Site No. 21: (end of Water Street) SCHANDA PARK – Fishing, boatbuilding and trading were here long before the big stone mills.
Site No. 21. This park is here thanks to a grant from the New Hampshire Coastal program. In 2005 it was named in memory of “Red” Schanda. Under the name of “Joe Dixx,” Red wrote about local history, hunting, fishing and trapping—and promoting conservation of the Great Bay ecology.
In one article he compared how this river was used by two different cultures—the Squamscots and the European settlers:
“The Indians’ permanent weir was farther upriver at the “great falls” on the Lamprey where the new settlers built their dam. The weir was made of rocks with a willow screen and above it was a platform from which the Indians speared fish, which included Atlantic salmon, shad, and sturgeon. With the dam the white men cut their own throats both literally and figuratively.”
After the Squamscots left the area, weirs continued to be used for over 300 years. Chick Hays had fished his weir here since 1938, and in 1978 the town was granted “grandfathered” rights for the weir to continue. When Chick died in 1979, Jerry Collins took it over.
In the 1640s, colonists established their dams and mills. By 1700 settlers were plying their trades nearby as carpenters and blacksmiths. Shipbuilding had begun here along the banks of the Salt River.
The town waterfront became overrun with private shipyards: A 1752 town warrant stated: “The landing-place at Lamprey River is much incumbered with shipyards so the public have not the benefit of said landing place.” In 1766 it was proposed to have the landing place surveyed to prevent encroachment by private shipyards, noting that it had been in use for over a century.
Shipwrights made hulls for vessels up to 500 tons which floated out to Portsmouth for final outfitting. Pine masts on giant 10-foot mast wheels were dragged to the river by dozens of oxen. Prior to the Revolution, the longest ones were reserved for the King.
In the early days of the Revolution, General James Hill built the very first Navy warship for the new country. He lived in the old Moody Parsonage where he had a tavern – later hosting George Washington there. Hill also wrote ship building instructions and trained others. Young Caleb Mitchel of New Market became his apprentice in 1765. Indenture documents spelled out the responsibilities of both master and servant. As Caleb would be living with the family, Mrs. Hill had to sign too.
Newmarket men also engaged in privateering during the war. Although risky, it moved needed supplies and ammunition. Getting caught meant imprisonment—and maybe death—far from home.
By 1812, ocean borne ships were too large to be built here, but there was still a need for smaller craft for Bay travel, and gundalows for hauling heavy loads. When the Newmarket Manufacturing Company came to town, gundalows hauled bales of cotton from the larger ships docked in Portsmouth. Gundalow captains had to know the tides, the hidden rocks, and ledges.
In 1886 Captain Edward Adams built the last gundalow to operate commercially. His design would inspire a 1982 replica as well as the Gundalow Company’s vessel—the Piscataqua. A major educational and tourist attraction, it offers trips in Portsmouth Harbor and on Great Bay.
Site No. 22 is across Water Street, on the corner.
END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.
The Newmarket Conservation Commission created this park here. This site came about only after a lot of discussion in the 1990s about the environment, water quality, and the importance of the Lamprey River. In a nutshell:
1992: Newmarket sent a representative to the Lamprey River Advisory Council.
In 2004, the town received a grant from the NH Coastal program for materials and construction of this waterfront park along the Lamprey. It was designed by Charlie Hoyt, with Daigneaults and Sons (Kingston, NH) as the contractor.
Clay Mitchell, then town planner applied for another grant (Phase 2) and the town was able to do the riverfront park in front of the Lang’s blacksmith property.
The Town received money from the Federal Emergency Management Administration that covered the cost of the fixing the flood damage.
This small piece of land has witnessed hundreds of years of human history—indigenous fishing, colonial shipbuilding, industrial millworks, and pre-railroad transport and trade. Schanda Park’s setting includes fresh water, salt water, and recreational boating access. And it’s part of downtown Newmarket.
As such, it continues to present unique ecological challenges. To best maintain Schanda Park, the Newmarket Conservation Commission works with such groups as the Lamprey River Advisory Committee, NH Dept. of Environmental Services, and NH Fish & Game. For more information, visit their website:
In 2005, it was named in memory of Richard “Red” Schanda who shared with us his knowledge of local history, hunting, fishing and trapping—and his love of nature and conservation.
For over 50 years under the name of “Joe Dixx” he wrote without compensation for local newspapers: the Newmarket Times, Hampton Union, the Exeter Newsletter and Hawk Eye, to name a few. His sports and hunting articles sounded a strong cry for conservation and protection of the plants and animals around our rivers, grass and woodlands and Great Bay.
In his last article written in 1994, he reflected on his observations over the years…
He ended with “I know climate change is happening…. I know it by my observations, by my experience…. But Maybe Science Will Prove Me Wrong One Day.”
Unfortunately for us, in the nearly 30 years since he wrote this article, science has only proven him right.
In one Joe Dixx article, he wrote of Puddle Dock in Portsmouth: “In excavating for a new dock, construction workers unearthed an Indian fish weir that carbon dated back to 2500 B.C.
Of the Newmarket Weir he wrote: “The fish trap was constructed of willow poles and woven with willow strands. The trap fished exactly the same as the present-day setup with its leads, pastures, and pockets… The American Indian was a master of many arts and fishing was certainly one of his best.”
In 1968, Richard Schanda described both the Native Americans’ early weirs on the Lamprey and the impact of the settlers’ early mill dams:
“The Indians’ permanent weir was farther upriver at the “great falls” on the Lamprey where the new settlers built their dam. The weir was made of rocks with a willow screen and above it was a platform from which the Indians speared fish, which included Atlantic
salmon, shad, and sturgeon. With the dam the white men cut their own throats both literally and figuratively. They destroyed the food supply out of which they had been fed, and they turned the red men against them. Within a few years the salmon had gone and even the alewives couldn’t go upstream. The Indians had virtually supported and kept alive the early settlers in the Great Bay area until the settlers ran hogshod over them. All the new dams were one of many reasons leading Kancamagus to wipe out a force of 30 militiamen on Durham Point that had been sent to avenge Major Waldron”.
From colonial times on, up through the 20th century, there have been weirs on the Lamprey—sometimes several operating at the same time. In 1908 the catch from one weir alone was 500 barrels of alewives. At that time, there were 20 weirs in service along the entire Bay. The catch included striped bass, codfish, sea perch, cunners, smelts and a few shad. Some codfish and bass weighed 40 pounds each.
In the 1960s, Newmarket’s Junior Sawyer (1935-2002) was one of the last fisherman to close down his weir off his farm on the end of Shackford Point. This weir had been maintained by his father for years in the mouth of Lamprey River.
The 1960s also saw Chick Hayes wrangle with NH Department of Fish & Game who tried to remove his weir from the Lamprey at Schanda Park. Finally, in 1978 the Town of Newmarket was granted “grandfathered” rights for Chick to fish his weir which he had been doing since 1938.
Jerry Collins, along with Luke Weigel of Durham fished with Chick from 1974 until Chick’s death in 1979. Jerry and Luke have continued working the weir ever since. Jerry describes a system that includes 150 to 200 stakes installed permanently in the mud, from which nets are hung. While the Newmarket weir, which Collins said is the only one in New Hampshire, is about 90 years old. “It has quite a history,” he said, describing many legislative and gubernatorial interventions that rescued the weir from attempts by Fish & Game to have it removed. Collins faced a series of legal battles between the 1970s up to and including the 2011 controversy regarding the positioning of his nets at Schanda Park.
Jerry works the town weir, but not for the money. As he tells many visitors to the landing: the fishing is certainly not as plentiful as it once was, and he is restricted as to what fish he is allowed to keep; but he continues for the joy of working an age-old trade, and to showcase the last weir in New Hampshire.
For close to 50 years, battling at his side has been Attorney Patti Blanchette, New Market Historical Society Life Member and former town State Representative. She has been instrumental in cutting through the bureaucratic red tape, and keeping the weir a functioning, visible piece of town history.
The following is gleaned from the research and writings of historian Sylvia Fitts Getchell, who pulled information from earlier historians as well.
There is no positive evidence as to the date of Newmarket’s first settlement, but the probability is that it occurred but a few years after the settlement of Dover Point in 1623, or between 1630 and 1640. Early pioneers located themselves on the Lamprey River, and from depositions made by early ‘Settlers of Dover’ we learn that the land on both sides of that stream was utilized as early as 1636, and that fishing, planting, and the felling of timber were then quite extensively carried on.
The origin of the name of this river is somewhat uncertain; however, the most probable explanation is that was derived from the swarms of lamprey eels that once filled the waters. Earlier written records refer to the river as the Lamperiele,” the” Lampreel,” or the” Lamprele,” the name “Lamprey” being first used in 1652. As the principal occupation of the settlers was fishing, it has been suggested that the name” New Market” arose from the establishment of a new market for the sale and purchase of fish, and probably such was the fact — but there is no direct evidence bearing upon the subject. The village which grew up along the bank of the stream was known as “Lamprey River,” and in course of time became a flourishing and important place containing a sawmill, grist mill, and carding mill, and a prominent lumber market. (3)
Given its location on a navigable salt river and its proximity to acres and acres of wooded land, it’s no wonder that Newmarket became a purveyor of lumber as well as fish. And local trees and lumber were a resource in high demand by some very powerful people. While Newmarket does not have a “Mast Road”, nearly every surrounding town does—including landlocked Lee.
Past Historical Society president George Griswold did considerable research into the town’s early maritime history in the early seventeenth century. He published the following article in 1966. The source of his material was Ports of Piscataqua by William G. Saltonstall. As described by Griswold, this book is “truly a masterpiece —beneath its covers unfold the treasures of Great Bay and its tributaries:”
England having established herself as queen of the seas found it necessary to depend on mandates to the American colonies for her supply of masts and spars. Until the eve of the Revolution, Portsmouth was the most valuable source of this commodity as towns along Great Bay sent their huge masts to Portsmouth for the required export.
Lumber being very scarce in Europe, The English navy made their masts of three or more pieces strapped together with iron hoops and this proved unsatisfactory. The Lamprey mast pine often grew to a height of 150 or 200 feet and weighed fifteen or twenty tons being two or three feet wide at the base. It was straight as an arrow and branched at the very top like a stately pillar. It retained its natural juices while the Norway pines decayed early when exposed to constant heat and dryness. The average Lamprey Pine lived four times longer than the Norway or about twenty years.
Transporting masts were done by 1) wheels of sixteen and seventeen feet in diameter with the mast slung under the axle and chained for transporting; or 2) in the winter, a sled with a swivel chain hookup allowed for the dragging of the mast through the snow. Hauling by these methods often involved as many as eighty pair of oxen drivers, one for each yoke along the way as they snaked them through the snow to the river.
For long distances through the forest could be heard the clanking and creaking of chains and equipment, the shouts of drivers, and the heaving and straining of heavy oxen. The drivers were roughly dressed in leather and homespun. They goaded on their team with language all their own. Their job was a dangerous one, but they brought to it that skill and judgement for which the versatile Yankee is known, and considering the risks they ran, accidents were rare. Paid as often as not, in rum, knives, and tobacco, they lived a rough and ready life and made little profit.
The profit was reserved for the many agents and contractors who acted as a middleman between the lumbermen and the Royal shipyards. Lumbermen were in a perpetual state of poverty, their morals were ruined, and they grew prematurely old. Their work was dangerous and laborious, and they spent most of their money in taverns as fast as they made it.
When possible, masts were floated down the Lamprey being dragged there by these conveyances. To show the magnitudes of the mast trade the following letter was written in 1715 when Newmarket was part of Exeter.
”There being every winter great numbers of men and teams chiefly from Exeter sent up into the woods above the bounds and leads of the towns, where they cut 1500 large pine trees and hall them in loggs into the river called Lampereale (Lamprey), and ye great flowing of that river, with which rains down to ye river’s mouth (New Market) of which they saw at least 2,000,000 pine boards, besides oak planks; and as to masts and extraordinary oak timber, there is constantly transported to Spain and Portugal yearly great quantities.”
The mouth of the Lamprey (New Market) in the early 1700s saw a beehive of activity with sawmills and lumber yards busily in the art of fashioning masts, spars, barrel staves, oak beams, for export and local ship building, the falls of the Lamprey provided the water ways to Portsmouth, thence to the sea.
For a century and a quarter, the British Navy and Merchant fleet depended heavily on the Great Bay mast trade. One reason England lost the Revolution was that the great masts of New Hampshire, on which they had depended since Cromwell’s day, were no longer available. The lack of these big spars for masts and bowsprits precipitated a naval crisis in 1778 and led directly to the loss of important naval campaigns. (4)
On July 23, 1710 The Indians succeeded, in their plan to kill their hated enemy, Colonel Winthrop Hilton. This was the most surprising stroke during the Indian Wars. Hilton was largely engaged in the masting business. Having several valuable hemlock trees felled the previous winter beyond the Piscassic, he went out with seventeen men to peel off the bark. While at work they were ambushed by the Indians. At first fire Colonel Hilton and two others fell. Dudley Hilton, brother of Colonel Winthrop, and another man were captured, and heard from no more. Flushed with this success the Indians then appeared in the open road, and took four children at their play. They also captured John Wedgewood and killed John Magoon, near his brother’s barn. The next day, a company of 100 men marched in pursuit of the Indians, but found only the mangled remains of their neighbors. The Indians scalped Colonel Hilton, struck hatchets into his head, and left a lance in his breast. One of the slain was buried on the spot. The other two were brought home. (5)
To get a sense of life in Lamprey River Village in the mid-1600 to mid 1700s, one can imagine these pine masts as they were harvested out of the local forests for export to Great Britain. Dragged on a sled contraption along the frozen ground in winter, or chained underneath the giant mast wheels for a clanking mud-season trip through the woods, the dozens of oxen and their rough-cut drivers would arrive at the landing. It would hardly be a quiet arrival—especially with dozens of drivers ready for some food and drink. And what of the oxen? Was there someplace nearby to keep them?
There might be a wait for ice-out, but eventually everything—including the masts—could go floating off to market, out on the Bay to Portsmouth. (All this for the King’s Navy!)
There are precious few artifacts of that era. However, there is one pair of mast wheels that has survived.
Mast Wheels in Webster NH Historical Society, 2013
According to the Webster, NH Historical Society website, these mast wheels had been used to transport masts to the Seacoast during the clipper ship days.
Major N. D. Stuckey purchased the wheels from Bainbridge Parsons of York, Maine for $50.00, and sold them to Mr. Richard Morton, Rye Beach, NH. These wheels were displayed by Mr. Morton in front of the old Highway Hotel in Concord. After he died in 1976, his family gave the wheels to Dorothy Sanborn and son Roger, who donated them to the Webster Historical Society. With special funding and approximately 660 man-hours, the wheels were restored in 2013.
The wheels are nine feet in diameter and have a six-inch iron tire. Each wheel weighs 1000 pounds, while the axle and arch assembly weighs 950 pounds. 
For Newmarket’s Ship Building History, Pre & Post Revolutionary Years,
Privateers, Sea and Gundalow Captains and the end of our rich sea trade
see the attached link to this article
 The Conservation Commission works with other Town boards and departments, as well as with regional environmental groups such as the Lamprey River Advisory Committee. It manages and regulates usage of all town conservation properties—including Schanda Park.
 Red Schanda, “Joe Dix” column, 1994 Exeter/Hampton Newsletter
(3) Tide Turns on the Lamprey, History of Newmarket, Sylvia Fitts Getchell, published 1984, Capital Offset Company, Concord, NH.
(4) ”Ports of Piscataqua” by William G. Saltonstall, Harvard University Press; published 1941
(5) “Old Newmarket”, by Nellie Palmer George, Exeter Newsletter Press, 1933; and History of Rockingham County, New Hampshire and Representative Citizens by Charles A. Hazlett, Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill., 1915]
(6) The Webster NH Historical Society website: https://websterhistoricalsociety.org/?page_id=448