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History of Our Bed & Breakfast
From a nineteenth century writing there is a quaint phrasing that runs in part "This eminence lies between the turnpike and Bow Lake. The view from it in several directions is extended and rich and full of interest to a stranger. A suitable establishment here for summer residents would receive liberal patronage."
We are pleased to bring this nineteen century observation to reality.
This cape is an historic landmark described in the book, "A Guide to the History and Old Dwelling Places of Northwood, New Hampshire." The original structure built by Samuel Sherburn in 1781 remains and is the current dinning room. Its mantle and the axe hewed beams remain and have aged beautifully. The current structure was completed in 1820 by David Bennett (1788-1866). Mr. Bennett rests in the Knowles-Bennett cemetery adjacent to the Inn. He had an interesting history serving prison time for counterfeiting, but becoming only affluent after his release resulting in rumors that "he did time for someone that rewarded him handsomely for the service.".
In the 1880s, John Mark Moses, the famous authority on genealogy lived here and spent much of his time studying the early history of the region. His work is captured in three volumes that can be found at the NH Historical Society. He is said to have been both a strong and happy man, who played the organ the day he passed.
The Moses 90 acre farm was sold to Otis Schoolcraft in 1920, who sold to the Hamiltons and in turn to the Husks in 1940. Henry and Gertrude Husk bought the house with 90 acres. Gertrude was an authority on antiques, produced pewter pieces and was a member of both the Esther Stevens Brazer Guild and the New England Herb Society. She was "extravagant" in furnishing her home with a $4 rag rug and $3.50 bureau and mirror, She once spent $15 on furniture for a single room. She also ingeniously added baths to the house making the out house (it still resides on the property) irrelevant and changed three dingy rooms into today's bright kitchen.
Henry tried to farm the property with corn and potatoes. The land produced more rocks (obvious from the many stone walls) and he consulted with a UNH agriculture specialist on a different crop. Since the property is at the highest elevation in the area he was advised to create a Peach Orchard (the name of the street at the North end of the Under the Elm property). The result was a 1000 peach tree orchard, the largest in the Granite State. The crop was the Husk-E Peach. Contour plowing was used, still evident from a walk through the property. A post and beam barn was moved from Pittsfield and its hand hewed beams reassembled with its wooden pegs. This immaculate barn was used to sort, store and provide cold storage for the peaches.
In respect to the barn it is said that the "Pressures of world problems seem less harrowing when a barn dooryard welcomes you at the end of a day and tiny- paned windows gleam through the early dimness of a winter afternoon." A perfect description of the visage when standing in this old post and beam barn with its tiny paned windows over the large sliding door.
Bob Low, a peach expert was hired to manage the orchard. One that required 25 people to work over time. Bob, aware of the need for water and traveled up to Kennebunkport to obtain the services of the famous dowser, Henry Gross. Henry did not usually take on small jobs like this one, but he made an exception and traveled down to Northwood with his dowser stick. He immediately identified a place to dig within the orchard and the result was more water than was needed for the entire orchard.
Bob was a person that we knew well. After we purchased the property in 1981, he advised Rosemary and I of the existence of an old cemetery (consisting of no more than a few flat stones) where the first settlers lay across from the Knowles-Bennett Cemetery and we put up a rough fence to protect it. Bob was gracious enough to share much of the history we have shared with you.
The Peach Orchard remained profitable until 1957 when a long cold spell resulted in substantial damage to the peach trees causing the orchard to become economically unfeasible. The Johnsonís then bought the property and named it Blueberry Hill Farm (the reason becomes obvious after a walk through the back meadow where wild brush blue berries are abundant.)
When we purchased the property in 1981 from the Johnson family, the house resided on a dirt road a reminder that the roads surrounding Under the Elm have their origins from paths that led to the other original dwellings. The names of these roads also reflect times and people that passed, Sherburne Hill, Bennett's Bridge and Tasker Road.
The house and pastures continue to evolve as it has in the past. The last peach tree died in 1992 and in 2002 we added a large new tiled bath, but with tradition we blended it into the style of this historic cape.
© Under the Elm - A Historic New Hampshire Bed and Breakfast