How People Lived

Saying Goodbye to a House

In October of 2020, the house most recently known as the Seaver house was torn down. In the year 2000 my husband and I were young, and we looked at that house that was old and alone and thought we would go pretty well together. I’m going to do my best to tell you a story of that house, but you’re going to have to hear it in the style of Paul, the last man to own it. Per his tradition, you won’t get any answer here about why the house had to come down, or what will happen next. Answers have to be earned by understanding how a thing matters in the grander scheme.

The Sawyer Family Provides for Old Age and Succession

Families moving to a frontier town like Packersfield employed a number of strategies to sustain themselves. They often came with others they knew from their hometowns and settled near one another in their new home. Often those clusters of new arrivals were related. In the second generation they often took steps to keep the farm in the family and provide for their old age. The Sawyer Family who settled in the northeast corner of Packersfield did all of these things.

The Center School (reflections from this student)

There were as many as seven one-room schoolhouses, of which the current Nelson town office (known as the Brick Schoolhouse) served as one, in Nelson from 1838 through the spring of 1946. At the end of the very cold day, the other children left to walk home. Miss Stewart and I waited, and waited, as she got more nervous. "Well, Ethan," she said, "let's call your house." So, we walked next door to the Quigley's (where the library is now) and found Mrs. Quigley on the phone to Gordon, who had called. Fortunately, the Quigleys had recently got a phone – I think by only a few months. (None were installed during the war, of course.) His information was that the car would not start, and he had been unable to contact anyone who was both home and whose car would start. So, Miss Stewart and I set out for home. By the time we got to Tolman Pond we were both cold, and Miss Stewart suggested we go in and get warm. So, we went in, Sadie (Barry Tolman’s grandmother) gave us a hot drink and a fresh off-the-stove doughnut, and we soon were ready to head home, where my mother did much the same. Finally, someone thought to look at the temperature: minus 36 degrees F. That's the coldest I have seen in Nelson.

Lucy Nichols Barrett

This is the story of Lucy Nichols Barrett, a women deserted by her husband at age 32 with her six children and thrown on the mercy of the town and her neighbors. The scanty records that exist document the desertion and the support of her husband’s family and their neighbors. It also illustrates the town’s treatment of its poor. The story may even have had a happy ending.

Building a Town

Settlement in Monadnock Number Six came quickly once it got started. A list of settlers in the Masonian Papers in 1770 showed 5 settlers. In the three reports on settlement produced in 1773 and 1774 there were fifty-four different family names identified as moving into Monadnock Number Six. The final pre-incorporation survey of settlement detailed [...]

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.

A Sense of Nelson/Munsonville with George Washington Holt

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.

The Dogs of Nelson

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.

A Bicentennial Profile of an Old Farmhouse

Of the several houses in these parts as old or older than the Tolman Pond farmhouse, it’s the only one that looks its age - grey, wrinkled, gnarled like bark that woodpeckers have worked over. Then at the turn of the century, it was jerked to its feet and during the next hundred years given a series of transplants and internal transfusions that wrought wonders.

Frank’s Kitchen

Frank Upton was the consummate Nelson story teller. Perhaps it was yesterday’s social media, but news got passed along around Frank’s table – the good with the bad. Stories that now make up a large part of our local lore were told. This was a true gathering of community vitality where things were shared and ideas were born. Frank’s kitchen was a “happening” place, where a kind of grassroots democracy thrived.

Party Lines

When Barry and I first moved into the Farmhouse at Tolman Pond in 1969, our only available telephone service was a six-party line. Of course we knew all the neighbors who shared the line, and after conquering the established art of discreet eavesdropping, we also knew most of their business. As they surely knew most of ours!

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