Monday, September 23, 2019

The Garrison Houses of New England

McIntire Garrison, Maine

Many people, who are unfamiliar with early colonial history, might be surprised to learn that New Hampshire and Maine were the frontier. A thin line of settlements that stood between the Native warriors and their French allies from sweeping the English from the North American Continent. These areas were under constant threat of attack. To defend themselves the people built Garrison Houses for protection.

Both settler and native used the rivers of New Hampshire as their chief means of transportation. Dover, New Hampshire, now includes multiple towns including Durham and the Oyster River settlement area, were not only the location of multiple garrison homes, at one time at least 12 known houses, but it was also the site of frequent attacks. Two major attacks occurred in 1675 and again in 1694. In the 1694 attack, five house were destroyed. 

The New England garrison house was typically a two story building constructed of logs or thick planks. Most often, the upper story jutted out over the first on two or more sides. The house would have been surrounded by a wooden stockade for added protection. The Garrison was often someones personal home, but other buildings such as the meetinghouse might also be fortified. Each neighborhood had at least one garrison to which the residents could flee to in times of unrest. 

In the 1689 attack on Cochecho Falls, north of Dover, Native women asked to sleep inside the stockades of many of the garrison houses. In the night the women opened the gates to the attacking warriors, resulting in many deaths and even more captives taken to Canada. 

During troubled times, militia troops might be staged at garrison houses to either ward off attacks or respond quickly and prevent further death and destruction. 

Very few of these houses exist. They were either razed during conflict, torn down in more modern times or incorporated into a larger house. The oldest house in Maine is a garrison house, the McIntire Garrison House, which was designated a National Historic Landmark. Other examples are the Damm Garrison House which is part of the Woodman Museum in Dover, NH. The Damm house was a single story house, unusual for it's construction.

Interestingly, the Garrison style of architecture caught on and many more modern New England houses are built in what is called Garrison Style. 

Modern house in the Garrison Style

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