In 1997 and again in 2010, The Hotel Nelson, a musical theatre, was created by, for, and about the Town of Nelson. The original was researched, written, composed, acted and produced, under the direction and guidance of Larry Siegel. The later was revisited from that earlier performance with some new material.
The wooden table was long, narrow, and roughly-made often supported by saw-horses in the early days. The tablecloth, then known as the board-cloth was made of the most durable hand-woven linen. Napkins were not used until later.
The leaves have fallen, the days are getting shorter, and the smell of wood smoke brings nostalgic thoughts of the past; but most of us just turn on the furnace when days really get cold. What was it like before this convenient way of heating?
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.
“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.
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.
The old kitchen was the best loved and most used of all the rooms of the house. It served not only as kitchen, but as dining room, sitting room, parlor, and general living room for the whole household.
A glow in the darkened sky alarmed Wayland Tolman and his father, Orson, as they turned towards home after a long winter’s day of logging near Long Pond (Nubanusit). The date was February 6, 1894. They raced ahead and as they rounded the road to the village their worst fears were realized. Fire!
Do you know Floppy Tolman? If you don’t you might like to. Maybe you have heard of her “confabulations,” the whimsical creations made of such practical discards as watch parts and buildings scraps. Or maybe you do know Floppy. If you do you know someone special.
Here are a few more letters written to Meg Cline by Frances Upton from the Upton’s Flying Loon Farm at Lake Nubanusit in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. See Flying Loon Farm, 1934-45, Part 1, for more about Meg’s life on the Upton farm.
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.”
Settlement began in Nelson, then called Packersfield, in 1767. The first town meeting was held in 1772 but it was not until 1785 that the town voted to raise thirty pounds to support a “reading and writing school."
When I was fifteen I went to live with a farm family at the Nelson end of Lake Nubanusit in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. This became a second home to me all through my adolescence. I was a high school drop-out, intrigued with country living and eager to learn how to split wood, harvest ice as well as vegetables, milk cows and braid rugs.
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.
King James I awarded John Mason a charter of new land in the New Hampshire/ northern Massachusetts in 1623. The grant 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.
George Washington Holt wrote a journal which provides detailed, but brief, accounts of his daily activities. His life probably typified the lives of many who grew most of their own food raised in small gardens, kept a few animals, bartered time for time or for goods and worked for several individuals or one of several manufacturing operations of the time for wages.
Simon Griffin was born in Nelson on August 9, 1824, the son of Nathan and Sally Wright Griffin. The Nathan Griffin family lived on Center Pond Road about a mile from the village. Simon Griffin's grandfather, Samuel, had fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill before coming to Nelson in about 1779 and settling at the top of Dixon Hill.
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.
Not too long ago a piano tuner submitted a bill for work done on the piano in the Nelson Town Hall. With his invoice he included the following comment: “Because of the age of this piano and long abandoned construction practices, it is impossible to give this piano a highly accurate tuning. It has numerous false beats, inharmonicity, and heavy wear. Surprisingly, the overall tone is superior and the action is still fast and responsive. I suspect the piano is favored by those who play on it.”
The solid stone walls of the foundation of the large mill built in Munsonville are all that remain of this early industrial site at the outlet of Granite Lake. In 1814, Asa Beard built the Cotton Factory and a boardinghouse for mill workers in what was then a remote section of Nelson to take advantage of the waterpower provided by the dammed up Factory Lake.
The first meeting of the Proprietors of a tract of land then called Monadnock No. 6, later named Nelson, was held in Portsmouth in December of 1751. An early sense of the necessary elements to establish a successful community was reflected in the stated intent of the meeting; settlement should be encouraged by offering land in a way thought to be “most convenient for making good settlements, for the public good.”
Among the many interesting items I discovered while organizing the Nelson town archives was a slim volume entitled “Registry of Dogs.” My original intent was to compare dog’s names of 100 years ago with contemporary ones. So, I kept a mental note of it, deciding then to take a closer look later when time afforded it.
Postcards from Tolman Pond
Postcards from Munsonville: Miscellaneous Buildings
Postcards from Munsonville: Munsonville Village
Postcards from Munsonville: Twin Hills
Postcards from Munsonville: Water Views
Postcards from Munsonville: Granite Lake Island
Postcards from Munsonville: Camps Oahe, Winnenomack and others
Postcards from Nelson: Nelson Village
These photos show Nelson’s first fire “truck”, a 1931 Chevrolet Coupe donated by Catherine Robinson about 1939 or 1940. The Nelson Volunteer Fire Department mounted a siren on the hood, and cut out the rumble seat to make a pick-up bed for carrying hose and a portable pump.
When I took over as Treasurer of the Nelson School years and years and years ago, I also took over a large beat-up carton of old school papers – receipts, vouchers, etc. – which had been tossed higgledy-piggledy into the carton. Eventually I bundled all these together and tossed them higgledy-piggledy into a new carton and left them for the next treasurer to cope with.
A small problem can itch and harass as much as a black fly bite and can be as hard to get rid of. For instance, 59¢ showed up on a town bank statement one year when I was treasurer. It didn’t belong to the town’s account. I had receipts for every cent I’d deposited - receipts for dog licenses, taxes, car fees - everything.
After forty years of use, I’ve finally had to discard a braided rug Ma Tolman made at the Ladies Aid. Her workmanship, with its great careless leaping stitches, wasn’t up to the standard of, say, Mrs. Cora Tolman. Besides, Ma had a tendency to use what-came-to-hand, and the section which came from an old pair of Pop’s brown serge trousers was a mistake.
Two manuscripts of historical interest came to light during the closet-cleaning needed to ready the contents of the Hardy homestead for the auction held last July. One details a lifestyle in our town that has long since vanished. The second manuscript is concerned with the physical setting of the old town center.
Listen carefully, these are the symptoms: increased heartbeat, memory loss, neuromuscular discoordination, heightened respiration, profuse sweating, confusion and fatigue. The above symptoms are exhibited by all greenhorns, newcomers and beginners at a Nelson Contra Dance. I speak from recent experience.
Princeton University over the years has been well represented in this area by summering scholars. Walter P. Hall, a history professor affectionately known to Princetonians as "Buzzer," was one of these. He often graced the podium on Nelson's Old Home Day. He has written several history books as well as numerous scholarly articles.
The subject of writing families - that is families that have produced several authors -would be an engrossing topic all by itself. In England we have the Bronte sisters, the Sitwells, Nicolsons, Woolfs, Powyses, among others. In this country there are far fewer writing families. But don't underestimate Nelson - for here we have the Tolman family of authors.
"There's gold in them thar hills," the ever hopeful western prospector used to say. But the only ore in the hills hereabouts was "lead" (which was really graphite), and the two so-called lead mines in Nelson have long since ceased operating. In our hills, however, there runs another kind of rich vein, and that is the writings of various Nelson authors.
When I was a boy I lived in a house on the edge of Tolman Pond where in the morning I could look out from my bedroom window and see the sun rise behind the black spruces of Thumb Mountain that turned the lake into a sparkling causeway of little suns dividing two blue fields of water.
Live from the Tolman Pond Archives is an iMovie, turned youtube. Karen Tolman merged the audio from her 2013 Library Forum presentation with photographs to help tell the story of an unlikely resort at Tolman Pond, a small neighborhood, in the small town of Nelson, in the small state of New Hampshire.
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.
I had a great uncle named Bill French, a tall, raw-boned old Yankee, who worked around my grandfather’s farm. Generosity was his virtue and his pleasure, and nothing so delighted him as going to country auctions from which he would return with a truck load of booty to bestow upon his friends or to donate to the farm.
The period from 1790 to 1830 has been called the Age of Self-Sufficiency in northern New England. Nearly everything needed for daily living was made on the homestead. For exceptional needs, there were local shops, the most prevalent of which were grist mills and sawmills.