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The Ashuelot River provided water power for sawmills, gristmills and tanneries.
Keene is entirely within the Connecticut River watershed, with all of the city except for the northwest corner draining to the Connecticut via the Ashuelot. By the early 1900s all had been absorbed by the Boston & Maine Railroad. Keene's manufacturing success was brought on in part by its importance as a railroad city, being the meeting place of the Cheshire Railroad, the Manchester & Keene Railroad, and the Ashuelot Railroad. Keene is today a center for insurance, education and tourism. New England manufacturing declined in the 20th century, however, particularly during the Great Depression. Keene became a manufacturing center for wooden-ware, pails, chairs, sashes, shutters, doors, pottery, glass, soap, woolen textiles, shoes, saddles, mowing machines, carriages and sleighs. Keene was incorporated as a city in 1874, and by 1880 had a population of 6,784.
After the railroad arrived in 1848, numerous other industries were established.
The Manchester & Keene Branch was abandoned following the floods of 1936. The Boston & Maine abandoned the Cheshire Branch in 1972, leaving the Ashuelot Branch as Keene's only rail connection to the outside world.
Beginning in 1945, Keene was a stopping point for the Boston & Maine's streamlined trainset known at that time as the Cheshire. Nelson Blount chose the city for the site of his Steamtown, U. In 1978 the B&M leased switching operations in Keene to the Green Mountain Railroad, which took over the entire Ashuelot Branch in 1982.
Many times these storms can produce blizzard conditions across southern New England.
Recent examples are the blizzard of 2005 and the blizzard of 2006.
Located at the center of Cheshire County, it became county seat in 1769.