History of Dublin
One can barely imagine the hardships undergone by the early settlers in wresting a livelihood from the thin, rock-strewn soil found within the township’s boundaries. Nevertheless, they cleared the land, and from it derived all their necessities: not only food (bean porridge being the staple fare) but flax and wool for clothing. Despite these difficulties, Dublin prospered. By 1775, the Town had settled a minister, started work on a meetinghouse, and made provision for schools. There were 305 people in town that year. By 1800 there were over a thousand.
Farms vs. Factories
In spite of Dublin’s steep hills, the only water power sufficient for manufacturing was on the very northern boundary, at the outlet to Harrisville Pond, where the first woolen mill was built in 1799. While Harrisville developed into a flourishing textile village, the rest of Dublin had to stick to farming. This led to divergent interests in the two sections, and ultimately to division of the Town.
The Decline of Agriculture
The year 1820 was a watershed in Dublin history. The Town’s population peaked in that year at 1260, a figure which would not be reached again until the 1970’s. Farmers were leaving the rocky hillsides, some for the factories in Harrisville, Peterborough and the Merrimack Valley, some for less stony soil on the western frontier, leaving as their monument the many abandoned cellar holes found in our woods.
The same year saw the settlement of Levi Leonard as the Town’s third minister. He presided for thirty-four years over what one historian has called “Dublin’s Golden Age”, during which the Town became renowned for its high standard of education, culture and behavior. At the same time, better roads and the opening of stores meant that many of life’s necessities could be bought more easily than raised, ending the need for subsistence farming. Farmers turned to grazing, principally of sheep, as a less strenuous means of livelihood.
Dublin as a Summer Colony
An agricultural slump after the Civil War made sheep farming unprofitable, but farm families, here and elsewhere, found a new cash crop in summer boarders. The Appleton House hotel, later the Leffingwell, was opened in 1871. The first summer cottage was built in 1872, and over fifty others followed in the next twenty years. For the best part of a century, Dublin was first and foremost a summer resort. Much of the land painstakingly cleared for farming went back to trees. Care-taking for summer estates furnished the principal source of employment for the remaining permanent residents, whose number had dropped to 408 by 1920.
In the last twenty years, Dublin has entered a new phase. Many of the former “summer people” have winterized their houses and retired here as permanent residents. New houses on Boulder Drive, Greenwood Road and elsewhere, as well as some converted summer houses, provide homes for a new group of professional and business people, many of whom work in Peterborough and Keene. Another category is that of self-employed persons working out of their homes. Some of these are artists and craftsmen. Others do their work by fax and modem, and their number will probably grow along with the information superhighway.