The emergence of Sanbornville as the town's center village began with the efforts of John W. Sanborn to bring the Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad through the area in 1871. Sanborn was instrumental in bringing the railroad through Wakefield and establishing the village that now bears his name, as the center of the railroad, commercial, and civic activity. Before that time the area contained fewer than ten houses and was defined only by the intersection of north-south and east-west roads. In 1854 the railroad was built to the village of Union in the southern part of the town, at that time, the most active industrial center in Wakefield. In 1871, however, the railroad was extended from Union to Ossipee, passing through Sanbornville as it headed to its northern terminus. The village was known first as Sanborn's Village, then Sanborn's Mills. In 1882 the railroad station and post office there were named Wolfeboro Junction because this was the junction of the main line with the Wolfeboro Branch.
By the last decade of the 19th century Sanbornville was a railroad and commercial center, due in large part to the investment and development activities of John W. Sanborn. He was the original investor in the Garvin Store on the west corner of High and Meadow Streets. A large railroad depot was nearby, as was a hotel built by Sanborn to accommodate railroad travelers and meetings.