Bear Brook State Park
originally published in the Communicator, July/August 2010
by Mel Graykin

Although the largest chunk of Bear Brook State Park lies in Allenstown, a substantial number of acres—including the Bear Brook Campground on Beaver Pond—is actually located in Deerfield.  When the Park was established, Big Deerfield Pond was renamed Beaver Pond, and Little Deerfield Pond was renamed Spruce Pond.  This part of the town seems remote and unconnected to us, because the Deerfield entrances to the park were blocked off, and one must drive all the way around and into Allenstown for access.

You might not realize it now, but there was once a thriving community here.  Remains of mills, cemeteries and cellar holes bear evidence of it, much as they do to a lesser degree in Pawtuckaway.  Many of the old home sites were bulldozed to make way for Park development, but the mill site with its beautiful surviving stonework still stands in the southwest corner of Deerfield in Bear Brook, accessible only by foot.

Also accessible only by foot is a stone marking the boundary line between Merrimack and Rockingham counties, and the four corners of Deerfield, Candia, Allenstown and Hooksett.

The Federal Government targeted the land in the 1930s as part of FDR’s New Deal work projects designed to improve the economy.  Among these projects were the development of parks and recreation areas.  The land in Allenstown and Deerfield acquired for development was rough and rocky, and the ponds were murky and thick with pickerel weed.  The people who lived there were far from prosperous.  It was considered “sub-marginal” land.  Homes were razed and foundations plowed under to make way for the Park.  The ponds were dredged and sand hauled in to make beaches.  The old timers would not have recognized the place.

“Old South Road”, now discontinued, used to travel from Deerfield to Allenstown, with several smaller roads branching off it.  Aside from the grist and saw mills, locals harvested ice off the ponds, hunted, fished and trapped, and of course, farmed.  One of the last inhabitants of the area was Levi Hartford, an old backwoodsman, part Native American, who lived by hunting and fishing, and knew the forest intimately.  After his death in 1933, his home, just across Bear Brook near the old mill site, was dismantled by park authorities.

Levi Hartford, backwoodsman