Monday, May 4, 2015

The DAMM Garrison House, Dover, New Hampshire

Under this wooden pavilion stands the Damm Garrison
built in 1675, the oldest wooden garrison house in New Hampshire

You can see how well the hewn timber house has survived 100 years under this roof
and see the slits for muskets cut into the walls of the garrison

The fortified door to the wooden Damm Garrison House
under the pavilion at the Woodman Institute, Dover, New Hampshire

The Damm Garrison House

This garrison house was built by William DAMME (also known as DAME, DAM or DAMM) in 1675 at Dover, New Hampshire.  It is unlike other first period New England houses, since it is built of sturdy hewn logs, and originally had a stockade fence surrounding it. There are slits in the walls for rifles and muskets.  The roof overhangs the walls in order to see down or to pour water in case of fire.  The Damm garrison is the oldest intact garrison house in New Hampshire.

There were many garrison houses in Dover, for the protection of the settlers, usually one for each neighborhood.  Dover was known as the “Garrison City”  because there were 17 different garrisons in the area.  The Damme family lived inside their garrison house, and on the occasion of alarms they would provide protection to their neighbors.  Families were expected to bring their own bedrolls, food and provisions with them to the garrison house.   The other Dover garrisons were lost in the famous Cocheco Massacre in 1689.

The kitchen room of the Damm Garrison house

A musket pointed through a gun slit in the garrison wall

The William Damm Garrison is now located on the campus of the Woodman Institute in Dover, New Hampshire.  There are three other brick houses built in the 1800s on the museum campus.  The garrison house is open to the public for guided tours only, and is part of the admission fee to the museum.

DAMM Garrison House history:

Generation 1:  Deacon John Damm immigrated to Dover, New Hampshire from England.

Generation 2:  William Damm, born 14 October 1653, died 1718; married Martha Nute, daughter of James Nute.   William built the garrison in the Back River area of Dover, New Hampshire

Generation 3:  William Damm, died 1740, and his sister, Leah Damm married Samuel Hayes (lived in the house from 1740 – 1770)

Generation 4:  Hayes children grew up in the garrison

Generation 5:  Hayes granddaughter Leah Nute inherited the garrison, and married Joseph Drew in 1771 and lived the Drew family grew up in in the garrison

Generation 6:  Son William Plaisted Drew (1794 – 1868) inherited the garrison.

Generation 7.   Grandson Edward Plaisted Drew, lived in the house until 1883 and sold the garrison to Mr. Bryant Peavey, who gave it to his daughter, Ellen.

Generation 8:  Ellen S. Peavey married Mr. Holmes B. Rounds, and lived there until 1915.  She donated the garrison to the Woodman Institute, who moved the house three miles from the Back River district to the museum campus at 182 Central Avenue.  It took one horse one week to pull the house on rollers to the current location.  In 1915 a wooden house was built over the garrison to protect it from the elements, which is why the house is in such good condition 100 years later!

The Damm family lived in the garrison for 95 years, and the Drew family for 112 years. 

Support the Old Damm Garrison
Send a donation to:
The Woodman Institute
PO Box 146
Dover, NH  03821-0146 

There are several other surviving garrison houses nearby:

The Dustin Garrison House in Haverhill, Massachusetts was built in 1697 of brick.  During its construction Hannah Dustin was captured by Indians and taken up the Merrimack River, where she escaped and made her way home.   Tours by appointment only, call 1-978-430-4506

McIntire Garrison House in York Maine was built in 1707 is possibly the oldest house in Maine.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968.  It is on Cider Hill Road, Route 91.  This house is not open to the public.

The Gilman Garrison House in Exeter, New Hampshire is now part of Historic New England, and is located at 12 Water Street.  It was built in 1709 and has been added to and remodeled by generations of Gilmans, so it now looks like a colonial home.  The interior has reveals to show the sawn log walls, and there is still a pulley to operate a portcullis or reinforced door.

Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, New Hampshire is a community of several garrison houses and a fort surrounded by a stockade. It dates from about 1740 and is a living history museum open to visitors seasonally with many weekend battle re-enactments portraying the historical periods of the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War periods.

A list of the 17 garrison houses in Dover, New Hampshire (Only the Damm Garrison survives)

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Copyright © 2015, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Interesting! I went to the link to all of the garrison houses and noted that one was built by Stephen Varney. Wonder if he is related to my 6th great grandmother Mary Varney (1693-1735), who married William Horne (1691-1770). Their daughter Sarah married Isaac Hanson, who was lucky enough to be away the day Indians attacked in 1724 and killed two of his brothers and captured his siblings and mother, Elizabeth Meader Hanson, supposedly the author of a book about the ordeal (but perhaps ghostwritten by a minister as an allegory).

  2. Interesting! And the article includes the garrison houses at Fort Number Four (or Fort at No. Four), in which my direct ancestor, Capt Phineas Stevens, lived. Charleston, NH developed from there.

  3. Heather, this is just fascinating. They are somewhat similar to the blockhouses we have here in Ohio. But, I must say this is the best preserved one that I have ever seen.

    1. A blockhouse was usually a military building, Peggy. These were homes where families lived, but fortified to keep the neighbor safe in the case of a siege or attack. I think that since this was a home, it was well cared for. And the pavilion helped preserve it for the last 100 years.

  4. My Aunt Gail Seeley has traced our genealogy to find that William Damm was our 11th Great Uncle. I will put this on my bucket list.

  5. I can't believe I didn't see this post the first time Heather. William Dam is my direct descendan, my 8th great-grandfather. My father was David Dam and I was forever teased about this name when I was a kid. Now I'm proud to be descended from a family with such deep roots in New England.

    1. I remember you telling me that you were a descendant. How did you find this old post?