Home 2017-12-09T00:26:05+00:00

250 years and counting!

Celebrating a sense of place since 1767.

Looking for Local Talent

This website is produced and maintained by the Nelson History Roundtable, an informal group of citizens. While the initial focus of this site was the town’s 250th anniversary celebration in 2017, the site is intended to be an ongoing and ever-improving resource for local history.

We are looking for folks who are interested in helping specifically with the web site – both to research and prepare more content, and to help with the management. The site is built on the WordPress platform – a common and robust content management system which is easy to learn and fun to work with.

If you think you might be interested, please contact

Gordon Peery: gpeery1@nullgmail.com
or
Karen Tolman: tolmanpond@nullpobox.com
for more information.

Nelson’s Colonial Garden

To celebrate Nelson’s 250th anniversary we designed and planted a typical New England colonial dooryard garden outside the lower level of  the library. Of course, the garden is closed down for the winter months, but please plan to visit it next spring and enjoy revisiting it throughout the changing seasons.

Click on the Nasturtium above to download a 4-page pdf brochure about the garden.

Our Documented History

Nelson’s rich and colorful history has been recorded by many writers and photographers.

Below you’ll find a few titles, randomly selected. If you refresh your page, you will see a new selection. You may also use the site’s search function (upper right) or visit the Articles page for a full and growing index of interesting reading.

***************

The Nelson Congregational Church

At the first town meeting held in 1772, it was voted to build a meetinghouse on a lot designated for that purpose in the center of the town. It was a simple log building, twenty-five by thirty feet, described by Rev. Edwin N. Hardy as “roughly constructed, unpainted, unheated and unadorned.”

Sally Minot Melville: A Woman of High Respect

“Sometime prior to 1792, Josiah Melville, the first of the family in Cheshire county, came to Packersfield with his wife, Sarah (Minot) to whom he was married January 28, 1790.” This entry in the Struther’s History of Nelson is all we would have known of Sarah (called Sally) Melville if not for the survival of two insightful reflections written after her death in 1811.

Olivia Rodham Library

In 1891 Olivia Rodham bought the Collins place on Lead Mine Road in Nelson, New Hampshire. Her barn there, itself, stood as mute witness to Miss Rodham's influence. She cleaned it, shored it up, shingled it, converted it to bedrooms above the original stalls and tucked her library in one end.

250-logo1– A Sense of Place –

In 2017, the town of Nelson, NH, population 749, according to the last census, embarked on a yearlong observation of the settling of this rural community. Nelson has long been a haven for artists, writers, musicians and anyone seeking peace and beauty in a pristine environment, surrounded by mountains and encompassing several crystal clear lakes. A committee was formed a few years prior to 2017 to plan activities for the community that would celebrate the talents and achievements of those who lived in the past, and those who are still among us who keep those values alive. There were those who settled here with skills of carpentry, brick making and laying stone, and those who could sing and dance and write poetry. There were men who went to war, and some never came back. There were those who raised sheep, and those who made mills and ran them, and those who taught school, and some of the men served in the State Legislature. Everyone farmed, at least for a while. And lots of people told stories and some of them wrote them down, and some of them are true.

The new Center School, District No. 1

The committee agreed on the theme “A Sense of Place” and the logo is of the Old Brick Schoolhouse built in 1838 and still standing on the Town Common. It is one of ten original schoolhouses built in Nelson so that every child was within walking distance of a school.

While the initial focus of this website was to explore the many events of the town’s 250th anniversary celebration in 2017, the site will continue to be an ongoing and ever-improving resource for local history. Please browse through the many articles and pictures that convey why Nelson is such a unique  place.

Nelson’s History (The Short Version)

The settlement of what would become Nelson was established by a grant of land from King James I, who awarded John Mason a charter of land which included all the land between the Naumkeag (today called the Merrimack) and Pascataqua Rivers extending 60 miles inland. The place was to be called New Hampshire and Mason’s charge was to settle the area. Mason died in 1635 leaving only minor heirs. The title to the lands fell into dispute – a dispute resolved by a court case in 1746, which awarded the right to most of the original grant to John Tufton Mason who in turn sold his rights to a group of men who came to be styled the Masonian Proprietors. On December 6, 1751 the Masonian Proprietors granted “Monadnock Number Six” (as the area of Nelson was then identified) to another group of proprietors who would have the direct responsibility of settling the town. One of them was Thomas Packer, who never in fact lived here, but for whom the town was briefly named. The first settlers were Breed Batchellor and Dr. Nathaniel Breed, who arrived in 1767, and it is this year that has been chosen as the birth-date of the town, which was officially incorporated in 1773. The town changed its name to Nelson in 1814.

Engraving by R.P. Hale, July 2017

Like many small New England towns, Nelson had a steady growth in population through the first few decades of the 19th century. Population figures are somewhat misleading, as the town in those days also included what is now the northern part of Harrisville. However, with the opening of the west, a decline in sheep farming, and the Civil War (to which Nelson contributed significantly), the population fell into a decline which began a very slow reversal in the 1920s. A chair industry once flourished in Munsonville (a “suburb” of Nelson on the north side), and small mills dotted the landscape. But the town never had railroad service, and it’s hilly rocky terrain was a deterrent to aggressive settlement. Today there are no stores, and mostly just cottage industry. Nevertheless, the town has a rich cultural heritage of writers, artists, musicians and craftsmen, and a very vibrant community spirit.