Home2019-05-20T22:01:19+00:00

250 Years and Counting!
Celebrating Nelson, NH
A sense of place since 1767

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Spring Cleaning
          or
An Empty Barn Full

Karen Tolman

Old Snowshoes

Aristotle’s haunting our old barn
Proving that a vacuum is abhorred
Old chairs without any legs
And bureaus without any drawers

Mattresses without any bedsteads
A copper still without any rum
Wagon wheels without any cart
And toilets without any plumb(ing)

Unharnessed snowshoes deck the walls
Empty grain bins collect at the back
Dulled scythes and bucksaws hang
By the Morgan’s unused leather tack

A good cleaning brought antique dealers
Who saw value in broken-down chairs
And the dumpster is overflowing
With mattresses stuffed with horsehair

And, today, the barn doors remain open
To welcome; but wonder the plight
Of our old New Hampshire barn
Whose vacuum now seeks new life

 

Nelson’s Colonial
Garden
Click on the Nasturtium to download a 4-page pdf brochure about the garden.

 

What’s up with these old photographs?

Postcards of these photos are now available at the Harrisville General Store, Harrisville, NH.  Click here for captions.

 

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.

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The Graphite Mines of Nelson

Among the distinctions that grace Nelson and its environs is the presence of three historic graphite mines. The mines – small “open pits” – are inconspicuous to the casual visitor...

Night of Horror – the Hurricane of 1938

A tropical hurricane is impossible in New England? It might have been so once, but no longer. Mark Twain once said “If you don’t like New England weather, wait a few hours.” That may not be what he actually said, but it undoubtedly is exactly what he meant. It has rained more or less steadily since last Wednesday night, seven days and nights of almost uninterrupted rainfall.

Packersfield Becomes Nelson

Thomas Packer, for whom the town had been named, had died in 1771, but after the Revolution his son, Thomas, began to sell the family holdings which included the land from the French’s Farm and the Warners all the way north and west to the Stoddard and Sullivan town lines including all we know today as Munsonville.

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 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.