History of Walpole
The town of Walpole was incorporated in 1756 and named in honor of Sir Robert Walpole, a British statesman. The town includes the villages of Walpole, North Walpole,
John Kilburn became the first European inhabitant of Walpole when he established a homestead in 1749. On August 15, 1755, Kilburn, his family, and a hired hand held off a raid of more than two hundred Abenaki for an entire day. This raid was one of many conflicts in the Connecticut River Valley as the Native American inhabitants fought against the establishment of settlers on their lands. Walpole was initially chartered as the third in a series of four frontier forts along the Connecticut River.
By 1753, Col. Benjamin Bellows was awarded a land grant by Gov. Benning Wentworth, and that land became Walpole. By 1771, the population had grown to about 500. The first bridge to cross the Connecticut River was built in 1785 as the town continued to grow with the establishment of businesses including one of the earliest book publishers in the United States. By 1800, advancements in transportation brought growth as turnpikes connected Walpole to roads in Massachusetts and Vermont. Walpole became a stage and teaming center. Taverns and inns developed along these routes. Farming and the introduction of Merino sheep led to prosperous times.
Thomas Collins Drew bought the land that would become the village of Drewsville in 1810. The power of the Cold River and Blanchard Brook caused Drewsville to become a center of manufacturing through the mid 1800’s. By the late 1800’s, the arrival of rail lines and the transporting of northern timber with massive log drives on the Connecticut River resulted in remarkable growth in North Walpole.
The town contains many architecturally significant old houses, including several associated with Colonel Bellows and members of his family. Walpole Academy, built in 1831 and attributed to master-builder Aaron Prentiss Howland, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The abundant lilacs in the town inspired Louisa May Alcott to write the 1878 book Under the Lilacs.
"Information summarized from The Walpole Foundation: The Hubbard Family, A Legacy of Preservation and Images of America, Walpole."
For a more detailed historical look at Walpole and surrounding areas be sure to check out the Walpole Historical Society