Vintage Views: The Concord Pound Keepers

The North State Street Pound was constructed by the city in 1830. Pound Keeper George Partridge was still using this pound in 1897 while serving as the official Concord pound keeper.

The North State Street Pound was constructed by the city in 1830. Pound Keeper George Partridge was still using this pound in 1897 while serving as the official Concord pound keeper. James W. Spain photo.

Published: 06-01-2024 7:00 AM

When our beloved New Hampshire State House was being constructed in Concord between the years of 1816 and 1819, the streets of Concord were a very different place.

Unpaved and rural in nature, they provided a way to travel about as well as to neighboring towns.

Concord planted hundreds of American elm trees to provide shade in the summer and beauty year-round.

The horses trod the earthen roads along with all sorts of wagons and coaches. Many people simply walked along the roads without concern, while others avoided the streets of Concord all altogether, preferring to walk in a little more of a direct route.

With commerce growing and our Main Street shops evolving, our ancestors did not wish to find obstacles during their travels, but they did. From the time of the first settlement in our little town, the citizens prioritized in order to live in comfort and peace.

Farmers farmed, and merchants sold their products while Concord cows, pigs and goats seemed to do whatever they desired to do.

Yes, this independent lot enjoyed a stroll now and again while the citizens went about their important business.

The newly constructed New Hampshire State House needed to install an ornate wrought-iron fence around the grounds for this very reason as the cows, pigs and goats enjoyed interacting with our local politicians, but that is a story for another day.

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The New Hampshire State House grounds, the Main Street and local streets were all fair game for the marauding animals of the day. As they enjoyed their straying ways early on, they learned what freedom felt like, and they really enjoyed that thought.

Our ancestors initially ignored the concern while the animals walked about, but concern grew when the population of cows, pigs and goats seemed to outnumber the people walking about town.

This was a growing problem dating back to our earliest years and addressed somewhat modestly over a period of a hundred years.

During the year 1739, the people spoke and the authorities listened. At that time Concord was known as Rumford, and the good people of Rumford decided to vote a local gentleman into the prestigious position of Pound Keeper.

The pound keeping business could actually be lucrative at times, and the official Pound Keeper was compensated for his efforts. The elected Rumford Pound Keeper in 1739 was Nathaniel Abbott.

Nathaniel would be summoned when a wayward animal did stray. Most likely those cows, pigs and sheep kept our friend Nathaniel Abbott quite busy almost 200 years ago.

When he detained one of his unruly subjects, he would place the animal in the Rumford Town Pound until the rightful owner eventually came to bring him home.

The owner would have to pay a shilling or two to Nathaniel Abbott for his troubles, and only then was the animal allowed to leave the Town Pound enclosure.

It is interesting to note, the original location of the Rumford Town Pound was not far from our present-day Main Street.

The first pound was located on Pond Hill, the bluff at the north end of Main Street that overlooked Horseshoe Pond near the present-day location of the Franklin Pierce Mansion. This area was a beautiful little piece of land situated on a nice sandy bluff overlooking the pond, sadly it met its demise in the face of progress.

The Concord & Claremont Railroad came to town, and tracks were needed for the trains. We lost our little Pond Hill to the railroad, the sand and gravel used as a solid base for railroad track construction a little at a time until Pond Hill was simply no more.

Nathaniel Abbott spent hours on Pond Hill where he herded the stray animals into his early enclosure for safe keeping and a tidy little profit.

It is over 150 years later that we find the Pound Keeper in Concord, New Hampshire, alive, well and still chasing those pesky cows, pigs and sheep about the streets of Concord.

In 1897, the Concord Pound Keeper was a gentleman named George Partridge and he utilized the Concord Town Pound that was constructed on North State Street in 1830.

George Partridge was a good Pound Keeper, and the animals really seemed to like him for they kept wandering the streets of Concord in hopes of spending some time with old George.

In 1897, the Concord City Council approved some new rates for keeping the wayward animals within the granite walls of the North State Street Pound. There was a two-cent fee for impounding sheep and five cents each for all other creatures.

The Concord Town Pound still stands to this very day in wonderful condition on North State Street.

This granite enclosed pen that was constructed in 1830 features a wooden gate for ease of access and cut granite walls from Rattlesnake Hill a short distance behind the pound.

A bright white sign with black lettering featuring a cow with the words “Town Pound 1830” on a pole beside it on the slight hill.

Town Pounds are not as commonly known as one would think.

The concept is very old New England and seen primarily only in New England.

The 13 original colonies needed to address these wayward travelers hundreds of years ago and can be viewed as the original creators of the Town Pound.

Over the decades our beloved Concord Town Pound has benefited from the many caring citizens that ventured to the little hill and preserved what once was.

Granite walls have been placed carefully back into their original position, the wooden gate rebuilt and painted time and again with the sign benefiting from a fresh coat of white paint and artistic black lettering.

Simple in nature, I would think our very own Pound Keepers Nathaniel Abbott and George Partridge would be very amused to see the value we place today on the pens that once held the roaming animals in town.

The next time you travel along North State Street take a moment to glance at the Concord Town Pound in passing.

Think about the caring men who provided and protected the animals they gathered.

There are careers we find challenging, but it is the simple things in life that seem to leave the most lasting impression, our beloved Pound Keepers.