Odiorne Point’s Industrious Past

Posted on June 16, 2023

On the Mouth of the Piscataqua: Unearthing the Rich History of Odiorne Point, Part 4

Please visit our blog and filter using the hashtag “OPSP History” to follow this series.

Hunter Stetz | History Naturalist, Seacoast Science Center

Though the 1700s and much of the 1800s were relatively quiet periods in the park’s history, it would be a disservice to gloss over them. The families that inhabited this section of Rye during this time were quite industrious and highlight the seemingly endless ways that coastal New Hampshire can be utilized for economic growth.

As mentioned in last month’s blog post, the Odiorne family engaged in a variety of industries until 1942. These activities included salt marsh haying, fishing, trade, blacksmithing, crop production, and livestock farming. The Odiorne farmstead that still stands today was built circa 1800 by Ebenezer Odiorne, a fifth great-grandson of John Odiorne Sr. The barn and house were significantly remodeled in 1830 and 1850 respectively and thus present Greek Revival architectural features that were popular at the time.

The third known family of European descent to reside on Odiorne’s Point was that of George Sr. and Margaret (Weeks) Frost. After 20 years as a mariner, he moved from elsewhere in Newcastle and built a small house in 1759 on the northwestern side of what is now the state park, near the modern-day boat launch. Frost Point (sometimes referred to as Frost’s Point) received its name from George and Margaret. He relocated to Durham in ca. 1770 and became a Strafford County judge. After some legal tribulations amongst his children, the property was sold in 1799 to brothers Stephen and John Foye of Rye, as well as neighboring Ebenezer Odiorne. Stephen purchased the Frost home and John built a new home shortly after purchasing the land.

The Weare Sawmill/Gristmill on the Seabrook-Hampton Falls border.
The Weare Sawmill/Gristmill on the Seabrook-Hampton Falls border would have been similar to the Pine Tree Mill.

John Foye and William Seavey constructed a tidal mill at the mouth of Seavey Creek (adjacent to the contemporary boat launch) that they named Pine Tree Mill. It was both a sawmill for lumber production and a gristmill for grinding grain into flour and animal feed. The mill was sold to the Odiorne family in 1842. Unfortunately, the mill burned down in 1862 or 1863 and it was not rebuilt.

During the economic growth of the 1800s, Odiorne Point landowners petitioned in 1838 to the town of Rye to construct Columbus Road. The public road, which started at the Odiorne farmstead and ran northeast to the Atlantic Ocean, provided better access to the shore for small-boat fishing and for inland farmers to collect seaweed as fertilizer for their fields and gardens. Today, Columbus Road is a path that can be walked within the park and is evident by the straight stone walls lining both shoulders of its course.

While John Foye’s farmhouse was owned by his descendants until the 1920s, his brother’s property changed hands many instances during that time. John Seavey Odiorne purchased the Frost-Foye house in 1842, but soon sold it Capt. Thomas Clark in 1850. Clark converted the home into a boarding house. Sometime between 1851 and 1857, Captain George W. Towle took over operations. Towle then sold the establishment to George Pierce in 1868. He significantly renovated and expanded the boarding house and named it the Sagamore House. Business was cut short when most of the inn burned down in 1871. However, the Sagamore House served as a prelude to the “Resort Era” that transformed many rural New England towns into tourist destinations by the end of the 19th century.

The Sagamore House, c. 1870.
The Sagamore House, c. 1870.

More to follow about the Resort Era in next month’s blog!

Map of Odiorne Point from 1802 by Phineas Merill.
Map of Odiorne Point from 1802 by Phineas Merill.

Seacoast Science Center will be CLOSED today: Friday, April 5, 2024. Our utilities are currently down and need to get repaired before we are able to open for visitors. Thank you for your understanding. 

CLOSED today.

Seacoast Science Center is closed today due to inclement weather.