MAMMOTH ROAD: The Road to Kill All Roads -Part 1
For a long time, I thought about Mammoth Road and wondered how it got the name. Was it named after the extinct woolly mammoth or something else? What I did know was that it ran from Lowell and Dracut, Massachusetts, into New Hampshire through Pelham, Windham, Londonderry, Manchester, and ending in Hooksett.
Another item I knew was that in New Hampshire, it is designated as Interstate 93’s emergency route because I had seen the signs along the road. More recently, I’ve discovered it is part of the Department of Transportation’s Incident Management Plan for the Salem to Manchester corridor should some major incidents happen on I-93. Traffic would be diverted to NH 128, also known as Mammoth Road.
But just like everything else in New Hampshire, roads, buildings, historical markers, the people who came before us and their dialects are rooted in history. Ayuh, they are. So, to begin to know its history and where it leads is to know that Mammoth Road is not just a two-lane north/south route, it is an example of the passing of time. We’ll explore some history in each community that Mammoth runs through.
The road starts you in the 1800s, and as you travel north, homes and buildings still stand that were built at the time the way was just a rutty path. To know Mammoth Road today is to drive it. Traveling in a stagecoach in the 1800s was a time-consuming and challenging way to go. An easier way had to be made so that commerce and people could flow. Each city that Mammoth Road runs through offers a glimpse into our history. It is an unburied time capsule that contains the stories of those people who have made a difference in their communities and their country. It shows us places where our ancestors met for meetings, dances, work, and death. Those ancestors were born here or, like many of us, relocated to this region. All along the way, all you need do is look around, and you will see the passing of time and a glimpse of where we might go.
In September 1900, Reverend Charles H. Oliphant wrote in New England Magazine, “Mr. Daniel Morrison, who drove a stage between Methuen and Andover during the eventful years from 1844 to 1849, tells me that on one afternoon in 1837 while working near the Mammoth Road, he counted seven passing stagecoaches on the new thoroughfare. The road was called the “Mammoth,” as one of its projectors told Mr. Morrison., “to kill all the other roads.” It seems that such was its effect.” And so, we will look at the road with eyes on architecture, advancements, and how we gain with its inception.
LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS: Incorporated 1826
When you’ve got a city like Lowell with the Merrimack River and the Concord River streaming by, the idea of building mills for manufacturing was a simple idea. As we look north from the School Street bridge that crosses the Merrimack River, you will find the Pawtucket Congregational Church located at 15 Mammoth Road. The current pastor, Reverend Nancy Butcher, and the church proclaim it to be “a church of extravagant welcome.” The Romanesque and Queen Anne building was built in 1898 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. The red brick building with its angles and curves and heavenly reaching spires marks the beginning of Mammoth Road that runs for 29.3 miles to its end.
The southern kickoff of the Mammoth Road is the Pawtucket Congregational Church, established in 1829, “with nine women and one man.” It is a leader in their community for welcoming and ignoring how people may be different from one another. In 2011, the church changed the guidelines of how they wanted to represent themselves to the world to be inclusive to all people, no matter the way they wanted to be perceived. This was nearly a full decade before the ‘Me too’ movement and the prominence of the acceptance of all.
DRACUT, MASSACHUSETTS: Incorporated 1701
Dracut originally paid taxes and protection money to Chelmsford. They separated when that became too costly. Today it is a vibrant community that shares the waterway, Beaver Brook with other Mammoth Road communities sometimes paralleling the route in Pelham, Windham, and Londonderry, New Hampshire.
As we drive north, we pass a historic mansion now housing the Pregnancy Care Center, “that exists to help women know and understand all their pregnancy options.” Can you imagine what our forefathers would have thought of that? When my wild imagination runs, I prefer to look forward and never want to go back in time.
Dunkin’ Donuts dots the landscape. Houses have one-car garages, but the further out you get the garages number two, three, and the occasional 4-car garage. Such wealth would have been hard to predict. Mammoth Road made it easy to travel to and from work. It accessed better wages in the city that allowed for the growth of prosperity.
Dracut, Massachusetts, sits directly north of Lowell, where Mammoth Road seamlessly runs into this next city, and shortly, it turns into a country landscape. We soon come upon the Cutter Farm, a 30-acre farm that offers horseback riding lessons plus boarding and summer camp programs.
But who was Cutter? According to the book by Rebecca A. Duda, Legendary Locals of Dracut, the Cutter family owned the farm and had a daughter named Edna Cutter. With a masters of arts in horticulture from Cornell University, Cutter shared her expertise to help out during World War I by teaching “farmerettes” how to farm and garden. The book tells us that “A farmerette was the Rosie Riveter of the World War I generation. When men were sent off to Europe, the Women’s Land Army of America was established, and over 20,000 women were sent to work on America’s farms.” Edna Cutter helped teach these women to feed their families and their communities. She would be a story all on her own. From WomensHistory.org, we learn, “Women who joined the WLAA became known as “farmerettes.” The organization instituted an eight-hour day and demanded that farmers pay women the same wages as male laborers.” This was in 1917.
NEXT: Part 2 in New Hampshire
Illustrations by Michael Stoddart