‘Split’ or ‘Spit:’ A look back at south Nashua’s cow path-turned thoroughfare
It’s not that I never got homework, or that I was too shy to ask for help. Yes, that narrows it down considerably.
So while you’re pondering that little riddle, hold onto your seats I’m about to share with you a homework assignment I was given earlier this month, 40-something years, almost 50 years, actually, after those halcyon days spent lugging bags full of homework home from school and back again with nearly identical results: “Mr. Shalhoup, how come you didn’t do your homework?”
I never had a good answer. At the time, I had no dog to eat my homework; I did have a cat, but cats don’t eat homework, unless the assignment had something to do with mice or tuna fish.
Sickness worked once or twice a year. I once tried “death in the family,” but quickly learned a floating goldfish or the demise of the bumblebee I captured last summer and kept in a jar didn’t qualify as legitimate deaths in the family.
Many years would pass before that elusive “good answer” came to me, and I’m pretty sure alot of my fellow baby boomers would agree: Learning wasn’t exactly high on our “fun things to do” lists.
But somewhere along the line that changed, and before I knew it, I was actually going out of my way looking for things to learn about, or to learn more about things with which I was already somewhat familiar.
Take history for instance. Yep, the very same stuff all those
conscientious teachers tried so hard to drill into my otherwise-occupied mind back in the day, I now devour the same way a starving man would greet a steak dinner.
So back to my homework assignment. Subject, history. Due, April 7, 2020.
A whole year. Even I can work with that kind of deadline.
That’s the assignment not only I, but dozens of other folks connected in one way or another to the Nashua Historical Society, received following a fun Nashua-history-trivia contest at our annual volunteer appreciation luncheon two weeks ago.
When society collections technician Barbara Comer, whose idea the contest was, came to the end, she left us with our assignment: What’s the history behind Nashua’s Spit Brook Road, specifically how it came to be so-named, and if it’s true its original name, or perhaps co-name, was Split Brook Road.
Thanks to my acquired penchant for research, I was able to pinpoint a paragraph, embedded deep into a rambling (I say that with admiration) segment of a series on Nashua history penned by occasional Telegraph contributor M. D. Cobleigh, an early 20th-century lawyer and apparent history buff.
Cobleigh, who wrote that series for the then-Nashua Telegraph in April 1931, explored in this particular segment the southern reaches of the region, known as part of Old Dunstable until Nashua was incorporated as a city in 1836.
That’s of course where Spit, or Split, Brook Road lived then, and lives now, albeit in the form of a thoroughfare Cobleigh and his contemporaries probably never imagined.
“The beautiful residence of Daniel F. Shea,” Cobleigh wrote on April 18, was “on the C. E. Smith farm,” and was once occupied “for many years by the Rev. Joseph Kidder, pastor at the Meeting House Park Congregational Church.”
I must admit I’m unfamiliar with that church, and likewise with the residence Cobleigh called “the Wentworth place,” where, he wrote, a blacksmith shop once operated.
Next he mentions “the farm of Eugene Robinson,” which, I surmise from his description of its proximity was what gave Robinson Road its name.
A watering hole called “Boatman’s Tavern” once operated on the old Lowell Road, which had just been dedicated Daniel Webster Highway when Cobleigh wrote the series.
The tavern was a welcome stop for the boatmen navigating their cargo ships up and down the nearby Merrimack River, Cobleigh wrote.
Interestingly, “in those early days, for awhile at least,” he wrote, Nashua folks who needed a doctor had to trek to Hollis “for the nearest doctor.”
There was a Dr. Cutler in Nashua, but Cobleigh didn’t know if he “ever actually practiced here.”
The first doctor in Nashua “that we know of” was Dr. Micah Eldridge,” according to Cobleigh. “He lived near (on Main Street, to be precise), and Eldridge Street was named for him.”
And now we get to the Split-Spit Brook Road saga, at least according to Cobleigh.
In the mid-1700s, he wrote, there was a meeting house “just north of Split Brook sometimes called ‘Spit’ Brook that was used previous to 1754,” he wrote.
Before moving on to other landmarks of Old Dunstable and early Nashua, Cobleigh let his readers know his position on the name at least of the brook, if not the road that crosses it.
“‘Split’ is the original, and proper, name of the brook that goes by both above names.”
So goes Split Brook goes Split Brook Road?
Perhaps. But if you’re from away, don’t ask directions to “Split Brook Road” when you come to Nashua.