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August 26, 2015


 

Pittsfield’s Town Pounds

By Larry Berkson

Pittsfield Town Pound.jpg

Gilmanton’s Town Pound.

 

Every time I ride by the town pound just before Gilmanton Corners I wonder about Pittsfield’s pound and feel saddened that we do not have one to view for historical purposes. In asking around no one seems to remember a pound and a couple of people suggested that Pittsfield might not have even had one. After some research I find that we actually had at least two.

 

Apparently nearly every town had a pound in which to place stray horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and the like. Many of the first ones were very crude and were simply wood-fenced areas of various sizes. They had to be rebuilt often and thus many communities built more elaborate stone structures as time went on.

 

The first mention of a town pound in early Pittsfield was in 1783 when the townspeople voted to build a pound 34 feet square, to be located between Reuben Cram’s and Mr. Sargent’s. Where Reuben Cram and Mr. Sargent lived at the time has not been learned. However, according to E. Harold Young, the pound was built “just a few steps from [John Cram’s] dooryard on the opposite side of the path leading to the mill.” This would have been near the marker honoring Jocky Fogg across the street from the green space at the top of Factory Hill, formerly where the Washington House was located.  

 

The following year, 1784, town founder John Cram was elected pound keeper, giving credence to Young’s belief that the pound was built across the road from his house. Naturally, it would have been easy for Mr. Cram to attend to it. Whether he continued to serve as pound keeper in subsequent years is not recorded. The next one noted in the records was in 1790 when Thomas R. Swett was elected. He served through 1793.

 

By 1794 the pound was apparently in such disrepair that the town voted to build another. It was to be 40 feet square with posts and rails six feet high, and expected to be completed by April 1. The work was vendued to Revolutionary War soldier Robert Tibbetts, the lowest bidder, for five pounds, the equivalent of a little over $800 today. It was undoubtedly a wooden structure. Whether it was built on the same location as the first has not been recorded, but likely. 

 

That same year Samuel Bunker, eldest son of Revolutionary War soldier Dodivah Bunker who lived on Barnstead Road, was elected pound keeper. He served for three years before Ensign Jonathan Cram, perhaps John’s son, took over for the following three years. Theodore Clark, owner of the mill at the outlet to Clark’s Pond, now the town pool, then served for at least 19 years, interrupted only by Elijah Blaisdell’s two terms in 1805 and 1806.

 

In 1810 the town voted to repair the old pound and build a new one of stone, 30 feet square on the inside. There is no mention of where it was to be located but it was likely the one built on the left side of the road below French Hill on South Main Street. When the railroad was built in 1869, it went “smack through” the town pound. It was dismantled and the stones used to make a culvert on the opposite side of the road. According to a newspaper article of the day, it had been useless “for half a century,” perhaps a slight exaggeration.

 

During the summer of 1826 one of the pounds was damaged by vandals and that October a reward of $5.00 was offered for the capture of the culprits. In 1827 Moses was the pound keeper and in 1828 John T. Tucker. 

 

In 1831 the town voted to sell the pound and land “where it stands and locate a new one in back of the [Old] Meetinghouse on Mr. Joy’s land . . .  .”  The pound referred to was likely the one on Factory Hill. However, the transaction was to be completed only if the selectmen could “do so without expense to the town.” No evidence has been found that it was ever built. 

 

In 1839 pound keeper elect Warren Beard was ordered to put the gate in repair, an indication that it was still being used to some extent. However, as the years passed there was less and less need for a pound, and the position of pound keeper became more of an honorary one, than one of substance. Indeed, the title was often held by prominent leaders of the business community who would have been unlikely to chase down and/or care for stray animals. Among these were store keeper John Berry, business owner John M. Tucker, undertaker Lewis Bunker, attorney Thomas H. Thorndike, principal of Pittsfield Academy Daniel K. Foster, attorney Edward Lane, and merchant Herbert Dustin. From 1837 through 1892 only five people served more than one term, another indication that the title was honorary. Among them were Warren Beard, John Berry, Zelotos Morrill (who lived next to the South Pittsfield pound), William Tibbetts, and Charles M. Bailey. 

 

Apparently the last man appointed to the position was Harland L. Brown in 1892. He was born in Pittsfield about 1844 and later worked as a retail grocer, farmer, and mail carrier. Mr. Brown passed away in Pittsfield in 1917.

 



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