The Bradleys of Thornton Gore
The people who drew town lines in NH did some strange things. Thus is happens that a little
chunk containing Mirror Lake is in Woodstock but closer to Thornton, while a [triangle] or
"gore" of land in Thornton is thrust up into Woodstock.
In the 19th century, about 95 families owned or occupied land in the Gore with its heyday
in the 1860's. The settlement had its own church, school and cemetery. Around 1900, the
topic of providing more money for the Gore School was under discussion. Enoch Emmons
opposed the motion by saying, "It's no use throwing your money away trying to educate
those Gore fools!" The motion passed over Enoch's opposition.
As recently as the 1940's, a motion was before the Town to build a cement bridge to
replace a log one over Johnson Brook. Those opposed thought another log bridge was
enough because "that would last seven years, and by that time there won't be anyone living
in the Gore." However, a cement bridge was built in 1949 and today in the 1980's there is a
real building surge in the Gore.
On December 26, 1867, Josiah Bradley and William Harriman received a deed from Nathan
Weeks for land in the Gore. The deed was recorded in Woodsville the following day. How
they got there so fast is one of history's unsolved puzzles.
Josiah Bradley married the Harrimans' daughter Hattie (Harriet) and in due time they had
little Hattie, Ellis, and Lester William. (110 years later Josiah's great grandson Ralph, living
in the same area, has a daughter and two sons.) Josiah farmed in the summer and spent the
winter at the logging camp at White House (just beyond the Flume), also working the river
drive in the spring.
Eventually Ellis left the area, Hattie married Leland Holmes and settled in the Gore, and
Lester married Hattie Stickney of Campton and stayed on the farm. They had five children -
Sumner, Virginia, Helen, Carl, and Richard, who was the one who stayed on the farm.
Richard's father often told stories of the Gore people, like Fred Parker who always looked
behind the door when he entered a house and always sat with his back to the wall so that no
one could creep up on him. Then there were Pete and Josh Merrill who were great
trappers. One time they were chasing a bear dragging a trap. Josh jumped over a fallen tree
and landed on the bear which promptly bit him in the hip. Pete always said, "I didn't blame
the b'ar none; Josh hit him first."
In time, Richard and his father bought back the adjoining farms. There was plenty of land
for farming and cattle and logging and kids! In 1946, Dick married Dorothy Corkum
Hammond, whose two small sons, David and Jack, quickly became Bradleys, followed in
order by the births of Lester, Louise and Ralph. Jack lives in Warren and teaches at
Plymouth High School; Louise, a former teacher, is mother of four boys and active in Bath
town affairs. David (Army retired), Lester (National Guard), and Ralph (logging and tree
farm) all live in Thornton and the Gore. Dick and Dot have 18 grandchildren.
Dick went to Woodstock Village School (now a ski lodge) by horse and wagon or sleigh until
Grade 8. The horse was kept in one of the church sheds during the day. One horse named
Val had to be run all the way to school and back "to get the meanness out." For high school,
Virginia drove him and Lester Sabourn to Woodstock station to take the train to North
Woodstock. One morning it was -30 degrees, and the car wouldn't start. The boys ran and
reached the covered bridge in time to see the train pull out. Dick sputtered, "Time and tide
and toonerville wait for no man!" The last two years of high school Dick drove "Tappy" the
family car, which was always full of kids.
In 4-H Club Dick had started raising chickens and never wanted to leave the farm. In 1938,
he joined the Grange, took some poultry workshops at UNH, and settled in. For a while
times were hard. Dick remembers the year the buyers would give them only $18 each for
his father's 2-year old steers. Instead of selling at that price, they butchered the animals
themselves and sold them for 6 cents a pound forequarter, 8 cents a pound hindquarter, 7
cents side, averaging $28 an animal.
Dick began exhibiting chickens and pigs at Plymouth Fair and eventually served as
President of the Fair. He became active in Thornton town affairs, serving as Moderator and
Selectman, the latter for nine terms.
In 1958, Dick and Dot sold all the cattle and took the whole family on a marvelous trip to
the West Coast, part of it on the Al-Can Highway. Upon their return, Dick was asked to run
for the State Legislature where he served seven terms, and attended the Constitutional
Convention in 1964. He remembers helping to defeat an amendment by remarking that the
Blue Ribbon Committee must have run out of blue ribbon and finished up with red tape! To
speak against an amendment to the Business Profits Tax he wrote a parody on the
Gettysburg Address, which began: "Two score and seven weeks ago the Task Force brought
forth in this state a new tax, conceived in political expediency, amended in haste,
administered in trickery, and dedicated to the proposition that all voters are created
stupid", and ended: "…that exploitation of the people, by the bureaucracy, for the
politicians shall not continue in NH."
A friend told him overhearing someone at the State House in Concord saying, "If there's
anything you want to get through here, get Bradley on your side or he'll raise hell with
In the 1970's, Dick served for ten years as a Grafton County Commissioner. He enjoyed this
the most because of all his public service jobs in this work he could get close to individual
problems and really help people.
The Bradleys have visited all the lower 48 states plus Mexico and Canada, but they are
happiest at home in the Gore. For the last few years, Dick has been writing his memories in
a book, soon to be published.
The Bradleys have also formed a corporation for estate planning called BARLE (Bradley
Agricultural, Recreational, Lumbering Enterprises). Ralph is President, and the
corporation includes Waterest Campground, a sawmill and a sugar orchard.
Through his Grange membership over the years, Dick has received two very special
honors. In 1978, the State Grange gave to the Bradley Farm the Century Farm Award,
presented to a farm which has been in continuous operation over a century and remained
in the same family. And in 1983, Dick received the Outstanding Citizen Award from the
Dick says he always makes contributions to the Society for the Blind because he met Dot on
a blind date arranged by Edith Boyd. Meeting Dot was the best happening of his life. With all
the young Bradleys around it certainly seems that there's a good future for the Bradley
Farm in the Gore.
Dick Bradley, born and raised in Thornton Gore, wrote two books about his life in the Gore: Family Farm (1988) and Halfway to History (1991).
With permission from the family, excerpts from these books are below.
Copyright 2012 Thornton Historical Society
16 Merrill Access Road
Thornton, NH 03285
Thornton Historical Society
At one time, a silver polishing company dredged
East Pond to get the sediment to use for silver
polish, just as the old timers had taken some of it
home with them and used it for silver polish for
years. However, when they were unable to
separate an abrasive material which scratched
the silver, they gave up and abandoned the
Where is the Geographical Center of NH?
Ask five people that question and you will
probably get at least four different answers.
Some years ago an author who had a summer
home in (or near) Sandwich said that the
geographical center was over in the Mad River
Now they call Ashland the center but to be
specific, over the line in New Hampton.
Now here is another claim to either confuse or
clarify the situation. Sometime near the turn of
the century the whole state was surveyed and
they found the center to be a point between the
Johnson Brook road and Johnson Brook,
downstream about 200 feet from Lester
Bradley's barn. This point is now marked by a
pile stones painted bright red by a surveying
crew just a few years ago.
When the lines were surveyed by the surveyors
80 or 90 years ago, they came to that known
point one bright starlight night to check the
accuracy of their instruments with that point and
the North Star.
I don't think the North Star has moved around
much and that spot, halfway from North to South
and East to West, is the center of NH.
One person, not long ago said that the only way
to locate the exact center is to cut a sheet of
plywood the exact shape of NH and the pivot
point on which the plywood balances is the
That is the craziest idea yet. The pivot point of a
relief map would be the center but what have
you got down there in the southern end of the
state to counter-weight Mt Washington? It would
take a lot of mud flats to balance our White
Mountains and I'm sticking to the opinion that
the center of NH is where halfway North to South
crosses halfway East to West and you will find
that spot right beside Johnson Brook, "up on the
farm" in Thornton Gore, NH.
My Father Settled in Thornton Gore
My father settled in Thornton Gore,
And bought an old house with a sagging floor.
The barn roof leaked and the fields were rough,
And life in the Gore was pretty tough.
But he plowed his fields and he picked the rocks,
And he patched the barn roof over his stock.
And his garden grew as never before.
"That's good garden soil up there in the Gore."
His garden flourished and ripened well,
With all we could eat and some to sell.
It was said of him when he went to town,
He brought back a little more than he took down.
There was work to be done from morning 'til
Assisted by faithful old Berry and Bright.
Those faithful oxen and many more,
Have come and gone in Thornton Gore.