Our History

History of the Nutmeg Inn (Eliphalet Rawlings Homestead)

The early years: (1748 to 1813)

At the end of King George's War in 1748, land on the northwestern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee was granted to sixty "proprietors," one of whom was a businessman named Eliphalet Rawlings who owned proprietor's shares in all three divisions on the original plan of Meredith. Each plot was roughly 120 acres.

A Plan of Meredith (Certified in 1754)

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Eliphalet Rawlings was described in a 1768 deed as a tanner "living in Canterbury in the province of New Hampsher [sic]." The original lot on which the homestead was built was designated as Lot 2 in the second division and appears to have had 120 acres. Rawlings was wealthy enough to have purchased three tracts of land from the original grant, and as was the practice then, had tenant farmers who worked his land and built the dwellings. One of these was Joseph Cram who purchased the property from Rawlings in 1768 for 22 pounds, ten shillings. Since property owned by the grant proprietors could not be sold unless there was a dwelling and demonstrated property improvement (e.g. farming), the homestead which eventually became the Nutmeg Inn was built during that time (1748 – 1768), probably by the tenant, Joseph Cram.
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Cram, who is described as a "yeoman" in the deed, sold the property to William Davis (sometimes spelled "Davies") for 270 pounds in 1778. Davis was a "husbandman" from Louden who is on record as living in Meredith. He made his living by raising and selling beef. It is very likely that Cram built the original house and Davis expanded it to accommodate his family and workers. The 1790 census for Meredith lists William Davis along with his wife and "three free white males over sixteen, three free white males under sixteen, and seven free white females." This is a household of fifteen which makes one surmise that the original house was enlarged to accommodate them all. In a deed dated 1805, Davis states that he has "improved" the property. The back wall of the inn's Great Room was clearly an outside wall of the original house. By 1805, a large addition was constructed on the back of the house which is where four of our ten rooms are located.

In 1776, William Davis and Eliphalet Rawlings signed a document pledging to:

"hereby solemnly engage and promise that we will to the utmost of our power, at the risk of our lives and fortunes, with arms oppose the hostile proceedings of the British fleets and armies against the United American colonies."

In other words, two of the early owners of this property were on record as revolutionaries. Davis, in some documents, carried the title, "Captain" but is not listed in the Revolutionary war army or naval records. There is evidence that he was captain of a merchant marine vessel, and that he used parts of a dismantled ship for an edifice. The person responsible for building the homestead addition clearly used re-purposed timber, but it is not known whether some of this wood came from a ship.

Ebenezer Smith purchased the farm from Davis in 1805. Smith was a prominent judge, legislator and landowner, and during his life served as a town proprietor of Gilmanton, and Representative and Senator in the state legislature from Meredith, where he was a selectman for 36 years. He was also president of the Senate for two years, Judge of the County Court from 1784-1787, and Judge of the County Probate Court from 1797-1805. He was a trustee of Gilmanton Academy and served as its treasurer for six years. He was instrumental in founding the town of Meredith having organized and a signed a petition in 1768 which led to the charter for the town of Meredith being granted by Governor John Wentworth. He served as a colonel in the militia and was First Major in Col. Welch's Regiment of Volunteers who marched to join the Continental Army at Saratoga in September of 1777.

The Nealy Family Years: (1813 to 1927)

During this time, the property was owned by the Nealy Family: Andrew, John, Fannie and Russel having sequentially inherited the property from John Nealy. Andrew supposedly fought in the Revolutionary War, but there is some confusion about this. Both he and his son, John, are on record as having died in 1865 and 1884, respectively, "on the farm on the Old Province Road" (now Pease Road). This time period encompasses the American Civil War, and there is evidence, in the form of a "hiding bench" and trap door in the attic, that the house on Pease Rd. was used as a safe house for runaway slaves. A stagecoach line, the Concord to Conway line, ran on Province Road most probably past the Nealy property. It is this proximity to transportation north that would make the homestead a logical hiding place for fleeing slaves.

John Nealy and his wife, Elizabeth took in Elizabeth's brother's daughter, Fannie, after her mother died, and they "brought her up and educated her" (Meredith New Hampshire Annals and Genealogies). Fannie married a Marvin Brown and inherited the property when her aunt Elizabeth, John Nealy's wife, died in 1888. Over time, more acreage was added to the estate and the property became known as "Clover Ridge Farm," a stopping place for travelers and a summer tourist boarding house. We found a post card picturing the "Clover Ridge Farm" postmarked "June 5, 1918" written by a person who stopped at the farm "for a few days" and sent the card to his/her friend in Newport, NH.
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The Girl Scouts and Youth Hostel Years: (1927 to 1948)

During this period, the Eliphalet Rawlings Homestead served as an educational and recreational facility for boys and girls in the Massachusetts and New Hampshire region. On January 27, 1927 Sarah Louise Arnold purchased the farm at 80 Pease Rd. from Russel Brown, apparently a relative of Fanny (Kelley) Brown. Arnold had already purchased an adjacent farm (Orrin Carr's farm) in 1915. Both farms combined comprised approximately 200 acres.

Arnold, who owned a house at 104 Pease Rd., was Dean Emerita of Simmons College, a writer and lecturer, President of the American Home Economics Association, and the first director of the New England Association of the Home Economics Association. She also served on the Massachusetts State Board of Education and was the first woman to be named a trustee of the Massachusetts Agricultural College at Amherst.  
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Sarah Louise Arnold outside her home at 104 Pease Rd., Meredith, NH.
At some point during the 1920's, Arnold had become acquainted with Helen Osborne Storrow of Boston, MA. It was Helen Storrow who interested Sarah Arnold in Girl Scouting and convinced her to attend the National Convention at Savannah, Georgia. Arnold became a member of the National Girl Scouts and was elected National President of the Girl Scouts of America in 1925. She wrote many pieces for the Girl Scouts including inspirational words describing the Clover Ridge Camp in the "Wayfarer," a Girl Scout publication. Additionally, she wrote "The Way of Understanding," inspirational words and quotes to be used by Girl Scout Leaders at troop meetings and camps (A copy of this book was kindly donated to the Nutmeg Inn library by the Girl Scout Museum at Cedar Hill, Waltham, MA). Arnold believed that girls should be trained for self-support, as well as for useful and needed service to the country. She became an honorary vice-president of the Girl Scouts of America and continued as such until her death.
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Helen Osborne came from a family of social activists. Her grandmother, Martha Coffin Wright, joined with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others at a women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in July of 1848.
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Helen Osborne Storrow on Lake Winnipesaukee 1934
Helen's husband, James Jackson Storrow, was a successful attorney and senior partner in a dominant Boston banking firm. One of his biggest accomplishments was to help organize General Motors. As a civic leader, Jim Storrow was instrumental in shepherding a bill through the state legislature that funded the construction that turned the Charles River from a muddy tidal estuary into Boston's famed esplanade and tidal basin. Storrow Drive was named after him.

Helen became involved with many organizations that sought to improve the educational opportunities for women. Until her death, she financed a handicraft class for girls that produced and sold "Paul Revere Pottery." She sponsored several dance schools and theater troupes.

In 1915, Helen met Mrs. Juliet Low, the founder of the Girl Scout movement in the U.S. By 1916, Storrow had opened classes for school scout leaders at her home in Boston. In 1917 she had organized a camp for Girl Scout leaders at the Winsor School in the Longwood section of Boston.
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Helen Osborne Storrow, Girl Scout Leader and Philanthropist
In a copy of the Meeting Minutes from the Massachusetts Girl Scout Council, January 4, 1926, Helen Storrow spoke of property in Meredith which she proposed as a regional Girl Scout camp. She says she is buying this property from Sarah Louise Arnold, who at this time had a house and writing studio at 104 Pease Rd. Arnold would have the use of the property for "as long as she likes." In a letter to the Massachusetts Girl Scout Council, dated August 1, 1926, Helen Storrow wrote to Augusta Hart, President of the Eastern Region of the Girl Scouts of America:

"5. And the most exciting of all:

Mrs. Mundy thinks that the time will come when the P.L.C., will want to go somewhere else and that started us talking about Miss Arnolds' place in Meredith which she has several times said She wished the Scouts could use, and that led to our going to see Miss Arnold looking over her place and here is the suggestion that grew out of that:

That Miss Arnold continue to use the house – that the whole place 140 acres be bought by H.O.S. (referring to herself, Helen Osborne Storrow), for a Regional Camp, sections being assigned to different states to be developed as and when they wish, that certain sections be common to all such as the beautiful pine woods on the top of the hill, the big farm, the swimming pool ............

The idea may not appeal to you until you have seen the place but I am sure it will then. The plan will hinge on our standing as a region. ......... if you and Miss Arnold can manage to get sufficient authority for us, we could go ahead and really develop our region and make it a real thing, and such an estate where we could hold conferences as well as have a camp, would help tremendously in developing it.

You must go and see the place, and then lets [sic] talk it over, why couldn't you motor up there with me in October? ............ Miss Arnold is keen about it. She was so excited she could not eat that day. I don't expect you to think there is much in it until you have seen the place. Then you will."

Apparently, the proposed visit to see " Miss Arnolds' place in Meredith" was a success because on January 27, 1927, Sarah Louise Arnold purchased from Russel Brown "two certain tracts of land with the buildings thereon, situate in said Meredith on both sides of the Pease Road..." making the entire property she owned 200 acres.

Less than a week later, Arnold deeded all of her property to Storrow. This property and all of the buildings and farmland became the Clover Ridge Girl Scout Camp. The estate was named "Clover Ridge Camp" and served as Girl Scout Regional headquarters, leader training and conference center, and summer camp.
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Clover Ridge Girl Scout Troop on the front lawn (1934)
This remained the largest Girl Scout camp and headquarters in the U.S. until Storrow deeded the estate to American Youth Hostels, Inc., on October 5, 1937 for the sum of one dollar
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 A map of the Clover Ridge/AYH School Property (1941)
One month after returning to the U.S. from their first trip to Europe, Isabel and Monroe Smith founded the American Youth Hostel Association (AYH, Inc.) on March 16, 1934. They had led a boy scout troop through various European countries, but they were particularly impressed by the German youth hostelry network (Founded by Richard Schirrmann in 1909). The AYH statement of purpose was, "To help all, especially young people, to a greater knowledge, understanding, and love of the world by providing for them Youth Hostels, bicycle trails, and foot paths in America, and by assisting them in their travels here and abroad."
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Isabel and Monroe Smith, 1934
The first American Youth Hostel was established in Northfield, MA, in December, 1934. Four years later, there were 209 AYH hostels around the nation. By this time, all German Youth Hostels had been commandeered by the Third Reich for training of Hitlerjungen. While they hoped to spread the popular European practice of providing inexpensive lodgings to young people and foster intercultural understanding and community, the Smiths encountered stiff resistance from those who feared that they were secretly associated with the Nazis.

Nevertheless, on October 20, 1937, The Meredith News reported that:

"A Youth Hostel Conference was held in the old farm house on October 15, 16, and 17, which reached a peak of interest on Saturday when a lunch in the long dining room was enjoyed, followed at two o'clock by a dedication program, for Clover Ridge Farm is now the property of the American Youth Hostels, Inc. the gift of Mrs. James J. Storrow of Boston."

In that same year, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt became honorary presidents of AYH, Inc., but AYH's connections to Nazi Germany caused controversy with the Roosevelts' involvement in AYH, and they withdrew in 1939. FBI and Naval Intelligence investigated AYH several times (the latest in 1952) but could only determine that "Hostelers seemed different from ordinary people" and suggested that they might be subject to Communist infiltration.

The Clover Ridge Farm was operated by the AYH as a youth hostel from 1937 until 1939. On August 25, 1939, the Portsmouth Herald reported that:

"Something new in the educational field is to be inaugurated here next month with the opening of an American Youth Hostel school, the first institution of its kind in the country and probably in the world............School headquarters will be maintained at one of Meredith's landmarks, located on the Pease road about three miles from Meredith Village."

In addition to providing academic subjects, programs in horsemanship and husbandry were the core of the educational curriculum. The school was still a working farm with livestock including "five cows, five young stock, five saddle horses, two work horses, 250 hens, and six hogs." Eggs, livestock, vegetables, flowers and herbs were also raised by the students and sold to the surrounding community. From the sap collected in the maple grove across Pease Road, students also made maple syrup in the sugar house behind the inn which has been renovated into a guest suite known as the "Sugar Shack."

Since the AYH movement was inspired by German Youth Hostels, foreign exchange students, particularly from Germany, were frequent visitors to the AYH youth hostel and the AYH College Preparatory School in the years leading up to the United States involvement in WWII. A former owner of the property discovered several swastikas carved into the furniture and floor of the main building. A large swastika carved in the oak floor to the left of the main fireplace of the Great Room remains despite efforts to remove it during refinishing of the floor. Furniture with swastikas carved in the side (witnessed by this author in 2013) have since been sold or given away.

In the late 1900's or early 2000's the owner of the now-named Nutmeg Inn reported that the house was visited by an elderly woman who had a pre-war diploma from the AYH school. When asked about the swastikas, the woman explained that German students were sent to the school by Hitler to learn English (presumably as preparation for invasion), and they had done the carving. The woman said that these students had been expelled, however no news accounts of the expulsion could be found in local papers.

In 1944 the AYH School Inc. transferred ownership of the farm to Monroe and Isabel Smith, national directors of the American Youth Hostel movement. It is not known whether the Smiths lived on site or used the property as a summer home as they always listed their residential address as Northfield, MA.

1948 -Present

During this period, with the exception of nine years, the property was some type of hospitality endeavor, first as The Clover Ridge Inn then as an inn and dinner theater when the name was changed to The Nutmeg Inn. It was operated as a fine dining restaurant for some years and former owners donated a Nutmeg Inn restaurant menu to the Nutmeg Inn library.

A 1985 letter from the then owner to one Mardi Perry, Boston, MA, states that the total seating capacity of the restaurant was 120 people. This letter also mentions that "In the annex to the main building (presumably what was the old attached "annex", now our garage), we have a Dinner Theater room, which is normally only used in the summer. This will seat 120 for meetings, and 70 for Dinner."

In the early 1990's the Nutmeg Inn became a Bed and Breakfast and continued as such until 2003 when the B&B business was closed. The owners used it as a family residence until it was sold to the current owners in 2013. The Nutmeg Inn today is a Bed and Breakfast with 8 guest rooms, two suites, and owner's quarters. The Eliphalet Rawlings Homestead was listed in the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places in January of 2020.
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