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Preserving the History & Heritage of Lake Winnipesaukee & Vicinity

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by Edward H. Blackstone –1969.

Courtesy of Beth Lavertue

Dr. J. A. Greene, came to the Lakes Region in 1885. Although possessed of a medical degree, the good doctor did not practice medicine. He was independently wealthy, being one of the heirs of the “Nervura” patent medicine fortune. Dr. Greene was enchanted by the beauty of the Lakes Region, and soon his brother; Dr. F. E. Greene, and his sister, Mrs. George W. Armstrong, came to see this place he had praised so highly. When they and their families had seen the lovely sheet of water, which the Red Man had euphonically named Winnipesaukee, or “Beautiful Water in a High Place,” they knew that Dr. J.A. had been too stingy in his description of it. Rarely has a family not born there fallen so deeply in love with this beautiful lake.

Dr. J.A. Greene soon purchased land atop the hill on Long Island overlooking the bridge, and built a replica of a medieval European castle. Following this, land was purchased on the lower end of Moultonborough Neck, where the Roxmont Poultry Farm was established, with the doctor’s son, Frank A. Greene, as manager.

Dr. F.E. Greene purchased the Lamprey farm on the lower end of Long Island and in 1889 built the luxurious summer home that still dominates those broad acres.
Mrs. George W. Armstrong and her husband purchased a large tract of land on the western approach to Centre Harbor and established there one of the showplaces of the Lakes Region.

Thus arrived the Greene family, and their coming was to have a significant impact upon this section of the Granite State.

In 1901 Dr. Greene was elected mayor of the City of Laconia and served in that capacity for two years.

While Dr. Greene was receiving public attention, a boat named Carroll arrived on the scene, and was soon to become identified with him. Carroll was brought to the lake from upper New York State, where she had been used as a canal boat. After a couple of seasons, during which she was used as a party boat, she was purchased by Dr. J. A. Greene, who had her rebuilt and changed her name to Roxmont. She was put into regular service running from Roxmont Poultry Farm to Lake Village, with stops at Melvin Village, Union Wharf, Long Island, Birch Island, Jolly Island and The Weirs. Her captain was Wilbur Lamprey and Dr. J. A., whose enjoyment of steamboating knew no bounds, acted as engineer. When the wharf at The Weirs would be crowded with summer visitors, it was Dr. J.A.’s greatest delight to wipe a smear across his forehead with an oily rag, then climb up out of the engine room to where he could he seen, and hear the shocked summer visitors inquire, “Is that greasy-looking man the famous Dr. Greene?”
Levi Blake, jovial proprietor of the Island Home, a summer hotel adjoining Dr. J. A.’s estate on Long Island, often acted as straight man to the doctor’s rapid-fire wit. On one occasion when Levi was “feeling poorly, as he would have expressed it, Dr. J.A. suggested, “Why don’t you try a bottle of Nervura, Levi?”

‘’Huh!’’ snorted Levi, “I’d just as soon have a glass of well water.”

“It would probably do you just as much good,” was the quick reply.

“Did you ever hear of anybody who was helped by Nervura?” asked Levi.

“Yes? I did,’’ answered the doctor.

‘’Who was it?” persisted Levi.

“J.A. Greene!” was the quick reply. It is perhaps needless to say that the loudest laughter came from Levi Blake.

Increased business interests soon forced Dr. Greene to give up his favorite hobby, so he retired from his short career as a steamboat engineer and turned over the management of the steamer Roxmont to his son, Frank. Business was good enough so that by 1895 a contract was arranged with the Boston and Maine Railroad for Roxmont to run as a feeder line to the steamer Mt. Washington.

This arrangement lasted only a year, after which poor management by the younger Greene caused the closing of the Roxmont Poultry Farm and the steamer Roxmont was withdrawn from trade. She was hauled out of the water on the shore of the farm property. Her next appearance was to be under another name, but more of that later.

During the 1890s many small steamers were built, but no large steamboats had been constructed from the time Centre Harbor was completed until 1902. At that time the final resurgence in the steamboat business started with the decision of Dr. J.A. Greene to rebuild Roxmont and put her back into competition with the boats on the Melvin to Lakeport run. He engaged Austin Seavey, a master boat-builder who later settled at The Weirs, to rebuild and slightly remodel her. She was rechristened Belle of the Isles and placed under the command of one of Lake Winnipesaukee’s most dedicated and capable steamboat men, Captain Charles Corliss. Captain Corliss commanded Belle of the Isles during her entire career. She was soon purchased by the Winnipesaukee Transportation Company and continued to serve on the run between Lakeport and Melvin Village. During the building of the large estate of Thomas G. Plante on the slope of Ossipee Mountain, many hundreds of Italian laborers were brought from Boston to The Weirs by train and transported from there to Melvin by Belle of the Isles. Following the regular passenger season she could usually be found towing log rafts from remote parts of the lake to Lakeport.