History of the Stebbins Store
The late Beatrice Cannon researched the early stores and businesses of Webster, New Hampshire, and her findings were published in the Webster Historical Guide dated 1833-1933. Later, Edna Frost continued the research, adding to the guide for 1933-1983.
1700s-early 1900s: Store Origins
This sepia-toned photo, pre-1917, shows the original store, founded in the 1700s by John D. Hale, as noted on the store sign. The handwritten note on the photo reads “Kersarge Mountain and the Coarser Hill Store, Webster, N.H.” Beatrice’s research showed that the first store in the town of Webster at the corner of Long Street and Rt. 127 (now Coarser Hill Road and Battle Street) dates back to the 1700s. In 1916, the store was struck by lightening and burned. It was rebuilt in 1918 and sold to Samuel Billings, who ran the store for four short years.
1922-1995: Webster General Store
Over the next 59 years, three generations of the Stebbins Family were the Webster General Store owners.Julia Stebbins bought the store from Samuel Billings in 1922. In 1932, in competition with his mother, Art Stebbins rented the Colbys’ store at the foot of Potash Hill. After the flood of ’38 and the building of the Blackwater Dam, his store closed in 1939. Art had married Ruth Keyes of Andover in 1937. They lived in his mother’s store from 1937-1939, eventually inheriting the Stebbins’ store in 1939.In 1939, Art and Ruth found they needed more family space and moved out of the store and across the street to a house sold to them by Helen Badger Coarser. Art’s father, Noah Stebbins, and Lloyd Stone set about remodeling and increasing the size of the Stebbins’ store. A shed attached to the horse barn was used to store blocks of ice packed in sawdust, and it has since been torn down. The ice was used in the wooden refrigerator boxes in the store until the 40s.Art and later Ruth working from the store as town clerks for more years than many locals can remember, and their store became the community center. More than just a general store, it was the place to go for any and all information. Political debates, town affairs and community stories were heard here first, some resulting in heated discussion. Following Art’s death, Ruth continued on as town clerk and ran the store until she rented it to Brian and Debra Nason in 1981.
1995-2006: Cowdreys General Store; the Smith Family
In 1995, the Nason family sold the store to Al and Joan Smith. After the Smith family bought the store in 1995, they renovated all the operating systems, renamed it Cowdreys and painted it with black spots. Joan Smith grudgingly earned the acknowledgement of the community with her baking skills and her family’s hard work, but the store was still called Stebbins no matter what the sign said. As with the Stebbins, the store was a lot more than just a country store, and customers would drive miles for piece of pie and a chat with Al and Joan. They sold the store in 2006, and shortly thereafter the bank foreclosed on the new owners.
2006-Present Day: New Hampshire Bowl and Board Mill
New Hampshire Bowl & Board Outlet and Gift Store as it looks today. In 2006, Paul Silberman and Gayle Kimball bought the building, hoping to sort through its history and once again make it the center of the community. Perhaps you remember visiting one of the famous old wooden bowl mills in Vermont, such as the Weston Bowl Mill, the Granville Bowl Mill or the Woodbury Bowl Mill. We guarantee you will have as much fun exploring the nooks and crannies of our outlet as you did in these traditional sites. Today, it’s one of just a few of New Hampshire’s remaining authentic outlets in an historic country store building – one with over a 90-year history.