The First 200 Years
|The Newport Historical Society meets on the second Monday of the month in the Community room at the Sugar River Savings Bank.|
Newport, New Hampshire was chartered on October 6, 1761 when Colonial Governor Benning Wentworth granted sixty townships on the western side of the Connecticut River and eighteen townships on the eastern side, including Newport. In the summer of 1765 six young men arrived from Killingworth, Connecticut and cleared six acres of land each. By 1769 fifteen families had settled along the Sugar River. They built their first log cabins and, later, more substantial homes on the table land near our present Golf Course and along Pine Street.
Settlers continued to come and fine houses were built, mills were started, roads were laid out, and schools established. The Baptist Church, founded in 1779, first built a church in North Newport, then the present one on The Common in 1821. The Congregational Society built the present brick church in 1822. Methodists appeared here about 1830, dedicating their new church building in 1851.
The professionals appeared: James Corbin, the first physician and surgeon, about 1790; Caleb Ellis, the first lawyer, about 1800; Cyrus Barton founded the Argus & Spectator in 1823; the first post office was established in 1810. Newport became the County Seat. The fine old Court House in Court Square was built in 1826; the Eagle Block in 1826. The present beautiful Common was bought by the town in 1821 and the trend of building moved from the original settlements on the Unity Road to the present town center.
The town was growing and prospering when, suddenly, the smoldering argument between North and South burst into flame at Fort Sumter, April 11, 1861. Two hundred and forty Newporters enlisted and about thirty men were lost. After the Civil War, expansion and building resumed, notably the Town Hall and Court House in 1872. In 1873, Dexter Richards built the town’s largest business building, the Richards Block.
The railroad had worked it’s way up to Bradford but got no further for a number of years, apparently awed by the shoulder of Mt. Sunapee. When the town subscribed $75,000 and Newbury Cut opened a pass through the high ridge, the railroad made it to Newport in 1871.
Newport’s most famous native, Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book for fifty years, in an era when woman’s place was in the home, was writing novels, doing innumerable things of lasting public service to the nation and finding time to dash off the best known poem in the English language…Mary Had A Little Lamb
Industrious efforts were bringing money into town as banks began to appear. Dexter Richards, one of the town’s most generous benefactors, gave the Richards Free Library in 1888 and the Richards High School building in 1896. The textile industry brought new jobs; woolen mills were built.
Austin Corbin, famous railroad president and native of Newport, had returned here in the 1890’s and built Corbin Park, a 22,000 acre game preserve, now the Blue Mountain Game Preserve. In 1911, Newport ‘blew the lid off for the biggest celebration in it’s history’, it’s Sesqui-Centennial, complete with a circus and all the fixings.
World War I found Captain (now Major) Samuel H. Edes leading Company M to battle as he had also for the Mexican Border troubles. We sent about 230 men and lost 8. Again, in World War II, Major Edes led the boys from here. In that war we sent forth about 650 men and lost 30.
The famous Newport Winter Carnival began in 1916 and continues to this day. The Newport Airport, Parlin Field, one of the first in the state, opened in 1929 and was taken over by the town in 1939. After World War ll, a resurgence of building occurred largely due to a bequest in the will of George B. Wheeler, another of our most generous philanthropists, in the form of a gymnasium and a hospital. The county built the new Records Building in 1949 in Court Square.
The Newport Shoe Manufacturing Corporation, Sportwelt Shoe Company and Federal Machine Tool Corporation arrived in the 1950’s bringing more jobs. In 1960, our first radio station, WCNL, began broadcasting fine music and good programs from it’s site on Belknap Avenue.
In 1961 Newport celebrated it’s Bicentennial on August 14 – 20. Raymond Holden wrote ‘The Last Fire-Haunted Spark’ for the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Town of Newport, New Hampshire 1761 – 1961.
Newport history From the Newport Bicentennial Booklet and ‘Newport’s First 200 Years’, a chronology of Newport history by Kenneth Andler.
Newport souvenir china from the collection of Andi Willett.