THE BURNAP DISTRICT IN THE MINK HILLS OF WARNER, N.H.
By Rebecca Courser

The Mink Hill section of Warner encompasses 14,000 acres, thirteen cemeteries, ten school districts, and numerous farm and mill sites. The 1858 county map indicates 139 families lived in this area. The population decreased to 93 families by 1892 and by 1987 less than forty families, many who had become summer residents, were located around the periphery of the study area. At one time the many faun families living in these hills brought milk, produce, and lumber products to market in the villages of Warner, Henniker, and Bradford. The introduction of the railroad by 1849 allowed for expansion to markets throughout New England. Farmers expanded their agricultural products and timber production in response to market demands.

Yet by the 1930's pastures had reverted to woodlots, families had moved away, and farmsteads were deserted. Who were these people and where did they go? Why did this section of Warner become abandoned`? What are the stories waiting to be told?

The Burnap District in the Mink Hills was named after Joseph Burnap, one of the early settlers in this area. Of six farms located on the south side of Stewart's peak in 1858, only one of the original houses remain. Three sites have reverted to cellar holes, one house was taken apart and moved to the village of Contoocook, and one farmhouse has been rebuilt three times. The children of these families attended Burnap School located at the intersection of Page and Harriman roads. Researching the lives of these families is the beginning of understanding the network of communities that brought these families together as well as circumstances that may have caused them to leave the area.

The research presented in this paper is a work in process and is by no means complete but a framework to discovering some answers, developing more questions and continuing to explore historical resources at local, state, and national levels to flesh out the details.

Dave Anderson, from the Society of the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, is passionate about exploring nearby history. He describes sitting in abandoned cellerholes and speaking aloud the names of former inhabitants sends chills down his spine. The next step in the process, is not only remembering their names, but understanding their lives and sharing that knowledge with people today. The intimacy of settler's lives transcends and connects people of today to a deeper and richer knowledge of their community's history. Doing nearby history encourages a way of thinking which can help in dealing with a great variety of current situations. By understanding the daily lives of these families, changes they experienced over time, and why they gradually left the Minks it will become evident the reasons were not simple but the complex results of a variety of factors.

We begin at the cranberry bog, future farm site of Asa Harriman. In the Harriman history it states men from Gould Road cut hay on this meadow before any settlement had been made. They had to haul hay on hand-sleds in the winter, a distance of two or three miles. This meadow had been flooded and abandoned many times by beavers. Charles T. Jackson, M.D., remarked about this area in his report on geology during the 1840s; A very large and deep peat bog, on the estate of Benjamin Harriman (Asa's son) near the base of the hill, was examined. It comprises twenty-two acres, and is more than twenty-five feet deep, a pole having been thrust into it to that depth, without reaching solid bottom. From the depth of two, three, and four feet, beaver sticks have been dug out of this bog. They are marked with beaver's teeth, where they have been gnawed off at both ends or denuded of the bark. This spot must have been an ancient beaver dam.

Asa Harriman married Sarah Evans, daughter of his Uncle Capt. Benjamin Evans, of Salisbury, Massachusetts. Capt. Evans, an original proprietor of Warner sold Asa his Lot # 8 comprising of sixty acres, in the second division of sixties (1774).4 His uncle owned other lots in Warner but Asa may have chosen this site because of access to hay and water, a cranberry bog, and southern exposure at the base of the Mink Hills. Asa and Sarah decided to name their first son after her father and his uncle and in 1787 they settled in Warner. They had four children, two boys and two girls. Misfortune befell Asa on March 9, 1794 as he was felling trees. One wonders if he was cutting trees on a day when it was too windy to be in the woods or the snow too deep to move quickly as the tree fell? Sarah stayed on the farm despite being a widow with four young children. Her resolve was further tested later that year when her cows did not come home one night and she set out to find them. Sarah became lost and wandered in the forest until she saw a dim light in the house of Benjamin Badger, her neighbor, two and a half miles from her farm. Benjamin escorted her home to her sleeping children but the oldest daughter Nancy was missing. She had tried to find her mother and became lost herself. Luckily, they found her within one-half mile from home next to a log where she had cried herself to sleep.' Sarah never remarried and lived to be 91 years of age, passing away on the same date her husband was killed, March 9,1856.

As Asa and Sarah's sons grew older, Benjamin inherited the family farm and his brother David, would settle on the lot behind the homestead. Benjamin built a large new barn in 1810 and new one and a half story cape, in 1814. Benjamin married the only daughter of his neighbor Zebulon Flanders. Hannah and Benjamin proceeded to have eight sons and two daughters. Apparently, Benjamin had not been able to avail himself of formal schooling because of the early death of his father, but was self-taught and very skilled at mathematics. He would drill his children with difficult math problems. He served as moderator at town meetings, selectmen, a member of the legislature, a judge in the Trial of Causes and as Chairman of the Board of Road Commissioners for Merrimack County.' Benjamin and his sons were known to spark lively discussions at debating clubs held at Walker's Hall in Warner between the years 1835-50.

Benjamin's children were probably schooled at the Burnap schoolhouse. Henry taught school, farmed, worked as a wheelwright and most important, became a surveyor and administer of estates. The Pillsbury Free Library in Warner has his survey records which are still researched by surveyors today. Benjamin F. was an assistant assessor of the Internal Revenue for a large district in New Hampshire, including Warner. David, Leonidas, and Frank participated in town and state government and served in the Civil War.

Their brother, Walter, was the most famous. He served on school committees, as selectmen, representative, town moderator, sheriff, Universalist minister, and state treasurer. He also served on a board of three commissioners to classify and appraise Indian lands in Kansas Territory. He was elected to the state senate and was editor and one of the proprietors for the Weekly Union, a Manchester paper. In August, 1862, he was appointed Colonel of the 11th Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers and was with his command when Lee surrendered. Upon returning to his native state he was elected Secretary of State and ran for the Governor's seat successfully in 1867 & 1868. President Grant appointed him Naval Officer of the port of Boston for two terms 1869-1877. Walter's first wife, a neighbor from the Collins district, Apphia K. Hoyt died within two years of their marriage. His second marriage was to Almira Andrews a year. They would have three children. Georgia, married Mr. Leeson, a Boston merchant, who enters this story a little later. Walter Channing became a lawyer and Benjamin E. a medical doctor.

But, it would be Augustine, the sixth son of Benjamin, who operated the farm upon the death of their father at the age of sixty-five in 1856. Augustine married Almira, daughter of John Gilmore, a neighbor. After the death of Almira he married Martha Pillsbury of New London. They did not have any children but adopted Ida, a daughter of Nathan Gilmore, Almira's brother. Ida ended up marrying into the Harriman family, by uniting in marriage with Reverend George Savory, whose mother was Helen Harriman, a sister to Augustine Harriman.

The property was purchased by Addison Gilmore in 1884. Addison Gilmore married Almira Harriman, daughter of David and Susan Harriman. This would be Almira's second marriage. Her first husband was George Hubbard and they had two children, George and Belle Hubbard. Addison and Almira had a daughter together named Anne. The place burned in 1885 and Mr. Gilmore built again on the same site.

Anne shared her memories of growing up in the Burnap neighborhood and the abundant blueberries located behind the house on the hill. Her parents held apple bees where neighbors would gather to peel, quarter, and strings apples to dry in the sun. In the winter these apples would be soaked, stewed, and seasoned for pies or sauce. She recalls that families in the Minks would load up produce, such as, eggs, cheese, butter and fruit and travel by ox team to Thompson's store in Warner to exchange for the few staples they needed. They would leave home in the dark and travel to town in order to catch the storekeeper at first light.

John Graham purchased the Addison Gilmore farm for $1,200 in July 1894. John sold the farm fourteen years later in 1908 and moved into the village to live. In 1914-15 Edwin and Nellie Bartlett bought the farm at the same time their son-in-law purchased a farm at the foot of Colby Lane. Their granddaughter, Irlene Young Holmes, remembers the Harriman farm, the cranberry bog, a huge maple orchard located behind the house, blueberries, blackberries, apple and pear trees. The barn had running water, a cow stable, three box stalls for horses and hay fields. Her grandfather stocked the pond with fish and brought water into the house. The road was rolled after snowstorms. Irlene would walk up to Mrs. Franklin's, where the teacher boarded, and they would walk the mile to school together. The farm then passed through several owners and stood empty until it was purchased by Virgil and Betty Davis in 1976. By then the house was in poor shape, without electricity or running water, and the barn was gone. The Davis family used generators for electricity until they could afford to have Public Service set a mile of poles to service them. The property is now owned by Dr. Eubanks and his family.