Confluence: Working Rivers of Peterborough, New Hampshire


Peterborough, New Hampshire sits at the confluence of the Contoocook River and Nubanusit Brook. Today, its economy is largely supported through tourism driven by outdoor recreation, sightseeing, shopping, and the arts. The town is promoted as a quaint, rural bastion of simpler living and "Yankee practicality." This framing of history asks us to visualize an unbroken tradition back to some mental picture of industrious farm families subsisting on the land outside of a Grandma Moses town center. However, for over a century, Peterborough---like many rural New England towns of today---would have been better characterized as a "mill town."

The influx and eventual departure of manufacturing required the parallel influx and eventual departure of the people who worked in the mills and factories. This largely immigrant workforce is in danger of erasure when we are overly nostalgic about our short-lived agrarian period. These photographs of riverside mill sites of Peterborough stand in testimony to the workers who were brought here by the opportunity those mills offered. Some are vacant, some are built anew, and some still remain with different purpose.

waterfall off of a dam with empty land containing overturned wheelbarrow in foreground

Bell Factory, Nubanusit Brook (2021)