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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 its 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.


Our town wasn’t always called Nelson … find out more . . .


Nelson’s Colonial
Garden
A Colonial Garden was created to celebrate Nelson’s 250th anniversary. The celebration is over, but the garden continues. It was tucked in for the winter, but is blooming again now outside the lower level of the library. Click on the Nasturtium to download a 4-page pdf brochure about the garden.

A New Discovery

Our neighbor Bill Dunn was out exploring with his metal detector the other day. After exploring a cellar hole he was returning home, with the machine still turned on, he got a signal of something just northeast of his house. The site seems to be the outline of a rectangular building about 12 x 18’. So far he’s discovered a George II coin,

two musket balls, a buckle and a pewter spoon. With no proper cellar hole, we assume that this was a very early log cabin. We researched the settlement surveys compiled by several people in support or in opposition to Monadnock #6 incorporation as Packersfield. An Ithamar or Ethimar Smith appears in two of those surveys. Nothing on Ancestry or Family search so I do not know where he came from or where he went next.

By |October 23rd, 2020|Categories: 1: Featured Article, 1751 - 1800, History, Images, Life in Nelson, Rick Church|0 Comments

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A New Discovery

Our neighbor Bill Dunn was out exploring with his metal [...]

After the Summer Folks Go Away…..

Where I live, everything gets quiet on the day after Labor Day. Where there was splashing at the dock, the thunk of tennis balls, and echoes of cocktail parties rising off the glassy water of later afternoon, suddenly there is only silence and space.

Nelson History: Early Settlement

The task of settling Monadnock Number Six, a town eight by five miles in the middle of the wilderness, must have been daunting. It would take a strong will to make it happen. The 25,000 acres had been granted to a set of proprietors with the requirement that there be 50 families settled in houses with 12 acres cleared and fenced within six years of the grant.

Spring Cleaning (or An Empty Barn Full)

While driving around town looking at old barns, and imagining those long lost to decay, we wonder the plight of our old New Hampshire barns. Here's the scoop on our own barn!

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