Hudson, NH Town Pound
Telegraph, The (Nashua, NH)
July 28, 1998
Memo: We will keep at it forever, or until we visit or contact all 259 towns and cities in the state It's a labor of love. We just love them.'-
Louise Frank of Barnstead speaking for herself and husband Tom, who call themselves the Stone Pound Seekers Pounds
down old pounds
JESSIE SALISBURY Telegraph Correspondent
Amherst's town pound was lost to development, and Mont Vernon never had one. Wilton's is on private property, while Lyn deborough's is one of several lis ted on the National Register of Historic Places.
Town pounds, those old fieldstone enclosures with or without gates for keeping livestock, area generally misunderstood relic of local history."
They are a piece of history in danger of being lost," Louise Frank said recently during a stop in Wilton. "A town is fortunate to have one." Wilton's is behind the Unitarian Church in Wilton Center, and it took awhile to find someone who could direct her to it.
Frank and her husband, Tom, residents of Barnstead for the past 30 years, call themselves the Stone Pound Seekers. They are looking for the old stone structures, documenting their finds with notes and pictures. So far they have visited or contacted 88 towns, mainly in the southern part of the state. Of those, Louise said, "Fifty-five have pounds, four have markers where the pounds used to be, and 29 never had one."
Area towns they had not yet visited include Merrimack, Brook line, Nashua, Pelham and Litchfield.
She was intrigued by a visit to Hollis, where they found a Pound Road, but not yet a pound. There was one, however, she said, in the former town of Monson, and wondered if it was in what is now Hollis.
People who think of pounds at all usually think they were for holding lost or strayed cattle, as indeed they may have on occasion. However, most of the pounds were built before 1800, and they were for impounding livestock taken by the town in lieu of property taxes.
The laws of the Royal Province of New Hampshire, until 1686, authorized the town constable to imprison a person who could not pay his taxes. In 1868, the law was amended to allow seizure of property or land.
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.
The pounds were all similar to this description in the 1906 Lyn deborough history: "In 1774 the town voted to build a pound, 25 by 30 feet, the wall to be six feet high, faced on the inside, three feet thick at the bottom and one and half feet at the top, and to be capped with a timber-frame. It was to have a convenient gate with a lock."
Newer towns don't have them. Greenville separated from Mason 125 years ago. Mason has the pound. Mont Vernon was formed from a section of Amherst and a piece of Lyndeborough. Both parent towns had one, but Amherst's was lost to a development."
It's amazing they have survived all these years as dry stone construction," Tom Frank said. He is the more history-oriented of the pair, while Louse takes the pictures. She also has a file on each town they have visited. But many they have found are in poor condition with brush growing inside them and walls tumbling. In such cases, they write to the local historical society trying to stir up some interest.
Finding some pounds has been an adventure, they agreed, and said Sutton's was the hardest so far to find.
It was "up on a mountain," she said, "and we walked up in the rain. When we found it, there was a sign on it naming the pound keepers."
They started their quest last year after they had driven by the pound in Atkinson many times. "Atkinson has a nice historical society and they keep it up. In some towns it's been neglected," Louise said.
They wondered if their own town, Hampstead, had a pound. Tom, a member of the Historic District Commission, didn't know. "The town office didn't know," he said, "but we found someone who did. Now an article is being proposed for the Town Warrant to deed it as part of the Historic District." They are also discussing the care of the site with the local Boy Scout troop who are taking it on as a troop project.
Louise stresses that they are not authorities on town pounds, nor even proper historians. "We are just interested people, doing what we like to do."
Both Franks are retired, Tom from a position with AT&T and Louise from selling real estate. "It is a lot more fun doing this," Tom said. They usually cover four towns on a day trip, he added. That keeps it in the fun category."
We will keep at it forever, or until we visit or contact all 259 towns and cities in the state," Louise said. After that, she hopes to organize all of the information into a directory. "It's a labor of love. We just love them."
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