Welcome to the Town of Hillsborough, a Town with an abundant history beginning in the early 18th century. Hillsborough is still today made up of four villages: Hillsborough Bridge Village (is our downtown), Hillsborough Center, Hillsborough Upper Village and Hillsborough Lower Village. Though having many hills it differs from the majority of towns in central and northern New Hampshire because none of its altitudes are of sufficient height to be termed mountains. The hills afford all of the advantages of the exhilarating air and picturesque scenery without the usual disadvantages of poor access.
Hillsborough has many attributes to be proud of including two remarkable historic areas in the Center and Lower Villages, Fox Forest, more preserved stone arch bridges than any other town in New Hampshire, lakes and river-ways and the Franklin Pierce Homestead, the home of the fourteenth President of the United States - Franklin Pierce.
In 1735 and 1736, Colonel John Hill was granted a tract of land about six miles square and named it Hillborough. The ‘s’ was added later. He started a community with a generous tract of land, which would be known as Hillsborough Center. Hillsborough was incorporated on November 4, 1772 at the Bradford Inn on Bible Hill.
The first regular mail to Hillsborough was delivered starting in 1791 at the Center once a week by a Post rider from Concord. The first post office was located in the Lower Village. The only turnpike to pass through Hillsborough was the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike opened in 1801.
Benjamin Pierce came to Hillsborough to survey land and was so taken by the town that he bought a small cabin and farm, and settled. He became involved in local and state politics and served twice as Governor of New Hampshire. Franklin Pierce was born in 1804 and spent his childhood at the Pierce Homestead. After graduating from Bowdoin College, Franklin would return to serve as Hillsborough Town Moderator, and then as its State Representative. His career would lead him to become the only U.S. President from New Hampshire, and he attributed it all to his hometown.
Once home to more than a dozen stone arch masonry bridges, Hillsborough now has five left with four locations in active use and one location still standing at the intersection of Route 202 and W. Main Street, which is going to become the focal point of a public park. These bridges are registered as historic structures by the Historic American Building Survey, part of the National Park Services. The bridges have also been recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, the second in New Hampshire, after the Cog Railway.
In the 1840's, the decline in farming was met with the rise of the industrial era in New Hampshire. Some farmers moved to more fertile lands of the Midwest, but others found work in the new mills rising along the Contoocook River. At this time, the Upper and Lower Villages and the Center Village became overshadowed by the booming Hillsborough Bridge where a half dozen mills used energy from the Contoocook. By the second half of the 19th century, Hillsborough had grown to more than 3,000 people. The first railroad which ran from Concord to Hillsborough was opened in 1849. The first bank, Valley (State) Bank opened in 1860 and the first National Bank opened in 1868.
The booming industry in New England’s southern cities, gave Hillsborough farmers a new cash crop: tourists. Families would escape the heat and crowds of Boston and spend the summer in Hillsborough’s old farm houses. A fine summer hotel was built on Loon Pond. Hillsborough was considered one of the loveliest towns in the State.
In August of 1914, world markets for woolen and milled products collapsed. Foreign competition and the Great Depression caused Hillsborough’s industries to decline. The Second World War brought little relief and after the war ended, woolen and hosiery factories struggled with unions, strikes and competition from the south.
A group of local citizens, led by the merchant Everett Feldblum, helped erect a building to entice a slipper factory and later on a box factory. They operated for a short span of years and then the building became vacant. GTE Sylvania (OSRAM Sylvania since 1995) was then given the opportunity to occupy the vacant building. Today OSRAM Sylvania and Frameworks, a local manufacturer producing automotive light bulbs for Sylvania, employ more than 1,000 people. The plant’s success brought economic stability to the area.
To the west, along Routes 9 and 202, a new business area developed with car dealerships, restaurants and stores.
Hillsborough today is a town where you can swim in any number of cool, clean uncrowded bodies of water; and picnic nearby, soar in a hot-air balloon, fish for trout or bass, go out for Chinese food, seafood, Italian, McDonald’s or ice cream, hike trails of a state research forest or browse for antiques at a number of places.
NOTE: Data was taken from “A History of Hillsborough New Hampshire” and the 1999 Hillsborough Master Plan.