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Pembroke Town


Pembroke Town Hall is located at 311 Pembroke Street, Pembroke, NH 03275; phone: 603-485-4747.

Beginnings

Pembroke's history begins in 1725 when Captain John Lovewell (sometimes spelled "Lovell") "and his intrepid band of Indian fighters recruited from the towns around Dunstable (Mass.), decided to drive the Indians out of what is now New Hampshire." Lovewell died in a bitterly contested fight with Native American Indians near Conway, NH; while this battle was somewhat inconclusive as to its victors, the Indians retreated to Quebec and European settlement began. In 1728, the Legislature of the Province of Massachusetts granted to survivors of Lovewell's band, and heirs of nonsurvivors, the land forming present-day Pembroke. "Lovewell's Township" soon changed its name to "Suncook." However, a year earlier the New Hampshire government had granted the some of the same land as the Town of Bow. This kind of controversy was not uncommon during the early days of settlement in central New Hampshire and, in Pembroke's case, the situation was settled amicably.

Intra-town tension developed as early as 1733 when the settlers from Massachusetts built a Congregational meeting house. It stood "at the northeast corner of the graveyard, on Main Street, not far from the Meeting-house brook, to which it gave the name". In 1736 the Congregationalists chose Rev. Aaron Whittemore to be pastor. Tension arose from the fact that there were almost as many Presbyterians in the settlement as Congregationalists. The Presbyterians objected to being taxed for support of the Congregational minister (a requirement for all citizens regardless of church affiliation). Sometime near the period of incorporation, the Presbyterians built their own meeting house "on a little knoll covered with pine grove on the west side of Pembroke." This controversy faded with the building of the Presbyterian meeting house. In subsequent years, it faded even more; eventually, the Congregational and Presbyterian churches were united in Pembroke.

It was not until 1759 that the Town of Pembroke was formally chartered under its present name and defined as the area of land that "took in part of Bow east of the Merrimack River and south of the Soucook River". It also included "a place called Buck Street". Governor Benning Wentworth named this area "Pembroke" in honor of the Earl of Pembroke who had been one of his supporters. With this act, "Suncook, as a township, became no more. However, it lived on in the common use of the day as a village partly within the Town of Pembroke". Since that time, "Suncook Village" has been the most populous part of Pembroke.

The first census, taken in Pembroke in the year 1767, is as follows: 49 unmarried and 85 married men between 16 and 60 years of age; 16 men over 60; 134 boys under 16; 97 married and 169 unmarried females; five (5) widows, and two (2) slaves. The total population was 557 people. The Revolutionary War found men from Pembroke fighting in the Bunker Hill Campaign, the Quebec Campaign, and the Battle of Bennington.

Pembroke's cotton spinning and weaving industry began with the establishment of the Pembroke Cotton Factory Company, under the management of Caleb Stark, at the lower falls of the Suncook River in 1811. Brick-making was carried out by many individuals who used clay from along the riverbank to produce the product. Brick-making was a large source of local employment throughout the 19th century in Pembroke.

The formation of Pembroke Academy in 1818 was one of the 19th century's most significant events in Pembroke. Dr. Abel Blanchard was the school's founder and benefactor, having left provision in his will for the establishment of a "public school or academy". Fire destroyed earlier Academy buildings, but the Academy continues to be a vital institution in Pembroke.

Railroads and electric trolley lines played an important part in the history of Pembroke. In 1852, the Portsmouth to Concord Railroad passed through the southern part of town, with a station in Suncook Village. The Suncook Valley Railroad, extending northward to Pittsfield and Barnstead, was completed in 1869. Later, in the 20th century, the junction of Pembroke Street and Whittemore Road was known as Hobbs Corner. Hobbs Corner was the turn-off for the trolley running from Pembroke Street onto Whittemore Road, across the Merrimack River and on to Concord. The trolley serviced Concord and towns south to Manchester from about 1902 until 1927 at which time buses took over.

After 1860, Pembroke saw the arrival of French-Canadians who were recruited to work in the textile mills. On January 11, 1885, French-Canadians formed an association, "Le Cercle Dramatique et Litteraire", for mutual instruction and amusement. They produced plays and fostered artistic awareness. On September 9, 1888, they started a library to include French and English works and eventually holding about 600 volumes. The Franco-American presence in Pembroke enriched the town culturally and helped to make it a unique place in which to live in central New Hampshire

  1. Town of Pembroke, New Hampshire, Pembroke Master Plan 2004, Historic and Cultural Resources, www.pembroke-nh.com, accessed June, 2011.
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