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Historical Perspective

Colebrook, NH was originally granted by Governor Benning Wentworth in 1762 to a group of investors. He named us Dryden in honor of an English poet. No one settled the area and the charter was forfeited. In 1770 his nephew John Wentworth, who had succeeded his uncle as governor, resold the land to Sir George Colebrooke on December 1, 1770. He never came to inspect his lands and it wasn’t really settled until after the revolution.

The census of 1790 completely ignored the Town’s physical being, although several settlers had already established themselves here, In 1795, with thirty families in the Town, the need for recognition and incorporation was felt and a petition bearing their names was presented. On June 11, 1796, the town became incorporated. From this time on, the Town grew rapidly and by 1800, it had 160 inhabitants.

The first school was established in 1795 and the first church in 1802.

Agriculture and lumbering were the important industries at the time. Lumbering and its products created several fortunes and provided cash incomes for generations of our citizens.

The first sawmill in the Colebrook area was built and run by the MacAllaster brothers about 1800. In the course of a hundred years, about 16 sawmills were known to exist. Brick kilns were also one of the first industries in Town. the first one known to exist was behind the present day Colebrook house run by Mr. Loomis. The Walker House, which still stands today, has some of those bricks in its walls.

Having many sheep on the surrounding farms, a woolen factory was constructed in 1812 in what was later called Factory Village. Two grist mills were also up and running at that time.

About 1840 a potato starch industry was established by Sherburn Merrill. At the height of our production in 1870 there were 12 mills in the valley producing one-twentieth of the nations potato starch. That same year Colebrook was listed as the wealthiest town in the state per capita.

The inhabitants of the area, being industrious, started bobbin mills, cooper mills, and a foundry that began around 1870. To operate these mills, waterpower was provided by the building of dams on the Mohawk River and its tributaries. It is estimated there were between 16 and 20 dams on the rivers.

Just before 1900, the dairying industry came into its own, exporting raw milk to cities as far away as Boston. This was feasible with the coming of the railroad and the harvesting of ice from ponds in the winter. The milk cans were packed with ice in the boxcars, before being shipped.

Roads were important to the expansion to Colebrook’s industries. Originally there were just three roads in the area. One, called the River Road, went along near the Connecticut River (the present day Main Street and Route 3). The second one went from Main Street through what is now Pleasant Street out to the Mohawk River to Factory Village, then¬† on through the East Colebrook area and on into Maine. The third went up Titus Hill into the east Columbia area.

This short history brings us to the 1900’s and beyond, but the people of Colebrook are still inventing new ways to live and survive here. Some examples are tourism, Christmas tree farming, and the production of maple products.

Colebrook now serves as the business, banking, and professional center for a large area of NH’s North Country. Located within sight of Dixville Notch in the State’s most beautiful section, nature and our people have worked together to produce a lovely and tranquil Town. As a vacation area it is not to be excelled. tourist and sportsmen are provided with the finest in golfing, fishing, hunting, skiing and snowmobiling. Every need for comfortable living can be found here – churches, libraries, excellent schools and a modern hospital.