The Melville Farm

Uriah Wheeler was an early, large landowner in Packersfield owning some 400 acres that included the current village. The land had been owned by Breed Batchellor and was confiscated and sold when Batchellor joined the British Army. He was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1747 and seems to have acquired his Packersfield holdings from his father, Elisha. In Sudbury he joined a minute man company in March of 1775 and was at the North Bridge fight at Concord, April 19, 1775. He was also at Bunker Hill. He was the son of Elisha Wheeler of Sudbury, Massachusetts and brother of Elisha Wheeler; JR The thee Wheelers were substantial early landowners, buying hundreds of acres from Breed Batchellor and his confiscated estate.

Uriah was a prominent citizen and is said to have kept a store and a tavern here. The house was commodious enough that the town meeting was often adjourned there from the meetinghouse nearby. It is likely that the house was built in 1778 or 1779.  Uriah left Packersfield in 1787 selling the farm to Jonas Minot of Concord, Massachusetts who gave the farm to his son-in-law Josiah Melvin in 1792.

“for the love I have for my son-in-law

A certain farm with the buildings thereon in Packersfield containing by estimation 130 acres”

Josiah’s ownership began a stretch of family ownership that ended with the death of Henry Melville Fuller in 2001. Born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1752, Josiah married Sarah Minot in Concord in 1790. Their first child, Jonas was born there; the others Lydia, Josiah JR and Henry were born in Packersfield. Josiah continued Wheeler’s tavern as witnessed by this license granted by the Packersfield town meeting in 1792:

“This certifies that we esteem Josiah Melvin a suitable person to retail spiritous liquors in the town of Packersfield and lives in a suitable place to serve the public and he is licensed accordingly.”

Struthers states that the family first lived in a small house north of the present buildings and ran his liquor business in an attached shed. He is supposed to have built the house that stood on its current site until that house was burned in a fire in 1925.  Could the small house have been that of Jacob Foster? What happened to the Wheeler house and tavern? Josiah seems to have built the town’s first store across the road from his house. He had a potash manufacturing operation as well. Sarah (d. 1811) and Josiah (d. 1818) died there and are buried in the village cemetery. (At Jonas’ request the New Hampshire legislature legally changed the family’s last name to “Melville.”)

They were succeeded by their son, Henry. Henry married Lydia, daughter of Josiah and Nancy Whitney, in 1818 and the couple had six children before Henry was killed while blasting a rock with gunpowder. Henry had carried on his father’s store. On Henry’s death, the area of the present village center was divided into lots and inherited by his five surviving children. This facilitated the development of the village begun with the construction io the brick schoolhouse two years earlier. Lydia lived there until her death in 1864.

Henry and Lydia’s son, Josiah Melville took over his grandfather’s home and business operations. He and his wife, Nancy Nesmith, had three children. Two died in early adulthood and Henry moved to New York State and never married. Though he remained a benefactor to the town it was not his primary residence. The well-furnished house was robbed of its contents of the night of July 8, 1925 and a fire set that destroyed the place. Henry rebuilt. On his death in 1930, it passed to sixteen-year-old Henry Melville Fuller, a second cousin, who built the large addition and lived there until 2001.