It was first settled in 1763 by pioneers from
North Killingworth, Connecticut. Absalom Kelsey was one of the
earliest settlers. The first blow in clearing the forests was
struck by Absalom Kelsey on the D.F. Pike farm at the foot of
Claremont Hill, Newport, New Hampshire. At that time, the
Connecticut River was the only route for travel, until a road
was cut through the wilderness to Charlestown in 1767. The
following year, the first gristmill was established. But
dissatisfied with treatment by the state government far beyond
the mountains, Newport in 1781 joined 33 other towns along the
Connecticut River and seceded from New Hampshire to join
Vermont. George Washington, however, would dissolve their union
with Vermont in 1782, and the towns rejoined New Hampshire.
With excellent soil for
farming, and abundant water power from the Sugar River and its
South Branch to run mills, Newport grew prosperous. The first
cotton mill was established by Colonel James D. Wolcott in 1813.
Local cabinet making flourished, producing much fine furniture.
And then in 1817, perhaps inspired by the Erie Canal,
businessmen proposed digging a canal to connect the Connecticut
and Merrimack riversóbeginning with the Sugar River, and using
its source, Lake Sunapee, as a reservoir. The plan was abandoned
before it got started. In 1871, the Sugar River Railroad
connected to Newport from Bradford.
But the river was
recognized as central to industrial development, and in 1820,
mill owners from Claremont, Sunapee and Newport united to create
the Sunapee Dam Corporation, which built a dam to regulate the
Sugar River's flow, running mill machinery even during drought.
This plan worked, and over 120 water wheels would turn along the
stream's course. By 1859, when the population was 2,020, Newport
had three woolen mills and two tanneries It also had the Sibley
Scythe Company, established in 1842, which manufactured the
scythes that cleared jungle during construction of the Panama
Canal. It closed in 1929.
Newport Historical Society
1840 Census of
New Hampshire State Archives
Historical Chronology of Newport, NH
Census / Cemeteries /
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