Milton and the Knowledge Problem

By S.D. Plissken | August 13, 2018

Milton has a serious knowledge problem: it lacks awareness of the “Local Knowledge Problem.”

A succession of Milton selectmen, town officials, planners, economic developers, as well as much of its population, have been absolutely certain that Milton needs a family restaurant at Exit 17. They have known this, almost as an article of faith, for years. Few question it.

Some might ask how they received this revelation (or why they have persisted in believing it for so very long). Well, they will tell you. The major weight of Milton’s increasingly high property taxes is borne by homeowners. Unaccountably, those taxpayers do not like to bear that burden. So, that tax burden should be shifted onto businesses. Or, at least it could be, if there were only more businesses. Milton needs more businesses.

The business owners’ incentive to line up for this mulcting remains unclear. It might appear that they have none at all. Alternatives, such as reductions in town government or in its budgets (or even just holding the line), easing local regulations, seeking state regulatory relief, etc., are never seriously considered. That would be crazy. Milton just needs more businesses.

There are aesthetic considerations too. Milton deplores just any business venture that might arise through natural market processes. (Witness the China Pond and Mi-Te-Jo expansion melodramas). Milton does need more businesses, but they need to be the “right” sorts of businesses.

Restaurants might be good, but franchise restaurants are obviously less so. They do not strike the right tone; they are a bit déclassé. However, a “family” restaurant could work quite nicely. That would be just the “right” sort of business. Absolutely. Milton needs a family restaurant business at Exit 17. No doubt at all. The town government knows what is best for Milton.

But it does not know. It could never know – that would be impossible – because of the “Local Knowledge Problem.”

Professor F.A. Hayek (1899-1992) of the London School of Economics (and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics) published “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (often called the “Local Knowledge Problem”) in the American Economic Review in September 1945. His article was rated recently as among the most important 20 papers of the last 100 years. In it, Hayek explained why central planning is all nonsense.

The knowledge required for economic planning is imperfect, transitory, and widely dispersed among many actors. No board, commission, or committee of individuals could ever hope to assemble enough for an optimal solution (and perhaps not even enough for a poor one). It is impossible for them to do so. The necessary knowledge resides temporarily – the situation is ever changing – in the array of all market participants. (Nowadays, it might be said that the necessary knowledge and information is “Crowd Sourced”).

As one proceeds north from Milton along NH Route 16, the results of successful decisions based upon such dispersed local knowledge may be seen readily. There are three gas station convenience stores, two restaurants, a trading post, an auto parts store, a sugar house, a Kung Fu dojo, a garden center, a motel, a farmers’ & crafters’ market, a stove museum, and a fish farm. There are also quite a few home-based businesses. In season, there are several farm stands.

All of these businesses were created without benefit of central planning, through market processes. Their entrepreneurs took a chance, based upon their own intuition and local knowledge. They invested their own capital (available in part due to lower taxes), resources, and effort in those concerns. Bravo! They have satisfied market demand, and done so with no cost, risk, or loss to taxpayers if they fail to thrive.

Milton’s central planners have their thumb on the scale in “knowing” that Milton needs a family restaurant. Without adequate knowledge, which they can never have, it is their own preferences they put forward in defiance of market desires. That can garner only imperfect results at best and likely “it will all end in tears.” (Remember the most recent strong preference failure of this sort: the landfill?).

Why should it not be that an electric car-charging station, farmers’ market, sheep farm, meadery, dojo, cell-tower, billboard, or things not yet imagined arises at Exit 17? Why is a family restaurant necessarily the optimal solution? How can planners know that? (A free market might even prefer that location remains as it is). Obviously, they cannot.

Yes, there is a sort of arrogance to it all. Milton and its taxpayers are not part of some SimCity game.

Of course, there is also the additional hurdle of water and sewer facilities. The proposed Exit 17 location lies beyond the town water network. (Exit 18 is even further beyond the Pale). It has been estimated that it would cost at least $1 million to extend those services out to the desired restaurant site. That is daunting. But, wait. BOS Vice-chairwoman Hutchings revealed recently that the $1 million figure is an underestimate. In fact, it would cost much more than that, vastly more. (And government estimates usually need to be tripled to approach real-world accuracy).

Tax reductions would allow business growth. But that implies an attendant government reduction. Town government sees no benefit in reducing itself: such a proposal lacks appeal. Impossible. Put such notions aside.

The Exit 17 family restaurant must remain an article of faith. Government planners know it.

Meanwhile, the Stop, Drops & Rolls coffee shop closed this week. Its proprietor seeks to sell both the business and the property. “We just can’t generate the customers to continue to stay open.”


Hayek, Friedrich A. (1945, September). The Use of Knowledge in Society. Retrieved from

Stop, Drops & Roll. (2018, August 6). It Is a Sad Day Today. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, August 13). Friedrich Hayek. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2017, June 20). Local Knowledge Problem. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, August 3). SimCity. Retrieved from

Electra, Dorian. (2010, December 20). I’m in Love with Friedrich Hayek. Retrieved from

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

By S.D. Plissken | August 1, 2018

The Dover City Council passed a resolution on Wednesday, July 11, 2018, that called on Governor Sununu (R), the NH congressional delegation (Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Maggie Hassan (D), Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Ann McLane Kuster (D)), and Director of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, to demand an end to the Border Patrol’s “coercive checkpoints” in the state and to “immediately halt” policies that separate or imprison families.

This was their third resolution on this topic. Last year, on Wednesday, October 11th, the Dover City Council passed a resolution, unanimously. Last month, on Wednesday, June 27th, the Dover City Council passed a similar resolution, unanimously (with one member absent), that called on the Trump Administration to immediately end its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has led to thousands of family members being separated while attempting to cross the US border.

However, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) seems to have slipped past their resolutions somehow. ICE lists an address in the Strafford County Complex in Dover as being one of its Detention Facilities. (That is just 4 miles from where the Council passes its resolutions). In fact, ICE identifies this address in the Strafford County Complex as being its Boston Field Office. (There is nothing new in this as the Strafford County House of Corrections has been housing ICE detainees since at least 2008).

None of this needs to be. The Federal government is supposed to supply its own officials to implement its own policy initiatives. It cannot compel local officials to participate. In 1842, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in Prigg vs. Pennsylvania that

The fundamental principle applicable to all cases of this sort, would seem to be, that where the end is required, the means are given; and where the duty is enjoined, the ability to perform it is contemplated to exist on the part of the functionaries to whom it is entrusted. The clause is found in the national Constitution, and not in that of any state. It does not point out any state functionaries, or any state action to carry its provisions into effect. The states cannot, therefore, be compelled to enforce them; and it might well be deemed an unconstitutional exercise of the power of interpretation, to insist that the states are bound to provide means to carry into effect the duties of the national government, nowhere delegated or instrusted to them by the Constitution.

This is the so-called Anti-Commandeering Doctrine. It has been used to oppose the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) and a host of other iniquities. It appeared more recently in Printz vs. United States (1997).

Neither the NH Department of Corrections nor the Strafford County Sheriff can be compelled to participate in ICE initiatives. They do so voluntarily. The NH Department of Corrections has been receiving so much per head to house ICE detainees; the Strafford County Sheriff has been receiving so much per head to transport them. (A recent contract between the Sheriff and his deputies incorporates this transporting into their duties as a regular task). They are doing this for ICE detainees taken in the whole northeastern tier of states.

So, Dover City Council, you are barking up the wrong tree. Imagine an alternative reality. Instead of addressing a fourth resolution to distant authorities, you make a couple of in-state phone calls. “Hello Sheriff (and fellow Democrat) Dubois, could you stop taking Federal money to transport ICE detainees? Thanks” and “Hello Commissioner Hanks, could you stop taking Federal money to house ICE detainees? Thanks.”

The notion of refusing to support officials with which you do not agree is not new. Etienne De La Boetie advised in 1549:

I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.


Concord Monitor. (2018, July 2). Change of priority: As ICE bumps up security at the border, Strafford County jail sees hike in immigrant inmates. Retrieved from

Corwin, Emily (NHPR). (2017, March 22). N.H.’s Immigration Detention Facility Saw Spike In February. Retrieved

De La Boetie, Etienne. (1549). Discourse on Voluntary Servitude. France.

Foster’s Daily Democrat. (2018, June 28). Dover Council May Take Immigrant Action. Retrieved from

Foster’s Daily Democrat. (2018, July 11). Dover City Council Demands End to Checkpoints. Retrieved from

Labor Relations Information System (LRIS). (2014). Collective Bargaining Agreement. Retrieved from

Maharry, Michael (TAC). (2013, December 28). States Don’t Have to Comply: The Anti-Commandeering Doctrine. Retrieved from

Manchester Union-Leader. (2017, July 2). New wall has opened door to more illegal aliens at Strafford County jail. Retrieved from

New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR). (2017. August 07). In wake of immigration crackdown, some New England jails see brisk business. Retrieved from

NHPR. (2018, June 28). In Dover, A Protest Against Family Separations And N.H. Border Patrol Checkpoints. Retrieved from

Pontoh, Dan (ACLU). (2017, October 11). Dover, NH Social Justice Action Alert. Retrieved from

Tenth Amendment Center. (2013, October 15). No Water = No NSA Data Center. Retrieved from

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. (2008). Detainees Leaving ICE Detention from the Strafford County Correction Facility. Retrieved from

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (2018). Strafford County House of Corrections. Retrieved from

WMUR. (2018, July 12). Some ICE Detainees Kept at Strafford County Jail. Retrieved from

Non-Public BOS Meeting Scheduled (August 6, 2018)

By Muriel Bristol | July 31, 2018

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have posted their agenda for a Non-Public BOS meeting to be held next Monday, August 6, at 4:00 PM. The agenda has two items: a Non-Public matter classed as 91-A:3 II (c) and another matter classed as 91-A:3 II (d).

91-A:3 II (c): Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting. This exemption shall extend to any application for assistance or tax abatement or waiver of a fee, fine, or other levy, if based on inability to pay or poverty of the applicant.

91-A:3 II (d): Consideration of the acquisition, sale, or lease of real or personal property which, if discussed in public, would likely benefit a party or parties whose interests are adverse to those of the general community.

The first matter relates to the recent tax abatement process. In November, the BOS made an error in setting the 2017 tax rate. It affected all of the taxpayers, i.e., about 2,700 taxpayers, to a large degree. Various figures have been given. In December, the BOS suggested that those affected should file for abatements.

This would be case of apples and oranges. Abatements are intended to resolve errors in particular property assessments or to address the personal circumstances of particular taxpayers. For this purpose, the town typically allocates or holds back a very small percentage – less than 1% – for abatements. (They had allocated only $20,000 to cover all abatements). The BOS’s very large town-wide rate error could not possibly be corrected through granting a few abatements.

The difference between the BOS error and their proposed “solution” is separated by several orders of magnitude. The BOS may or may not have known that back in December, but they surely do know it now.

Only 56 taxpayers filed for the suggested abatement. Of those, 39 (69.6%) received abatements, while 17 (30.4%) were rejected. This Non-Public matter before the BOS is likely an appeal by one of the 17 whose abatement was rejected.

The second matter relates to the buying, selling, or leasing of property. Several property matters have been in the wind over the last few months. The sale of the old fire station, acquisition of conservation land, and the proposed purchase of parking spaces have been much discussed lately.

The BOS intend to adjourn their Non-Public BOS meeting by 5:00 PM. Their prior public meeting was held on Monday, July 16. Their next public Meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 20.


Town of Milton. (2018, July 31). BOS Non-Public Agenda, August 6, 2018. Retrieved from

State of New Hampshire. (2018, February). Revised Statutes Amended Online. Retrieved from

Milton’s Summer Theater

By Paige Turner, Guest Contributor | July 18. 2018

The Milton Town Players performed their adaptation of a scene from Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington at the Emma Ramsey Theater last Monday night (July 16).

Mr. Glen Bailey made a guest appearance in the title role of junior Senator “Jeff” Smith. His performance was uneven at best, although his material was quite good. It might be that his future lies more behind the keyboard than before the footlights.

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) reprised their familiar roles as clueless and ineffectual solons and did so convincingly. Their new “ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies” rules for the meeting’s Public Comments section aided the mise-en-scène.

Chairman Thibeault, in attempting the more complex role of the sympathetic Senate President, originally played by Harry Carey, was not entirely successful. His stony-faced performance did not project any sympathy at all for Senator Smith or for the taxpayers. For that, he would need to break the fourth wall.

EDC Committeeman Larry Brown portrayed the senior Senator “Joe” Paine, a role originally undertaken by the incomparable Claude Raines. He was the stand-out star of the evening. Brown’s Senator Paine confirmed that government officials can absolutely, by statute, retain and use money they take without authorization. He appeared to have that factoid at the tips of his fingers. His choice of citing it so blandly captured perfectly the cynicism, venality, and corruption of Senator Paine.

The Town Players did well in limiting themselves to this brief scene. A little bit of their governance goes a long way. But do not miss their future shows!


Milton Board of Selectmen. (2018, July 16). Milton Board of Selectman Meeting, July 16, 2018. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, July 26). Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Retrieved from

Rubber Stamps

By S.D. Plissken | July 10, 2018

An examination of fifteen years worth of the Town Meeting Warrant articles on which the Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted to make a recommendation – 239 of them – reveals an oddity. While it cannot be said that they never met a warrant article on which they did not unanimously agree, it is extremely rare.

The BOS voted unanimously to recommend warrant articles 231 of 239 times (96.7%) in those fifteen years. They voted unanimously to not recommend warrant articles 5 of 239 times (2.1%). Those articles not recommended concerned the contentious landfill issue on the 2015 ballot, and the disincorporation petitioned article on the 2018 ballot. (Making any recommendation at all on a petitioned warrant article is itself an extreme rarity). Taken together, unanimous votes were made 236 of 239 times (98.7%).

There was a split vote in only 3 of 239 times (1.3%). One of them was a 2-0 vote with 1 abstention. (Some might say that too should be counted as a unanimous vote, of those who were voting). The other two were 2-1 splits. Most of them arose out of that same landfill issue.

Now, none of the warrant articles that were unanimously recommended (or unanimously not recommended) received unanimous approval (or disapproval) of the voters. Not a single one. In fact, a significant number of the unanimously recommended articles were rejected outright or passed by narrow margins.

All of this begs a question: why are the BOS recommendations, which have been almost entirely unanimous ones, at such variance with the expressed wishes of the voters? (Why are there so few dissents? (1.3%))

Some have answered that most of these warrant articles have to do with expanding town appropriations or authorizations, i.e., they are things that the town government wants. The town government is interested, as are all bureaucracies, in increasing its budgets, staffs, pay rates, pensions, authority, and control. So, it is easy to see why the town departments might create warrant articles that do not gain anything like unanimous acceptance by the voters. Their interests are not the same.

But the question remains for the BOS itself – the supposed representatives of the voters. Why do they make so many unanimous recommendations of warrant articles, i.e., solutions proffered by either the town apparatus or by themselves? And why such strong recommendations for solutions so often at variance with the interests of significant numbers of voters, even majorities of them (as expressed by them with their ballots).

One might expect there would be something like as many split recommendation votes as there have been split results in the actual election. That is to say, one might expect greater variance if the BOS were truly representing the voters. But do they, in fact, even try to represent the voters (and their interests), as distinguished from the town government?

Is the BOS really just a rubber stamp?


Town of Milton. (2002-03, 2006-2018). Annual Report. (Various Years). Milton, NH: Town of Milton


Milton Town Beach in 1960

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | June 12, 2018


Town Beach Open

The town beach gates swung open the past week-end [June 18-19] to begin another season at this cooling-off spot. More picnic benches have been added to accommodate additional picnickers. The commissioners also have purchased a ride-around lawn mower to keep the alfalfa under control.


Rochester Courier. (1960. June 23). Town Beach Open. Rochester Courier: Rochester, NH

Milton and the Spaulding Turnpike

By Muriel Bristol | June 5, 2018

The NH State Legislature authorized construction of a northern extension of the Eastern Turnpike in 1953. The Eastern Turnpike would consist of the just completed (1950) Blue Star Turnpike or NH Turnpike (now also Interstate 95), which ran from the Massachusetts border to the Portsmouth traffic circle, as well as a northern extension, which would run from the Portsmouth traffic circle to the Dover-Rochester area.

The first five miles of the Eastern Turnpike’s northern extension, ran from the Portsmouth traffic circle, through Newington, to Exit 6 (US Route 4) at Dover Point. Construction began in May 1954 and opened in September 1956.

Huntley N. Spaulding (1869-1955) and his brother, Rolland H. Spaulding (1873-1942), both of north Rochester, were manufacturers of leatherboard and fiberboard at their family’s mills in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. They both served as NH Governors: Rolland in 1915-17, and Huntley in 1927-29. Both they and other members of their family were philanthropists. The northern extension of the Eastern Turnpike was renamed to the Spaulding Turnpike by March 1954, presumably in their honor. (Huntley N. Spaulding died in November 1955).

The second seventeen-mile section of the now Spaulding Turnpike ran between Exit 6 (US Route 4) at Dover Point to Exit 12 (US Route 202 | NH Route 11 | NH Route 125) in Gonic, in Rochester. This second section bypassed the Dover Point Road, downtown Dover, and NH Route 108 between Dover and Rochester. It opened in August 1957.

The Portsmouth Herald observed that by “Connecting with the New Hampshire Turnpike, the Spaulding Turnpike will give motorists a superhighway from the Massachusetts line to Rochester and easier access to the mountain region of the state.”

The Spaulding Turnpike and NH Route 16 ran concurrently from Portsmouth Circle towards Rochester, where the Spaulding Turnpike ended at Exit 12. (NH Route 125 ran from the Massachusetts border at Haverhill, MA, through Plaistow towards Rochester). NH Routes 16 and 125 then ran concurrently from there through downtown Rochester, north along Milton Road in Rochester towards Milton, and through Milton along the White Mountain Highway to Union (Wakefield).

Milton enjoyed a tourist boom in the 1960s and 1970s. It had lost its train station by 1960. But it was now the first town (as opposed to Rochester) through which the increased traffic of the Spaulding Turnpike passed after Exit 12. (Some estimates were triple the traffic). Many travelers considered Milton to be a halfway point to the White Mountains. It was a good place to break one’s journey.

Older residents and through-travelers recall that Milton had more mercantile activity, such as general stores, hardware, antiques, garages, etc., during this period. Other venues catered to lunches, ice cream treats, and summer activities. Its public beach had been open since about 1948. Mi-Te-Jo Campground has been here from at least the 1960s. Ray’s Marina replaced the train station in 1962. There were even water-ski jumps in the Depot Pond.

Then the NH Department of Public Works and Highways (now the NH Department of Transportation (NHDOT)) announced plans for a third section of the Spaulding Turnpike in 1973. The NH legislature authorized it in 1977. It would continue twelve miles from Exit 12 in Rochester to the current Exit 18, just short of the Milton-Union (Wakefield) border. This third section opened in 1981 after three years of construction.

Milton had been by-passed and its stretch of the White Mountain Highway is now a by-way, rather than a highway.

The NH Route 16 designation had shifted successively from its original path through Dover Point, downtown Dover, and NH Route 108 as Spaulding Turnpike construction advanced. Somewhat belatedly, that designation shifted away also from downtown Rochester and Milton to the Spaulding Turnpike in the mid-1990s.

NH Route 16 continues north from Exit 18 of the Spaulding Turnpike. Its alternate name of  White Mountain Highway is still used in those stretches of the “old” NH Route 16 that have been bypassed or re-aligned. It is also used in stretches that continue to align with the modern NH Route 16. It is so called in Milton, Sanbornville (Wakefield), West Ossipee, Tamworth, Conway, and North Conway.


Carroll County Independent. (1926, September 3). Record of Public Service Best Campaign Argument. Center Ossipee, NH.

Eastern Roads. (n.d.). Spaulding Turnpike. Retrieved from

NH Department of Transportation. (2015). Spaulding Turnpike. Retrieved from

Portsmouth Herald. (30 August 1957). Spaulding Turnpike Now Open to Traffic. Published Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth Herald. (1977, June 24). News Briefs. Published Portsmouth, NH

Wikipedia. (2018, February 17). New Hampshire Route 16. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2017, September 25). Spaulding Turnpike. Retrieved from

The Mathematical Limits of Representation

By Muriel Bristol | June 1, 2018

Many have spoken, over eons, of the practical, logical, and philosophical limits of political representation. Here we will consider only some of its mathematical limits.

The U.S. Constitution provided that

The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse [Sic] three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

That made for a total of 65 House Representatives originally. This was only an estimate with which to start. The number of Representatives expanded to 105 after the first census provided actual population data in 1790. That number of Representatives continued to grow as the population increased to maintain the desired ratio of 1 Representative for roughly 30,000 people. It grew to 142 Representatives after the 1800 census, 182 after 1810, 213 after 1820, and 240 Representatives after the 1830 census, which recorded a population of 12,855,020 people. Representation began to lose ground after that.

There were only 223 Representatives after the 1840 census, 234 after 1850, 241 after 1860, 292 after 1870, 325 after 1880, 356 after 1890, and 386 Representatives after the 1900 census. This process continued until Congress passed the Apportionment Act of 1911, which capped the number of increasingly less representative Representatives at 435 after the 1910 census.

Each U.S. House member represented about 212,000 people in 1920, 280,675 in 1930, 301,164 in 1940, 334,587 in 1950, 410,481 in 1960, 469,088 in 1970, 510,818 in 1980, 571,477 in 1990, 646,946 in 2000, and 709,760 people in 2010.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects a population of 314,500,000 people by 2020, which would be about 723,000 people per Representative, or 1/24th of the representation originally intended. (It would take a House of 10,434 Representatives to provide the original degree of representation).

A mathematical limit is the value that an equation, function, or sequence “approaches” as its input or index approaches some value. The function or f(x) of House representation can be represented as f(x) = 435/x, where x is the size of the population. When x = 435, the function f(x) = 1, i.e., everyone represents themselves, and when x = 13,050,000 or less, the level of representation would be about as the framers intended – 30,000 people per Representative. However, as x grows larger, the degree of representation falls increasingly below their intent.

When the U.S. House is capped at 435 (or any other number), the degree of representation must shrink thereafter as population grows. For our House representation function f(x) = 435/x, when x grows larger and larger and finally approaches infinity, the function f(x) approaches its limit of 0. That is to say, the degree to which anyone is “represented” must shrink increasingly until it ceases finally to have any meaning at all.

The NH House was capped at 400 members in 1942. The same mathematics of representation applies to that institution as well.


Baker, Peter (NYT). (2009, September 17). Expand the House? Retrieved from

Bartlett, Bruce (NYT). (2014, January 7). Enlarging the House of Representatives. Retrieved from

Colby, Sandra L. and Ortman, Jennifer M. (2015, March). Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060. Retrieved from

Election Data Services. (2017, December 26). Some Change in Apportionment Allocations With New 2017 Census Estimates; But Greater Change Likely by 2020. Retrieved from

NH House of Representatives. (2006). NH House Facts. Retrieved from

US House of Representatives. (2018, May 8). Proportional Representation. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, May 2). Limit (Mathematics). Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, May 27). Limit of a Function. Retrieved from


Milton’s Railroad Line

By Muriel Bristol | May 28, 2018

Railroad - 1860

The railroad line that passes through Milton was built by the Great Falls and Conway Railroad. The railroad was incorporated in 1844, and was then

… authorized and empowered to locate, construct, and finally complete a railroad, beginning at or near the depot of the Boston and Maine Railroad, in Somersworth, and thence running through said Somersworth, Rochester, Milton, Wakefield, Ossipee, Effingham, Freedom, or Tamworth, to any place in Conway (Gregg and Pond, 1851).

The Great Falls and Conway line connected in Somersworth to the Great Falls and Berwick Railroad, which in turn connected to Portsmouth and beyond. The two railroad companies merged under the name Portsmouth, Great Falls & Conway Railroad (PGF&C) in 1848.WW-1851

Construction began at the Somersworth (Great Falls) end and the stretch between there and Rochester opened on February 28, 1849. It had reached “South Milton” by 1850.

An 1851 tourist guide had Gt. Falls & Conway Railroad service terminating in Rochester. Chestnut Hill, Milton, and points beyond were accessible by stage only.

A blasting accident injured three members of a railroad construction crew extending the tracks beyond Milton in December 1852.

Milton was said to be the “terminus” in 1854, but construction had reached Wakefield’s Union village by 1855. There it stalled due to financial difficulties.

A Boston & Maine advertisement of 1861 mentioned that its Portland, ME, train connected with the Great Falls & Conway Railroad at Great Falls, NH, i.e., Somersworth. Wakefield’s Union village is the end of the line; travel beyond there was by stagecoach.

The 8.46 AM Train from Portland connects at Great Falls with the Cars of the Great Falls and Conway Railroad, for Rochester, Milton and Union Village, and Stages for Milton Mills, Wakefield, Ossipee, Conway, etc.; and at Dover, with the Cars of the Cocheco Railroad, for Rochester, Farmington, Alton, and Alton Bay; and with Steamer Dover, in Summer, on Lake Winnipiseogee, for Wolfboro, Center Harbor and Meredith Village, with Stages from Center Harbor for Conway and White Mountains (Willis, 1861).

Railroads have rarely been economically viable. The history of railroads is a history of government subsidies and interventions in favor of railroads. (A notable exception was James J. Hill and his Great Northern Railroad). But the Republican administrations that dominated the post-Civil War era were not overly attached to free market principles. As a general rule, they favored “internal improvements” (now called “infrastructure spending” or government “investment”), including railroad subsidies and other interventions.

The moribund Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway railroad (PGF&C) construction was revived in July 1865, at least to some degree. But serious progress did not happen until the Eastern Railroad (eastern Massachusetts with branches) leased the PGF&C lines in September 1870 (it guaranteed the PGF&C’s bonds).

NEW HAMPSHIRE. At the meeting of the stockholders of the Eastern Railroad in New Hampshire, and the Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad; held in Portsmouth, on Monday, the lease ot the latter road to the former was voted (Vermont Journal (Windsor, VT), September 24, 1870).

Leasing was a often a mechanism to eliminate competition; mergers often followed those leases.

The Eastern Railroad extended the PGF&C lines from Union to Wakefield, and then on to West Ossipee, between September 1870 and October 1871.

WHIFFS FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE. Last week at a town meeting, Ossipee voted five per cent. of its valuation to aid in extending the Great Falls and Conway railroad from Union Village to West Ossipee. There has been a wrangle over this railroad for several years, the track has been surveyed three times, each time locating somewhat better (New England Farmer (Boston, MA), September 13, 1870).

NEW HAMPSHIRE. Ossipee, having voted five per cent to have a railroad, is puzzled which of the three routes surveyed to choose, and will have to let the conformation of ground, and scarcity or abundance of rocks settle the question for it (Vermont Journal (Windsor, VT), September 24, 1870).

NEW HAMPSHIRE. The first passenger train over the Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway extension passed to Wakefield station, six miles beyond Union, on Monday (Vermont Journal (Windsor, VT), [Saturday,] July 1, 1871).

The Great Falls and Conway Railroad is open to West Ossipee, N.H. (New England Farmer (Boston, MA), October 14, 1871).

By the beginning of July 1872, the Eastern Railroad was advertising that

THE PORTSMOUTH, GREAT FALLS AND CONWAY RAILROAD Is completed and running Trains to North Conway, and in connection with the Eastern Railroad forms the Shortest, Quickest and Only Route to North Conway and White Mountains … (Boston Globe, July 1, 1872).

The North Conway station was built in 1874. The PGF&C connected to the Portland and Ogdensburg Railway line at Intervale in 1875.

The Milton station depicted in old postcards and pictures was built in 1873. The original station stood on the “Lebanon side,” i.e., still in Milton, but on the other side of the Salmon Falls River..

Historian Sarah Ricker seemed to think the station and the ice business began together in 1873, although she did not specify whether the chicken or the egg came first. She further reported that “… the area’s ice industry experienced tremendous success in the 1880s. The Milton Ice Company, one of five such businesses in town, shipped up to 100 carloads of ice to Boston every day.” Ice cutting is a seasonal affair, of course. Those ice companies remained active until the late 1920s.BG820722-Excursion

The Eastern Railroad renewed its lease on the PGF&C line for a period of 60 years in 1878, but the whole was taken over by the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1890, which operated it as its Conway Branch line.

Transporting lumber and ice were early mainstays of the railroad. Mills sprang up, especially in places that had both the train and water power. That added raw materials and finished products to the freight. Milton participated in both ice and manufacture, but the mills and trains enabled also an exodus of sorts. An 1882 description of Milton mentioned that “there has been a small [net] decrease in population during the last twenty years, many leaving town for the cities and larger manufacturing towns for the purpose of engaging in other business than farming.”

The White Mountain Art movement predated railroad access to the White Mountains. This landscape painting movement began with stagecoaches in the early nineteenth century and had its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century. But it did enjoy improved railroad access for a time and it encouraged an initial wave of tourists to the White Mountains. Those tourists came by train. By the latter part of the nineteenth century, the White Mountain Art movement was being supplanted by the Hudson River School, Rocky Mountain art, and photography.

According to the Conway Scenic Railroad, North Conway is the “birthplace of American skiing.” Snow trains began running in 1932 to serve those skiers. “Countless skiers rode the snow trains as the sport of skiing grew with the development of ski lifts.” (See also Milton in the News – 1952 for a description of a snow train journey).

By the early 1950s, improved highways and America’s love affair with the automobile led to a decline in passenger service. Passenger service to Boston ended on December 2, 1961, as a single B&M Budliner headed south never to return. Freight customers continued to decline, too, and the last freight train departed on October 30, 1972 (Conway Scenic Railroad, n.d.).

The Portsmouth Herald published a list of fifteen Boston and Maine Railroad stations that would close as of June 1, 1958:

Here is a list of the 15 Boston & Maine Railroad stations in New Hampshire where passenger service will be discontinued June 1. Bath, Sugar Hill, Jefferson, Randolph, Fitzwilliam, Troy, Keene, Walpole, Hayes, Milton, Union, Burleyville, Mountainview, Mount Whittier, and Madison (Portsmouth Herald, May 9, 1958).

Ray’s Marina had supplanted the Milton Train Station by May 1963. The B&M went bankrupt in 1970. The last passenger train between Rollinsford and North Conway ran in 1972.

The railroad line continues in a limited way under the New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad (NHN). Ossipee is now its northern terminus. (Several disconnected stretches north of there are run as tourist attractions). It carries no lumber, ice, mill products, artists, skiers, or tourists now. It services only the sand pits of Ossipee with twice daily runs. They pass right on through and do not stop here.

Ray’s Marina closed in 2012. The train station’s freight depot building still remains, as a part of the Ray’s Marina complex. (Facing the marina buildings and the pond, it is the small building or shed on the left-hand end).

See also Milton’s Railroad Station Agents

References: (2018). Surviving New Hampshire Railroad Stations. Retrieved from

Conway Scenic Railroad. (n.d.). A Brief History of Our Station. Retrieved from

Foster’s Daily Democrat. (2016, May 12). Obituary: Rheaume J. (Ray) Lamoureux. Retrieved from

Gregg, W.P. and Pond, Benjamin. (1851). Railroad Laws and Charters of the United States. Boston, MA: Charles Little and James Brown

Historic Wakefield. (n.d.). Heritage Park Railroad Museum. Retrieved from

Hurd, D. Hamilton. (1882). A History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties. Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lewis & Co. (also retrievable from

Jonathan (The Shark (102.1 & 105.3 FM)). (2016, April 1). Restaurants Eyeing The Site Of Ray’s Marina In Milton. Retrieved from

Marvel, William (Conway Daily Sun). (2018, May 2). Then and Now: A Conspicuous Manisfestation of Industry, 1890. Retrieved from

Poor, Henry V. (1860). History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States of America. Retrieved from

Ricker, Sarah. (1999). Milton and the New Hampshire Farm Museum. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC, Chicago, IL, Portsmouth, NH, and San Francisco, CA

Rochester Courier. (1960, January 7).  Close [Sanbornville] R.R. Station. Rochester Courier: Rochester, NH

Rochester Courier. (1960, January 28). B and M Requests Permission to Drop Passenger Service Entirely on Conway Branch. Rochester Courier: Rochester, NH

Wikipedia. (2018). Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad. Retrieved from,_Great_Falls_and_Conway_Railroad

Wikipedia. (2018, March 10). White Mountain Art. Retrieved from

Williams, W. (1851). The Traveller’s and Tourist’s Guide Through the United States of America, Canada, etc. Retrieved from

Willis, William. (1861). A Business Directory of the Subscribers to the New Map of Maine. Retrieved from