Casualties or severe accidents in Sanbornton New Hampshire
- 1766(?). The first to be recorded was serious rather than fatal. The earliest frame on the site of the original Clark house, west of Tin Corner (one of the very first framed dwellings erected in town) before being covered, was “cut in two by a large ash-tree blown down upon it” by a violent wind! It was immediately repaired, and the building proceeded.
- 1770(?). John Gibson was drowned in the Middle Bay, above Gibson’s Falls, by fallig from a boat. This is supposed to have been the earliest instance of drowning in town, and probably the first fatal accident.
- 1780. Nathan Philbrick, while “clearing” on his brother David’s land, was so injured by the falling of a tree that, though able to walk back (with assistance) to his sister’s Mrs. Ebenezer Sanborn’s, on the Sanborn road, he soon after died.
- July 4, 1795. Joseph Smith was drowned, or more probably killed, by a fall on the dam of his own mill, at the Threshing Mill Brook.
- Aug. 19, 1796. Jacob Hersey was drowned at what has since been called “Hersey’s Cove,” Little Bay. He was bathing with William Burley and one other young man, and was seized with the cramp. Burley’s exertions to save his cousin resulted in his own death the December following. The spot has since proved a dangerous one for bathers.
- May 5, 1799. Nathan Blake was drowned in the Pemigewasset, while running logs over the rapids.
- Oct. 15, 1800. David Copp was drowned while ferrying a pair of steers, with his brother Thomas, across the ferry at Mohawk Point, to draw wood from the other side for a brick kiln. The steers became restive, and crowded the two brothers into the water. Thomas, being the younger, was rescued by his father.
- Sept. 2, 1801. James Robinson was fatally injured while felling trees near the old mountain road.
- Nov. 20, 1802. Simon Gilman was drowned in Sanbornton Bay. He was coming down with a boat-load of sand for Meredith Bridge, when a squall struck his boat below Pot Island and sank it, with himself fastened in it by one leg, which was missing when his body was found by Mr. Tuttle, nine (eleven) months afterwards, on the Gilmanton shore, near Horse Point. The boat has never risen.
- Jan. 9, 1804. Mrs. Edward Kelley was burned to death in the house just east of Kelley Ledge. The house caught fire while her husband, being a deaf man, was out watering his stock. Her clothes ignited, and she found herself “barricaded in her roon,” probably by wood accidentally piled or fallen against the door. “She was old and somewhat broken in mind,” says one authority; and another remarks, “Whether sick or intoxicated is a point about which the tradition, softening with the lapse of years into a tender charity, is misty.” All that is left of that family in the town is the name, “graven as with an iron pen and lead in the rock [Kelley Ledge] forever.”
- Jan. 22, 1805. Benjamin Smith was crushed by the water-wheel of the blacksmith and scythe shop, where now the new gistmill, in Tilton.
- 1805. In the latter part of the winter, an elderly man (Mr. Morgan?) is said to have been drowned by falling through the ice, on his way to Meredith Bridge, his body not being found till the next June, when raised by the sound of a four-pound cannon (which had been given to one of the artillery companies) fired several times over the water.
- Aug. 13, 1805. Jeremiah Morrison was drowned near Rowen’s Point, Middle Bay, when wading out for a boat. His mind had been considerably affected by the last-named instance of the drowning; claimed that he had seen “troopers moving over the ice,” and other spiritual manifestations; said he was “going to join that company” before the year was out,–and thus it proved. Some verses of poetry, written by William Knapp, in reference to the two last-named casualties, are said to have appeared in the Dover Sun the following year. The whole account needs further elucidation.
- 1806(?). Asa P. Cate was drowned in the Pemigewasset, while bathing, at the age of fourteen years.
- April 6, 1808. David B. Prescott was drowned or killed at the Morrison Mill in time of freshet. While repairing underneath the bulkhead, it gave way by pressure of the water and he was carried through and drowned, or killed by the concussion of the plank against his body. “He was a noted singer, and was singing a psalm at the time.”
- 1808. The tavern at the Bridge (Tilton), in process of construction, was being shingled, then of two stories; and Simon Jaques, while reaching up for some shingles, slipped, was precipatated to the ground, and taken up for dead. He afterwards recovered.
- Oct 28, 1809. Stephen Jaques, an apprentice at Mr. Chase’s clothier’s shop, in Northfield, while rinsing a piece of cloth on a log, losing his hold of the cloth, and attempting to recover it, fell into the stream and was drowned.
- Dec. 19, 1809. Elijah Rollins was drowned in cossing Middle Bay on the ice; one account says, “with his two horses” (doubtful thus early in the season). He was on his way to Mr. Tucker’s, shoemaker, in Gilmanton, for a pair of boots, where he never reported. His dog returned home wet. “Body found next day by the rising of his fur had to the surface” (?).
- Jan. 19, 1810, was the “cold Friday” and “a memorable day throughout New England. From the mild temprature of forty-three degrees above zero, at sunset the evening before, the mercury sank to twenty-five degrees below zero in sixteen hours. This change was attended by a violent, piercing wind, prostrating trees and overturning buildings. Young cattle and wild animals were frozen, and many a stage-driver and school-boy received ear-marks which they wore through life.” Thus was occasioned the death of the Ellsworth children, the most tragical event that ever occurred in Sanbornton. We give a more extened account than of other casualities, taken, with slight amendments, from the Boston Journal of March 18, 1869:– “The farm-house of their father, Jeremiah Ellsworth, on the old New Hampton road, gave way to the violence of the gale, half an hour before sunrise, the window’s being blown in, exposing the whole building to destruction. Mrs.Ellsworth and her youngest child took refuge in the cellar. Mr. Ellsworth covered his two other children in bed and started for his nearest neighbor’s, David Brown’s, reaching there at sunrise, and though but a hundred rods distant, yet with feet and face badly frozen and himself unable to stand. Mr. Brown hastened to the house with his horse and sleigh, and found the inmates as left by the father, excepty that the wind had blown off the clothes from the oldest children. He loaded mother and children in the sleigh, covered them with the bedding, and started for his own house. Twice the sleigh was overturned by violent gust of wind. The first time Mr. Browne urged the mother to try and reach his house immediately, as her limbs were beginning to fall. She did so, crawling much of the way on her hands and knees; while he having a second time loaded the half-dressed children, soon found them again scattered upon the frozen snow, with his sleigh broken. Covering the oungest under a log, he starte with the two oldest on foot towards his house. Their cries stimulated him to intense exertion; but before he reached the house they were frozen stiff, so as to die in a few minutes after. Other neighbors came to the rescue, and the body of the remaining child was soon returned. Mr.Brown was blind the rest of his life, in consequence of this exposure, and the childrn’s parents suffered long and severely from their injuries.”
- Jan. 14, 1811. Ephraim Fogg perished on the ice of the Great Bay, between Meredith Bridge and Sanbornton, the cold being intense.
- April 19, 1811. James Badger was killed by the falling of a tree, while working in the woods, on the present farm of Charles I. Bowers.
- Oct. 1, 1812. Daniel Eastman came to a speedy death by having fastened round his wrist the long halter of a powerful colt. The animal took fright, and he was dragged nearly one third of a mile, in the vicinity of his father’s, Mr. Thomas Eastman.
- Feb. 25, 1813. Jeremiah French, Jr., jumped from a high window to a state of somnanbulism, and was thus killed. (By some, thought to have occurred elsewhere.)
- Jane 23, 1814. Elisha Thomas was drowned in Little Bay, by the upsetting of a boat, while out with one or two others, setting nets for fish. He was a good swimmer; while his companions, who could not swim, were saved. When leaving home that day, he seemed to have a “presentiment,” and took up one of is youngest children, a little daughter, and kissed her, giving also the impression to an older child that he was never coming back.
- April 20, 1815. John Cass met a sudden death, being crushed while rolling logs.
- Dec. 29, 1815. A young child of Abel Kimball was fatally scalded by falling into a kettle of “boiling beer” or cider.
- June 11, 1816. Samuel Taylor, being a blacksmith apprentice in the trip-hammer shop of Samuel Tilton, Esq., at the Bridge, while helping to repair the dam, was precipitated into the water, carried over the falls, and drowned. Body recovred half a mile below.
- April 19, 1817. Stephen Clark was drowned in the Pemigewasset, at Republican Bridge, while running logs.
- Sept. 26, 1820. Ebenezer Sanborn died at the house of Capt. John B. Perkins, in consequence of his being thrown from his horse.
- June 17, 1821. John Smith was drowned at the Bridge. He was there learning the tailor’s trade of Mr. Cross.
- Sept. 25, 1821. Solomon Copp was thrown from a wagon, one mile from Union Bridge, fractured the back of his skull upon a rock, and died a few days afterwards.
- April 8, 1822. William Sanborn inhaled steam upon his lungs from the nose of a teapot, and soon after died in consequence.
- Nov. 20, 1822. A child of Abijah Sanborn was instantly killed by an overtuning cart.
- Oct. 13, 1823. Odell Batchelder was fatally injured by a fall, while picking beech-nuts.
- July 19, 1826. Samuel Smith was drowned in the Pemigewasset River, below Morrison’s Mills.
- April 5, 1827. Nathaniel E. Burleigh was drowned in the mill race at Burleigh’s Bridge.
- March 8, 1828. Col. Christopher S. Sanborn was drowned on the Great Bay, near the mouth of the river, with a horse or a span of horses, by breaking throught the ice, having strayed from the right path in the darkness of the evening.
- Nov. 20, 1828. John Gilman and Dudley Pottle were both lost in crossing the same bay from Meredith Bridge in a wherry. “They parted the company of Messrs. E. Chase and A. Gilman at the mouth of the river just at night, which was the last of their being seen alive.” The precise occasion of their deaths is shrouded in mystery, as Mr. Pottle’s body was found in the water near the Gilmanton shore, while Mr. Gilman seems to have perished in the boat, which had drifted to the eredith shore. It is most probable that the boat had been partially overturned, and both thrown into the water, but that Gilman regained the boat, and afterwards died as the result of cold and exposure following a state of asphyxia.
- June 15, 1830. John Dustin, son of the first settler, met his death by means of a log rolling down the hill near the Dustin mill, and crushing his body upon the other logs below. He was over sixty years of age, and being deaf, did not hear the warning given. His leg was amputated, but he survived the accident only two days.
- Aug. 25, 1830. A child of Silas Atkinson was drowned in the canal, near Burleigh’s Bridge.
- January, 1833. Thomas J. Pottle, while driving with Andrew W. Hoyt across the ice from Meredith Bridge to Sanbornton, ran into a reef, and both were drawn into the water. Hoyt first escaped, and rescued Pottle, who became so chilled while they were trying to extricate their horse, that his companion had to start with him for the nearest house, carrying him part of the way, and dragging him the rest. He was also helped towrds the shore by some skater, but was so much frozen that he died soon after reaching it. Mr. Hoyt froze both hands and some other parts of his person. The horse was also lost.
- May 31, 1833. John D. Clark, while breaking a jam of logs above the Darling mill, was drawn with his boat into a hole or crevasse of the dam, where it was broken. His body was held fast by logs at the bottom of the stream below, till it was finally discovered, June 5, at a lower stage of the water.
- Nov. 8, 1834. John Robinson was killed near Clark’s Corner, probably by the wheel of a cart from which he was thrown.
- 1839. A stage-coach, with six horses, was leaving the hotel at Sanbornton Bridge for Concord, and ” in a moment” afterwards, as it were, the bridge fell just as the horses were upon it! They became detached, providentially, and the coach “held on the bank by the hind wheels, though canted down.” The outside passengers were precipitated, with the horses, into the river, but were caught by the dam below, so that none lost their lives, though only one horse was save. (This was the accident on account of which the town paid heavy damages, as elsewhere noted.)
- 1840, or previously for a few years, a series of accidents occurred at the Bay bridge, which was first built as a private enterprise, too narrow, without railing, and otherwise insecure. Several horses were drowned by “shying” or backing into the bay, and one or two persons, as it is now reported. It became a notoriously dangerous place, the towns disclaiming any responsibility for the bridge, till at last they were obliged by law to “take it up” and put it in a safe condition by rebuilding.
- Aug. 23, 1840. Richard Wallis was drowned at Sanbornton Bridge, in the whirlpool below the present Tilton Mills.
- Jan. 30, 1844. Mrs. Mehitable Prescott was burned in her own house, on the Franklin road, west of the present Hollis K. Thompson’s. Her aged maiden sister, Miss Rhoda Bean, who resided with her, was absent at the time.
- 1846. At the close of the Seminary spring term, a boat-load of six students, three of each sex, was accidentally carried over the main dam at the Bridge. All were rescued except a Mr. Williams, who perished, and his body was not found till two weeks afterwards.
- Nov. 4, 1846. A little son of Jacob Odell was drowned in a small pond near his father’s house, while chasing the chickens, being about two years of age.
- June 18, 1849. Clara M. Gould, daughter of John Gould, was drowned at the Bridge while trying to escape from a boat which was fastened at the shore of the river, near the house of Esquire Atkinson. She was playing in the boat with two other little girls. All three of them became frightened and jumped for the shore, the others reaching it in safety. This accident occurred on the evening of the dedication of a hall for the Sons of Temperance. Her body was recovered by Wesley Ladd.
- January, 1857(?). Joseph (B.) Swain perished by cold near Dea. Huse’s barn (Bay road), within half a mile of his home.
- July 6, 1857. George H. D. Clark was drowned at Little Bay (Hersey’s Cove), aged ten, being the son of David W. Clark.
- Feb. 15, 1859. Samuel P. Sanborn, aged twelve, was driving a team loaded with wood for Laconia, and had reached the edge of the Bay (west side), when the oxen became frightened at a dog, swung round, and threw him under the sled runner, resulting in instant death.
- Aug. 12, 1868. Jonathan J. Frye was suddenly killed by the falling of a well sweep, at the house of his father-in-law, Nathaniel Leavitt.
The Great Bay, before the building of Mosquito Bridge, was the scene of more frequent accidents than in later years, as most of the comunication between Sanbornton an Meredith Bridge was had by means of boats in summer and ice in winter, avoiding the circuitous land route by Union Bridge. The freezing up of the bay was quite an important event in each year, generally about Christmas time; and it may be naturally supposed that people often ventured upon the ice too soon, or before it was sufficiently strong to be safe. Boys frequently got “cooled off” by breaking in while skating, and horses were often lost when their owners escaped. The mouth of the river, or its vicinity, has ever proved a dangerous locality. Here John Knowlton, in the winter of 1858, broke through into deep water while drawing wood to Laconia, with two valuable horses. One of them he succeeded in getting out; the other perished.
We are indebted for some of the foregoing items to “Sketches of Sanbornton Bay,” by “W.,” in the New Hampshire Democrat of Jan. 20, 1860, from which also we quote the following:–
” Besides the above, there have been almost innumerable ‘hair-breadth escapes’ on the bay, both summer and winter, such as upsetting of boats by wind; loads of wood, hay, potatoes, etc., breaking through the ice, but generally managing to get out. Mr. Alva Gilman [probably Alba] was once taking a big boat-load of wood down to Meredith Bridge; the wind sprung up so that he had to keep near the shore, when the boat filled with water and the wood floated all over the bay!
“Many years ago Elisha Chapman and Jeremiah Gilman got lost, one dark, foggy night, on the bay, while coming home from Meredith Bridge in a boat. Chapman rowed and Gilman steered. Chapman said Gilman would holloa out to him every few minutes, ‘Row away, Mr. Chapman, or we shall sartinly be lost!’ Daylight found them near the middle of the bay, having rowed all night. Probably they went round in a circle, as a strong man like Chapman would have rowed to Concord in a night”!
“W.” also relates of a certain early settler at Sanbornton Bay that while coming across from Meredith “in a boat, during a heavy wind, he was afraid, and kept praying to the Lord for deliverance till he got near enough to the shore to be out of danger,” when his prayer suddenly changed to a thoughtless imprecation of the “Prince of the power of the air.”
When the writer first came to Sanbornton from Orford, he brought over the favorite boat with which he used to naviate the peaceful Connecticut. It was a very small craft, flat-bottomed, and rigged with a square sail to run before the wind. Adding a slight keel (a plank fastened edgewise to the bottom, in the centre, and extending half-way to the bows), he launched it upon Middle Bay, and was accustomed for four or five years to take occational rows and sails, — sailing one way and rowing the other, — sometimes to Laconia, sometimes to the upper part of Sanbornton. Numerous romantic adventures and hair-breadth escapes are recalled in connection with these boat rides, from some of which he now regards it as a wonder, to the praise of a kind Providence, that he was spared to write the present record.
Disasters by lightning have not been frequent in Sanbornton. Two only have been noted which resulted in the burning of buildings, both high up on the old New Hampton road; the barn of Thomas McClary on the Winthrop Durgin place, and a barn on the David Brown place, the latter, July 22, 1829. Two dwellings have likewise been struck by lightning within a few years in the Hunkins neighborhood. In both cases the houses were slightly injured, and the inmates narrowly escaped, leaving more in the matter of preservation to be thankful for than in the way of loss to be regretted.
Source: History of Sanbornton, NH vol.I chapter XXII