Rick Church has been plowing through old town records accessioned into our Town Archives and property records registered at the Cheshire County Registry of Deeds for many years now. Please see the posted articles that he has contributed to this town history website.
In addition to the one-line tasty tidbits that have appeared in our four Nelson Calendars (hard copy only), he has compiled the following tidbits for our perusal:
Our history tells us Breed Batchellor settled the town in 1767. A mysterious burial near Batchellor’s home place hints at a prior settler:
There’s a 1771 deed from Breed Batchellor to John Lund which contains this phrase: “reserving 2 acres of land about where Mr. Joseph Billing was buried.” Samuel Wadsworth writing in 1910 says this: “It is said that before Batchellor came here in 1765-1767, a small house or cabin had been built on this land at K-4-10 by Josiah Billings, who abandoned the place and his cabin was appropriated by Batchellor.”
“Secondly because Major Breed Batchellor who is proprietor’s clerk has absconded and joined the enemy (tho we have searched) we cannot find plan or records of the proprietor’s rights or public lots. Thereall as the greater part of the township is owned by persons living out of town…”
Nelson Town Records, Volume 1, page 105
May 4, 1778
“Voted 2 shillings 5 pence to Absolom Farwell for going to Batchellors in the small pox time by order of the Committee 1776.” Farwell was the town’s messenger dealing with the traitor Breed Batchellor.
What a well-dressed woman wore from a deed to property – Benjamin Day to Peletiah Day 1782:
Being lot #1 range 7 including “all my moveable things within doors and without doors excepting one feather bed, one golden necklace, one golden finger ring, and one pair of golden ear jewels which I reserved for other uses out of said sale.”
First mention of a brickyard:
Deed of Abiel Smith to William Barker 1789
“Also one acre at the brickyard bounded as follows: Beginning near the bridge on the east side of the above mentioned 50 acres then running northerly 29 rods on said line then easterly 11 rods to the road then running 29 rods to where it first began with all the buildings and appurtenances thereto belonging.”
This is the best known brickyard in Nelson just off Brickyard Road on the south side of the road. The pits from which the clay was mined and piles of rejected brick can be seen there to this day. It can be reached by a trail that follows Brickyard Brook to the south. The seller, Abiel Smith, had bought the piece in 1779 with no brickyard mentioned in the deed. There were houses with brick chimneys in Nelson at least back to 1779.
First record of a store in Nelson, 1794:
Nelson Town Records 1792-1814, page 51
“Voted to lease part of the town common land to Mr. James French so long as it be occupied by a store. Voted that if Mr. James French gives security to the selectmen of this town for $2 per year that the selectmen shall agree with him to lease a part of the common land in said town so long as it shall be improved for the use of a store. Bounded as follows: beginning at the southeast corner of the burying yard wall; thence westerly on said wall sixty-six feet; thence to extend southerly from each corner on parallel lines sixty feet so long as the same shall be improved as a store.”
The town was at pains to create a center for itself. In those days the center focused on the second meetinghouse located in a 10-acre piece of common land where the meetinghouse was surrounded by horse sheds, the town pound and the cemetery. The town leased this small parcel to James French for a store. The location is on Lead Mine Road just south of the cemetery. Earlier it had sold part of the common to make room for a parsonage for Jacob Foster, the first minister. The year before, the selectmen had given Josiah Melvin license to operate a tavern at or near his home just north of the meetinghouse at the edge of the common land.
March 17, 1803
“Voted to give a bounty for killing crows. Voted to give 25 cents for every feathered crow that shall be killed by any inhabitants of this town from the 1st day of April next to the 1st day of July next.
Voted that any person in said town who shall kill a crow shall carry the same to the treasurer of said town and the treasurer shall cut off the beak and pay the person bringing said crow 25 cents.”
Wooden water pipes supply a tannery 1812:
Cheshire County Registry of Deeds Book 69, page 259, April 14, 1812
Grantor: Amos Bryant, cordwainer, to Grantee: Francis S. Bryant, tanner, $50
“Being the farm I now live on. Beginning at a stake and stones near the pond being the southwest corner of Lt. Sheldon’s land thence westwardly 23 1/3 rods running from a stake and stones directly to the southeast end of the wall on the northerly side of the road and through the middle of said wall to a stake and stones hence northwardly 8 1/3 rods to a stake and stones hence northeastward 4 rods to a stake and stones thence eastwardly 17 rods to a beech tree marked on Lt. Sheldon’s line thence southwardly on said line 16 rods to the beginning. Containing by estimate 1 1/2 acres with the privilege of the water that now runs through said land by its running in logs underground from the head of the brook that now runs through said land and the privilege of the lane to the farm house from the road.”
The water “running in logs” refers to water pipes made of logs with a hole bored through the center. These pipes carried water from a brook uphill from the Tolman farmhouse on Tolman Pond to a tannery located on the property. Several residents of the property have reported finding scraps of leather and Barry Tolman has unearthed some of the water pipes with his backhoe.
Fence Viewers at work 1813:
Nelson Town Records 1792-1814, page 521
April 28, 1813
“To the Selectmen of Packersfield. We the undersigned being called upon by Joseph Beal of Packersfield to view the fence between said Beal’s and George Dodge’s land and established a division of the fence according as we may find to be just and right and being duly sworn as fence viewers for the town aforesaid do agree (both parties being notified that said Joseph Beal shall support 57 rods of fence on the north end of said line and the said Dodge shall mark and support the remainder of the fence on the line between the pastures.”
Bethuel Harris, John White and John Osgood, Fence Viewers
Fence viewers adjudicated disputes between abutting landowners on issues of boundary location and fence maintenance. The following report is a good example of their work. Joseph Beal farmed the place now occupied by Wally Francis and George Dodge had a farm to his west on Lead Mine Road.
First record of a cotton mill in Munsonville:
Nelson’s cotton mill sold 1815
Cheshire County Registry of Deeds Book 70 page 540 5/6/1815
Grantee: Joseph Dewey, clothier from Grantor: John C. McKeen of Nelson $840
“NW Qtr: Being in the northwest part of lot #4 range 2. Beginning at the northwest corner of said lot at a stake and stones thence east 32 rods on the north line of said lot thence southerly in a range with the west line of the said lot 10 rods thence westerly 32 1/2 rods to the west line of said lot thence north on the west line of said lot 15 rods to the beginning. Together with the buildings, carding machines, etc.”
This mill at the outlet of Fish Pond, now Granite Lake, was begun in 1814 and was sold with its carding machines in 1815.
School Bye Laws 1824
Town Meeting March 9, 1824
Nelson School Bye Laws
“The Committee (Asa Beard, Henry Melville, Nathaniel Woods, Rufus Atwood and Benjamin Buckminster) chosen to report Bye Laws for the regulation of schools made the following report.
As the continuance of our happy Republican Government in a great measure depends on the education of the rising generation and that the means by which this education is acquired may most effectually be promoted, some rules and regulations to be observed in the schools in this town, which by the blessing of GOD we think may be greatly advantageous to Scholars and Instructors, seem indispensably necessary.
- The agent who may be appointed in each district for setting up the school shall hire none but those who are esteemed sober and discreet and recommended as the law directs.
- The schools shall begin at nine o’clock in the morning and end as nearly at twelve as convenient and in the afternoon shall begin at one and continue at least three hours except on particular occasions.
- The Instructor at the commencement of the school shall be furnished with a copy of these rules, which he shall read three times the first week and once each week afterwards during the school year.
- The Instructor may assign a particular place to each scholar as he may judge most convenient.
- It shall be the duty of the Instructor to examine his scholars once a week at least in the several branches, which they are studying, and to inculcate in his school the principles of morality and the necessity of a decent behavior.
- The scholars shall at all times treat their Instructor with respect, shall behave with decency and propriety, shall use no profane or obscene language when going to or returning from school or in or about the school house.
- When the Instructor approaches the school house the scholars shall retire into their seats and respectfully rise when the Instructor enters and shall not afterwards leave their places without leave of the Instructor.
- There shall be no whispering, laughing or playing or other unnecessary disturbance in school nor shall there be any playing cards or any other gaming plays in intermission time.
- The scholar shall go directly to school unless some necessary business prevent and shall in no case tarry about the school house after the school has begun and when the school has finished at night shall immediately return to their respective homes.
- The scholars shall at all times cherish a disposition of friendship and unity among themselves, there shall be no quarrelling or fighting while going to or from school or in or about the school house nor shall anyone be singled out to be made sport or game of, but all shall be on terms of equality and be treated impartially by their Instructor.
- If any scholar over the age of fourteen years shall knowingly and willfully break these regulations he or she shall receive a suitable reprimand from the Instructor who shall on the occasion read these regulations and on the second offense he or she shall be expelled from the school and shall not be restored again without a permit from the Committee of Inspection.
- If any scholar shall refuse to leave the school by order of the Instructor he shall immediately report to the Committee who shall examine the case and order as they may judge expedient.
- The scholars shall be furnished with books and other apparatus suitable for their studies before they be taught.
- The committee man or agent who sets up the school shall from time to time make inquiries as to the management of the school and conduct of the scholars and if he find that these rules are not observed he shall immediately report the same to the Committee of Inspection who shall inquire into the reasons and point out the proper means whereby they may be fulfilled.
- If any Instructor shall conduct in such a manner as not to be useful to the school or shall be found lacking in the necessary qualifications for an Instructor the Committee of Inspection may dismiss him from the service.
- Each school district shall be furnished with a copy of these regulations at the expense of the town.
- Each Instructor shall, before he commence the teaching of any school, shall give his assent to promise to fulfill these regulations.
- It shall be the duty of the Committee of Inspection to visit the several schools in this town at the commencement and close of each winter term, no compensation to be allowed except for two at a time two half days each term, they shall examine the literary qualifications of each Instructor and give such instructions as they think proper, they shall require each Instructor to keep a list of the names of his scholars, the number of days they have attended school, the particular branches of study to which they have attended, how far they have advanced and their several ages and the Committee shall report at the annual Meeting in March the state of said schools in such a manner as they think will best promote their further improvement.
- It shall be the duty of the agent or committee man in each District to give notice to the visiting committee of the time when this school begins and ends and though the minister is not one of the Committee of Inspection it shall be deemed his duty to visit each school once in each term, both summer and winter, at such time as he shall find convenient.
- No Master or Mistress shall be employed by any district committee man or agent to teach school within this town unless they shall, in addition to the certificate now required by the laws of this State, procure a certificate from two or more of the Committee of Inspections that may have examined such candidates and find them qualified to instruct such schools.
- The Selectmen shall not appropriate the school tax towards the support of any school taught by an Instructor who shall not have complied with the above regulations.
- The committee shall recommend and after the first day of November next, prescribe the books to be used in the schools within this town.
- The hours for inspecting schools shall be nine in the morning or one in the afternoon and if any inspector is more than thirty minutes behind the time he shall forfeit his pay for that time.
Voted to accept the foregoing report.”
Also at this Town Meeting March 9, 1824
Voted to accept the following budget:
Schools (10) $450
Rev Gad Newell 250
Highway Repair 800
Town Charges 350
Town Meeting November 1, 1824 (8 months later)
Voted to dismiss the School Committee chosen last March meeting. Voted to repeal the bye laws to regulate schools, passed last March meeting. Chose Nathan Griffin, Rufus Atwood and Jonas Child committee to inspect schools.
Road specifications 1834:
September 20, 1836
Lot number 4 of a road near the widow Stiles. Said road to be made 20 feet wide from the center of the ditches and 20 inches crowning and all the stone and roots to be taken out that will come within 15 inches of the top of the road and all necessary sluiceways to be made and covered with good sound hemlock plank 2 ½ inches thick or good covered stone the plank to be 18 feet long the whole to be done in a thorough and workmanlike manner and to be completed by the 20th of September, 1836. Bid off to Joseph Osgood at $1.97 [per rod] – 19 ½ rods.
The Widow Stiles was Dorcas B. Stiles and the widow of Andrew Stiles and lived in the house formerly used by the Tomte Gubbin School.
Town votes to build the brick schoolhouse with a second floor, 1838:
“Voted to build a schoolhouse at the foot of the hill in or near the new village.
Voted to locate the schoolhouse at the foot of the hill near Mr. Melville’s house on the east side of the road south on Newell Wilson’s shop.
Voted that another storey be put on to the school house provided it is done by subscription without any expense to the district. The use of the building to be controlled by the requirements of the school.”
There was a dispute about cost sharing. A committee was appointed to determine the cost of the second floor. They also voted to choose a disinterested committee of three from outside Nelson to determine the cost for the second floor:
11/21/1838 Committee Report: Lower storey $483.52; second storey $306.46 including 5’ at one end of the building [stairs?].
New school bylaws:
Brick Schoolhouse Bye Laws 1838
“To preserve the schoolhouse from petty damages:
First: That from and after this day if any person or persons shall break a square of glass from the schoolhouse in this district, such person or persons shall replace the same within two days after it is broken or pay the sum of twenty-five cents to the agent of the district to be appropriated by said agent to the use of the district.
Second: That from and after this day if any person or persons shall cut or mark the benches or the schoolhouse anywhere so as to disfigure said schoolhouse shall pay the sum of ten cents for each such offence to the agent of the district to be appropriated by said agent to the use of the district.
Third: That it shall be the duty of the agent of this district to put up in the schoolhouse a copy of the foregoing bylaws at the commencement of every school in this district. Also to acquaint the teachers with the same and to request them to have such laws strictly enforced.”
1848: The first lease to mine plumbago:
“To dig and take plumbago ores and minerals from said pasture at any time and in any place on said pasture from the date first above mentioned and this right to be conveyed to said Carleton so long as he, the said Carleton, shall did and take away 4 tons of plumbago ores and minerals yearly and pay said Osgood the rate of $3 per ton for each and every ton he shall take away with the right and privilege…to take away as much more plumbago…as he may wish to take… provided always that he pay to said Osgood $3 per ton.
But if said Carleton shall hereafter neglect to dig and take away plumbago and pay for the same so that the said Osgood shall not receive an average sum of $12 per year…then said Osgood shall have a right to put an end to this contract…$150 for two years.”
Part of a deed from widow Flint keeping the use of her house, but supplying water to the Spaulding Tannery across the road:
“Excepting the hog house and one undivided half of the dooryard and 2/3 of the aqueduct and the same proportion of repairing the aqueduct.”
The above deed is the sale of her deceased husband’s farm to satisfy his debts. She lived in the house, no longer standing, on the Henderson Road that was last inhabited by Robert Curtis. Directly across the street from the house stood the tannery owned by Asa Spaulding. It seems from this deed that Mrs. Flint retained the use of the house and that the house lot contained the water source for the tannery across the road which reached the tannery by means of Mrs. Flint’s aqueduct.
Benjamin Watts sells his house, but retains certain rights for his business partner (they own the store together) Nehemiah Rand:
“Said Watts reserves the use of the barn for N. Rand to stable two horses also for hay and grain for three years. Possession given 6/1/1869. Also said Watt reserves the manure now on the premises and what said Rand’s horses will make hereafter.”
Request for the Railroad 1869:
1869 Town warrant asked voters to raise 5% of the town’s valuation or whatever the meeting would agree, as a subsidy for the Manchester and Keene Railroad. The Railroad was to connect Keene to Greenfield, New Hampshire.
Town Meeting action: A motion to raise 3% of the town’s valuation failed with 56 yes and 67 no.
Dublin also failed to pass the railroad subsidy and Harrisville was formed of parts of the two towns in 1870. It promptly voted the subsidy.
Tramps Come to Nelson 1877:
Town Account: April 3, 1877
First record of citizens compensated for lodging and keeping tramps.
August 4, 1878
To Frank B. Hardy of the town of Nelson. Whereas the legislature of the State of NH have passed an act entitled “An Act to Punish Tramps” and by the authority vested in us by the aforesaid legislature and agreeably to the requirement of Section 6, we hereby appoint you a special constable and upon your taking the oath of office you may perform the duties and shall have the power to enforce act.
Signed by the Selectmen
No Trout Fishing for out-of-towners 1882:
Nelson Town Records Volume 8, page 137
March 14, 1882
Voted that trout fishing be prohibited from the brooks and streams of this town by people living outside of the town.
Nelson Fishing prohibition 1882-1888:
Nelson Town Records Volume 8, page 155
May 5, 1882
Voted to prohibit all trout fishing in said Town for the term of three years.
Voted to prohibit all fishing through the ice on Center Pond for the term of three years.
Extended an additional three years in 1885.
Nelson Police required to kill all unlicensed dogs 1800s:
Town Meeting May 12, 1877
Voted that every dog remaining at large, not muzzled after one week from today shall be killed.
Nelson Town Records Volume 13, page 20
May 1, 1891
To Asaph G. Priest and Charles A. Scott, Police officers of Nelson:
“You are hereby notified that on and after May 11, 1891, you are to proceed forthwith and kill or cause to be killed all dogs in said town of Nelson not duly licensed and collared according to the law as passed January session of the General Court 1891. And you are to make a return of your doings to the Selectmen on or before the first day of July following. And to state in said return the number of dogs killed and the owner’s or possessor’s thereof. And whether all unlicensed dogs have been killed under the provisions of said law. And whether complaints have been entered against all persons who have failed to comply with said provisions.”
In the late 19th century, the town paid sheep owners compensation for sheep killed by dogs.
Town Meetings held at Munsonville 1891-1892:
Nelson Town Records Volume 11, page 414
March 10, 1891
Motion by Fred A. Scott that the town hold all town meetings and transact all other town business at Munsonville hereafter and that the vote be taken by ballot.
On motion to strike out the word ballot voted yeas 33 and nays 36.
Vote disputed and motion made to divide the house, which resulted in yeas 40 and nays 41.
Vote on the motion that the town hold all town meetings and transact all other town business at Munsonville hereafter and that the vote be taken by ballot. Yes 38, No 36.
August 22, 1891
Town Meeting was held at Union Hall, Munsonville.
Early Telephone Service/First Telephone Line:
Nelson Town Records Volume 13, page 56
September 10, 1895
“In accordance with a vote of the Selectmen permission is hereby granted to W. H. Elliot to construct and maintain a line of telephone poles and wire for the same within the limits of the Highway between his house in Nelson and Munsonville by the way of Nelson Village.”
Mr. Elliot lived at Lead Mine Farm, now Wally Francis’ farm.
Nelson Town Records Volume 13 (sheet attached to page 119)
September 20, 1904
“To the Selectman of the Town of Nelson NH from Perley S. Bemis, agent for C. S. Dolly.
The undersigned represent that they are about to construct, equip, operate and maintain a telephone line in the towns of Nelson and Harrisville as follows. Beginning at a line between the towns of Nelson and Harrisville where the said line crosses the road leading from Chesham to E. Sullivan thence along said road to the house of C. A. Dolly. We respectfully request your honorable body to grant a location for its poles in the town of Nelson. The above petition is granted with the restriction that it shall interfere with the travel of the road on the highway (sic).”
The Tolman & Long Pond Telephone Company 1904:
TO THE SELECTMEN OF THE TOWN OF NELSON, NH:
“The Tolman & Long Pond Telephone Company, incorporated under the laws of the State of New Hampshire, and desiring to construct, equip, operate and maintain a telephone line in the towns of Nelson and Harrisville, respectfully petition your Honorable Body to grant a location for its line of poles and wire as follows: From the line between the towns of Nelson and Hancock, east of the old Henry Wright homestead, so called, owned by A. M. Johnson, along the road from said Henry Wright homestead, so called, past the homesteads of Mrs. Horace Yardley, Charles L. Griffin, Arthur M. Johnson and Wilmer C. Tolman, thence along the road leading from the village of Harrisville to the Nelson town line; also from said road at its junction with the road to the village of Nelson, and along the same past the homesteads of Albert Sheldon, George H. Giffin, Orson C. Tolman and Wayland P. Tolman, thence along said road to the post office in the village of Nelson.
And your petitioner will ever pray.
Dated at Nelson, N. H., August 24, 1904.
Tolman and Long Pond Telephone Company
By (signed) Arthur M. Johnson, President
Attest, (signed) W. C. Tolman, Clerk”
The above petition is granted.
No paving without representation: Nelson regulates road surfaces 1958:
Nelson Town Meeting, March 11, 1958
“That the following action be taken to apply to all public roads in the Town of Nelson not now in this year 1958 surfaced with bituminous materials: in other words all public roads known as gravel or dirt roads. That no such road nor any part of such road aforementioned shall be tarred or otherwise re-surfaced with any type of material not previously in use on said road unless such re-surfacing shall have been approved by a majority vote at the annual Town Meeting. And that, furthermore, such a vote shall not be in order, unless it is first approved by a majority of the landowners who own property abutting along the road in question, or who own land which cannot be reached except by traveling the road in question. And that, furthermore, any such alterations of the above-mentioned character, shall not be acted upon at a town meeting unless the proposed alteration shall have been described in a separate article in the Town Warrant. This whole motion to remain in effect until rescinded by a majority vote and an Annual Town Meeting.”
The following motion presented by Mr. Newton F. Tolman was accepted by a vote of 25 to 21 and 24 necessary for choice:
Newt’s Road Regulation Rescinded:
Nelson Town Meeting, March 12, 1963
Resolution by Mr. Raymond Huber: “That the ordinance pertaining to blacktopping of town roads, which was passed in 1958, be hereby rescinded.” Yes 38, No 16