Bill Wright on the way to Beebe River.
Bobbins made at Beebe River - Campton Historical Society Museum.
Field day program - Campton Historical Society.
Bobbin in shuttle.
Village at Beebe River - September 2012.
Remains of a Beebe River rooming house.
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.
More on bobbins - Cotton Chats, June 1952
The bobbin plant at Draperville.
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, NH 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 as 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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.