Category Archives: New Hampshire

Remembering the Green Ridge Turkey Farm – Nashua, NH

Do you remember Kimball’s Green Ridge Turkey Farm on Nashua’s Daniel Webster Highway?  Who can forget the giant turkey that once stood atop that iconic sign on DW Highway?  For nearly 60 years,  the Green Ridge Turkey Farm stood on the corner of the DW Highway and Spit Brook Road in Nashua, NH, about two miles north of the state border with Massachusetts.  Its site was historic – the main house of the farm, called the manor house, had been a long-time Nashua landmark, dating to revolutionary times when it had served as a stage-coach hostelry.  Through several ownership changes and one major fire, the Green Ridge served dinners and pies in its restaurant – and not just of turkey, but also seafood; the Green Ridge also served lobster, clams and scallops.

Green Ridge Turkey Farm Restaurant, ca. 1960. Image from Card Cow.

But, of course, Kimball’s Green Ridge Turkey Farm was best known for its turkeys, which were sold either “drawn and ready for the oven” or “cooked and pan roasted”.  The Green Ridge also offered its own dressing and gravy.  The Green Ridge Turkey Farm got its start when George and Grace Kimball bought the 200-acre property in 1931 and soon after opened a farm stand.  Its frontage on the Daniel Webster Highway contributed to the Kimballs’ success, and, by 1938, Mr. and Mrs. Kimball expanded the stand, adding turkey sandwiches and ice cream to its offerings.  Two years later, in 1940, the Kimballs added the restaurant, and the Green Ridge’s reputation for great turkey, supplied directly from their farm, quickly caught on.  The farm quickly grew to accommodate the raising of up to 6,000 turkeys.

An advertisement for the Green Ridge Turkey Farm - 1951

The reputation of the Green Ridge as a restaurant and a turkey farm spread throughout New England during the war years.  Then, during one of its best years, just four days after Thanksgiving, disaster struck the Green Ridge.  At 6 PM on the evening of November 27, 1950, a few hours after the farm had hosted the New England Turkey Growers’ Association, Dr. Frank Flagg knocked on the door of Mr. and Mrs. Kimball’s home.  The Green Ridge, just 100 yards south from where they were sitting, was on fire.  Dr. Flagg and the Kimballs set off to alert the fire department, but couldn’t find a working telephone.  A recent storm had knocked out phone service in the area.  Eventually, others saw the smoke and flames in the sky and the calls began to arrive to the Nashua Fire Department.  The first caller told the fire department that the ‘Green Ridge farm building [was] ready to explode’.  A moment later, a call from the Wayside Furniture Company told the firefighters that something was wrong at the Green Ridge.

Kimball's Green Ridge Turkey Farm, Nashua, N.H., ca. 1945 (Courtesy: Boston Public Library Flickr Photostream)

The Central and Lake Street stations responded to the fire.  All call men were soon summoned to duty.  Firefighters arrived to find the fire at its peak and the interior of the building was completely engulfed in flames as the smoke rose skyward.  Motorists and nearby residents stopped to watch the fire.  A lack of hydrants in the area meant the firefighters had no available water.  Firefighters rushed the half-mile south to the Allen property and were able to attach a pump to a water hole.  They had finally found water to fight the fire.  But, by then, it was out of control.

By the time the fire was out, the restaurant was a total loss.  George Kimball told reporters he didn’t have adequate insurance coverage to rebuild.   The restaurant had been officially closed for the season just a couple of days before, and would have reopened the next year, on February 22.  The losses were deep, however, and the costs were formidable to replace the lost large dining room, soda fountain, and two deep freeze units, that had been holding 250 turkeys.  The Kimballs put the Green Ridge Turkey Farm on the market.

A buyer came forward and, on March 15, 1951, the Kimballs sold their Green Ridge Turkey Farm to Mr. and Mrs. Howard Flanders.  The Flanders rebuilt the restaurant, and reopened it in July 1952.

The Green Ridge Reopens - July 29, 1952. (Lowell Sun)

The Flanders’ ownership of the Green Ridge was short-lived.  After rebuilding and reopening its restaurant following the 1950 fire, they sold it to the Charpentier brothers, Luc, Victor, and Edmund, in 1954.  The Charpentier family owned the Green Ridge from 1954 through its closing in the mid-1990’s, when it was closed, razed, and replaced by a Barnes & Noble, which still stands at the site.  Still, when driving down the DW Highway in Nashua even today, I still look twice for the turkey that once stood atop the Green Ridge Turkey Farm sign perched near the Spit Brook Road intersection.  Has it really been more than 15 years since it came down?

The Barnes & Noble location in Nashua, NH - on the former site of the Green Ridge Turkey Farm (Photo from: Barnes & Noble)


The Release of the 1940 US Census – April 2, 2012

On April 2, 2012, at 9 AM (EST), the National Archives will release the 1940 US census schedules at  http://1940census.archives.gov/.  The release, administered by The National Archives in partnership with archives.com, will mark the first time a census has been released online.  Site visitors will gain free access to view, search, print, and download the 1940 census schedules at the site.  The National Archives has already released a video on its YouTube channel providing information on the 1940 census, the archives’ preparations for its release, and instructions showing how to access the census after April 2:

Family tree historians have long scoured census records for basic information about their ancestors: names, approximate ages/birthplaces, and occupations.  Every ten years, since the first US federal census in 1790, the United States census has counted all individuals living in US homes.  The results are then used to determine the allocation of congressional seats and electoral votes.  The most recent census, the country’s 22nd, was executed in 2010.  The census is a requirement established by the US Constitution and is overseen by the United States Census Bureau.  Aggregated census data is available to the public soon after the census is taken.  The actual census records and data specific to individuals is withheld for 72 years.  The 1930 US census was released to the public in April 2002.  The 1940 census will be released next month.

1940 Census Population Questionnaire - Photo courtesy of the Public Information Office - U.S. Census Bureau.

The information collected by each census, as well as the questions asked for each, have varied over the years.  In the 1940 census, for the first time, enumerators asked respondents new questions to determine if they had worked for the CCC, WPA, or NYA (all components of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs) in late March 1940, as well as how much annual income they had earned during 1939.  The census also asked married women, widows, and divorcees their age at their first marriage as well as if they had been married more than once.  Also, for the first time, enumerators were instructed to add an “x” after the name of the person who answered the enumerator’s questions.

April 1940

Sen. Charles W. Tobey, was a vocal opponent of the 1940 census, more specifically, the inclusion of questions in the census asking for income information.  For the first time, this census asked respondents for information about their income.  Those opposing the collection of the information nearly succeeded in getting the question stricken from the instructions given to the enumerators.  In the end, though, as a compromise, the US government made available forms that people could mail in, if they did not want to provide the information to the enumerators.  The government published large numbers of the forms, but few were actually used.  Sen. Tobey was still not satisfied.  As late as census day, The Portsmouth Herald reported that he was still encouraging people not to answer the financial questions on the grounds that they invaded citizens’ privacy.

The census counted all people who were alive as of April 1, 1940 at 12:01 AM.  Babies born later on that day were not counted, while people who had died after 12:01 AM were.   The execution of the 1940 census was the largest yet, and included more questions than any of the prior censuses had before it.

As April 1940 began, approximately 120,000 enumerators descended upon the country to count each inhabitant.  Each enumerator had been provided a white, 4″x3″ identification card with a photograph and signature.  Unless respondents wanted to risk incurring a $100 fine, they were obligated to answer all questions, except for the ones regarding financial information, which could be mailed to the Census Bureau in Washington.

January 1941 - Commuters, who have just come off the train, waiting for the bus to go home, Lowell, Mass. (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Locally, in Lowell, Massachusetts, fifty enumerators descended upon the city.  A newspaper article from the day before revealed some of the prevailing thoughts among the citizenry as they thought ahead to census day.  William Tully, the Lowell Sun reporter writing the article, noted that local women felt reluctant to give their ages to census enumerators.  Through interviews documented within the article, Tully spoke with various women.  One thought that certain facts should not be collected, like income, since it was already captured in the income tax returns.  She also thought collecting information about the amount of a mortgage on one’s home was unnecessary.

Another woman, who worked in the executive office of a large department store in downtown Lowell, replied:  “I know nothing about the census questions and I haven’t, as yet, looked into the matter.  As a rule, my husband knows more about these things than I do.”

April 1940

Another woman, a salesgirl in a local department store, replied:  “I’m not going to answer any questions about my age.  Oh, I suppose I’ll have to answer their old questions, but it won’t be cheerfully.”  When asked about the census questions:  ‘Has this women been married more than once?’  and ‘age at first marriage?’, she quipped:  “it’s none of their business.  And if you quote me on that, I’ll smash you.”

“What in the world is the government going to do with information like that?”  Another woman asked the reporter, who admitted he had no idea.  “Neither have I,” she continued, “and I think the whole thing is foolish.”

The US Census Bureau’s web site lists some interesting comparisons between life in 1940 and life today.  In 1940, for example, the average life expectancy was 61 years for men and 65 for women.  Today, the average life span has expanded some 15 years, with male life expectancies reaching 76 years and female life expectancies reaching 81.  Also, in 1940, nearly three in every four (73%) women over the age of 25 had not finished high school.  Today, only 14% in that group have not completed high school.

Family tree historians eagerly await the release of the 1940 census on April 2, 2012, at 9 AM (EST).  For many, it’s the first census in which they will find themselves or their parents.  It’s also the first census that will be released online for the public’s free access, either from the facilities of the National Archives or from the convenience of researchers’ homes.  Readers, what are you hoping to find in the 1940 census?  Where will you start looking?


Escape Mondays – Travel to Jackson, New Hampshire of the White Mountains

Tourists gazing at Old Man of the Mountain, White Mountains, N.H.

Mondays – the beginning of the workweek – can be magical.  When they’re not, it’s sometimes healthful to turn one’s thoughts to escapist getaways.  For me, this takes the form of New Hampshire‘s White Mountains.  Growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts, I spent a lot of summer days in the White Mountain communities of Conway, Jefferson, and Bartlett.  I frequently visited the Old Man of the Mountain, the iconic stone profile that once stared out from the mountains over Franconia, New Hampshire.

I also have some great memories of Jackson, New Hampshire.  In researching other posts for this blog, I came across this excerpt from Page 226 of Moses Foster Sweeter’s  1875 travel book: “New England:  A Handbook for Travellers”.  Sweeter’s words provide some interesting insights into the history of Jackson, New Hampshire:

“The Jackson people became  discontented during the Secession War, on account of crushing taxes, and after some acts of violence on their part, it was found necessary to occupy the place with U.S.  troops, who were quartered in the church.  The town was settled in 1778, and in 1790, Capt. Pinkham and five families came on snow shoes and sledges.  Shortly after, Daniel Pinkham built a rude road through the notch which still bears his name, and the little settlement was called New Madbury.  In 1800, its name was changed to Adams, and in 1829, when Adams and Jackson were candidates for the Presidency, and the latter received every vote, except one, in the town, it took the name of Jackson.” 

The towns of the White Mountains all offer interesting histories (as well as some great views) that I hope to cover in coming posts.  I’m finding that the sepia and black-and-white photographs just don’t truly capture the beauty of the mountains.  But, this postcard, from 1907, and in color, does just that.  Can’t you just picture whiling away a Monday here?

Jackson, NH from Iron Mountain; from a 1907 postcard