Bill Wright on the way to Beebe River.
Bobbins made at Beebe River - Campton Historical Society Museum.
Field day program - Campton Historical Society.
Village at Beebe River - September 2012.
Remains of the site (downstairs) of a store and post office. Upstairs were
the Executive Offices of the Beebe River plant. There were also a couple
of apartments or rooms for Draper execs.
Draper/Rockwell display at Campton Historical Society Museum.
Former Draper Beebe River employee, Richard Marden.
Dave Mead and Bill Wright at the museum.
Aerial views of the Beebe River plant and vicinity
The Draper Plant at Beebe River, New Hampshire
Most of the photos on this page were taken by Bill Wright.
The locomotive picture was sent by Peter Metzke and the
information on it is from Bob Heglund. See below for more
on Draper bobbins. Peter also sent this link to New
Hampshire logging railroads.
Also sent by Peter - The White Mountain Central Railroad
More on bobbins - Cotton Chats, June 1952
The bobbin plant at Draperville. Tupper Lake Bobbin Plant
Bill Wright Dave Meade
Beebe 40th Anniversary Booklet Draper Menu HOME
For several decades, Draper Corporation had a plant in Beebe River, New Hampshire.
Here’s Bill Wright’s account of a recent trip he made there, to see what he could learn
about the facility.
Dave Meade and I met in Lincoln, New Hampshire and headed south to the Campton
Historical Society in Campton, New Hampshire.
We were greeted by Sandra Decarie the curator and Bob Mardin the librarian. The
introductions were heartfelt and happy as we immediately commenced discussing
Draper. Bob excused himself to call his brother Richard who had worked at the Draper
Beebe River Bobbin Plant for 24 years.
Beebe River had a history of logging and sawmills. At one point much of the lumber
was used in the manufacture of pianos. Parker-Young established a sawmill in 1917,
over seven years creating 160,000,000 board feet of lumber, depleting the supply of
spruce trees. Though hard times clouded the horizon, Draper was looking for a site to
manufacture bobbins. The requirements were a saw mill, a huge supply of hardwood, a
railroad and a labor force. Whereas Beebe River met those criteria, negotiations for the
purchase occurred in Boston during April of 1924. The deal was consummated with “as
much fuss as purchasing a pair of shoes from a merchant.” The transaction netted
Draper 25,000 acres of land, 28 miles of railroad track, five locomotives, 500 boxcars,
the post office, theater and community center.
( It may be noteworthy here to state that the relationship of Beebe River to Campton is
the same as Spindleville to Hopedale.) Similar in that they are both villages in a larger
town. Different in that Draper owned the Beebe River plant, but the Westcott Mill in
Spindleville wasn't owned by Draper. DM
Draper built a finishing mill, roughing mill, box shop, dry kilns maintenance garage
and generator building. Across the (now removed) railroad tracks was a pond,
immediately beyond which is a village with houses, and a community hall built and/or
maintained by Draper for its employees.
(writers note: We found a wonderful nugget as we walked the grounds. The village park
had the identical playground equipment; slide, swings, monkey bars, etc. as were at the
Hopedale Town Park. Same style and manufacturers).
At its peak, Beebe River employed 350, produced 100,000 bobbins per day and
manufactured the shipping crates for looms. Raw materials from Guilford, ME,
Woodford, VT and Tupper Lake, NY were transported to Beebe River to supplement the
hardwood harvested locally to satisfy the enormous hunger for bobbins. These were
shipped to Hopedale via rail.
As with Hopedale, Draper was a major presence. In addition to the scores of jobs
and a livable community, it paid 40% of Campton’s town taxes.
In 1967, Draper stockholders voted to merge with Rockwell-Standard. At that time,
there was no indication of what the future held for the plant.
(Significant of the above data was found in the,“Campton Bicentennial 1767-1967
Commemorative Booklet, Reprinted and Updated 2002).
Richard Mardin was able to recall many elements of his 24 years at Beebe River. His
family did own and operate a local sawmill but the bobbin factory offered better
opportunities. He began his career in 1959 as a machinist and ended as Manager of
Industrial Engineering. The plant made and maintained most of its own cutting tools.
His recollections include that Draper “took good care of its people,” and enlisted Gus
Burg to erect about 20 houses.
Logs were brought in by rail and dumped into a pond to rinse dirt and stones from
them. They were then brought to the sawmill to be cut and ultimately shaped into blanks
which were then kiln dried. From the blanks, bobbins of different configurations (to
match various diameters of thread) were manufactured. The bobbins were all made of
rock maple because that hardwood would always “run true”.
Beebe River continued operations until the mid 1980s. The demand for wooden
bobbins had diminished. Although alternative products such as hand saw handles were
produced, the end had come. Richard noted with a wry smile “… if a suit from Hopedale
showed up on Thursday, salaried employees were going to be let go. If the suit arrived
on Friday, hourly employees were on the dismissal list.” Bill Wright, September 2012.
it was sent by Bob Heglund of Hopedale.. Bob added: . Beebe was certainly a typical
logging railroad. They were never considered to be a permanent railroad. They
changed course frequently to keep up with the supply of timber. As a result, the
roadbed and track could not be even closely called first class. The Shay locomotives,
shown in the early slide show, were devised to use this very marginal track. They could
operate, usually at slow speed, on the worst of track.
Thanks to Charlie Dennett for sending this Google Earth view of the Beebe River area.
Thanks to Peter Metzke for this great old photo.
Dan, some great material on Beebe and logging railroads in NH. There
were three basic steam types built expressly for logging: Shay, Heisler
and Climax. All were designed for slow speed operation on logging
trackage. Not much in the way of speed, but they could stay on the rails,
which is more than a regular steam engine did on that very poor track.
The engine shown with the fire truck is a Climax.
Speaking of Beebe River. My Dad (Shirley Edward Holmes) was dispatched by the Draper Corporation on an annual or
semi-annual trip to the plant in Beebe River for the purpose of either auditing the books or working out costs of various
operations. He used to stay at “The Toby Motor Inn” on old Route 3 (I Think it was in Campton), just up the road and
across the river from the bobbin mill. I think that Toby’s is still in existence. The woodlands in that area were owned by
Draper and lumbered for the hardwoods used in the bobbins, picket sticks, and whatever else. Dad worked in the Cost
Department at the Main Office as a cost accountant. His stint with Draper exceeded 40 years before retiring. June
Malloy worked in the same area or department. I do know that June was Tom Malloy’s daughter and my Dad used to
tease the heck out of her, she would then tell her Dad about it and the two (Tom and my Dad) of them had many laughs
at her expense, I am sure that she probably should not have shared the teasing with Tom, not realizing that the two of
them both loved a little good fun at others expense I think that June is a relative of yours - aunt, cousin or... (Yes,
cousin. Our fathers were brothers..)
I used to look over to the old mill and company housing going up I-93. As of late the growth along I-93 has obscured
most of the visibility. In the late 50’ or early 60’s, when camping in the Campton area, we would go over to the scrap
wood pile and gather imperfect bobbin blanks for our campfire. Best campfire wood there ever was.
Oh well, just a few more thoughts of the days gone bye.
well as a large forest in Grantham NH (off of I-89) known as Eastman Pond and the surrounding area. I had an uncle in
Newport, NH that developed several lake properties and when the Eastman land came up for sale in the 50’s or early 60’
s, he offered Draper $85,000.00 and they refused, holding out for $100,000.00. He passed on the deal. I know this fact
for sure. “Eastman” in Grantham is a high end development that was owned or managed by the NH Association for the
Peservation of Forests, and Dartmouth College and one other group after purchasing it from Draper Corp. Similar
development as those in New Seabrook on Cape Cod. I believe the architect or planner in both New Seabrook and
Eastman was Developer Emil Hanslin.
knowledge. Also, family history has Eastmans from that area in our ancestry.
Here are a few railroad links sent by Peter Metzke – The Joseph A. Smith Collection (Peter says, “If you put
Beebe River in the search box, the No. 6 Climax shows itself being in North Woodstock, and a further photo of
a Shay Locomotive No. 5 is shown at the bottom. The top map is of interest as its title reads Map of
Pemigewasset Valley showing Beebe River and Lincoln Tract.”) Another link is for the White Mountain Central
Railroad. And here’s one for an article on a logging railroad in the area which includes Beebe River.
Beebe River home once used as a Draper hunting
and fishing lodge. Photo taken by Bill Wright in 2014.
wrote about them.
These were all from a book about Beebe River owned by Ann Pierce Bosse, a friend
from Campton, NH. Her Dad, Burt Pierce, is in photo #2. (below, left) Our Uncle, Philip
Roberts the 1st, worked there, although I don't see him in any of the photos here.