Merrimack New Hampshire’s Educator, Artist, Civic Leader, Librarian: Emma Augusta Cross (1850-1933)

Photograph of Emma A. Cross, courtesy of the Merrimack Public Library, colorized by the blog editor.

Today few residents of Merrimack New Hampshire can remember a time without their iconic ‘Lowell Library‘ on the corner of Route 3 and Baboosic Lake Road. However, that structure was not erected until 1925.   Emma Cross was not the first librarian (Dr. Warren Pillsbury and Dr. George H. Davis were earlier librarians) but she was the longest and most generous, serving for 38 years with the library located in the front rooms of her home on Loop Road. [see History of Library]

Emma Augusta Cross was born 6 June 1850 in Manchester NH. She was the daughter of Joseph & Deborah P. (Wilder) Cross, and was a direct descendant of Nathan Cross of Old Dunstable, famous in the history books for being attacked by the native people while making turpentine in the woods, and taken captive. [see details below]

Emma attended Manchester schools.  [I helped to compile a biography about her for the Merrimack Historical Society as follows] “She graduated from the Manchester High School in 1868. She was elected to serve as an assistant teacher for the intermediate school the following year. In 1870, after attending training institutes, the Manchester School Committee awarded her a teaching certificate for the intermediate school, entitling her to a position as a full teacher. She remained in that position until 1875, when she gave up her job to help her parents set up a farm in Merrimack, NH.”

“In 1884, she removed to Boston, where she was employed as a photo-retoucher. Also while in Boston, she attended Boston’s Evening Drawing Classes, which she successfully completed and was presented with a diploma in May 1886.”

Photograph of 27 Loop Road in Merrimack NH, home of Emma Cross and then the library. The building now houses Elliott Orthodontists.

“Around 1895, she returned to Merrimack, where she made the farmhouse the temporary home for her two nephews and her often-traveling artist brothers. She provided room for Merrimack’s Public Library in the front room of her house on Loop Road, and was appointed library director when the library was moved to a more public building (In 1907 the library and its 3,000 volumes were moved to rented quarters in Ayers’ Store).”

“Emma Cross also served on Merrimack’s school board. She died 7 November 1933 in Merrimack NH and is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester NH. A collection of some of her and her sibling’s artistic creations may be found in a collection at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA. A framed photograph of her is located in the Merrimack’s Public Library.”

Photograph of Merrimack (NH) Public Library (originally Lowell Library), corner Rte 3 and Baboosic Lake Road. Erected in 1925. Copyright J.W. Brown


Probably a descendant of  William Cross who was possibly a French Hugenot from Ghent, Belgium and later of London England. He was early at Windsor CT and a landowner at Wethersfield CT. He died about 1655 in Fairfield CT.  Peter was a common family name.  Nathan Cross named one of his sons Peter.


Nathan Cross, b abt 1694, d. 8 Sep 1766; m 1st) 26 Sep 1725 in Chelmsford MA to Mary Parkhurst; m. 2d) 15 Oct 1727 at Chelmsford MA to Sarah Stevens, dau of John & Sarah (Snow) Stevens. She was b. 19 Feb 1693 in MA. He had married 2d) Mary ?Marshall by February 1735. Nathan Cross settled upon his land in Nottingham NH [now Hudson NH]; On 22 April 1724 Nathan bought 45 acres of land with an island at the mouth of Nashua River and two pieces of meadow in Nottingham NH, part of the Joseph Hills farm. [Joseph Butterfield of Dunstable, “in consideration of the sum of four hundred and Ten Pounds of Good and Current Money of New England,” conveyed to Mr. Cross that part of the Joseph Hills farm that was willed by him to his son-in-law, John Waite. This contained forty-five acres, adjoining the land bought by Eleazer Cummings, being the next farm north, with meadows and other lands. ] He had erected a house as early as 1728. This house stood forty rods west of the Derry road, upon a rise of ground, a little south-westerly and near the bank of the small spring brook in law now (date) owned by Charles A. McAfee. He was on the first tax list in 1733. He was in Capt. Joseph Blanchard’s company scouting on the Merrimack and Connecticut Rivers, during the French and Indian War in 1754, 12 weeks and 2 days. He was probably married three times as marriage records and the birth records of his children show. Nathan Cross died 8 Sept 1766. The farm remained in the Cross family for nearly 150 years. The west part of the Catholic Cemetery in Hudson covers a piece of what was the Cross farm. [from history of Hudson NH]
Among the antiques in the possession of the Historical Society of Nashua, New Hampshire, is a gun with an interesting history. On September 4, 1724, two Nashua men, Nathan Cross and Thomas Blanchard, crossed the Merrimack River to gather turpentine from pine trees. As it was a rainy day, they hid their guns in a hollow log to protect them from the weather. While busy in the woods they were surprised and captured by a band of Indians. Alarmed by the absence of the two men, the settlers organized a searching party to look for them. The rescuers picked up the Indian trail and followed it up the river. The Indians lay in wait for them and killed eight of the nine men in the party. Blanchard and Cross were led captive to Canada, where they were forced to remain several years, until at length they were able to purchase their freedom. When they returned to Nashua they looked for their guns and found them in the hollow log where they had hidden them years before. Cross’s gun is the one now in the collection of the Nashua Historical Society. It is not clear what year Nathan was released from captivity. From A History of the Town of Dunstable: “On the 4th of September (1724) a party of French and of Mohawk Indians came to Dunstable and carried into captivity Nathan Cross and Thomas Blanchard, whom they found employed in getting turpentine in the pine forest along the northerly margin of the Nashua River. A party of ten men or more, under command of Lieut. Ebenezer French, whose farm was on the easterly side of Nutting’s Hill, at once proceeded in pursuit of them. One of the company, Josiah Farwell, an old Indian hunter, who had married Hannah, sister of John Lovewell, warned the leader to beware of falling into an ambuscade; but he, too venturesome, replied, “I am going to take the direct path. If any of you are not afraid, follow me!” …. They followed him, and on arriving at what is now Thornton’s Ferry on the Merrimack River, they were waylaid, fired upon by the treacherous enemy, and all the party, excepting Mr. Farwell, who had concealed himself in a clump of bushes, were either killed upon the spot or taken captives….After remaining some time in Canada and enduring many hardships, the captives, Nathan Cross and Thomas Blanchard, together with William Lund who had been taken captive in 1724, effected their redemption, and returned rejoicing to Dunstable.” The New England Historic and Genealogical Society Register Vol 93, page 232 states that Blanchard and Cross were captured and released about 1 year later, meaning they would have returned about September of 1725. On September 26, 1725 the Town of Chelmsford Vital Records show a marriage of Nathan to a Mary Parkhurst but those intentions were published 26 Sep 1725, prior to his marriage to Sarah Stevens; and then another Marriage in Chelmsford of Nathan and Sarah Stevens on October 15, 1727. Whether Nathan was living in Chelsmford or Dunstable at the time in not clear. He probably married 3d) 27 June 1734 to Mary Marshall, dau of John & (Eunice) Rogers Marshall of Billerica MA. She was b. 28 October 1696. [from “Some Descendants of Humphrey Barrett, by Carlton Winters, Brant NY 1968, page 11].
Children of Nathan & Sarah (Stevens) Cross:
1. +Peter Cross, b. 28 Sep 1729 [Dunstable records]
2. Sarah Cross, b. 26 June 1731; m. Joseph Blodgett [Dunstable Records]
Children of Nathan & Mary (Marshall) Cross:
3. John Cross, b. 9 October 1735 [on Nottingham records as John Cross, son of Nathan and Mary Cross, this date]. A company of 70 men from Hollis was in the battle of Bunker Hill, under Capt. Reuben Dow. John Cross was lieutenant, and John Cummings, Ensign. This company, as well as the other soldiers from this vicinity, were under the command of Col. Stark and Col. Prescott, and were in the thickest of the fight.


Hudson NH Town Center, photograph from the 1911 town history.

Peter Cross, son of Nathan & Sarah (Stevens) Cross, was b 28 Sep 1729 in Old Dunstable MA. He married 10 Jan 1758 at West Nottingham, [Now Hudson] Rockingham Co. NH to Sarah Hale, daughter of Henry & Mary (Bartlett) Hale. She was b. in 1731-33 in Littleton MA. He resided in one of the two houses on the original Cross farm, situated a little to the south-west of the Catholic Cemetery in Hudson NH.
Children of Peter & Sarah (Hale) Cross:
1. Peter Cross, b. 1758 in CT, prob died young
2. Mary Cross, b. 1759 in Connecticut
3. +Joseph Cross, b. 17 Feb 1759 W. Nottingham NH [Hudson NH records]
4. **Thomas Cross, b. 21 March 1761 in W. Nottingham, Rockingham Co. NH; m. Sarah Pemberton
5. Sarah Cross, b. 1763 in Nottingham NH
6. Peter Cross, b. 1768 in NH
7. Rachel Cross, b. 1768 in Nottingham NH
8. Nathan Cross, b. 11 March 1772 in Nottingham, Rockingham Co. NH; m. Betty Lawrence/Lawrance 25 Oct 1792 at Nottingham West.


Joseph Cross, son of Peter & Sarah (Hale) Cross, was 17 Feb 1759 in West Nottingham, Rockingham Co. NH, and d. 21 Oct 1815 in Swanzey NH. He married on 10 March 1785 to Hannah Olcott, daughter of Benjamin & Naomi (Comstock) Olcutt. She was b. abt 1764 at East Haddam CT, and d. 27 June 1817 in Swanzey NH. He had removed to Swanzey NH from Nottingham. They lived on what is called “Pine Hill”. They had nine children.
Children of Joseph & Hannah (Olcutt) Cross:
1. Sarah Cross, b. 3 Feb 1786 Swanzey NH; m. 8 Oct 1806 Abijah Stearns, son of Abraham & Esther (Warren) Stearns. He was b. 23 Nov 1781 in Chesterfield NH. They removed to Ohio. Four of their children were Esther, Emily, Ziba and Abraham, the last b. in Ohio, the former 3 probably all b. in Swanzey NH.
2. William Cross, b. 18 March 1787 Swanzey NH
3. Otis Cross b 12 July 1789 Swanzey NH
4. Joseph Cross, b. 8 March 1791 Swanzey NH; m. 18 Feb 1816 Miriam Whitcomb, dau of Jonathan and Miriam (Willard) Whitcomb. She b. 31 Dec 1793 in Swanzey NH. They had at least 3 children: Francis, Frederick and Horace.
5. +Benjamin Cross, b. 1 June 1793 Swanzey NH, d. 13 July 1846 Swanzey NH
6. Hannah Cross, b. 14 June 1795 Swanzey NH
7. Levi Cross, b. 26 Aug 1797 Swanzey NH; went to Vermont
8. James Cross, b. 15 June 1800 Swanzey NH; went to Vermont
9. Luther Cross, b. 17 Oct 1802 Swanzey NH; settled in Woodstock VT


Photo of Swanzey (NH) Center taken from Mt. Caesar. From NH Historical Society Photograph collection, colorized.

Benjamin Cross, son of Joseph & Hannah (Olcutt) Cross was b. 1 June 1793 in Swanzey NH, and d. 13 July 1846 in Swanzey NH, aged 53 years; He married, on 2 February 1816 to Susanna Foster, dau of Joel and Martha (Whitcomb) Foster. She b. 27 Apr 1798 in Swanzey NH, and d. 21 July 1878, aged 80 years in Swanzey NH. Around 1841 Benjamin removed, along with other members of his family, including his second child, Joseph, to Manchester, N.H. Joseph bought a farm and also worked as a watchman for the Amoskeag Corporation. Also a local schoolteacher when living in Swanzey NH; They had ten children
Children of Benjamin & Susanna (Foster) Cross:
1. Hannah Cross, b. 10 Nov 1816; m. 20 Feb 1839 Edwin Snow, son of Peter & Mercy (Bolles) Snow; they had 3 ch b. in Swanzey NH [SNOW]: Susan J. b 13 Sep 1840, m. Elijah Baker of Winchester; Augusta N., b. 16 July 1842, d. 25 Dec 1868 in Chesterfield NH, m. 9 Nov 1864 to Nathaniel C. Henry, son of Willard and Mary H. (Shaw) Henry. He b. 21 Sep 1837 in Chesterfield NH.; Benjamin C., b. 13 Jan 1848, m. 1 Jan 1875 Jane L. Shaw dau of Marshall R. & Almeria (Howard) Shaw. She b. 21 March 1855 in Chestfield NH. Benjamin C. & Jane (Shaw) Cross had at least one ch, Ernest J., b. 8 Sep 1879 in Swanzey NH.
2. +Joseph Cross, b. 11 Aug 1818 Swanzey NH
3. Augusta Cross, b. 15 Oct 1820 Swanzey NH; m. John A. Dennis of Iowa
4. Levi Cross, b. 8 Dec 1821 Swanzey NH; m. Alinda Boyden
5. Philemon Whitcomb Cross, b. 9 Dec 1823 Swanzey NH; resided in Peterborough NH
6. Sarah Cross, b. 18 Nov 1825 in Swanzey NH; m. John C. Young and lived in Manchester NH.
7. Benjamin Cross, b. 3 Apr 1828 Swanzey NH; d. 22 June 1829 Swanzey NH
8. Martha J. Cross, b. 9 March 1831 Swanzey NH; m. George W. Perry of Malden MA
9. Ira Cross, b. 23 July 1833 Swanzey NH; m. Augusta Sanborn of Nashua NH
10. George H. Cross, b. 9 Feb 1835 Swanzey NH; m. Jane Melissa Jackson, dau of Jonathan & Mary (Seaver) Jackson. She b. 25 March 1840 in Swanzey NH. They resided in Winchester NH.


Joseph “Josiah” Cross, son of Joseph & Susanna (Foster) Cross, was b. 11 Aug 1818 in Swanzey NH, and d. 8 Sep 1896 in Merrimack NH. He married on 6 May 1845, in Peterborough, N.H., Deborah Perry Wilder, daughter of Abel & Deborah (Perry) Wilder. She was b. 2 August 1818 probably in Dublin NH, and died 5 December 1895 in Merrimack NH, age 77 yr 4 months 3 days. They are both buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Manchester NH. Their three children, Joel Foster, Emma Augusta, and Henry Clay, all born in Manchester, N.H., became artists.
The Wilder family originally settled in the part of Lancaster, Massachusetts
which is now Bolton, Mass. Col. Abel Wilder (1760-1806) removed to Dublin,
N.H. in 1780. He had married, on 28 March 1779, Hannah Green (1759?-1831), of
Bolton. They had eleven children. Their first child, Abel (1779-1858),
married, in 1801, Deborah Perry (1784-1862). They had ten children: Keziah,
Mary, Mark, Abel, Emmeline, Ivory Perry, Deborah Perry, Franklin, John, and
Benjamin Franklin.
1850 US Census New Hampshire > Hillsborough > Manchester > 116
Joseph Cross 32 M Farmer 2600 NH
Deborah Cross 32 F NH
Joel F. Cross 4 M NH
Emma A. Cross 2/12 F NH
1860 US Census > New Hampshire > Hillsborough > Manchester Ward 3 > 70
Joseph Cross 41 M Farmer 2500/500
Deborah P. Cross 41 F NH
Joel F. Cross 14 M NH
Emma A. Cross 10 F NH
Henry E. Cross 8 M NH
1900 US Census > New Hampshire > Hillsborough > Merrimack > District 88 > 21
Cross, Emma A. Head W F June 1850 49 single NH NH NH
Cross, Edward A. nephew W M Oct 1892 Mass NH Prince Edward Is
Henderson, Marguerite M. boarder W F Dec 1875 24 married 2/12 La RI La
Children of Joseph & Deborah P. (Wilder) Cross:
1. +Joel Foster Cross (1846-1925), or Foster, as he was known, left home as soon
after the end of the Civil War as he could. For the years 1867 and 1868, he was
in business and travelling to New York. By the end of 1868 he settled in
Boston, Mass., where he was employed as a wood engraver in the shop of Samuel
S. Kilburn. He was joined by his brother, Henry, the following year. Foster
married, on 22 July 1889, Christine MacPherson (1868?-1897). Foster was forty-four
at the time, while Christine was only twenty-one. Their first child,
Robert Laurence, was born on 15 April 1891, but died nine months later. Their
second child, Edward Adrian, was born on 29 October 1892. Christine died on 6
September 1897, and two years later Foster was released from the firm of
Kilburn & Cross. He went to California seeking gold, leaving his son with his
sister Emma in Merrimack, N.H. He eventually returned to Merrimack where he
was elected as a Selectman for a time. Foster died in 1925.
2. **Emma Augusta Cross (b. 6 June 1850-1933) graduated from the Manchester High School in 1868. S She died on 7 November 1933. 36 yrs librarian. This story is about her, see above.
3. Henry Clay Cross (1852-1913) knew at the age of sixteen that he wanted to
become a wood-engraver. He graduated from the North Grammar School
(Manchester, N.H.) on 25 June 1868, but only attended Manchester High School on
an irregular basis. He removed to Boston in 1869, where he was hired by the
firm of Samuel S. Kilburn as a wood-engraver. He married, on 9 October 1890,
Elizabeth M. Eames (1863?-1894). Henry was forty at the time, while Elizabeth
was only twenty-seven. Their only child, Julian Richard, was born on 6
September 1892. Elizabeth died on 4 June 1894. In 1891 Henry had been offered a partnership with Kilburn, which he accepted. The firm, renamed Kilburn & Cross, was successful until around 1899, when Henry was released from the firm. He followed Foster to California, stopping to paint Yosemite, and, for a time, meandered from place to place. In 1901, he shipped his belongings to Merrimack and made his home with Emma when not away on painting trips. He died in 1913.


Joel Foster Cross (1846-1925), or Foster, as he was known, son of Joseph & Deborah P. (Wilder) Cross. He was born 21 February 1846 in Hooksett NH and died 28 January 1925 at Memorial Hospital in Nashua NH. He left home as soon after the end of the Civil War as he could. For the years 1867 and 1868, he was in business and traveling to New York. By the end of 1868 he settled in Boston, Mass., where he was employed as a wood engraver in the shop of Samuel S. Kilburn. He was joined by his brother, Henry, the following year. Foster married, on 22 July 1889, Christine MacPherson (1868?-1897), daughter of Donald & Annie (McDonald) MacPherson. She was born in Victoria Cross PEI. Foster was forty-four at the time, while Christine was only twenty-one. Christine died on 6 September 1897 in Somerville MA, and is buried in Manchester NH. Two years after his wife’s death, Foster was released from the firm of Kilburn & Cross. He went to California seeking gold, leaving his son with his sister Emma in Merrimack, N.H. He eventually returned to Merrimack where he was elected as a Selectman for a time, and where he died in 1925.
Children of Joel Foster & Christine (MacPherson) Cross:
1. Robert Laurence Cross, was born on 15 April 1891, but died nine months later.
2. +Edward Adrian Cross was born on 29 October 1892 MA, died 10 Oct 1977 in Merrimack NH; He met his future wife in Boston, and m. Rhoda M. Horne, daughter of William & Anna (Conrod) Horne. She was born 11 Feb 1899 in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia Canada, and died 9 January 1998 in Goffstown NH. Rhoda Cross, at age 98 was the first to receive the Boston Post Cane in 1996, after the cane was returned anonymously on Jan. 3, 1996, after a 45-year disappearance. Records show that the heirs of Brainard Caswell, who died in 1951, returned the cane to the board of selectmen. The town has no records of cane recipients from 1921 to 1949. [SEE article showing these ‘missing’ cane recipients].  Rhoda M. Cross of Merrimack died on January 9 at the Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown. Mrs. Cross was a member of the Merrimack Historical Society and worked for many years at the Merrimack Public Library.

Some Sources:
1. A History of the town of Sullivan NH, 1777-1917, Vol 2 by Josiah Lafayette Seward, p. 1278
2. A History of Swanzey NH from 1734 to 1890 by Benjamin Read, p 318
3. Historic Homes and institutions and genealogical and personal memoirs of Worcester County Massachusetts by Ellery Bicknell Crane
4. Genealogy of the Descendants of John White of Wenham and Lancaster, by ALmira Larkin White
5. The Essex Antiquarian, published 1897; vol. 1, page 150]
6. Some genealogical data concerning the Cross, Bradford, Clemmons, Havley, Mobley, Hessey, Dillman and Rhorer families, by Ira B. Cross; Ann Arbor, Mich., Mimeographed by Edwards Bros., 1932, 27 pgs.
7. History of Hudson, N.H. : formerly a part of Dunstable, Mass., 1673-1733, Nottingham, Mass., 1733-1741, District of Nottingham, 1741-1746, Nottingham West, N.H., 1746-1830, Hudson, N.H., 1830-1912, by Webster Kimball; Manchester, N.H.: Granite State Pub. Co., 1913, 704 pgs.
American Antiquarian Society Manuscript Collections
Cross Family, Collection, 1785-1938; 1967
This collection consists mainly of the Cross siblings’ artwork. There are boxes of pencil sketches, drawings, watercolors, and sketchbooks by Henry; oil paintings, watercolors, and anatomy sketches by Emma; wood engraved proofs done by the firm Kilburn & Cross; engraved boxwood blocks; and photographs. The collection also contains a box of miscellaneous newspapers, periodicals, and articles; a box of family papers, correspondence, miscellaneous items, and genealogical notes; and a box of stereoscopic views. Also shelved with the boxes are two loose watercolors and three loose pencil sketches. In addition to the manuscript boxes, the collection also contains nine octavo
volumes, including account books (Joseph and Emma), sketchbooks (Emma),
notebooks (unidentified and L. R. Wilder), photograph albums, and a diary for
the year 1868 (Emma). The oversize folder contains a photocopy of appointment of Joseph Cross as Captain of the Eighth Company in the Sixth Regiment of Militia in the state of
New-Hampshire; a family register; and a photograph of a “Freight Locomotive,
Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Rail Road Co. Geo. W. Perry, Master of
Machinery.”– American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01609-1634.

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