Pittsfield’s Town Pounds
By Larry Berkson
Gilmanton’s Town Pound.
Every time I ride by the town pound just before Gilmanton
Corners I wonder about Pittsfield’s pound and feel saddened that
we do not have one to view for historical purposes. In asking
around no one seems to remember a pound and a couple of people
suggested that Pittsfield might not have even had one. After
some research I find that we actually had at least two.
Apparently nearly every town had a pound in which to place stray
horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and the like. Many of the first ones
were very crude and were simply wood-fenced areas of various
sizes. They had to be rebuilt often and thus many communities
built more elaborate stone structures as time went on.
The first mention of a town pound in early Pittsfield was in
1783 when the townspeople voted to build a pound 34 feet square,
to be located between Reuben Cram’s and Mr. Sargent’s. Where
Reuben Cram and Mr. Sargent lived at the time has not been
learned. However, according to E. Harold Young, the pound was
built “just a few steps from [John Cram’s] dooryard on the
opposite side of the path leading to the mill.” This would have
been near the marker honoring Jocky Fogg across the street from
the green space at the top of Factory Hill, formerly where the
Washington House was located.
The following year, 1784, town founder John Cram was elected
pound keeper, giving credence to Young’s belief that the pound
was built across the road from his house. Naturally, it would
have been easy for Mr. Cram to attend to it. Whether he
continued to serve as pound keeper in subsequent years is not
recorded. The next one noted in the records was in 1790 when
Thomas R. Swett was elected. He served through 1793.
By 1794 the pound was apparently in such disrepair that the town
voted to build another. It was to be 40 feet square with posts
and rails six feet high, and expected to be completed by April
1. The work was vendued to Revolutionary War soldier Robert
Tibbetts, the lowest bidder, for five pounds, the equivalent of
a little over $800 today. It was undoubtedly a wooden structure.
Whether it was built on the same location as the first has not
been recorded, but likely.
That same year Samuel Bunker, eldest son of Revolutionary War
soldier Dodivah Bunker who lived on Barnstead Road, was elected
pound keeper. He served for three years before Ensign Jonathan
Cram, perhaps John’s son, took over for the following three
years. Theodore Clark, owner of the mill at the outlet to
Clark’s Pond, now the town pool, then served for at least 19
years, interrupted only by Elijah Blaisdell’s two terms in 1805
In 1810 the town voted to repair the old pound and build a new
one of stone, 30 feet square on the inside. There is no mention
of where it was to be located but it was likely the one built on
the left side of the road below French Hill on South Main
Street. When the railroad was built in 1869, it went “smack
through” the town pound. It was dismantled and the stones used
to make a culvert on the opposite side of the road. According to
a newspaper article of the day, it had been useless “for half a
century,” perhaps a slight exaggeration.
During the summer of 1826 one of the pounds was damaged by
vandals and that October a reward of $5.00 was offered for the
capture of the culprits. In 1827 Moses was the pound keeper and
in 1828 John T. Tucker.
In 1831 the town voted to sell the pound and land “where it
stands and locate a new one in back of the [Old] Meetinghouse on
Mr. Joy’s land . . . .” The pound referred to was likely the
one on Factory Hill. However, the transaction was to be
completed only if the selectmen could “do so without expense to
the town.” No evidence has been found that it was ever built.
In 1839 pound keeper elect Warren Beard was ordered to put the
gate in repair, an indication that it was still being used to
some extent. However, as the years passed there was less and
less need for a pound, and the position of pound keeper became
more of an honorary one, than one of substance. Indeed, the
title was often held by prominent leaders of the business
community who would have been unlikely to chase down and/or care
for stray animals. Among these were store keeper John Berry,
business owner John M. Tucker, undertaker Lewis Bunker, attorney
Thomas H. Thorndike, principal of Pittsfield Academy Daniel K.
Foster, attorney Edward Lane, and merchant Herbert Dustin. From
1837 through 1892 only five people served more than one term,
another indication that the title was honorary. Among them were
Warren Beard, John Berry, Zelotos Morrill (who lived next to the
South Pittsfield pound), William Tibbetts, and Charles M.
Apparently the last man appointed to the position was Harland L.
Brown in 1892. He was born in Pittsfield about 1844 and later
worked as a retail grocer, farmer, and mail carrier. Mr. Brown
passed away in Pittsfield in 1917.