Newmarket’s Town Pounds

There were 3 known Town Pounds —

1) The earliest wooden one (A) in the early 1700s was just north of the Old Burying Yard beyond the junction. (Today in 2014, the Old Burying Yard is in the Town of Newfields, north of the Traffic Light at Rt 85 & 108 opposite the Shell gas station & is now known as the Newfields Town Cemetery).

                In his historical writings in the Newmarket Times, Rev. Roland Sawyer cites a vote (March 2, 1728) “that a Pound should be built between the Meeting House and Jonathan Hilton’s”.  A vote was taken March 15, 1731, and a William Perkins was to build the pound and serve as the first Pound-Keeper.  These items would refer to the first wooden pound near the First Meeting House, and just north of the old Burying Yard.

2) A later stone pound was built and marked 1825 on Sylvia Getchell’s Historic Map of Newmarket.   This one is marked (B) and was located at the northwest corner of the junction of Routes 85 and 108.

3) The last stone pound built sometime after 1825 is marked (C).  It stood on Rt. 108 closer to town just northeast of Pine Hill (Today in 2014, Pine Hill is the ridge along the north border of the Golf Course before Lilac and Hersey Lanes.  It is the proposed site of a new housing development to be built by the Chinburg Company).  As per George Griswold’s article, this pound was no longer used after 1860.  A Town postcard shows the pound as an abandoned structure in 1870; sometime thereafter it was dismantled and the stones were used to provide stone repairs to the north abutment of the “swinging bridge” over the Squamscot River.


Map drawn by Sylvia Fitts Getchell in her book The Tide turns on the Lamprey; marked by John Carmichael to show locations of the three pounds.

The article printed below by George Griswold, former New Market Historical Society President,  appeared in a  Newmarket Times article.


Town pounds have their origin in England and Europe.  Towns built a pen in central areas to hold stray animals that got loose from one household so that they couldn’t damage the crops of other members of the community.  These structures, usually consisted of four low walls either of fieldstone or of rough-cut granite.  In order to reclaim the pig or cow in question, the owner would have to pay compensation for whatever damage the animal had done to neighbors’ gardens.

Town pounds according to Sermons in Stone by Susan Allport and Town Pounds of New England by Elizabeth Banks MacRury were part of early colonial history.  In Massachusetts pounds date back to 1635.  Early pounds were constructed of wood fencing which often had to be rebuilt. Stone-walled pounds began to replace wood pounds around 1740, and by 1800 stone was the favored building material. Town pounds were in common use from the mid 1600’s to the late 1800’s.

There very well may be a more sinister reason for their existence—to enhance a town’s finances.

In  ACT AND LAWS of His Majesty’s Provence of New Hampshire in New England with Sundry Acts of Parliament. By Order of Governor, Council and Assembly Pass’d Oct 16th, 1759  Portsmouth. (Printed by Daniel Fowle, Portsmouth, 1761) are found the standardization of rules and regulations pertaining to the seizure and sale of livestock left in the Town Pounds.

“Most of the pounds were built before 1800, and they were for impounding livestock taken by the town in lieu of property taxes.  Until 1686, the laws of the Royal Province of New Hampshire authorized the town constable to imprison a person who could not pay his taxes.   In 1791, the new state of New Hampshire allowed the tax collector “upon neglect or refusal to pay taxes, and after a notice of 14 days, to distrain the goods, or chattels” of the person so neglecting his duties. Goods were kept four days, during which time the owner could redeem them. After that, the goods were sold at auction. In many cases, the most valuable property a person owned was his livestock, and the town needed a place to hold it.”

From - The Town Pound: A Halloween Tale of Colonial Militia and Stray Lambs” by By George Locke   October 2012.  (Read more:


In July 1828, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a series of bills detailing the operations of Town Pounds. The bills spell out the duties of the Pound Keeper and detail the required forms pertaining to the notification to the owners of impounded animal, the appraisals and dispositions thereof. Included are a set of fees the Pound Keeper can charge for the service and swearing to of forms by Town Officials and Justices of the Peace.  These can be found online at Google Books by searching “The New-Hampshire Town Officer”.

(The New-Hampshire TOWN OFFICER, by William M. Richardson, Concord NH Published by Jacob B. Moore, 1829.)

The New Hampshire Town Officer as outlined in State Statute July 23, 1828




New Hampshire lists 259 town pounds still in existence, although rarely, if ever used. Two Surrounding Area Pounds still standing are: 



Durham Town Pound – It is located at the corner of Route 108 and Durham Point Road. The present structure was built on exposed bedrock in 1808 and replaced an earlier structure built in 1709. It is constructed of quarried granite surface ledge.  A number of blocks have trapezoid shaped hand cut flat wedge quarry holes. Not all of the blocks have quarry marks on them. The pound was built using some type of lifting apparatus as evidenced by the presence of “dog-holes” (5/8” dia. round hole, about 1/2 inch deep). A single dog hole was drilled on each side of the block, a metal hook inserted into the hole and a chain run between the hooks. As the chain was hoisted upward, it pulled the hooks tightly together allowing the block to be lifted. Dog holes are found on blocks on the bottom, middle, and top sections of wall. The pound is 25 x 40 feet in size.


Exeter Town Pound - Exeter has had succession of different town pounds through its history built at various locations. This is the last town pound to be built in Exeter. It was built using stone slabs quarried with the commercial plug & feather method of splitting the granite. This places it construction after 1803. It is shown on a 1845 map of Exeter and therefore, it was built sometime between 1803 and 1845.      (Photos by Kerry Baldridge)