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Judi Miller
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History of Francestown

The Town of Francestown, incorporated in 1772, was named for Frances Wentworth Deering, wife of John Wentworth, who was the Governor of New Hampshire at that time. A bit of a scandal surrounded this marriage as Frances had only been widowed from her first husband for 14 days before she married John Wentworth.

Francestown is rich in local history. The 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike, completed in 1800, ran from the southeast end of town to the northwest end on its way from Amherst to Claremont. There were two toll sites located in Francestown, one near Avery Road in the south of town and one near Gibson Tavern (now Francestown Resort and Spa) in the north. This continued to be a toll road until 1837. The Turnpike was also used as a connector road for the stage coach route from Boston to Montreal bringing a steady flow of traffic and business opportunity to Francestown.
Two other notable topics are the soapstone industry and the Francestown Academy.
Soapstone was discovered here in the early 1800’s by Daniel Fuller. The soapstone in Francestown was considered to be the finest quality in the world, having no flaws, rusty streaks or hard spots. This material was prized for its ease of cutting and shaping and also for its heat retention and was used for various purposes, including foot warmers, woodstoves, hearths, sinks and even pencils for slates. The soapstone was quarried from the early 1800’s until 1912 when blasting during the quarrying process ignited sparks which set two adjacent farms on fire. The farms were burned to the ground and the ensuing legal issues caused the Soapstone company to go bankrupt and abruptly end operations.
The Francestown Academy, offering high school level instruction was in operation from 1800-1921. It was considered a prestigious academy and students came from all over New England to be instructed in arithmetic, geography, history, Greek, and Latin. Many students rented rooms and paid for meals at local homes which brought income into the town. Several well known people were students at the Francestown Academy, including Levi Woodbury, who went on to serve as Secretary of the Navy and Treasury, US Senator and Governor of NH, and Franklin Pierce who served as US senator and our 14th President of the US.

For further information about the history of Francestown, or inquiries about tours of the historical rooms, genealogy or other research, please contact Francestown Improvement and Historical Society.

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