Historical Society selling home signs

MILFORD – Anyone who’s owned an old house knows it can mean a lot of work. But it can also mean a lot of rewards, not the least of which is maintaining a connection to the past – the house’s history and the history of the community.

So, why not let everyone know it’s an historic property? In Milford, the Historical Society is selling house signs to property owners whose homes are 100 years and older. For a donation of $80, owners get an engraved white oak sign with the name of the original owner and date of construction, as well as an historical narrative about the house.

On Souhegan Street, on the other side of the swing bridge from the Milford Oval, John and Sandy Lindquist purchased their house not long after their Fourth of July wedding. That was in 1976, the 200th birthday of the United States, so the Lindquists have a special interest in American history and before they acquired their house sign David Palance, the Historical Society’s president, did an online deed search and found that the house was built around 1846 and that Gilman Wheeler, a dry goods merchant who eventually opened a store on the Milford Oval, appears to be its first recorded owner.

Based on facts that Palance found, Sandy Lindquist wrote a narrative on the history of her house:

“Milford was a growing town due to the new rail from Boston,” she wrote. “The railroad at the time was like the Internet in that it connected people to the world to buy, sell, and communicate like never before.”

The present day neighborhood would be almost unrecognizable to people who lived there in the mid-1800s.

“The river side of Souhegan Street was a beautiful pasture area with a view of Temple and Pack Monadnock Mountains to the west,” Linquist wrote. “The neighbors raised and trained horses for work and show, winning state-wide prizes for their Morgan horses.”

Across the street and down the block from the Lindquists lives Heather Flynn, vice president of the Historical Society, and there is an historic sign on her house too.

It’s the Abel Chase house, which Palance said was built between 1836 and 1851. Chase, the first person for whom there is a recorded deed “was a farmer and teamster, or one who trains horses for hauling and doing heavy work. His morgans may have been involved in moving granite blocks and houses around as this was real common.”

Her house was built around 1836, and Palance found it was the first one in town to put up blinds. “What were they hiding?” asked Palance.

The Chase family were “temperate,” meaning they didn’t drink, and Abel was involved in the manufacturing of wooden items; mirror frames and toys and his wife was involved with the Woman’ Soldiers Aid Society.

He also thinks the house might have been part of the underground railroad that brought slaves to free states and Canada. Chase’s brother, Leonard, and the Rev. Humphrey Moore, Milford’s first settled minister, were well-known abolitionists.

During the Civil War Gilman responded to President Lincoln’s third and fourth calls to join the Union Army. Other Souhegan Street neighbors were known as being fervent anti-slavery activists, he wrote.

“I would not be surprised if there is a secret hatch in the house somewhere,” Palance wrote about Flynn’s house. “There are techniques for finding these passages. I did this to find the passage in my house. Measure the size of each room and then measure the outside of the house. They should be within 12 inches or so of each other for the walls, anything more means you have a hidden space.”

At one point the place was sold for “one dollar plus love and affection. This means the house was passed around relatives until 1973!” Palance wrote.

Flynn and Palance started the house sign project about two years ago, and since then have sold 21 signs.

“It’s really neat to find all that information,” Flynn said, “but it takes lots of time … six hours for just a brief summary.”

Donations for the house signs go toward upkeep of the Milford Historical Society’s Carey House, on Union Street, where they have been painting some of the rooms, putting up new displays and adding items to the gift shop.

Anyone interested in acquiring an historical house sign should contact David Palance at cemeterymapping@comcast.net.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100,