Lee Historical Society

The History of Lee, NH

The Pre-Colonial Era: Native American Inhabitants

In the pre-colonial era Lee was home to several Native American Communities.  Evidence points to a large fishing camp, that is between 5,000 and 7,000 years old .  There is also evidence of a permanent Native-American village dating from 3000 years ago.  With the arrival of Europeans, the Native American community died out, due to diseases introduced by the colonists.  There is evidence of an ancient Pentucket Trail, which entered Lee at the Barrington line, and continued through Epping. At the southern end of the trail, near Wadleigh falls, was a village called Washucke.  In 1659 the Sagamore of Washucke sold this village and all theland between the Lamprey and Bellamy Rivers to the English.  (For fuller account see Renata Dodge, A Short History of Lee)

Colonial and Pre-Revolutionary times

The town of Lee was first settled by European colonists in 1623, as part of Dover.  The first two grants in what is now Lee were at Wadleigh’s Falls and at Newtown in North Lee in the mid 1600’s.  In 1668 Robert Wadleigh built the first sawmill at the “uppermost falls in Lampereel river.”

In Pre-Revolutionary Times Lumber was shipped along Mast Road, using teams of oxen.  They were transported to Durham, where they were floated to Portsmouth for use by the British Navy.

There were three British garrisons located in Lee.  One in Newtown in the North, one along Mast Road, and a large cellar hole still marks of the location of the third n the southwestern part of Lee, near Fox Garrison Road.

In 1732 a portion of Dover split off and was incorporated as the town of Durham.  Durham included what is now Lee and part of Madbury.  As the population grew, a petition was presented to Governor Benning Wentworth, asking for division of the town of Durham.  Governor Benning incorporated the western portion of Durham as the parish of Lee.

There are several theories about the name  “Lee.”  One is that Lee was named after a person or town in England.  Alternatively, another theory is that it was selected by resident John Cartland, who had come from the hamlet of Lee in Scotland. A third theory is that Governor Wentworth named the town for a friend and relative, General Charles Lee, who at one time was second in command to General Washington. (For fuller account see Renata Dodge, A Short History of Lee)

The Revolution

Among the petitioners who were instrumental in setting Lee off from Durham as a separate parish, many joined in the War of Independence 10 years later.  There are approximately 30 Revolutionary soldiers buried in Lee, including “Old Prince,” a black slave who attended Captain John Layn.

Before the Revolution there was a significant Quaker population in Lee, including the Meader, Jenkins, Cartland and Hanson families. The Cartland School house was originally built in 1774 as a Quaker meeting house near what is now Rte 152.  It was subsequently moved to its present location. Because of their religious convictions the Quakers refused to sign the Association Test in 1776 to oppose the British with arms.

In 1777 Captain Robert Parker, merchant and mariner, began to build the privateer “General Sullivan”  The General Sullivan was transported from Lee to the Portsmouth Shipyard. In 1778 she made her first foyage from Portsmouth armed with 14 guns and a crew of 100.  At about that time Parker began to build the Georgian-style mansion, now the Green Dream Farm on Rte 155. (For fuller account see Renata Dodge, A Short History of Lee)

The Intersection of Routes 125 and 152 in the Early 20th Century

Route 125 was the original track bed for the railroad... (Click for more)

Route 125 was the original track bed for the railroad.The South Lee Train Station was there in the late 19th century and the early 20th century.The white building on the right is still there as is the house on the right. The house is currently the Plumer Bed & Breakfast. The building in the middle center of the photo was the train station and the building on the near left was the milk house. Contributed by Scott Bugbee

The Keeping Room

The Keeping Room

This photo is of a room that was originally in South Lee but moved to England in the 1960s. A 1740’s keeping room from the Thompson-Thurston House is now displayed in the American Museum in England at Claverton Manor, in Bath. Here is a link to the history of Claverton Manor:  The Claverton Manor saw the room as a excellent example of colonial living and has preserved that room for future generations to appreciate.

A “keeping room” is actually a very basic concept. It is basically a secondary living room that connects to the kitchen area. It was a popular space in colonial times due to the fact that the heat from the kitchen kept the keeping room warm, making it one of the few heated areas in the house. Contributed by Scott Bugbee

 The Cattle Passes

Before the Nashua and Rochester Railroad came through Lee in 1874 there was some disagreement between local farmers and the Railroad. The proposed route of the railroad ran through many farmers’ fields thereby cutting off access for ranging cattle. The farmers didn’t like this so during the sales negotiations to purchase land to construct a railroad the farmers insisted that some mechanism be created to remove the barrier. As in earlier cases the railroad suggested putting in “cattle passes”. These would allow grazing cattle to pass safely under the tracks as they moved from field to field. In Lee, a total of five such cattle passes were negotiated and constructed.

One of these passes was located between the current Route 125/Route 152 intersection and the Lee-Epping town line in South Lee. This cattle pass was for B.Y. Piper who owned the land on both sides of the proposed track in this location. The original cattle pass was described as 4’3″ wide and 6′ high and about50′ long. The cattle pass was “rectangular in form, with side walls made of large granite blocks measuring approximately 1 1/2 – 2′ high and 3-4′ long. Initially dry laid the walls now have concrete mortar”. This description was taken from the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources report prepared in 2006. When Route 125 was constructed in 1937 along the old railroad bed the covering stone slabs were removed and replaced with concrete. The cattle pass was also widened by 30′ on the east end and 20′ on the west end to accommodate the new wider Route 125.

Unfortunately for people wishing to view this cattle pass, it has been removed by the State of New Hampshire Department of Transportation. You may, however, still view some of the granite blocks removed from this cattle pass. They are located at Little River Park to the Northeast of the Randy Stevens pavilion.

The photos on the right show a map of where this cattle pass was located and a few internal photos of the cattle pass before it was removed. They show the reduced size of its ends with added culvert extensions. Contributed by Scott Bugbee

The Lee Traffic Circle

The current land being occupied by the McDonalds and the Sunoco Gas Station was previously Antonio’s Drive-in. You could get ice cream and various food items. Across the Circle currently is Wendy’s restaurant. Previously this was home to Harley’s Diner and the Lobster Pool. The diner was owned by Harley Knox and served the best corn bread, western sandwich, and onion rings ever and don’t forget about the fried tripe!
Just north on Route 125 on the same side of the road is Walgreens Pharmacy. Before that, the Gateway Restaurant was there.  This is the area where the Krazy Kone used to be located. . An ad for the Krazy Kone Restaurant shows what we are missing.
These are just some of the businesses that are no longer around and are missed by their customers. if you have any memories of these businesses, please share them in a comment below.  Contributed by Scott Bugbee, with thanks to Donna Eisenhard for the use of some of these photos.