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The History of Wiswall Mills. Nadine Peterson, Preservation Planner New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. Durham Falls 1649. Saw and grist mill erected by early 1700s Various improvements during the 1800s Existing dam constructed 1913. Packers Falls 1694.

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The history of wiswall mills l.jpg

The History of Wiswall Mills

Nadine Peterson, Preservation Planner

New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources

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Durham Falls 1649

Saw and grist mill erected by early 1700s

Various improvements during the 1800s

Existing dam constructed 1913

Packers Falls 1694

Saw and grist mills by 1720s

Extensively developed in 1770s by General Sullivan with as many as six separate mills

Wiswall Falls 1835

Wooden crib dam constructed 1835

Saw and grist mills erected

Papermill incorporated 1854

Existing dam constructed 1912

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  • Early industrial activity at what are now Wiswall Falls begins1835

  • Brothers Issachar and Moses H. Wiggin construct large wooden crib dam at mill privilege

  • Saw mill first constructed at the site

  • Grist and flour mill constructed just below

  • First houses near mill constructed c. 1840 and beyond

  • First bridge over Lamprey River in this location constructed 1840s

  • Extensive work on the Wiggins Mill Bridge conducted spring of 1852

  • Existing dam, mills, and water rights leased to Thomas Wiswall and Isaac Flagg Jr. in 1853; Flagg soon thereafter sells his share to Howard Moses who in turn sells to his father, Charles C.P. Moses

  • In May 1857, the mills, water rights, and the lease to Wiswall and Moses were sold at auction and purchased by T.H. Wiswall & Co.

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Height of Prosperity: T.H. Wiswall & Company Mills

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  • Throughout most of the eighteenth century and especially before the first local manufacture of wallpaper, New Englanders depended entirely on foreign sources of supply.

  • After the Revolution, a wave of new building and updating of older homes occurred and wallpaper came into general use – even in a large majority of common houses throughout New England.

  • By the early 1800s, a number of manufacturers opened in the Boston area.

  • Producing a continuous sheet or seamless paper became economical about 1840.

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  • The popularity of striped floral papers coincided with the introduction of steam-driven roller printing. Invented in England, the first cylinder printing machine was imported to America in 1844 by John Howell of Philadelphia.

  • By the mid 1850s, many American wallpaper manufacturers were producing roller-printed designs on inexpensive machine-made wood pulp papers.

  • Manufacturers could now produce vast quantities of paper and introduce new designs in response to rapidly changing decorating styles.

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  • The industrialization of the wallpaper trade fueled its massive expansion during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

  • Wallpaper could be produced quickly and inexpensively to meet the ever-changing tastes of the growing middle class.

  • In addition to papering the main living rooms of their houses, consumers wallpapered their kitchens, closets, attics, stairwells and even privies - no room was left unadorned.

  • The profusion of patterns appearing in American households was promoted by books on decorating and household management such as The American Woman's Home by Catherine E. Beecher and her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1869, and by Andrew Jackson Downing's 1850 publication, The Architecture of Country Houses.

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Timeline massive expansion during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

  • 1883-Wiswall’s partner C.P.P. Moses dies.

  • November 1, 1883 - mills destroyed by fire.

  • The dam and sawmill which survived the fire used on a small scale until the Spring of 1896.

  • 1899-James Burnham purchases mill site. Burham organizes the Newmarket Light, Heat and Power Company and transfers the site to the company. A small power station was built at the foot of the canal where the paper mill had been.

  • 1912 - Newmarket Electric company acquires the power plant and a new concrete dam and head gates are constructed.

  • NH Gas & Electric Company owns the site until 1955.

  • 1965 - Land sold to Town of Durham for use in the town water supply.

  • Lamprey River Advisory Committee forms 1991; Lamprey designated Wild and Scenic River in 1996.

  • Wiswall Bridge suffers repeated flood damage in October 1996 and May 2006.

  • FEMA coordinating repairs to the bridge, necessitating additional studies at the mill site.

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How to become involved….. massive expansion during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.


Peter Thomas


Nadine Peterson

NH Division of Historical Resources