Valley Road – An Early Driftway in East Andover

Another East Andover road history article

By Ed Hiller

Note:  This is the second companion article to the extensive set of articles on East Andover road history written and published by Rita Norander.

Valley Road in East Andover was laid out in 1788 as a private driftway to provide a route to drive livestock to the upland pastures on Tucker Mountain. In 1821, the Town petitioned to make it a public way. In 1824, the Selectmen officially laid out the road at 2 1/2 rods (41.25 ft) wide.

This road starts at Henderson Corner on the Franklin Highway. It crosses the Northern Rail Trail on a trestle bridge, passes by the site of the old Aiken Mill and crosses Sucker Brook and the valley.  It then climbs steeply up along the Weir Bridge Brook to its junction with Tucker Mountain Road. This brook takes its name from the historic Weir Bridge at that junction, now converted to a culvert.

Ralph Chaffee called this road “The Tucker Mountain Crossroad” in his book on East Andover. Later it was known as Sucker Brook Road, and then Lower Tucker Mountain Road. 

With the coming of the 911 Emergency Response System, officials decided that the name could be confused with the other Tucker Mountain Road and had to be changed. The residents selected Valley Road because of its broad valley and to recognize the name Happy Valley given to it by early residents.

The Henderson place at the corner was settled by William Blake, who bought it from the original grantor in 1773. The dwelling originally was a single story building. In 1809, he built it over, making it two-story as it now stands. He built a Masonic Lodge meeting room on the second floor and erected many life-sized statues of famous Masons such as George Washington around the dwelling. At his death in 1812, he willed the farm to his son, Hezekiah Blake, who continued there until 1819 when he moved to Plymouth.

Following a sequence of short-term owners, it was taken over by Charles Burdette Hilton (a noted East Andover cabinet maker) who farmed it from 1861 until his death in 1902. In recent times Perley and Elsie Henderson were there, followed by their son Roger and Betty Henderson.

Just beyond the railroad trestle bridge are the remains of the Aiken mill. This mill was built in 1837 by Captain William Graves. Subsequent mill owners were Henry Colby, John D. Aiken, and Jay E. Emery. Originally it was a saw mill.  A grain threshing machine was added about 1860, and a cider mill was added about 1864. 

The mill pond extended upstream from the dam and under the railroad and contained an estimated two to three acres.  It was too small to provide constant power, so in the 1920s a steam engine and boiler were added. This was probably the cause of the total loss of the mill to fire in 1945.

William Graves operated the mill for 30 years from his residence further down the road.  In 1867 ownership of the mill passed to Henry Colby, who built and lived in the mill keeper’s cottage near the mill (now the Hiller residence).  Following Henry Colby, John D. Aiken operated the mill from 1874 to 1912, a period of 38 years.  The cottage was seriously damaged by fire in 1918 and was soon rebuilt. 

The farm across the valley on the east side was originally settled by William Blake (brother of Hezekiah Blake) in 1800.  William Graves bought the place in 1834, moved the original house to the village, and built the house presently standing there.  In 1837 he built the Graves or Aiken mill.  The Graves place was owned for many years by Ole Erickson, a New York tugboat captain.  Recent residents were the Bourdons, and now the Vashro family.

The early settlement of the farm on the west side is hard to determine. Early residents were Chandler Cass, Edward Robie, and Alonzo Edmunds.  William Richardson bought it in 1911.  It was then known as Happy Valley. The building burned in 1923 and was immediately rebuilt.  

Richardson was the owner of the Halcyon Farms on Marston Hill.  He was responsible for constructing the magnificent stone wall along Valley Road recently beautifully restored by Chris Norris.  Eric and Stacey Viandier were recent residents, and now the Leak family.

The Town Meeting of 1976 voted to designate the portion of the road from the last dwelling up to its end at Tucker Mountain Road as a Class VI road, not maintained and subject to gates and bars.

In 2001 the bridge over the Northern Rail Trail was rebuilt. The Class VI section of Valley Road was repaired and opened for travel to provide resident and emergency access during the road closure. Upon completion of the bridge work that section of the road was returned to Class VI status, and the bridge over Weir Bridge Brook in that section was removed to reduce potential Town liability.

Valley Road was designated a Scenic Road by vote of the Town Meeting in 1998.