We found a historic New England farmstead in New Boston, New Hampshire, featuring Moses Eaton stenciling, 105 acres, and a gorgeous pond. It has always been known as Gregg Mill Farm because, well, it was the first place in town to operate a sawmill on the middle branch of the Piscataquog River. The mill itself […]
By The Yankee Moseyer
Oct 20 2015
This five-bedroom Colonial is the main building on the 105-acre Gregg Mill Farm, dating back to the early 1800s.Photo Credit : Jennifer Bakos
We found a historic New England farmstead in New Boston, New Hampshire, featuring Moses Eaton stenciling, 105 acres, and a gorgeous pond.
It has always been known as Gregg Mill Farm because, well, it was the first place in town to operate a sawmill on the middle branch of the Piscataquog River. The mill itself had to be torn down in 1980, but the dam and sluiceway are still functioning. It was once one of 33 such mills in New Boston. As to the name Gregg, that’s as in Senator (and Governor) Judd Gregg. The Gregg family acquired this property around 1740. Senator Gregg, now retired and living at his family homestead in Rye, New Hampshire, has actually never lived at Gregg Mill Farm, but the third generation of Greggs to own it was one David Gregg, Judd’s great-great-great-grandfather. The last of the Gregg family moved away in the late 1800s, and the property was taken over by B. J. Lang— a distinguished Boston pianist, conductor, and composer—and his family. One of the farm’s frequent visitors in those days was a Boston lady who happened to establish a world-famous art museum. Her name: Isabella Stewart Gardner.
We met the fourth owners of Gregg Mill Farm, Jay and Dottie Marden, one rather chilly day last spring, just as the landscape was finally turning green. Jay’s family goes back a couple hundred years in New Boston, so we’d say he’s the proverbial New England Yankee in spades. A big man, extremely open and likable, he impressed us as someone who, despite advancing years, can fix anything, build anything, and, well, do anything. Dottie, his wife for the last 50 years, struck us as equally capable. She surely knows how to create delicious frosted breakfast cakes!
We’d settled ourselves in what used to be called the parlor, every inch of which was filled with framed photos, paintings, and old-but-comfortable furniture, including a stunning carved chair and lamp made by the Mardens’ neighbor, Jon Brooks, a well-known sculptor of rather spectacular wooden creations. We were soon joined by three furry feline residents of the farm—by the names of Buttermilk, Midnight, and Mike—as well as a small dog named Roscoe.
From where we were sitting, we could see into the adjoining dining room, the outside walls of which are adorned with original stenciling by none other than the famous 19th-century itinerant artist Moses Eaton. Wow—we know so many owners of old homes who would give most anything to have original, authentic Moses Eaton stenciling on their walls.
“So,” we said at one point, “you’re thinking of parting with this old farm after all these years?”
“Well, if we do, we won’t be going anywhere,” replied Jay with a broad smile. “We’ve built a dandy four-bedroom ‘retirement house’ for ourselves. You passed it after you crossed the river on the way in here.” He went on to explain that he and Dottie use it now as income property, just as they do with the two fully equipped rental apartments located over the barns. “We’ve always been pretty financially self-sufficient here,” he said, and then added that, sure, he’d sell their “retirement house,” too. Price of Gregg Mill Farm without the “retirement house”: $695,000. With: $1,200,000. “If they want everything,” Jay noted, “we’ll just build ourselves another ‘retirement house’ up the street near our daughter and her family.” (Jay and Dottie have three grown children and three grandchildren.)
To describe everything we saw on our subsequent tour of the property with Jay (and Roscoe) would require many pages. But highlights would include the ten rooms, including five bedrooms, seven bathrooms (including those in the two apartments), several fireplaces and/or woodstove hookups, the dining room we’ve mentioned (featuring that Moses Eaton stenciling), a library, a family room, and … we’re surely forgetting some. There’s a cellar, a new septic system, and a two-car garage. We could picture a certain large upper-floor space as a fabulous master suite. Jay agreed. Almost every room is adorned with framed family pictures, bric-a-brac, or, as they say, just plain “stuff” that Jay and Dottie have acquired during their years together.
Eventually, we found ourselves out by the tennis court (equipped with lights) next to the fishing/swimming/skating pond, all surrounded by forest and open land. Beautiful. We could have sat out there for the rest of the day. Jay told us that he’d always meant to re-create the original old mill building next to the dam and also do what’s needed to produce electricity for the entire farm. “I just never got around to it,” he mused, “but it could be done.”
Finally, we walked back to the house and then through the connected barns. “It’s nice to be able to feed all the animals during winter days without having to go outside,” Jay said. Although the Mardens used to have animals, they no longer do. Instead, all five barns are chockablock with farm machinery, wagons, tools, and Lord knows what else. The new owner will have a ball sorting through all of it—maybe ending up with an auction or, sure, the yard sale of all yard sales!
But five barns? Well, yes. There’s the carriage house connected to the main house and then the hay barn. Next comes the cow barn followed by the stable for horses, and, finally, the equipment barn. But wait … Jay and Dottie’s “retirement house” has a small barn, too. So if the new owner wants everything, the text below our article’s headline would have to stand corrected. Might it then be the only six-barn farm in all of New England?
For more information, contact Heidi Palmer/Coldwell Banker RB Bedford, 166 Route 101, Bedford, NH03110.
603-487-2991, 603-487-2447; email@example.com
p.s. Happy 80th anniversary, Yankee! We still love moseying around New England for you. This month’s story is our 503rd. Or is it the 504th? Well, there’ve been a lot over the past 80 years.