Packersfield’s First Minister: Jacob Foster

Nothing remains of this home today. The cellar hole was probably filled in when the village cemetery was extended to the north in the 1970’s.

It was in 1781 that Packersfield settled its first minister, Jacob Foster. The Rev. Jacob Foster had been born in Holliston, Colony of Massachusetts Bay on March 10, 1732.  He attended and graduated Harvard College in 1754. He later married Hepzibah Prentiss, daughter of Henry Prentiss, on 13 Oct 1756 in Arlington, Middlesex, Massachusetts Bay.

He was ordained pastor of the church in Berwick, Maine in 1756 when, at his own request, he was dismissed from this charge and entered the Continental Army as chaplain of Col. James Scammon’s regiment in 1777. Following the war, he was installed pastor of a church in Packersfield, New Hampshire (now Nelson) in 1781 where he ministered for ten years. He bought 100 acres of land near here from Uriah Wheeler, his neighbor at D-4-12 raising the funds by selling one of the ministerial lots that was his due as the first settled minister.

He and Hepzibah raised a large family.  Their children were: Jacob Foster, Sophia (Foster) Griffin, Nathan Foster, Jacob Foster, Henry Foster, David Moore Foster and Rebecca (Foster) Hooper.

As the minister was hired by the town and supported by public money, there is an extensive record of his settlement. The town would “clear up and seed eighteen acres of land”, six acres in each of his first three years. They went so far as to specify that the land would be seeded with two pounds of “hard grass” and one pound of clover per acre. He was to get a salary based on the number of families in town and free firewood.  The following is from the official town records:

“Voted to give Mr. Foster 55 pounds and 20 cords of wood delivered to his door yearly until the town has 70 families. Then to give him 60 pounds and 20 cords of wood per year until the town has 90 families. Then to give him 65 pounds and 20 cords of wood per year until the town has 100 families. Then to give him 70 pounds and 0 cords of wood per year.”

Jacob Foster and his family are the only known residents here. Jacob Foster left Nelson in 1792 selling his place to Jonas Minot. Jonas had purchased the Wheeler Farm and added this property back to that holding.

The Fosters left Packersfield but returned a few years later; Jacob died here in 1798 and is buried in the village cemetery.