Bow Lake Camp Owners Association

"Friends of  The  Bow Lake Community"

 History & Links

First Settlements
The first English settlement was established in the region along the Piscataqua River in 1623. From 1643 to 1680, New Hampshire was actually a province of Massachusetts, and the boundary between them was not really settled until 1740.

Thomas Wentworth

Thomas Wentworth, First Earl of Strafford
Strafford inherits its name from the county Strafford, whose name dates back to the Earl of Strafford of England, titles owned by the Wentworth family (chiefly Thomas and his heirs) going back to 1640. Strafford, VT also owes its name origin to this family. The Strafford name was also adapted by a Dover-based state militia called the Strafford Guards, who escorted the wealthy statesman and soldier the Marquis de Lafayette of France on his visit to the States. Barrington, first incorporated in 1722, originally was comprised of all the land in Strafford that would eventually become an independent township much later in 1820. Although Strafford was settled much earlier, it later became incorporated because of the lengthy travel distance for town meetings in Barrington. The whole region - but especially the Strafford area - was attractive to very early colonists because of its virgin timber. Indeed lumbering would be the main occupation of the majority of people that came to live there in the early days. Most of the streams in the area at one time or another had mills erected on them, and the chief purpose of them at that time was solely for lumber.

Isinglass Falls

Bow Pond Stream
Later to be known as the Isinglass River, the Bow Pond Stream was one of the very first in the area to have a mill built in or around 1766. Another one built a little further north was known as the "Upper Boopon" mill. Back then, the water power was mainly its strongest in the spring, and most of the mills then were known as "day mills" or "share mills" mostly because the shareholders had operational rights to them on a temporary basis, sometimes for just a few days or less a month.

The Bow Pond Sawmill
Another mill was erected on Bow Pond Stream and in 1783 was sold to Nathaniel Foss, and that farm also was one of the first in the area to also have a grist mill. Previously, there really were not enough people in the area to have need of a grist mill. The lower Bow Pond sawmill and the land around it, previously owned by Ebenezer Demeritt of Madbury, eventually was sold to James Tuttle who operated it as a day mill. Then again, the majority of shares was eventually sold in the early 1820's to the Dover Manufacturing Company. Cocheco Falls, circa 1910Originally incorporated in 1812 as the Dover Cotton Company, it was eventually sold to the Cocheco Manufacturing Company in 1829. Photo to the left is Cocheco Falls in Dover, circa 1910. From then all the way up to the Wall Street Crash in 1929, it was a leader in textile production (chiefly cotton prints or calicos) along with mills southward In Lawrence and Lowell Massachusetts. In early 1823, the Dover Manufacturing Company erected a dam on Bow Pond. Shares in the saw mill, as well as the land around it and flowage rights, were then purchased by property owners around Bow Pond.

Bow Lake Village, circa 1912

Bow Lake Village, Grange Hall
In between in 1829, a steam-operated mill was erected in Bow Lake Village. See photo circa 1912 to the right. This steam-operated mill was later to become the Bow Lake Grange Hall, now maintained by the Bow Lake Community Club and home to Lakeside Players. Just three years after the Cocheco Manufacturing Company owned the property, disaster struck. At 4:00 AM on March 14, 1832 the dam broke. All of the mills along the river as well as many of the buildings in town were destroyed by the flooding. Large granite blocks were dug from the area, and building a better dam was soon underway. More flowage rights were obtained, and gave employment to many men in the area. Eventually in 1909 the Cocheco Manufacturing Company sold all of this to the Pacific Mills of Lawrence, MA. Shortly after, Lawrence in 1912 was the scene of the Bread and Roses Strike, one of greatest labor actions in American history. It started when mill owners increased the speed of factory looms, and then lowered wages for thousands of women and child workers. Later what Cocheco purchased was sold to the city of Dover itself.

Modern Times
It was then eventually sold to the Public Service Company of New Hampshire and then to the State of NH itself in 1962. All rights then were now under the management of the Water Resources Board, patrolling the lake and caring for the dam and gates. Bow Lake is 5 square kilometers in area, 2.8 miles at its longest point and 1.2 miles at its widest.