New Hampshire’s Turnpike History

Today when we hear the word, “turnpike,” we think of our asphalt-covered highways,

traversed by fast-moving gas-driven automobiles.  Most forget that the first New Hampshire turnpike system was created through turnpike corporations which built 500 miles of toll roads, and more than 80 New Hampshire turnpikes during the years 1796-1830.

These turnpikes, built by private corporations, sold shares to the general public. The money raised was used to construct these toll roads.  The actual  term “turnpike” refers to a barrier built across the highway, to be opened only after the required tolls were paid.  These tollgates were set up at every mile.  A typical charge in the early days of NH, for a horse and rider, was one cent.

In the palmy days of the Turnpike fair,
With its toll-gates, and keepers ever there,
And latter days of the “New Road” to Weare–
Four daily, twelve passenger, six-horse Coaches,
Here, up and down, made pleasant approaches,
Foretold by the notes of the winding horn,
Cheerfully ahead on the breezes borne.
Old Wheat was first, of whom we will speak:
He drove to Boston, and back the same week!
Once, fording the swollen Souhegan, his team
Was carried away and lost in the stream.
A monstrous long nose his phiz did adorn–
They said “he blew it, instead of a horn
— from poem, Fragrant Memories, by Edward D. Boylston, from book, “Colonial Amherst” by Emma P. Boylston Locke, 1916

The First New Hampshire Turnpike, was incorporated in 1796, and was completed in 1801. It connected Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s only seaport, with the state capitol, Concord. It ran thirty-six miles from the Piscataqua Bridge in Durham through Lee, Barrington, Nottingham, Northwood, Epsom, Chichester, and Pembroke to the Federal Bridge over the Merrimack River in Concord NH.   This ancient turnpike is much of the present Route 4.  New Hampshire Historical Marker #181 commemorates this turnpike.

Second New Hampshire Turnpike, was chartered in 1799, and completed in 1801.  This was the connecting route between Boston MA and Vermont. Some New Hampshire towns on this route include Unity, Francestown, Mont Vernon, and Amherst, among others.   It stretched from Claremont and Cornish NH to to Amherst NH. Teams from a portion of central Vermont began to pass over this route, and instead of the older two-horse coach of Joseph Wheat, which made a weekly trip from Amherst to Boston and back without a change of horses, a line of four-horse coaches began to run tri-weekly from Windsor VT to Boston, returning on alternate days.  Large droves of cattle and sheep went to market over the road, and the amount of freight in both directions soon became so large that six-horse teams were employed at all seasons of the year.  Ox-teams grew out of use, and when the farmer, ignoring the professional teamster, still continued in winter to take his own produce to market, he used the double “pung” with steel shoes an inch thick. The town of Francestown NH once collected a toll of one cent per mile from traveling coaches and wagons.  For nearly thirty years a vast amount of travel from Canada, Vermont and western New Hampshire passed over this road, and great quantities of merchandise were transported over it.

Third New Hampshire Turnpike, was incorporated in 1799, and was four rods wide, and fifty miles long.  It was built from Walpole New Hampshire, through the towns of Keene Jaffrey, Marlborough, and Sharon, toward the Massachusetts line to Townsend. The building of this road was strongly opposed by the town of New Ipswich, who wished it to take a more southerly route. The contract for constructing it was taken by Col. Bellows of Walpole and others. It cost about $50,000, divided into shares of $200. A very small dividend was declared for a few years, but in 1813 the stock had depreciated so much that it sold for twelve dollars a share. About the year 1819 it was made a free road and adopted by the town.  A toll house and gate stood on this road from 1803 and 1822, and is commemorated with New Hampshire historic marker #68.

Fourth NH Turnpike. During the period between 1800 and 1830, subsistence farming was transformed to commercial farming as transportation along the Connecticut River was supplemented by the completion of the Fourth New Hampshire Turnpike, linking Lebanon to the seacoast, and by the incorporation of the Croydon Turnpike in 1804, allowing fast transport of food products. The convergence of the rivers and these turnpikes in Lebanon, along with the White River Turnpike and the Hanover Branch Turnpike supported a number of inns and public houses in town along these well-traveled routes and provided an excellent location for industrial development. Enfield was one of the townships on this route.

The Branch Road and Bridge Company was incorporated June 16, 1802 and went from Keene, corner of Swanzey, Marlborough, to north line of Fitzwilliam, for a distance of 7 miles, 195 rods at a cost of $7,510.

The 5th N.H. turnpike appears to have been incorporated but not commenced.

The 6th N.H. turnpike, Road and Bridge Company was incorporated June 16, 1802 and went from Brattleborough VT bridge over Connecticut River, Hinsdale, Winchester, to Massachusetts line at Warwick – cost $16,000.

Proprietors Dover Turnpike Road was incorporated December 21, 1803–from Dover, Somersworth, to Berwick, Maine for a distance of 4-1/2 miles.

Coos Turnpike Road, was incorporated December 29, 1803 and extended from Haverhill through Piermont and Warren and to Baker’s River, near Merrill’s Mills for a distance of 12 miles and a cost of $15,074. ” Although Coos County had been given an outlet through the Crawford Notch by the Tenth New Hampshire turnpike, the old road down the Connecticut Valley still held its place on account of the ties which bound the Coos settlers to the lower valley towns from which many of them had originally come and the Coos turnpike was held with enthusiasm. This turnpike was completed two years after its charter was granted and was for more than a generation the great thoroughfare in northern New Hampshire and made Haverhill during these years the liveliest town north of Concord. This turnpike was the predecessor of the White Mountain Division of the Boston & Main Railroad and it was operated until nearly the opening of the railroad. It was a common occurrence for the natives of Coos County to drive their cattle and turkeys to market over this highway. It is recorded that there was at one time a flock of five hundred turkeys driven from St. Johnsbury to Lowell over this road. The custodian of the flock found that he had a gobbler of such dignity that he could lead the way and that all the flock would follow, so in this manner he led his procession at a rate of twenty-three miles a day until its destination was reached without the loss of a single bird.” [section in quotations from White Mountain Echo, Bethlehem NH, 2 August 1924].

Orford Turnpike Road was incorporated December 27, 1803.

Tenth NH Turnpike. On December 28, 1803, a turnpike, the tenth in New Hampshire, was incorporated and shortly afterward there was constructed through the Notch at an expense of $40,000 for twenty miles, the money being raised by lottery. It occupied to some extend the site of the old road, and became one of the best-paying turnpikes in the northern part of the state. A Dr. Shattuck, of Boston, in his account, published in the Philadelphia Medical and Physical Journal of 1808, writes of his excursion to the “White Hills” of New Hampshire the previous year, stating “a turnpike-road is now [August 1807] building from Bath, through the Notch, to Portland.”

The Charlestown Turnpike Road was incorporated on December 27, 1803 from Charlestown, Acworth to the Second NH Turnpike in Lempster for a distance of 12 miles.

The Mayhew Turnpike Road was incorporated on December 29, 1803, from New Chester, Bristol, Hebron, corner of Plymouth, toward Haverhill, for a distance of 17 miles.

The Chester Turnpike Road was incorporated on June 12, 1804 and extended from Pembroke through Allenstown, Candia, to Chester, for a distance of 14 miles.

The Londonderry Turnpike Road was incorporated June 1804 from Concord, Bow, Hooksett, Chester, Londonderry, corner of Windham Salem, to line of Massachusetts, a distance of 35 miles.

Grafton Turnpike Road was incorporated June 21, 1804 from Orford, Lime, corner of Hanover, Canaan, Orange, Grafton, Danbury, New-Chester to the Fourth NH Turnpike on Andover, a distance of 35 miles.

The Jefferson Turnpike Road, incorporated December 11, 1804, from Lancaster, Jefferson, Bretton-Woods, to the Tenth NH Turnpike, a distance of 14 miles, at a cost of $18,400.

The Croydon Turnpike Road, incorporated June 21, 1804 from Lebanon, corner of Plainfield, Grantham, Croydon, Newport, Lempster, to Second NH Turnpike in Washington, a distance of 34 miles, at an expense of $35,948.

The Cheshire Turnpike Road, was incorporated December 13, 1804, from Charlestown, Langdon, part of Walpole, Alstead, Surry to Third NH Turnpike in Keene, a distance of 24 miles at a cost of $19,610.

The Ashuelot Turnpike Road, was incorporated June 18, 1807, from the Sixth NH Turnpike in Winchester, Richmond, Fitzwilliam Village, a distance of 15 miles.

Rindge Turnpike Road was incorporated June 12, 1807, from Branch Turnpike in Fitzwilliam, through Rindge, to line of Massachusetts, at corner of New-Ipswich, a distance of 4 miles.

The Cornish Turnpike Road, was incorporated December 23, 1808, from Cornish Bridge to Croydon Turnpike in Newport for a distance of 11 miles.

The Hampton Causeway Turnpike Corporation was incorporated December 23, 1808 in Hampton, a distance of 1-3/4 miles at a cost of $14,173.66.

The Fitzwilliam Village Turnpike Road was incorporated December 9, 1809 from the village in Fitzwilliam to the line of Massachusetts, a distance of 4-1/2 miles.

Londonderry Branch Turnpike Road, went from Hooksett, Bow, to Hopkinton, a distance of 11 miles.

The Sanbornton Turnpike Road, from Sanbornton to New Hampton for a distance of 10 miles.

The loftiest turnpike of New England is the Mount Washington Summit Road. The charter to this company was granted in 1853 with the privilege to build a turnpike from Peabody River Valley over the top of Mount Washington to a point between the Notch and Cherry Mountain. The summit was made accessible to carriages in August 1861. Under the franchise of 1859 the carriage road up Mt. Washington is in operation and in 1924 tolls were still collected from those passing over it. [White Mountain Echo, Bethlehem NH, 2 August 1924]

The last turnpike charter in New England was granted by the New Hampshire Legislature of 1893 to the Mount Prospect Hotel Company which was incorporated and intended to construct a road from Lancaster to Whitefield with a side road to the summit of Mount Prospect which was then the summer home of Secretary of War, John Weeks. However, nothing was ever done under this charter and the road up the mountain today is the private venture of Mr. Weeks. [White Mountain Echo, Bethlehem NH, 2 August 1924].

The temporary death of the toll road.
Eventually other and easier roads to market were constructed, the railroad was introduced, and although New Hampshire’s toll roads were still used, most of them became “free” roads owned by their respective townships.  New Hampshire roads remained maintained this way until the advent and frequent use of motorized vehicles–automobiles.  Toll-roads again became popular in the 1960s.

President Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway Act in 1956, which created today’s Interstate Highway system. East-west interstate route numbers end in an even number. North-south routes end in an odd number. This resulted of the building of Interstates 93 and 293, F.E. Everett Turnpike, NH Routes 101, 3 and 3A in New Hampshire. When I was growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire, when Interstate 293 was being built, we called it the “Beltway.”

Probably one of the most well known turnpikes in New Hampshire, that is named after a New Hampshire resident, is the “F.E. Everett Turnpike,”  or the “Everett Turnpike” for short.  I went through most of my life driving over that piece of road, not knowing how it received its name.  It was named after Frederic Elwin Everett. the first NH State Highway commissioner. (see his family tree below)


FOR A MORE COMPLETE LISTING OF THE NEW HAMPSHIRE TURNPIKE SYSTEM SEE: The Turnpikes of New England: History of the NH Turnpike (Google Books)

ALSO SEE:  The Post Road and Post Office History in New Hampshire

Roads, Turnpikes & Canals in New Hampshire, our earliest routes of transportation

The Origin and History of New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster Highway 


*Family Tree of Frederick Elwin Everett*

Photograph of Frederick Everett, from The Granite Monthly, Vol 56, No. 2, February 1924

Photograph of Frederick Everett, from The Granite Monthly, Vol 56, No. 2, February 1924

Frederic(k) Elwin Everett, son of Benjamin Gay & Sarah E. (Johnson-Crafts) Everett, was born 16 April 1876 in New London, Merrimack Co. NH. He married 12 Sep 1900 in New London NH to Gertrude Eaton Lamson, dau of Rufus W. & Cyrene D. (Eaton) Lamson.  She was b. 11 June 1875 in Cambridge MA.  Frederick was a direct descendant of Richard Everett of England and Dedham MA, and his wife Mary, through John > Richard > Jeremiah > Levi > Milton > Benjamin Gay.  He was New Hampshire’s first Commissioner of the State Highway Department. In 1939 he was president of Concord Building & Loan Association. In 1933 Frederick was the TP Master of Alpha Lodge of Perfection, a Masonic Lodge, 44B S. Main Street, in Concord NH. He resided at 8 Ridge Road in Concord NH until his death, and his widow lived there afterwards. [see below at M.I.T. yearbook for additional biography]. In 1942 living in New London NH. He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, with his patriotic ancestor being Levi Everett of Attleborough, MA. He died after August 1949 and before December 1954. In August of 1955 the F.E. Everett Highway toll road was dedicated, with his widow in attendance.
Online Book: Massachusetts Institute of Technology First Decennial Record of the Class of 1900 [published in 1910, page 41]
Frederick E. Everett I. 1896-1899
Assistant Engineer, State Highway Department, Concord NH
Residence: New London NH
Married: Gertrude E. Lamson, Cambridge, Mass.
Children: Douglas Newton, 5 years; Barbara, 3 years
1902-1905, engineer of park department, Cambridge MA; 1906, assistant engineer preliminary survey, Cambridge pipe line.
Has kept up Walker Club traditions by playing many parts such as Silas Green in “Mrs. Briggs of the Poultry Patch,”  Mr. Carter in “Messmales,” Philip in “Mr. Bob,” Larry Finnegan in “Finnigan’s Fortune,” and Silas Steele in “Nevada.” Is going important work connected with the planning, surveying, and inspection of the three tunk roads for which New Hampshire has appropriated one million dollar.
Social Security Death Index Record
Name: Frederick E. Everett
Last Residence: 03868  Rochester, Strafford, New Hampshire
Born: 19 Dec 1929
Died: 23 Jul 2001
WWI Draft Card for Frederic Elwin Everett
Residence: 56 Beacon St. Concord, Merrimack Co NH,
age 42, DOB: April 16, 1876
occupation: State Highway Commissioner, State of NH
NOK: Gertrude Lamson Everett, wife, dated Sep 9. 1918
Medium height & build, blue eyes, brown/gray hair
State (Year) SSN issued: New Hampshire (Before 1951 )
Social Security Death Index Record
Name: Douglas N. Everett
Last Residence: 03301  Concord, Merrimack, New Hampshire
Born: 3 Apr 1905
Died: 14 Sep 1996
U.S. Census > 1920 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Merrimack > Concord Ward 9 > District 81
Everett, Frederic E. Head M W 44 married NH NH NH commissioner state highway
Everett, Gertrude L. wife F W 44 married MA MA MA
Everett, Douglas M. son W M 14 single MA NH MA [b abt 1906]
Everett, Barbara, F W 12 single NH NH MA
Everett, Miriam dau F W 4-9/12 single NH NH MA
Everett, Elizabeth dau F W 1-3/12 single NH NH MA
U.S. Census > 1930 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Merrimack > Concord > District 30
Everett, Frederick E. Head 6000 M W 54 married at age 24 NH NH NH  Commissioner, State Highway [b abt 1876 NH]
Everett, Gertrude L., wife F W 54 married at age 25 MA MA MA
Everett, Barbara daughter F W 23 single NH NH MA [b abt 1907]
Everett, Miriam dau F W 15 single NH NH MA [b abt 1915]
Everett, Elizabeth F W 12 single NH NH MA [b abt 1917]
1930 United States Federal Census > New Hampshire > Merrimack > Concord > District 18
Everett, Douglas N. Head M W 26 married at age 25 NH NH NH, representative, real estate
Everett, Helen F. wife F W unk age married NH NH NH
Children of Frederic(k) E. & Gertrude E. (Lamson) Everett:
1. Douglas N. Everett, b. 3 Apr 1905 Concord NH, d. 14 Sep 1996; married 29 Sep 1928 in Concord NH to Helen Foster, dau of William A. & Ethel R. (Robinson) Foster. She was b. 27 Oct 1905 and d. 16 Aug 1991 in NH. In 1930 he was employed at Morrill & Everett and asst treas NH Realty Co., resided 56 Beacon Street Concord NH. In 1937 he is also treas of New Industries Corp.; in 1939 treas of West End Development Co; in 1941 he moved to 162 Centre Street. In 1947 he was a trustee of NH Savings Bank in Concord. In 1951 pres of Dustin & Smith Agency Inc. In 1957 he was vp of NH Savings Bank in Concord and of Concord Regional Development Corp. Had son Edward F., and dau Jean both students living at home in 1951.  His son Edward F. was an employee at the Mt. Washington Observatory in 1955, and was asst sec at Morrill & Everett Inc in 1960, still living at home. Edward F. married Vida D. –, and resided 10 Park Street, Concord NH.
2. Barbara Everett, b abt 1907 in Elkins (New London) NH; m. 28 Jun 1930 Concord NH to Sydney Chandler Hayward, son of Louis S. & Alice L (Hibbard) Hayward.
3. Richard S. Everett, b. 10 Nov 1914 New London NH; d. 15 Dec 1914 New London NH of acute acid poisoning.
4. Miriam Everett, b abt 1915 NH; She m. 10 Sep 1938 in Concord NH to William Woolson Marcurda, son of William H. & Maude (Wollson) Macurda.  In 1933 she is in the Concord City directory, residing with her parents at 8 Ridge Road in Concord NH, a student. In 1937 she is shown in Concord directory living with her parents, employed in Boston.
5. Elizabeth Everett, b abt 1917 NH; in 1937 shown living with her parents on 8 Ridge Rd, a student; in 1939 living with parents, a student; in 1940 single living with parents, a clerk at H.G. Emmons Inc. She married 18 Apr 1941 in Concord NH to John Francis Prior, son of Ernest L. & Emma L. (Meyer) Prior.

(Updated September 2015)
(Updated 21 June 2018)

This entry was posted in Genealogy, History, N.H. Historical Markers, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to New Hampshire’s Turnpike History

  1. Pingback: New Hampshire’s Post Road and Post Office History | Cow Hampshire

  2. Pingback: Boscawen New Hampshire: From Carter’s Tavern to The Kettle & Crane | Cow Hampshire

  3. Pingback: The Origin and History of New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster Highway | Cow Hampshire

  4. Pingback: Cow Hampshire’s Strange But True Blog Statistics for 2015 | Cow Hampshire

  5. Pingback: April 2018: How Old is Old Wilton Road? – Mont Vernon Historical Society News Letter

  6. bob. afka_bob. says:

    Eighty turnpikes or toll roads were chartered, but were anywhere near that number ever built?

  7. Pingback: The Grandest House in Mont Vernon – Mont Vernon Historical Society News Letter

  8. I grew up on the Second New Hampshire Turnpike. We always called it “The Francestown Turnpike.”

    • April Brown says:

      Over in New Boston, we referred to it as a road that 5 different towns pretended wasn’t their responsibility. Crazy potholes.

  9. Peter Krarup says:

    Are there accurate maps of each turnpike from point to point? It would be nice to be able to walk/ride each one.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Peter, first thank you for reading my blog and posting a comment/question. I personally have never seen a current day map showing the location of all of these old turnpikes. Probably Philip Carrigain’s 1816 map of New Hampshire would show most of the toll roads that existed at that time. A copy of it can be found in the David Rumsey collection.

  10. Pingback: Winslow’s Walled Enclosures – Mysteries in the Woods | Lyme Cellar Holes

Leave a Reply