Snack Bar (1919) nearby and the pristine crescent beach luring tourists and locals alike. In 1923 a barnstormer landed his biplane on the beach and might well have ambled over to Carberry’s for lunch. In fact, he might well have walked through the public access walkway that seems to have always been in front of Carberry’s. The store must have done a land office business, as did Swenson’s Restaurant just to the south (Carriage House today) and other beach businesses popping up all along the boulevard which had been completed in 1904.

The Pagoda Dance Hall, built my Margaret Whittaker Philbrick and managed by her son Phil, deserves special mention. One of many faithful groups who flocked there were the thespians from the Farragut Hotel Playhouse who raced up the boulevard after their theater went dark and danced up a storm into the wee hours, in between lingering and romantic breaks on Rye’s cool silver sands. Imagine what a mecca this place was for everyone in the seacoast with the live “Jazz Age” music that sent the world into a frenzy of Epicurean delight – “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die.” Indeed, prophetic.

In the 1930s competition emerged just to the south in the form of the Sandpiper store and soda fountain on the corner of Perkins Road (summer Sessions today). This one-story mecca soon gave its name to the town beach just across the boulevard. Beach goers soon filled the floor with sand and cooled off, as they did at Carberry’s, with an ice cream soda while twirling on the stools at the U-shaped fountain. Long before the stores were established, there was the Surf House and the Gray Gull, just north of Carberry’s, provided cabins and rooms for the season. By the 1940s Carberry’s was now run by son John and the Sandpiper had two stories and the Pagoda had a juke box and record player with all the musicians gone off to war. Patrick Carberry, Rye, grandson of Honest John, would have more info on Carberry’s Store. Many local kids loved to hang out at Carberry’s and her is David Mahar’s memory of his favorite place. “

“I was in a little gang of three called the Junior Burglars of America that used to break into summer homes but we only took empty bottles to get the 2 -cent refund at Carberry’s store where we bought penny candy from their extensive stock. Mrs. Carberry tolerated us hanging out and reading comic books because it was the off season.”

 The pagoda closed in 1949 and in 1954 Herb Philbrick had bought Carberry’s. He had been a double US/Soviet agent and written a book entitled: I Led Three Lives. Herb Philbrick’s Store had a new sign and some interior upgrades, but carried on the beach store tradition and as a great hang-out for locals, especially kids.   I practically lived at Philbrick’s in the late 50s because the mother of my best friend worked the soda fountain and we got free eats and drinks. The store, just like all the Mom and Pop stores in town, had everything and if they didn’t have it, they would get it. People poured in off the beach, bringing the sand with them; the place was so full of life and fun.

By the mid-1900s this store had become one of at least a half dozen in town. By the mid -60s it was still Philbrick’s store but Otis Hadley owned and ran it and his son Guy is here in the summer and can provide much information. At some point after the 60s it became Farley’s store and maybe another name? In the late 1900s there was a regular restaurant in the building just to the north of the store, but it did not last long and building is now gone. I am unsure of the history up until Robin Wehbe bought the main and adjoining building.  Rye General store run by Dennis and Mark then opened in the new century.  And then came the fine quality Common Roots and it is time for a Centennial party celebrating a business at this site at this iconic site on the Boulevard since the 1920s

History of Churches

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

I am working with the Rye Congregational Church to write an updated history of the churches of Rye. In the meantime, consult these excellent sources:

History of Rye NH, Langdon Parsons, 1905 – whole chapter on Churches

Churches of Rye NH, John Parsons, 1959, small but informative booklet

                        Brief overview of major church buildings

1st Cong Church – 1726

2md Cong Church – 1756

3rd Cong Church – 1837

4th Cong Church – 1961

1st Christian Church – 1839, burned c. 1889; located where fire station parking lot is

2nd Christian Church – c1892, dismantled and moved from town in 1947

Methodist Episcopal church – 1839; sold to Rye and converted to a town hall in 1873

St Andrews chapel, Church Rd., 1876, summer only

St Theresas Catholic church, 1947, Central Rd. Rye Beach

Note – there were various much smaller church buildings around town but they are long gone.

 History of Citizens Petition to Renovate Town Hall 1975

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023 adapted from 1975, Hampton Union article

2019 was not the only year that the Rye Town Hall was threatened with demolition. In 1975 the building was very underused, suffered from deferred maintenance and there was talk of building a new town hall. One section of the first Amendment to the US Constitution gives citizens the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances which also means for citizens to take action when they feel that government is not acting on an issue. Before 1975 the only modernized section of the first floor of Town Hall was the court room. To create needed office space, Marjorie Gifford, Donald J Cilley, Pat Holmes and Gilbert Rimbaud presented their plan at town meeting to support their petitioned warrant article.

The warrant article was approved by the voters to have $28,000 of 1974 federal “revenue sharing” funds, plus another $10,000 already set aside in 1975, to be spent on building space for the tax collector/town clerk, building inspector, selectmen and a new kitchen area. Some of the subcontracting services were donated by local professionals.

Prior to that time the town clerk worked from home and the other employees and officials used a small room in the back of the fire station. This citizen action resulted in the office space you see in town hall today. In addition, new stair treads were added, the 2nd floor auditorium was painted and the parking lot was expanded. When the work was completed later in the year, 250 towns people gathered for a reception to admire their new space. All of this information was reported in the Hampton Union by Rye reporter/photographer Ralph Morang III. who in 1976 would become one of the founding members of the Rye Historical Society. 

This is a great example of citizens, the legislative branch of town government, taking the democratic initiative and upgrading a space that benefited everyone. Their action gave the town hall new life and provided a bridge to the additional renovations we will see in the near future including the restoration of the lovely 200+ seat auditorium for town government and community use.

History of Coastal Rye Tour – South to North

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Ocean Blvd – built 1902-04; prior to that – series of paths and roads along coast but not connected – served those at end of Rye’s many roads that ended at ocean.

Little Boars Head mansions sprung up in late 1800’s– a national historic district today; when state constructed Ocean Blvd . they took, by eminent domain, the land in front of the mansions so the drive would hug the spectacular coastline along NH’s palisades; the irony is that if the mansions had been built right on the edge of the coast, the boulevard would have gone in back of them but they wanted the big front lawns

Fish shacks at Bass beach in 1840’s helped start the hotel industry because so many were trekking to the beach to get fish and had nowhere to stay;  then people started to  come to Rye Beach with the RR in 1840’s and that’s why we ended up with 8 hotels – demand! (the first Atlantic house 1846 was near where the Farragut was built)

Farragut hotel (2nd with that name) 1883 – 1975 – it lasted the longest of Rye hotels. (site in large open space at end of Central Rd with white fence and flag pole in middle)

Rye Ledge, north of Bass Beach – accessible to walk out on at low tide but watch out for incoming tide

Historic St Andrews 1876 chapel is opposite Rye Ledge and is worth seeing on  Church Rd.  (Tiffany window)

Locke’s Bathing pavilion, 1899, and later Beach Club, 1924; just to north-

Sawyer’s bath houses, razed 2012

Remaining buildings that were hotels – Drake house – opposite beach club – 1873, converted to apartments in 60’s; Oceanic House on Star Island – 1876 to early 1900’s then converted form hotel to conference center; Rye Beach Inn 1913-1930 (private home today; first on left going up Sea Rd.

Eel Pond opposite Sawyers Beach near beach club – receives fresh water streams, haven for swans, and migrating birds; released into ocean via culvert at Sawyers beach

Eel Pond Freddie sold lily pads to tourists in 50’s – .5 white, .10 pink

Sandpiper town beach replaced by Jenness State Beach in 1962 

Summer Sessions surf shop used to be Sandpiper beach snack and soda fountain in mid 20th c.; before the war it was one story

Common Roots café/store – at end of beach access walk – started as Carberry’s in 1920’s, the Philbrick’s in mid 1900s

Pagoda Dance Hall 1919-1949 end of Cable Rd.– popular spot for many; WWII coast watchers loved it; BYOB; live music up to war – then juke box; razed  for private home early 21st c.

Old Beach Rd just north of Cable; original boulevard; at end of last beach access road on left is first life -saving building; NH built Rt !A  by pass in 60’s saving Old Beach Rd residents from all that heavy tourist traffic

Sunken forest exposed by rare strong southeast storms at north end of Jenness beach in 2010, 2013 at high tide mark – google “sunken forest, Rye NH”

coast line changed over time with different glaciers; we are currently in 4th inter-glacial age – last one started melting about 15,000 yrs ago

early and mid -20th c sightings of forest at low tide mark in mid of Jenness beach

First successful trans-Atlantic cable from north Ireland via Nova Scotia to Rye landed in 1874 and lasted until 1922; see Cable House office on Old beach Rd.; message took ten seconds instead of 12 days by ship

Locke’s Neck named after Locke family settlers in mid 1600’s; John Locke killed by Indians in 1696 after he started hostilities with them;

 Straws Point housing community started in mid 1800’s by well to do  from Manchester NH

Rye harbor area – two of Rye’s salt marshes totaling 300 acres – beginning of eco system food chain; protect coast from ocean storms

Rye harbor granite jetties built 1939; NH state pier and dredging 1962; used as harbor for commerce since 1700’s – hand dredged in 1792

Ragged Neck – just north of harbor – NH built Rye harbor State Park there in 1960s

Foss Beach/ Rye harbor area first European settlement in 1620’s; explorer Champlain saw over 200 natives living there in 1608 (Piscataqua tribe of Pennacook Confed.)

this was a natural and protected area to settle; fishing abundant in 1600’s; wade into surf and catch them by hand…and then we over-fished..

Between Washington Rd and Parsons Pt – some of finest Victorian architecture in town

Parsons Creek and Point – Shipwreck of schooner Lizzie Carr in 1905 on north side of Concord Pt housing community; part was excavated in 2002 and placed on view in Seacoast sci center; there is also a submerged barge that sometimes appears

Pirates Cove and beach – named after the iconic Pirates Cove Restaurant and Peg leg Lounge 1956 – 2000

Wallis Sands saltmarsh behind Petey’s restaurant – 160 acres

Wallis sands state beach opened in 1964 replacing several businesses along the shore

Pulpit Rock Tower north of Wallis Sands was part of WWII coastal protection to watch for enemy ships and planes and coordinate with big guns at Ft Dearborn (Od St Pk)

Odiorne Point, on mouth of Piscataqua River, settled for thousands of years by natives; and by first permanent European settlement –  David Thomson, family and ten men in 1623 (Rye is oldest town in NH) 

Odiorne family settled there in mid 1600’s – then called Rendezvous point and later changed to Odiorne after the Rev. War

mid 1800’s the wealth bought out farmers and began to build summer homes and a hotel; (Sagamore Hotel lasted 3 years and burned 1871)

1941 – military took over land and razed most of houses and built Ft Dearborn with huge guns to protect Portsmouth harbor and navy yard. Not only summer houses were razed but some historic houses from 1800s including Foye farm and tavern

1945 – 1992 – a long struggle to decide use of the land

1961 – Odiorne Pt State park estab. and saved the land for public use (orig. owners blocked from retrieving their land) and the non- profit Seacoast science center opened in the park in 1992

Be sure to visit Founders Monument and history plaque along river walk up the Piscataqua  river from SSC

Another must do walk – cross blvd at end of road from Founders mon. and walk on trail bet. farmhouse and barn to historic Odiorne graveyard where there are also unmarked Indian graves; then continue on trail overlook of 400 acre Fairhill salt marsh and staddle that depicts where they stacked salt marsh hay which was commonly harvested well into 20th c. using special bog shoes for horses and gundalows to take it away to farms

Ffrost Pt – at entrance to Little harbor facing New Castle

Sanders Pt – where bridge goes from Rye to NC – claimed to be first settled in 1622 by that family

This is site of a lovely pocket beach on Little harbor that faces New Castle and the Wentworth Hotel

History of Dating Old Houses in Rye

by the Rye Advocates (RA) for Historic Preservation an ad hoc group of interested Rye residents

The R A was established in 2020 to carry on the old house documentation of the Rye Historical Society (RHS). It is an ad hoc group which includes members from Rye Historical Society as well as the Heritage and Historic District Commissions, the Demolition Review Committee and others. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the importance of historic houses in Rye and to support their protection and preservation through research, documentation and workshops.

Stage I of RA’s work deals with the 317 houses built before c. 1905 which RA has digitized for public access. These houses range in age from 1690 to early 1900s, with over thirty dating before 1800.  The 317 houses represent most of the distinct architectural styles found in the US today.

Stage II will deal with the over 800 houses built between c.1905 and c.1950. Since 1950 there have been over 2000 houses built in Rye. RA recognizes that there are also distinctive architectural styles to be found in that group. 

There needs to be multiple written sources that confirm an approximate year built of the house (AYB) or an exact date. Otherwise, one should look with skepticism on any date because previous owners claimed it with little or no evidence. If a buyer is handed an AYB date that is within a half century range, that is reasonable. The town had a building inspector for one year in 1942 when 25 building permits were issued, but then planning was abandoned and there was no building inspector until the late 1960s.  

          For owners of older houses in Rye, here are multiple resources at your disposal.

          (note #14 at bottom!)

      1.RA “dating your house” workshops – for home owners in the summer and fall of 2022 and more are planned. 

  1. Historic town maps – 1805, 1851, 1857, 1892, 1900; house owners names are listed and it gives the AYB within a few decades.
  2. Deed research – deals with land sales, but also shows buildings on that property when land is transferred.
  3. Architectural style – this can determine a historical time period of construction and later additions and changes. For example, Greek Revival, such as an 1839 church, converted to the Town Hall in 1873. The style is a 2 1/2 story building with the gable end facing the road and columns on the sides, common in mid-1800s.
  4. Architectural historian – Hiring an architectural historian to view details of house exterior and interior to further pinpoint date; i.e. – window size; spacing bet. first and 2nd floor; spacing between 2nd floor and roof line; trim; doors; chimney size and placement, etc. An interior assessment reveals much more, esp. in attic to see roof framing, etc.  RHS had input and a presentation by such a professional in the past. RA needs to connect with another one such as Richard Candee of Portsmouth Historical Society whose 1992 book “Building Portsmouth” provides detailed histories on all Portsmouth’s old houses.
  5. Hiring a professional house researcher – such as someone from “Historic New England,” owner and manager of some of NE’s most distinctive older houses. RHS knows of one such Hist NE person who did research on an old Rye house for RHS under a grant in 2017.
  6. State agencies such as the NH Dept of Historic Resources
  7. Rye Tax Assessors AYB – these dates are often handed down from previous owners with no evidence, or they are “guesstimates” by the town based on style. When the town shows “AYB’s,“ one will find sometimes up to 70 houses listed as “1900,” meaning that the owners or the town were guessing based on architectural style, so they just rounded the AYB off to an approximate date.
  8. Genealogical records – marriage dates often indicate when a house might have been built
  9. Town records in Museum – researching tax, probate and other records may help with house research.
  10. Town Museum bound house histories – the Museum has seven of them; some by professionals and others by owners.
  11. New York Times article about dating old houses – Sun. Sept 19, 2021, p. 16 under “Real Estate.” The article references much of the above means of research, but the focus is on the science of dendrochronology (tree rings in large beams) to determine AYB. Some dates have been changed as much as a half century forward in time.
  12. Four 3-rigng binders in the town museum containing all the pre-1901 house histories.
  13. The material in #13 above will be digitized on a map of Rye and available on a downloadable app in 2023.

The Rye Advocates will do what it can to assist you in determining the history of your house by pointing you to the above resources and others.

For questions, and if you are willing to join the group because we need more volunteers, contact RA member Alex Herlihy at – [email protected] or call 603 997 6742 

History of David Thomson, 1623

By Hunter Stetz | History Naturalist, Seacoast Science Center

While we acknowledge the lengthy Indigenous presence at what is now Odiorne Point State Park, it is David Thomson’s arrival in 1623 that frames the 400 years of European settlement that is being commemorated this year. Narratives encompassing the first half of the 1600s are oft rife with romanticization and embellishment. We must be mindful to parse out the facts from the stories that fill gaps in records while also generally oversimplifying events and their context. Interactions between Europeans and Indigenous peoples around what is now the New Hampshire Seacoast region predates Thomson’s settlement by roughly a century, but explorers and fishermen are not known to have erected any permanent dwellings before 1623.

David Thomson (sometimes spelled Thompson) was born to Scottish parents near London, England, in 1592. He lived in Plymouth, England before coming to the New World. His settlement efforts were backed by three prominent merchants affiliated with the investment company, Council for New England. The company endeavored to establish commerce footholds in coastal areas along the modern-day northeastern United States. The primary condition of Thomson’s efforts was that he and his crew must operate a profitable fishing and trading enterprise for five years, at which point they would receive 6,000 acres of land and an island of Thomson’s choice.

The average American is very familiar with Plymouth Colony’s establishment in 1620, but there were also a few other short-lived European settlements prior to this date elsewhere in the Gulf of Maine, such as Popham Colony and St. Croix in what is now Maine and Wessagusset Colony in what is now Massachusetts. Plymouth Colony ended up being the only permanent settlement prior to 1623 that persisted for more than a few years.

Arriving in the spring of 1623,Thomson was joined by his wife, Amais, son, John, and 7-10 indentured employees. He quickly erected a fortified trading outpost, a house, and fish drying stations. This compound was known as “Pannaway Plantation” or “Pannaway Manor.” While Pannaway may derive from the Abenaki language, thorough research suggests that the settler-colonists picked the name themselves, as opposed to being a name Indigenous locals used to describe the location.

1634 hand drawn map by William Wood, cropped. The red circle indicates the location of current day Seacoast Science Center.

David Thomson’s fishing operation wasn’t exceptionally lucrative. He disclosed his doubts that England’s various colonization efforts were on track for success. He relocated to thne Boston area around 1626, settling on an island that still bears his name (Thompson Island). He died by 1628 under circumstances that have been lost to time.

Thompson’s abandonment of Pannaway means that uninterrupted, permanent European occupation within New Hampshire’s current boundaries did not begin until ca. 1628-1630, when the Edward and William Hilton settled in what is now Dover. Records indicate that Pannaway was periodically re-occupied over the subsequent decades by various fishermen, but the lack of permanent occupants meant that the buildings likely fell into disrepair. The exact whereabouts of Thomson’s buildings have not been identified. A few primary and secondary source documents provide clues as to its location, but none have been confirmed or denied. There is a good chance that later uses of the land have long since destroyed any archaeological record of his buildings.

To learn more, stay tuned for J. Dennis Robinson’s upcoming book David Thomson, 1623: The Forgotten Arrival and Sudden Disappearance of NH’s Founding Family.

History of the Drake House Hotel

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

(Based on notes from Frank Drake’s 2022 talk for trolley tour and previous info he has provided)

Frank Drake is the fourth generation to own and manage Drake House. His great, great grandfather was Joseph Drake 1816-1897, who lived at the Drake Farm on Fern Avenue which, when it burned in the 1930s, was the only house on that road. His son was Abram Jenness Drake, married to Emma Philbrick, bought the land for the hotel in 1872.  (The house directly in front of the hotel was already there, built in the 1850s.) In 1873 he built and opened the original Drake House hotel which had twelve rooms and shaped like a cube. To the left was a barn for horses on first level and carriages on top. In 1885 the Drakes tripled the size of the hotel to forty rooms and added an awning on the front porch to protect against the morning sun. At some point the barn doubled in length and was used for storage and some of the help lived there.  (Where was the privy when did indoor plumbing happen at Drake house?)

(Frank Drake donated the hotel guest registers to the town museum about 2014. In the first pages of the early 1900s register is a delightful collection of songs, ditties and drawings written by various hotel employees, members of the Drake family and hotel guests.  Guests came from all over the US and abroad.)

The front door and lobby today are unchanged but there was no wall on the left at the bottom of stairs because that was the location of the hotel registry with a big roll top desk.  The large portrait of Sir Francis Drake hanging in the lobby was appropriated by the Drake family from the Stoneleigh Manor hotel when it closed in the 1920s.) Beyond the lobby in back was the kitchen with a wood stove for cooking and a pump to draw water from the well. Adjacent to the kitchen was the dining room. Down the hall in front was a big parlor with easy chairs for socializing and games. The last parlor was a library reading room. 

In the late 1880’s a hotel guest from Austria made a wonderful sketch from his third -floor room looking north at a very different landscape than we see today. it hangs in the Drake House lobby.

In 1899 Rye was experiencing many problems with alcohol abuse so the town institute a prohibition law, making it illegal to sell alcohol in town. That law is what started the BYOB (bring your own booze0 practice in town in hotels and other public places. The town remained “dry” well after national prohibition ended in 1933, but it was not illegal to consume alcohol purchased beyond Rye. At the height of its time as a famous Victorian beach resort, Rye had eight hotels, including the famous Farragut just south of Drake House, and forty boarding houses. Because of the BYOB policy, it is assumed that many of these accommodations were not considered “dry.”

In the early 1900s the hotel was owned and managed by Abram Drake. Guests could bathe at the pocket Philbrick’s beach directly in front of the hotel or Sawyer’s Beach just to the north. In 1899 Locke’s Bathing Pavilion with its salt water pool opened on the beach in front of the hotel providing another amenity for guests. By 1904 Ocean Boulevard was complete and early automobiles are pictured at the hotel and driving by it. In 1913 The Rye Beach Inn was built just north of the Drake House, blocking its view, but in 1930 the inn became a private house and was moved slightly inland.

In 1924 Lockie’s bathing pavilion became the Rye Beach Club, its location another hotel amenity. The hotel had a huge vegetable garden in back to serve the guests, many of whom were regulars every summer and some stayed the season, June through Labor Day. By the mid -1900s Phil Drake was in charge and the hotel dining room featured the American Plan with breakfast from 9-10, lunch from 1-2 and dinner from 7-8, featuring different entrees such as baked haddock, prime rib and roast chicken.

The staff consisted of a chef, pastry cook, dishwashers, waitresses, chambermaids and an office boy. By the 1920s, Abbott and Charlotte Drake owned and ran the hotel.

Rye people were often employed with accommodations and they had a lively time with each other, the Drake family and the guests.  One evening Phil and a friend were outside the beach club and a rather tipsy man came out and sat down in a chair and passed out. Phil recognized him as a hotel guest and looked at his friend. They nodded and each grabbed an arm of the chair and lugged the dead weight across the boulevard, over the large Drake house lawn and up the steep steps to the lobby entrance. As soon as they put the chair down, the man came to, got up and said,” Thank you gentlemen, Good evening” and toddled off to his room.

The Drake family lived in an adjacent house and enjoyed skating on the Eel Pond just to the north as well as sailing on the Drake ice boat. Hotel guests also enjoyed the pond. By the late 1960s hotel guests had declined greatly because people did not want to share bathrooms and there no liquor license. The Drake family converted the hotel to eighteen apartments in 1969 with an average stay of twenty years at very affordable rates.  

As Frank Drake celebrates the 150th anniversary of this iconic Rye Beach business he exclaims: “We are battered but not gone.”

 History of Drinking and Publik Houses in Rye  

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023


The two main institutions of colonial America were the church and the tavern because the latter served so many functions beyond merely being a place to imbibe ardent spirits. It was often deliberately located close the church so the congregation could warm up after almost freezing during a long service. Taverns keepers were often tricksters and after the Revolutionary War many former officers took up the trade. The tavern was the center of social and civic life, a place to meet up and be entertained by all manner of rough “games” including cockfighting and short theatrical farces. On different occasions the tavern or Publik House also served as a court house, jail and sometimes a place of execution, an event which brought out the whole town to witness. Taverns actually did not always welcome the weary traveler, because of provincial attitudes towards people who were not known. Finding accommodations in colonial times was a challenge. Taverns were even the places where the labor of orphans, the homeless and the impoverished was auctioned off and woe to those newly “bought” poor souls.

The layout of taverns usually had the tap room in the right front room and the parlor in the left front room which was less rowdy and a better atmosphere to eat and converse. Many former taverns are private homes today and often there are no visible signs of their firmer use. The Rye, NY historical society is housed in a former tavern and their tap room is visible in the front room.

While the term “Inn” was a bit too British for many colonials, it was used to designate what amounted to a tavern, the most famous being the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA established in 1716 on the Boston Post Road, the oldest such establishment in the country. Food alcohol and lodging were standard fare and it soon became one of the great gathering places in the early 1700s. Longfellow’s poem about the Inn gave it even more fame in the 1800s. The first stanza follows.

One Autumn night, in Sudbury town,
Across the meadows bare and brown,
The windows of the wayside inn
Gleamed red with fire-light through the leaves
Of woodbine, hanging from the eaves
Their crimson curtains rent and thin. 

There is no doubt that in more urban well settled areas, there were Inns or Taverns that did welcome the weary traveler and provided for all their needs, the most important of which was care and sustenance for their tired horses!

The number of licenses issued for taverns increased eight- fold from 1700-1770. Thomas Jefferson wrote most of the Declaration of Independence in a Philadelphia tavern and George Washington gave his farewell party at Fraunces Tavern in New York. Taverns were the great democratic “leveler” of colonial times, as no pulling of class rank was tolerated and anyone who tried would soon be tossed out on his ear! But through the decades there were rising complaints of “excessive gaiety or tippling” leveled at the Publik Houses.

What on earth did they imbibe? If you think modern mixology is exotic, it cannot hold a candle to some of the imaginative concoctions served to our forebearers. Beer, ale, hard cyder and brandy were all made lo0cally and soon mixed together in many ways. “Oh, we can make beer t0 sweeten our lips; of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut tree chips.” Eggs, cream, sugar and spices were often added to libations that were a mix of ale, strong southern white wine (sack) Rhum booze (rum) and locally made brandy. The flip was most popular.

From the Practical Housewife of 1860, here is a recipe for Egg Flip:

“Put the ale on fire to warm and beat up 3 eggs w/ 4 oz. of moist sugar; remove the froth of the ale until it begins to boil; mix the froth with the sugar and eggs; add grated nutmeg ginger to taste and a gill (pronounced “jill” = ½ cup) of rum; when the ale boils, stir it gradually into the eggs and rum until quite smooth, then serve.” From early times, rum was the drink of the common people made from sugar cane imported from the Caribbean or locally from imported molasses. Caldwells from Newburyport was a local favorite. A gill of rum was standard daily issue to sailors in the navy and on merchant ships. In 1740 West Indies British Cmd. Edward Vernon issued this ration diluted with water and juice of lemon or lime if available since good water was a rarity on board. This act endeared him to the crew and since he always wore a coat of Grogham cloth he and his drink were soon nicknamed “Old Grog” and grog. It was said that strong grog poured down the mouth of a sailor dead from yellow fever would bring him back to life.

From the same source – Sack Posset:

“Boil slowly a quart of new milk; when it boils crumble 4 Damascus biscuits or French rolls into it; boil again and remove form fire and add grated nutmeg or ginger to taste; stir in half a point of sack (wine from Canary Islands) and serve.”

Another Flip recipe : 2/3 strong beer, molasses, sugar dried pumpkin, rum stick in a hot iron poker and make it foam and then serve!

Punch –  water, sugar, acid, sours, tegus, rum, brandy, or stout  or all three!

Stonewall – cyder mixed with rum; it should be noted that the lead story of the first issue of the NH Gazette in Portsmouth in 1756 was story on Cyder.

Toddy – hot whiskey, tea, lemon etc.

Drinking was essential because: water was so bad, to survive arduous stage rides, keep from freezing.

But the American republic was founded on a sea of alcohol and it had long been a public health crisis. By the 1800s the temperance movement began and the American Temperance Society was founded in 1826. Between 1846 and 1855 thirteen states enacted prohibition of alcohol laws. This movement gave rise to “temperance drinks” in the taverns such as sweet cider, tea, coffee and liquid chocolate. But Demon Rum is a plague and would not be denied. Where suppressed, it went underground and then popped up in other places. The disastrous federal Prohibition law (1920-1933) was soon followed by the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1936 and some of the groundwork of that successful movement was laid in the 1800s and early 1900s. One source consulted for recipes, etc.  Early American Beverages, John Brown, 1966


                       Taverns and Drinking in Rye – 1700s

 In the 1700’s at least four taverns have been documented in Rye.  Benjamin Scadgel kept one on Wallis Road until it burned in 1798; the 1799 house on the site today (#321) was built on the original foundation of the tavern which was larger than the standard 30’ x 40’ center chimney colonial structure. In the basement may still be seen some infrastructure where barrels of ale, etc. were stored.  

In 1747 a tavern was built in Rye Center by Robinson Trefethen who came to Rye from New Castle. (Today it is located at 545 Washington Road.) He ran the tavern until he sold it to Simon, Peter and Benjamin Garland in 1756. They continued to operate the tavern for three years until two of the brothers sold their interest to Benjamin who continued to operate the tavern for another 40 years.

This watering hole and inn was quick to fill with men after the long church services, especially in winter when all were deeply chilled sitting in the unheated church.  The men made it clear that they had “important civic business” to discuss. The women trudged home to continue with their endless labors and some had to return in the evening to drag their husband’s home. As John Adams often said to his wife Abagail: Women need to stay above the rough and tumble world of politics and to maintain the morals of society. It does not take much imagination to know what Abagail’s response was to this falsehood!

As the center of social and civic life across from the church, the tavern was particularly popular during the ferment of the revolutionary era of the 1760s and 1770s when each event brought the colonies closer to a breaking point. The Rye militia gathered at the tavern and marched off to Ft Constitution in New Castle in December of 1774. Local revolutionaries had been warned by a visit from Paul Revere that the British were coming to refortify the fort so locals beat them to it and stole the fort’s gunpowder, later used at the battle of Bunker Hill. As the war geared up in 1775 Rye men assembled at the tavern to march off with their respective units to engage the British. Rye sent many hundreds off to fight in the war.39 of them did not return, a huge loss for a small town of 850 people.

President George Washington visited all thirteen new states in 1789 and on his visit to Portsmouth he was whisked away and taken to the Garland Tavern by officers from Rye who served with him in the Revolutionary war. Those officers were: Capt. Nathaniel Rand, Capt. Wedgwood., Capt. Leavitt, Capt. Hobbs and Col. Wingate.

In the 1980s the Rye Historical Society purchased the Garland Tavern ledger from Doug Robinson at his iconic Portsmouth Book Guild on lower State Street. The tavern ledger clearly states the names of the officers and at end of their names it is written: “Genl. Washinton.” It is assumed that at some point after the presidential tavern visit, Sandy Beach Road was re-named Washington Road.  A few years ago, RHS entrusted the ledger to the Portsmouth Athenaeum for digitizing and safe keeping. It was at this point that the names of the officers and Gen Washington were discovered. The ledger is largely chronological, though some early dates appear at the end of the ledger. Beginning pages and all pages after page 161 are unpaginated. The ledger itemizes all the names of the hundreds of patrons over the years and the exotic list of ardent spirits they imbibed: many ales, hard cyder, flips, sack possets, toddies, Rhum booze, etc. which certainly animated revolutionary fervor in Rye.


At Chelsey’s four corners (last house on the right on West Road before South), William Sleeper also ran a tavern in the 1800’s. Paul Randall and later Joe Libbee and his brother were innkeepers on Washington road between Grove and West Roads until it burned in 1787. Taverns were venerable and needed institutions which nourished their patrons in a variety of ways. The ledger of the Garland tavern is a prized possession of the Rye Town Museum and is a gold mine for those wanting to research the rich variety of ardent spirits our predecessors enjoyed.                      

In the 1820’s Rye experienced a conflict between two forces that were as natural as they were at odds with each other – religion and alcohol. From the beginning these needs and wants co-existed as the church and the tavern were often the only public spaces in the town center, as was the case when the Garland tavern was open opposite the Congregational church for the latter half of the 1700’s. Chilled male parishioners would pour into the tavern to gossip, discuss politics and the news of the day. 

Frankly, if the taverns only served sweet cider they would have been just as popular, the same way cafés in Europe, tea rooms in China and other public social places world- wide throughout history. People need these “great, good places” to come together for both personal and worldly needs. But the fact is, taverns, pubs, ordinaries and many private homes were well stocked with intoxicating beverages, either homemade (hard cider, etc.) and domestic (Portsmouth ale and beer and Caldwell’s New England rum from Newburyport) and an exotic array of home-made and imported spirits that would be the envy of a mixologist today.  Dealing with these spirits was a rite of passage, a test to see if you could keep your balance and treat them with the healthy respect that is their due. We are still trying to pass this test.

 New taverns in the 1800’s, such as that of Amos Parsons in 1820, continued the Garland tradition, but the nation was founded on a sea of alcoholism and it had finally reached crisis proportions. Temperance societies were forming and tent religious revival meetings were held in Rye center. A Christian society emerged in town and often they invited Rev. Carpenter from North Hampton to preach, who liked his snuff before the sermon. Elder Ephraim Philbrick, soon to make Rye hotel history, was very prominent in the new society. These gatherings were enlivened by the visits of revivalists Harriet Livermore and Lorenzo Don. Town reports from this decade report too many taverns and drinking out of control so Town meeting ordered publicans to limit hours and not serve ardent spirits which caused profanity, breaking the Sabbath, gambling and under- age drinking. What were the tavern keepers to do?  For the majority, drinking was akin to eating and they did not abuse alcohol, but for those who did, the effects on families and the community were devastating. Witness the guzzling in Gossport where one lout put away 40 gallons of rum – the drink of the common people at this time. Two centuries later, we have AA and have some better understanding of alcohol and other drugs, but we still have a long way to go in treating addiction as a public health issue and not a criminal issue.

                  The 1900s

1899 – The movement by the anti-Saloon league and other groups to ban alcohol was gaining steam and Rye passed its own prohibition this year and spent $269 to enforce this unenforceable law. Rye Road Houses “Jim Blaine House” and “White Rock” were closed by court order for selling liquor illegally. Ella F. Simpson, “Rye’s Female Terror” was finally arrested and sent to jail for 30 days for brawl, tumult and drunkenness, suspended if she stayed away from her husband’s people and off their premises.

1901 – Summer found William Quinn and Daniel Hayes in court charged by Rye selectman Joh Locke with selling large amounts of larger at their Jim Blaine Road house. Quinn was fined a total of $23.William Haley paid $9.16 for public drunkenness and Michael Cummock was discharged in the case of a beating he gave an Italian worker since the victim did not appear to file a complaint.  For $3.00 one could purchase four quarts of Stag Rye Whiskey for home and medicinal use in a plain brown box shipped from NY. In late November 1901 a trolley rider got off near Jenness beach and then passed out on the track. When the electric was on its return run it came within a foot of running him over, the motorman applying all his strength to stop the car just in time. They took him to Portsmouth police where he spent night and then sobered up quickly when told the shocking news in the morning. On Dec. 7th Richard Johnson was found guilty of keeping malt liquor and assaulting constable Philbrick.

BYOB (bring your own booze) was very common because of the lack of public drinking places. Certainly, all of the hotels and boarding houses of Rye either served alcohol or looked the other way when customers brought their own.  It may be that the Locke’s Bathing Pavilion, 1899, (later Rye Beach Club) allowed such a practice and it certainly was standard policy at the wildly popular Pagoda Dance Hall on the boulevard at Cable Rd. 1919-1949.

 Prohibition in Rye by Ralph Brown:  “During the Prohibition period Sagamore Creek was often used by rum runners. There were people who had fast boats and would bring cases of liquor to shore from Canadian vessels outside the three-mile limit.  The boats only operated in good weather and could make fast runs from ship to shore usually running up into little used creeks and coves to unload fast and then hurry back out to sea before daylight. Everyone owning a boathouse on Sagamore Creek had the experience of going to his boathouse in the morning or sometime and finding his boathouse chockfull of liquor. It was considered foolhardy to report it to the police or other authorities. Who wanted their place burned down? So, the thing to do was to keep quiet. The cases would be taken away very soon, except for a few left behind to pay for the storage. Sometimes a “rum runner” coming in on the night tide would run aground and wouldn’t be floated off until the next day. Boats have been seen grounded out in Clay Cove and on the mud banks near the entrance to the creek. One large boat had a huge hole ripped in the bottom as it tried to pass over Sheafe’s Ledge.  It was hung up on the ledge for two days while carpenters patched up and re-caulked the damaged hull. Meanwhile the authorities looked the other way. “

 When the Volstead Act was repealed by Congress ending Prohibition in 1933 Charlie Gouse put up a very small store near the south side of the Sagamore Bridge where much beer and a small number of groceries were sold. About the same time Ladd’s Potato Chip Store was moved by the Scamman family from just over the Rye line into Portsmouth on the south side of the Sagamore Creek bridge across the road from Gouses. Later Ladd’s became the favorite watering hole for Rye people well into the 1970’s and kept Rye police busy after 1 AM.                           

Rye had gone dry for sale of alcohol in 1899 and stayed that way after Prohibition ended until the 1950s. At some point Rye must have become wet and local restaurants by the 50s were allowed to sell alcohol. As for bars and cocktail lounges like Ladds, the first of those kinds would have been the new Dunes Motel at Jennens Beach with its 2nd floor cocktail lounge, live music including local trumpeter Tom Barron. The Former Swenson’s Grille near Sandpiper beach (Jenness) eventually turned into the Carriage House that served alcohol. Ray’s restaurant on Foss Beach opened in 1945 and continues today with an upstairs bar and restaurant with unparalleled views of the Atlantic and the great saltmarsh. From 1956 until 2000 The Pirates Cove restaurant and Peg Leg lounge operated south of Wallis sands state beach another favorite of locals who mostly ended up on the beach after dinner and drinks. 

In the post war years Ladd’s and the Wentworth Hotel continued to be the favorite drinking spots and Ladd’s expanded with dancing and live music until it closed in the late 1970’s. (Today the site is home to the Seacoast Mental Health center). In the 1960s Rye police laid in wait after 1 AM when Ladds closed and the story goes that when David Herlihy was caught weaving in his 1948 Dodge “Job Rated” truck, he challenged the police saying that if he could walk a straight line on his hands, he must be sober. They laughed saying he couldn’t do that upright. David was quite athletic and had learned hand walking early on and proceeded to meet the challenge so they had to let him go. Many say it was Rye residents who helped keep the Wentworth going so long because they were regulars in the restaurant and lounge.

In about 1968 the Crapo family opened a small bar called Rye on the Rocks in the former Nick’s Grille at the end of Washington Rd on the boulevard. This was a wonderful year- round spot that was a real favorite of locals. In the late 70’s another business with the same name opened a fancy restaurant on the premises, but later was closed abruptly when it was discovered that more than food and drink was being peddled! 

There is another restaurant called Petey’s near Parsons (Concord) Pt that is very popular although I prefer Rays. The two private beach clubs in Rye have beer on tap for members and guests but that priviolege was recently revoked at one of the clubs due to under age excessive drinking.  BYOB is standard practice in such places.  A new restaurant that serves alcohol is Kooks next to the Red Roof in the former Surf Haven Pizza building from the 1960s. So, drinking in Rye (on the rocks) has ebbed and flowed over the years, but even with the loss of public access to businesses right on the beach, (Pirates Cove, Saunders at Rye Harbor, the Dune’s) there are still plenty of watering holes to choose from.

History of Dumping and Recycling

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023


In the beginning, America and the world threw it “away,” out the window or door or behind the barn, a gold mine for archaeologists today. But there was very little waste in pre-industrial times but that all began to change with eh rise of the consumer society in the late 1800s and mail order catalogs and mass advertising in magazines and newspapers. For the first 2/3 of the 1900s we dumped toxic material on the ground or into the closest waterway and other waste went into gravel pits. By the middle of the century, we were also burning trash in large oil drums or into town garbage pits, not thinking about the threat to land, air and water, the source of life.  

There have been many who have been sensitive to the environment in our history and who have warned about the destruction of nature, starting with native peoples who warned that people do not own the land, water and air which are there for all to share. In addition, there were ecologists such as Aldo Leopold who in his Sand County Almanac, 1949, wrote: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” In 1963 Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring led directly the banning of the toxic insecticide DDT and other toxins. The late Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas wrote: “People do not have a constitutional right to do exactly what they want with their land.” Actions on private property can adversely impact the land, water and air of neighbors and the larger community. Finally, the environment has always faced the challenge of people who are making so much money doing their worst, that they cannot afford to do their best, to paraphrase Edward R. Morrow, who was referring to early television.

Four events in 1969/70 marked a transformation in the American environmental movement. At a place called “Love Canal” in Buffalo in 1969 major water pollution was found from 55-gallon oil drums having been dumped into the canal threatening local drinking water supplies. The same year, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire due to pollution from heavy metals and soon thereafter that river and Lake Erie were declared dead. In April 1970 Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin initiated the idea of an national “Earth Day” on April 22 to raise awareness of threats to the environment. It is a tribute to that generation that the widespread activities on that first Earth Day were a national success and led to the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency in late 1970.

        Details of Rye Dumping/Recycling

Ater WWII Rye leased, and later bought, land owned by Abbot Drake at a gravel pit off Grove Road for a central dump. In the 1960s a metal tee pee structure was built near the dump pit to burn the trash. This was not appreciated by the neighbors. In 1970 there as a wedding and reception that took place at a home near the trash tepee, but the dump crew did not get the message or they forgot to cancel burning that day and they burned the trash. It rained smoke and cinders down on the wedding, thus bringing the burning of trash to an abrupt halt in Rye.

Rye “Town Reports” indicate that the regional refuse disposal committee formed in 1971 was to meet with other such town committees to create a regional refuse district. In 1973 $500 was voted to seek a new trash site in town and $10,000 was voted for that purpose in 1974 and another $40,000 in 1975. The dump committee created a float for the Bi-centennial parade with Mel Low aboard, exhorting the crowd to get behind recycling. Also on the committee was Tim Considine whose presentation to town meeting in 1976 got people to support recycling and Frances Holway who consulted with the recycling pioneer woman in Wellesley, MA. The revolution in environmental awareness of the late 1960s inspired this committee to advocate for recycling and a transfer station of trash to a regional landfill.

 In 1976, voluntary recycling began at the town dump site off Grove Road and in 1977 the town began leasing the Lafayette Road landfill site, just beyond the intersection with Washington Road. A proposal to buy that site in 1978 was rejected. (In 1972, the adjacent Coakley landfill in Greenland and North Hampton was opened, receiving trash and industrial waste from nearby communities, eventually filling 27 acres before it was closed in 1982. This major EPA Superfund site is a real concern today as a source of pollution of local drinking water.)

 In 1979 the Grove Road brush dump became the new public works site and recycling center and in 1980-81 money was voted to construct the highway buildings at the new site. In 1983 $130,000 was voted to build the solid waste transfer station. A zoning ordinance also passed establishing solid waste recycling. In 1984 the town enacted a dump ordinance and joined the Maine/New Hampshire Solid Waste Cooperative. Trash was sent to a Maine landfill in Biddeford and later to Turnkey landfill in Rochester. In 1985 money was voted to cover the Lafayette landfill site. In 1987 Rye paid $41,000 to the southeast regional refuse disposal district.

Later in the 1980s the “Swap Shop” was established at the transfer station to keep small quality items out of the land fill and create a community goods exchange place. It proved to be very popular, but also a continuing problem because of large inappropriate items left in the shop which people think someone might want. Usually, these items they are not taken and this adds to the work load of transfer station crew and volunteers in keeping the small shop cleaned out. There was also a Recycling Education Committee as this time which provided updates in the town Annual Report

The Rye Energy Committee established a sub- committee, the Rye Recycling Education Committee, in 2014, thus reviving a similar committee from the 1990s. Its purview is the Swap Shop, Composting and general public and schools’ recycling education.  The schools have had a mixed record of recycling, depending on the interest of students and staff. Currently there is a recycling program at both schools and an environmental club at RES and a proposed one at RJH.

The Swap Shop closed due to Covid in 2020, but thanks to the initiative of RREC, it was re-opened on July 7th 2021 with reduced days and hours (Wed-Fri 11-2) to lessen the problem of illegal items being left. Working with transfer station employees, RREC members and volunteers have managed to keep it relatively clean by clearing out larger items that people never wanted to begin with. 

RREC requests that people respect the swap shop requirements and only leave designated items there so that it will not be permanently closed due to abuse by some users. The public needs to look at the wide variety of appropriate alternatives to the swap shop such as Re-Store in Newington (Habitat for Humanity), Salvation Army in Portsmouth, thrift Stores and HELPSY collection bin at entrance to Swap Shop for all textiles/fabric items including clothes and bedding. Also, there are three different non-profit organizations that have bins at the recycling center parking lot for different items. With all of these alternatives, there is no reason to keep leaving large items at the Swap shop. RREC asks the pubic to read the designated item listed on the bulletin board in the shop.

Currently at the recycling center there are approximately 20 different items with designated places where items can be left. At some of these locations where the town has to pay for the recycling such as electronics, there is an “honor system” payment box for the items, but unfortunately many do not leave any payment.  If one is not used to the station, it can be a bit daunting to find all of these places to leave items, so in Nov. 2022 RREC created at short video on the town web DPW web site that highlights each of the 20 recycling stations.

Front and center at the transfer station is the huge dumpster that takes the trash to Turnkey landfill in Rochester where there are mountains of trash already capped. A field trip to this site is a real eye-opener and makes one wonder how much of those mountains could have been recycled. The work of public education about recycling continues because it is clear that many do not bother to recycle. On Nov 26th the PBS Newshour aired a feature which revealed that 1/3 of all the food produced in the US goes into the landfill.

 After 40 years of use, the Rye DPW, transfer station and recycling station is in need of upgrades and those who work there know best what those needs are. It is important to become aware of this heavily used town facility by studying the Dept of Public Works transfer station report in the annual Town Report.  One way to work on environmental issues is through the RREC and all are invited to monthly meetings on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 6:30 pm at RPL. The American environmental movement begun in the late 1960s is now over a half century old, but it is an ongoing movement with much work yet to be done.  Rye reflects the nation with only a 30% recycling rate and it is not at all clear what happens to some of the recyclables that are taken away. See the town Annual Report by the D
PW director on statistics about recyclables.

 History of East School

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

In the 1868 town report there appeared for the first time the report of the superintendent of the school committee, GH Jenness, who wrote over seven pages. It was the only such narrative report of any town official until the library was opened in 1911. The superintendent was a well-educated man and probably aware of the writings of the father of American education, Horace Mann of Massachusetts, who in 1837 was secretary of the first school board in the U.S.

Jenness pulled no punches in his reports. In this era before litigation was so common, I like his impassioned plea to the town about the East School on Brackett Road near Clark Road.  He expresses his outrage toward the town for being so miserly to not pay for repairs to the falling down school: “Soon the town will have to build a graveyard for the school since all the students and the teacher will freeze to death!” East School did receive some repairs within a few years, but suffered another generation of want until a new school was built.

Prof James Parsons of the University of Pennsylvania lived near the school in a lovely summer house off Parsons Rd. which burned in the 1930s. He recognized the plight of the decrepit East School and offered to pay for a new school that had to be built of local beach stones. The town heartily agreed and many towns -people including children were soon seen hauling the stones from Wallis Sands to the site. One can imagine a beaming professor paying a visit to his new school with its happy and grateful students and teacher.

On page 103,4 of History of Rye NH, 1905, Langdon Parsons gives an account and it appears the town may have put up some money, but that Prof Parsons probably paid the bulk of the new school costs. 

 The East School became a private home along with the South and West schools after Rye Consolidated school was opened in the center in 1934.

This is not the first time that a public building was financed, not by tax payers who were unwilling to do so, but by private donations of money and/or land. I.e.  Rye library in 1911 – Mary Tuck Rand gave land and $7500 for new library building.

These school superintendent reports are an invaluable insight into the life of the town. 

History of Education Timeline

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

1647 – Massachusetts Bay passes the first mandatory school law in the colonies

Colonial families mostly educated their children at home and often the only book in the house was the Bible of which they made great use in educating their kids to read, and to  learn history, literature, philosophy, Judaism, Christianity, etc.

Early Harvard (college is oldest in the US founded in 1636) graduates cut their teeth as school masters and most communities originally housed such teachers as boarders in private homes. If no designated school building was provided, the “schools” were housed in such homes on a rotating basis called “moving schools.” (Before 1726 Rye was called Sandy Beach and was part of neighboring towns. There are no written records for Sandy Beach so research has to be done in New Castle, Portsmouth, Hampton, etc.) There may have been such moving schools in Sandy Beach in the 1600’s and early 1700’s.

1726 – The province of NH grants the status of parish to Sandy Beach. The new parish was called Rye and the parish was allowed to build a church and have town officials even though its territory was still within neighboring towns. The oldest town records date back to 1726.

First mention of a school in town records is 1729 but there is no record of action taken to construct one.

All male school masters were still the norm, mostly from Harvard as first job to get their feet wet. Moving schools were the norm, held in different resident’s houses

1770’s – parish had purchased two former homes for schools, but in bad condition; it is unclear if they worked out as actual schools; lots of aspiration but little action.

1785 – Rye granted official independent town status by NH state government 

1786 – first official school on Grove Rd. near Fern Ave., but records still not clear how well that worked. 

1791 – another school noted at Lang’s Corner (It seems that existing older abandoned buildings are being used, but town not always willing to pay for renovation; the value of education still not high on average voters list of priorities.

1800 – first record of women being hired as teachers in Rye

1827 – two brick schools built in center (RHS has photo of one of them where Grange Park is today); also, wooden school began at Brackett at Clark (East School)

1868 – East School, wood, Brackett at Clark, built ????.   Annual town reports listed states only, no written reports, but in this year the first narrative appeared as the school report by Supt Jenness, the first Rye superintendent. He expressed his outrage toward the town for being so miserly as not to pay for repairs to falling down East School: “Soon the town will have to create a graveyard for the school since all the students and the teacher will freeze to death!”

These annual school reports list the names and salaries of all the teachers, mostly women.

1871 – West school built (wood) or renovated on Washington Rd. – still stands as private home, opposite the two horse farms – cape style building although it has been altered several times

1881 – South School (brick) built on Central Rd. between Cable and Love Lane. -after attempts to give it away if moved failed; razed in c. 2013) RHS has photos

1888 – School superintendent Oren Green lived on Washington Rd. farmhouse on corner of Hunter’s Run and while observing West school teacher Clara Harvey, he soon fell in love and they were married in 1890. (parents of town legends Harry and Charlie)

1890 – Rye experimented with having a high school held at town hall, but it ended after one year. It was a real hardship for students to get to Portsmouth High School on Daniel St. at Church. When the trolley arrived in 1899 it brought real democracy in education as all students could now attend high school and the town subsidized the trolley fare. It must have been very difficult for those teens who were still needed to work on the farm or whose parents did not value a high school education. A new and impressive PHS was built in 1903. (now Keefe House senior housing next to Discover Portsmouth Center)

Families who had the means sent high school students to local private academies such as Hampton Academy, but most young people had to go to work, mostly on the farm, after they completed 8th grade.

1893 – Wedgwood school (brick) built where RJH playing field is today; it replaced the  Center school, built in 1827, where Grange Park is today. Wedgwood was a large and impressive brick structure and early in the 1900’s a large addition doubled its size.

1896 – East School – a stone school, built to replace decrepit wooden East School on Brackett at Clark. It was paid for by Professor Parsons, science dept Univ of Penn., who lived nearby. Parsons, like Supt Jenness, was upset that the town would not fix the old school so he funded it with the requirement that local beach stones be used, most of which were brought from Wallis Sands by the youth of Rye. It still stands as a private home, minus the tower that graced the original building in 1896. RHS has photos

1932  – Wedgwood School -burned (boiler exploded) raining burning textbooks down on Dona Berry’s house across the road.

Rye Consolidated school opened 1934 -replaced the neighborhood east, south and west schools which became private homes. Almost immediately it was over-crowded, especially in late 1930s with population rise due to military build- up in the region. Annual appeals for an addition were heard.

1949 – Rye Consolidated School first addition – it was e stories – built off the south end of the school, creating more classrooms on 2nd floor, a large lunch room/kitchen on first floor and a wood shop in basement where manual training was now required. Students now learned to use a hammer and other tools and a pump lamp was one of the favorite projects.

1956 – Elementary school built off Sagamore Rd. beyond Langs cor. thus turning Rye school into a Jr high (grades 6-8); Elem. School has had at least two additions since it opened.

1966 – gymnasium etc. added to RJH thus creating a multi- purpose athletic and student/public meeting space seating 500+ plus other needed space

1980’s – Rye, New Castle, Newington, Greenland and Stratham got together to propose a regional high school for the five towns, but it was narrowly defeated when Stratham voted overwhelmingly against it; the majority of the rest of the towns supported it.

1985 – RJH social studies teacher Bob Stevens taught Rye history and brought his students to the two- day town bi-centennial exhibit at town hall in the auditorium, the last event held there before it began to be used as office space in 1986

1990 – RJH principal George Cushing begins “Our Town” project where students pick a Rye topic to research and work with a town mentor for the year culminating at the end of the year with a show of the projects celebrating the town. When new principal arrived in 2000, sadly, program was ended.

1995 – Rye Education Foundation established for the purpose of making grants to teachers, et al to further education in Rye schools.

1997 – huge expansion of RJH adding many classrooms and other facilities

2011 – RES Rye history trolley tour for 4th graders inspires public tours

2016 – Wedgwood community initiative (RJH and two neighbors) provides RJH with two acres of outdoor education forest

2019 – declining population of students at RJH (private schools) and overpopulation at RES causes 5th grade to move to RJH, technically making it a Middle School

2022/23 – New RJH principal Anne Gilbert invites Rye historian Alex Herlihy to work with students on Rye history topics as part of Rye 400th celebration. RJH tell Herlihy to start a web site so the topics can be shared with all.        Ryehistoryrocks.com

2023 – Wedgwood Festival at RJH


History of the Eel Pond

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

(Note – “Eel Pond Freddie” (Fred Clark)  contributed most of this history)

The Eel Pond is the end of the drainage basin for all the brooks and streams in the southern part of Rye. Originally it was not a pond, but salt marsh that was open to the sea. Just inland from the pond is Cedar swamp Run which flows from Burkes Pond under Central Road and Red Mill Lane into the Eel Pond. Further inland from Burke’s Pond is Brown’s Pond (also called Locke’s Pond) on Love Lane. Fresh water also ran from streams near Perkins Road into the north part of the pond. The pond is on average 10’ at north end and four to six feet at south end. The measures 20 acres.

Before European settlement in the early 1600s, native peoples lived in this area and they thrived on the natural abundance that the pond had to offer. Early European settlers include Francis Jenness who with others contracted to have the first mill built in town in 1695 near the Jenness home on what would become Bridge Road (now Red Mill Lane).  Before there were regular town roads, there were paths where Red Mill and Central roads are now. Jenness also had a bakery at his house. There were other houses built near the pond, now all gone and replaced by others built on Sea Road and the dirt road that skirts the west side of the pond

The Pond must have been a great gathering place for hunting and fishing over the years. The 1800s saw the rise of tourist hotels and boarding houses near the pond such as nearby Sawyers and Locke boarding houses and Drake House hotel, whose guests all enjoyed the pond.

In the late 1800s Sawyers Boarding House built several bath houses on the edge of the ocean near Eel Pond. Over the years their number fluctuated from five to eight and often they were the seven dwarfs. In 1899 the Locke Bathing Pavilion with a salt water swimming pool was built just south of the bath houses. It was a facility for those staying in the large Locke Boarding House at the head of Sea Road near central Road.  At this time the Eel Pond was part cow pasture and part fresh water pond with the water draining out to the sea between the bath houses and Locke’s Pavilion.  At the beginning of the new century there was still no berm cutting off the Eel Pond from the sea, but that was about to change.

From 1902 to 1904 the state of New Hampshire built Ocean Boulevard, State Route 1A, and this required the building of the berm along Sawyer’s Beach in front of their bath houses. With all the smuggling of illegal booze during Prohibition (1920-1933) it could well be that the Eel Pond was one of the hiding places for the hooch. There were always families of geese and ducks and in the summer 75% of the pond was covered in water lilies.

In the 1920s and 30s large wooden dories were used by guests from Sawyers and Sheridan Jenness’ Boarding house to paddle about the pond with cows grazing on the edge. Many year- round activities took place on the pond including skating, ice fishing, ice boating, hockey and spring fishing.

In the 1930s the Rye Beach Rod and Gun Club started when a gun salesman stayed at Drake House. He was told that if he taught Abbot’s sons Phil and Herbie to shoot guns he could stay for free. The club was set up on the southwest side of the pond next to the one and a half story Locke’s Boat House. Club members would shoot at clay pigeons. Fred has a painting of the boat house

Fishing in the pond was always day and night. In the 30s and 40s the main fish were Hornpout (small Cat Fish) and eels for which the pond was named. In later years fish in the pond were mainly small mouthed Bass, Perch, Sun Fish.

In the 40s and 50s during duck season, hunters started at sun rise and they had their own duck blinds at the west and south sides of the pond. Hunters included Abbot Drake, Herb Drake, Phil Drake, Ernest Clark, Ed Herlihy and Paul Bonner to name a few.  Paul Bonner was a published writer and he wrote a short story about hunting ducks early one morning at the pond; he and his family lived at the former Garland Tavern in the center and he drove around town in his “Woody.”

In 1948 the Franciscan Friary opened at the former Stoneleigh College for Women and former hotel. Many of friars were recovering addicts and joined the Franciscans because that order of monks is so worldly and compassionate, just like their founder St Francis in the 1300s. They played hockey on the southern part of Eel Pond near the Locke boat house and local boys/men joined them.

Beyond hockey, ice boat racing became popular on the pond. Abbot Drake and Russel Sawyer had heavy ice boats, but then a new breed of lighter and faster boats was introduced by Dr. John Clifford and Tommy Clifford. Divers on the boulevard would stop to watch them and often decide to go skating.

Until the 1950s the pond drained out between Sawyers bath houses and the beach club. Then the state got permission from Russell Sawyer to put a pipe to drain the pond, when necessary (conduit under Rt. 1A), on his property about half way up the boulevard from the bath houses.  But they installed them on the wrong property (Mr. Brown’s) so the state said when drain fails they will install two new pipes. This happened on Fred Clark’s property in 1992. To this day, Fred Clark makes the decision as to when the Eel Pond is too high and needs to be drained by raising the large wooden doors on the ocean side of the pipes.

The new pipes act as an outlet and inlet, letting in sand, lobster pots, etc. into the pond. This is illegal but because the state did it thinks its ok. The pond is about 4-5 feet deep except where you don’t see plant life such as pond lilies. In the summer the lilies give off a very sweet smell if the wind is right.

Eel Pond Freddie remembers: “On the Eel Pond during the winter months, I would take the kitchen stool and push it around until I learned to skate, as my sister did ten years after. Once I mastered that art, somewhat, I played hockey with the Franciscan Friars from the St Francis Friary on Central Rd. (Built as a hotel in 1920 and demolished in 1995.) I was more adventurous in summer when I paddled my old, wooden/canvas canoe around to get pond lilies to sell door to door, white for .5 and pink for .10, mostly on South and Sea roads”

The southern part of the Eel Pond had a big beaver house made of mud and wood where I found clay pigeons from Rye Beach Rod and Gun Club of the 1920s and 30s. I would also go fishing and catch hornpout and sometimes an eel, but now only bass. Legend has it that between the wars Mrs. Goodwin Perkins told her husband she did not want him to keep a pistol under his pillow, but he didn’t want to remove it so she walked it down to the pond and threw it in.

In 1960 Susan Sawyer Clark and her son Frederick inherited Sawyers’s Beach upon the death of Susan’s father, Russel Sawyer. In 1972 the Sawyer family decided to sell the beach to the town for $30k so Rye would have additional beach area.

In 1980 Alex Herlihy, family and friends had a skating party on the Eel Pond and had it all to themselves. The wind was blowing on this gray cold winter day, right out of a Brueghel painting and the ice was like glass. Alex held out his arms and the wind moved him right along. Then he skated south Hans Brinker style and his wife Jan took a perfect photo of him, with his body breaking the horizon half way, reflecting the beauty of this lovely pond.

Eel Pond Freddie on birds: “Geese, ducks and then swans came to make the pond their home and raise a family of four. By the end of the summer only one was left, eight run over by cars or eaten by snapping turtles. The male swans liked to walk down the middle of the boulevard, backing up traffic. A photo of the boulevard swans made it into the Boston Herald. In the 1990s the town of Rye sent Fred Clark a letter telling him he had to control his free- range swans better.

One winter a nice lady began feeding the birds through all kinds of weather from the trunk of her car.  I went over to say hi and met Connie Fields who as a little girl had stayed in my grandfathers Sawyers boarding House in the 1930s. The swans survived mainly due to her kindness only to have state of NH then come in the spring and break the swan’s eggs, saying they were not welcome because they were not native to NH. Needless to say, the swans left, never to return.

It is nice to see people using the pond, especially young people, giving them the opportunity to have positive outdoor activities in Rye.”

                               Eel Pond Freddie, name given by Herbert Drake

History of Emma Foss 1890’s childhood

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

In 1973 I was doing some informal research on Rye history and wanted to interview Emma Foss. She said she was too nervous for that, but wrote me this priceless letter below. It describes her childhood memories of Rye in the 1890’s and is an unforgettable recollection of a time on the cusp of the modern era. She was born in 1882 and lived in the family home on 130 Central Road, about a half mile from the center, until her death in 1978.

“On Sundays we walked to church mornings and evenings. Other people walked who lived much further from the church than we did. But there were sheds near the church where horses and carriages could be left during the service. Children had fewer toys and games than they have now, but we invented games that seem to me, even now, remarkably ingenious. Grocery stores, not being as accessible as they are now, we bought our groceries in large quantities. There were five people in our family and we bought flour by the barrel. We had very few of the conveniences that people consider necessities now but we were happy in spite of our deprivations.

 The one room school in Rye that I attended served boys and girls from six years of age through fifteen. It was 1890 and I was eight years old when I first entered school. My mother had been teaching me at home and I could read almost anything when I started school. I remember running across the road from my home to tell my great grand-father that I knew how to do long division. I happened to be at his house one day when he was planning to drive (with a horse and wagon of course) to Rye Center, a quarter of a mile away. He said that I might go with him which I did. But I still remember how very embarrassed I was to be so very far from home without a hat. I must have been about seven at the time.

Our family always had a horse and wagon and in winter we used a sleigh, also called a pung, as there was always snow in the road and everywhere. We drove into Portsmouth at rare intervals to shop. In winter it was a long, cold drive. We were dressed as warmly as possible, but by the time we reached home we were thoroughly chilled and mother made us drink hot ginger tea in spite of my stubborn resistance. I do not think my resistance was so much due to the distaste for ginger tea as to the fact that I was half asleep at that time and objected to being bothered. We went everywhere with our parents, baby sitters not having been invented at that time. In any case I doubt if our parents would ever have left us with baby sitters. Children usually walked to school and remained there during the noon hour. Girls carried luncheons in boxes or baskets, boys in pails.

There was great excitement in Rye during the years of the presidential elections. In Portsmouth there were torch light processions in which Rye men, including my father, participated. The marchers wore colorful costumes which added to the glamour. Crowds lined the sidewalks, enjoying the spectacle. By the time I had entered school that custom had been discontinued. But we shared our parents’ interest in politics. At school we repeated political slogans, felt pity for the benighted ones who belonged to the other party and rejoiced in our enlightenment.

In Rye most of the citizens were totally unconcerned with the resort community. But once or twice during the summer, our father took us in the evening to one of the hotels, the Farragut or the Wentworth. We sat outside and through the long windows and open doors we watched beautifully gowned ladies and gentlemen dancing. And we listened to the music which was the biggest thrill of all.”

These memories of yesteryear came to me because I asked. Older residents of every community appreciate younger people showing an interest in their lives, especially if they are natives. An oral history interview would have been quite different, but still of value. Emma’s recollections go to show how our writing voice can differ from our speaking voice, but in many ways, it is good to have both.

History of Farming

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Archaeology confirms that native peoples lived in the seacoast as far back as twelve thousand years ago. These were Algonquin speaking people of the Penacook confederacy, locally known as Piscataqua, fished, farmed, gathering the fruits of the forest and hunted. They were both settled and seasonally migratory peoples. In 1608, French explorer Champlain noted a settled community of about 200 of the Piscataqua in what is now Rye Harbor.

The Berry’s were one of the earliest families farming and fishing at what is now Foss Beach in the 1630s. The Philbrick family were farming here by the mid 1600’s and not just on the section of Central Rd. we see them today. Roger Philbrick and his brother Richard still hay their fields three times a year on Central Rd. Roger is the keeper of Philbrick farming history and many topics from the 1900s.  We know the Odiorne family were farming at Odiorne’s Point from the mid 1600s as were Locke’s and other families from the 1600s in their section of Sandy Beach, which was a neighborhood of Portsmouth, New Castle and Hampton until the official parish of Rye was formed in 1726.

Agricultural fairs were common in town starting in the 1700s and different aspects of farming influenced almost everything in town form the 1600s into the 1900s

Today there are approximately 317 houses built before 1901 and many of them were working farms into the 1900s. While there is only one house remaining from the 1600s (Wallis Farm on Brackett Rd. from 1690s) many of the farm houses today were built on the site of original farm houses and barns form the 1600s. The former farmstead buildings that remain today (houses, barns, buildings that connect the two and out buildings, are living testament to Rye’s agricultural history. There is much colorful history to mine from these families and their farms. 

George Lang’s lived on the hill on Washington Rd. between Fern Ave and Grove Rd. and is buried there in one of 60+ farmstead graveyards in town. He kept a diary between 1871 and 1901 when he died which reveals great details about farming then because he was always hiring himself out to help on different farms. RHS has the diaries and there is a document that has excerpts from them. 

The variety of grasses farmers harvested (including rye, timothy, etc.)  is a great story in itself as most people are not aware of this aspect of farming and the whole process of harvesting wheat for our daily bread, separating the wheat from the chaff in the threshing room floor in the barn. Annual harvest celebrations and the colorful farming rituals went on throughout the year. We know there was an agricultural fair in 1751. In the winter farmers had “cottage industries” where they made tall fishermen’s boots, barrels and many other needed items. 

The animals – Oxen, horses, sheep, chickens, goats, pigs, etc. And the annual December slaughtering of animals and storing of meat in root cellars to keep cold.

Unlike men, women’s work was never done. It included much of the work that men did as well as keeping a kitchen garden, sewing clothes, cooking, etc. and, oh yes – bearing and raising endless children. Men got to laze somewhat in the winter and become active, or pretend to be so, in the political life of the town culminating in town meeting in March. Barn and house raisings were a great community event when everyone came together to work and then feast!

Herb Drake estimated there were at least 60 families in Rye who were doing some kind of farming (crops/animals) in the 1930s

Today there is a couple living on West Rd. who grow and raise all of their food, a throwback to the 1800s and how we all once lived on farms before the modern world.

Goss Farm, Harbor Rd. (9 acres), town owned, vital link to our rich agricultural heritage with restored historic barn, professional farmers, community gardens, etc.

Roger Philbrick knows much about farming   and he and his brother still hay the Phibrick fields on Central Rd as the Phi bricks have been doing since they came here in the 1600s

Jane Philbrick was doing some research on the history of farming in Rye which I need to track down.

2023 Rye 400 project – new historic sign installation on West Rd – Brown Lane farm – tells the history of farming in Rye

See the book – A Long Deep Furrow: Three Centuries of Farming in New England, Howard Russell. Much has been written about the history of farming in New England

 History of Farragut Hotel Waiter

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Memories of the Summer of 1966 by Ed Paradiso

Note: In 2014 I received an e-mail at Rye Historical Society from Ed Paradiso in Miami. He wanted to make a donation of items from the Farragut Hotel Lounge where he had worked in the summer of 1966.  I accepted the donation and asked him to write of his Farragut memories during that summer. He agreed to do that after he moved to Ecuador and his contribution to Rye Beach history is below.


“It was the summer of 1966 and I was turning 17 and entering my senior year of high school and I begged my parents to let me spend the summer with a friend in Hampton Beach, NH, located an hour and a half north of where I lived in Massachusetts. To my amazement, they consented.

When I arrived, I rented a room at the Beverly for $10 a week and gained employment as a dishwasher at Hudon’s restaurant. I would surf in the morning before my shift and then work from 2-10 for $48 a week. Hudon’s provided me with two meals a day so I was able to get by. This was my first taste of freedom and I felt like I was on top off the world. About four weeks after I arrived my parents came to check up on me. They stayed at the Farragut Hotel in Rye Beach. My Dad, the classy businessman that he was, managed to talk the maître d into hi9ring me as a waiter. He showed my dad around and told him my quarters would be in a nice building next to the hotel.

It turned out the girls got the nice rooms, (in the former Atlantic House Hotel) but we were stuck in a smaller building out back on the top floor.  We called “The Ritz;” to was anything but. Downstairs was a room where the dishwashers and cooks played cards and drank. Upstairs there were 8 rooms, 4 on each side with a hall down the middle and a bath on each side. The building was greatly in need of paint both inside and out. It most likely would have been condemned by today’s standards. It was perfect. No body gave a shit what we did or destroyed as long as we did our jobs. I recall frequent squirt gun fights, one that escalated into garden hoses inside and pillow fights that followed. There were wet feathers stuck to the walls and floor. Here is the best part – we had maid service so they cleaned up and also did our laundry.

I served three meals per day to my guests. I would set the table, Wedgwood plate in center and real silverware and full- service setting. It was very elegant. The hotel guests would write their orders on a hotel order slip. I would move the Wedgwood plates and replace them with their meals. We were told that if we broke a Farragut plate we would be charged $100. The plates had an image of the hotel on it. My uniform consisted of tuxedo pants, white shirt, bo0w tie and a Farragut tuxedo jacket. I played the part perfectly. In a meeting the maître D Warren commented: ‘ Ed, who has no prior waiting experience is doing a bang-up job.’ I was floored by the compliment.

The pay was insane. I had five tables; guests would generally stay a week and they tipped an average of $50. I was making over $250 a week in 1966 and I was only 17. The average American was earning only $100 a week at the time. One waitress had a table with the owners of Macy’s who stayed for the summer. On the last day of the season, I heard that waitress scream when the Macy family give her a store credit card to buy a wardrobe for her first year of college. Earlier in the summer that same waitress bumped into something in the kitchen and dropped her tray full of Farragut plates, but she was never charged.

I would grab my surfboard and walk to the beach every day in between shifts. All I talked about was Hobie surfboards and how much I wanted one. My stick was an 8-foot 6-inch pop out. I was so obsessed my girlfriend at the time nicknamed me Hobie and it stuck for that summer. I did not buy the Hobie board but instead bought a ’58 Ford Fairlane form Artie, a fellow waiter. He sold me the car on our last day. (It wasn’t until 47 years later that I bought the Hobie. I have owned several boards but the price of the Hobie was more than twice what I was used to paying. Because of my business I could buy boards for half price.)

On nights when my shift ended early, I would catch a ride with Artie or hitch to the strip in Hampton Beach. One night when I hitched back to the Farragut, I was picked up in a right-hand drive sports car. The driver was fast, reckless and loud. I asked him to let me out on the boulevard before the hotel, but he insisted on driving me to the front door. He made a lot of noise and when I exited the car the owner of the hotel came out. I remember the owner as a tall darkhaired handsome man of middle age, about 180 pounds. He said: ‘Who the hell are you and why are you here?’ I responded that I am Eddie and I work here and apologized for the noise. As the sports car burned rubber leaving, the owner said: ‘You’re fired!’ and walked back inside. I was devastated, but the night clerk friend of mine pulled me aside to explain: ‘Don’t worry about it; he’s drink and he won’t remember in the morning. He has fired me three times but never remembers.’ I very quietly snuck back to the Ritz and went to bed. The next morning, I went to work and everything was fine.

One guest who sticks in my mind was Mr. Swane, the president of the NH Poetic Society, who was there with other society members. Somehow the man took an interest in me and engaged me in conversation; he was very analytical. I remember him saying: ‘I took a walk behind the hotel last night and I heard someone who sounded a lot like you say: ‘1,2,3’ and then a group of young men shout: ‘Farragut House sucks!’ Of course, I denied it and he just smiled. It was like I led a double life – a high class waiter at work and a topical hell raising teenager, surf bum in my time off.

Mr. Swane left me a poem for a tip. He said he was going to dedicate it to me in his book. Somehow it stuck in my head for all these years. At the time, of course, I thought cash would have been more appropriate.

Yearningly youth sit on the edge of time

He sees the great mushroom cloud

He searches and searches for its rime

New oceans to cross, new mountains to climb

The question is, is there still time.

He had my number. I was one of those kids who could not wait to grow up and make my mark on the world.

It was as if all us waiters were in competition to see who could steal the most bar glasses. We had ashtrays inscribed with: ‘stolen from the Farragut Hotel.’ I even managed to swipe a Wedgwood China plate with a picture of the Farragut on it. ZI gave these to my parents and they were returned to me on their deaths. I believe that the glasses I stole from the hotel would have a better home in the Rye Museum so I am retuning them after 48 years to their rightful owners.

In 1966 I would not have dreamed that my act of thievery would contribute to the commemoration of a historic place and time, the summer of 1966.”


The female hotel employees with the nice rooms were located on the upper floors of the former Atlantic House hotel with a gift shop on the first floor. The Farragut owner liked his “tea,” and would serve golfers some of theirs after the first nine when the ninth fairway used to end at the Farragut playhouse. They never did as well on the back nine. Ed’s four “appropriated” martini glasses with the hotel’s logo on them are on display in the Rye Town Museum along with several other items from the iconic hotel. The hotel cocktail – lounge was located at the south end of the building near Central Road. Just across the road was the Farragut playhouse, dating from the late 1800s. It was a great part of Farragut live entertainment with parties, concerts, music and dancing along with gambling, live theater and later films.  Along with live music and dancing in the hotel, the Farragut entertainment center was a mecca of the seacoast for over a century.

The hotel closed in the early 1970s and was sold. That grand dame of Rye Beach hotels might still be standing today, as the restored (1990s) Wentworth Hotel is from that late 1800s era. But lack of interest and the dismal economy of the 1970s sealed its doom. In 1975 the Farragut (1882) and the former Atlantic House, (1846 Rye’s first hotel), were demolished.  Contrary to what some say, there never was a replacement Farragut built in 1976, only a mis-guided, exterior shell constructed on the footprint of the hotel which was finally torn down in 2002. Today a lovely fenced in lawn with flagpole marks the spot of Ed’s halcyon summer of ’66.

History of Firefighting and Fire Department

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Before the advent of steam driven, horse drawn fire fighting apparatus in the latter part of the 1800s, fire-fighting was mostly a losing battle. There are plenty of histories and reports of bucket brigades valiantly trying to save structures from burning and certainly they did have some success. Fire prevention  was a huge challenge, given the need for wood burning fires for heat, cooking and other uses.

Rye Town Reports first mention a “Fire Warden,” Charles O. Locke, for the year ending Jan. 31, 1918, but no details in the Report. We know that the first fire apparatus was kept in the garage of the Drake House Hotel and at some point, the trucks were moved to the Rye Beach Precinct building built in 1919, where today one can see on the right side two curved bricked up entries for fire apparatus.

By 1940 there was no detail in Town Report, John H Dechene, fire warden. After 1931, Rye purchased the Ford fire truck that we see today in the holiday parade. All during this time, all fires were recorded by the Town Clerk and may be seen on RHS web site under resources tab – “Access Rye History.”

In the 1949 Town Report Abbot Drake was listed as Fire Chief and Fire Warden Roy Green wrote a report about the “shameful waste of forest fires, most of which are caused by human carelessness and can be prevented.” The late 40s was the time of huge fires which burned from central NH through southern Maine to the coast and Rye volunteer fire-fighters helped to fight those massive fires.

In 1954, at long last, after a dispute between selectman Bob Goss, who favored the Ogunquit model for a new fire station, and Fire Chief Drake, who opposed it, Goss prevailed, and the new station was built in the center across from Jenness Store. We do not know who was watching the contractor, but later it was revealed that the structure, contrary to what the builder stated, would not support a second story which was needed in the future.  There were some observers who were suspicious of the materials used. There was a large section in the back of the building for a kitchen and recreation area with pool table which we local boys enjoyed with firemen. Rye was still a mostly a volunteer fire department, but with the new station, there was now at least one paid fireman on site at all times. Boys were welcome to put on water tank packs with nozzles and fight small fires that would break out in the fields.

One new feature of the building was a very loud and obnoxious foghorn fire alarm perched on top of the fire hose tower. It would give a series of blasts, a geographic code, from the tower to indicate where a fire was happening so that the volunteers knew where to go. That is why we knew about the Ocean Wave fire in April 1960 so we could ride our bikes there and watch it burn. The alarm was not heard all over town, so telephone calls made up the difference. Those who lived in the center suffered with this assault on the ears for many years. Six blasts from the awful horn indicated an air raid drill. The police shared a small section of the new fire station and they were again complaining of “another class of people at the beach at night” who keep us active at 3 in the morning.

By the late 1900s the need for a new station was clear and in the early 2000s a very large structure was proposed. There was no Civic League to report on public hearings and thus very little citizen input which might well have given us a smaller, but still more than adequate building. The new fire/police station opened in 2005, not without some controversy related to oversight of the contractor and legal arbitration followed. The only way the town can get the best investment on its tax dollar is through a well- informed citizenry, but the town finally got a state- of- the art facility it had been sorely lacking.

History of First Rye Light Infantry

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

 Ralph Morange III contributed the information in this piece

Starting in the 1600s militias were common in the colonies for keeping order as well as fighting int eh wars between the British and their settler colonial allies and the French and their sometime Indian allies. These wars started in the 1670s and ended in the 1760s. Local militiamen were often gone for long periods of time causing much hardship at home. The Rye militia used to practice (muster) on the Rye center parade – the large area of land from Lang Road to the war monument which is mostly paved over today. At the end of their musters the women would prepare a great feast in front of the church, a town celebration. Today the town owns the land right up to the church steps, a legacy of when the militia mustered on the Rye Parade.

At the time of the Revolutionary war there were several militia units in Rye and one of them marched to New Castle in Dec. 1774 to help with the take over of Ft William and Mary. When the war broke out the next year, hundreds of Rye men went off far and wide to serve in different units; 39 of them did not return. By the 1800s the militias began to be replaced by what today we call the state National Guard.

In the 1970s there was a great revival of interest in history and the Rye First Light Infantry was “re-formed” to honor the original unit of the 1700s and it took part in July 4th festivities starting in 1975. It had a very prominent role in the Bi-Centennial of 1976 and took part in at least two re-enactment marches, the Stark Expedition to Vermont in August, 1977, and the Penobscot Expedition in the summer of 1979.It did not disband as much as fade away.

 The York Militia unit was older than Rye’s.

Some of the Rye militia members were:

Clark Leach

Richard Staples.

Don Pongrace

Richard Tompkins

Ralph Morang Jr.

Ralph Morang III

Kent Lapage.

Many spouses were “camp followers,” not officially on the rolls, like:

Barbara Tompkins

Mary Pongrace 

Marguerite Leach

Ida Morang

The town museum had printed material on the militia from the 1970s as well as photos. For details on Rye militias over time, see History of Rye NH by Langdon Parson, 1905

History of Fishing in Rye

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Archaeology confirms that native peoples lived in the seacoast as far back as twelve thousand years ago. These were Algonquin speaking people of the Penacook confederacy, locally known as Piscataqua, fished, farmed, gathering the fruits of the forest and hunted. They were both settled and seasonally migratory peoples. In 1606, French explorer Champlain noted a settled community of about 200 of the Piscataqua people living near what is now Rye Harbor.

Fish were so abundant in the 1620’s that settler/colonists quickly learned from native peoples who would simply wade into the ocean with baskets and scoop up fish. Unfortunately, this abundance of cod and other fish started to be depleted by the 1700’s, but in the first century there was no reason to starve. There is a rich history of the fishing techniques and small fishing craft from the 1600s and 1700s. Rye had an active fishing fleet from the 1800s out of the inlet that became Rye Harbor. In spite of the depletion of fish, and restrictions on fishing starting in the 1990s, that tradition continues today, although in a much-diminished status.

Rye harbor was used from the beginning because it provided somewhat of a safe harbor except during storms when the fishermen would take their boats up the salt marsh creeks and at low tide pull the plug in the bottom of their boats on the mud flats. This allowed the boats to fill with water so they would be protected from storms and then after the tide at low tide, they would plug up their vessels after they had drained and sail off for more fishing. This practice continued until the breakwater was
constructed in 1940. 

Fishermen built fish supply and sales shacks and wharves along the coastline including where Bass Beach is today where the two cottages are located today. The south side of the harbor had wharves and fish shacks. The oldest remaining house, c. 1805, belongs to Harry Lowell, “Rose Arbor Cottage.” It was from this house that the first shots were fired in the Battle of Rye Harbor in 1814. (See separate document for that history).

In the 1800s a constant stream of working sailing vessels paraded across the horizon off the shores of Rye – pinkies, fishing sloops, two-mast coastal schooners and stately three-masted ocean -going
schooners, bound for the Grand Banks. Although mackerel harvest was down 50%, 400 barrels were caught inside Portsmouth harbor in a three-day period in 1837.

The “Two Brothers” schooner ran a lively trade out of Rye Harbor, which now had a wharf, exporting potatoes and returning from Boston with more varieties of fish and many sundries. Other fishing schooners were Capt. Richard Locke’s “Register,” Capt. William Verrill’s “Sarah,” Capt. Jesse Philbrick’s “Tabithia” and Capt. Dearborn Locke’s “Fly, Capt. Daniel Lord’s “Echo,” Capt. Gardiner Locke’s “Globe” and Capt. William Goss’ “Otis.” Others were: “Four Brothers,” “Tyre,” “Eagle,” and “John Brooks,”

The first effort to dredge the harbor was in 1792 using Goss family oxen, horses and rum. In 1940 and 1962 the harbor was dredged and all the material was dumped in the salt marsh behind the harbor (environmental awareness was just beginning with “Silent Spring” being published in 1963). That salt marsh was restored 2001-2005 and there is a plaque and viewing area behind to harbor to show that effort. After the 1962 dredging
the state pier was constructed. Prior to that time, all wharves for fishermen came from the south side of the harbor. Rye Harbor was most recently dredged in 2022 and the material was dumped in a designated place out to sea.  

The creation of the Rye Harbor State Pier and marina in 1962 was a boon to local fishermen, both those who fished for a living and sport fishermen. The pier also supported party fishing boats, whale watches and boats making regular runs to the isles of Shoals. This was now a public facility, unlike the private wharves off the south side of the harbor, which had leased space to small boats to access fishing boats moored in
the harbor. The state pier is managed by the NH Port Authority, A Division of the Pease Development Authority and recognized by the state of NH.

I worked at Saunders’ Restaurant in the summers of 1962 and 1963 and got to know lobstermen Lloyd Hughes and Herb Drake very well. They also fished for tuna and other finfish. Drake hired me on his lobster boat in the summer of 1963 but I did not last long. Leving the harbor at 4 AM I first felt queasy with the southeast swells. Then it got worse when I got downwind of the boat’s diesel fumes. What finally sent me over the
side and losing my breakfast was my job of baiting the traps with red fish by pushing their eyes through the trap hook! I was more successful working party fishing boats from the state pier on my day off.

Sue Reynolds, who fished out of the harbor for many years and long-term Rye Harbor Master Leo Axtin created the list below of past and present commercial fishermen at Rye Harbor; this list was made about 2014 and needs updating.

Rye Fishermen
Deceased: Living (active or ret.):
Bobby Anderson gill net Mike Anderson – dragger
Virgil Bagley lobster Rick Anderson – gill netter
David Boies jr. lobster Arthur Splaine – ret lobsterman
Frank Caswell lobster Jason Driscoll -gill net
Harry Donnell lobster Taylor Phillips -lobster
Pete Phillips- dragger Eric Anderson – ret. harbormaster, gill net & lobster now Portsmouth

Bud Hatfield A. Splaine’s stern man Jon Drake- gill net
Everett Eaton Lobster Robin Hughes – ret lobster
Lloyd S Hughes everything Jon Heisey -lobster
Sputz Pinney-dk Andy Widen – lobster
Richard Lock lobster and tuna Peter Aikens – lobster
Harold Mace lobster Wayne Driscoll – gill net
Pete Swanson lobster Steven Driscoll – gill net
Herb Drake everything Alan Eaton – lobster
Fred Myles charter and lobster Scott Heisey – presently inactive lobster
Ray Parker Carl Widen – retired lobster
Paul Pizz – Loydd Hughes stern man Randy Jones – lobster
Leighton Remick lobster Joseph Monroe- lobster
Mutt Richardson lobster Lee Schatvet – lobster
Keith Slingsby lobster Patrick Carberry- lobster pt
Bob Stetson lobster Jim Boynton – lobster
Elmer Caswell Ron Mace – lobster pt
Warren Caswell lobster not on monument James (Whitey)Bowles- dragger

Charter boat fleet:

Patrick Dennehy – charter fish
Brad Cook – Atlantic Queen head boat
Jon Savage – 6 pack charter and gill net
Ted Alex – 6 pack charter
Dwight Tuttle – 6 pack charter
Robert Weathersby – 6 pack charter
Bill Wagner- charter fish

Mandy Huff is the new (2022) Facilities harbor Master and Judy Dubois is the still part time Facilities Harbor Master of Rye Harbor and knows a lot about fishing and fishermen today. Leo Axtin is the Rye Harbor Master in charge of moorings for which there is a long waiting list. For years Sue Reynolds fished out of the harbor and ran a regular schedule of trips to Star Island on the “Uncle Oscar,” a converted fishing boat. Her son Pete now runs the same business in a larger Uncle Oscar vessel seating 40
(40 min to Star Island). The stone dory at the pier by the snack bar has names of some of those above as well as former harbor masters and some sport fisherman. Families have to pay to have their family members names inscribed on the monument. Current fishermen (2023) need to be added here.

Fishermen tend to be closed mouth so it is hard to get a lot of the history of fishing from them, but it is known that the “law of the sea“ is quite different from that of the land.

The history of fishing in Rye is as old as human habitation in this coastal region.

RHS sponsored a program on fishing with Sue Reynolds, Mike Anderson and others about ten years ago.

Rye 400 sponsored a program on fishing in Oct. 18, 2023:

Fishing off our Coast: A Celebration of Rye’s Maritime History

This event was filmed – to view it go to: Rye Public Library web site; lower right – click on streaming, it will take you to town hall streams and then go to RPL October file and click on the Oct 18 th program -Fishing off the coast, cut and paste address into your browser to view.

This was an amazingly frank, detailed and fascinating program by the five panelists and the moderator. I took notes which I will eventually add to this document, but one of the high (low) lights was the universal opinion of the panelists that the federal regulations are unnecessarily onerous. Under the federal observer program fishermen are treated like criminals and there has been no concerted effort by the govt to work with them to
find common ground. Sen. Shaheen has been able to get some reimbursement to fishermen for the costs they have to pay for these observers, many of whom are just out of college and have never been at sea and are often incompetent.

Program description:

Rye, New Hampshire has a rich maritime and fishing history. Fishing and lobstering were once among the town’s largest occupations, and the bounty of the ocean has fed many people in New England and beyond.
This event celebrates the stories of those who have fished and made a living off our coast and will include a moderated panel. Featured panel members.

Kelsea Anderson: Owner/Operator Rimrack, based in Rye, New Hampshire

Keper Connel: Owner/Operator of Figment based in Rye, New Hampshire

Johnny Heisey: Lobstering, Rye, NH

Sam Novello: Owner/Operator: VincieN & Captain Novello; based in Gloucester

David Goethel: Owner/Operator of the Ellen Diane based in Hampton, NH
(See his new book: Endangered Species (fishermen) pub. in Hampton Oct. 19, ’23)

See the book – Just Rye Harbor by Rose and Tom Clarie and Peter Randall, 2005, – a good history

There are many books written about New England fishing history.

To learn about the big picture of fishing in North America over the centuries and how the stock became so depleted, see: The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail by Jeffery Bolster, 2014, retired prof of history at UNH; he gave a program on the book for RHS and highlighted that in the 1800s fishermen were pleading with the federal govt to regulate the rapidly depleting stocks of fish.

Today Oct 18, 2023 Maine Public Radio’s (90.1 FM) “Maine Calling” show featured the status of lobster fishing in the Gulf of Maine with guests and call in – well worth a listen.

Fishing is a noble profession and its history is as old as human history. It is a story of great courage, but in the modern world it has become highly complex due to depleted sources, fierce international competition and is fraught with inept and misguided govt regulations. It is a very complicated issue but one that demands our attention.



History of the Five Century old Marston House (55 Lang Rd.)

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

The history of a house is often a long and complicated story. Families grow and additions, renovations and other changes happen. Some houses have many different owners over time and sometimes the house has been moved.

In 1654, William Marston, one of the founders of Hampton in 1638, built a house about a mile north of where the town center is today. It measured about 20’ x 20’ with a chimney running up the outside of the house and a full cellar. The front door faced south toward the town center.

Sometime in the early 1700s, before 1747, the family had grown to the point where the house needed to be doubled in size to about 30’ x 40’ with a large center chimney, but no cellar under the new section. At that point the house looked like so many other classic first period center chimney colonials.

In 1840 the extended Marston family required even more room so a 1 ½ story wing with full cellar was added off the rear of the house. The first floor of the wing showed the influence of Victorian architecture with 12’ foot ceilings, a large window from a town church and a bay window, facing the Long Lane, Lafayette Road today. The 2nd floor had only 3’ walls.

The last Marston’s to live in the house were Adeline Marston, a Hampton Teacher for whom the Marston School is named, and her niece, Leonora Marson Wing. Adeline died in 1963 and the house was sold to a local developer as some point, but was abandoned until the early 1970s when a craft shop opened. But they almost burned it down, saved at the last minute by business owner across the highway who alerted the fire dept. The “crafters” had gone off and left a fire in the fireplace with no screen and a burning log rolled out catching the base of the mantle on fire. I interviewed Leonora Marston Wing in her apartment in Hampton 1975 and learned some additional information about the family.

These huge old houses from the 1600s and 1700s, often called “first period” houses or colonials, were constructed using technology brought over from England. The technique was post and beam and the oak beams were notched together with the mortise of one beam (external) inserted into the tenon of another beam (internal), also called the male and female. Then an oak peg was driven through a hole to keep the members together. Floors, doors and interior paneling were pine.

In 1975 I saw a homemade For Sale sign in front of the Marson House on Lafayette Road in Hampton, facing the parking lot of what today is Middleton Lumber.  I finally found the owner, a Hampton developer named John Lamson, who told me it had become a “white elephant” which no one wanted and he wanted to use the land for commercial purposes. He sold me the house for $4000 with the understanding that it would be dismantled and moved by summer. Then I hired his brother Russell Lamson to dismantle the house and move it to Rye to be reassembled ($5000). We were on full display for passersby and one of them thought we were demolishing the house so we got Ralph Morang III to take a photo with caption and run it in the Hampton Union. The huge oak beams weighed hundreds of pounds and it took six of us to carefully lower them to the ground. When we got to the end of the first- floor frame, we had to lower the whole thing in one piece, not an easy task. It was a thrilling experience to work along with the crew in the dismantling and all was taken including the bricks from the chimney and the granite foundation. The last item to be removed was the three-section classic front stairway, all in one piece.  

To pay for reassembly and new materials I only had to borrow $40,000 and from 1976 to 1986 I spent another $50,000 to complete the house, almost 5000 sq ft for a total cost of about $100,000. When the house was reassembled in late 1975, Russell brought on Hampton carpenter Mickey Shaw. It was a slow process and the hardest part was fitting together the beams of the roof structure so they could be pegged into place. On occasion a long 2’ x 4’ used Archimedes Principle to actually move the whole roof frame enough to fit a beam into place.” Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum big enough and I can move the world.”

A conventional two-story extension of the wing was added between the main house and the original wing. When the frame was reassembled on Dec 31, 1975 a small pine tree was cut in the field and attached to the top of the gable end, a “roof tree,” a tradition dating back centuries to symbolize where the house came from. It was always a cause of celebration and this New Years Eve was especially eventful. It was a great experience and much fun working with Russell Lamson and crew.

I moved into the house in June 1976 and there was much work left to be done – clapboards, central chimney, central heating, insulation, etc. RHS sponsored the first of several house tours in July 1976 and the very unfinished Marston House was on it, allowing people to see all the exposed beams, a virtual new, very old house. Along with friends I did most of the unskilled labor. In the first year I lived in the wing with a wood stove for heat. In early 1977 I met carpenter Bob Watt and together we finished the entire interior of the house. Bob became a good friend and to this day I admire the fine work he did, especially in the oldest 1600s room where he fit all the original interior pine paneling back in place.  In 1979 I added an apartment on the second floor of the main house and by the mid -1980s the interior was complete.

The widow Joanna Elkins was one of the residents of the house in the 1700s. A doctor’s bill for her, “5 pounds old tenor,” was found under the floor boards and is preserved today in the house. The original paneling and floor boards are best seen in the oldest 1654 section of the house. All the beams are exposed in the house today and are especially striking in their size in the front hall. Most of the first floor has the original wide pine flooring and the original doors are in place.

 An art studio was added off the gable end of the original 1654 section in 2005, thus completing the fifth century of this old house. There are not too many five century houses in the country, but New England certainly must have a few as these old houses have been well cared for and additions continue to be added. Ipswich MA has more houses built in the 1600s than any other town in the US.

Over the years Marston’s of Hampton had intermarried with Rye families. Before 1726, when the parish of Rye was established from the neighborhood of Sandy Beach, the southern part of the village was part of Hampton so it was fitting the house was saved from demolition and moved to Rye where some Marston’s used to live and are buried in the old burial ground behind the church.

The finished Marston House was on a second house tour in 1986 and was featured in the Manchester Union Leader. A power point of the whole dismantling and reassembly of the house was shown at the Rye library in the early 2000s and later in Hampton for their historical society. There is also a photo album which shows the whole process. 

I recognize that I was very lucky to do this house project in the 1970s, before de-regulation and get rich quick housing speculation starting in the 1980s made home ownership increasingly beyond the reach of many. There are still some very affordable houses left in this very unaffordable US housing market, so keep an eye out for a “white elephant” and you might just find one.

History of George Lang diary   1871 – 1901

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

The Lang families figure prominently in Rye history in the 1800’s. At some point the name “Lang’s Corner” came into being and that name may connect to the large farmhouse that used to sit where the former gas station sat at Wallis and Sagamore roads.  Lang Road was named for a family who used to live on the Portsmouth end of that road which was originally called New Road and then Portsmouth Road. But the Lang family that is most significant in Rye History is that of George Lang, the diarist, who lived atop “Bed Bug Hill” (above todays Mt. View Terrace). George was born in 1827, the illegitimate son of Nancy Lang. He married Elizabeth Place in 1850 and had three children in that decade: George William, Sophronia and Hezekiah Perry. 

After serving in the Civil War, George Lang kept a diary from 1871-1901 and this is the first excerpt: “July 25, 1871 Tuesday, this is something new to do for me at this time of life, ought to have commenced in my school days, well it is not too late now to begin. I went to Portsmouth to get my bills allowed for my Bounty this day.”  (Those who served in the Civil War and were entitled to a bounty of $300 paid by those who wanted to avoid service.)

Lang rarely mentions his family except his daughter, who he liked to visit, and the death of his wife in 1893. We cannot judge relations between family members based on this diary, but we can get real insights into the life of the town as seen through the eyes of a man who worked for many residents as well as farm and other jobs. In some ways, George Lang had the same observant eye as his near contemporary Henry David Thoreau. Each man was about town and making connections with different people in different trades and each man was intimately connected with the material culture of their town, the farming and fishing tools, hand-made wooden items, iron work used by blacksmiths, wagon and sleigh makers and other trades. While Thoreau wrote at length about these observations on every- day life in his journal, Lang had the same familiarity with his town, but his recorded observations, while sparse, are no less interesting. The tools  and practices of work and home are the essential history of the daily life of ordinary people. Such history may not reflect the deeds of notable people, but the work is no less essential. In Lang’s diary the reader learns about some aspects of this history and also learns from what is left out but may be easily imagined to have been there from the wide range of activities and people Lang encountered.

George Lang’s diary is a careful documentation of farm life in Rye which includes the weather, some births and deaths, the kind of work he did for himself and others such as cutting firewood, grave digging, moving corpses around, harvesting apples, spreading seaweed on gardens, grass and salt marsh hay cutting, planting and harvesting potatoes, planting and harvesting many garden vegetables, hauling manure, digging up old trees, hauling kelp for hens, painting houses, hooping cider barrels, sod cutting, husking field corn, road work for the town and, of course, planting and harvesting rye.  He also ordered and sold fruit and peanuts and spent several summers with his aunt Mary in South Hadley, Massachusetts where he took tourists up Mount Holyoke. There is an occasional rumination at the end and beginning of the year about how people were living and would they make it through the coming year. The diary reflects the rhythm of life of one Rye native and his town and to read it is to know Rye. George records the ordinary life that we all lead, but mostly do not record. Nothing extraordinary happens and yet it is the stuff of life.  Excerpts from the diary, in quotations, will appear over the next thirty years.

“August 23, 1871, worked in the marsh today for John Philbrick, $2.00, sold Mr. Verrill one bottle of medicine, a smart shower in the morning.” 

“October 14, 1871, worked with Jed Rand for one day, $1.41 beef, $1.08 butter, .20 soap, $1.75 pair shoes, .42 broom.

“November 16, 1871, the worst storm of the season for a good many years, done sight of damage along the shore of the ocean.” 


Below are excerpts from George Lang’s diary for 1874.

“February 16, cloudy spits snow, a little wind, a man was run over at Portsmouth and killed and was cut into parts; sold Mr. Mace one bushel of potatoes for .55.”

“March 10, cold and squally, got Richard P Goss to haul the wood from the Commons but give it up, a bad job, snow gone, had town meeting.”

“April 7, Cloudy, northern lights bright in evening, work for Mr. Garland putting out manure.”

“May 13, clear and warm, work with RP Goss and John Colby Philbrick [Farragut hotel owner] saw a new ship out from Newburyport and a tug for Portsmouth. May 19, clouds west wind, went to Harbor mill Rye and bought 300 lbs. plaster $1.55.” 

“June 15, clear west wind, robin- built nest in lilac by front door.  June 18, clear cutting oaks in Mrs. Garland’s wood for new bridge at East part of town called Doctor’s mill.”

“July 4, went to Amesbury to see Sophronia. July 14, ID Rand haying, big stable frame raised at Locks Neck. July 30, ID Rand haying, settled in full to date $35.50.”

“August 7, clear and warm, went to Portsmouth, bought tea .40, cheese .95, 4 yds cement. 75, brush .56, yarn .96, cup saucers and pitcher .67, tin dishes .88, dinner .33, thread plaster and paper .33, also got gun repaired and got shingle nails. July 2, Mr. Levi Walker died suddenly with congestion of lungs after only four hours of sickness, age 65.”

“September 21, clear after the storm; bright warm, pressing hay for Adams Drake east end. September 28, got to Manchester to visit fair – cattle, hogs, sheep

“October 5, clear heavy frost, J Buchanon Drake age 18 died today from typhoid. October 26, sunrise as red as blood, picked apples for Oliver Jenness for eight hours and got paid $1.04

“November 12, clear cold, went to Portsmouth Jubilee all day [250th anniversary], sold Emory Jenness two bushels beans $6.00.  September 27, clear Sundog north of the sun, sign of storm.”

“December 4, clear, help Joseph Berry get seaweed paid .55. Dec. 5, cold mild at noon, poles for the cable man put up past house.”  [These must have been for the new international telegraph.]


The winter of 1887- 88 was one of the most notorious and this was the year when national weather statistics began to be kept. Here is how George Lang reported that year’s brutal weather in Rye in his diary:

“January 17 to 29 1888, snow all day; huge drifts, gale winds, below zero temperatures, roads blocked very high up, very bad travelling, water froze in well for first time.”

 February 4 snow wind, very bad travelling, still went to Portsmouth on the old mare. March 10, began snowing, ship wreck on the 11th, snow continues until the 14th. On the 13th 100 still show up at town meeting in wild storm, one of the worst storms in anyone’s memory.”

“June 23, 1888, to Portsmouth with J.O.D., bought shirts for .25 each, dinner .40, shave .10, very hot 102 degrees in the shade, come home by way of Sagamore Rd., they are building it over and the traveling will be improved, thunder and lightning at night with a few sprinkles of rain.”

“October 25, 1888, seven hours of work Oren S Green picking apples, ground is full of water, went to Portsmouth with Rye Club and marched through town in procession, got home at one o’clock in the morning.” GL (Green’s orchard was located where Websters at Rye is today and the Green’s farmhouse still stands beside the entrance to Hunter’s Run. Lang was part of a veteran’s club that marched in Portsmouth.)

1888 came in like a lion but went out like a lamb as described here by Lang:

“December 25, Christmas day and as warm as summer, some fine clouds passing by with west wind, cutting wood for Joseph Drake on the Ledges, mercury at 80 degrees at noon. Dec. 26, at noon 85 degrees, can hear the ledge blasting at Cape Ann very clear, very smoky. Dec. 31, Oren Green hauled some old apple tree wood for me – this is the last day of the year 1888, rolled away into the vast eternity, a new day will soon be dawning.” GL

Note – in the 1890s, mentions “fireworks all over town in evening of July 4th

And in 1899 he writes about going to a funeral in Portsmouth for an American general killed in Manilla in the Philippines – part of the Spanish American War 1898 – 1901


“Dec. 31, 1899 – Sunday, glass at zero, pretty cold morning, wind blows dust along, this is the last day of 1899.”

Jan. 1, 1900 – Monday, wind northeast and a rousing old snow going, coming down fear fully, and drifting.”

George Lang apparently had a logical, mathematical mind and recognized, unlike many others, either then or in 2000, that this day was not the beginning of the new century, but the start of the final year of the 1800s.


“July 4 1901, a bright meteor felt last night just at dark the size of a Oeck measure, 80 above in the shade, wind east.    July 8, 62 above, hot air south wind, took a walk to the south part of the town to see some of my last spring’s apple grafting, good part of it living.  July 10, glass 60 cloudy south wind, dug grave for Mr. Goodwin to bury his mother who died at 87.   July 11, 64 above, cloudy and hot wind variable, shower of rainfall still continues at two o’clock; do good.”   

George Lang died the next day, July 12, 1901, two days after burying Goodwin’s mother.  Who dug his grave on Washington Road just below his house? it must have been one of his fellow choppers and one assumes there were many who came to see him off. His last walk on July 8th to admire his handywork of apple grafting says so much about what gave him pleasure as well as his many skills and interests.  His last words in the diary, “do good,” makes one wonder if he had a premonition of his death and this was his farewell, encouraging us to take the high road. We thank George Lang and his diary for helping later generations come to know Rye so intimately during these thirty years.

History of Goss Farm

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

                  Additional material by Sandra Goss Munsey et al


On a large stone, flat in the ground and hard to notice,  facing Harbor Road near entry drive to Goss farm, the following words are chiseled:

                              Goss Farm at Dry Point

                              1668 William Berry

                              1720 Joseph Locke

                              1793 Nathan Goss

                              1802 Gen. Thomas Goss

                              2010 Rye Conservation Commission.” 


                 On a new, large stone by the barn is inscribed wording that chronicles how Goss Farm came to be owned by the town. In addition in 2023 one of he seven history signs is located on the property telling about the history of the farm as well as the Isles of Shoals


Farmhouses, barns and out buildings existed on this site in the 1600s as they did on the land of several of the remaining farmsteads in town that were built later in the 1700s and 1800s. Knowing what we do about life in the 1600s, we can imagine their life with the abundance from the sea and forest. Although much has been lost in the shadowy borderlands of history, those early settlers began a rich agricultural legacy in Rye that continues to this day.


 A History of Goss Farm by Sandra Goss Munsey, with support from Corinne Goss Carrigan & Herb Drake

“Gen. Thomas Goss owned the farm located at 251 Harbor Road and built the house, connecting building and barn in the 1790s. Nathan Goss was very active in the dredging of Rye Harbor by hand in that decade and the Goss family supplied horses, equipment and rum to fuel the grueling task. The Goss family also had a tidal mill on the property for both grinding grain and cutting boards. There were many working schooners out of Rye Harbor in the 1800s and Thomas Goss had one of them named “Otis” which carried the surplus vegetables and potatoes from his farm to many ports including Boston.

Thomas Goss passed the farm on to his son John Sheridan Goss, who in turn passed it on to his son, Wallace S. Goss in 1903. Wallace continued to farm the land raising chickens, cows, apples and other farm produce until his death in 1921, leaving an adult son and teenage daughter (children of his deceased first wife Sarah Caswell) and his second wife Marion Bennett Concannon, their eight years old son Robert and her twenty-year old son Henry. Marion continued the operation of the farm with help from her children, an occasional hired man and two of her Fraser cousins form Nova Scotia.

Rye was a popular destination starting with the advent of the railroad in the 1840s and eventually had eight hotels for the well to do and forty boarding houses for those of more modest means. By the time of Wallace’s death, the Model T Ford was creating a new summer visitor, the day tripper and the weekender, who often was pulling a small camping trailer. At some point between 1921 and the Great Depression, Marion responded to the demand for a place near the beach where the traveler could pitch a tent for a night or two.  After the June hay cutting, the field on the east side of the house became Goss Auto Camp from July until Labor Day. A remaining sign discovered at the farm shows an arrow that must have been placed at the bar-way entrance to the field and states a fee of $1.00 per person. Ther was drinking water available at a wooden pump between the house and the barn. Milk, eggs fruit and vegetables could be purchased conveniently. A short walk to the Red Bridge entrance to the south side of the harbor provided a beach access and inexpensive lobsters and fish were available a bit further down the road to the harbor. Local eating places conveniently located a mile of two in either direction, provided inexpensive meals. Herbert R. Drake remembers seeing tents and signs for Goss Auto Camp when he was about seven or eight years old in the early 1930s. The exact dates that Goss Auto Camp opened and cl9sed have been lost to history, but it probably continued throughout the Depression.

Marion Goss, like so many farm widows, created her cash income in many ways. She baked bread and pies for “the tea room,” possibly the one at R. Jennes Locke’s Pavilion (1899), now the Rye Beach club (1924). Having learned to hook wool rugs as a girl in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, she made small rugs in the winter to sell to the summer people and the Goss Farm visitors, as well as continuing the farm operations with the help of her sons.

Sometime in the 1930s Marion decided to pen the house as a tourist home, perhaps in response to requests from some of the campers or maybe simply as another source of income. By World War II “Goss Farm Room for Tourists” became a familiar summer sign at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Harbor Road. Unlike a bed and breakfast, tourist houses did not usually serve breakfast, although Marion allowed “kitchen privileges” to a few favored guests. At first, a night’s rent was only $1.00, but later the price increased to $1.50 for a couple and .50 for a child. The entire second floor with its five bed rooms became guest space and Marion moved down stairs in the sitting room. Because the piped domestic water came from rain water collected in cisterns, a daily chore was to provide fresh well water for drinking. A small round tray with a covered carafe and glasses supplied each room. Health regulations required laundering guest’s sheets and towels in the washing machine with a hand crank wringer, followed by boiling them in a large oval copper washtub set on the black kitchen wood stove. After drying sheets and towels outside on lines strung up across a clothes yard, the final step meant ironing each sheet with a heavy electric flat iron.

In 1938 Robert built a three-room cottage at the edge of the apple orchard in back of the homestead. Every spring he and his wife Frances and daughter Sandra moved out of the farm house, staying in the cottage until late fall. The tourist season ran from Memorial Day until Columbus Day then. By the summer of 1948 the demand for tourist home accommodations had diminished from competition of motels. That year Robert began construction to modernize the kitchen and install a central heating system, completing the work in 1949. The next year, 1950, was the final year that Marion operated Goss Farm Rooms for Tourists. Rober and Frances’ family expanded with the birth of twins, Sarah and Corinee, a tight squeeze in a three-room cottage. Although the room rate had increased to $5.00 a couple, still a bargain, customers came mostly on big weekends when the motels and hotels were full. The Goss Farm sign came down for the last time in October 1950, signaling an end to another of Rye’s 20th century tourist traditions.”    end of Sandra Goss Munsey history


After 1950, the Goss family lived on at the farm until Bob and Frances Goss died. By the early 2000s the farm then belonged to their four daughters and one son. For some years the buildings were not occupied, but then in 2009 a mysterious fire burned the house and it was investigated by the state Fire Marshall, but no cause was determined.  In the ensuing clean up, some family members decided to demolish the connecting buildings to the barn. For a time, some family members considered a five- lot housing development for the nine- acre site, but all five members did not agree. A court settlement decreed that the majority of the family members had the right to determine the future of the land and by a 3 -2 vote it was decided to sell it to the town for $1.3 million rather than to a developer. Half the funds came from Rye Open Space bond money and the other half from the US Department of Agriculture. (One of the family members retained ownership of the rest of the farmland on the opposite side of Harbor Rd., and even though the RCC offered him the market value for the land, he refused and there is a four- lot subdivision there today, on the edge of the Rye Harbor salt marsh.)

The Rye Conservation Commission (RCC) was very much involved in the negotiations with the family for the purchase of the approx. nine acres including the barn. The purpose of acquiring the land was to use it for community farming. In 2013 the conservation commission, led by Sally King and Tracy Degnan, placed a warrant article on the ballot for $140,000 to restore the barn which passed in 2014 by 100 votes. The restored barn and diverse farming activities today at Goss Farm are a testament to the work of the conservation commission, volunteers and citizen’s support of this great community resource.  celebrated with the first Goss Farm Fall Fair in September, 2019, another in 2021 and more to follow. This community celebration, in the spirit of earlier century’s harvest fests, celebrates the town’s deep and rich farming history.

History of Family Graveyards

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Until the late 1800’s family members were buried in graveyards on their farmsteads. A few were also buried behind the Congregational Church in the town center in the early to mid-1800’s.  These family burial plots sometimes included a large monument, granite posts, a metal railing and sometimes had an entrance gate, but most were more modest.  In the Rye Historical Society Town Museum stands a fine example of a Victorian entry gate that was rescued from a graveyard on West Road. Most commonly, these graveyards had simple head stones, sometimes foot stones and some simple, unmarked field stones. Several of these graveyards were found off the road.

During Victorian times, many of these graveyards could be seen along the roadways.  Citizens complained that they did not want reminders of the dead and the selectmen agreed that it could be a bit depressing. The Wedgwood graveyard on Lang Road has a substantial stone and cement wall completely surrounding the graves, which must have been put up to appease Victorian Rye after the last of the Wedgwood’s was buried there in the early 1880’s.

                           Caretaking of Rye’s historic graveyards

The Rye Heritage Commission manages the graveyards by seeking volunteers to take care of them. If you are interested, contact RHC

Notes on access to and taking care of the graveyards which reflects at 2012 Nh law

  1. Permission must be secured from adjacent property owner to visit off road graveyards that require walking over their private property
  2. If you want to adopt and become custodian of a graveyard, e-mail Rye Heritage Com. chair Alex Herlihy – [email protected]
  3. If the box is blank, graveyard needs to be adopted
  4. NH state law of 2012 (RSA 289:14a,19 Maintenance, repair and preservation of burial grounds) reaffirmed that family graveyards (cemeteries are pubic burying grounds) are under the purview of town govt. and do not belong to the adjacent property owner.

It is a violation of the 2012 state law to disturb these historic family graveyards unless stones or gates are in disrepair and need to be housed in a facility such as local museum.

  1. Rye Select Board designated the Rye Heritage Commission to have purview over all historic graveyards
  2. There are additional family burial sites which have yet to be identified. They will be added to this list when they are documented
  3. Rye Town Museum has two binders with photos and notes on all these graveyards
  4. On Rye’s web site, see Rye Heritage Commission web site listing all info on hist graveyards including how to adopt one of them.

Note – the list below is being updated to reflect all road addresses adjacent to the graveyard and to list all 60 of them.

Family Burial GroundLocation-closest Road addressCustodian – registered with RHCCondition
1.       BeebeStar IslandIsles of Shoals CorporationGood
2.       BerryOpposite 130 Central RdWell maintained
3.       Brackett burialgroundOpposite 605 Brackett RdThomas O’Neil, descendantGood
4.       BrownOpp. 333 West Rd.;off West Rd behind 144Gordius
5.       CaswellStar IslandIsles of Shoals CorporationExcellent
6.       CaswellOff Washington Rd, rear of 117
7.       DaltonOpp.  121 Garland Rd
8.       DowNear 139 Parsons RdCannot find in thicket
9.       DowOpposite 1159 Washington RdGordiusNeeds tree surgeon, chain repair, stone cleaning and stones to be righted
10.   FossWashington Rd., nr. 25BlanchardWell mowed; stones need cleaning
11.   FoyeNr. 181 Brackett RdBarrieObelisk needs cleaning
12.   GarlandAcross from 1159 Washington Rd·         See below
13.   JennessCable Rd., rear of 125
14.   Langnr. 832 Washington Rd
15.   LockeRear 14 Harbor Rd
16.   Locke/Downingnr. 130 Locke Rd. & rear of 305 LockeGood stones; needs clean-up & maintenance; Philbrick plaque
17.   LockeRear 571 Brackett Rd
18.   LockeCor. Locke & Old Beach Rdfieldstones
19.   MardenRear 81 Wallis Rd
20.   MardenOff West Rd
21.   Nason single markernear 410 Washington Rd.
22.   Odiornerear 233 Brackett Rd
23.   OdiorneOdiorne Park; rear of 505Daughters of Am. RevolutionSign needs repair, fallen
24.   Old Burial Ground, Tuck MonumentStar IslandIsle of Shoals Corporation
25.   PhilbrickRear 32 Cable Rd& rear 62 Cablefragments
26.   PhilbrickChurch RdSt. Andrew’sWell maintained
27.   Remickrear 405 Brackett Rd
28.   Salter/Randnear 651 Wallis RdNeeds trees pulled, trees trimmed, stones need cleaning
29.   Seaveyrear of 20 Brackett Rd
30.   Seaveyrear 220 Pioneer Rd
31.   Seaveyrear 510 Sagamore Rd
32.   Sleeperrear 245 West and no. 333 West
33.   South Rd. CemeteryNear 434 South RdNeed seedlings pulled, broken stones, stones need cleaning.
34.   Trefethen, a single markerNr. 333 Washington Rd
35.   TuckerOff Elwyn, nr. Ports. line.
36.   TuckerNr. 257 Washington Rd
37.   VarrellNr. 300 Sagamore RdCole
38.   Wallisnr. 500 Brackett RdMcCuneGood condition, stones need cleaning
39.   Websternr. 591 Long John Rd,
40.   WedgwoodNr 19 Lang RoadGrantgood
Various unmarked fieldstones exist off Central, Grove, Sagamore, Rock Orchard, Wallis, Washington, Park Ridge and Odiorne Rds.Several gravestones at Rye town museum                

* Overgrown graveyard behind 1159 Washington Road

Errol L. Smart, Son of Samuel C. & Mary W., born Nov. 26, 1866, died Dec 23, 1933
Martha A., Wife of Fred L. Smart, born Jan. 24, 1869, Died Aug. 30, 1911
Martha J., Dau. of Edward L. & Elvira A. Garland, died Mar. 9, 1898, 18 ys.10ms.18ds.
Elvira A., Widow [?] of Edward L. Garland, died Mar.18, 1898, 69 ys.8 ms. 22 ds.
Edward L. Garland, died July 7, 1872, 50 Ys.6 Mos.
Mary W., Wife of Samuel C. Smart, died Feb. 24, 1905, 57 ys.9ms.10days
Emma L., [illegible], died July 5, 1898, 17ys.14ds
Levi Garland, Died Dec. 17, 1863, Aged 70yrs.
Moody Watson [nothing else legible]
Polly [nothing else legible, plus by this time I think I was battling stickery growth]
[?] Jane, daughter of Levi Jr. and Polly Garland, died Nov. 18, 18[?]6
Dea. Eben W. Marden, Born in Rye, died in Boston, July 2, 1880, aged 62 Yrs. [?]Ds.
Julia H., wife of Eben W. Marden and daughter of Levi & Polly Garland, Born in Rye Sept. 13, 1819, Died in Boston, Mass [?] 55, aged 35 yrs.6mos.23ds.
Frank W., son of E. [illegible] Marden
Levi Garland, Died [illegible] 1837
Lucy, wife of Levi Garland, died Jan.1, 1811, aged 44 years [illegible] & 25 days
Hanoy?, wife of Levi Garland, died [illegible]1816, aged 6[?] years
Julia, dau of John T. & Mary J. Rand, [hidden by leaves] 1, 1861
Mary Jane, Wife of John I. Rand, Died Apr.1, 1896, AEt. 69yrs6ms, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.
John I. Rand, Died July 11, 1911, AEt 88yrs.2ms, My trust is in God.

                              History of 1859 Gravestone outside museum

This fine 19th century sugar marble headstone was discovered by Lisa and Tom Sherman in the summer of 2011 as they were doing some excavating at their home on the corner of Locke and Harbor roads. The gravestone was originally located in the Goss family graveyard, not far from the historic Goss barn on the opposite side of Harbor Road.

When the Central Cemetery was opened in 1893, many families removed the remains of their ancestors and reinterred them at the new cemetery. Some people moved the head stones, but others abandoned them at the original burial site. The Sherman’s house was originally owned by the Brown family who took the abandoned stone, turned it over, and used it as a doorstep which is how it was discovered by the by Sherman’s.

The name of the carver of this gravestone, Philbrick, was etched below the epitaph. Farmers were the master of many trades and in the winter, they had time to practice some of them such as gravestone carving. This stone weighs between 300 and 400 pounds which may explain why some of them were left behind in the 1890’s.

In the 1600’s and 1700’s slate was stone of choice to mark burial sites, but in the late 1700’s and 1800’s very heavy sugar marble was common and in the late 1800’s granite began to be used as it still is today. Throughout history there were many who could not afford the cost of the stone nor the carving, so they marked the graves of family members with a plain stone and the names and dates were either passed on orally or in writing to later generations.

Over sixty Rye families chose not to use the new cemetery and those old farmstead graveyards have been photographed and documented. This information may be viewed in the Rye Town Museum as well as on the Rye town web site under Heritage Commission. The museum also has a self-guided tour flier of some of the most prominent of these road side graveyards.

A New Hampshire state law in 2012 clarified that these graveyards are not part of anyone’s private property. Descendants of the family buried there has the first right of caretaking the graveyard. Should no one come forward, then the adjacent property owner or someone else may come forward to the Heritage Commission and formally be identified as the caretaker. Most of the farmstead graveyards in Rye today are in need of people to adopt them.

The Rye Historical Society is grateful to the Sherman’s for their donation of this handsome 19th century gravestone and it may be seen today to the left of the front door to the town museum.

History of Family Graveyards of Rye and the Creation of Central Cemetery

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Until the late 1800’s family members were buried in graveyards on their farmsteads.  Some family graveyards included a large monument, granite posts, a metal railing and an entrance gate. In the Town Museum stands a fine example of a Victorian entry gate that was rescued from a graveyard on West Road that had fallen into disrepair. Most commonly, these graveyards had simple head stones, sometimes foot stones and some simple, unmarked field stones. Several of these graveyards are visible along the roads today and RHS has a printed driving tour of the most prominent ones. Others are located off the road behind historic houses and require permission of property owner to access them. A full digitized tour of all sixty graveyards is a need.

The earliest public burial area was in the graveyard behind the 2nd Congregational church (1757 – 1837).  Col. Benjamin Garland, who ran the Garland Tavern across from the church from 1756 to 1800, was buried here in 1802. There are graves of other members of the Garland family as well as those from the Marston, Trefethen, Goss, Parsons, Lang, and Drake families from the 1800’s.  This area also contains plots of 20th and 21st century residents. In Victorian times, citizens complained about some of the roadside graveyards because they did not want reminded of the dead and the selectmen agreed that it could be a bit depressing. The Wedgwood graveyard on Lang Road has a substantial stone and cement wall completely surrounding the graves, which must have been put up to appease Victorian Rye after the last of the Wedgwood’s was buried there in the early 1880’s.

In 1893 a new Central Cemetery was established off Central Road behind the Congregational Church. The Town of Rye purchased the original six acres of land for the Central Cemetery from the Locke family for $840 in 1893, as well as $600 for a vault where bodies would be kept during the winter when they could not be buried. The town laid out 314 lots and the cemetery began to fill up. The original sections were Division 1, the triangular shaped area that runs along the woods, and Division 2 and 3 in front of the garage with upper and lower sections separated by a roadway.

Cemetery trustees were voted in, a hearse was bought and housed nearby on Wahington Road, and a superintendent’s building was constructed near the vault.  Near this building can be seen a small structure on the roadway which served the superintendent in the early days as a “viewing stand” where he would wait out of sight for the burial service to finish. When relatives had left, he would complete the burial. In the viewing station today are several charts and records, one which shows an expansion of the original sections in 1918 to borders we see today.

Families were urged to remove the remains of their ancestors from graveyards to newly purchased plots at the Central Cemetery. Over sixty families refused to do so and some roadside graves remained visible. People had the option of bringing any monuments and markers from the graveyards, but many simply abandoned those stones and had new ones created. One such abandoned headstone on Harbor Road was that of Charles Goss, age 24, who died in 1859. Sometime after 1893 his headstone was taken by the neighboring Brown family on the corner of Harbor and Locke and used as a step to enter their house. The Sherman family discovered this was a marker when they turned it over.  They donated it to the Rye Historical Society where it can be viewed today outside the Town Museum.

In 1901, cemetery trustees reported that 232 of the original 314 lots had been sold. The trustees also predicted that family graveyards would be abandoned and that many new lots remained for purchase, but over sixty families kept their farmstead graveyards which can be viewed today. They are documented and may be seen on the town web site under Heritage Commission. 

In town reports from the early 1900’s, there are complaints from the cemetery superintendent that many plots were left with trash. Apparently, the old-world tradition of having graveside parties with the ancestors, which continues today in Russia and other parts of the world, was alive and well in Rye at that time. In 1920, the town reported there was $3,800 in trust funds, most to pay for maintenance for cemetery plots.

In the town report of 1938, the cemetery trustees again expressed their anger about the trash being left at many of the plots.  Partying with the departed had a long tradition in Rye.  That year the town bought the Bartlett Field, a natural expansion of the cemetery toward Central Road. Now the cemetery was contiguous with the graveyard on the hill behind the church, connected by dirt path. Over the years those attending a burial after the church service would sometimes walk down the hill to the cemetery through the old burying ground, as peaceful a setting for contemplation as one could find.   

Between the new expansion in the Bartlett field, was a strip of land bordering Central Road owned by the Parsons family at One Central Road. In 1938 they donated this field for a town green. It is perhaps one of the most picturesque in New England with the cemetery, church, town hall, One Central Road and the former Garland Tavern for a background. The town erected the stone wall along Central Road and the cemetery planted two rows of maple trees as a memorial to Edward Dodd who had died in 1937.

Frank Caswell was the cemetery superintendent in the mid-20th century and the first to use a backhoe for digging graves. He had to modify the original garage located on the corner of the back edge of the cemetery so that he could fit the machine inside. Later on Eddie Ireland held the job of superintendent job into the new century. Rye has been very fortunate to always have good cemetery superintendents as they often are supportive of finding gravesites for relatives visiting for the first time.

Starting in the 1960s there was a tremendous resurgence of interest in local history and Louise Tallman, newly arrived in town, worked with others to identify and document most of the family graveyards. When the Rye Historical Society was founded in 1976, they took over the project and made gravestone restoration and cleaning the sites one of their new projects. That committee included Louise and Charles Tallman, Jessie Herlihy, John Sarni and Bonnie Goodwin. This committee worked into the 1980’s before disbanding due to lack of volunteers.

1976 was the year that one of the most memorable events occurred on the town green which had been donated by the Parsons family in 1938. The huge Bi-Centennial parade, beginning at RJH, ended at the green with speeches, music, a volley by the militia and a general feeling of euphoria in this lovely setting – celebration of the town and the nation. Such 4th of July parades to the town green continued until the 1990s. The annual Memorial Day service is held on the town green and ideally the historic district could be expanded to include this very public site.

The town had earlier purchased the Perry Field behind the garage that stretched to the town woods. This became Cedar Lawn, the newest part of the cemetery, and burials commenced in the late 1970’s. Trees were planted on either side of the new central drive. The first section had no monuments for ease of mowing, but starting in 2014, monuments were allowed in burial plots in the rear section. The Central Cemetery was now complete. Hard copy records of family plot locations may be seen at the cemetery, library and town museum, but they are in sore need of digitization so they could appear on a web site for the cemetery.

In 1989, the town defeated by one vote a proposal to build a new police station on town- owned land adjacent to the cemetery and town green, just beyond town hall. The vote required a 60% margin and if it had passed, one of the most iconic views in town would have been lost. A recount was called for and, just like John Durkin’s US Senate margin of victory in the 1970’s, the one vote margin was upheld. I always like to think it was my vote that defeated this very ill-advised idea.

In 2010, Louise Tallman provided her notes for all of the historic graveyards and Mike Mittelman took photos of them all. The Rye Historical Society compiled these documents into two three-ring binders for public viewing at the museum.

In 2012, a new state law made it clear that historic family graveyards are not private property and cannot be disturbed. Access to any graveyard that is not on a public road must be secured from the adjacent home owner. Care of the graveyards is the responsibility of descendants, abutters or others who want to adopt a graveyard. The Select Board turned management of caretaking the graveyards over to the Rye Heritage Commission.  The Commission put out a legal notice so all descendants could come forward. One member of the Brackett family did respond and he is caring for the burial site on Brackett Road on the edge of the marsh. A handful of others have adopted graveyards but most of them have not been officially adopted. These graveyards need to be cared for. Those wishing to do so must contact the Rye Heritage Commission, Town Hall, 10 Central Rd, Rye, NH 03870.

In 2020, Rye Heritage Commission chair, Phil Walsh, digitized the two binders for ease of public access and they were added to the websites of the Rye Historical Society and the town of Rye under Heritage Commission. Also, that year the Rye Historical Society, in cooperation with Cemetery superintendent John Coscia, made a film of a walking tour of the cemetery, starting behind the church. Debbie Toohey and Alex Herlihy visited and talked about selective interesting gravestones and epitaphs they found. The film may be viewed by visiting the RHS web site and scrolling to bottom of home page where You Tube RHS films are found. (www.ryenhhistoricalsociety.org)

Walking down from the historic burying ground toward the main part of the cemetery you are descending the ridge on which the town center was built starting in the late 1600s. There is a bench part way down to take in this pristine view of one of the loveliest cemeteries in New England. As you come in the main entrance of the cemetery and look to the left you are equally rewarded with one of Rye’s most picturesque views of the town green, cemetery, church, town hall, One Central Road and the former Garland Tavern. The location of this beautiful cemetery adds a fine aesthetic to a classic New England town center.

Note: in 2023 there are plans to expand the area for burial plots by purchasing land form the church. Another discussion would create a few parking places near the superintendent’s building so cemetery visitors would not have to block the roadways. Also, under review are plans to repair the historic “viewing station” green building and on its exterior include a diagram of the cemetery for ease in finding graves as well as cemetery history.

Note: Current cemetery trustees Roger Philbrick, Frank Drake and Ken Moynahan approved this history, as well s cemetery supt. John Coscia

History of Hotels and other Accommodations in Rye

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

    “If you are lucky enough to live by the sea, you are lucky enough.”

Before there were hotels in Rye there were boarding houses. With the movement westward, New England farming began a very slow decline in the early 1800s. Farmers soon realized that they needed to supplement their dwindling income with various cottage industries located in the small buildings that connected house to barn as well as opening up their houses to tourists. Thus began the Boarding House Era that does not have a definitive start date in Rye history. It may well have begun in the 1700s, since taverns with rooms were never enough to meet the demand of visitors. In the 1800s it is known that the Philbrick farmhouse on Central Rd., between Locke and Grove, took in boarders as well as the colonial house on Central at Red Mill Ln which sported a two story eight-hole outhouse attached to the main house, that today, still stands, alone. At the height of the resort era after the Civil War there were upwards of forty boarding houses and the museum has a brochure that covers some of them.

By the coming of the railroad to Portsmouth in 1840, the Philbrick family on Central Rd near the ocean had already sensed the rising demand of tourists and other visitors to Rye’s pristine shores. Nearby shoreline fish houses attracted people and many passed by the Philbrick farm and visited, some eventually staying over- night. One day Ephraim Philbrick’s son, John Colby Philbrick, suggested that the family move their farmhouse across the road, add a third floor and open a hotel. That is what they did in 1846 when they opened the Atlantic House, Rye’s first hotel which included an unobstructed view of the ocean.  

By the 1840s the Isles of Shoals had also become a mecca for tourists and Portsmouth and Rye Harbor provided regular boat service. The Laighton family opened the Appledore House on Appledore island in 1848 which later was expanded to a very impressive edifice. Nearby Star Island had several smaller hotels such as the Mid Ocean House. It must have been an interesting experience staying on Star because by the 1800s the local fishing community was known for their occasional raucous behavior and fierce independence.

Job Jenness built the impressive colonial style Ocean House in 1849 on the end of what is now Cable Road Extension. When it burned, he built the elegant second Ocean House in 1862 with four stories, topped by a viewing tower that held 100 people for a 360 degree on the ocean’s edge. What parties they must have hosted there! In 1852 this hotel was the campaign headquarters in NH for Franklin Pierce’s successful presidential bid, led by his Bowdoin classmate Nathaniel Hawthorne. It burned in 1871 and then became the beloved Ocean House Picnic Grove for the next three decades until small house lots replaced it with the coming of Ocean Blvd in 1904 and the Jenness Beach Village District.

John Philbrick opened the second Atlantic House in 1864 in front of the first hotel by that name, which then became a dormitory for hotel employees and storage area for the new hotel. (In the 1900s the first floor had become the Farragut Gift Shop.) This new hotel had a somewhat ungainly look and in 1865, the name was changed to Farragut after Admiral David Farragut of Union Navy Civil War fame visited the hotel. At a gala in his honor, he pretended to be a bell hop and greeted visitors as they alighted from their carriages. Farragut and other naval veterans were not only attracted to Rye’s cooling waters but also the ships of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, converted to a US government shipyard in 1800. After Farragut’s visit to the new hotel, it was renamed for him, but it turns out that the Jenness’s might have kept it the Second Atlantic House since it turns out that Farragut was not the hero of the battle Mobile Bay, but another admiral named Perkins.

The post- Civil War era has been aptly named the Gilded Age where “get rich quick schemes” ran rampant. Many had to admit that the capital of the country was not in Washington DC but on Wall Street.  Tremendous wealth was accumulated, some of it ill-begotten, in this free-wheeling and non-regulatory era. Railroad building, mining and a wide variety of other industrial enterprises boomed across the country. Railroad mogul Jay Gould had a Rye business connection for a short time. Some of that wealth showed itself in Rye, at first in the hotels and later in substantial houses built in the part of town that today is in the Rye Beach Village District. The Allen family from St. Louis was one of the first of many from that city who left their mark on Rye. The Allen’s built the large mansion located today on Central Rd at Sea Rd. in the 1870s? and they were also instrumental in laying out Abenaki Golf Course in 1903 across the road from their home.  Another St Louis family in Rye was that of MO Gov. David Francis who later became American ambassador to Russia during WWI, fell ill and had to be evacuated during the Russian Revolution in 1917. He owned a house on south Rd no longer there.

In 1869 George Lougee built the four-story Sea View House on Central Road where the Rye Beach precinct building is today. It had a huge dance floor with shock absorbers to support all those dancers doing the Lindy Hop in the early 1900s. When it was built, one could see the sea because there were no trees.

At Odiorne Point there had been several modest efforts at hotel building in the 1850s, but the first significant one was the elegant, French themed Sagamore House built by the Pierce brothers which opened in 1869 complete with bowling alley. Alas, it met the fate of so many others and burned in 1872. One of the brothers lived on for some years in the bowling alley which survived the conflagration.

“When a door closes a window always opens.” In 1872 flames had just consumed the Second Ocean House and the Sagamore House, but then Abram Drake opened the Drake House Hotel that year. Located at the end of South Road, there was an 1850s house located between it and the ocean, but the   new hotel was situated to still get the maximum sea view across the large front lawn. By 1885 Drake had tripled the length of his handsome, three story, mansard roof hotel, enlarging it to forty rooms.

On Star Island In 1873, John Poor opened the lovely and elegant, symmetrically pleasing, Oceanic Hotel, the front facing the clearly visible mainland, six miles away. That first summer hotel guests were discussing the horrific murders of two women on nearby Smutty Nose Island a few months before. Later they witnessed one of the America’s Cup Yacht races. This magnificent structure continued to have gala summer seasons, rivaling its main competitor, the Appledore House which had expanded, the demand for rooms always exceeding the supply in this heady Victorian resort era. In this age before electricity, fire was a constant concern, especially in the kitchen area and in the fall of 1875 the Oceanic burned to the ground.

In 1876, the year that Star and the other three southerly most islands of the isles of Shoals became part of Rye, Poor opened the second Oceanic Hotel on the footprint of the first structure. It was cobbled together by moving two other smaller hotels onto the site and joining them together. This hotel continued to serve island visitors until it was converted to the Unitarian Universalist Oceanic Conference Center in the early 1900s which continues today with week-long retreats on a wide variety of topics.

In 1879, Henry Knox opened the Ocean Wave Hotel opened between Foss and Wallis Sands beaches, the only hotel in the northern part of town. In the 1900s the name was changed to the Harrington for a time when it was owned by a man of that name who used to work at the Oceanic hotel on Star Island. When Richard Morton bought the hotel, he changed it back to Ocean Wave. During the 1900s several buildings were added to the rear and side of the hotel including cabins and a recreation dance hall, always a favorite with locals. A gazebo sat on the rocks in front of the hotel, was later moved to the rear and then off- site and remodeled.  The hotel always hosted live entertainment. Rye historian Bill Varrell worked at the Ocean Wave in the 1950s which helped inspire him to write his book: Rye on the Rocks: How a Town Resorted to Resorting. Later he donated several photos from that time and some items from the hotel to RHS. In April of 1960 I heard the fire dept alarm signal Ocean Blvd north and I rode my bike down with friends and watched the fine old building burn to the ground. Later more cottages were added to the site and it became “Crown Colony” vacation rentals, Philbrick’s by the Sea today.

The first Farragut burned in 1881 and next year the Jenness family opened the second Farragut Hotel in the classic Victorian style, slightly curved with three stories, cupolas and a full porch facing the ocean. Soon thereafter Mr. Weld’s Hall was opened across the road for both religious services and gambling and everything in between. The name was later changed to the Farragut Playhouse where live theater, live music and dancing and later film were featured. For almost a century, this famous entertainment center attracted visitors near and far and fetching young ladies were a common sight. The Farragut became the grand dame of Rye’s hotels.

In the 1870s, the Marden House Hotel was built on lower Sea Rd. Over time it extended all the way to South Rd. just inland from Drake House. In 1912 the hotel caught fire in the rear of the building and slowly burned toward the Sea Rd front section while hotel customers waited patiently in the front parlor until they had to finally move out on the front lawn. There was just no way to stop wooden structures from burning in those days, unless located in a city near modern fire stations.

There were a few smaller hotels such as the Washinton House on Cable Road which burned in the 1920s and the Surf house on lower Cable Road.  There were also more than thirty boarding houses. All these accommodations served the great demand of summer visitors seeking the cooling ocean atmosphere of Rye Beach. In the post- Civil War era, Rye’s eight hotels rivaled Newport, Rhode Island as a summer resort destination.

There are many houses in Rye today that were former boarding houses. Between Cable and Perkins Rd. on the boulevard are found the Gray Gull from the 1870s and the Surf House from the 1880s. Even though there was no boulevard until 1904, wherever there were coastal buildings to be found, there were a series of carriage paths along the shoreline that connected to inland roads of Rye. In 1874 the elegant Locke Boarding House was built at the head of Sea Rd near Central and in 1899 they built the Locke Bathing Pavilion with a salt water pool. Half way down Sea Rd was Sawyers Boarding house (repossessed and demolished by the bank in 1944). The Sawyer family owned the nearby section of the beach and built seven bath houses near Locke’s pavilion, later affectionately nicknamed the Seven Dwarfs, demolished in 2012.

In 1905 the Rye Beach Village district was established with permission from the state government. Sidewalks and gas lighting were installed. After the Marden House Hotel burned in 1912, the Rye Beach Inn, a smaller 14 room hotel, was built in 1913, just to the north of Drake House, blocking their view in that direction.  In 1931 the inn was closed and the building was turned and moved slightly inland to where the Marden House Hotel had been located and it still stands as a private residence.

The Studebaker family from Indiana was famous for their high- end carriages and chaises and by the early 1900s, their new automobiles. They enjoyed staying at the Farragut Hotel, but always expected a high level of service. In two letters to the Farragut management in early 1916, the family expressed their displeasure at their 1915 accommodations and demanded a suite of rooms on the sunny top floor. Apparent they were not satisfied, because in 1917 they had bought land just to the north of the hotel on the boulevard and built a lovely, but understated mansion, one of the finest looking houses in town today.

By 1918 demand for hotel rooms was in decline and the Sea View House was torn down, providing excellent wood for re-use by Rye residents. The newly open space was quickly used to build the Rye Beach Precinct building and Community Hall which originally housed the town fire apparatus on the first floor and a meeting room and offices for the village district on the second floor. Today the post office has replaced the fire department.

The Drake family from Chicago opened Stoneleigh Manor Hotel in 1920 on Central Rd., not far from the ocean. It was a very large, elegant Tudor style hotel, but the demand for such accommodations was in decline. By the mid- 1920s the hotel was being leased for a fifth- year secondary school for girls and in 1934 it had been bought and opened as Stoneleigh College for Women until it moved in 1943. By 1948 it had become the popular Franciscan Friary and Retreat House which attracted many for church services and a variety of counseling including AA and marriage. In the mid 1990s the church sold the property to a developer, but there were some meetings in which a group tried to come up with funding to buy it for another purpose but the ideas kept being dismissed.  In 1995 it was, with some difficulty, demolished for three new house lots. This substantial and handsome building was a great loss for the town and it is unfortunate that an alternative use was not found for it. This was a time when Friends groups had saved the Music Hall and got the Seacoast Science Center built

In 1924 the stone Locke’s Bathing Pavilion hade an addition and became the Rye Beach Club, its fresh water pool was a favorite of members, including those invited from the Drake House across the boulevard. This funny anecdote comes from the 1950s. One evening a gentleman emerged from the Beach club and immediately sat down in a chair at the entrance and passed out. Club manager and Drake House proprietor Phil Drake and a friend happened to witness the event and without a word, each grabbed an arm of the chair and carried the litter toward the hotel across the big lawn and up the steps where our hero was deposited. At that point he awoke, arose and said: “Thank you, gentlemen, good evening,” and toddled on his own accord up the stairs and to bed. But did he remember this event the next day when he saw Phil?

With places to stay there have to be places to eat, and over the years Rye has had some good ones. If your got tired of your hotel or boarding House fare, you could shop locally and have a picnic on the beach or starting in 1928 you could get some of the best food at Saunders Restaurant on the south side of Rye Harbor. Harbormaster Ben Saunders opened this quaint eatery and it soon became famous for the quality of its cooking and great harbor views out to sea. Swenson’s, later the Carriage House was another good choice. But when it came to dancing, the Pagoda Dance Hall (1919-1949) on the boulevard at Cable Rd was the place to go and kick up your heels followed by a romantic beach walk. BYOB was the order of the day, as it was for most local establishments until after WWII. Rye had gone “dry” in 1899 and, as many beach towns such as Hampton Beach did, stayed so for some years after national Prohibition ended in 1933. Up until the mid -1900s, the selling of alcohol near beaches was never a good mix.

With the rise of the automobile between the wars, small tourist cabins and camps for trailers sprouted up and several can be seen today in upgraded form in the area of Wallis Sands and just to the north. At Foss Beach the O’Jerra family opened the Salty Breeze restaurant, cabins and snack bar, now long gone. One of the trailer camps was called Goss Auto Camp, in a field on Harbor Rd at the Goss farm. During the  1950s, the Goss family moved into a summer cottage in back of the farm house and turned their home into a rooming house for tourists, thus further enlarging a diversity of choice for people of different incomes.  

In the late 1950s the Dunes Motor Inn opened adjacent to the Sandpiper Beach Store by the local beach. Eventually the motel was connected to the store and included a second- floor cocktail lounge with floor to ceiling ocean view and live music with musicians like Tom Barron on horn playing the “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Ah, those were the days.

As late as the 1950s Rye Beach still had three active summer hotels on the ocean. The Ocean Wave burned in 1960, Drake House became apartments in 1969 and the Farragut was demolished in 1975.  Today the Oceanic on Star Island, the Drake House and the nearby former Rye Beach Inn are all the buildings that remain from the golden age of Rye as an internationally famous summer resort.

History of Indigenous Peoples of the Seacoast

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

The New Hampshire Seacoast has been home to ancestors of Algonquin speaking peoples for at least 12,400 years. The coastline was then located where the Isles of Shoals are and the environment was tundra-like. Native people were highly mobile hunter-gatherers who foraged plants and hunted mastodon, caribou, black bears, hares, beaver, and moose. Stone tools are all that is left in the archaeological record.

About 9,000 years ago, distinct cultures emerged and the warming climate grew the population.   A wide variety of flora and fauna were hunted, foraged, and fished seasonally. Shell and fin fish were harvested by 7,500 years ago. Pottery developed about 3,000 years ago with more people settled in seasonal villages and with salt marshes providing more food. The Piscataqua River estuary gave access to the interior and more resources. 1000 years ago, crops such as corn, beans, and squash (known as “the Three Sisters”) were cultivated. Inter-tribal trade grew extensively.

A rich mythology evolved through the oral tradition, recapturing past stories and passing them to younger generations, providing a moral compass of how to live. The stories reflected a closeness to the natural world where everything in nature had a spirit. Spiritual beliefs evolved around the Great Creator, the Great Mystery, (Gluscap) who was responsible for the abundance of nature which sustained the peoples. Native women gained status in communities through their affinity for health and healing remedies. The seasonal way of life and shared workload did not require constant work. Indigenous groups were more egalitarian than Europeans.

Archaeology, written records and oral tradition indicates that the Piscataquak of the Pennacook Confederacy lived here in the early 1500s. In 1606 Samuel de Champlain noted dwellings, extensive farming, and upwards of 200 people living around what today is Rye Harbor.  Prior to the European settlement in 1623, native populations declined due to diseases from European explorers. Up to 90% of coastal Indigenous communities may have died from these epidemics.

As settler-colonists grew in the later 1600s, wars broke out with Indigenous peoples and native coastal societies were near collapse. These wars were part of the British -French rivalry in North America and lasted until the 1760s. Those natives living inland adapted and regrouped and the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Abenaki formed the Wabanaki (People of the Dawn Land) Confederacy in the 1680s to maintain their unity. The Abenaki-Pennacook declined over time, but some integrated into white society, while still maintaining their cultural practices. There was an indigenous presence in coastal New Hampshire, well into the 1900s, selling woven baskets and other goods to locals.

By the 21st century, changing attitudes toward native peoples empowered them to assert their identity. Advocacy for Indigenous recognition has shown some improvement in relations between tribal groups and state governments, but challenges remain over land claims, repatriation of native artifacts, funerary issues, and who is the rightful authority to determine if one is indigenous.To understand history fully, one has to take a nuanced view of our complex past and be open to facing and acknowledging all of it. For further information, search: INHCC

History of International Cable Station in Rye NH

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

The first efforts at a successful trans- Atlantic cable between Europe and North America were made in the late 1850s and 1860s. One lasted for several years but then broke up.

Rye made international history in 1874 when the terminus of the first successful long-lasting trans-Atlantic cable made landfall just south of Locke’s Neck. It ran 3,400 miles under the ocean from Ballinskelligs, Ireland via Tor Bay, Nova Scotia to Rye, NH. The “C S Faraday” of the Direct US Cable Co., was a specially designed steam powered cable vessel, which had trouble with the rough seas, and was delayed for a day and many of the reporters left. The ship sat just off the Isles of Shoals waiting for an opportune moment.  

Finally, on July 15 at 9 pm the crowds gathered just south of Locke’s Neck (Straws Point housing community) and were thrilled as they waited for the coiled two-and-a quarter-inch thick wire to arrive.  Spectators who had been waiting for days only to find the delivery ship delayed by fog were served doughnuts and coffee by a local woman. Local fishermen joined with male and female tourists from the Farragut Hotel. Wading into the surf, they hauled the heavy cable from the delivery barge on-shore, where it was later connected to a temporary station.

Harper’s magazine reported: “It was a very dark night and the procession of boats with their lanterns formed a gloomy appearance as it moved through the stillness broken by the heave-ho of the cable hands and the wild uncouth songs with which they accompanied their clock-like motions as they worked along the ropes.” 

The offices were temporarily housed in the nearby Richard Locke house at the entrance to Locke’s Neck, (location of Straw’s Point housing community).  Harper’s Magazine gave it a good illustrated spread and other news media reported it widely.

The office opened for transmissions in Sept. 1875, also the year the permanent Cable Office, a mansard roof structure popular at the time, was built just down the hill.  This was the first cable which had the much more powerful Siemen’s cable transmission in the coiled wire, enabling quicker telegraph service. A syphon recorder traced telegraph images onto paper. By 1879, seventeen international telegraph operators worked at the station, transmitting the signals to New York.

Many of the British operators settled in town and married local women and Philbrick’s Road was changed to Cable Road. This new and vital connection between Europe and North America marked a communication revolution. It reduced the time it took to get a message between the old world and the new from approximately twelve days by clipper ship or steamer to ten seconds.

In early August 1914, the beginning of World War I, the cable was clogged with messages and it took over ten minutes to receive a transmission. This was a time when immigration from Europe to the US was at its height and personal relations between Europe and the United States were far closer than they are today.

By the 1920s there had been many successful international cables laid to different parts of the east coast and in 1922 the Rye station closed. There must have been an auction of some of the station items, because Herb Philbrick came into possession of some of the transmitting equipment. After the station closed in 1922 the building was sold and for the rest of the 1900s it was a rooming or boarding house. Today it is a private residence with a plaque noting its historic origin. The building is also in the Historic District of Rye. During the 1900s, severe storms would expose a section of the cable and that is when souvenir hunters began to cut it up.

Today the Rye Town Museum has the following items related to the cable station: a 20” section of the cable, historic photos of the station and operators both outside and inside the station, a color image of the cable coming ashore from Harpers Weekly magazine, an article from Harpers about the cable, transmission equipment donated by the family of Herb Philbrick, and a photo album with text made by the late RHS member Chris Remick of her trip to  Ballinkelligs, Ireland to see where Rye’s cable began.

In 2023, 8th grader Jake More of Hampton was researching the station for a school project and he noted that one book he has: “A Thread Across the Ocean: Heroic Story of the Trans-Atlantic Cable” by John Gordon, 2002, did not mention the Rye station. This omission is also true of a PBS documentary on Trans-Atlantic cables that aired about 2018. These are glaring omissions and more research needs to be done to understand why Rye was not documented as part of trans-Atlantic cable history.

An on-line search of Rye’s cable station reveals several articles on the topic.  One good source is: Historic Newspapers Archives since at this time, the newspapers were the best source of news about everything.

In the Rye museum today there are several telegraph transmitters on display that were  used at the Cable house, as well as a section of the original cable.

History of Lafayette Road

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

When Pres Wash. visited Portsmouth in 1789, the road north from Hampton center   was just a series of paths called Long Lane. The main road north to Portsmouth from Hampton was Rt 51, the post road, through Hampton, N. Hampton, Stratham, Greenland and onto what is now Rt 33 and on into Ports., stopping at famous tavern at Portsmouth Plains where Middle Rd and Islington converge today.

Gen Lafayette visited the US on a farewell tour including NH in 1825 and Long Lane was renamed in his honor. By that time this stage and wagon road was the main north south corridor and eventually “Rt. 1” was recognized as the oldest and longest road in the nation, from Presque Isle ME to Key West, FL

In the 1950s there were huge farms along the road with large fields in back. The Rye  Museum has aerial photo from 1952 showing them. One of those farms was where Southgate Plaza is now and while still a partial farm in the 60s, they had a small golf driving range out back. 

By the 60’s Laf. Rd. had some small businesses including funky little Charley’s Coffee Corner. on Greenland side of Wash/Laf inter. where strip mall is now and Sam n’ Ann’s Grille was in the barn of an old farm just to north which finally closed when a drunk driver smashed into it in the 60s and met his fate by the coffee counter.

The 60s was when a Lafayette Road landowner began cutting down trees on other people’s property to build an illegal airfield, including trees belonging to Judge Morris on Washington Rd and that stopped his grandiose plans in its tracks. The open space remained and for a time in the 90’s the traveling circus came to the “airfield.”

Hectors Restaurant (opp. end of Dows Ln) was built in the 70s and was very popular until it burned. Lagos used to be the Big Scoop before 1981 and was there forever. Just to the north on the opposite side in mid- century was an old diner.  Opposite the big furniture store today was a rambling old house with a big elm tree that for a time was Pauli’s Peasant Shoppe where a friend sold her original painted folk art. Out back were the Cox brothers, a couple of strange and sometimes scary old coots living in an old, falling down house.

Tonys Diner used to be in Portsmouth on Islington across from Discover Ports. Center today, but in 1970 was forced out by Urban Destruction which wiped out 300+ historic buildings. Tony rebounded in an old diner trolley type building beside the Big Scoop and there he entertained us for 14 years. especially when his daughter was the waitress and one time, he got pissed at her and tossed a string of lit firecrackers through the food opening onto floor where we were all eating at the counter and bedlam ensued.

My favorite business in the 50s/60/s was opposite Water Country just to north where that ugly used car place is today. There were four little buildings from the 1920s – gas station, garage/car repair, storage and an old house out back with little cabins for rest, also a relic of the 20s tourist boom. “Stef’s Garage and Cabins” was a mecca for local youth and others because old John Stef, a Russian immigrant, would sit by the pot-bellied stove in winter in one of the gas station shacks with his son John and regale us with stories from the old country.

History of Laighton Family on the Isles of Shoals

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

After a hard political campaign, Thomas Laighton left “civilized” Portsmouth and N H with his family in 1839 for the job of lighthouse keeper on White Island. He never returned to the mainland again.  With wife Eliza and children Celia, Oscar and Cedric the family spent six years on the two acres of rock, enduring ferocious storms and hardships but also experiencing the compelling beauty of the Isles.

In 1845 Thomas bought Appledore, Smuttynose, Malaga and Cedar islands and moved his family to the big island where they began building the Appledore House hotel which opened in 1849. It was a great success and several additions were added over time.  Many people were regular visitors for the whole season including well known members of the arts community and over time the Laighton’s became like family to them. It seemed Oscar fell in love with a young woman every summer, only to suffer a tearful farewell in September when he would send them off with a love poem he had written. Occasionally Oscar and Cedric would visit Portsmouth, against their father’s wishes, but they didn’t last long, soon drawn back to their beloved island.

Celia became a famous poet, writer and artist attracting many luminaries to her Appledore cottage and garden just north of the hotel. The garden has been lovingly replanted and may be viewed today, along witht he rest of the island, with direct passage from UNH’s vessel in New Castle. Oscar and Cedric grew up to be mainstays in running the hotel and carried on as innkeepers after their parents retired. The hotel burned along with Celia’s legendary arts salon cottage in 1914. Oscar had bought Star Island and the Oceanic hotel in the late 1870’s and sold it to the Unitarian Church in 1901 for a conference center. Among the Unitarians, he experienced a mutual admiration society for the rest of his life. (The Oceanic Hotel is well into its 2nd century of sponsoring weekly thematic retreats.) His wonderful memoir documents many tales of the growing hotel and Appledore community and colorful stories of all the summer visitors. It takes you back to an idyllic time and place. Oscar outlived his siblings by many years and in 1928 published his iconic Ninety Years at the Isles of Shoals, available in the Rye Public Library.   After the Laighton’s passed on, Appledore remained a place of fishermen only until Cornell and UNH established the Shoals Marine Lab in 1966.   

Star Island is accessed and supplied from Portsmouth by the “Thomas Laighton” and visitors from Rye may travel to Star Island on the “Uncle Oscar.” The Laighton’s live on.

There are many fine and available books about the Isles of Shoals but Oscar Laighton’s book is priceless.

History of Land Conservation

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Rye’s Efforts to Conserve Land

  1. Individual donations to the Conservation Commission over the years. Examples of such donations include Varrell, Marden and Rand woods – trails open to the public.

(See Conservation Commission on Rye town web site for details of conservation land)

  1. In 1939, Parsons family donation of Central Road land beside cemetery to serve as town green. (Detailed history of central cemetery is another Rye history topic on my web site .
  2. Parsons Park – a grassroots effort by 151 Rye families in the late 1970s to save 50 acres of forest and field for public use; (see A-Z list of topics)
  3. Goss Farm – c.2011 Goss family siblings voted 3-2 to sell the 12 acres to the town for public agriculture rather than develop it. Town used US Dept of Agric. And Rye Open Space funds to purchase it (see A-Z list for Goss Farm hist.)
  4. Selling of easements to prevent land development – Open Space bond money has twice been voted by the town, (1999, 2004) to be used to purchase the development rights (easements) of Rye land owners. The property owners retain ownership and the land is not open to the public. But the owners have forfeited their right to develop the land and it will remain forever open for wildlife and the aesthetic pleasure of residents. The land owner does not make the maximum profit they would if they sold to a developer, but they still realize a significant monetary amount for this practice which benefits the whole town.

(There needs to be more robust public information on this program so that landowners are aware of their options.)

  1. State of NH Current Use Program – under this program, any plot of 10 acres or more may be officially designated for agricultural use, forest cover, open field, etc. which results in a significant saving on property tax since the land will not be developed as house lots. If at a later date the land owner wants to change the status and sell the “current use” land as house lots, they pay a very high penalty fee to the state for changing this status.

The open fields and forest seen in Rye today are a result of the above programs.

                                              Reflections on the use of the Land

Native people practiced the seasonal sharing of land and ownership was an alien concept. When settler colonists began arriving in the early 1600s it was not unusual to have large areas of land that were held in common, used cooperatively. But The Commons slowly disappeared due the powerful drive of capitalist land ownership of land. The problem with this practice is that many who had used the common land were now left landless. Land and housing speculation to make a profit has been practiced in the US since colonial times. The percentage of Americans today who own land and houses is about 65%.

We all know there has always been a natural tension in any community between those who support the cooperative good of the whole town and those who are firm in their belief that individual property rights are more important. Over the years many towns, through a robust and open political process, have been able to find a compromise between these two views. In fact, they have discovered that the issue is not “either /or,” but that there is common ground (pun intended) and a reasonable agreement can be reached between all parties when some residents are satisfied that no one is being excessive in taking their land away or telling them what to do with it. If many residents become stakeholders in the agreement, it can create a strong sense of community. Success will have been achieved because people have not retreated into ideological bubbles and practiced extreme partisanship.

“People do not have a constitutional right to do exactly what they want with their land.”

                         Willian O Douglas, former Supreme Court Justice

(Douglas makes an important point because actions by one land owner can have an adverse impact on their neighbors over issues of water, building size, forest cover, soil erosion, etc.)

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to regard it with love and respect.”                                   Aldo Leopold, Ecologist, from: A Sand County Almanac, 1949

History of Lost Buildings – Burned, Neglected, Dismantled and Moved or Demolished

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

               There are more references in Tallman notebooks; i.e. “old house, gone” –


The built environment does not last forever. Neglect, fires and desire for land and a new house have led to the disappearance of the buildings below. The Rye Advocates for historic Preservation established in 2020 has documented 317 buildings in Rye built before 1905, all of which deserve to be preserved. It is a tribute to their current owners that they have chosen to buy and care for these older houses, which represent one of the most appealing aspects of the town with its rich agricultural and architectural heritage.


575 Wash Rd. – 1810 Apartment building and newer building, razed 2020

75? Wentworth Rd., Sheafe house (opp. golf course); built mid 1700’s, many architectural features, (some in museum); razed in early 2000’s to build Mc Mansion, painting of house & photo in museum

251 Harbor Rd., Thomas Goss house, burned in mysterious 2010 fire -State Fire Marshall investigated; barn saved and town bought the land

Lower Central Rd., Stoneleigh Manor hotel/St Francis Retreat Center, built 1919, razed 1995

Farragut Hotel and Playhouse, 1883, Ocean Blvd and Central Road, razed 1975

Foye House, early 1800s, Foyes Cor., Sagamore Rd., dismantled, moved to VT c. 2012 to make way for roundabout

Ocean Wave hotel, Rye north beach on Blvd., 1879, burned 1960, site of Philbrick’s cottages today

Parsons barn, Washington Rd. (Parsons Field), c. 1757, dismantled and moved in 1960’s

South School, Central Rd., 1881, razed c. 2014

Wedgwood barn, 19 Lang Rd., c. 1790 or earlier, dismantled and moved c. 2012

Seaview House hotel, Central Rd. opp. Golf course, razed 1918, site of Rye Beach precinct bldg. today

Saunders Restaurant (former Moss Cottage) 1920’s, on Rye harbor, Harbor Rd. to 1970 when it was demolished and new Saunders rest. built which was razed c. 2011 for private homes

321 Wallis, Scadgel Tavern, 1702, burned 1798; curr. house built on large footprint 1799  

253 South Rd., c. 1795, former Tallman house; razed c. 2010 (too far gone from mold)

Meigs house c. mid 1800’s mansard roof house, end of Locke’s Neck (St Pt.) razed C. 2012

So. facing from Locke’s Neck, large shingle style handsome house late 1800’s, razed c. 2014 for Mc M.

595 Washington Rd., barn beside Garland tavern; disappeared early 1900’s

Wash. Rd. Cape style house beside 2nd Parsonage, built 1737, disappeared bet. c. 1912 and 1930

Blvd at Cable, Pagoda Dance Hall and store, c. 1919; razed early 2000’s for private home

Drake Farm, Fern Ave, burned in 1930’s

Prof James Parsons estate, 1800s, off Parsons Rd, burned 1930’s

Drake estate. off South Rd., burned 1968

3rd congregational church, Rye Center, built 1837, burned 1959

Christian Church, Rye Center where fire station parking lot is, built 1890, moved to Billerica MA 1947

Wedgwood School c. 1890, Rye center, burned 1932

Charley’s coffee Corner, far side of Laf. Wash/B’fast hill intersection, where strip mall is

Lafayette Rd. just no. of intersection w Wash., Sam ‘n Ann’s Grill, 1800’s house con. To barn where Grille located

Most Summer homes and other buildings at Odiorne Point; razed by US Army during WWII to make way for Ft Dearborn

Two 1800s houses on South Rd near Woodlawn, Patrick family; demolished c. 2018

Ladds Chips and Beer, moved from Rye to edge of Sagamore Creek in 1933 after Prohibition to avoid Rye still being dry; demolished in 1980s to make way for Seacoast Mental Health Center.

Pine Grove Pavilion, near Sagamore Creek off Sagamore Rd very near Rye; popular in mid 1900s, long gone

In recent years many smaller houses built earlier in the 1900s and possessing some historic value, have been demolished

All houses over 50 years old must come before the town Demolition Review Committee which cannot prevent demolition but can highlight the history and offer alternatives to demolition

Please send me buildings I have missed

History of Major John Parsons – The Prodigal Son Who Didn’t Return

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

John Parsons, son of Rye town doctor Warren Parsons, was born in Rye in 1816. By the 1830s he was in Florida fighting in the 2nd Seminole war. This deadly war dragged on for years as the native people refused to submit and escaped into the Everglades. Their descendants are still there

Parsons rose to the rank of Major and later settled near the Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles north of Tampa Bay. He became active in commerce and was soon a big landowner. Missing coastal Rye, NH, he built a small seaport town called Bayport at the mouth of the Weekiwatche River. Soon he was in charge of a lively commercial trade taking advantage of the navigable rivers that flowed into the Gulf.  He built a large commercial building to the north on what today is Cedar Key and it survives as the Island Hotel.

During the Civil War he supported the south and helped ships of the Confederate Navy to run the Union blockade. After the war he was instrumental in bringing the railroad to this area in the 1880’s. This action caused shipping and thus Bayport to decline. He died in 1888 and is buried with his wife in New York City.

On a visit to Bayport in 2014 it was discovered that the coastal part of the town has been taken over by the state for recreational boating and fishing, but the remains of the town can be found just inland.

History of Manchester Housing Colony

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Most of the material below was researched and written by Andy Stecher, a resident of the colony located off Wallis Road near the salt marsh. He as a power point presentation of this topic with many photos, maps and other images, which he presented for an RHS members program in 2022. There have been many housing developments built in Rye over the years. Manchester Colony is one of the very early ones from the 1920s


In the 1840s railroads first appeared. Later they brought produce to Boston and Portland and also brought tourists from those urban centers to the splendors of Rye’s beaches. The beauty atmosphere of this coastline attracted artists, poets and writers, scientists, and a host of curious sightseers throughout the 1800s. ​​

Hotels first started being built in Rye in the 1840s along with boarding houses such as the Foss and Prospect Houses. In the 1900s many cabins were built like Dons’ Modern Cabins, Rose Cliff, The Ledges, Coopers Camps (later Wallis Sands Cabins). Still today there is Philbrick’s by the Sea (formerly Crown Colony) and Hoyt’s, among others.

It appeared that vacationing people from certain areas formed some clusters of temporary residence. Some of these residents formed ideas of building or buying something more permanent, if only during the summer months. ​

In time, “summer people” began buying up New Hampshire’s old hill farms for summer homes or established summer residences in coastal areas.​

Straws Point and Concord Point communities developed in the mid and late 1800s and with the construction of Ocean boulevard in 1904, the Jenness Beach district began sub-dividing lots in the early 900s. 

In 1909 Edward George founded the New England Realty Company. He was from Manchester NH and he picked up on the “colony” interest. ​He acquired property off to Wallis Road to the north and just west of the Wallis Sands salt marsh. ​

His plans, drawn up by engineer Charles Chandler, C.E., were to build small seasonal cottages very near Wallis Sands beach. He named his project “Ocean Ridge Wallis Sands.”

The plans display a planned community with avenues off Wallis Road including: Park Ridge​, Ocean View​, Appledore and​ Crescent​.  There were 4500- 5000 sq ft parcels​

​Originally there were 97 lots so it was assumed at the time, this was the largest built-out/planned community in Rye, but development did not immediately commence.

The development encountered problems as Park Ridge was built first and then Appledore​, but Oceanview Ave was never finished  and today there is a gravel path starting at 33 Oceanview and half way through it became a paper road, now shared by abutters.  A right of way still exists.

However, a right of way still exists.​ The latter end is so full of ledge and has such uneven surface that the developer likely did not want to incur the costs. The connecting roads were not built, only Rye Lane became a gravel path and still is to date.​ Badger Place was never built​.

Crescent Avenue would have created a border around the development and allow different access roads, but it was never built.​

The first cottages were not actually built until the mid-late 1920’s​.

Typical layout was one floor, 1,500 sq ft.​ Some of the deeds refer to Wallis Road and Wallis Sands as “Wallace “​

The developer folded and the company went bankrupt. The lots were individually picked up by local families.​ Mary Jane Whelan and her daughter Jeanette Dennehy lead the family from Wollaston/Quincy to Rye.

Many lots were acquired with evidence of titles. As many as 30 lots came to them. ​Lots were mostly on Oceanview and Appledore​.

Rear locations were near the salt marsh.  Some former cottages (The Camp) with address of – Oceanview 50, but in undeveloped area.​​

Many lots did not have property tax until the town caught up with them and they paid their tax. Deliveries had trouble finding location.

Today the Manchester Colony serves as a reminder of the early 1900s development of the town

History of Mills

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Three early mills in the south end of town and others scattered about – eleven in all over time as illustrated in power point outline below.

Water-powered mills were common place in Europe and early settlers in New England soon constructed several in their communities to serve their growing needs for flour, corn meal, shingles and other products.

Richard Jenness built a mill on the lower reaches of Bailey’s Brook as it runs out of Burke’s Pond on Central Road and before it flows into the Eel Pond. It was located on Bridge Road, which was a short cut off Central Road near Burkes Pont and then rejoining Central Road. The photo of the mill shows it in the early 20th century heading north on Red Mill Ln.  It was used for grinding wheat into flour and for other purposes. Jenness became a prominent person in Sandy Beach (Rye’s name before 1726) and served in the Provincial legislature. He had originally squatted in this section of what was then Hampton and defied the authorities of that early town. He was a larger- than life character and on a visit to Boston picked up a bully who was harassing a pedestrian and threw him over a fence. (“History of Rye , NH,” 1905)

Just upstream there was another early mill where Burkes Pond runs under Central Rd. toward the location of the Jenness Mill.  A 3rd mill from the late 1600’s, was built on Cedar Swamp run where Browns pond runs east under Lovers (Love) Lane. At one time this mill made shingles, but most of the mills were multipurpose, grinding wheat for flour and corn for corn meal, etc.

In the 1880’s the Jenness mill was the only one left in town and was used by a New York City artist named  Sophia Schuluer as a studio. That is when it was painted red and the road name  changed from Bridge Road to Red Mill Lane.  The mill, not falling apart, lasted until the 1950’s when it was torn down by owner Russell Sawyer for fear kids would be hurt playing in it, Rye’s last 17th century building.  Fred Clark has never forgiven his uncle for this action.

These mills represented the first industrial development of the town and are a tribute to the  founding families who built and benefited from them .


                    Craig Musselman – Historic Mills of Rye  -presentation for RHS in 2021

Illustrated power point under “downloads” – to be sent separately on request – below is outline of text

 COLONIAL TIDE MILLS in RYE,NH Tide Mills Location •

Odiorne’s Mill Seavey Creek, Odiorne’s Point • Doctor’s Mill Parsons Creek, Concord Point • Goss Mill 1 & 2 Locke’s Pasture, near Rye Harbor • Goss Mill 3 Harbor Road, Rye Harbor • Locke Road Mill Off Locke Road, near Rye Harbor “Almost Tide Mills” • Seavey’s Mill Berry’s Brook/Seavey Creek • Leavitt Mill Red Mill Lane, Cedar Swamp Run Seavey Mill 1759-1800’s Doctor’s Mill ? – 1800’s Goss Mill 3 1792+ – 1800’s Goss Mill 1 & 2


Tide Mills  


Odiorne’s Mill     

Seavey Creek, Odiorne’s Point

Doctor’s Mill       

Parsons Creek, Concord Point

Goss Mill 1 & 2   

Locke’s Pasture, near Rye Harbor

Goss Mill 3

Harbor Road, Rye Harbor

Locke Road Mill 

Off Locke Road, near Rye Harbor

“Almost Tide Mills”

Seavey’s Mill       Berry’s Brook/Seavey Creek

Leavitt Mill 

Red Mill Lane, Cedar Swamp Run

Goss Mill 3


Harbor Road Bridge

Drainage Basin  

– Tidal Flow plus upstream tidal impoundment, probably


Nathan Goss


In April, 1792, Nathan Goss commissioned by Town of Rye to dig out Rye Harbor

15 days of labor and 10 gallons of rum; managed work of 47 men

Goss Mill 3 constructed at Harbor Road Bridge “after Rye Harbor was dug out” in 1792

 Mill shown on 1805 map of Rye

Mill Type Grist Mill

Locke Road Mill

Location      Locke’s Pasture, west of Locke Road

Drainage Basin       

– Tidal


Existed “at one time”          

– 1905 quote    “Disappeared long ago”     

Mill Type “Probably a fulling mill”      

– 1905 quote


“Almost” Tide Mills

(toe of dam at or just below high tide elevation)

Seavey Mill

Location – Seavey Creek at Berry’s Brook

Drainage Basin – 9 +/- square miles          

– fresh water flow

Dates Constructed May, 1759

On 1805 Map of Rye

Owners –      

Amos and James Seavey

  • Mill Type   Sawmill———————-

Leavitt Mill

Location -Red Mill Lane

Drainage Basin –    

Cedar Swamp Run

Dates Construction Unknown

Abandoned as of 1903

Owner – Leavitt

Mill Type  Grist Mill

Changed in late 1800’s to shingle mill

Odiorne Mill 1652? -1862

Seavey Mill 1759 -1800’s

Doctor’s Mill? – 1800’s

Goss Mill 1 & 2  1752- 1792

Goss Mill 3 Locke Road Mill

1792 =1800’s

Brown’s Mill

Leavitt Mill 1800’s

Jenness Mill  1695  – 1903

History of NH National Guard in Rye

 Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

By the 1900s all states had a National Guard which acted as a reserve for the regular Army. Prior to WWI, the US did not keep a large standing army and even after that war it was reduced again to a small number of soldiers. National Guard units always acted as a support system and were called out for natural disasters, to quell civil disturbances and always to serve in wars because the regular Army units needed to fill their depleted ranks.

The NH national Gurad, 197th Artillery Unit had its two- week summer training session in Rye at Camp Winant, located off Cable Road at Rand’s spring, starting in the early 1920’s. There was a natural spring at this location near a large field where the Fielding Way subdivision sits today. (The town museum has a framed photo of the encampment of tents as well as a banner of this artillery unit.) The soldiers marched from the camp to their training field opposite 420 Central Road for their daily drills.  The Guard named the camp for the popular NH governor John Winant, who later became the US ambassador to Britain during WWII in which he played a crucial role in getting US support to Britain in 1940 in WWII. Governor Winant visited the Rye encampment on several occasions in the 1920s.

 In the 1930s the camp’s name was changed it to Murphy, the NH governor at that time. The unit practiced firing at dummy planes from Ragged Neck at Rye Harbor. The “fireworks” attracted hundreds of spectators. By the late 30’s the Guard began expansion plans off Locke Road including a landing strip, but WWII halted those efforts and after the war all New England Guard units moved their training to Camp Drum in upstate New York. The Locke Road site later became the Rye recreation area.

There are occasional newspaper accounts about the Guard in Rye, but no full record of what impact this annual influx of young men had on the town in the middle of summer, but one can just imagine. Were they allowed to go to the beach, just a short walk down Cable Road?  Further research of the history of the NH National Guard might flesh out this history.

History of Odiorne Point – History Time Line

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023 (24 p time line sent on request)

Native peoples – settled this area as early as 10,000 years ago; early 1600s Eur. Explorers noted large permanent settlement in Rye Harbor area; Penacook Confederacy, Piscataqua local tribe; natives used the point as part of seasonal migratory planting/hunting and fishing activities; it was communal land

1623 – David Thomson and company, backed by Plymouth, Eng. merchants, arrives at Little Harbor area with family/ workers on “Jonathan;” build Great stone house, large hall, huge chimney or it was a timber frame stockade house (foundation may be lost due to disturbed land.) it was called Panaway, 1st permanent or was it seasonal, European settlement in NH (Rye) and most successful colony in NE in 1620’s. This settlement started the use of private property in the midst of a communal culture that shared land.

1660 –John Odiorne and brothers at Shoals; John O. to Rendezvous Point. & buys land there (Panaway) (all 264 acres), builds farm facing salt marsh; fish split & cured in salt barrels then dried on flakes (racks) on ridge of farm called “Flake Hill.” Big money maker as Catholic Europe was hungry for fish; Odiorne farm also had blacksmith shop (site nr. Od. graveyard today); tide mill (just north of Pioneer Rd bridge today) on narrow part of Seavey Creek – grist and lumber; an orchard was planted early on (1774 map)

1700’s growth of Portsmouth as the main port/harbor; farming/fishing continue at Panaway; 1693 Odiorne part of New Castle; 1726 part of new parish of Rye; 1785 Odiorne part of new inc. town of Rye. After the Revolution Rendezvous Point was re-named Odiorne Point.

1760 -George Frost builds farmhouse, Little Hbr. (Frost Pt.); 1800 2nd Odiorne farmhouse; 1840’s-1930’s – RR travel= summer homes built/resort era; tavern, bd. hse, Capt. Clark entertainment/winter parties;  1868-71, Peirce bros. Sagamore Hotel w/ French palatial decorations; Vanderbilt was guest, burn 1871; Colonial Dames erect Founders Monument (1623 settlers) on river’s  edge in 1899

WWI/ 1920s/30s –sm. Life sav. Station; Prohibition bootlegging activities; more summer homes built

1941-42 Army negotiate with property owners (14 in all) inclu. Graves, Straw, Waldron, Hobbs, Odiorne, Stevens, given 30 days to remove belongings, accept money Army offered for 264 acres; this part of Ocean Blvd closed for rest of war; estab. Ft Dearborn; guns – 16” M1 (127 tons)20 mi range of 2400 lb projectile; bunkers camouflaged w/ earth & trees; all bldgs. demo except Sugden & Odiorne house/barn.

Post war-bill to get residents land back dies in Cong. Com.; ‘49 Ralph Brown buys Odiorne house, ‘59 US govt. sells land to NH; ’61- State Park; 70’s beg. of park improve. & marine ed. by UNH in Sugden Hse. Audubon also involved; ’85 Friends of Odiorne Point advocate for Seacoast Science Center; opens in ’92.

2002 section of “Lizzie Carr” shipwreck (1905 Wallis Sands) excavated & displayed in SSC; 21st cent. -1000’s come to State Park/SSC marine ed., activities, events; i.e. 2500 species identified, high tech facilities have attracted regular public programs, Odiorne has become hub for music and other events. 2022 -SSC celebrates 30th anniversary with huge master plan for expansion in the future

1600 – communal, native land; then private property; today state park: Odiorne has come full circle.

History of Oil Refinery Battle

Intro to Lisa Moll book discussion 4/2023 by Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Tonight you are going to hear a very dramatic story about Rye and the seacoast. Lisa Moll’s book, Rye’s Battle of the Century: Saving the Seacoast from Olympic Oil, deserves a little dramatic build- up of fits own.

Since Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1453, there have been about 130 million books published, but what about all the great books not published?

I met Lisa at the museum in 2015 when she asked to look at materials for research on a grad research paper at UNH about the oil refinery crisis of 1973-74. She wanted to focus on Rye’s crucial role in this battle. The museum had all the “Publick Occurrences” newspapers and a file of other materials and she went to work. Over time the paper emerged and I asked if I could read it and have a copy for the museum.

As I read the paper, I was very impressed and began to think back over the 40 years since the crisis loomed over the seacoast. I knew there had been some magazine articles and a satirical play called “Oily Vey” produced in Durham, and Dudley Dudley, one of the three Durham women who fought it had spoken in Rye on the 40th anniversary in 2014.  

When I handed the paper back to Lisa I told her I did not want it. I remember the surprised look on her face, but then I quickly asked if she would to go back to her professor, Kurk Dorsey of the UNH history dept., and do whatever was necessary to prepare it for publication. Then Lisa had another look on her face, but once it sunk in I think she became as excited as I was, even though she had to do all the work. I then asked the RHS board if we would support the project and be the publisher and they agreed. I felt confident about this because I knew that Rye editor and publisher Grace Peirce would design the book.

The text of the paper did not need much editing but finding all the illustrations made a lot of work for Lisa.  By 2016 the book was ready for publication. In her research Lisa had met and interviewed many of the Rye residents who fought the proposed refinery and it was that group plus RHS who funded the books publication. In June 2016 an overflow crowd gathered in the library, including all those who fought it. Their leader was Peter Horne and he led the group in singing the “Ode to Olympic Oil” after Lisa gave her first talk on the book. It was a great celebration of a successful grassroots initiative in Rye, the first of several in the 1970s..

That anti refinery group gathered in the library in 2016 for a magazine article. Fighting this massive industrial complex was not a case of “Not in my back yard” but not in anyone’s back yard. Ask those in northern NJ and Louisiana, Texas and elsewhere who have had this brute force technology shoved down their throats.

One of the morals of this story is – the next time you read something good that is not intended for publication, think about encouraging the author to let it see the light of day. Rye and seacoast is very grateful to Lisa for being the first to document this story, still so relevant.

History of Parsons Park

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

                                                         short version

The Bicentennial held in Esther Parsons’ field had been the greatest celebration in living memory, three days of pure joy and appreciation. The Parsons Park Corporation of 151 Rye families formed and bought Esther Parsons’ land in 1977.  The sale of the land to the town by the corporation was narrowly defeated, but the Board of Directors was undaunted. The town bought the land in 1978 and 1979. It was for the best that the house was sold privately. The sale to the town came with the stipulation that no permanent structures would be built, but in 1984 the Select Board, without a town vote, went against that understanding. Tensions were high, but the voters finally rejected the planned structures. The stage and electrical supply are all that remain. Permanent legal protection was needed to avoid a repeat of 1984 and steadfast efforts finally secured it in 1998. Parsons Field and Woods may be the most successful citizen-initiated conservation action in Rye’s history. Patriotism comes in many forms and the actions of these Rye families to defend the rights of the group, to risk their investment for the good of the community, is patriotism at its best.


                                     A History of Parsons Park – long version

The work of earlier generations needs to be recognized through published writings, public history events, prominent historic plaques and integration into the school curriculum. If we don’t do this, then we take far too much for granted and don’t realize what a debt we owe to those who came before us whose hard work we benefit from. Such is the case with Parsons Field and Woods.

The Parsons family built the historic homestead in Rye Center c. 1757, along with a large barn. (The house is now on the national Register for Historic Places.)  The family served Rye with three generations of doctors in the 1800s and in the 1900s, the house was rented and sometimes lived in by family members in the summer. Esther and Charles Parsons lived year- round in the house starting in the mid 1950s and were very active in the life of the town.   After Charles died in 1960, Esther lived on alone in the house and later she sold the barn, which was dismantled and moved to another location.  In 1963 Esther sold her land across from the school to the First National Bank of Portsmouth which opened the bank in 1964. In 1975, 1976 and 1977 she loaned the use of her large field for three huge July 4th town events, including the great Bi-Centennial celebration in 1976. As we all reveled in those holiday good times in the field, little did anyone know then what would soon become of this land.

In 1977 Esther decided to move back to her native Illinois and placed her 52.5-acre property on the market. It stretched all the way to the salt-marsh near the harbor, abutting the recreation area.  Developers soon took note. Marion and Tom Barron lived in the house across the field from Esther.

Marion and Tom Barron remember:

“We asked Esther to someday sell us a 50- foot parcel so that we could have a driveway straight into the barn. We had been sharing a driveway with the Burkes who were not pleasant neighbors. Esther promised that she would sell to us at the right time. We had nothing in writing.  One day there was a knock on my door and it was Esther with a developer who wanted to put up a large number of houses (with overhead power lines) on the field. He said that he needed the 50 feet promised to us. I told Esther that we still wanted the land and she said that she was a woman of her word and that was that. The developer left and the rest is history.”

The Barrons soon passed the word and a group was formed to explore an alternative to a housing development. They soon approached Esther with their idea: Form a noon profit corporation to raise money for down payment and then try to sell t the town.  At the March town meeting that year, there were several warrant articles, submitted both by the selectmen and voter petition, for the town to purchase the land and buildings for $214,000. After deliberation, all articles were tabled.

Soon thereafter, the non- profit Parsons Park Corp. was formed by 151 families, including a board of directors composed of president Mel Low, treasurer Robert Bowen, secretary Linda Chace, publicity chair Priscilla Jenness, Charles Tallman, Frances Holway, David Duggan, Stephen White, Thomas Barron, William Hodgeman, Donald Cilley and Jessie Herlihy, at whose home the board met every Sunday night. From its 151 members in 1977, the corporation raised $56,000 as a down-payment to purchase the Parsons property.  

Then, working with town government, the corporation petitioned the Rockingham Superior Court for permission to hold a special town meeting on October 6, 1977 at which the corporation offered the property for the town to buy.  After much deliberation and various amendments, a vote was taken which required a 2/3 majority to pass. It was defeated by fifteen votes, 445 in favor and 245 against. The opposition was not interested in preservation of open space and wanted to see more property taxes from new houses, even though services for home owners often offset the benefits of property taxes. Esther Parsons waited patiently, as she wanted the town, not a developer, to own it.

The board of directors of the corporation was undaunted by the narrow defeat of 1977 and in 1978, the town was offered the forty-seven- acre parcel of woods, which it bought for $60,000. In 1979 the town bought the five-acre Parsons field from the corporation. In 1980 the town was offered the purchase of the Parsons house and other buildings on 1 ¾ acres, but the proposal lost by only three votes. This might have been the best outcome, given the cost of converting the historic house for community use and the property was soon sold to Dick and Sue Kutzleb, who took great care in restoring the house and made fine contributions to the community by supporting the historical society and Dick served admirably on the Historic District commission in a time of great turmoil over the future of Parsons Field.  

When the Parson’s Park Corporation had transferred ownership of the field and forest to the town, it was clearly stated in writing to have the field be an open space with no permanent structures, but that did not provide permanent legal protection.  The Parsons Park Corporation had achieved its main purpose, which was saving the land for the enjoyment of all.

Its goal achieved, the corporation subsequently dissolved and its members each received a portion of what they had invested. This was a pioneering, grassroots effort to preserve land for the pubic in the center of town. Our colonial forbearers would have been proud as they had set land aside for public use, known as the “Commons,” before bending to the pressure of land speculators which turned most of it into private property. Charles and Louise Tallman and others worked tirelessly to lay out and maintain the trails in the woods. The Conservation Commission oversees the woods, the Select Board the field. 

But the story did not end in 1980 because permanent legal protection for the land had not been gained and that loophole would soon be exploited.  In 1984 selectmen decided on their own to erect stone posts with a large wrought iron arch entry to Parsons Field along with a stage and electricity and plans for a gazebo. Once the arch was up, all hell broke loose in Rye.

Jane Holway and Jean Low were so irate at the arch that they spray-painted it early one morning with Mel Low standing by in the get-away car. But someone spotted the” vandals” and alerted the police. Jean tried to get Jane to climb down and flee, but she just wanted to get one more section. Jean, who had a head start, ran in back of the Josephs barn with one of the policemen huffing and puffing on her heels while another chased and nabbed Jane and then called his colleague to help him. Was Jane resisting arrest?  Jean escaped to the safety of the Chichester’s house across from the police station where she hid out until Mel retrieved her. Jane was arrested and released pending trial by Judge Giles in Rye District Court in Town Hall. Karl Grunert volunteered to repaint the arch.

 Once the judge realized that Jean was also involved and that the arch itself was the real vandal, the case was dropped. Leading up to the trial, there were heated exchanges between the selectmen, the Historic District Commission and others. Once the voters were educated that no permanents structures were allowed in the field, the town vindicated Jane and Jean by voting to remove the offensive entry-arch and posts and the plan for a gazebo was abandoned. However, the flat stage and underground electricity hookup remained as did the unprotected status of the land. The hated arch turned up soon thereafter at Abenaki Country Club for a roast of Frances Holway, much to her delight and to all those in attendance.

 In 1999, a most important conservation action occurred thanks to the steadfast leadership of Ray Jarvis and conservation lawyer Dane Crook. They stood firm against the demands of recreation proponents who wanted to buy a large section of Parsons Woods adjacent to the recreation area. After two years of difficult negotiations, Jarvis and Crook prevailed and the town voted to approve an easement with Rockingham County Conservation which protected all of Parsons Park, field and woods, in perpetuity.  On a vote of two to one, the Board of Selectmen then contradicted the town vote, but a civic crisis was averted after one of the selectmen changed his mind. This raises an interesting point: the vote of residents is binding, so isn’t it a moot point if the majority of the Select Board do not agree with the town vote?

In the future the town cannot vote to change the public land status of Parsons Park or sell the whole parcel to a developer. The collective rights of the community to maintain a balance between the natural world and human settlement had prevailed.   

In 2022 it was discovered that a mistake had been made in the 1980s in surveying the land as to what was part of the town forest managed by the conservation commission and what was part of the Perry section of the cemetery in back of the superintendents building where the turnaround is located. Work is ongoing to resolve this issue.

Looking back to the Parsons Park Corporation in the late 1970s offers a template of how a grassroots effort can achieve great success for a community. The creative and persistent work of the board over several years was responsible for the successful outcome. All of the papers of the corporation are housed in the Rye Town Museum, donated by former PPC president Mel Low, awaiting research and a possible book on this landmark event in Rye history. In the 1990s a plaque commemorating the effort was placed on a boulder near the entrance to the field which reads:

“Commemorating the Parsons family who settled this land and the efforts of151 Rye families of the Parsons Park Corporation who in 1978 spearheaded a movement to preserve this land to be held in perpetuity as open space for a town common for the benefit of all Rye residents.”                                

The original Parsons Park board and all the 151 families who invested in this project are to be commended for their foresight and commitment in saving this priceless piece of land for the enjoyment of all. As Ken Burns documentary film on the national parks stated in its title: The National Parks:  America’ Best Idea. I am sure he would agree that applies to the creation of all public land.

The next time you enjoy the field or the woods, remember those families of the late 1970’s who made this public land available and take a lesson from their grassroots activism for the public good.

History of Policing

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Historically town residents often settled their disputes by themselves or with the help of neighbors who mediated. If necessary, disputes would go to local judges and/or courts to settle. Gradually constables (police) emerged in towns.

In the 1830s alcoholism reached its height in the country and there were many complaints to the selectmen to do something about it, but their hands were often tied as they had no regular force to deal with such public disturbances and residents were left to do the “policing” themselves on these occasions

In the later 1800’s town reports always mention a certain amount of funding to various people for police work. They were especially busy at the turn of the 20th century as an 1899 town law prohibited alcohol being served anywhere in town, but many broke the law. Often a tip would lead to their homes (temporary taverns) being raided. These raids were ineffective because a new illegal tavern in a house would soon pop up. Vagrancy was sometimes an issue as the term “tramps” was often seen in the reports. It appears that the selectmen would deputize people they thought were fit for the job, but it is not known what qualifications and training, beyond their trust in the individuals, the selectmen required. 

Manning Remick was police chief between the wars and he had his office in the right- angle corner between the beach club and the bath houses, hard on the boulevard, where he is seen at his desk in a RHS historic photo. Later he used one of the garage bays of the Drake house Hotel across the boulevard. He patrolled on his motorcycle and must have been very busy in the summer, with help from deputies, as people flocked to the Rye’s beaches in their new cars. Remick was the keeper of the life guard boat at his home on Locke’s Neck where once he rescued a stranded person on Great Bay ice. Manning is also pictured returning from the area just of Portsmouth where the fated submarine Squalus went down in 1939. Later his son Leighton was police chief and at some point, they moved the police office to the first floor of town hall where a lock up had been installed in the 1890’s. As to how Remick and his deputies dealt with those who violated prohibition laws between 1920 and 1933, that is a whole separate history to be researched, but one can get a sense of it in the historical novel in the museum Gift Shop called The Last Run by Steve Clarkson. 

When the first central fire station was built in 1954, the small right- side section was reserved for the police with a parking area to back right side of the building. It was in this part of the building where there was a tower where fire hoses hung to dry and on top was a fire signal, a very unpleasant loud fog horn whose signals would tell what section of the town a fire had been reported.  The selectmen would also use part of the police office to meet as the first floor of town hall was mostly wide open. There was a large open area in the back of the fire /police station with a kitchen, dining area and a pool table at which locals were welcome to join the men in a game of billiards.  Eli Perry was police chief in the late 50’s and 60’s and he was always chasing young people away from “parking” on the beach and on Lovers (Love) lane. Police in the 60s also had many run-ins with surfers. (See the History of Surfing) 

In 1970 the entire force resigned over a dispute with selectmen over who was in charge of the police force. State law is clear that the selectmen have that power. The only one who didn’t resign was Walter Dockham and the selectmen empowered him to start a new police force. Since that time the force has grown to its present size, occupying their new offices in 2005 in the new Rye Fire/police station.

History of Restaurants/ Snack Bars/ Ice Cream Shops/ Pubs in the 1950s/1960s

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

 Big Scoop ice cream – Lagos today (1982)

 Bartletts ice cream – ice house today

Dinnermans rest. At Wallis sands beach befo9re state beach in 1964

Surf Haven pizza – next to Red Roof, Kooks today

Snack bar opposite side of Wallis Rd from Red Roof

Wallis Sands Rest., Pirates Cove Rest. (1956) and Peg Leg Lounge – Surf Club today

Harborside lobster pound – Peteys today

Nicks Grille on Blvd at Wash Rd.

O’Jeras rest., cabins and Salty Breeze Snack bar, on Blvd at Foss Beach

Rays seafood – Foss beach, 1945, current bldg. from 1980s

Saunders Rest. – south side of harbor from 1928 to 1970; new Sauders from 1970

Harbor master snack bar further out towards jeddie

Pagoda snack bar, on oceanside of Blvd at end of Cable Rd.

Swensons rest. – Carraige house today

Farragut hotel, on blvd at Central Rd. – anyone eat in the hotel rest.

Charley’s Coffee Corner Laf Rd. at Wash Rd

Sam n Ann’s Grille in old barn just north of Charleys on Laf.

Tony’s Diner – next to Big Scoop 1970-1984


Rye on the Rocks Blvd at Wash Rd.

Dunes 2nd fl – next Sandpiper

Ladd’s, next to Sag. Creek. From 1933-late 70s– in Ports but close to Rye

History of Revolutionary War (the deceased)

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

This list is from parsons History of Rye, 1905, where he claims this is the only list he knows of. He got it from Rye Rev. Huntington Porter’s New Century address, given in Rye in the early 1800s There were 800+ people living in Rye in the 1770s and most towns must have been hit hard. Parsons devotes 20 pages to Rye in the Revolution and lists hundreds who served in different units at different times. For a town this size to lose this many dead (39) must have been devastating and who knows how many suffered from physical and psychological wounds? In its infancy, the United States lost approximately 50,000 in the war, one half in combat and the other half in the categories that war always claims: killed unintentionally by their own troops, died in an accident, died from exposure to severe weather, died from disease, etc.

Many of these names are seen in the list of 43 Founding Families who built the town over the first two centuries and others who happened to be living here in the Revolutionary Era. As Porter mourns in his address: “…most of them young men, dear to their friends, and for whom the tears of affection and condolence have yet scarcely ceased to flow.”  Such words evoke the sentiment in the timeless song of lament that applies to all war dead: “Where have all the flowers gone, gone to graveyards everywhere, when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”


John Lock

Abner Lock

John Rand

Edward Rendall

Samuel Rand

Ezekiel Lear

Jonathan Jenness

John Odiorne

William Hall

Richard Rand

Job Foss

Josis Rendall

Ephraim Rand

Michael Moulton

Richard Goss

Robert Morrison

Robinson Trefethen

Jonathan Goss

Joseph Trefethen

Ephraim Hall

Thomas Foy

John Lear

Amos Seavey

John Rendell

Christopher Gould

Samuel Knowles

Tobias Trundy

Joseph Hall

Stephen Rand

Samuel Seavey

William Marden

Nathaniel Tucker

Samuel Moulton

Abraham Clifford

William Foss

Richard Tucker

Nimshi – enslaved man who was newly freed, fought and died with his former owner

Prince       “                  “                    “

Samuel Marden – this name was given to RHS as an additional person who died in the war, not on Porter’s list above.

History of Road Side Publicly Accessible Family Graveyards Tour

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Note – these are a few of the over 60 historic family graveyards that are easily accessible from the road

         Family                        Location

Berry –                                                   opposite 130 Central Rd.

Brackett Burial Ground –                   opposite 605 Brackett Rd.

Dow Monument –                               near 139 Parsons Rd.

Dow Monument –                               opposite 1159 Washington Rd.

Foss –                                                      35 Washington Rd., bet. 25 and 45

Foye –                                                     near 181 Brackett Rd.

Locke-Downing –                                  near 190 Locke Rd.

Odiorne –                                               505 Ocean Blvd., on trail to saltmarsh bet. house and barn

Philbrick –                                               behind St Andrew chapel, Church Rd.

Salter-Rand –                                         near 651 Wallis Rd.

???                                                          near 434 South Rd.

Wallis-Odiorne –                                   near 500 Brackett Rd.

In my mind’s eye I can see additional road side graveyards. Please look at the full list of 60+ graveyards on Rye Heritage Co9mmission web site and try to identify more where there is room to pull over and visit the graveyards. This list above was compiled by Louise Tallman last century.  Most of the 60  graveyards have not been adopted and have no caretaker to keep them clean

History of Rye Beach Precinct Building

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Most of the piece below was written by  Frank Drake, Rye Beach commissioner            

At one time Rye had eight hotels and over thirty boarding houses, but the WWI epoch saw the decline of Rye as a summer hotel resort.  At about where St. Theresa’s Church is now located, the Sea View House was built in 1869 by George Lougee. It operated for about 45 years before falling out of fashion.

The Sea View House was razed early in 1918. In September 1918, the then current owners of the property, Mr. and Mrs. Shirley Philbrick and Mr. and Mrs. Francis E. Drake conditionally deeded a portion of the now empty lot to the Rye Beach Precinct.

Per the deed, …“The conditions of this deed being that the property herein conveyed is to be used for public purposes only and for the benefit of the residents in Rye Beach Precinct; and that no intoxicating or spirituous beverages will be manufactured or sold on said premises; and that in case of failure…to abide by these conditions the property…shall revert to the Grantors.”

In late 1918 the Rye Beach Precinct voted a $25,000 bond to build the Precinct Building, pretty much the same building that is there today. The bond was paid off in 1938.

It was initially built to house the Rye Beach Post Office, moving it from a back room in the Spear House at the intersection of South and Central Roads and to provide meeting space to conduct Rye Beach Precinct business. All the RBVD Annual Meetings, Zoning Board hearings and Planning Board meetings, etc., have been held there ever since.

Later, in 1930, when the Precinct formed its volunteer fire department and bought a 1930 Model A Ford fire truck (Santa’s fire truck), it was garaged at the Precinct Building. You can see the difference in the shading and curved shape of the bricks and mortar on the south side where the garage once was. This was the Rye Fire Department until the new station was built in Rye Center in 1954.

What follows are some anecdotes from my personal recollection and hearsay. The precinct building was the “bus stop” circa 1956 before there was door to door service. There were probably 50 continuous years of piano recitals by South Road resident Evelyn Drake held there. My father, Philip and uncle, Herbert had recital performances there, circa 1935. My piece was, circa 1960, “March of the Toy Soldier.” Rye’s Jim Oeser’s “welcome home from Vietnam party” was held there about 1966 (details redacted). There were neighborhood Christmas/Santa parties and it was occasionally rented out for private events over the years.               

The synergy of the land donors, commissioners and residents of 1918 to erect a public use building, anchored by the post office was fortuitous. The Precinct Building, with Post Office and RBVD meeting and office space, has provided a sense of very local community that has enhanced the Rye Beach Village District’s sense of identity and place.

The Precinct Building was completed and “opened” in 1919.

History of Rye Civic League

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

In 1968 three civic minded women, Frances Holway, Joan La France and Marjorie Miller, established the Rye Civic League (RCL) for the purpose of educating townspeople about Rye town government and publishing a monthly “Town News” which reported on town board meetings and other town news. The free publication was placed around town in red bags and members received copies in the mail. The RCL quickly became a catalyst for active citizens and the three founders made a lasting contribution to the civic life of the town. Frances was a go- getter and provided the basement work space and mimeograph machine. Marjorie was one of the main editors of the Town News and kept it going for the last few years and Joan was very knowledgeable about legal affairs and state RSA’s and was often the most intelligent person in the room during BOS and Planning board meetings. In 1992 the RCL disbanded due to low membership and lack of volunteers. Around the turn of this century, there was an ad hoc group (Concerned Citizens of Rye) which organized around certain issues, but the monthly Town News was sorely missed. There was no such oversight group leading up to the building of the new Fire/Police station in 2004/05.

Inspired by the original Rye Civic League’s history, Alex Herlihy revived the organization in 2009 and by 2012 a core of dedicated and skilled residents was editing and publishing a monthly online “Civic News” sent to over 1000 residents and were fully engaged in town government affairs. With people so busy and so many town meetings to pay attention to, the Rye Civic News delivers key points in a digestible format that enables residents to stay informed and become more active in civic life. The ”Civic News” provides links for more detailed information that is posted on www.ryecivicleague and the town website. Over 600 people open the Civic News every month.

The RCL is a 501 (c) (3) incorporated, nonprofit membership organization, independent of town government, with a Board of Directors, an annual meeting and a monthly business meeting followed by an open forum discussion at the Rye library on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 7pm. RCL produces the Rye Town Government Handbook, sponsors special presentations on pressing issues such as “Ground Water in Rye” and the “History of Housing Developments in Rye,” presents the annual power point of the “story” behind the town and school budgets and warrant articles, helps residents write petitioned warrant articles and sponsors the annual town candidate’s night as well as the state wide candidate’s debate every other year.

 RCL members attend or watch recorded videos of most public town board meetings and are able to go report in much more detail than the official minutes published by the town. The Civic News has reported on issues such as:  upgrading of Town Hall and other town facilities, updating the Master Plan, beach issues, Parsons Creek pollution, proposed housing developments, etc.  To receive the “Civic News” free, go to: www.ryecivicleague.org and insert name and e-mail. ”Many hands make light work” and RCL appreciates and needs volunteers. New members are welcome and needed (RCL, PO Box 591, Rye NH 03870).  Dues are $12 a year with e-mail invitation sent to all for monthly meetings and other important alerts.       

          (E-mail: [email protected]

History of Rye, East Sussex, England

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

The piece below was written by Jo Kirkham, president of the Rye Museum Association in Rye England. She came to Rye NH as their mayor in 1981 and the Herlihy family reciprocated her visit a few months later. We lost touch until about ten years ago and have renewed our friendships and have been sharing the history of our two Rye’s ever since.


I was thrilled when Alex contacted me again after all these years.  My daughter Tracy, (who was my Mayoress) and I had a wonderful visit to Rye NH back in 1981, when everyone we met made us very welcome.  I recall visiting the Library, the Church and I spoke to students at the School whilst there – and we were taken on tours of the surrounding areas, which were fascinating.  She returned to your herself the following year and loved it. 

As well as the ‘Jenness’ link to Rye, Sussex from 1623 – I recalled that we had a family called  ‘Odiarne’ in our local area here in the 1600’s and early 1700’s – one of whom became the Town Clerk of Rye.  So maybe there is another family connection?

Rye is a lovely place – to walk round the citadel area is like walking back in time.  The oldest building is St Mary’s Church, which was re-built beginning in 1103  It is a large building (http://www.ryeparishchurch.org.uk) compared with other Norman churches and is often dubbed ‘The Cathedral of East Sussex.’  Its story is interesting.

Rye itself first comes into national history in 1017.  In 1014, Ethelred II (nick-named the ‘Unready’) was fighting the Viking invasions and took refuge across the English Channel with his wife Emma’s family in Fécamp.  She was both the daughter and sister of Dukes’ of Normandy and Fécamp was their favourite residence.  As thanks for this hospitality, Ethelred promised to give the Abbey of Fécamp, which was situated literally across the square from the Royal residence, a valuable manor on the south coast of England – called Rameslie.  This manor included Rye.

Ethelred died before he could transfer the Manor and, when his widow Emma was married to his successor, the Viking Canute, (as often happened in those days), she asked him to complete this gift of Rameslie to Fécamp, as her first husband had promised.  This he did – probably as a wedding present – in 1017.

Rye belonged to Normandy 50 years before the Norman Conquest. William’s invasion was organised in and began from Fécamp, whose monks knew our part of the world intimately, the harbours and paths

My belief is that William was aiming for Rameslie when his fleet was deflected – to the Hastings area on the west and Romney on the East – with us in the centre.  Ramselie wasn’t attacked in 1066 and it still belonged to and was run directly  by the Abbot of Fécamp until 1247.

The King of England negotiated taking back the ports of Rye from Fécamp, as we were then at war with France and he wanted to build a Castle to defend the coast.  This was eventually done in 1249 – and this led to the Tower being constructed, the second oldest building in Rye, now main part of our Museum.

The French wars continued as the Hundred Years War – and we were attacked many times.  In 1377 the French succeeded in getting inside the walls and they burned the Town to the ground – only leaving the stone buildings –the Church, Castle and Gates standing.  The half-timbered houses and cobbled streets, which abound in Rye date from the re-building after this fire.  It is said that we have more of these houses than any other place in England.

A little about the Town now:  I was elected Mayor of Rye for three years am still serving on the Town Council.  We are sixteen members and meet in the Court Hall/Town Hall which was rebuilt as probably the fourth such building on the same site, next to the Church – in 1742/3.  We no longer have the powers we had in olden times but we do our best for our 4,500 ‘Ryers,’ as those who live in Rye are called.

We are still one of the Senior Cinque Ports – and I can tell you more about what that means and has meant on another occasion.

Jo Kirkham  February 2015

History of Rye Historical Society

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023  


     Early Years into the 20th century

Before 1976 there were always those who worked to preserve, research and present the history of Rye. Early town records are a rich repository of the political life of the town. Personal journals, diaries, letters and other primary sources document the private lives of Rye people. Town Reports dating from 1863 and before document the expenses of each year and challenges facing elected officials. These and many other sources of Rye history may be found in the town museum.  Congregational church records go back to the early years and are now to be found in the new church museum in the parish house. Newspapers and an important source of Rye history and may be accessed on- line through historic newspapers link. According to one c. 1900 article in the museum, The Times was Rye’s favorite newspaper, but it is not clear which paper is referred to.  Langdon Parsons researched the history of the town and published his History of Rye, NH in 1905 including detailed genealogy information. From its beginning in 1911, the Rye Public Library has been a significant preserver of town history, with primary and secondary sources and historic items on display.  We imagine there is likely much unpublished Rye history that has not yet been made known to RHS.                               

          Mid-20th century

By the 1950s the “Every Other Tuesday Club” had formed, a true precursor of RHS. EOTC sponsored house and garden tours starting in 1953 and also old house research and other historic preservation efforts.  Bill Varrell worked at the Ocean Wave Hotel in the 1950s where he developed a strong interest in the town’s rich resort history which soon morphed into his informal, self- published book, Rye on the Rocks: A Town that Resorted to Resorting in 1962, followed by Summer by the Sea in 1972. In 1968 the Rye Civic League was established and began publishing the monthly “Town News,” another source of monthly town political news. Louise Tallman moved to Rye in the 1960s and she spent 40 years researching Rye history and has left it all to us in typed manuscripts. ISHRA, the Isles of Shoals Historical and Research Association, has been preserving the history of the nine islands that lay off the coast of Rye and Kittery. Star, White, Seavey and Lunging islands have been part of Rye since 1876.

   1970s – Birth of RHS               

The epoch of the Bi-Centennial in the mid 1970s sparked the greatest interest in town history, true for communities across the country. The idea for the Rye Historical Society came from founding member Jessie Herlihy, who served with Louise Tallman, Bonnie Goodwin, Ralph Morang 111, Becky Marden, et.al. on Rye’s American Revolution Bi-Centennial Committee. Federal funding for that 200th anniversary committee required a legacy project so in February, 1976, RHS was born and that summer it sponsored the first of six house tours. Becky Marden and I are charter members of RHS and Becky has been involved for most of RHS history. The organization soon became a 501 c 3 non-profit organization with membership dues and regular business meetings. RHS began sponsoring regular public programs, collected and received donations of artifacts, documents, photographs, restored old graveyards, researched old houses, etc.  From the beginning, the society published a monthly newsletter for its members as well as an annual yearbook where programs and officers are documented. The other names of those charter members who worked tirelessly in those early years are to be found in those yearbooks.                            RHS was given storage space in the McDonald Room of the library which has been very supportive of the society.  Roger Philibrick is a descendant of his founding family who settled here in the 1600s and he has been researching and recording 20th century topics for years and will make it available in the future.                       

                         The 1980s and 90s             

In 1979-80 Marcia Gillis wrote and published a bi monthly newspaper called The Rye Free Press, the only known newspaper the town has ever had.  In 1985 RHS celebrated the town’s Bi-centennial with a two-day Town Hall event with many loaned and donated exhibits on display. In 1986 the town gave space in the Town Hall auditorium for museum exhibits which were open to the public on Saturdays. In 1989 founder Jessie Herlihy died and by the next year the society was in decline. An emergency meeting was held and a plan to re-start the organization was established with Bonnie Goodwin and Alex Herlihy as joint leaders. The search for a building to use as a museum finally bore fruit in 1997 when the town donated to RHS a cape style house adjacent to the library. Built c. 1930 as an antique shop and later used as apartments, it had become expendable due to expansion of the library, which moved the building a short distance from its original site. The new addition to the library included a NH Room which offers excellent sources on Rye and displays of some artifacts. In 2000 there was a meeting at the library for those interested in writing a new, updated Rye history, but there was no follow up, however the meeting did inspire me to start doing serious research. The books of authors Clarkson, Valley, Clarie and Cross have contributed much to 20th century history. The 100-page Rye history time line I wrote after the first trolley tour in 2011 was the real impetus for my new Rye history, to be published in 2023.                   

                New Century, New Museum, generous bequests but a loose board structure

With Bonnie Goodwin as supervisor, it was painstakingly restored as a town museum, opening in July 2002. Funding to restore the building ($74,000) came from the six house tours and many donations large and small. In the years after the museum opening, the society was the beneficiary of two very generous bequests:  $59,000 from the estate of John Adams, a descendant of the Seavey family and $20,000 from long time RHS supporters Louise and Charles Tallman.  (c. 2012, RHS decided to invest a significant portion of its bequests and that wise decision has grown the society’s assets.)

With most of its attention focused on the museum after 2002, the board structure, public programs and membership remained loose and when Bonnie Goodwin died at age 66 the society had lost another invaluable leader. Alex Herlihy became president in 2006 and served in that role through the ups and downs of the board over the next twelve years. Margaret Carroll, Alice Provencher and Ellie Stewart, our treasurer, were stalwart board members for years. After Ellie died, we reached our low point when I had to be both president and treasurer. Lindsay Burke and I kept the museum going.  Things began to improve when Steve Cash joined the board as treasurer in 2010, but the board structure remained loose. In 2018 several new board members and a new president reinvigorated the organization and began to create a more structured approach to RHS.

It was during this less structured time that I began to research and write a new history of Rye starting in 2011. I have never been able to give it full time attention but by picking away at it I have finally finished the 3rd draft and had it edited for grammar and content and hope to have it published before the end of 2023, Rye’s 400 anniversary year. This is not an RHS project because I the board did not ask me to write it, but I could not have done it without the materials in the museum and my affiliation with RHS. My main supporter on the book for the past decade has been local history author Tom Clarie.  

During the 20 years the museum has been open, I have greeted untold numbers of visitors and learned so much Rye history from those who live here or used to live here.  To all of them I owe much.                                       


Current board member Becky Marden was the original RHS archivist, before we museum opened in 2002. She may be helpful for some things.

From 2002 to 2005 Susan Kindstedt was RHS archivist and used a Moose Plate grant to archive many of the items in the gray archive boxes today. She also set up the original past perfect. Susan lives in Rye and has been affiliated with the Portsmouth Athenaeum and can be contacted.

From 2008-2011 UNH museum Studies grad Lindsay Burke continued archiving and set up the RHS web site. During that time a volunteer, Sara Hall of Rye, photographed all the museum artifacts and put on past perfect. We have lost touch with her.

UNH history grad Andrew Hickey continued archiving as a volunteer and did many other office tasks, c. 2012-2015. Another UNH history grad also helped during part of that time, processing donation forms, scanning etc.

2016 – under a NH Charitable Fund $5k grant Robin Silva of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, digitized and placed on Past Perfect, 1600 pages of RHS material (1850-1920) and did some donation processing, etc. during the year she was with us. She may be contacted.

2017-2018 Jen King, recent UNH museum studies grad and now with Historic New England, worked for RHS under a private grant to research a former Rye Inn and now a private home. She also did some archive and donation processing.

We have had no one doing archive work from 2018 until we hired Jane Ward in 2022. Lew K formalized the board archiving work by agreeing to chair the archive sub com. starting in 2021 so that now we are very clear about the process of accepting donations or not.

It is clear in the museum what has been archived in the gray boxes, both printed material and textiles. It is less clear about the artifact collection which is stored, mostly in the y archive room but also in other parts of the museum. I am not aware of what artifacts have been photographed for PP in last decade. There are boxes in archive room that have paperwork waiting to be processed and archived. There are many other items scattered about in archive room, library etc. for which we have lost the provenance or never had it. There are also materials we will want to archive in the large collection surrounding my desk in office which will become available once I separate from the chaff later this summer. The basement is also a storage area for some of collection which will become clearer once we clean that out this summer.                               

                            History of exhibits at the museum

Since 2002 RHS has mounted three exhibits in the museum: first was a generic Rye history collection. In 2005, under a grant from the Tallman family through the Greater Piscataqua Community Fund, the society opened its first professionally created exhibit entitled: “Summering in Rye; Over a Century by the Sea: Hotels and Boarding Houses of Rye.” in 2009 a second formal exhibit was mounted by UNH intern Linsay Burke for her museum studies master’s degree, which showed the history of Rye in words and images. In 2014 a new chronological and thematic Rye history exhibit was mounted by two UNH history grads, Robina Mitchell and Andrew Hickey.  In 2018 a fourth exhibit by the RHS museum committee opened funded by a grant, called “Fishing, Farming and Fun” along with some upgraded thematic exhibits. In 2022 a fifth exhibit focused on Rye in the 1800s will open.

                       RHS and Rye Schools

It has been an up and down history depending on the interest of staff at the schools. With two new principals being hired this summer, we look forward to establishing some consistency in that relationship. We know that teachers do use the rich material on the resources tab on our web site.

              Other Repositories of Rye History

Seacoast historical societies, the Portsmouth Athenaeum and the New Hampshire Historical Society all contain important material related to Rye history.

                                         Connection to Rye England

 In the past few years, we have been closely affiliated the Rye Museum Association in Rye, East Sussex, England. Jo Kirkham is their director and in 1981, as mayor of Rye, she visited Rye NH with her daughter and my family and I reciprocated three months later.  Each organization exchanges our newsletters and Jo and daughter Tracy are currently helping us trace the Jenness name associated with Rye England.

                          The Future

With all the work of previous boards and volunteers and the improvement of the RHS board starting in 2018 and the work it has accomplished since then, the future of the Rye Historical Society looks bright, as we enter the town’s 400th year.

History of Surfing

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Iin 1962 the town Sandpiper beach, became Jenness State Beach, as did the town beach at Wallis Sands in 1964, when big parking lot was created and road diverted away from ocean. 

Surfing was becoming popular and selectmen had to designate a specific area for it. Veteran Rye surfer and carpenter Steve Clark supplied the information and stories below. Eric Zetterberg (Zetty) along with Steve Clark and others started the Rye Beach Surf club in 1966. Zetty had his first surf shop in one of the cabins behind the Dunes motel. Rye police chief, at the time Eli Perry, restricted surfing to residents only using the 100 yards of Sawyers Beach, south of the Eel Pond gut. Surfers were forced to wear one of fifteen bright orange numbered vests while surfing, picked up at the police station. Eric and the others were not happy with this and regularly defied the ordinance. One foggy morning, Chief Perry was eating donuts in front of the Sandpiper in the Jenness Beach parking lot and when the fog lifted there was Zetty and Carl Hatch illegally surfing. Using a bullhorn, Perry called to them that they were under arrest. The culprits quickly paddled north around Locke’s Neck to the Little Neck on the south jetty of the harbor. As they were walking over the huge rocks to Harbor Road, the chief and his deputy showed up.

They ran like hell and threw themselves and their boards back in the water, but the deputy followed them into the water and caught Carl.  Zetterburg escaped and paddled north to the center of Foss Beach, where he snuck across the boulevard to his grandfather’s house, and stashed his board  under its deck. Later he returned to his home near the Sandpiper, but in the meantime, Perry had ordered a state police helicopter to search for him. Zetty finally turned himself in and paid a $45 fine at Portsmouth district court, at which time he asked how much that helicopter had set the town back! The next year, in the spring of 1970, Eli Perry and the rest of the police force, except for Rye resident Walt “Bud” Dockham, resigned due to a controversy over select board’s control of the police which state law gives them.  Chief Dockham and his new police force had a more favorable view of surfers and surfing.

Steve Clark remembers: “My good friend Eric Zetterberg was also my surf guru and over the course of the 60s and 70s we had many adventures together. In the early 60s a New York businessman and surfer, Will Somers, opened several surf shops in New England and created surf teams to represent each shop. Zetty managed the Rye Beach shop and its team and eventually took it over. A 1966 Hampton Beach “Beachcomber” magazine that I have has a write up on a contest held at the Hampton Beach wall where the Rye Hobie team, the Plaice Cove surf club and Randy’s surf shop team competed against each other which was won by the Rye Beach team. A year later Zetty’s Surf Shop sponsored a contest held at Bass Beach, near Rye on the Rocks cottages in the fall during a significant offshore swell. The contest was billed as “the New Hampshire Closed” and featured a men’s and women’s division limited to only New Hampshire surfers.

I have a surf magazine from 1967 where I published that story along with pictures of a contest held that year at Rye on the Rocks. Will Somers opened the Rye Beach Hobie surf shop which Zetty eventually took over and started the Rye Hobie surf team which I was a part of. I have a beachcomber from 1966 with a write up of a contest held at the Hampton Beach wall, where the Rye Beach Hobie team, the Plaice Cove surf club, and Randy’s surf shop team competed against each other and was won by the Rye Beach team.”

In 1973, Susan Sawyer Clark and her son Fred, a warrant officer in the army in Alaska at the time, decided to sell their beach (Sawyer’s Beach, from the beach club to Locke’s snack bar, where southernmost cottage is today) to the town for a modest price for the purpose of using it for a town beach. (Use for commercial purposes not mentioned in the deed.) The Sawyers wanted to avoid dealing with legal issues with more surfers and swimmers heading for collisions. (Research town records on 1972-3 to see town getting permission to spend the money to buy Sawyers Beach.) 

Beginning in early 1970’s there was an increase in surfing and surf shops are seen along NH beaches. In pre-litigious America of mid- century, surfers and swimmers got along, but in 1973, Susan Sawyer Clark and her son Fred, a warrant officer in the army in Alaska at the time, decided to sell their beach (Sawyer’s Beach, from the beach club to Locke’s snack bar, where southern- most cottage is today) to the town for a modest price for the purpose of using it for a town beach. (Use for commercial purposes not mentioned in the deed.) The Sawyers wanted to avoid dealing with legal issues with more surfers and swimmers heading for collisions. (See Town Reports 1972-3 to see town getting permission to spend the money to buy Sawyers Beach.) 

Red Bull Invitational at Rye Rocks, East West bus Trip, Safaris to Rhode Island, Sunshine surf Shop, Cinnamon and Rainbows Surf Shop,

Z(etty) boards crafted in Hampton, Zapstix Surfboards and surf shop, Pioneers surf Shop

 Early 2000s Ryan and Tyler McGill begin their surfing business on Ocean Boulevard beside the Red Roof market. A few years later they opened Summer Sessions in the former Sandpiper store/soda fountain at Jenness Beach. 

2002 – present – dramatic increase in surfing due to individual surfers, including those from Canada and out of town surf shops bring groups to Rye and popularity of Summer Sessions and their surf camps.

2010 – 2016 – Rye’s Beach commission and beach committee hold series of intense meetings in an effort to find common ground between swimmers and surfers (both individual surfers and Summer Session Surf camps). See Rye Town Reports for any warrant articles relating to surfing and any action taken by voters as well as annual reports by Beach commission.

During this time there is a dramatic increase in use of Ocean Boulevard and beach use by swimmers and surfers prompting traffic jams, illegal parking, dumping of waste including feces, drinking, illegal traffic maneuvers, etc. Numerous warrant articles and town and state efforts to control traffic and beach users are not successful. Also, during this time, Rye starts annual permit process for businesses using the beach. This is a state issue since Ocean Blvd is Rt. 1A is a state road.

 Last few years – Rye police have focused on Summer Sessions to clamp down on traffic problems. There are many challenges to keepping order on the beaches including dealing with bad behavior by the vast majority of other beach users; where there needs to be more ticketing and enforcement of ordinances.

In 2021, after some controversy over its size, new bath house opened at Jenness State Beach and surfing is as popular as ever.

 History of Rye Center

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Table of Contents

  1. Rye Center History in a Clamshell
  2. One page overview
  3. Eight- page Time line
  4. List of public properties
  5. Detailed description of all of Rye center – 3 pages


  • Rye Center History in a Clamshell

Native peoples both settled, hunted and migrated through this land for thousands of years. European settlers of Sandy Beach began to settle the ridge in the center in the mid-1600s. by 1726 The parish of Rye was established that included the first church, possibly some businesses and some homes. By 1900 the center included two churches, a town hall, businesses including two stores, a post office, a trolley stop and about 18 houses. In 2023 Rye Center has all the traditional buildings found in a New England town center except a coffee shop/small general store.


   2                    One- page Overview of Rye Center History    

For thousands of years native peoples lived and hunted in this area and there were many paths that led to what is now, Rye Ridge, on which Rye center was built by European settlers starting in the late 1600’s. The ridge sits in the heart of the geographic center of town. People, animal drawn wagons and carriages and later horseless ones, created the five arteries that bring people to the center. The oldest surviving building in Rye Center today is the Berry house             built in 1725. In 1726 the first church was built on the hill, replaced by a more durable one in 1756. At some point in colonial times a Town Pound to keep stray animals was built near where fire station is today. It is identified on the first map of Rye by P Morrill 1805.  By the early 1800s there was a real town center anchored by the church, a tavern, two stores and other possible businesses such as blacksmith and at least eight houses that remain today.

By 1900 there was a town hall with many live performances, a central cemetery, two churches, the Wedgwood center school, Walkers General store and Rand’s store, a post office and several more houses built in the 1800s.  By the end of the 1900s we had added a library, a larger school, a fire/police station, a bank, 50 acres of public field and forest, but had lost the two stores. On Washington Rd. only one private house has been built in the center since 1900.  Aside from the Garland Tavern 1756- c. 1810, there has never been a public eating place in the center.

200 people gathered in 2019 with Plan NH to discuss the future of Rye Center. From the perspective of 2023, the following points discussed in 2019 are still relevant.

  1. Through new and existing sidewalks, Rye Junior High will be connected to the rest of the center buildings. Traffic will be slowed possibly with raised cross walks and T stops at both ends of historic district.
  2. The center will become more pedestrian friendly including eventual access to the war monument.
  3. Establish a coffee shop and or a small general store such as existed in the past.
  4. The new Library Common has already enhanced library programing and that site will               improve. The Town museum now has added visibility on Washington Rd.
  5. The former bank building is now the new town hall annex and the Conservation Commission bought the three- acre parcel in back. 
  6. The Town Hall will have employees only on the first floor and the 2nd floor auditorium will be restored for town board meetings and a multi-purpose cultural center in the spirit of its use from 1873 – 1985. This large hall (225) could also be rented out to various groups and the town Deliberative Session and voting could also return to this space.

* see bottom of this document for my notes after first day of Plan NH, May 31, 2019


3                    Time Line – History of Rye Center – 8 pages                        

Native peoples –

In the beginning, native peoples lived and worked this land up to 10,000 years ago and their historic trails became the foot print for many European settler paths and later roads. Indians of the Algonquin stock peopled the eastern part of North America and regionally it was the Penacook and later Abnaki confederation. Locally it was the Piscataqua in the seacoast region and evidence of their habitation was recorded by Champlain in 1606 and 1608. Natives made abundant use of the fruits of the sea and land in both settled communities i.e. near Rye Harbor and in their seasonal migrations. They also had an elaborate network of trails, including one that lead inland from Foss beach, later used by the first settlers, Sandy Beach Rd. (Wash. today).

1600’s – Explorers and First European settlers 

Berrys and other Founding Families settled following explorations by Champlain and first settlement of town in 1623 by David Thomson and a small group at Odiorne Pt. Some followed path to the ridge in what is now Rye Center. Before 1726 the northern part of the village including the center was mostly part of New Castle and was called Sandy Beach. A series of devastating wars between natives and new comers in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, caused by both cultural misunderstanding and deliberate treachery by the new settlers, retarded the growth of Sandy Beach and many other New England communities.

1701 – 1785

 In 1701 Richard Goss was granted 20 acres of land on the ridge in the center today there is a house dated 1725, the first church was built on the hill in 1726 and Central Rd from the center to the southern part of the village’s coastline was laid out in 1727. Now there were two routes inland from the shore to the center, forming natural routes inland to routes north and south and the hinterlands. The establishment of the parish of Rye in 1726 in the town of New Castle, when the name was changed from Sandy Beach, was the culmination of years of petitions to the Provincial Assembly and granted the town the right to elect town officials, thus inaugurating the history of Rye town government.

In the first half of the 1700’s more homes and other structures were built in the center including a town pound, a second, more substantial church on the hill in 1756 and in that same year Garland’s Tavern opened opposite the church thus merging the sacred and the profane on Sundays. In the coming years the tavern became the hot bed of revolutionary ideas that would propel many Rye men to fight in the war against the British, 38 of them giving their lives, including two freed enslaved people, a devastating loss to the small town.

1783 – New Road (Lang today) laid out from center to Long Lane (Lafayette Rd)

1785 – the parish of Rye was granted incorporation status as an independent town with fixed borders by the new state government in Concord. By this time the center had an established cluster of homes, public places and businesses. In spite of the challenges facing the new nation, Rye Center and the rest of the town faced the new century with a lot more confidence than they faced the last one.

1799 – historic houses: five houses built in the 1700s remain in the center today

1800 – Wallis Rd from center to Lang’s corner and on to the beach; this brings five different roads to the center, connecting it to the north, west and south

1805 – Messrs. Carroll and Goss built a large structure hard on the corner of New (Lang) and Washington roads and open it as a store on first floor and later a large (20 x 30’ raised ceiling)  dance hall, live entertainment center on the 2nd

1810 – Goss and Carroll build a 2nd store at 1 Central Rd.,  in a lovely Georgian style building at the top of the hill, the only one in Rye in that style.

1810 –Second Parsonage for Congregational church built across the road; sold privately in 1830’s; becomes an parsonage Inn in 1920’s, privately owned apartments in the 1950’s and eventually owned by the town as affordable housing and managed by the Housing Partnership. Demolished in 2020.

1820’s – selectmen deal with many complaints about public drunkenness

1827 – First school, built in the center where Grange Park is today

1837 – The 2nd Congregational Church is replaced by a third on the hill

1839 – Methodist Episcopal Church built at bottom of Center (or Break back) Hill followed by the first Christian Church where fire/police station parking lot is today

1840’s and beyond – beginning of Victorian resort era of hotels and boarding houses stimulated by coming of the Railroad to the seacoast in 1840

1870 – Walkers Variety Store opens where Tate and Foss is today

1873 – Methodist Episcopal Church sold to town for $1000 – converted to town hall when very soon it becomes used by many groups beyond town government and for entertainment

1874 – International telegraph cable comes to Rye from Europe linking the US to the old world

1880’s – Rye loses opportunity to have first library in the county (bequest) when two votes conflict and the money ends up being wasted in a court battle between those supporting and opposing the library

1889 – Christian Church burns; replaced by a second Victorian styled brown church in 1890

1893 – Brick Wedgwood school built located where playing field is today, replacing the first central school.

The Grange may have used the abandoned school hence the name Grange Park, but later they, along with most every other group in town, met at town hall.

1893 – Central Cemetery opens; first section is where the most mature trees are today; over time other sections are opened; the historic town green adjacent to Central Rd. creates an open town center for functions such as where the Memorial Day service is held annually today.

1890’s and turn of the century – additions and upgrades to town hall; regular entertainment on the big stage for over 200 people including the comedy “Freezing a Mother- in Law.” (Playbills from this era at town museum).

1899 – Trolley comes to Rye center from Portsmouth via Sagamore and Wallis Roads and on down Central to the ocean and on to Hampton Beach; trolley battery storage barn built across from cemetery

1901 – Historic houses: eleven historic houses built 1800-1900 remain in the district

1910/11 – Mary Tuck Rand gives money ($7500) and land for a new library making Rye the last town in the county to have one. (moral of the story from the 1880’s – vote early and often)

1919 – the town votes $1500 to erect a war monument with names of all those who served in wars of the 1800’s through WWI in which Rye lost three men; missing from the monument – names of those who died in the Rev. War and those who served and died in wars since 1950.

1920’s – Rye center and the rest of the country must upgrade their roads to accommodate automobiles; semi pro basketball games test the strength of town hall 2nd floor; Walkers Store is now Jenness Store with post office and gas pumps.

1925 – Trolley comes to an end due to increasing availability of automobiles/busses; town takes over battery storage barn for dept. of public works

  1. 1930 Mildred Wilson builds an antique shop next to the library
  2. 1930 – Jess Walker, WWI vet, moves out of Rye Center family home and builds a small cottage and out buildings in the woods behind the church where he keeps guns, distills liquor, plays pranks on neighbors who he doesn’t like, rings the church bell it he middle of the night and does not welcome strangers, including the police; he dies in 1967; photos and some remnants of his “village” are in the town museum.

1932 – Wedgwood school burns when boiler blows up raining burning textbooks down on Dona Berry’s house across the road; kids rejoice, but are soon back at school in the church or the other three schools.

1934 -new Rye Consolidated school, incorporating the other three neighborhood schools, opens.

1939 – Ed and Jessie Herlihy, Wedgwood House, Lang Rd., plant Norway spruce trees in L shaped pattern along edge of school property

1940 – Darning Needle Club stitches flag with stars for each Rye man who volunteers for the military prior to entry into WWII; it hangs in town hall and today is in town museum.

After 1945 – Christmas fairs were held at the town hall, filling it with the sights and sounds and smells of everything home-made, in those evocative, pre-plastic days of old.

1949 – Addition built off south side of school.

1950’s – square dancing in town hall again tests the floor of the auditorium

1950’s – Parsonage Inn along with antique shop converts to privately owned apartments

1952 – Planning and Zoning Board established; probably met in auditorium of town hall

1954 – First Rye fire station opened where fire station parking lot is today,  incorporating equipment stored in Rye Beach; also used as first Rye Police Station and as meeting space for selectmen and other town boards

1956 – municipal court added to town hall

1956 – Elementary school opens off Sagamore Rd., thus creating a Junior high school in the center (grades 6-8)

1958 – Parish Hall is added to church

1959 – A terrible March fire destroys the Congregational church but the Parish Hall is saved.

1961 – The 4th Congregational Church, a beacon since 1726, rises from the ashes on the hill

1964 – First National Bank of Portsmouth opens a branch bank across from the junior high school on land sold to them by Esther Parsons on the condition that it is in keeping with surrounding architecture

1966 – Rye Historic District Commission established, from war monument to Grange Park and 500’ on both sides of Washington Rd.

1966 – Gymnasium added to Rye Junior High thus moving town meeting, graduation and other events to this new public space

Late 1960’s – Parish house of former Methodist church (town hall) moved from Central Rd to bottom of newly built Old Parish Rd., which is later extended for more house lots

1968 – Planning Board makes significant progress in establishing zoning regulations for Rye

1968 – Rye Civic League established by three civic minded women, a non-profit organization for the purpose of monitoring and reporting on town government with monthly newsletter.

1969 – House at 2 Lang Rd, cor. of Wash., moved back from the corner for widening of Lang Road

1969 – Jennens Store and post office closes after a century of service; new post office was located on Wallis Rd. where Carey and Gimp real estate office is today

1960’s – Rye Conservation Commission and Rye Recreation Commission established

1973/74 – Rye’s Battle of the Century,(see book by this title)  the struggle to oppose a large oil refinery in Durham which would have had a strong impact on Rye; early opposition from Rye center families and a special town meeting and vote to oppose was held at Jr high.

1975 – A grassroots, citizen effort secures revenue sharing funds to renovate the downstairs of town hall for the current office space we see today: town clerk, planning and building inspector

1975 – Huge all- day 4th of July celebration in anticipation of the Bi-Centennial; Esther Parsons loans her field for events.

1976 – three -day Bi-Centennial celebration including a play commemorating the 250th anniversary of the church, town hall event honoring the revived Rye Militia and speeches about the Bi-Centennial, huge parade from Jr high to town green for speeches, lunch and games in Parsons field, art and history shows, evening concert in the field. etc.

1976 – Rye Historical Society established as a legacy project from the Bicentennial; library is used as its base while it looks for a museum 

1977 –1980 – Recycling center at Grove and Washington opens, including DPW, freeing up old trolley battery barn building across from cemetery

1977 +into the 1990s – 4th of July celebration – a day to celebrate the town; parade and all day events in Parsons field

Late 70’s and early 80; s – Rye Militia joined by many other militias hold encampments and re-enact historic battles in Parsons Field

1978/79 – Parsons Park Corp of 151 Rye families raises $50,000 for down payment on Esther Parsons land to save it from development and over two years sells filed and forest to the town.

The 50 acres of field and forest would be for public use and a committee was created to oversee it. The plaque on boulder in corner near Washington Rd., not see by many, commemorates the corporations efforts to save the land. The plaque and rock were moved to near the entrance for more visibility in 2023

1980 – Parsons Homestead subdivided and sold privately.

1983 – First National Bank proposes to build an additional facility behind the bank; HDC holds a public hearing in town hall; overwhelming opposition; HDC votes against it and proposal is withdrawn

1983 – historical society sponsors a Christmas stroll from Jr high, visiting decorated homes and ending at town hall for refreshments.

1984 – Selectmen propose to develop Parsons Field with a gazebo, stage and entry arch, against the written intent of the Parsons Park Corporation which stated no permanent structures. The Historic District commission and many citizens strongly oppose this idea and the arch, after being spray painted with graffiti by a local, was removed by town vote The stage on which the  gazebo was to be built and electricity connection to it remain.

1980’s and beyond – Louise and Charles Tallman and others develop trail system in Parsons Woods, leading to Recreation area. Scouts and other groups have continued to maintain trails.

  1. 1980’s/90’s – Trolley battery barn across from cemetery is used for teen center and police station and today is owned by a private furniture business for storage.

1985 – The Bicentennial of Rye, 1785-1985 is celebrated in a three day event including two days in which the town hall auditorium is filled with loans and donations of items relating to Rye history and culture; this is the last  public event held in the auditorium.

1985 – town proposes to build a large town complex in Parsons Woods behind the bank for all departments; it is overwhelmingly defeated, thus preserving the integrity of the woods.

1986 – large addition to and renovation of church interior completed

1986 – Selectmen vote to renovate part of upstairs of town hall for temporary office space and meeting space; Rye Historical society is allowed to use part of upstairs for a museum

1989 – Town proposes to build a new police station beside town hall on the edge of the cemetery; it is defeated by one vote with recount confirming the result.

1990- 1999 – “Our Town” program inaugurated at Jr High where town mentors meet with student groups one period a week for the year, working on a Rye project to display at the end; very successful, but ended by new principal in 2000 (see one i.e. in RPL – large map of Rye)

Late 80s/Early 90’s – Cumberland Farms built a store on Wallis Rd. near the school where the attorney’s office is today. A few years later they proposed to install gas pumps and there was great opposition and the proposal was defeated and soon thereafter the store closed.

1990’s – church offers several proposals to sell part of its land for a large retirement home, etc. they are all rejected by the town

1993 – Rye Civic League disbands due to lack of participants

1997 – Large addition and new parking lot for library makes former antique shop expendable and it is given to the Rye Historical Society to move 300’ and renovate as a museum

1996/97 – large addition to Junior High

  1. 1999 – Thanks to three years of citizen efforts, especially Dane Crook in conservation law and Ray Jarvis, Parsons Park receives permanent conservation protection (easement) from Rockingham County Conservation district, thus ensuring no further development threats in the future. This was no easy task as the Recreation commission was aggressively seeking at least 1/3 or more of the Parsons Woods to develop for recreation.

1999 – the town votes to go the SB 2 form of town meeting where a mid- winter deliberative session will consider the warrant articles, but the vote will occur at the March election, thus insuring more voters but not necessarily more informed ones since only a maximum of 150 attend deliberative sessions.

Early 2000s – First Rye Visioning Session about town center – details?; this was prompted due to threats from those who wanted to develop Parsons Park and the large proposals from the church to develop some of their land in the early 90’s; some of issues that came up in the sessions were: new fire/police station, side walk connecting RJH and Lib.; coffee shop, revive all day town celebration – that is happening in 2020.

2000 – Due to different religious philosophies and expansion challenges, Congregational church splits; those who want a more conservative church build one on Breakfast Hill Rd. in Greenland

Early 2000’s – “Our Town” revived with an all-day, beyond the school community celebration for a few years until it ends due to lack of volunteers

2002 – Rye Historical Society opens the Town Museum with generic Rye history exhibit

2002 – The rest of town hall 2nd floor and stage is turned into temporary office space

2004 – By a margin of 12 votes and against significant opposition due to its large size, a new fire/police station is passed and construction begins; historic 19th c. house is moved to Central Rd to make way for new building. The town was told that space above fire apparatus could be used for office space, but that has not been acted upon; large meeting space in basement needs to be used more by the public so security concerns need to be resolved.

2005 – Town museum mounts its first professionally grant funded exhibit: Summering in Rye: the hotels and boarding houses of Rye’s Victorian resort era

???? – Some land has been put into conservation such as by the Josephs family

2009 – Rye Civic League is revived with new monthly E-newsletter and other efforts to educate people about town government

2011 – Beginning of a nine -year struggle over the fate of town hall with various warrant articles for renovation and expansion as well as ones to tear it down and build a new one – all defeated

2017 – TD bank closes; started as 1st National bank of Portsmouth in 1964; sold to Dan Philbrick

2018 – after years of neglect, town hall tear down warrant article defeated

2019 – Town election March, 75% majority vote to save/upgrade town hall, building painted

2019 – Plan NH brings 200 residents together to discuss improving the town center

2019 – Controversy over walking dogs in a section of Parsons Woods adjacent to private property; dogs must be leashed in that area

2020 – town votes side walk to connect RJH to fire station/church sidewalks

2020 – Parsonage apartment buildings demolished

  1. 2020 – Town receives TARP grant from state to build sidewalk from school to library, but delayed to a future date by Covid

2021 – Town Center agreement voted in by residents – town buys former bank and land in back

2022 – HDC initiates and implements a Christmas Stroll after Holiday parade, from library common to Parsons Field for new tree lighting

2023 – Rye 400 committee under RHS forms and plans year- long activities, many in the center

2023 – Town Hall annex opens in former bank

2023 – Historic Rye Center sign placed near front of library, one of seven such signs in Rye

  1. Rye Center – Overview of Public Places that Exist in 2023 -1 pg.

Historic District Commission, 1966, from the war monument to Grange Park (Wallis & Wash.) 500’ on either side of Washington Rd., plus three other sites 

Central Cemetery, Central Rd.,1893

Town Green, since 1940, used for Memorial Day services and other town events

Town Hall, 10 Central Rd.,1839, town hall in 1873; preserved by vote, 2019

Congregational Church, 580 Washington Rd., 1961; west & south of church up to church steps and parking lot to west of church is town land

War Monument,1919, missing access & Rev. War and post WWII names

Rye Public Library, 581 Washington Rd., 1911, three additions including 1997 with new parking lot, plus new Common opened in 2121

Rye Town Museum, 10 Old Parish Rd., c. 1930, built as antique shop, renovated and opened in 2002, on same town land as Library

Rye Fire/Police Station, 555 Washington Rd., 2006, large size intended for additional town use, but still to be determined; parking lot is for public.

Parsons Park, 1979, between 540 & 520 Washington Rd., 50 acres of field and forest for public use, no permanent structures, see timeline

Rye Junior High School, 501 Washington Rd., 1934, opened as Rye School grades 1-8, three additions, playing field and forest outdoor educ.

Town Hall Annex, 500 Washington Rd., opened 2023; built as bank in 1964

Grange Park, triangle where Wallis and Washington merge; location of first school in 1820s and later used as a Grange Hall

Dates of buildings in HDC – five from 1700s, eleven from 1800s, three from 1900s; just beyond the HDC are other historic buildings


5                     Detailed description of Rye Center – 3 pages

Rye Center History from North to South – Public & Historic Buildings and Land

Note: This brief summary cannot begin to describe all the meetings, votes and often contentious discussions over the issues raised here; see timeline and town reports and other town documents to get the full story.

  1. Grange Park – created by Washington Rd and the beginning of Wallis Rd., this was the site of the first central school in 1840 and when it was abandoned in 1893, it was used by the Grange, hence the name of the park. The Grange, a 19th c. agricultural organization for unifying and supporting farmers, later moved their meetings to town hall when the old school was removed and the park created.
  1. Rye Junior High School, 501 Washington Rd., 1934, opened as Rye Consolidated School (1-8), replacing the Wedgwood school (1893) which burned in 1932; three additions in 1949, 1966, 1997 each of which was not without opposition; school became a junior high (6-8) in 1956 with the opening of Rye Elementary school off Sagamore Rd.  In the fall of 2019 it will become a middle school when 5th grade is added.
  1. Parsons Park, 1980, (between 520 and 540 Washington Rd.)

The Parsons Park Corporation, a grassroots effort consisting of 151 families, formed in order to purchase 50 acres of field and forest belonging to Esther Parsons (520 Wash. Rd.) to prevent it from being developed. Esther cooperated with the effort and waited until $50,000 had been raised from the families for the down payment on the property.  After three years of votes the town finally bought the approx. 50 acres of field and forest for public use and a committee was created to oversee it. The plaque on the boulder in corner near Washington Rd., is not seen by many. It commemorates the 151 families whose efforts saved the land for open space use.

The land was threatened by selectmen’s development proposals in the 1980’s, but both were rejected by the town. Rye Recreation also wanted to develop part of it in the early 90’s, but in 1993 the land was permanently protected through an easement by the Rockingham County Land Trust.

The field has been well used for a wide variety of community events   in the last 40 years and the walking trails in the woods are very well used.

  1. Fire/Police Station, 555 Washington Rd, 2006; passed by only 12 votes in 2004, this was a controversial proposal due to its size and issues with construction and cost overruns; there was little opportunity for public input and no Civic League existed at the time to create a forum for discussion; its large size was intended for use beyond fire and police; parking lot to the south is for public parking; the building is under used and the town was told that the space above the fire apparatus could be used for town office space, but that has not been acted upon; the large meeting room in the basement needs to be used more by the public so  security concerns about public access to this room must be resolved.
  1. Rye Town Museum, 10 Old Parish Rd., c.1930; – built as antique shop 1930, part of Parsonage apts. in mid-century and in 1997 moved 400’, renovated and opened as museum in 2002 by the Rye Historical Society, a non-profit organization. This is a town building on town land and RHS has a century lease on the building dating from 2003. IF RHS dissolves, the building reverts back to the town.
  1. Rye Public Library, 581Washington Rd., 1911, three additions including ’97 with new parking lot and this largest expansion was not without some controversy. Rye could have had a library via a bequest in the 1880’s, but it ended up and court and the money was lost; Mary Tuck Rand gave the land and money for it in 1910.
  1. Rye Congregational Church, 580 Washington Rd., 1961, the 4th church on the hill since 1726; large expansion of the parish hall (built 1958) and large parking lot were completed in 1986. In the 1990’s the church proposed a major expansion due to the large congregation as well as selling a piece of church land for a large retirement home –both proposals were rejected by the Planning Board. The congregation split in 2000 and many left for a new church in Greenland.
  1. Town land – parking lot to south of church and all the land up to the front steps of the church is owned by the town; the latter area was the training ground for the militia in earlier times.
  1. War Monument, erected in 1919; missing Revolutionary War and post WWII names of those who served. Because it is surrounded by roads on all sides, pedestrian crosswalk is needed to safely access the monument for public viewing.
  1. Town Hall, 10 Central Rd. (built as Methodist Episcopal Church in 1839), converted from church to town hall in 1873; auditorium used for large variety of meetings, public events and entertainment until 1986 when 2nd floor converted to town government office space; downstairs office space added in 1960’s and 70’s; deferred maintenance due to eight years of warrant articles to expand or tear down building until 2018 when it was painted; several engineering studies have confirmed that the building is sound, but needs maintenance beyond painting; in 2019 town voted by a 75% majority to save and renovate the building.
  2. Central Cemetery, off Central Rd. – first laid out in 1893 with several expansions over time; includes town green with flag pole along Central Rd. for Memorial Day services and other events; the remains not disinterred in the 1890’s still remain in over 60 family graveyards in town that are documented by the Rye Heritage Commission; hard copy binder in the town museum. The cemetery was threatened with a proposal to build a police station on town land adjacent to the cemetery just east of town hall, defeated by one vote in 1989.


Historic public and private buildings and more recent buildings – five from 1700’s, eleven from 1800’s, three from 1901-1940; the rest in the center were built after WWII and they include: cape next to fire station (1954), two houses opposite fire station on cul de sac (mid 50’s), bank building (1964), houses on Old Parish Rd. (starting in late 60’s), house opposite 19 Lang (mid-60’s), house on Walker Lane, fire/police station (2005)


Historic District Commission – established 1966, one of the first in the state; district stretches from the war monument to Grange Park (Wallis & Wash.) 500’ on either side of Washington Rd.     See 2018 HDC inventory document

                 ————————————-       *

          My Notes after first day of Plan NH Charette – May 31, June 1 2019

I did not mention the Rye Civic League today but I should have because it has been instrumental in helping to educate resident about important town issues. If it had existed in 2003/4 the oversize fire police station would not have been built but something more modest that was in scale and still met all PD/FD needs. You could see from the tour…  Since I revived the Civic League in 2009, we have made tremendous progress in educating and engaging people about town issues.

  1. The Side walk issue from school to fire station is a given – on the school side of Wash Rd.
  2. Ped Xing – to war monument; more plaques to honor all who served/died
  3. Widen entrance to Parsons Field and make it more inviting
  4. Explore feasibility of eventually moving town hall to an expanded, but still one story bank building and make town hall into a multi-purpose community center and open up the 2nd floor performance center; all of this has been proposed and discussed during the 2011-2019 struggle over town hall
  5. Parsons Field is used more than people realize for different sports and informal recreation; they are too focused on the few big planned one day events; anyone can propose a use for it
  6. Rye Day town celebration – this annual all day event will commence in August 2020 and there is already a committee working on it
  7. Continue to upgrade town hall for whatever its future will be; we have four sources of funding: grants, Rye Heritage Commissions, Friends of Rye Town Hall, taxpayers
  8. Parsonage building – since town does not want to be a landlord, we still need to find comparable and nearby affordable housing for current residents; if town then leases it then to a business and/or noon profit, repairs still have to be made, but it would not be as expensive since it would not be apartments
  9. Signage may the last thing that one does to promote what the center has to offer but I heard from many that people do not see what we do have and there currently are five destinations in town center: town hall, Church, library, museum, fire/police station, school, all of which are usually found in most New England towns; Parsons field/woods is a bonus and a 6th destination, 7th – the café/small grocery.
  10. Communication a huge challenge for us – looking back over last decade, we missed many chances to avoid the contention over town hall and other issues – too much talking at and pointing fingers – us vs them just like the country; we can change that with positive campaign to have coffee gatherings in neighborhoods and make them listening sessions and build consensus for any proposed changes; we might even get the “property rights guy to calm down!

-Addendum Nov 2023 – more of my memories of Rye center history

My parents from Boston area, first lived and rented in Hampton falls after they were married in 1935. They did want to live in the country but also close to Boston and were looking for an old farm to buy and found Wedgwood House 19 Lang Rd in 1937 and bought the farm and 30 acres for $5000. My father commuted to Boston on the train from any number of local train stations> He was an investment broker.  

During WWII my parents had a hired hand to deal with the milk cows, etc that they had bought to carry on the working farm, but the strains of war with my father off in the Army Air Corps required my mother to sell the cows etc.

In 1945 when I was born there were approx 60 farms in Rye including some in the center. Most of those farmhouses/barns are still here. This was diversified farming that included cows/goats for dairy products, chickens for eggs and to eat, raising animals for slaughter such as pigs, growing some crops and selling at local market gardens such as Mansons on Central Road, etc. and haying. There were certainly other farming practices such as small cottage industries that were carried on in the barn or in the connected buildings between house and barn that emerged int eh 1800s (see book: Big House, Little House Back house Barn) 

When I was a kid in early 50s I was responsible for 100 chickens, feeding them, gathering and selling their eggs out front and then watching my father behead them. We also raised pigs and had ducks and goats. The seven- acre field behind the barn where I now live was hayed until the 1960s. In the early 50s I remember very well the large farms on Lafayette Road where Wall Mart etc are now and the museum has an early aerial photo that shows those huge farms.

In the 1950s we were the only farmhouse in the center doing any farming. The other historic farmhouses were either rented or lived in by newer owners not interested in farming. The 520 Wash Rd Parsons farm barn was dismantled and moved in the 1960s, making way for Parsons Park public land initiative in late 70s 

We knew the Wilsons who came to town earlier in the 1900s and turned the private home – “Parsonage” (1810-1830) into the Parsonage Inn, 

used to house soldiers during WWII and was an apartment house by the late 40s

Esther Parsons, 520 Wash Rd., left Rye in 1977 and we got land for the town (Parsons Park)  and Parsons house sold to a new family

Walkers have been here since early 1800s and they are the only old family left in center;

 Parsons at 1 Central were there for 1830s to 1970s

Blake Rand town clerk for over 60 years died in 1949 and hi8s store closed at 2 lang Rd. and then new family bought it

By mid 1900s – all old families gone from center except Walkers ; yes you are right

early 1800s hip roof just south of tate and foss as a Walker house in to the mid 1900s too and Iona and Irving Jenness probably lived there

I moved the historic Marson house, in pieces, from Hampton to Rye in 1975 and reassembled it; I live on family land (Wedgwood) on 17 of the original 30 acres my parents bought in 1937. Wedgwood barn dismantled and moved c 2012

History of Rye Harbor

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

What we call Rye Harbor today is a natural inlet created by the tidal abb and flow of the large Awcomin salt marsh, a name that clearly reflects its early native inhabitants.  The marsh drains the central part of Rye which can be seen on a detailed map of the town, Gammons Brook being one of the named small waterways that flows from the center of town toward what is now the recreation area and the marsh beyond. The opening of the inlet, which was used as a harbor from the earliest times, was created by the ragged neck of land that juts into the ocean on the north side and the smaller little neck on the south side. It is appropriate that today those two terms have become proper nouns.

The voyage of Champlain and Poutrincourt in 1606 is very important for their observations of permanent dwellings, extensive farming and sighting of perhaps 200 native peoples of the Piscataquak tribe, part of the Pennacook Confederacy in the region he called Beauport (now Rye Harbor), well named indeed. Champlain’s account of this 1606 expedition to “Beauport” is a rare early description of this area when native cultures were well established here. Archaeology tells us that Indigenous people were living in the northeast as long as 12,800 years ago. Imagine those Piscataquak people, drawn to the lush coastal land and sea, celebrating the rich harvest on south Foss Beach near the ragged neck in sight of their homes, an artist’s tapestry of wood and plant life, in shelters both permanent and temporary, maybe a people content, who may have reached the highest level of a way of living and thinking.

In the 1750’s there was an initiative to dredge the harbor, but to no avail. In 1790, with Nathan Goss leading the way, a small army of men and animals toiled away and completed the task enough to create a channel for vessels to sail in at low tide. Thanks to Nathan’s 15 hours of personal labor, crew and animals and ten gallons of rum, all donated, Rye now had a working harbor that would soon be doing a lively commerce with Boston and other points south and Down East. Harbor Road was built, running from Locke Road to the end at Little Neck on the south side of the harbor, to connect the grist mill and the newly dredged harbor to the center. In 1797 Nathan’s son Thomas, then built a large house and barn on Harbor Road by the mill.  This activity symbolized the prosperity that Rye and the young nation were feeling as they faced the new century.

Ninety-six men from Rye served in the War of 1812 and two died, including John Goss who had been captured and put in Dartmoor prison in England. Each man was issued a good firearm, one half pound of gunpowder and lead balls and Capt. David Wedgwood led the Rye regiment. Two cannons with 100 pounds of powder and lead were placed at the meeting house and there was much militia training and martial music. At one point, there were rumors that the British planned an invasion of Portsmouth through Rye and the whole region was “up in arms.” 

On May 30, 1814, Rye was drawn directly into the war when a British “man-o-war” Tenedos was chasing an American privateer war ship that had escaped toward Portsmouth. The British ship sent a small barge ashore at the harbor entrance looking for provisions. Rye men were already aware of this ship offshore and were waiting behind stonewalls where they began firing. The first shot was fired by a man named Mow from “Rose Cottage” (built in 1805) on the south side and a brisk volley ensued. The officer in charge of the barge later reported that they were outgunned and that such small vessels needed to be better equipped with firepower. The barge quickly retreated, but word had been sent to the center that the town was being invaded. Cannon and balls were loaded in a wagon, but in their haste to reach the harbor, the townsfolk tipped the wagon over on Center Hill with cannon balls rolling everywhere. Militia units began to march from Portsmouth and other communities, but when they all arrived at the harbor, the British ship was long gone. Nonetheless, the Battle of Rye Harbor was grist for much storytelling in Rye’s homes and taverns. These events spurred town fathers to create a Committee of Public Safety to coordinate with the governor on coastal defense, but in December 1814 the war officially ended with the Treaty of Ghent. Dr. John Parsons had served on the privateer Orlando out of Cape Ann and won prizes of several British ships. When he returned home in early 1815, he brought the news of the peace to Rye.

The 1800s saw the harbor become a very active commercial hub for agricultural and other goods coming in and much of Rye’s produce, especially potatoes, going out on Rye’s growing fleet of cargo schooners.  

The Great Bay estuary drains seven navigable rivers that flow down the Piscataqua through Portsmouth and empty into the sea at Odiorne Pt in Rye. Upriver were found the ports of Greenland, Stratham, Exeter, Newmarket, Durham, Dover, South Berwick, Eliot, Newington, Kittery and Portsmouth. Gundalows, sailing, flat bottomed barges, were the trucks of the pre-industrial age that connected these inland ports to the coastal communities of York, Rye and Hampton. Because they only drew a few feet, they could navigate the shallow inland rivers and streams and their unique lateen sail allowed them to drop the long spar and shoot under the bridges to access inland ports. Early gundalows began this seacoast maritime connection in the late 1600’s and by the early 1800’s there were dozens of the familiar lateen rigged, triangular sail vessels making regular visits to Rye harbor to deliver agricultural and lumber goods and take away saltmarsh hay, potatoes and other Rye goods. Those gundalow crews were notorious gossips as well as bearers of hard news.  As purveyors of such “cargo” and needed goods in the region, the gundalows were the floating newspapers and pub gossip centers, the engines that drove the regional economy and kept people connected.

In the 1820s, Rye fishermen were able to increase their catch with the use of crank bait mills. The New Hampshire Gazette reported long lines of wagons loaded with potatoes for export from the harbor.
Fish shacks were now seen along th4e coast including at what is now Bass Beach and around the edge of the harbor where gear was stored and where residents could come and buy fish directly.

Looking out to sea in the 1830s one would have seen a constant stream of working sailing vessels paraded across the horizon – pinkies, fishing sloops, two-mast coastal schooners and stately three-masted ocean -going schooners, bound for the Grand Banks. Although mackerel harvest was down 50%, 400 barrels were caught inside Portsmouth harbor in a three-day period in 1837. The “Two Brothers” schooner ran a lively trade out of Rye Harbor, which now had a wharf, exporting potatoes and returning from Boston with more varieties of fish and many sundries. Capt.  Richard Locke’s “Register,” Capt. William Verrill’s “Sarah,” Capt. Jesse Philbrick’s “Tabithia” and Capt. Dearborn Locke’s “Fly” were a few of many vessels moored in the harbor.

In the 1840s merchant and passenger vessels continued to be shipwrecked and Rye people could not keep track of the endless lives lost on their shores, not to mention fishermen lost as well.  Rye and every fishing community could, like Gloucester, have created a memorial list of those victims of one of the most dangerous of all occupations.  There were more fish houses at Rye Harbor, and Jeb Locke, Carl Leavitt, James Walker and William Varrell had homes there. Mariners could use the ninety-foot steeple of the Congregational church as a reference point and the US Coast and Geodetic Survey listed it as a point of navigation. Fishing continued to thrive out of the harbor, but more and more fishermen had to adapt to the depleted catch and some actually lobbied for regulations to allow stocks to replenish. Unfortunately, they did not have enough authority to have any great influence on industry which was hell bent on unregulated fishing.

Both the lobster trap was and canning were developed and a whole new industry brought many more to try their hand at making a living from the sea. The new purse seine (describe this tech—) technology caused great waste with up to 50% loss of the stock that was caught. Many fishermen blamed outsiders for over-fishing, but they could not see what they themselves were doing to the ocean, so focused were they on the need for a daily catch. It didn’t help that few men of science at this time supported any restraint on the industry.

During the Civil War, Fishermen along with farmers were made exempt from the draft, and quickly the Rye fishing fleet grew ten-fold! In 1866 Rye’s fishing industry was booming, fueled by new technology and all the new fishermen that had materialized during the war. Miles of new trawl lines with endless hooks could be seen in the Portsmouth area which resulted in a large cod catch, furthering the illusion that there was plenty of fish. Worldwide, it was reported that 2450 fishermen were lost at sea prompting Sir Walter Scott to exclaim: “Its n’ fish ye are buyin,’ its men’s lives.” In this post-war era, the demand from fishermen and legislator for fishing regulations was on the rise. Dory fishing increased in order to find the stocks that were left. New technology simply made the situation worse. The evidence of depleted fishing stocks was more glaring each year, but fishing was big business, it was a deeply-held way of life in coastal communities and the demand always outweighed the conservation efforts. One wonders about the conversations and debates at Rye harbor among these toilers of the sea who knew the truth about over-fishing, but knew no alternative way of life.

By 1879 the number of fishermen out of the harbor had decreased to sixteen. This was due to over-fishing and competition from larger ports like Gloucester who priced out smaller ports.

During the building of Ocean Boulevard 1902-1904 the most challenging part was getting around Rye harbor which was part of the salt marsh. Extensive building up of the sea wall near ragged neck, a bridge over the main outlet of the marsh and building up the new road high enough south of the harbor with more culverts to allow the flow of the small Rye harbor salt marsh.

In the 1920s fishing out of the harbor was as brisk as ever in spite of grave over-fishing warnings from scientists and some fishermen. The new technology, including trawling, was so appealing that the industry ignored its better judgment and over-fished juvenile species. This practice was not sustainable, but the Republican administrations of the decade were pro-business and against government regulation. At the harbor near the old pier on the south side, Ben Saunders kept lobsters at Elmer Caswell’s Port of Missing Men, the building with the tower that is still there. This was part of the “fish shack culture” and also became a haven for hunters who used decoys to hunt for fowl in the harbor. Later it became a social club.

Moss Cottage on the south side of the harbor had been a place to buy Irish moss for years and in 1928 Ben Saunders renovated it into Saunders restaurant, serving some of the best seafood in a simple setting on the harbor until it closed in 1970 and was replaced by a new restaurant with the same name. Nearby the restaurant the harbormaster had a snack bar and fish stand that was very popular as the harbor had become a mecca for many in town.

In the 1930s there was a Rye Harbor Improvement Association which published a study that included the need for a breakwater from the north and south entrance to the harbor. This finally became a reality in 1940 with huge quarried pieces of granite being trucked up from Rockport Massachusetts. Now those with vessels moored in the harbor did not have to resort the time-honored practice of taking their boats up the small channels and submerging them during fierce storms. People were unaware of the ecological value of salt marshes so the 1940 dredge material was dumped into the nearby salt marsh near Goss farm.

Over the years there have been many legendary fishermen at the harbor including Elmer Caswell, Lloyd Hughes and Herbie Drake. They and others brought their catch directly to Saunders and others nearby seafood restaurants.

 Their names and those of many others are etched on a stone dory at the harbor. (See a related document on the website entitled History of Fishing that includes the names on the dory)

In the 1950s Jane Holway gave swimming lessons at the white bridge on the edge of the marsh before it flows into the harbor. We suffered mightily from the frigid water and stone beach, but we learned to stay afloat in the water. This bridge was also a favorite place to dive from at high tide. In 1962 the harbor was dredged again and the material dumped in the same salt marsh location, as environmental awareness had not quite taken hold. 1962 was also the year the NH state pier and marina was constructed which finally gave fishermen and the general public the broad access to the harbor that was missing so long.

Over the years the State Pier/Marina has grown with local businesses such as Isles of Shoals and Whale Watch excursions run out of small buildings adjacent to the pier and a special fish pier adjacent to the state Facilities Harbor Master building.

 Between 2001 and 2005 a large cooperative group of organizations including the Rye Conservation Commission restored the nineteen acres of salt marsh where those two dredges from 1940 and 1962 had been dumped, yet another improvement at the harbor. The late assistant harbor master Bob Duddy was one local person who was instrumental in this restoration and he is honored on the trail along the marsh to Goss Farm with a plaque: “Duddy Stream.”

 In 2005 Rose and Tom Clarie with Peter Randall published Just Rye Harbor: An Appreciation and History which chronicles the rich life of this little ocean inlet.

Today the harbor is managed by the NH Port authority, A division of the Pease Development Authority, recognized by the state of NH, Mandy Huff has been Facilities Harbor Master since 2022 and former harbor master Judy Dubois continues to work part time. There are approximately two dozen people who fish out of the harbor today, some commercially and some for sport. There are only four commercial fishing boats active in the winter.

Rye Harbor has a long and colorful history.

History of Rye, NY Historical Society and Museum

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

For years RHS got inquiries from NYC grad students and others about names and place names foreign to us and soon enough we realized that when they searched Rye Historical Society, it was us and not NY who came up first.  Having never visited our sister town, in March 2014 Nina and Alex Herlihy stopped by for a tour of the Square House Museum, originally a tavern in the 1700’s. It is located on the edge of a small downtown commercial center of shops on both sides of the street, most of them national chain stores. The historical society was formed in the mid 1900s and soon thereafter they acquired the tavern for a museum. See their web site.

Their 2014 exhibit highlights the great sacrifice of Rye, NY (current population 15,000) during WWII when they lost 42 men, all of whom were pictured with bios along with war posters found in the building’s basement during restoration in the 1960’s.  In 1981 both Ryes hosted a visit from the mayor of Rye, East Sussex, England.  The two museums have exchanged brochures and some publications and we look forward to a return visit to see their Rye Beach on Long Island Sound to compare it to our Rye Beach. Photos of Rye, NY, their museum, WWII posters, are part of the RHS collection.

History of the Rye Public Library

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Mary Tuck Rand attended Rye Center school in the 1840s and credited her English teach for inspiring her love of reading. She had two siblings, but none of them married.

In 1882 the Sleeper family announced a bequest to the town to build a library for $6,000, which, if not used, would be split between the two churches.  A special town meeting was held in August and most towns people, thinking it would pass easily, were busy getting in the hay and did not vote. But the church folks got their numbers out and the library proposal was defeated. The majority were up in arms and demanded a re-vote which was overwhelmingly in favor of the library. As we would expect this vote was challenged and the dispute ended up in court. When it was finally decided in favor of the churches several years later, most of the money had been absorbed in legal costs so only a few hundred dollars was left. Such is the fate of those who do not heed the maxim: “Assume nothing, every vote counts.”

By the turn of the 20th century the Seacoast Literary Society in Rye had filled some of the gap left by the library fiasco. Meeting in member’s homes, they contributed to support magazine subscriptions to such publications as The Delineator. The Century, McClures, The Atlantic and Harpers which were then circulated among members. Other funds were donated to purchase books, also loaned to members. Societies such as this were the forerunners of later book clubs that have appeared in different forms, including one run by the library today, thus enhancing the enlightenment of their communities. 

Mary Tuck Rand was witness to the debate which lost Rye’s chance at a library in the 1880s, and by 1909, she had outlived her two brothers. With no immediate family to whom to leave her inheritance, and with a love of literature, Mary approached the newly-formed library trustees (Charles Remick and Fred Parsons) in 1909 with the offer of land, and in 1910 she made it official. She would donate her lot opposite the church on the hill and give $7500 for the construction of a new library. It was designed by a Boston architect and groundbreaking occurred in August, 2010. The builder was Charles Rand who had made the lowest bid. On June 22, 1911, there was a dedication ceremony of the new library at the church. Among the speeches that day was that of Mary Tuck Rand herself. What follows is an excerpt:

“Fellow citizens, one and all:  I feel very, very thankful for what I have seen and heard; the eloquent speeches; for seeing the erection of the building going on from day to day from the foundation to the finish, going higher and higher, adding new beauty at every step. I am thankful that I can do this, having been left alone. All the household having passed away and left their effects with me gave me the opportunity. By their industry, sobriety and honesty, they had laid by something against the time of need. They took no holidays, all were workdays. I will raise a monument, a memorial to their worth and goodness. I wish it to do some good and be of much benefit, a storehouse for books, for information and knowledge, a mine of good, a fountain of help, lasting. I hope it will help you gloriously onward and upward through the journey of life and also those following after. This is my sincere wish. Please accept this library building and site from me.”

 Rye was thus the last town in Rockingham County to have a library. Helen Drake was the first librarian, serving well into the century.  Ben Webster donated $500 for a library emergency fund, Abbey Parsons legacy fund contributed $602, the town voted an annual appropriation of $1000. The library opened on September 6th, 2011 with 560 volumes. By the end of 1911, 600 books had been checked out and subscriptions to the following magazines were secured: The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Literary Digest, Delineator, Cosmopolitan, Exeter Newsletter and Boys Magazine.

The library became a community gathering place over the years and by rearranging furniture, small town gatherings could be accommodated. See the annual Rye town reports in the library for details about the library during its first half century. By the early 1960s the interior was pretty much unchanged.  As you entered in 1961, librarian Helen Trefethen was at her desk just opposite the front entrance to greet you. Behind her desk was a small office space and storage area short hall with window looking out back and a stairway to a small attic for more storage. To the left of her desk were the stacks of books and to the right were tables and racks for magazines, newspapers and some small exhibit space.

(To visualize the 1911 library, when you enter from Washington Road today, the periodical room on the left and two offices on the right comprise the original space.)

Many of us have fond memories of meeting at the library to socialize, with Mrs. Trefethen “shushing” us. We did our homework, but more often we dreamed of faraway places such as Hawaii, inspired by James Michner’s 1960 book by that title, which the library had in its collection and we devoured. Janet Clark and Dana Young met at the library in the mid 60s and married in 1967, a happy marriage of over fifty years.

By 1969 the town had long outgrown the library and the first addition was built that included a down stairs public meeting room and expanded office, book and storage space on the first floor. Trustees of the library should be recognized for the many hours they have served, especially around expansions as well as those residents who made generous financial contributions to library expansion. When the Rye Historical Society was formed in 1976 the Rye Public Library became its home, program place, storage area and vital partner over the years.

The largest expansion of the library occurred in 1997 and required unending hours of work for the trustees. It was funded partly by tax payers and a major fund-raising campaign yielded some very generous donors to fund the rest of the addition. A larger community room was created as well as a new children’s room and an adjacent one for teens. On the upper level it was positively expansive, with several sitting areas, tables and chairs and more office space. The large open space by the library check- out desk created room for live musical performances. Adjacent to that was the glassed in New Hampshire Room, providing a small meeting space and housing artifacts, Rye historical records and histories as well as many regional and state wide secondary sources.

The new parking lot off Old Parish Road was created, thus removing the dangerous parking situation on Washington Road. To make way for the new entrance, the library paid to move the small cape style apartment building that was located very close to the library, to its present location. The town had voted to donate the building to the Rye Historical Society and after five years it was finally renovated as the Town Museum, opening in 2002.

Over the years there have been many different librarians, some with a long tenure and some quite short. By 2010 the library had experienced several recent turn-overs of the position, so that hopes were high when current librarian Andy Richmond was hired. As he is still with us, those hopes were more than justified. In 2019 the longest serving member of the library staff, Tricia Quinn, died suddenly, leaving many sad patrons and library employees. In 2020 a wonderful stained- glass tribute to Tricia was unveiled and hangs in the back of the library.

At some point a group called the “Friends of the Library” formed which provides many forms of library support. For years this group was chaired by Ann Malpass. With the Friends sponsoring programs, as well as those of the library and the historical society, the community room has been in constant demand.

In 2011 the library celebrated its centennial with a full day of activities. RHS created a power point program entitled “Rye in 1911” which used historic photos to depict how the town looked at that time. Included in the program was RPL’s very big “twin sister” library, the one on 5th avenue and 42nd street in New York City which also opened in 1911. A big book sale kept bibliophiles busy and the museum was opened too. RJH students performed a drama at the library based on the lost library of the 1880s. There were activities for children all day with refreshments. The evening concluded with the arrival of the Leftist Marching Band playing folk tunes and rousing patriotic music.

From 2019 to 2021 a series of public events occurred, related to increasing town hall employee space. The events are complicated, but there is some documentation chronicled in the annual town reports. In November 2020 the two apartment buildings adjacent to the library were demolished and new open Library Comon created for events and possible future expansion of the library. Long time library trustee Victor Azzi has been a tireless advocate for the library, including the arduous process outlined above, as well as many other events in the recent decades of Rye Public Library history. His institutional memory of RPL is invaluable.

The Rye Public Library today is a true community center, the main gathering place for Rye residents. The library’s vision for the future of its Rye Center location could further enhance its value for the town.

History of Rye Salt Marshes and Awcomin Salt Marsh Restoration Behind Rye Harbor

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

 Today most people recognize that salt marshes and all wetlands are invaluable ecological areas. The salt marshes are the origin of our food chain and provide vital protection for coastal areas against storms. They must be preserved. This was not always the case.

There have been many naturalists, ecologists and watchdogs of the environment throughout American history. Ecologist Aldo Leopold published his pioneering work, A Sand County Almanac in 1949, the year he died. In it he stated: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Another pioneering work was Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, 1963, highlighting the deadly impact of using DDT insecticide. Her work was at first ignored and put down by her male colleagues in the scientific community, but soon she was vindicated and DDT was banned.

By the end of the 1960s, a revolutionary time of positive change for the US, environmental awareness was more than just talk and there would be no more dumping of dredge into the Rye salt marsh. It is estimated that before the ecological importance of salt marshes was recognized in the late 1960s, more than one half of all salt marshes on the east coast of the US had been filled in. (i.e. in Rye, the parking lot for Wallis Sands State Beach in 1964 and the Meadowlands stadium in northern NJ.

Until the environmental movement and awareness really took hold in the late 1960s, salt marshes were seen as wasteland and were regularly abused and filled in. Even with the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, the pressure of development has continued to threaten the marshes. The NH Dept of Resources and Economic Development has often been lax in allowing dredge and fill in coastal salt marshes and this policy, along with local attitudes, has influenced Zoning boards to regularly grant variances that infringe on the marshes.


In 1967 the Rye Conservation Commission published a small booklet on Rye’s 850 acres of salt marsh and made it clear how important their preservation was and acknowledged that there were many who still saw them as wasteland to be filled. That 6 pg. booklet is digitized and available on request

                            Rye Salt Marshes, Rye Conservation Commission, 1967

                    Hope Wright, James B. McMahon, Norman Bean, George Steinhilber,

                            Virginia Bean, Herbert F. Pettigrew, Norman L. Currier

In the brochure, which highlights the 850 acres of the four marshes, the commissioners were very forthright in their ecological defense of the salt marshes and critical of those who thought salt marshes were wasteland to be filled in for house lots.


        Awcomin Salt Marsh Restoration

Early in this century a large group of public and private entities and volunteers came together to restore the section of Awcomin salt marsh behind Rye harbor and adjacent to Goss Farm that had been filled with material from two dredges of Rye Harbor in 1941 and 1962. The details of this salt marsh restoration project are shown on a detailed sign with photos just north of the entrance to Rye Harbor at a short dirt road off the boulevard. After reading about the project, you can walk along a trail on the edge of the marsh to a viewing platform. This successful project is one of countless examples of where environmental degradation has been reversed and repaired and it shows that when we cooperate and recognize that is how to get things done, then there is no limit what we can do to improve our environment and society at large.

One local person instrumental in this marsh restoration project was the late assistant harbor master Bob Duddy and he is honored on the trail along the marsh to Goss Farm with a plaque: “Duddy Stream.”

Awcomin Salt marsh restoration 2001-2005 – info from sign at the site

Below is the actual wording on the sign. At bottom is a list of those partners who made it happen. Photos include aerial view of site, backhoe in operation, volunteers at work and group photo of volunteers.  Who are Rye residents who participated in this project? Conservation commission, assistant harbormaster Bob Duddy, et al.?  Rye town logo is shown with other partners.

                     AWCOMIN MARSH, RYE NH

“The Awcomin Marsh restoration project began in November 2001 and was completed in the fall of 2005. Project partners restored 30 acres of salt marsh by removing fill, restoring elevations and creating a new tidal creek system and open water habitat. A trail system and viewing platforms were constructed in 2005.

Dredge spoils, or excess material from the maintenance of Rye Harbor at Awcomin Marsh in 1941 and again in 1962, with fill deposits varying from one to as much as six feet above original elevations. This resulted in the loss of open water, disturbing marsh ecology and allowing the spread of invasive vegetation across approximately 19 acres of the marsh.

Marsh elevation was lowered to ensure that invasive species did not continue to thrive and spread before the site revegetated with native marsh grasses. A system of creeks was created to provide full tidal flushing to the marsh, which had been restricted by the excess fill. Tides are essential to the survival of marsh plants and animals that are adapted to salt water.

Over 100,000 cubic yards, or the equivalent of 9,000 dump trucks, of fill was removed from the site. In the summer of 2002, approximately 30 volunteers, scientists and resource managers began revegetating the marsh with native plant species. The bulk of the revegetation will be natural and may take several years to become dominant and established.”

At bottom of sign, it reads:         Partners responsible for marsh restoration

 National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

 NH Coastal Program NH

 CWRP (Coastal Watershed Restoration Professionals)

 Natural Resources Conservation Service

 NH Dept. of Environmental Services

 NH Dept of Resources and Economic Development,

 UNH Marine Program – Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

 Ducks Unlimited

Town of Rye

Jacques Whitford – was an environmental group from Canada then, but no longer independently owned.

( not noted on sign – Total  project cost by above partners – $760,000)


There were many champions of this Salt marsh restoration project, which began in the early 1990s and last major phase was in 2001-2005

Rye Conservation Commission

NRCS  – Alan Ammann

NH DES – Frank Richardson

NH Coastal Program – Ted Diers,

Jackson Estuarine Laboratory – David Burdick for monitoring and leading some of the planting     

                  which was largely done by Rye fourth graders.

Last phases since 2005 were constructed by Geoff Wilson, Northeast Wetland Restoration (Berwick, ME)


Good resource – Life and Death of a Salt Marsh by John and Mildred Teal.  Good background.

                         Found on line – written in 2005 on completion of the rstoration

NH Salt Marsh Restoration: Awcomin Salt Marsh, Rye NH Year of Project: 2001-2005 –  Type of Project: Fill Removal/invasive Species Control, Hydrologic Restoration Primary Project Partners: Town of Rye, Natural Resources Conservation Service, NH Coastal Program Contractor: Northeast Wetland Restoration Type of Monitoring: Post-Restoration & Reference Location: Awcomin Marsh is located on Route 1A in Rye, directly across from Rye Harbor Marina and just south of Rye Harbor State Park. Total project cost – $760,000

Background: The Awcomin Marsh restoration project began in November 2001 and aimed to restore 30 acres of salt marsh. During the scope of this project, fill was removed, appropriate marsh elevations were reestablished, and a new tidal creek system was created. The Issues: Dredge Spoils and Improper Marsh Elevations. In 1941, and again in 1962, dredge spoils from the maintenance of Rye Harbor were placed directly on approximately 35 acres of the surface of the marsh. The 1941 spoils were allowed to cover the entire 35-acre area with approximately 12-20 inches (almost two feet) of material. The 1962 spoils were placed directly over the 1941 filling and were contained to an area of approximately 15 acres in size, resulting in fill placements of varying depths from 3-6 feet above the original marsh surface, with an average depth of 3.5 feet. Upland and Invasive Species Replacing Native Salt Marsh Plants. Prior to restoration, the vegetation in this portion of Awcomin Marsh consisted of three communities. Existing only in the 1962 fill area, approximately 8 acres of the site had growing conditions conducive for the existence of a wooded upland community predominantly vegetated with trembling aspen (Populous tremuloides). Within the north and northeast portions of the 1941 fill area, approximately 8 acres of high marsh vegetation existed, which was predominantly vegetated by hay grass (Spartina patens).

The remaining 19 acres of the site was vegetated by a fresh-brackish emergent mixture predominantly vegetated by the invasive common reed (Phragmites australis) with small isolated stands of narrow leafed cattail (Typha angustifolia) and slough grass (Spartina pectinata). Inadequate Open Water Habitat. Since there was approximately three feet of fill on Awcomin Marsh for the last 40-60 years, the original tidal creek channels, pools and pannes were no longer part of the marsh. This resulted in the loss of open water on the marsh surface, which is critical for black ducks, wading birds, shorebirds, and fish, including those that eat mosquito larvae. Project Goals: • • •

Remove dredge spoils from the marsh. Restore appropriate salt marsh elevations. Create a new tidal creek system and open water habitat such as pools and pannes.

Restoration: A team of marsh experts and engineers created a design that set an appropriate marsh elevation at 4.5 NGVD. This target elevation would assure that invasive species do not become a problem before the site revegetates with native marsh grasses. A system of creeks created to provide full tidal flushing of the marsh. The creeks were sized to accommodate the expected flows to the new marsh acreage. A main creek channel was dug allowing adequate water flow to be received by portions of the marsh that have been revegetated. A series of pools and pannes were also created. Fill removed from the marsh consisted of a top (organic) layer consisting of Phragmites rhizomes, and a layer of inorganic loam. The total amount removed was approximately 100,000 cubic yards and has been disposed of off-site.

The community has been involved in planting some areas, however, the bulk of revegetation will be natural and may take up to five years to happen. In the summer of 2002, approximately 30 volunteers, scientists and resource managers worked together to re-vegetate Awcomin Marsh with native plants.

The University of New Hampshire’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory spearheaded this revegetation effort. Volunteers not only helped restore this marsh back to its native state, but also learned about current restoration methods. Though some areas were revegetated with the help of volunteers, much of the marsh is seeing natural revegetation by pioneer salt marsh plants such as common glasswort (Salicornia europaea) and Atlantic sea blite (Sueda linearis). In addition, two passive recreational trails have been established with viewing platforms and interpretive signage

Beyond UNH’s Jackson lab, other partners in this project have included the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic Atmospheric Admin. (NOAA), Ducks Unlimited (DU), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), NH Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), and NH Department of Environmental Services (DES). Funding the Project: EPA, $450,000; NOAA, $130,000; NRCS, $98,000; Town of Rye, $52,000; NHCP, $25,000, Ducks Unlimited, $5,000 for a total project cost of $760,000.


“Save Our Salt Marshes” – Portsmouth Herald Article (June 29, 2002) “Volunteers Restore Healthy Plants to Salt Marsh” Union Leader Article (June 27, 2002) “Wild Places: Awcomin Marsh” NH Fish & Game Department’s “Wildlife Journal” Article (Mar/April 2004)


In 2021 David Burdick, Jackson Estuarine lab, UNH, Durham (603) 862-5129   Associate Research Professor Department of Natural Resources and the Environment Director, Jackson Estuarine Laboratory
School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, 85 Adams Point Road, Durham, NH 03824

He gave a program at RPL in 2021 sponsored by the civic league and conservation com.

Notes below:

 400 years ago the salt marshes made Rye a great site for settlement.  With minor modification, the marshes were ready-made fields to grow fodder for their farm animals. They practiced terrace farming, so the uppermost fields could grow any crop while the middle fields could grow herd grasses like Timothy and the lowest fields that were flooded irregularly by the tides, grew salt hay.  Along the eastern seaboard, every marsh was a farm.  Salt water was excluded by embankments and rains were drained by ditching and water control structures.  Evidence of the embankments and ditches are plain to see in the areas that were not filled by the dredging activities of the mid-twentieth century.

Awcomin Marsh lies west of Rye Harbor and was restored to return the natural function of the marsh and to rid the marsh and surrounding land of the invasive plant, Phragmites, or common reed.  This plant took over much of the area formerly occupied by salt marsh vegetation when the area was filled from sediment (mud, sand, rock, and clay) dredged from Rye Harbor prior to restoration.

The addition of the harbor sediment raised the level of marsh above its original ground level so salt water from incoming tides could no longer flow to these areas.  This created a fresh water environment and phragmites replaced the salt marsh grasses and animals that had lived in the marsh before it was filled.    In addition to removing and regrading the marsh surface, several new drainage channels were added to allow salt water movement back into the filled areas.  Since that restoration work began the original channel plus many more drainage channels carry salt water to the edge of Goss Farm, the Rye town forest, and surrounding properties.   Salt marsh grass and marsh dwellers have returned to the marsh.  There is still some phragmites close to the shoreline, but the majority has been displaced through this restoration.  Students and wetland scientists monitor the success of the restoration project from time to time.

History of the Rye Town Museum

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Rye’s older houses have always been mini town museums, containing historic photographs, documents and artifacts relating to the town’s past. After the Rye Historical Society was founded by Jessie Herlihy and members of the Rye Bi-Centennial Committee in 1976, some of these items were donated. They were kept in the library attic Macdonald Room and occasionally displayed for the public, while the society searched for a museum.  After RHS sponsored a two- day Rye Bi-Centennial history display in the town hall auditorium in 1985, the town gave some museum space in 1986, in the former auditorium. This was a welcome public space for RHS in the historic town hall and regular Saturday hours began.

In about 1930 Mildred Wilson, proprietor of the Parsonage Inn, built a cape style antique shop between the inn and the library. By the 1950s both the inn, and adjacent carriage shed and the antique shop had

become apartment buildings. In 1995 the town bought the property and in 1997 gave the cape to RHS and the library moved it to make way for their expansion and the new parking lot. From 1997 to 2002,

RHS co-chair Bonnie Goodwin oversaw the challenging work of finding and urging on the work of transforming a three-bedroom apartment house into a small museum. Norm Yeaton was the main

carpenter and a list of contractors is on display upstairs. From 1976 until 2002 RHS co-sponsored six successful house tours which, along with some generous bequests, funded the $74,000 renovation.

In July 2002 the museum opened to the public, with Bonnie Goodwin welcoming visitors, beaming with justified pride that her persistence had finally borne fruit.  In addition, Bonnie had researched the history of Rye’s Founding Families which was on display. A generic history of the town, using some of those historic photos, (birds eye view of Rye center from church steeple), documents (Garland Tavern ledger) and artifacts (Revolutionary war blanket issued to William Seavey) generously donated to RHS, greeted visitors to their new Rye history museum.

In 2005 Bonnie, Alex Herlihy and Susan Kindstedt created the first formal exhibit at the museum: “Summering in Rye: Over a Century by the Sea,” about the Victorian resort era of eight hotels and forty boarding houses, funded by a grant from the Tallman family through the NH Charitible Fund. In 2009 the next exhibit was mounted by UNH museum studies intern Linsay Burke, working with Alex Herlihy, for her master’s degree, which depicted the history of Rye in words and images.

In 2014, a chronological and thematic Rye history exhibit was created by two UNH history grads, Robina Mitchell and Andrew Hickey.  In 2018 the RHS exhibit committee opened: “Fishing, Farming and Fun,” displaying the three defining “industries” of Rye over time, funded by another NHCF grant.  The steadfast and creative work of the exhibit committee, headed by Debbie Toohey and Linda Lemelin, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the museum on July 2, 2022, with the opening of the museum’s fifth exhibit: “Rye Family Connections: How the Threads of Life Connect us Through Home, Economics and Community.”Through its programs, exhibits and public outreach, RHS and its museum have become a vital force in the community and its potential for growth and further engagement with the public is unlimited

 History of Shipwrecks, Life Saving Stations, Surfmen and Rescue Efforts off Rye 1700s – 1900s

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian,  2023

                                          Alex Herlihy, Town historian, 2023

Throughout history, ships at sea have faced a tragically high mortality rate due to storms that crash ships on rocky headlands and run them aground on treacherous reefs just below the surface of the ocean.  For example, in 1853 the British merchant fleet lost over 850 vessels due to storms. Rye’s treacherous rocky ledges and headlands have been the cause of untold fatalities, thus contributing to the graveyard of the Atlantic Ocean. There are thousands of vessels, documented and undocumented, which rest at the bottom of the sea, not that far off the North American shore.

Mariners knew very well the hazards of coastal travel, especially along the rugged New England Coast where a nor’easter or so ’easter or “perfect storm” or a squall could quickly darken the sky and bring all hands-on deck. There was often no action they could take to stop their vessels from being blown onto the rocks. 

In the 1800s one would see a sea of sails off the shores of Rye, the most common being the coastal cargo schooners with anywhere from two to six masts. They carried all manner of cargo up and down the east coast of the US and their crews represent the very best of our maritime history, singing their colorful sea chanteys which helped with the endless hard labor and kept their minds off the ever-present fear of storms.

For decades the Age of Sail overlapped the age of steam and diesel and in 1935 the last working sailing vessel sailed into San Francisco. All the crew was standing on yard arms and many retired mariners were on the dock to greet them and all singing their hearts out – those timeless chanteys: “Homeward Bound” and “We’re Bound for South Australia!” There was nary a dry eye on the old town’s dock on that historic day.

Below – some helpful online information

The United States Life-Saving Service[1] was a United States government agency that grew out of private and local humanitarian efforts to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers. It began in 1848 and ultimately merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the US Life Saving Service in 1971

The concept of assistance to shipwrecked mariners from shore-based stations began with volunteer lifesaving services, spearheaded by the Massachusetts Humane Society. It was recognized that only small boats stood a chance of assisting those close to the beach. A sailing ship trying to help near to the shore stood a good chance of also running aground, especially if there were heavy onshore winds. The Massachusetts Humane Society founded the first lifeboat station at Cohasset, Massachusetts. The stations were small shed-like structures, holding rescue equipment that was to be used by volunteers in case of a wreck. The stations, however, were only near the approaches to busy ports and, thus, large gaps of coastline remained without lifesaving equipment.

Formal federal government involvement in the lifesaving business began on August 14, 1848 with the signing of the Newell Act, which was named for its chief advocate, New JerseyRepresentativeWilliam A. Newell. Under this act, the United States Congress appropriated $10,000 to establish unmanned lifesaving stations along the New Jersey coast south of New York Harbor and to provide “surf boat, rockets, carronades and other necessary apparatus for the better preservation of life and property from shipwreck on the coast of New Jersey”. That same year the Massachusetts Humane Society also received funds from Congress for lifesaving stations on the Massachusetts coastline. Between 1848 and 1854 other stations were built and loosely managed. The stations were administered by the United States Revenue Marine (later renamed the United States Revenue Cutter Service). They were run with volunteer crews, much like a volunteer fire department.[2]

In September 1854, a Category 4hurricane, the Great Carolina Hurricane of 1854, swept through the East Coast of the United States, causing the deaths of many sailors. This storm highlighted the poor condition of the equipment in the lifesaving stations, the poor training of the crews and the need for more stations. Additional funds were appropriated by Congress, including funds to employ a full-time keeper at each station and two superintendents.

Still not officially recognized as a service, the system of stations languished until 1871 when Sumner Increase Kimball was appointed chief of the Treasury Department‘s Revenue Marine Division. One of his first acts was to send Captain John Faunce of the Revenue Marine Service on an inspection tour of the lifesaving stations. Captain Faunce’s report noted that “apparatus was rusty for want of care and some of it ruined.”

Kimball convinced Congress to appropriate $200,000 to operate the stations and to allow the Secretary of the Treasury to employ full-time crews for the stations. Kimball instituted six-man boat crews at all stations, built new stations, and drew up regulations with standards of performance for crew members.

By 1874, stations were added along the coast of MaineCape Cod, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and Port AransasTexas. The next year, more stations were added to serve the Great Lakes and the Houses of Refuge in Florida. In 1878, the network of lifesaving stations were formally organized as a separate agency of the United States Department of the Treasury, called the Life-Saving Service.

Thomas Nast 1877 political cartoon: Death on economy. U.S. “I suppose I must spend a little on life-saving service, life-boat stations, life-boats, surf-boats, etc.; but it is too bad to be obliged to waste so much money”.

The men of the Kitty Hawk Life-Saving Station, 1900.

The stations of the Service fell into three categories: lifesaving, lifeboat, and houses of refuge. Lifesaving stations were manned by full-time crews during the period when wrecks were most likely. On the East Coast, this was usually from April to November, and was called the “active season.” By 1900, the active season had now become year-round. Most stations were in isolated areas and crewmen had to perform open beach launchings. That is, they were required to launch their boats from the beach into the surf. The Regulations of Life-Saving Service of 1899, Article VI, “Actions at Wrecks,” Section 252, remained in force after creation of the Coast Guard in 1915, and Section 252 was copied word for word into the new Instructions for United States Coast Guard Stations, 1934 edition. That section gave rise to the rescue crew’s unofficial motto, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”

Before 1900, there were very few recreational boaters and most assistance cases came from ships engaged in commerce. Nearly all lifeboat stations were located at or near port cities. Here, deep water, combined with piers and other waterfront structures, allowed launching heavy lifeboats directly into the water by marine railways on inclined ramps. In general, lifeboat stations were on the Great Lakes, but some lifesaving stations were in the more isolated areas of the lakes. The active season on the Great Lakes stretched from April to December.

Houses of refuge made up the third category of Life Saving Service units. These stations were on the coasts of South CarolinaGeorgia, and Florida. A paid keeper and a small boat were assigned to each house, but the organization did not include active manning and rescue attempts. It was felt that along this stretch of coastline, shipwrecked sailors would not die of exposure to the cold in the winter as in the north. Therefore, only shelters would be needed.

                             History of life saving in Rye

History of Rye, NH, by Langdon Parsons, 1905 lists sixteen selective ship wrecks off Rye between 1764 and 1881. Of course, there were dozens more that can be found in other sources. RHS has info on other ship wrecks that will be added here later.

There were reports in some communities of fires being started on rocky promontories during storms to lure ships to their doom so they could then be salvaged. While there is no documentation of such heinous acts happening in Rye, it illustrates even further how risky it was to put out to sea. Even with the advent of steam and diesel in the 1800s, the mortality rate remained high. RHS has a record of many of the wrecks that occurred on the rocks of Rye, including some heroic efforts by citizens to rescue passengers, as in 1841 at Wallis Sands by the Yeaton family. 

Lloyds of London was the main insurer of ships world- wide and by the late 1860s they estimated that over 2000 ships were being lost at sea annually due to storms, mostly due to being blown onto rocky coasts.

The US Weather Bureau was established under the War Department in 1870, in an effort to provide some warning of impending storms for east coast mariners. (Twenty years later it became a civilian agency under the Agricultural Department and later the Commerce Department.) Why there was not a formal life-saving service established earlier is due to government inaction and the failure of citizens to recognize their powers of advocacy.

The need for organized shipwreck rescue was finally realized in 1871 with the establishment of the US Life-Saving Service. The first station in Rye, a mere shack, was thrown up in this year, just south of Locke’s Neck. In 1873 the permanent gingerbread structure was built that still stands today. Captain Al Remick and Captain Rufus Philbrick and seven surf men staffed this vital facility. Along with the dory designed to blast through huge waves to get to stranded mariners, the facility had a Lyle gun which could fire a lifeline to a stranded vessel. Those who went down to the sea in the age of sail were a courageous breed indeed.

In c. 1893 a new life saving station was erected just south of Locke’s neck to replace the 1873 one just further south, which was sold for a private house. Also, that year another station was built just north of Parsons (“Concord) Pt.”), on the south end of what is now called Pirates Cove Beach. At some point a very small station for life saving patrollers was erected at Odiorne Pt. It is assumed that these two new stations were erected in the same year in Rye because the need was so great, especially at Wallis Sands, close to the mouth of the Piscataqua River and that dangerous, rocky shoreline.

There is a photo of the Wallis Sands Life-Saving Station with the crew of seven surf-men in front on p. 83 of Bill Varrell’s Rye and Rye Beach, 1995. Capt. Selden Wells, John Pridham, Horace Berry, Ben Ricker, and Thomas Varrell have been identified, but the names are not linked with the photos.  

On January 7, 1905 the coastal schooner “Lizzie Carr” was en-route from Thomaston, ME, where it was built in 1868, to New York City with a load of lathe and lumber when it was caught in a storm and crashed on the rocks of Parsons (Concord) Point. The foundering ship was in sight of the nearby US Lifesaving service who, after several attempts, saved six of the crew, but a seventh drowned when he tried to swim ashore. 

What follows is the official US Life-saving station report of the rescue of the Lizzie Carr crew  – from its 1905 annual report of rescues.

““Station and locality: Wallis Sands, New Hampshire. Name and nationality of vessel: Am. sc. Lizzie Carr. Nature of casualty and service rendered:  At 4 PM on the 6th instant, this vessel, finding it impossible to reach port, due to a strong ebb tide which was setting her inshore at every tack, came to anchor for the night 2 miles S. of the station. The lookouts along the beach kept the schooner in sight during the night in order to assist her should her anchors fail to hold.

At daybreak she was still riding safely at her moorings, but at 9:30 a.m. on the 7th instant a fresh breeze from the SE sprung up, which soon increased to a gale with heavy sea, causing the vessel to drag her anchors and drift rapidly toward the shore. The life-savers had foreseen this and taken their surfboat and beach apparatus and stationed themselves at a point on the beach opposite the stranded craft, ready to render assistance. The life line was shot out over the vessel, falling between the masts prior to her stranding on the rocky ledge. She struck with terrific force, her masts falling on the deck with the crew lashed in the rigging. A second shot was fired, the line falling within reach of the men on board, but on account of the fouling in the wreckage, it could not be hauled in. A third shot followed with no better results than the others. The wind had now increased t hurricane force (over 74 mph), and the sea and surf running so high that the life-saving crew, in attempting to reach the wreck, were swept back each time and cast upon the beach. The crews from Jerry’s Point (New Castle) and Rye Beach also arrive upon the scene, and after firing a 4th shot to the helpless men, whose vessel was being ground into driftwood, the surfboat was again manned, this time by the keepers and picked me from the three life-saving crews. The wreck had swung round nearer the shore, and, during a lull in the gale, the surf boat was once more launched, and by the united efforts of the crews succeeded in reaching the wreck. The crew, with the exception of the mate, who had drowned while trying to reach shore on some floating timber, were rescued and brought safely to the beach, and succored at the station until the arrival of a physician.”

Photos show the wreck on the ledge and the crew being rescued and the wreckage on shore the next day. Materials from such wrecks were fair game for locals to salvage, especially wood to use in local construction. The wheel of the Carr, made in Gloucester by Richardson and Co., was rescued in 1905 25 year-old Newall Marden, who would become a selectman in 1907 until he di3ed in 1952. The wheel has been on display in the Rye Town Museum in the past and is owned by RHS member Becky Marden, grand- daughter of Newall Marden

During the WWI era, the US Life-saving service became the US Coast Guard with a station at Hampton Beach, but the stations remained in service until 1933 when they were closed and demolished. When a drowning occurred later that year at Jenness Beach, Rye residents were out raged, knowing that the station just closed on that beach might have saved the person.  Rye Beach residents held a gala fund raiser to purchase two rescue boats with outboard motors as well as life vests for police and beach life guards.         


From Jo Kirkham, Rye Museum Assn, East Sussex, England:

“In Rye England the whole lifeboat Crew of 17 in November 1928 was lost when the Lifeboat ‘Mary Stanford’ capsized in Rye Bay– very sad and it is deep in the family memories of local people.”


In 1935 the Herald ran a story about Rye police chief Manning Remick hauling a lifeboat from his Locke’s Neck house to Great Bay in eleven minutes to meet the Portsmouth chief, where together they rescued a man on an ice flow about to drown. This was one of several cases that justified the private effort to purchase the two lifeboats for Rye Beach.

For the families of six Dover residents, 1939 was a tragic year. They were on a fishing party and got caught in a terrible squall off Locke’s Neck. At the height of the storm, Straw’s Point housing residents could hear the cries for help as the boat had crashed on the rocks, but they could not see the victims, and all eventually perished. Their bodies were found on the rocks the next day. This tragedy renewed demands for better life-saving services, which were then very thin.

With all lifeguard stations closed, the Coast Guard vessel based in Hampton Beach was responsible for the whole New Hampshire coast and down to the Merrimack River. We will never know if this doomed fishing party could have been saved, but the closed Rye life-saving station was located just a few yards from the tragedy. This sobering event was just another reminder to all about the need to pay great respect to the ocean’s raging fury, which could turn a lovely day at sea so quickly to tragedy.

Over the years certain tidal conditions expose the hull of the “Carr” along with a nearby abandoned barge from the 1950s. In 2002 the late marine archaeologist David Switzer of Plymouth State University, with help from locals, excavated a 62’ section of the hull of the Carr at low tide. It is on display in the Seacoast Science Center where it represents an excellent example of where science (marine archaeology and meteorology) and history (maritime heritage) intersect.

Ellen Morton Hamil lives on Parson’s Creek and has one of the best views of when the “Carr” and the barge are exposed.

“The beach changes daily. It doesn’t take a coastal storm to uncover the Lizze Carr remains, it’s up to the tides. There may be a storm way out to sea that creates strong tides that move the sand around exposing the hull. I never know when I’m going to see it, but often when it’s uncovered it may remain that way for a few days. The barge teak timbers are visible when not covered by the creek. “

The lure of the sea is timeless. There is great risk and a need for great respect and caution for its fury.


more  Info from presenter of the Wood Island life saving station program by RHS in 2023

In early 2023 D Allan Kerr, local journalist, gave a talk for RHS on local life- saving stations, their crews, and local patrols such as the one at Odiorne Pt. at the Rye Congregational church fellowship hall. I am not sure if it was recorded but Becky Marden has his contact info – Kerr has also written about this topic for the Herald.

History of Stoneleigh Manor Hotel and later uses of the building 1920-1995

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Just down Central toward the sea, over-confident investors, including the Drake family, defied the trend away from hotel building and began construction of a new grand Tudor-style hotel called Stoneleigh Manor.  It was designed by famous architect Ralph Adams Cram, born in Hampton Falls in 1863.  He also designed West Point in 1902 and added the gothic design to St. John the Divine in New York, All Saints’ Church in Peterborough in 1913, the Holy Cross College church/cathedral and the Avon (CT) Old Farms School creator’s Hillside Museum in Farmington, CT in 1920. Stoneleigh manor Hotel opened in 1920.

By 1926, Stoneleigh Manor was experiencing hard times and it leased the building to Stoneleigh School for Girls from Indiana, a 5th year finishing school. The hotel remained open in the summer, but with declining demand. The girls loved to toboggan at the Pines at the end of North Road, near Lafayette. In 1930, the school moved to a location in Connecticut and merged with another school. 

In 1934, the former Stoneleigh Manor hotel was sold to the Currier family from New Jersey for $85,000 and they opened Stoneleigh College for Women for 35 students with courses in liberal and practical arts, secretarial skills, music, and theater, arts and crafts. For the next eight years, Rye was a college town with all the enlightenment and enriched atmosphere that such a title implies. The barn at the former Locke Boarding house served as a playhouse and many of the young women were active at Hooper’s Riding school on Washington Road. The beach club provided facilities for a formal swimming program. Thomas J Morris of Rye was assistant to the college president and taught courses in legal studies and would later become a prominent local judge in the seacoast.  The 1938 Stoneleigh yearbook at the museum brings the college back to life and reports eighty-six frosh and forty graduates in June 1938.  In 1943, the college closed and moved to Greenfield Massachusetts.     

In 1943 the building was sold to the Atlantic Air Academy and flying lessons were held at the Hampton Air Field which was a grass strip for many decades until it received the upgrade visible today. Flying was hugely popular after WWI and WWII stimulated even more interest.

Holy Name Province purchased the Atlantic Air Academy (formerly Stoneleigh Manor College) in 1947 for $175,000. For the next two years, the Franciscans restored the building and in 1950 it opened as St. Francis College of the Holy Gospel as a seminary with 80 young would-be priests.

By 1965, the brothers of the Franciscan Friary on Central Road had established strong connections with Rye residents and beyond through their outreach programs. They had shown themselves as being very much of this world, having endured many struggles and hardships in their personal lives which led them to join to the order. It took six years of a tough program to become a practicing friar in the Franciscan order. In Rye they were friendly with many in the community, having joined in the hockey games the Eel Pond. Well-suited to offer solace and support to others, they opened a retreat center, providing services for addicts, marriage counseling and many spiritually uplifting services and retreat programs. Brother Agapitus gave me a St. Christopher medal before I went to study for a year in Europe in 1966. Returning from a visit to Paris in November 1966, I had the medal in my possession when I was driven off a mountain road in France by an oncoming truck. In spite of rolling down the mountain, we all survived with minor injuries and Father Agapitus was delighted to hear the St Christopher had aided in our survival when I returned in 1967.  Father Agnelis was another popular figure at St Francis.       

In the 1990s the church sold the building to a developer, but there were many heated debates in Rye Beach on a plan to buy the building and find another use for it, but it was to no avail as one resident in particular was very influential in shooting down all the ideas put forth. It is an example of the need for better organization on the part of individuals and groups seeking to preserve the town’s built- environment. There is no doubt that this solid structure could have served Rye in another form well into the future, but as often happens, some were seeking the maximum profit and they prevailed.  When the building was demolished in 1995 the wrecking crew had difficulty destroying this solid symbol of Rye’s bygone days. Three houses were built on the site.                         

History of Stonewalls in Rye and New England

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

                       Stonewalls in Rye 

Like all towns where stone walls are found there are many interesting configurations. Looking at my land on Lang Rd. I live in a seven- acre filed that is bordered on three sides by stonewalls with eh barn and other out- buildings making the last border. There are various breaks it he wall for brining oxen pulled wagons out of the woods and there are other areas where there are two parallel lines of wall that make a natural lane. Farmers had to put the stones somewhere and it may have been easiest to lay7 them out in this linear fashion rather than put them in piles. They must have known they were creating future borders and property lines sued by surveying crews

Poetry path – off Wash Rd on left going SW about ½ mi. from center – two parallel walls – they could have been a cattle-run where the cows were in a field way back and they were driven to barn on Wash Rd. through this narrow corridor between the two fields

Wedgwood forest off RJH playing field – interesting configuration of walls suggest perhaps an attempt at artistic laying of walls, otherwise the shape does not make sense.

Other interesting aspects of Rye stonewalls?


                        The Granite Kiss, Kevin Gardner, 2001, in RPL – mostly about how to build stonewalls

– stonewalls helped destroy the idea of common land and intensified development and really altered the ecology on NE

– peak stonewall building 1810-1840 when farming at its height and fencing needed for animals and more than half forests gone

There were many piles ( “waste dumps’)  of stones about for be turned into linear fencing

– after 1840 slow decline in NE farming and stonewalls became more a point of nostalgia but also an aesthetic part of built environment

In many ways stonewalls wrecked the ecology on NE; permanent alteration of the landscape and impact on animals and plants

– stonewalls symbolize history of every day existence

     ”              also symbolize a time gone by, hard work but now neglect, but also a return to origins of farming in NE

– stonewalls and other stone work are a daily reminder of the foundation of NE towns as well as the historic farm buildings

– today stonewalls are used as boundary markers in surveying lots

– today stonewalls are seen as a repository of wisdom and memory and the markers of many eras in farming history and an essential part of the beauty of the NE landscape; they help us see the land.

Stone Wall Secrets, a kids book on the topic by Thorson

Thorson has also written a history of NE stonewalls – Stone by Stone, 2002, in RPL


                                 Sermons in Stone, Susan Allport, 1990

1700s–farms averaged 100 acres; some up to 1000 in RI worked by enslaved people

In 1860 there were 168,000 small farms in NE

Three uses for fields: cultivate crops, pasture for animals, haying

Walls: originally stones were left in dup piles, later they became lineal dumps for stone, by late 1700s used to enclose animals, later they were crushed for road building materials or for other stone work such as building foundations, wells, etc.

two parallel rows of wall, about ten plus feet apart, usually for cattle run from filed to barn

mid 1800s walls an obstacle to large harvesters and reapers; needed large wide open fields

settler colonists claimed their enclosed filed system was superior to native people’s more complex animal husbandry, seasonal  system of open fields and migratory practices; settlers showed their ignorance and wall came back to haunt them and often forced  to move west to more open fields

problems of animals ruining crops: unclear laws if crop owners or animal owners responsible; ultimately it was crop owners must enclose land from animals before stonewall building – stumps, split rail, picket was used until wood ran out late 1700s

Tools – crow bar, chains, yoke (2) of oxen, stone boat (runners not wheels).

Huge conflicts  over animals ruining crops; towns paid “fence viewers” to see that fencing was up to par because some animals, such as sheep, very good at getting through gaps

Walls hurt the use of common land and led to more private property, especially because common land required farmers to spend more time taking animals to and from pasture

Annual event – selectmen and fence viewers walk town borders to see that no fences from neighboring towns had been built in their town.

Town Pounds – sometimes 30 foot square to  keep stray animals until owners came and paid fine; no one wanted thankless job as it was often hard to get the fine money; job often given to most recent married man or anyone planning to run for political office!

Geological history: four glaciers, 250 mil yrs ago, NE mts were as high as Himalayas 25 – 29k’

Most recent Wisconsin ice sheet – one mile high started to help 12,000 – 15,000 yrs ago leaving glacial erratics, stones of every size

“Protestant work ethic” may have come from endless early farm work – it took a year  to clear one to two acres of trees; a life time to clear 100 acres, the average size farm in 1850s

‘Stone bees” – party time when farmer supplies grog and neighbors come and clear sones

Granite and gneiss – the hardest stones, what is found in stone walls, etc.

Mid 1800s–many switch to sheep farming to make more $, esp. Merino but sheep get thru walls

Stiles – raised break in wall for farmers to get thru but not animals

Majority of walls, poorly made – thus yearly repair required

Most walls just big ones on bottom with some chinking; not time to build them well

Who built walls p- 1700s – no permanent class of agric farm workers, labor shortage, Indians and enslaved people built some

Mid 1800s gangs of expert stonewall builders roamed NE seeking work for $xxx as rod

1768 in Portsmouth Woodbury Langdon paid Joe Tucker 1 ½ gal of rum per rod

NE oxen are the heroes of farming – much better, stronger, less disease/injury and gave great meat than horses who only came into use in latter 1800s when farming much less demanding when cast iron plows came into use. One yoke of oxen pull 10k lbs. of stone over dry straw

Late 1800s small amounts of cocaine in use as stimulant doing hard work – chew cocoa leaves

Shaker sone walls at Canterbury Village (NH) and 17 other Shaker communities had best stone walls and other stone work; highly skilled and took their time – pride in work

1860  NH had 30k farms; 1930 – 16k;  1976 – 2k; made a modest comeback sine 1976

Stonewalls prevented progressive argic in 1800s =- restricted

Building a wall – “one stone on two underneath  and then two on one” to prevent gaps and flat capstone rocks on top  to keep water and leaves out

for some a 3- D puzzle; best advice: break up the joints

longest stonewall – 84 miles around NYC reservoir at Croton to keep animals out

History of Stores/Shops in Rye

Alex Herlihy, Town History, 2023

First — may have been Carroll and Goss 1805 cor. of Lang and Wash –    by mid 1800s Rand family owned it and store lasted until 1949 when Blake Rand died; it had a very long candy counter; 20 x 30’ and I once bought candy there at age 4; it had 20’ x 30’ raised ceiling ballroom on 2nd floor

2nd – 1810 – 1 Central Road, Georgian style hip roof, also Carroll and Goss store but soon Parsons family owned it; small dance hall on 2nd floor

1870 – Walkers Gen Store, later changed to Jenness – Tate and Foss today

  In 1950s visitors were met with long candy counter

Speare’s confectionary – all- purpose store in late 1800s early 1900s on South at Central; It was the commercial hub of Rye Beach

               there were other 1800s stores—


in 1950s – stores that were here – (restaurants/snack bars etc. is a separate document)

1, Red Roof on blvd

2, Carberrrys….Philbricks (1954)  store on blvd nr Jenness bch – a great hangout

  Jeanettes Sea Shoppe next door

3. Neil Philbricks emporium at 420 Central and another diagonally across the road

4, Garland store where Christines Cr is today

  1. Sandpiper soda fountain/groceries, beach sundries – Summer Sessions today
  2. Temples mkt Wash. at Grove Rd.
  3. Jenness store – Tate and Foss today – great hangout – need this business back in Rye center
  4. Trefethen’s store, Sag Rd at Clark – Madden realty today
  5. Gift shop in house across from Beach club run by Ginny Nold and others
History of Straws Pt. Housing Community (Straw’s Point Road)

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

 Historic Houses inventory compiled by Alex Herlihy after walk with Rachel Courtney 5/7/21

Introduction – Houses are listed in order as they appear when first entering Straws Pt. Rd. and they continue along the north side of the green, around cor. to north, then continue on the south side and finish at the top of the green. AYB info from Rye town assessor’s office but the date cannot be verified by Rye today as these dates were claimed by owners in the past; when there is a specific date it is likely owner had written documentation of house being built that year, otherwise it is a rough estimate based on style, etc.

House #            Approx. Yr. Built                  Arch stye/Description/ notes                  Current owner       Previous owners

101                            1891                                   cape w/ 2 dormers, red door                   ?                            ?

47                           early 1900s?        2 ½ story, Col. Rev., clapboard now shingle              Kevin Swenson

     (from 1935, owned by Kath and Arthur McF. Swenson)

41                                1870    Coastal cottage, Col. Rev. 2 ½ story, inter rebuilt early 2000s   Timothy Horne

                     (from 1928 Guy and Mildred Swenson, later Kurt Swenson)

35                           early 1900s?             next to #41, 2 1/2 story, stick style, late Victorian         Phyllis Carey                                  

                     (previous owner – O’Dowd family)

29                     early 1900s?                           next to 35; hip roof                             Bill & Nancy Montgoris

                 (previous owner: Elezy and Nancy Floyd Burkham)  

23                         1870            mansard roof, similar to two at head of green        Gordon Milne & descend.

17             post 1960       2019 extensive renov. into shingle style beach house                              ?

              (Orig. house built by Kevin King)

11 or  5 & ?       c 1870     dirt drive to left by #17;  hip roof 2 ½ story & New Englander     Hamblett fam.

                                      (defer. maint. on New Englander behind hip roof hse)                         since 1950s

Summer Gazebo     before 1950            front of #17 – on NE edge of the green near ocean

18                    2013            south side of green – mansard roof reproduction                            Kurt Swenson

              (historic Meigs mansard roof house from mid 1800s, demoed on this site 2012)

24       after 1902                boat style roof angle, gambrel roof, shingle style                              Schwartz

     (Early 20th c. – it replaced hist. mansard roof 1800s house)      Jackson/McLaughrey  

42               1865                               mansard roof                                      Frances and Scott Burkham, St. Louis

     3 generations off Burkhams

48              1860              mansard roof; slightly diff. trim from #42               Gayle & Margo Whittemore

                        ( 42 and 48 may have been built for a man’s daughters)    nieces of Gayle W. Williamson

Bet. 42 & 48        1870                      one story historic small barn/garage w/ date on it

#?        AYB ?           in trees behind #42 fanciful arch. style/ roof lines; defer. maint.                     ?     

Some other houses on Straws Pt. Rd. were built c. 1901 – 1950, the rest since 1950; need to see written documentation to confirm any of these dates for an exact year built; if Ezekiel Straw, governor of NH for one term in early 1870s, bought Locke’s Neck land at that time and built the first house (which one was his or has it been demoed?) and then sold off lots to his friends and others, then the dates before c. 1870 do not fit. I was told that # 24 was Straw house, but photography proves that current house there is from early 1900s and originally there was a mansard roof house on that site, very similar to Meigs #18.

Photos at town museum, looking north toward the Neck, show a mansard now gone and to west of # 24, a lovely shingle style house demoed early 21st c. and replaced by very modern style. Other photos show a large community building near south side of the Neck. Rachel Courtney, related to Meigs family, has several documents/photos including survey with lots of St Pt community done in 1902.

History of Studebaker Family in Rye

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Studebaker family built a mansion just north of the Farragut in 1917 that still stands today, Ocean Blvd at Church Rd. They also built the large Victorian style mansion on Ocean Blvd, Little Boars head in North Hampton, just south of Atlantic Ave. in 1874)

These letters found on line were sent to RHS several years ago. They are from CLEMENT STUDEBAKER, JR ( Second Vice President and Treasurer)South Bend, Indiana, 1911 April 4. On letterhead of the Studebaker Corporation to Mr. W. E. Carter, Manager, The Farragut House, Rye Beach, New Hampshire.

 “We are making our arrangements to leave here on July 6th, arriving at Rye Beach the afternoon or evening of July 7th.  I hope that you will have everything ready for us, and that there will be nothing to do after we get there, except to have a good time.  I will wire you when we leave…Of course you understand I want a good room for the Chauffeur and one for Mrs. Studebaker’s maid.”

Second letter: “I was very glad to hear from you the other day, as I was expecting to write you. We hope to be able to come to The Farragut again this summer as usual. Would like to know what accomodations (sic) you can give us. We are rather dissatisfied with the rooms on the first floor, as they are so noisy, and there is no privacy there whatever. We heard that Mrs. Siter might not return to The Farragut this year. If she does not, would it be possible for you to give us the two rooms which she had and the three rooms back, practically the same accomodations (sic)on the second floor as we had on the first floor. We would expect you to take the carpets up, add some furniture and fix the rooms in first class shape, so that we could be comfortable. If you cannot give us these accomodations (sic), what other accomodations (sic) can you give us, and can you give us the closet room that we need? I do not want to put anything up to you which you cannot accomplish but it does seem to me that you should be willing to put the rooms in first class shape. The rooms on the first floor are rather gloomy; that is, the two in front. We would much prefer to get upstairs if we could as we do not think it would be quite as damp and it would be much quieter. Won’t you please write me as soon as possible what you think you can do for us. Very truly yours.

Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, founded in 1868 by four brothers, including Clement Sr. (1831-1901), successfully made the transition from building wagons to designing high performance automobiles over its 114-year history. Clement Studebaker, Jr. (1871-1932) joined the family firm after his graduation from Northwestern University, serving as Treasurer and Second Vice President in 1901. In 1914, after moving to Chicago, he went into public utilities, serving as President of the North American Power and Light Company, Illinois Power and Light Company and Illinois Traction Company.  

Ultimately the Studebakers were not satisfied with their hotel service. Clement built the mansion next door.

History of Sunken Forest

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

     Below are several references/articles/documents relating to this topic

I first observed it in 1958, just north of Jenness Beach at mid tide mark and it was huge, many stumps and roots; there is a photo of it at museum

In 2010 I observed a much smaller version, stumps at high tide mark, just south of Locke’s Neck (see Ports. Herald article at bottom) and again in 2013. I know it has been exposed there at high tide line since then.


                             Severe Jan 2023 storm revealed the following:

Date: 01/31/2023 5:24 PM

Subject: Sunken forest

The  stumps I noticed at Foss beach I came across a sunken forest is just north of Rays Seafood restaurant. Entering the beach from the state park at low tide about a quarter of the way up the beach there are many exposed rocks. Toward the north end of these is where I came across the stumps along with an old truck tire and rim. The tire is stamped US Royal Fleetway. I believe its from the 40’s.

        Kirk Ingram


       RHS program on the sunken forest attracted over 100 in church fellowship hall in 2018

                               Below is the introduction to the speaker.

Peter Leach is a University of Connecticut doctoral student and the archaeology application specialist at Geophysical Survey Systems in Nashua, NH. Peter specializes in the archaeology and geology of coastal environments and the archaeological applications of ground-penetrating radar. His research focuses on the pre-Contact archaeology of New Hampshire’s coastline, and the environmental and landscape changes associated with Holocene relative sea-level rise. His major focus is the past and on-going submergence of the Seacoast, which lead to his scientific interest in New Hampshire’s drowned forests.

A geological discussion of the Seacoast’s drowned forests and submerged landscapes

This talk will focus on New Hampshire’s drowned forests with specific reference to Odiorne Point and Jenness/Rye beaches. The unique geology of the Seacoast and offshore areas, in concert with trends in sea-level rise over the last 12,000 years, lead to the enhanced preservation in these locations. Leach will place the drowned forests into a geologic context and explain how old they are, why they have survived, and the potential for other drowned forests to appear as on-going sea-level rise erodes the coastal zone. This will include a discussion of geospatial modeling for the western Gulf of Maine, beginning in a time of lowered sea-level when a person could walk to the Isles of Shoals from the mainland. Peter will also discuss the scientific importance of the Seacoast’s sub-fossilized trees, and what data could be extracted from the tree stumps to improve our knowledge of New Hampshire’s Holocene environments.

Note – I cannot remember if this event was filmed and if a you tube version of it exists. I do remember one part of the program in which Peter Leach described a view of the forest just south of Odiorne Pt in very shallow water.


Will the ancient sunken forests of New Hampshire ever appear again?

From N.H. to Nova Scotia, ancient trees emerge only during rare periods of extreme low tide.


November 14, 2015, 1:41 a.m.

These stumps, thousands of years old, only appear in extreme low tide. (Photo: Dan Tuohy/YouTube)

Thousands of years ago, during the last great period of glaciation, the New England coastline extended up to 75 miles further east than its current position, and a great forest grew there. The area teemed with hemlock, maple, cedar and pine, until the glaciers melted, the sea gradually rose, and the trees succumbed, ever so slowly, to the lapping of the waves.

From Portsmouth Herald article

This great forest may well have been forgotten, except for a handful of rare, extremely low ebb tide events when the sea recedes and the drowned stumps re-emerge like old memories.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself along the coastline during one of these rare events, there are two places along the New Hampshire coastline known for their sunken forests: Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, and Jenness Beach. But to catch a glimpse of these ancient forests will require exceptional timing.

“The conditions have to be just right,” said Alex Herlihy, director of the Rye Historical Society, to seacoastonline.com. “It’s not just the tides, but the appearance of storms, wind and water in the right way to wipe away enough sand. Conditions have to be just right, and for two or three tides you might be able to see them and they’ll be gone.”

The last time the Jenness Beach forest appeared was in 2010, and that was the first time it had emerged since 1978. Other sightings were reported in 1940, 1958 and 1962.

The trees — or at least what’s left of them — are remarkable. Stumps protrude from the rocky sands, with tree rings that can still be counted even though they have been smoothed over by erosion and time. Roots still weave through the soil, clinging to a foundation identified as woodland peat that is 2.5 to 4.0 feet thick. The trees have been radiocarbon dated to about 4,200-3,000 years ago.

Scientists have concluded that the trees died by a gradual advance, a sea level rise of about 1.1 feet per century. It’s an ominous reminder that sea levels continue to risetoday at an alarming rate due to global warming. Might the trees we climb in along the coast today someday get engulfed, as their ancestors did?

Sea level rise could also mean that sightings of these ancient sunken forests could become more and more rare, as they eventually get immersed by the ocean for good.

We can only hope this isn’t the last we see them again.

(In 2010, the Herald article interviewed and made video of Alex and Nina Herlihy at the exposed stumps just south of Locke’s Neck. That article and video will appear in an on line search of ‘”sunken forest in Rye NH.”)

History of Supply Foss Trefethen diary 1857-1907   

 Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Note –  the diaries were donated to to RHS by the Shephard family of TN about 2015; text in red by Larry Keech, Trefethen descendant, who has edited the diaries.    Theyu are housed at the Portsmouth Athenaeum

               Selected entries from diary of Supply Foss Trefethen 1857-1862

Portsmouth N.H. Jan 23rd 1857

 (Supply is living in Portsmouth at this time and his parents are living on Sagamore road in Rye.)

              Christian Shore Dearborn Street No1 – Friday

     Today has been exceedingly cold, the thermometer down at times to 24 below zero. It is as cold, if not colder, than any day previous for 50 years. Some of the last inhabitants say they never saw so much ice in the Piscataqua before. Stand upon the bridge by the mill and there is no open water to be seen. From Goodrich’s tan yard to Boiling Rock is one ground mass of ice of nearly a foot of thickness. Willard Brown has long been wanting a bridge to span the river from his place to Nobles Island. But he need want no more while this temperature lasts for nature has supplied his wish and he may now make use of it if he is not afraid of freezing his toes. The ice above the Portsmouth Bridge is sufficiently strong for teaming and some have sauntered across on foot just for the name for it never was known to be so firm before. It is also frozen 2 or 3 inches some distance below the bridge. So the proprietors are hoping to dispense with the old basket as it rather rickety.

     I went down to Rye last Saturday, the 17th, to see the folks. That is father, Albert and Elizabeth for mother has gone to Chelsea, Mass. to spend the winter with Oliver. I found them in good cheer and very glad to see me. Dad was looking round the corner when I got there to see if it was me. And then went in ahead to tell Elizabeth I was coming. After distributing my presents, which consisted of a few figs and nuts and a little candy and a couple newspapers for Dad and the True Flag and Pictorial for Elizabeth who now had her supper ready. We sat down to tea and were chatting, chatting away cheerfully when Albert and Emily and Charles her husband came from Portsmouth. We had a few jokes horsed around and after Albert had housed the colt, they joined us in dispatching the tea. Albert had a new colt and we promised to have a ride tomorrow. After joking, reading, talking and warming, we all retired for a happy night’s sleep. I always sleep sound under the roof of my boyhood in our little airy garret chamber with the door open so as to have free circulation of air. (A garret is a habitable attic, a living space at the top of a house)

     We awoke pretty early Sunday morning and peeped out the window when to our disappointment it was snowing. But Albert said he didn’t care, we would have the sleigh ride. So after breakfast we harnessed the colt (a dear little pony 2 ½ years old) and away we went galloping down the road facing the storm until we came to Langdon’s bridge about a mile when our pony is rather tired traveling through the loose snow. So we turn round the square and trot slowly home. Put the colt in the barn, give him a little corn mess, pat him on the neck and go in to dinner with a first rate appetite.

(His parents would have been living on Sagamore Road near Trefethen’s Corner. His parents were Joseph and Hannah (Berry) Trefethen.  Albert, Elizabeth, Oliver and Emily are his brothers and sisters. Emily’s husband is Charles W. Hall.) 

November 2 – 14, 1857

       Supply was enrolled in the Rockingham County Teacher’s Institute. Also enrolled were Charles J. Brown and Emmons B. Philbrick, all from Rye. The school was for those that contemplated engaging in teaching in the future.

                                                              May 15, 1859

(At this time the Methodist’s are remodeling their church at Rye Center. The church would later become the Town Hall that is now in the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places.)

This afternoon I have been to meeting at the Surf House where the Methodist’s hold their meetings while repairing their house. The meeting this afternoon was one of a little more interest than ordinarily as we have a new minister. We walked in to the dining room of the hotel where we found about 30 or 35 assembled sitting upon chairs and benches in the back part of the room. After we had taken our seats with our backs towards the assembly, we discovered behind a table (with the holy book on it) a head with two black eyes carelessly considering the different members of the church. After we had been seated the proper number of minutes our new minister rose and said “we will commence the worship of God by singing the 63 Hymn of this collection which I will read.” After the choir had, had time to pick out the tune to go by, Brother W. Seavey “struck up” and nearly all the congregation joined in singing it through. After which prayer came along and our new Man did well getting down upon his knees with a new pair of shoes and pants on he prayed for everyone in the house in particular and mankind in general. After which was “sermon time.” Before commencing however, it may be well to say of him that he is not very tall, perhaps about 5 feet 4 inches and weight 190 with black hair, square shoulders, long arms, black eyes and a pricked nose. His face was rather thin and a heavy black beard. With all rather good looking and several ladies inquired if he is married. Which was answered by a wife and one child. I may further say that he had on him this day an entire new suit commencing with his shoes which were of goat skin and attracted my attention. His pants being new and composed of light doe skin were rather long a covered considerable portion of his shoes. On his arms and shoulders was a new Frock coat with a clever tail sustaining two buttons. The body part was cut in modern style and fitted well and composed of black Broadcloth. His vest was, I think black satin and folded back showing us a decent look at his shirt. Well done up and round his neck a black silk handkerchief wound twice and tied in a square knot. As I may not have occasion to allude to his personality again, I may say that Mrs. A. Jenness, one of the leading talkers of the church, told me that sister Drake told her that sister Seavey told sister Lang that sister J. Jenness told sister Seavey that Mr. Bailey our new minister (of the parsonage) is going to carpet the kitchen, sitting room and parlor with nice woolen carpet. 

                                                            May 29, 1859

     This forenoon went to the East School house to meeting holden by the Methodist in consequence of their house not being ready for occupancy since repairing.

     The meeting had been announced 8 days previous but yet there was not above 40 present. 5 of us started together, Joseph W. Seavey, Joseph R. Holmes, Joseph W. Odiorne, Albert B. Trefethen and myself.  It was a very pleasant day and we had rather an agreeable walk. After we had started I glanced over my shoulder and Levi “Brother Lang” winding his way towards this particular place of worship. Although it was Sunday and we were going to meeting we could not refrain from talking of other matters and subjects. Yesterday we had been mending the ways of our district (which extended half way to the school house) and despite our watchfulness and hard labor with the pick axe and crowbar, there were several rocks remaining in the highway as stumbling stones for church members going to the school house to worship. And they were severely criticized by my friends H. & S. I being surveyor they said ought to have had them removed. But I told them they had been so negligent in previous years and left so many evidences of un-interestedness that it was impossible for me to have them all removed in one year.

     My friends discussed the remarkable qualities of David Remick’s light red colt, 2 years old. “He is built” they said much after the model of the old mare which had been an extraordinary beast and endured this life nearly 30 years. And whose wasted form is now beaten from Rye to Portsmouth two times a week in front of town females who ought to know better. The colt (which was grazing in the pasture by the roadside) it was predicted would make a remarkable fast trotter. And to give the company an idea of what will happen, Seavey cast a stone at the animal which caused her to leave off eating and raise head and tail and start off in a clever trot towards the woods. “See” said one “how she throws out her forward feet”. Then admiringly she spreads her hind feet to reach by the tracks made by the forward ones”. What a splendid appearance she makes with arched neck and busby tail trotting over the pasture at a 2:40 rate. It was noticed she was thin in flesh and David was spoken of as not good for keeping horse’s fat. Now David ought to know better. A man who has been round here 40 years ought to know that if his horses are poor than people will say so.

     By this time, we were traveling over the next district to ours over which my friend Emery Woodman has the honor to proceed as surveyor this year. He like myself finds glaring faults of his predecessors in office. And he if I may judge by the decision of our company will leave much to be done by his successors. I know not but that he has done as well as he could under the circumstances. For before there were huge piles of rocks in the road even in the travelling path and ridges so high that they seemed like bank fences between the different paths traveled by the horses and wheels. (Be it remembered this is written Monday). Now we had passed London Bridge and in full sight of the school house. Some were collected in front and many others snaking their way hither. Some from the east and some ahead and others behind us. All treading off boldly evidently aware of the importance of the occasion. When we had risen the bank in front of the house and people through the half open door, we discovered that there were three enclosed and 90 at the front door discussing different subjects. Soon our new minister came upon the bank and began to shake the hands of the Methodist Brethren. After he had been round and was yet talking with Brother Seavey the assembly walked into the school house. And after looking round I went in with the rest of our gang and we all took seats back from the floor.  We had been seated 5 minutes when the minister came in and walked to the seat behind the desk and kneeled a couple of minutes, probably to whisper a prayer, then raised himself and sat down facing us.

     Since we had been in the house my attention had been called to the interior appearance and arrangements of the school room. The order was not so neat as it might have been. Indeed every arrangement seemed to have been performed by immature hands. Yet there was one particular subject which immediately attracted notice, “It was Clean”. The floor, seats, desk, doors and finish had been severely scoured the previous Saturday with soap and sand. The bright spots upon the benches looked up to us smilingly as if to manifest their gratitude to the kindly hands that rescued them from oblivion. The seat upon which we sat was somewhat besprinkled with sand. The remnant of the scouring process of yesterday. I noticed one of the back windows was raised about 15 inches and supported by a huge ledge rock standing on end and about 1 foot in diameter which abstracted much attention from the worshiping congregation. Soon all were in and the preacher named and read the 63 hymn in the “Methodist Hymns” which Woodbury Seavey and E.M. Lang and several ladies sang through omitting the 4th verse. The stone in the window had made Brother Benjamin Odiorne rather uneasy and as soon as singing was done, he arose and cast it from the window after looking down the outside to see that no sinner was there.

                                                               June 2, 1859

     Today I have been to the dedication of the Methodist’s Church newly repaired and set in order for today. The expense of fitting it up has been borne by the ladies of the society. They caused the old two storied pulpit to be removed and in its place to be supplied by a very convenient modern desk and sofa sitting upon a rostrum raised 15 inches and extending in front of the desk to the first pews and of the width of the two body pews. Hitherto each pew has had a swinging door and on Sundays every family must be enclosed and the door secured with a brass button. But modernly as the good people’s hearts enlarge. Their consciences and crinoline (a hooped petticoat worn to make a long skirt stand out) demand a wider swing and it was discovered that these enclosing boards had begun to be serious annoyances to the extended modern costume of the “fair” portion of the minister’s congregation. Moreover these doors were found to be a source of much perplexity in the display of fine things on Sundays. And the ladies having the power and acting on these two suggestions cast them out of their house of worship.

     It so happens that our church is situated in a cozy place by the side of a hill where the sun in its glorious splendor has a chance to disperse it’s broad rays through the commodious windows. Vexationly crossing the vision of many of the church going people while attending services in the sanctuary. And my friends, the ladies, in order to limit the rays of the sun to the outside part of the house have caused it’s windows to be neatly blinded. (Painted Green)

     In by-gone days people wore heavy shoes even to meetings and it often occurred that their morning duties deterred them from church until after services had commenced and not unfrequently they were compelled by their tardiness to wend there across the aisles while the minister was expounding to his congregation. Thereby seriously disturbing his earnestness and sincerity.  To avoid this evil hence forth and forever and not to be disturbed by clumsy people’s feet anymore, our good ladies have admirably carpeted these necessary allies so that they are not only soft to the feet but also to the ears.

     The ladies what are always considered to be the most tasty in selecting colors for paint and acting their own pleasure caused the painting to be dictated by them and in their wisdom advised him (the painter) to paint the trimmings of the house white. They also said we will have the backs and seats and the places under the seats colored green. Again, they devised and caused the front and outside part of each pew to be covered with white. Yet again they spoke and the rails around the pews were stained with black walnut color. And again, they advised and said we will have the floor of the entry painted slate color and the trimmings and doors we will have grained with handsome rosewood.  “And now” they said we will have every part of the paint and grain work aforesaid nicely covered with a thinning coat of varnish.

     After all this it was discovered that as people were going through the aisles, especially strangers, they would be likely to cast glances sidewise into the different pews and observe their order of arrangement. Hence it was expedient that all carpets should be alike and all cushions of corresponding shades of green and therefore it was decided they should be purchased together as many as possible to avoid unpleasant allusions. Therefore, as soon as the house was set in order it was decided it should be dedicated on June 2nd, 1859 and Jonathan Hall of Portsmouth, N.H. was invited to deliver the dedicatory sermon. By which he did in a very appropriate manner surrounded by 5 other Methodist divines including our speaker Mr. Bailey.

                                                             June 24, 1859

      It is surprising how remarkably flexible the tongue of woman is on these unpleasant days. Where “two or three are gathered together” it is amazing to listen with what unbounded fluency the rabbling speeches of every variety are reeled off. They will chant for ½ hour on the tricks of one little baby. Saying a thousand words and apparently not breathing more than twice. If one has been to Portsmouth within a week or even a month, she will tell nearly everything word for word that transpired while she was on that eventful journey.  If one of her chickens has recently died, she will give its history with a glibness scarcely surpassed even by modern magnetic telegraph. She is as cute with the trials of her neighbor as was Douglas Jerrold with the shortcomings of Landon Life. And of all the pride and glory of the country wife her pig takes the foremost rank. When neighbors meet every little trait of his character is clearly delineated. All the goods and the bads are talked of with vigor and decision and then with a knowing look and a forgiving tone it is quaintly said “some pigs will do so” you know.

                                                             Aug 3, 1859

     This day of our Lord we struck the first blow towards the completion of the New Powder Magazine at the Navy Yard near Kittery, Maine. At 6 in the morning, 5 of us Samuel A. Trefethen, Joseph R. Holmes, Joseph W. Odiorne, Horace L. Trefethen, and myself aimed our way to Portsmouth with pickaxes, bars and shovels and there we procured the services of a small “dory” with 3 oars and a rudder and tiller, into which we got with our implements. My hand on the tiller, Holmes and Horace pulling and J.W. Odiorne looking on with his oar for want of thole pins.   With Samuel anchored on the seat nearest the aft room to look out for breakers. We had a fine passage over and our boat struck the floating stage just as the tongue of the navy bell struck for the seventh time. After mustering on the wharf with our executing tools on our backs we formed two sections and started a lively march towards the scene of action. Directly in front of us were 200 or 300 men collected around the navy muster office. (Ready to answer to their names) Who seemed to be rather a formidable array for us to march through in our journey. But before we came up to where they were, half of them were gone after saying “Here” and the remainder respectfully drew back and let us pass unmolested. We soon gained the open side wall in front of the Commodores house and marched solitarily on with “eyes and ears open” until we came to the fence. Whence the drain for the building starts for low water in good sound condition for the work. With our tools for the labor and something in our kettles to refresh us when the sun reached the meridian. After we had surveyed the premises to see which town we were in, we stretched our line for one side of the drain and the work was commenced with vigor. Half an hour found us in a trench 10 feet long and 20 inches deep and by night we lengthened it to more than 15 feet at a clever depth and some was left for tomorrow.

(Supply’s brother Samuel A. is (37) and lives on Wallis Road by Lang’s Corner. Joseph O. is (23) and is living next door to Supply on Sagamore Road, Horace L. Trefethen is (25) and is Supply’s nephew and lives directly on Trefethen’s Corner.  J.R. Holmes (28) lives in Portsmouth and Supply is (26) and lives on Sagamore Road by Trefethen’s Corner.)

                                                                Aug 8, 1859

     We resumed work again this morning with renewed energy and also with an addition to our “gang” having this morning added Joseph W. Seavey and Elbridge A. Thomas. Who dressed themselves in frocks and overalls and marched to “town” with their dinners in their kettles suspended by their fingers ready for the days labor and after collecting at the foot of Pickering Street. Seven of us boarded our “dory” and with two oars, pulled to the landing at the navy yard and thence on foot to the building (or rather where the building will be) arriving exactly at 7 of the clock in pretty good order for work. Which was begun again in good earnest and carried on through the day.

(Elbridge (28) lives across the street from Horace Trefethen on Trefethen’s Corner. Joseph W. Seavey is (24) and living near Supply on Lang’s Corner.)

(They worked on the Powder Magazine with many other locals hired throughout the end of 1859. Because much of the 1860 diary is missing  it is unknown when the Magazine was completed.)

                                                          January 21, 1862

Breaking out the roads (plowing). Joseph W. Seavey, John Odiorne, Elbridge A. Thomas, Daniel Trefethen Jr., Albert B. Trefethen and myself. Asserting with 4 yoke of oxen attached to a sled across which is a log chained to the bar under the “nose” to sweep the snow as we go down around the district. We invited Brother Seavey to assist with his oxen but he declined with the excuse that he is fatting his oxen and if they were taken out to work in the road today they would lose more flesh then they would give in a week. So in true Methodist style we said no more but preserved and accomplished a good path by 11 am. Now we prepare to go to the yard this afternoon and labor as we have done nothing there since Saturday.  

                                                         February 20, 1862

A severe snow storm prevailed the most of last night depositing another foot of snow upon the two feet that has previously come down this winter. So that we now have smart 3 feet of solid snow upon this earth hereabouts. And we have had no January or February thaw so far this winter and the snow, as it now lies, is very solid. Each cubic foot being enough to make 3 quarts of water, making 9 quarts of water to every square foot of land in this town. Which would cover it with 2 ½ or 3 inches of water. We are yet at work on the navy yard when the weather is fitting and have been since April 29, 1861 with a prospect for a job 2 or 3 weeks longer. There have been launched from the yard since that time 4 vessels, 2 side wheel viz; “Sebago” and “Mahaska” and 2 propellers, “Kearsarge” and “Ossipee” 

                                                       December 28, 1862

     Don’t you like to milk the cows? Won’t you give me this book for a scrap “book”? The above questions were profound by my better half. The first named duty devolved upon me tonight. Those who usually attend to that duty being absent one other day. I have to record the death last evening of our last gold fish. Who gave up the ghost because he was alone and for no other reason that can be given by Abe Lincoln or any other inexperienced Doctor of the present day.

     From this time on his writings consist of his work at the navy yard in the fall and winter. He works on many famous ships including the USS Constitution and the USS Kearsarge and becomes a leader of crews at the yard. In the spring and summer, he deals with his farm, construction on homes, bridges and hotels in the area. He sells produce, eggs, apples, hay and cider throughout the area, as well as, shipments to Portsmouth and Boston. Throughout his life he is an employer to many locals on most of his projects. He is a leader in education and becomes a member of the school board in Rye. In 1904 he is voted as a Representative to Concord by the town. He dies in 1907 as the last survivor of 12 children.

History of Town Hall

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

Note – At the town museum there is an illustrated, hard copy version of this history; others will have a different perspective of how events unfolded in the last few years leading up to 2023

– 1839: post and beam Methodist church built to last centuries; similar to town farm houses;

           Rye Center Walker family of carpenters probably involved in construction as they were

           with the Third Rye Congregational Church in 1837 (burned in 1959) and the First Rye

          Christian Church (site of Fire/Police Station today) also in 1839. (burned in 1889)

– 1873: purchased and renovated by town; opened as town hall for government and many     

                 social functions.

Town meetings were lively affairs with many controversies aired, sometimes fueled by rum

– Late 1800’s & early 1900’s:  significant interior upgrades such as tin ceiling, chandelier,

           electrification, stage, etc. plus two extensions off the rear of building; town hall continues

          to be center of political and social life in Rye including lively theater from the 1890’s on

1890s into next century – regular live performances of all kinds on stage; attracted many from Portsmouth via trolley; i. e. the farce – “Freezing a Mother in Law” followed by refreshments of ice cream and oysters and then dancing! (Museum has playbills of all the performances)

Many fraternal, literary and other social groups rented the hall along with the Grange

– 1920’s and on – wild basketball games added to the hall’s activities; downstairs continues to have Indoor outhouse, kitchen, wood stove, chairs etc. Selectmen meet here but more often at home of town clerk …

– Rye Players theatrical group staged plays from 1930s up to early 1970s

Church Christmas fairs were annual events at the hall and everything for sale was hand made

8th grade graduations were held in town hall, after the graduates marched from the school

– Mid 20th century: Hall still being used for town meeting, election, Rye school graduation      and many social events; downstairs was wide open with bathroom, a wood stove and chairs

      where selectmen met. Town clerk was Raelene White who worked out of her house in a     

     little office on Cable Rd.   Square dancing common which caused the floor to jump off first floor supports!  Even RJH Minstrel shows were staged as late as the early 60s before we knew any better.

– 1956 – Rye Elementary school opens – it is possible that town meeting and election moved        there at this time or soon thereafter     

– Late50’s/early 60’s – town municipal court room built; (court moved to Portsmouth in late       70’s?) ;  “court room” also  used for town govt. and other meeting space.

1964 – Esther Parsons sells to First National Bank 3 ½ acres; deed restricts commercial use of        the building only to another bank or a private home; discussion of municipal use of the        building (which is not commercial) never enters the discussion so it is only an opinion as to        what we think Esther would approve of today.

1966 –New Rye Junior High Gym opens; soon thereafter town meeting moved to this new and      larger gym.

National and state political events were common at town hall, especially during primary season

1975:  Through a citizen’s initiative, revenue sharing funds were used to create office for town             clerk/tax collector with additional meeting room in back of building that was used for               BOS and is now being used by the building inspector. See sep.doc. on this topic

1978 – last stage performance at town hall: “Heloise and Abelard;” 1980 – 1985 hall continued         to be used for political rallies, wedding receptions and a big two- day Rye Bi-centennial       exhibit in fall of 1985, the last event.

1986: One half of the hall is converted to temporary office space; the other half was used for        town government meeting space and exhibit space for the Rye Historical Society

Early 1990’s – One member of BOS crawls up in roof area and discovers that there is no              insulation above tin ceiling and insulation is then put in there.

early 2000’s – the other half of the hall and stage turned into temporary office space; all          town government services provided to those with disabilities on first floor in courtroom

  1. 2006 – new roof shingles installed
  2. 2010 – a geothermal heating/cooling system was installed.

2011 – forward:  Painting and exterior clapboard maintenance was deferred due to

      indecision about warrant articles relating to town hall.

2011 – he Rye Heritage Commission (RHC) was established: The purpose of such        commissions is to actively promote historic preservation which includes fund raising and       advocacy. The commission has been strongly engaged in preserving the town hall and      promoting plans for its renovation and expansion.

2012 – The RHC invited a professional from the NH Dept. of Historic Resources to examine the        structural integrity of the building and it was pronounced to be in good shape.

  1. 2013 – A professional historical/architectural study of the building by Sarah Hall of the Rye Heritage Commission was done in conjunction with placing the building on the State       Register of Historic Places.

2015 – The Rye Town Hall was placed on the “Seven to Save“  list  of historical structures in the            state by the NH Preservation Alliance. This status opens up grant potential to support           incremental upgrading of town hall

 Since 2011:

     Warrant articles by the selectmen as well as those by petition have attempted to      renovate and add on to the building, but they have all been defeated. Although voters have approved architectural designs etc., they have rejected all multi million expansion/renovation proposals. Demolition appeared on at least one warrant article since 2016 but has been rejected.   

  1. 2012 – the BOS sponsored a survey of citizens to determine their wishes about renovating or replacing the town hall. Those who responded (approx. 140 indicated by a clear majority they did not want to demolish the building.     
  2. 2014-15 – architectural engineers (SMP and others) examined the building and concurred with the NHDHR finding above that the building is structurally sound.

2017 –      A petitioned article by John Loftus and others passed by 55% (2017) which sought              support, but NO money, to pursue plans for demolishing the town hall and replacing it             with  a new one. Also in 2017 a petitioned warrant article for $500,000 to repair and              provide  several upgrades  to town hall did not pass (received  45% support)

late 2017:  The BOS declared that there is money in the current budget (building maint. fund: $75K for painting based on an estimate and another estimated $20k for wood replacement) Peeling paint does not indicate a building is decrepit.

 2018 –   The Board of Selectmen put forth a warrant article (Article 12) to purchase the

      available bank property and move the most heavily used services (town clerk/tax collector)       to the renovated bank building. Attorneys including the town attorney state that this use is      not a conflict with the original deed which mentions nothing about municipal use which      would be similar to the use made by bank employees and residents for 52 years.      

        In household mailings, supporters of a new town hall (Article 9) incorrectly assert that:  the        town hall suffers from mold or potential mold, it lacks structural integrity, it and will         require supporting steel beams and other debatable statements. It has ben made clear in        the past that only in a major renovation of town hall would any of these issues potentially         apply. 

 New town hall supporters have also raised legal  issues around the   1964 deed         from Esther Parsons in which she sold 3 ½ acres to the Frist national Bank of  Portsmouth.                  

      (see above – 1964) They have asserted that municipal use goes against Esther’s       wishes and would create legal complications.  They claim that when Esther Parsons was asked to change the deed in the late 80’s for a town mega plex in Parsons Woods she      refused and that this indicates she was against the bank being used for municipal purposes.

      This proposal does not relate to the bank building but a piece of land at the back      end of the property. Additionally, in letters to the editor and in a mailing to all homes the       new town hall committee incorrectly conflated the bank property transaction (1964) with        another transaction to the town – the field and forest on the other side of Esther’s house in the late 70’s to the Parson’s Park Corporation.

      It can be strongly argued by those who knew Esther Parsons, as I did, that she loved the     town hall and  would have had no problem with the former bank being used for municipal       purposes.

  On March 13, 2018 voters rejected articles 9 and 12 by similar margins. (878 to723).

 March 2018 – the vote of the town means that exterior wood will be replaced and it will be       painted  with money in the current budget.(bldg. maint. fund).   March 26 – At first meeting of new Select Board, it was discussed that RFP’s need to be sent out       to get a firm cost on wood repair and painting;  one member suggested that if there is not enough in the bldg. maint. fund, the most needed repair    and painting could be done and then seek the       balance in 2018. New member Roman, who voted for the new town hall, asks if painting might be deferred so as not       to use up all the bldg. maint.  fund . The obvious response is:  what is the purpose of a bldg. maint.      fund other than to do obvious maintenance, especially for a building that has suffered as much      deferred maintenance as town hall? Elected officials need to do the will of the people, regardless of how they voted on any given issue.

    Now that the voters have decided, The Rye Heritage Commission may go forward with its plan to seek grants and through other fund raising for the incremental modest upgrades of town hall.  The     commission is committed to raising money, seeking matching   grants and modest requests   from tax     payers for future interior maintenance  including: expansion   of bath room to make it ADA  compliant,     new storm windows and window repair, needed insulation  any necessary electrical work, etc. Anyone     with a disability has  access to all town hall services in the first floor meeting room.  As long as the       town hall  does not do any major renovation, it is not out of compliance with ADA. Others have       suggested that a better configuration of the existing office space at town hall will free up more space     for any employee whose space is currently inadequate. (i.e. – the right side of the hall upstairs is very       much underused. In addition, this year the town clerk’s office will have an interior wall removed to      provide  more space.

The Rye Town Hall has stood well the test of time: all kinds of severe weather, heavy public use, deferred maintenance and eight years of failed warrant articles including threats of demolition.  The historic and solidly built Rye Town Hall has spoken loud and clear – “Regular maintenance and reasonable upgrades are all I need. Do the will of the people now!”

2019 – town hall painted

2020 – townhall placed on national reg. of hist places

             Parsonage apartment bldgs. demolished

2021 – town center agreement – opens way for reopening of 2nd fl. townhall auditorium – cap. 200+             

2023 – town hall annex, former bank, opens for some town hall employees, but those left at town hall  still using both  floors

Plans need to be made for further renovation of town hall to get employees off 2nd floor and auditorium back in use for the town.

History of Town Reports – A Political History Rye

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

All communities create an annual written document of the work of town government and its citizens. The town museum has town reports from 1863 to the present and a few scattered earlier ones. When Sandy Beach became the parish of Rye in 1726 town officials began to be elected to office and RHS has some early info on town government. In the 1800s there was only one narrative report, but lots of  statistics that give some insight into the political life of the town.  The only written report was that of the town school superintendent. In the late 1860s and beyond he berated the unwillingness of “cheap” tax payers to fund an upgrade of the decrepit East School. With no fear of litigation in those days, he wrote that the town would soon have a graveyard for the students and teacher who would all freeze to death if action was not taken. In the 1870s some repairs were finally made, but it took Rye resident Professor Parsons of the Univ. of Penn., to privately fund the construction of the new East School on Brackett Road in 1896 using local beach stones.

Early town reports include information on taxes collected, money borrowed from residents to pay town bills in anticipation of taxes, road and bridge repair, insect control, support of “tramps,” school statistics, warrant articles voted up or down, births, marriages, deaths, etc.  In 1886 school superintendent Oren Green wrote a glowing report on Clara, the teacher at West School on Washington Road. He had fallen in love with her and they were married two years later and two of their sons, Harry and Charlie Green, would become well known characters in the next century and leave their mark on the town.

Starting in the 20th century, heads of departments and boards began writing narrative reports along with statistics to give a fuller picture of the town’s political life. By the end of the century, the town report included much more detailed accounts, especially of warrant articles discussed at town meeting and later the deliberative session, as well as the results of the vote in town election. The town report has appeared in various shapes and sizes, but in this century has settled into the format we are used to. For the first two decades of this century, Priscilla Jenness did a wonderful job off illustrating the town report with historic photos, information and anecdotes as well as dedications and memorial tributes..

Many are not aware that the Rye Public Library served as a repository of all printed historical items related to Rye before we had a museum. In fact, in the new addition of 1997, a New Hampshire room was created with a large oval conference table and all that material about Rye and beyond is located there. On the town web site, town reports are accessible from 2007, but all the reports are digitized by UNH. ( https://scholars.unh.edu/rye_nh_reports/57/ )  For those who prefer the paper version, all town reports maybe found in the library’s NH Room.

History of Trolley in Rye

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

             Much of this is from newspaper accounts

In 1899 a test run of the trolley to Rye was a success. The Herald reported that on the 4th of July the trolley reached the north end of town. A hearing to extend a trolley line to the North Hampton railroad station saw many in support of it because of the arduous climb for horses up Breakfast Hill to the Greenland depot.  An extension of the trolley to Hampton was granted, but it would run behind the mansions at Little Boars Head. 

News reports told of the trolley being a real boon for blueberry picking in August and riders were seen boarding the cars with baskets brimming with the sweet berries. The trolley opened as far as Lang’s Corner in late August. On September 1st the line was open to Rye Center from 8 am on the hour for ten cents. In October a large contingent from Portsmouth took “the electrics” (trolley) to town hall for a gala evening of music and dancing and refreshments of ice credam and oysters (strong stomachs!)  returning in the wee hours of the morning.

The coming of the Portsmouth Electric Street railway to Rye in 1899 was a local transportation revolution. When the trolley first rumbled down the tracks, Alfred Philbrick’s dog Carlo raced out to attack it and was killed, a sad reminder of the dangers brought by the industrial age.  Langdon Seavey vowed never to ride on the “monster of the devil” and Professor Parsons was also defiant: “Not on my boulevard!” But the wider world had finally opened to everyone and soon riders could travel all over the New Hampshire and Maine seacoast. From Sagamore Road, the trolley turned onto Wallis at Lang’s Corner farmhouse and on through to the center, down Central past the Farragut by Bass Beach and on to Hampton Beach.

This revolution in convenient travel transformed communities like Rye because now workers could easily commute to the Navy yard and beyond, mail was delivered more efficiently, students could attend Portsmouth high school and shopping and entertainment were just minutes away. It is not known when the first horseless carriage appeared on the dusty roads of Rye, but it is likely that some were seen alongside the trolley, especially at Rye Beach. These early and quaint contraptions would transform the modern world. The baleful impact of the decade-long depression in the 1890’s that crippled large parts of the nation reached Rye with the news of the uprising of poor and desperate people in New York City. Their outrage was triggered by a gala party at a Fifth Avenue mansion.  But it was the dawn of a new century that would bring unimaginable change to Rye and beyond.

On the 24th the trolley reached its top speed of 30 miles per hour when it rushed Mr. Philbrick from Rye Center to Market Square in 11 minutes, so that a doctor could bind up his serious axe wound. To power the trolley in Rye Center, W.C. Edwards got the contract to construct a 160’ x 10’ building to house the largest battery in the U.S. On the 30th vandals placed a wagon on the track and the trolley plow smashed it to bits. Portsmouth Marshall Entwistle warned that the perpetrators would be made to suffer if apprehended.

On June 2, Gen. Gilman Marston commanded that all Union Veterans of Portsmouth report to the trolley at 9:50 am for divine services at the Congregational Church in Rye and forty-five attended. A romantic sight was reported by night trolley riders near Abenaki where Italian workmen, building Ocean Boulevard, had their camps with fires illuminating the night sky. 

An orchard carnival in Rye Center attracted many Portsmouth residents on the electrics. Clearly, city residents were always looking for a cool diversion in Rye from the heat of the river city. On August 14, the Christian Society of Rye held a lawn party at the Jenness Beach corner, attracting many from Portsmouth. A brilliant German (dance) was given at the Farragut, resplendent with much adornment, enjoyed by 30 couples. An electric (trolley) returning from Rye struck and killed an elderly woman at the corner of Richards and Middle streets, the first fatality caused by a trolley. 

In late November, a trolley rider got off near Jenness Beach and then passed out on the track. When the electric was on its return run it came within a foot of running him over, the motorman applying all his strength to stop the car just in time. They took him to the Portsmouth police station where he spent the night and then sobered up quickly when told the shocking news of his near-death experience in the morning.  On the 13th the Rye basketball team was defeated by Delapoon Junior team from Massachusetts 28-6 at the town hall. The next night C.O. Philbrick, Harry Moulton and Byron Jenness held a dance at the town hall with the Portsmouth City Band providing the music.

At the turn of the 1900s the Rye Town Hall was one of the most active live entertainment venues in the seacoast, hosting theater, dancing, educational events and basketball. The trolley brought everyone to these lively events.


In 1902 Seacoast trolley riders had 200 miles of track to take them almost anywhere. The interstate trolley system was now so extensive that you could travel, circuitously, from Boston to the seacoast and on to Portland with many branch lines to reach your destination.

There are more anecdotes on the trolley during the next 20 years in the Herald. 

In the teens the trolley began to have financial problems. The Portsmouth Electric Street Railroad was finally terminated due to the rise of  automobiles and buses in 1925.  No longer would young people be able to hang off the outside of the trolley and avoid paying the fare. The trolley had served Rye and the seacoast well for over twenty-five years. The tyranny of the auto would eventually diminish public rail transportation to such a degree that it would never again have such extensive, non-polluting service in the country 


                     Notes from booklet in museum “History of the Portsmouth Electric Railroad”

Cars and rails built by Boston and Maine RR, by a company in Laconia – but poor maintenance and system always lost $

1899 – some in Rye protested the disruption trolley would cause and loss of prop values

From Market Square to Rye: 5.5 miles in 27 minutes – fare was 5 cents

(Ports – Hamp Bch – 10.3 mi.)

To Miller Ave in 6 min

To Went Rd. – 6 min

To Lang’s cor – 4 min

To Rye center – 7 min

The variation in time is caused by other stops not listed such as Foyes Cor and Trefethen’s Cor

        White Rock house on Sag. Rd., etc.

There was a short side route  from Central to Rand’s Grove on Cable Rd.

All cars were called ‘trains”

At hamp. North Beach – a 300’ siding to turn around

Special navy yard runs for commuting form Rye

Demand for service increased in teens

1924 – service ended at Central and Cable – no more hamp ch

Sat night – more runs because Portsmouth wanted to go to Rye town hall entertainment and beach

There was a trolley shuttle form Little Boars Head to No H RR depot

Jan 1918 8 weeks of blizzard and trolley stopped replaced by sleighs

Trains (cars) 20 closed and 13 open with benches

1916 B and M RR bankrupt and taken over by US rail agency; ports electric now on its own

May 16, 1925 – the last run to Rye, replaced by busses

History of War Monument in Rye Center

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

According to the Town Report for the year ending January 31, 1920, the selectmen voted for “Patriotic purposes: Aid to G.A.R. and Soldiers’ Memorial $1510…. J.W Berry, Memorial Day appropriation. $10   E.A. Tucker, Soldiers’ memorial appropriation, $1500.” (The Grand Army of the Republic- term still in use from the Civil War to designate the US Army.)

Using The History of Rye, NH by Langdon Parsons 1905, the town listed on the monument those who served in World War I, including the three who died, as well as those who served in the Spanish American War and Civil War. For some reason they did not include earlier conflicts   which Parsons’ history lists including the thirty- nine who died it the Revolutionary War.

Thanks to the leadership of World War II veteran Maynard L. Young Jr. and others, the 244 names of those from Rye who served in WW II were added to the monument in 2000. Richard Goss was the one Rye man who died in that war. No further names have been added since 2000. Research needs to be done on those who served in more recent wars and their names added to the monument, but we do know that two Rye men lost their lives in the Viet Nam war: Michael Geister (Army) and Andre Marcotte (Marines).

A century ago, there were very few cars in Rye, the first one not having been registered until 1913. When the monument was built most of the traffic was still powered by real horses as well as scheduled stops in front of the monument by the trolley (1899 – 1927). With increased vehicular traffic over the years, it has been increasingly difficult for pedestrians to access the monument. For this reason, one of the suggestions from the Plan NH session to improve Rye Center (June 2019) was to reconfigure the Washington/Central Road interchange to create a T stop for Central and Washington roads to control speeding and tear up all the excess pavement on the hill and create a small park incorporating the soldier’s memorial which would be moved a few feet from its present location.

Over the years Rye has always honored its war dead on Memorial Day. Jim Cullen, Vietnam war veteran, was organizer of Memorial Day events for years and now it is the Rye Rec dept who handles it. In the late 1900s there was a big Memorial Day parade from RJH to the town green by the cemetery.

Taps and the echo of Taps was always played at the Memorial Day service, but at some point in this century it stopped, perhaps for lack of trumpeters?  buglers? Rye ought to be able to revive this very moving part of the service. See: From here to Eternity by James Jones p 218-220 for an unforgettable rendering of Taps.

Below are the words that go with Taps.

“Day  is done…

Gone the sun…



From the sky

Rest in peace

Sol jer brave

God  is nigh…”

Although there is currently no small store, Rye Center has all the elements of a classic New England village: church, town hall, library, museum, fire/police, cemetery, school, fine historic houses and a monument to honor those who served in the military. We look forward to the day when people will slow down to enjoy all that Rye Center has to offer.

History of WWI in Rye

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023  

Rye Residents Who Served in World War I

                   (* died in the war)

Arthur L Brown                                   Rollo A Morton   

Charles W Brown                               Charles W Parsons

James W Brown                                 George F Parsons

William Brown                                    John L Parsons

Philip Davidson                                   George O Philbrick

Willard Drake                                      Manning H Philbrick

Earnest G. Eaton                                 Seth R Rand   

J Russell Elwell                                     Willard E Rand*

Donald Finlayson                                 Albert M Remick

Herbert O Foss                                     Austin F Remick

Wallace h Garrett                                Erwin G Seavey 

Forest G Jenness                                  Maurice Smart

Maurice A Jenness                               Norris Trefethen

Thornton W Jenness                            Philip W Tucker*

Burleigh Johnson                                  Ernest M Varrell

Harry Keltcher                                       Jesse M Walker

Calvin Lear                                             Garland F Wynott

Thomas D McGlaughlin*                     Maynard L Young

                            WWI Program – Songs of the war era –  RHS  11/14/18

Intro comments by Alex Herlihy

Approximately 40 million people lost their lives in WW1. Three of them were from Rye

Here is the medal and photo of Willard Rand, whose family helped build the town. 117,000 American lost their lives in the war and 204,000 were wounded. Other men from our town who served in the war returned and some of their wounds did not show, but they were never right again. They witnessed unspeakable horrors that would haunt them to their graves. One of those walking wounded was Jess Walker, who sometime in the 1920’s left his Rye center home and built a cottage in the woods behind the church and lived as a semi hermit until his death in 1967. The museum has artifacts on display from his home.

In his speech on Sunday under the Arc De Triumph, French president Macron spoke inspirationally about the need to work for a lasting peace and he called out the forces of nationalism that brought on the war and warned that those forces still threaten the world today. He also noted that over one billion shells fell on French soil. Here is one of them from the battle of St. Mihiel near the end of the war, crafted into a vase and brought home by one of Rye’s veterans. One quarter of all American war dead were lost in this Meuse Argonne offensive during the last two months of the war.    

There are other WWI items from Rye on display on the table, one of them a vase made from an artillery shell.

At age 26 Henri Alain-Fournier published his first novel “Le Grand Meaulnes” (The Wanderer) in 1913, a masterpiece of modern French literature. He was working on his 2nd novel when he was killed in the second month of the war, one of over a million French dead. We Americans know from our own bitter war experiences that not all soldiers believe in the political aims of the wars they find themselves in, but their courage and loyalty to their comrades keeps them fighting. One such man was Wilfred Owen, a British soldier who wrote poetry in the trenches. He was home on leave in the fall of 1918 and then returned to the fight. He was killed one week before the armistice, one of almost a million British who died. Here is one of his poems.  

Read satirical poem by English poet Wilfred Owen who died in the tranches one week before the armistice: 11/11/1918 – “Dulce et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori” – (the old lie) “It is Sweet and Dignified to Die for Your Country.”

I highly recommend this little book as a means of confronting the forces of darkness and war: “On Tyranny: 20 lessons from the 20th century” by Timothy Snyder

History of WWI Vet, Jesse Walker

Alex Herlihy, Town Historian, 2023

There is a photo of students in front of the Wedgwood School in Rye Center about 1905. Jess Walker is among the students, but he cannot be identified and It may be the only photo of him. Jess was one of thirty- six Rye men who served in World War I, three of whom died. Of those who return from war, there are always many who suffer different degrees of psychological damage, the more severe of which is called today Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is only in recent decades that this disorder has been taken seriously and treated. In earlier wars and on other occasions where people experienced trauma, they suffered in silence. It is not clear if Jesse suffered from the war. He may have had a falling out with his family.

At some point in the 1920s Jesse moved out of the family home on Washington Road between Jenness Store and the church and moved to the rear of the family land, bordered by the back of the church and the cemetery. There he built a small, rustic cottage and some out-buildings and lived off the grid. Jesse was very talented as a tree surgeon which made him skilled at working high off the ground with ropes. Apparently, he did not like many visitors, but he always liked a visit from Mr. Moynahan who lived near the entrance to the cemetery and would walk through the graves to visit Jesse.

Jesse was not fond of Mr. Wilson who with his wife Mildred owned the Parsonage Inn across from the church. One night Jess hoisted some antiques of Mildreds from her antique shop up on the telephone wires to irritate the Wilsons. On another occasion he climbed up the church steeple and rang the bell int eh middle of the night, escaping on ropes when the police arrived. Jesse had guns and they never bothered him.

It is not uncommon for people to live in the backlands of any town, as a means of shutting out the modern world for whatever reason they choose. Harry Green was another such person, a contemporary of Jesse and they may well have known each other. One wonders if Jesse made friends with any of the other WWI vets who returned to Rye. Living by and keeping to oneself does not make a person a hermit, but that term may well have applied to Jesse who prized his independence and his solitude. When he did have visitors, such as Mr. Moynahan who would walk form his house across the cemetery to Jesse’s house, they would share in his home- made whiskey, also not uncommon, especially during Prohibition 1920-1933.

After Jess died in 1967 Louise Tallman rescued some artifacts from his little village, mostly carved wooden objects, some quite amusing, and they can be seen at the town museum along with some photos of his place. Eventually Jesse’s place was demolished to make way for church parking expansion.

Jesse Walker is a prime example of those fiercely independent people who are able to carve out a solitary life for themselves in our communities.

Topics: Alphabetical listing

(Below A-Z you will find this listing by category)

Rye History Topic: Time frame

African Americans: comprehensive over time
Aging communities: recent study of towns like Rye in NH
Anniversaries/holiday: observances comprehensive inclu. mil., pol., social etc.
Atlantic and Farragut hotels :1840s – 1880s

Baseball: from 1800s
Battle of Rye Harbor: part of War of 1812 (1814)
Businesses in Rye: 1950s
Carberry’s store and beyond 1920s to present
Central Cemetery from 1893 when it was established
Center school (RJH) property history from 1800s to present
Childhood memories of 1890s by Emma Foss, Central Road
Churches from the first in 1726
Citizen petition to renovate Town Hall 1975
Coastal tour film narration Bass Beach on No. H. line to Odiorne Pt.
Diary of Supply Foss Trefethen excerpt from late 1850s/early 1860s
Diary of George Lang 1871-1901 excerpts over time
Drake House hotel from 1873 to present
Drinking/taverns/alcohol abuse comprehensive
Dumping and recycling comprehensive
Education/schools from first schools in 1800s to present
Eel Pond comprehensive
Families of 20 th c. 1900s
Fire -fighting/fire dept comprehensive
Farming comprehensive
First Light Infantry in Rev. War 1770s and revival in 1970s
Fishing comprehensive
Five century Marston house 1600s, 1700s, 1800s; moved to Rye: 1975, 2005 additions
Founding Families from 1600s and 1700s (43)
Golf late 1800s – present

Goss Farm from 1600s to the present
Graveyards/burial grounds 60+ at former family farms
Green, Harry and Charlie “Townies” of Rye in early/mid 1900s
Growing up in Rye Center, early 1800s researched and imagined essay by Jessie Herlihy
Herlihy, Jessie 1930s – 1989
Herlihy, David 1939 – 2015
Hotels of Rye from 1846 to 1920
Houses built before 1901 approx. 317
Housing developments Straw’s Pt./ Concord Pt communities in 1800s to present
International cable station 1874 – 1922
Laighton family on shoals from 1839 to death of Oscar Laighton in 1900s
Lafayette Road from 1600s “Long Lane to Lafayette Hghy. in 1825 to present
Land conservation early efforts, conserv. com., land trusts, donations, easements
Landmarks natural and built environment
Life- saving stations/shipwrecks 1872 – to 1930s
Maj. John Parsons in Florida mid 1800s
Manchester colony from early 1900s off Wallis Sands Rd ½ mi. from blvd.
Mills from late 1600s into 1800s
Native Peoples 1600s
Natural & cultural hist inventory comprehensive list
NH state facilities in Rye 1960s: two beaches, two state parks, one harbor marina/pier
NH National Guard Camp Winant 1920s/30s, the artillery unit in Rye every August
Odiorne Pt 1623 settlement David Thomson and others by J. Dennis Robinson
Odiorne Pt time line (1 p./ 24 p from 1600s to present
Oil refinery battle in Rye 1973/74; RHS pub. book “Rye’s Battle of the Century,” Lisa Moll
Parsons family descendants Langdon Parsons from the 1600s to late 1900s
Parsons Park late 1970s, grassroots effort save 50 acres- public land in center
Policing from 1800s to present
Quiz on Rye History from Rye history time line

Restaurants/snack bars starting in 1920s
Revolutionary War 39 who died/ 121 served
Rye Historical Society from its founding in 1976
Rye Beach Precinct bldg. from 1919, meeting rm. 2 nd floor, fire station/ PO on 1st
Rye Center comprehensive
Rye Civic League history from 1968 – 1993 and 2009 to present
Rye, East Sussex, England by their museum director Jo Kirkham
Rye Harbor comprehensive
Rye Public Library from 1911 to present
Salt marsh restoration near Rye Harbor 2001 – 2005
St Louis connection to Rye late 1800s to present
Stores/gift shops, etc. from early 1800s to mid-1900s
Straw’s Point community inventory of houses starting in 1870s
Studebaker family letters from WWI era; 1917 house on Blvd. by Church Rd.
Sunken forest from 4000 years ago; recent sightings
Surfing from 1960s to present
Tallman, Louise Rye historian from 1960s to 2011
Town govt/ civic engagement comprehensive
Town Hall from 1873, former Meth. /Episcopal church built in 1839
Town museum c. 1930 antique shop, mid 1900s apt., 2002 Rye Town Museum
Town reports from 1863 to present – a history of town govt year by year
Trolley in Rye from 1899 to 1925
Water surface and underground
Walker, Jess – WWI vet 1900s
War monument in center built in 1919 with names of those who served in most of wars
World War I those who served including 3 who died
World War II 244 who served plus narrative history

Rye History Topics by Category


Atlantic and Farragut hotels 1840s – 1880s
Drake House hotel from 1873 to present
Hotels of Rye from 1846 to 1920
Boarding houses from mid 1800s – into 1900s

Burial grounds

Graveyards 60+ at former family farms
Central Cemetery from 1893 when it was established


Taverns/Drinking problems comprehensive
Restaurants/snack bars starting in 1920s
Businesses in Rye 1950s
Carberry’s store and beyond 1920s to present
Stores/gift shops, etc. from early 1800s to mid-1900s


Diary of Supply Foss Trefethen excerpt from late 1850s/early 1860s
Diary of George Lang 1871-1901 excerpts over time
Other diaries late 1800s/early 1900s


Center school (RJH) property history from 1800s to present
Education/schools from first schools in 1800s to present


Farming comprehensive
Goss Farm from 1600s to the present


Rye Harbor comprehensive
Fisherfolk over time


Houses built before 1901 approx. 317

Five century Marston house 1600s, 1700s, 1800s; moved to Rye: 1975, 2005 additions
Housing developments Straw’s Pt./ Concord Pt communities in 1800s to present
Straw’s Point community inventory of houses starting in 1870s
Manchester colony from 1920s

Isles of Shoals

Overview of history from early 1600s – present
Laighton family on Shoals from 1839 to death of Oscar Laighton early 1900s


Battle of Rye Harbor part of War of 1812 (1814)
Walker, Jess – WWI vet 1900s
War monument in center built in 1919 with names of those who served in most of wars
World War I those who served including 3 who died
World War II 244 who served plus narrative history
NH National Guard Camp Winant 1920s/30s, the artillery unit in Rye every August
First Light Infantry Rev. War 1770s and revival in 1970s
Revolutionary War 39 who died/ 121 served

Natural areas/conservation

Eel Pond comprehensive
Natural & cultural hist inventory comprehensive list
Salt marshes & restoration near Rye Harbor 2001 – 2005
Water surface and underground
Sunken forest from 4000 years ago; recent sightings
Land conservation early efforts, Conserv. Com., land trusts, donations, easements
Parsons Park late 1970s, grassroots effort save 50 acres- public land in center

NH state Facilities in Rye

Odiorne Pt State park c, 1961
Ragged neck state park c. 1950s/60s
Jenness state beach 1962
Rye Harbor State pier 1962
Wallis Sands State Beach 1964

Odiorne Point

Odiorne Pt 1623 settlement David Thomson and others by J. Dennis Robinson
Odiorne Pt time line (1 p./ 24 p from 1600s to present


Rye Civic League from 1968

Rye Historical Society from its founding in 1976
Town museum c. 1930 antique shop, mid 1900s apt., 2002 Rye Town Museum
Darning Needle Club first half of 1900s
Grange 1800s into 1900s
Lions 1900s to today
JOUAM fraternal group – Jr order United Am Mechanics – 1800s to mid 1900s


Families of 20 th c. 1900s
Founding Families from 1600s and 1700s (43)
Childhood memories of 1890s by Emma Foss, Central Road
Green, Harry and Charlie “Townies” of Rye in early/mid 1900s
Herlihy, Jessie 1930s – 1989
Herlihy, David 1939 – 2015
Maj. John Parsons in Florida mid 1800s
Parsons family descendants Langdon Parsons from the 1600s to late 1900s
Growing up in Rye Center, early 1800s researched and imagined essay by Jessie Herlihy
St Louis connection to Rye late 1800s to present
Tallman, Louise Rye historian from 1960s to 2011
Studebaker family letters from WWI era; 1917 house on Blvd. by Church Rd.
Varrell, Bill Town historian (3 books) 1960s – 2007


Original paths of native people
Lafayette Road from 1600s “Long Lane” to Lafayette Hghy. in 1825 to present
Original roads of Rye up to 1904
Washington Road name changes over time

Building Ocean Blvd. 1902-1904


Baseball from 1800s
Golf from late 1800s
Surfing from 1960s to present

Town Government

Citizen petition to renovate Town Hall 1975
Dumping and recycling comprehensive
Fire -fighting/fire dept comprehensive
Policing from 1800s to present
Town govt/ civic engagement comprehensive
Town Hall from 1873, former Meth. /Episcopal church built in 1839
Town reports from 1863 to present – a history of town govt year by year
Rye Beach Precinct bldg. from 1919, meeting rm. 2 nd floor, fire station/ PO on 1st
Rye Public Library from 1911 to present

Misc. – one topic only

African Americans comprehensive over time
Aging communities recent study of towns like Rye in NH
Anniversaries/holiday observances comprehensive inclu. mil., pol., social etc.

Churches from the first in 1726
Coastal tour film narration Bass Beach on No. H. line to Odiorne Pt.
International cable station 1874-1922
Landmarks natural and built environment
Life- saving stations/shipwrecks 1872 – to 1930s
Mills from late 1600s into 1800s
Native Peoples 1600s
Oil refinery battle in Rye 1973/74; RHS pub. book “Rye’s Battle of the Century,” Lisa Moll
Quiz on Rye History from Rye history time line
Rye Center comprehensive
Rye, East Sussex, England by their museum director Jo Kirkham
Trolley in Rye from 1899 to 1925

How These Topics Narratives Came to be Written

What is one way to make history more accessible? Put it in thematic, (topics) concise, short historical narratives that are readable and quickly digestible. Make sure the topics are appealing such as the history of: Native Peoples, First Settlement in 1623, Fishing, Farming, Shipwrecks, Churches, Taverns and Drinking, Golden age of Resort Hotels, Surfing, Goss Farm, the list is endless. There are over 80 of them below.

There are potentially hundreds of other topics for which short histories can be created, either by me or others knowledgeable about a topic. Rye History Rocks and links to it will be on RHS web site, RCL Civic News and other web sites in town.

All articles are written by me unless otherwise noted. Much of this material was cut and pasted from the draft of my new Rye history: (Rye, New Hampshire: A Town at the Crossroads of American History) which will be published in 2024. As a retired teacher of American history, it is only natural for me to provide context and commentary on many of the topics where it seemed appropriate. I welcome other perspectives. I also welcome suggested edits of the content.

History is not usually presented in such convenient and digestible form. Ordinarily one would have to go to the index on a town history and piece together information from multiple pages over time and then create a coherent narrative on any given topic. Portsmouth historian J. Dennis Robinson told me the list below is unique and should have great appeal because where else could you find such random topics as: the Farragut Hotel, salt marshes, surfing and 1623 Thomson settlement? The topics below, taken as a whole, provide easy access to specific topics covering a broad part of our history.

Most of the narratives are ½ to 3 pages, with longer ones noted. Rye Junior High was the inspiration for this list because in 2022, as part of their Rye 400 history project, they asked me for a variety of Rye history topics from which they could chose to study and create projects. I visited many classes to work with them on this Rye history in the winter of 2023 and they presented their protects to the public in a special event on June 7.

People are encouraged to offer me additional topics they have created in which they will be the author. If you are interested in a topic that is not on the list, I will create a document with the information I have and send it to you. There are also many short bios. that could be created on a variety Rye people from the past. This process enlarges the scope of who is reading, researching, writing and publicizing Rye history to the community and beyond. My new website relating to these topics and my forthcoming new Rye history book is up. Search: Ryehistoryrocks.com

For most of these topics there are often photos to go with them, from the Rye Historical Society web site under the “resources” tab – image catalog (www.ryenhhistoricalsociety.org) and other sources.

Surfers at Jenness Beach in the 1960’s

Courtesy of Rye Historical Society