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City founders honored, historic marker unveiled

Berlin and Coös County Historical Society board members Odette and Donald Leclerc of Berlin stand by the buggy they recently donated to the BCCHS, displayed for the first time on Saturday at the unveiling of the “First Residence” historic marker. Owned by the Fogg family of Milan, it came into the hands of Mr. Leclerc’s uncle, Gerald “Phil” Joyal, who took it to Massachusetts, but specified in his will that it should go to his nephew. (Photo by Edith Tucker) (click for larger version)
June 02, 2010
BERLIN — "Today is a momentous occasion in which we are paying homage to the Sessions and Wheeler families and their descendents," said president of the Berlin and Coös County Historical Society (BCCHS) Renney Morneau on Saturday afternoon under bright skies.

The former state representative from Berlin welcomed a cheerful crowd of 75 people who came see a state historic marker unveiled on East Milan Road.

William Sessions and Cyrus Wheeler founded the city in the early 1840s that later became "second to none in industrial progress," BCCHS president Morneau explained.

Today Berlin, a center of the pulp-and-paper industry for over a century — supported by cutting-edge research and development scientists and sustainable forest management practices — is having a "rebirth," he said.

In an earlier era, the barns on the property — once known as the Thompson farm — housed 75 workhorses that supplied horsepower in the woods, hauling timber out to saw- and pulp mills.

President Morneau praised the efforts of BCCHS board member Jacklyn "Jackie" Nadeau for organizing the event along with the many volunteers who over time have secured grants, cash donations, and in-kind contributions to re-roof the barns and undertake other restoration.

He also gave kudos to Turner Couture of Boy Scout Troop 207 who organized the rehabilitation of the fertile field between the two enormous Brown Company barns for his Eagle project. Twenty Scouts, including life Scout Connor Wagner and Hunter Tupick, joined in his efforts, and, helped by a volunteer machine operator, the rock- and debris-free expanse is seeded with hay grasses.

Assisted by BCCHS vice president Walter Nadeau, five of the two founders' descendents gathered to unveil the marker, revealing its heading:

"Maynesborough's First Residence — 1824."

"On the knoll north of this site, William Sessions and his nephew, Cyrus Wheeler erected 'the first building that could be honored with the name of house' in what is now Berlin, N. H.," reads the succinct narrative. "Sessions helped clear many other farms in the area. In the 20th century, the property was the Brown Company farm. The two barns still extant housed draft horses for the logging side of the business; the larger was moved about ¼ miles south from W. R. Brown's Arabian horse stud-farm in 1947."

Descendent Brian Sessions said that when he had crossed over the Maine-New Hampshire border from Gilead, Me., earlier that day, he had tried to envision how rugged that same trip had been in the early 1840s.

His ancestor was a "real estate flipper" who would clear a farm, sell it, and then move on, Mr. Sessions explained.

While living in Stark, he and his wife endured the loss of six children within a 28-day period, but continued to work steadfastly to secure a future for their remaining children.

After clearing more than over a dozen farms, he returned to Maine to live in Milton Plantations. After his death at over age 90 in August 1885, he was buried in Greenleaf Cemetery in East Milton, Me.

Members of the Wheeler and Sessions families gathered for photographs around the historic marker, which boasts a backdrop of barns and a distant view of the Presidential Range. Wheeler family members traveled from Valparaiso, Indiana, the Lancaster, Penn., area, and Massachusetts to enjoy a family reunion.

Refreshments, including rhubarb ice tea, were served in the more northerly barn, and BCCHS members happily chatted with their out-of-town guests.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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