Kirsten “Bee” Tolman
From Common Threads, the Newsletter of Harrisville, NH, August/September 2007

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.

There had been sawmills in Nelson since before the Revolutionary War. But it wasn’t until about 1840, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, that woodworking became a viable business in New England. In Nelson, a chair factory in Munsonville became the town’s largest enterprise.

Water-powered sawmill at Mosquitobush

Soon after came a group of sawmills and shops in Mosquitobush, an area in the southeast corner of Nelson (now part of Harrisville). These mills met the needs of the woolen mills in the area, supplying fuel, lumber and later wood products for the factories and related buildings and settlements.

The first mill in Mosquitobush was probably the one built by Joel Bancroft around 1850. Also about that time, a Bancroft in-law named Parmenter built a grist and sawmill a few hundred feet downstream of the Bancroft mill.

Michael Hall, a professor of history at the University of Texas, wrote a thesis on early Nelson history, describes another mill – about 2 miles upstream from Mosuitobush, just below the Long Pond (Lake Nubanusit) dam, where the channel is narrow enough to create some velocity of water. This mill was owned by Plummer and Rugg and had a clothespin machine, a gauge-lathe, a fluting machine, and a roller for polishing. With these tools, the shop made washboards, clothespins, mop handles, shingles, and bobbins and battens for the wool factory, in addition to its usual production of lumber.

None of the mills lasted long under original management. The Plummer and Rugg mill is missing from maps made in 1858 and 1885. The Bancroft mill, consisting of a sawmill, clothespin shop and several houses, was sold in 1860 to Eben Cyrus Tolman and a Mr. Sheldon. The mill was fed by a channel dug 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep. The water was diverted at a 90-degree angle by a 10-foot stone-supported diversion bank and dam before it turned 90 degrees again to go through the mill itself.

In the summer of 1875, during a lunch break one day, a fire started in the shop and burned the mill to the ground. Eben Tolman was not out of business, however, because he had also bought the Parmenter mill. And it turned out to be an auspicious time. The advent of the steam engine in the textile industry, combined with the arrival of the railroad, which further encouraged manufacturing, provided much work for the sawmills.

Eben Tolman’s first and perhaps only large contract for large-scale lumbering was for John Colony of the Cheshire Mills in Harrisville. In the early 1860s, Colony wanted to raise the water level of Long Pond to further insure a steady supply of water for his growing woolen mills. He contracted Tolman to log the timber around the lake’s edge and to saw it to lumber for the mills, much of which was needed to build housing for French Canadian immigrant labor who had arrived to take the place of local men who had enlisted in the Union Army.

By 1870, Nelson (population 450) had two chair factories, a clothespin mill, a shingle mill and three sawmills. Harrisville had four woodenware shops and a chair factory, in addition to its textile mills.

Wilmer Cyrus Tolman, Eben’s son, worked in the Mosquitobush mill all his life and inherited and continued the mill after his father’s death. At the time, a man like Wilmer Tolman might log timber in the winter, make maple sugar in the early spring, plant in late spring, work as a carpenter during the summer, and harvest in the fall. Hardwoods were a cash crop, often sold as fuel, while softwoods were used for building.

See also The Tolman Mill, written by Rodger Tolman in 1983

Wilmer would buy or lease, for example, 20 acres of Lake Nubanusit shorefront, log it, then resell it to “summerfolk” who were just becoming prevalent. It was mainly spruce (for making shingles), white pine (for construction lumber and clotheboards, or battens, for the Harrisville mills) and hemlock (for house interiors). Logs were skidded on a sled drawn by oxen and horses over a trail that ran through the Great Meadows (aka The Interval) – the 2-mile stretch of marshland surrounding the stream that runs from Lake Nubanusit to Harrisville Pond, and is the center of Mosquitobush. Horses were also used to pull the watering sled at night, when more ice was needed on the skidding trail.

Mosquitobush Sawmill. Block print by Fran Tolman

The main mill building straddled the stream and was about 40 feet by 20 feet – a typical small sawmill. It had one story, with saws and woodworking machinery at floor level and the turbine, shafts and belts beneath.

The mill pond was held by a plank dam on the east side of the mill and by a wooden spillway blocking the entrance to the turbine. The dam and the spillway were made of Wilmer’s low-grade lumber and had to be replaced every couple of years due to rotting. Flash boards were closed at the end of the day so the mill pond would fill up for the next day’s sawing.

A gatewheel upstairs was turned to open the flash boards and let the water in. Then, as reported by John Borden Armstrong in Factory Under the Elms, “you could feel the whole building move up and down … even the big supporting timbers would begin to shake” as the iron Humphrey turbine went into action, powering the whirling belts and two 5-foot-tall Atkins steel circular saws.

A skidway brought logs in from outside, where they had been stacked during the winter, and a carriage took the logs through the screaming saws, after which pieces went to other machines: a slab saw, a roller planer, a shingle saw and a “sticker.” A cart on a set of small rail tracks brought cut lumber from the south end of the mill to a drying shed about 100 feet away. The shed had slatted walls that let wind dry the green lumber.

Wilmer sold only the best wood and used the rest around the mill. With little sound wood in its structure, the building began to deteriorate in the 1930s. At the same time, business had fallen off, wages had risen above $2 per hour, Wilmer reached his 70s and was ready to retire, but the future of the business was uncertain. Then, in 1938, the hurricane that tore across New England damaged both the mill and the mill pond dam. In 1940, Wilmer sold the mill’s 15-inch timbers to Walter  “Buzzer” Hall, Michael Hall’s father and a Princeton history professor, who built his home from them in New Jersey.

A remaining part of Mosquitobush Mill foundation

As the lumber industry consolidated and became more mechanized, the Nelson and Harrisville sawmills were unable to make the transition, and the era that had made Mosquitobush a center of activity came to an end. Still, today, much can be seen of the foundations of the mills amid the beauty of the forest and wetlands of Mosquitobush.

Bee Tolman’s description of the Mosquitobush sawmills is excerpted from a paper she wrote for a History of Landscape Architecture class at Williams College in 1978, on the rise and fall of the New England sawmill. Edited by David Lord for Common Threads.

See also The Tolman Mill, written by Rodger Tolman in 1983.

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Serviceberry in bloom above Spoonwood Pond Amelanchier arborea better known as shadbush or serviceberry, is among the first trees to bloom in Nelson each spring.  Tradition has it the name “serviceberry” comes from its association with burial practices in the early days. The blooming of serviceberry is supposed to mark the time [...]

Early Meetinghouses

D-3-16 Early Meetinghouses Towns granted by the Masonian Proprietors were required to build a meetinghouse for religious and public purposes. Therefore, called a “duty” meetinghouse, Monadnock #6 built a 25 x 30’ frame building that was 8 ½ feet high at the eaves. This was authorized at a proprietors meeting held at Breed [...]

Early Road Construction

Nelson’s earliest roads were made and maintained by hand, using men and teams of oxen — the same methods that cleared farms. Road layouts reflected that labor intensity. They tended to be built straight up and down hills rather than be bench cut, and they were likely to follow property lines and avoid using [...]

Ebenezer Tarbox

B-5-5 This site was in the town in Stoddard until 1835 when the Tarbox Farm was annexed to Nelson at the request if the Tarbox family. The Tarbox family settled in the southwest corner of Stoddard as early as 1800. Ebenezer took over a farm settled earlier by an unknown settler. Evidence of [...]

Ebenezer Tolman

Ebenezer Tolman, a housewright by trade, moved to Packersfield from Fitzwilliam in 1790 with his wife, Mary (Clark) and 4 children. Tolman served in the Revolutionary War and kept a diary detailing his experiences as part of Arnold’s expedition against Quebec in late 1775. He is the founder of the Tolman family in Nelson.

Ebenezer Tolman

E-3-15 This is the approximate site of the first house on this farm. Built by Ebenezer Tolman and his third house on Packersfield, the house was soon replaced by a newer house at E-3-16. See that description for more detail.

Eleazur Hawthorn 

B-4-2 Eleazur Hawthorn The remnants of this modest home are difficult to find today. The old road that connects it is used as a wood road today and that traffic has compromised the foundation of the building. Little is known about the occupants except what can be found in their deeds and in [...]

Eli Clark

A-2-17 Eli Clark Samuel Wadsworth states that the records of occupancy here are unclear. Eli Clark bought land here in early 1808. He died in 1850 and was succeeded by his son, Eli Clark JR. He was here until 1861. The brick cottage was burned in 1892.

Excerpts from “Family Notes by Beth Barrell”

Beth, Newt Tolman's first wife, helped with the family business at Tolman Pond: running the boarding house, the summer camps and entertaining the many guests. The following, excerpted from her family notes, gives a delightful accounting of what life was like at Tolman Pond during the 1930s:

Ezra Sheldon

E-3-2 Upon this site stood a well preserved late 18th century house built by Ezra Sheldon in 1791. Ezra had been born in Reading, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, on 11 Jan 1763 to Abraham Sheldon and Sarah Hayward and came to New Hampshire with his parents. They made their home in Temple.Ezra Sheldon married Sarah [...]

Ezra Sheldon’s New House

E-3-3 Ezra Sheldon bought the 250-acre Goodenow Farm in 1807 after Abraham Goodenow died. The purchase did not include the sawmill at E-3-8. This was Ezra’s “new house.”  His original house was at E-3-2. By 1807 Ezra and Sarah (Day) Sheldon needed a larger house; the couple had nine children ages two to twenty. [...]

Ezra Smith

Ezra Smith House D-3-1 Ezra Smith was born in Sudbury, MA in 1755. It is not known exactly when he came to Nelson. He built this house in 1781. He was a farmer (as was most everyone) and he became the pound keeper in Nelson from 1786 until his departure for [...]

Ezra Wilder

B-5-4 Ezra Wilder was born in Sullivan in 1813 bought land here from John Osgood and built the house. On 09 January 1845 he married Elizabeth Saville Hathorn of Henniker. The couple began to build a large family farm and would become the parents of eight or nine children. In 1888 he sold the [...]

Fight Over Incorporation

At the proprietor’s meeting in March 1773 the town voted to petition the royal governor for incorporation as a town. Breed Batchellor was appointed agent to present the petition on behalf of the Monadnock Number Six proprietors. Almost immediately Batchellor heard rumors that the Blanchard family would fight him.

Finding the Benjamin Sawyer Cellar Hole

A snowy morning in February found Dave Birchenough and me crammed into the cab of a grapple skidder rumbling through the woods of the northeast corner of Nelson. There was a logging job underway on the old Sawyer Farm. We were able to drive my ageing truck up the old town road (abandoned since 1860) to the landing near the farm.

First Meetinghouse

The charter granting Monadnock Number Six to its proprietors required that a central place be set off and reserved for public purposes and that a meetinghouse be built. Batchellor laid out ten acres of common land in the center of the town at the location of the village cemetery today.

Fishing on Tolman Pond

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.

Flying Loon Farm, 1934-45, Part 2

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.

Flying Loon Farm, 1935-45, Part 1

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.

Foster’s Dismissal

The Reverend Jacob Foster served the town of Packersfield for ten years from 1781 to 1791. During that time twenty-seven families joined the church. We do not have census data that exactly match the years Foster served, but the population of Packersfield in 1783 was recorded as 511 and in 1790 as [...]

Founding the Church

The original charter of Monadnock Number Six stipulated founding a successful town in accordance with the king’s requirements. The charter contained requirements to establish and support of religion and education. Three of the grantors’ shares in the town, a total of six one hundred acre lots, were reserved  “free from charge, one for [...]

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.

Fulling Mill

C-4-17 Little remains at this site today but as flattened area north of the brook. Here in 1794, Thomas K. Breed built a fulling mill* with a shear. Fulling mils were used to treat woolen cloth woven on home looms to finish it.

Fulling Mill

D-4-13 Fulling Mill: Little remains at this site today but as flattened area north of the brook. Here in 1794, Thomas K. Breed built a fulling mill* with a shear. Fulling mils were used to treat woolen cloth woven on home looms to finish it. He bought land on either side of the [...]

George Tolman

F-3-1 The second son of Ebenezer and Mary Tolman, George came to Packersfield at age four. He bought the land at this lovcation in partnership with Thomas Reed. He built a small house here in 1810 on the 66 acres north of the road deeding the balance south of the road to Reed. [...]

Goodenow’s Mill

E-3-8 Goodenow’s Mill Abraham Goodenow was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1749 and moved to Packersfield in 1783. He came with his second wife, Silence, their three children and his oldest, Abraham Jr. They had six more children here. He established a sawmill at the outlet of Long Pond, now called Nubanusit, to [...]

Greengate

E-4-17 formerly the Samuel Adams Farm Our earlier article about this property ended with the owners leaving the property and the town taking ownership sometime after 1814. The course of ownership is not known until 1904, when William S. Hall bought the old Samuel Adams Farm from Wilmer Tolman.  The old Adams home [...]

Harrington Brickyard and Tannery

C-4-15 Harrington Brickyard Stephen Harrington purchased part of the Burnap Farm from John Burnap in 1802. He clearly intended to develop business enterprises there as the purchase included lots that contain the foundation of the tannery (C-4-8), a shoe shop (C-4-6) and the site of a bark mill (C-4-9) in the southeast corner [...]

Haying at Tolman Pond

When I was a boy, my grandfather kept three or four cows. He had just enough hay fields to provide enough hay to last them through the winter, although if the hay crop were particularly poor, perhaps he might have to buy an extra ton or two to tide them through until the cows could be put out to pasture in the spring.

Heating a One Room Schoolhouse

The subject of heating the building consumed approximately one third of the written record of early school district meetings. In 1820 men bid to keep the fire at the school at $1.00 per week.  Five different men supplied both wood and fire lighting for that 8-week winter school session. It is quite a modern idea: subcontract a whole function. In this case heat.

Henry Bemis

A-2-14 Henry Bemis Henry was born in Weston, MA on January 28 of 1750 0r 1751. He moved to Monadnock Number 6 prior to 1773, bought 85 acres of land from Breed Batchellor, cleared 3 acres of land and built a pole house by the time of the 1773 settlement surveys. (There is [...]

Henry Wheeler

B-4-6 Betsy and Henry Wheeler came to Packersfield from Concord, Massachusetts in 1796 and built a home here. They farmed the place until 1801 when they moved to B-3-11. Andrew Stiles followed and lived there until his death in 1828; his wife, Dorcas Beard, lived there after him until just before her death. Willard [...]

Holt Family

C-4-6 The Holt Family Joseph Stiles acquired the property from his father in late 1792. The record of the road layout that year indicates that the house had been built by Joseph, but before the actual purchase, probably 1791. Stiles sold it to Samuel Holt and it would continue in the Holt family [...]

Home Life in Nelson: Social Gatherings

Dried apples were staple articles of food. Families were large and pie was a necessity—apple pie set the standard. In the fall an apple-bee was a social event.

Home Life in Nelson: The Heating of the House

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?

Home Life in Nelson: The Old Kitchen

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.

Home Life in Nelson: The Old Village on the Hill

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.

Home Life in Nelson: The Table

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.

Home Life in Nelson: The Table

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.

Hotel Nelson Burns!

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!

How Not to Run an Inn

This article by Newt Tolman, with illustrations by Mark Kelley, appeared in Yankee Magazine in August 1973. It is posted here with Yankee’s approval. Family photographs have been added by Karen Tolman.

Ichabod Crane, Who Built Your Schoolhouse

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.

Insanity Above Spoonwood Pond

High above Spoonwood Pond sits a special place called Greengate. Today the scene is one of a beautiful house sited to take full advantage of majestic views and surrounded by nicely kept landscaping. What was it like in 1904 when William S. Hall bought the property from Wilmer Tolman?

Isaac Brown

B-5-1 Isaac Brown This is a small cellar hole just west of Route 9.  Parke Struthers has Isaac Brown here succeeded by John Breed JR. It was built by Isaac Brown sometime between 1790 and 1800 when he sold it to John Osgood and Henry Wheeler for $70 and “a yearly rent of [...]

Isaac Davis

A-2-5 Isaac Davis Isaac and Mary Davis, moved from Rutland, Massachusetts in 1782 after Isaac had served a number of enlistments in the Revolutionary War including the Battle of Bennington. They lived here until their deaths in 1836 (Isaac) and 1837 (Mary). They were followed by their son, Isaac, who lived there until [...]

Isaac Jewett

C-4-5 Isaac Jewett Deeds and road descriptions make clear that this was the homestead of Isaac Jewett, the founder of that family in Nelson. Parke Struthers has him at B-4-6, but the first Jewett there was Isaac’s son Willard. Isaac was born in Hollis, New Hampshire, bought the land from his father, Nathaniel, [...]

Ithamar Smith

E-4-16 A recently discovered rectangular depression here may be the site of the cabin of Ithamar Smith. Coins, musket balls and a pewter spoon are evidence that this was a home site. Smith appears in the list of settlers submitted by Breed Batchellor in support of the petition the Monadnock #6 proprietors to [...]

Jabez Grover

Jabez (also James) Grover: The site is marked by a small cellar hole next to the current home of Stacia Tolman.  Grover began to clear land at the north end of Tolman Pond in 1774 and seems to have built a house at this location in about 1777.

Jacob Wheeler

E-4-7 Born in Acton, Massachusetts, Jacob Wheeler moved to E-4-7 in 1777.  Jacob and his wife, Mary, had numerous children. One of those, Jacob JR, was born on the place in 1782. Mary died in 1808; her husband in 1841 at age 92.  Jacob Jr. stayed on the place and started his own [...]

James and David Beard

D-3-3 This cellar hole on the west edge of the Village Cemetery was part of the cluster of buildings that formed the original center of the town surrounding the meetinghouse. It was built and first occupied by a succession of Beard family brothers. James and David Beard JR, came to Packersfield with their [...]

James Bancroft

D-2-6 This was James Bancroft’s second house.  Timothy Bancroft of Barnstable, Massachusetts bought the Right of Benjamin French (400 acres) in the southeast quarter of Monadnock #6 early. His son, James, acquired this part of the French Right after his father’s death in 1780.  In approximately 1786 he built the house here and [...]

James Blanchard

F-2-3 James Blanchard In the 1773 surveys, James Blanchard was recorded as having built a cabin and having cleared 8 acres. Blanchard came from a prominent Portsmouth family which at one time owned the entire southeast quarter of Packersfield. His father was one of Packersfield’s founding proprietors. This may be the site of [...]

James Field

E-4-11 Little is known about this place or Field himself. He may have come from Mansfield, Massachusetts. It was apparently settled after the departure of John Stroud (about 1777) and occupied until shortly after the death of James Field in about 1789.  His widow, Mary, appears in the 1790 census of Packersfield. The [...]

James French

C-4-4 James French James French, a cordwainer from New Ipswich, bought 100 acres of land here in 1791 and is undoubtedly the builder of the old part of the home on the site today. Little is known of him. In 1794 he sold the house and five acres to Dr. Samuel Skinner who moved [...]

James Kimball

D-3-14 David Kimball Probably built by James Kimball in 1787 when is family and that of his brother, David, grew too large to live in David’s house at C-3-16 and James built a cabin here. In 1799 they bought half of David Kimball’s 100-acre lot with the original house (C-3-16) and this place. [...]

James Phillips

A-2-16 James Phillips James Phillips Came from Rutland, Massachusetts and had cleared 7 acres of land and built a pole house by 1774. Built a frame house soon after and was succeeded by his brother, Gideon Phillips in 1792. In 1827 Gideon sold it to Gideon Newcombe and his widow sold it after [...]

Jason Harris

B-3-7 Jason Harris Both Samuel Wadsworth and the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary book ascribe the founding of this place to Benjamin Rice in 1813. The deeds for this part of Nelson record that Jason Harris bought this piece of land from the estate of John Penhollow, one of the original proprietors in [...]

Jeremiah Barrett

D-1-1 The existence of this cellar hole was only discovered because the town laid out a road to his house in 1780.  The record reads as follows: The bounds of a road leading from the corner of the road near Captain Twitchell’s unto Dublin line.  Beginning at a stake and heap of stones [...]

Jesse Wright

E-2-2 This location is difficult to find.  All that remains is a rectangle of stonework where the cellar ole of the house used to be. There has been extensive logging in the area and structure has been largely destroyed. Jesse and Lydia (Parker) Wright moved to Packersfield from Woburn, Massachusetts in 1780. There [...]

John Adams

C-2-3 John Adams was born in Sherborn, Massachusetts in 1750 and was one of Packersfield’s earliest settlers. He bought 300 acres from his father, Captain Moses Adams, an early investor in land in the town. His name appears in the record of the first recorded road laid out in the town – the [...]

John Boynton

C-3-6 John Boynton came to Packersfield in 1781 after service at Saratoga in the Revolutionary War. He bought 100 acres here and probably built the house soon after. John is said to have been a blacksmith. John and Sarah Boynton welcomed their first child here in 1785; The couple had four more. They [...]

John Breed

D-4-6 Part of the original Nathaniel Breed farm. John Breed bought this from his brother, Nathaniel breed JR. in 1780 and built the house there.  He lived there until he sold it to John Osgood as part of that man’s consolidation of his holdings of Osgood Hill to pasture sheep. Sources say that [...]

John Brown

B-2-2 John Brown There is no extant record of John Brown’s ownership here, but Wadsworth supports the idea that he did. John Brown had a mill at the outlet of Woodward Pond (B-2-1) prior to 1788 when a road description mentions his mill. Brown may have lived at the mill itself or he [...]

John Buxton Jr.

B-5-6 The history of this site is somewhat difficult to determine. It is identified in A History of the Town of Sullivan, New Hampshire as a “barn on the Buxton Farm.” The foundation is clearly that of a house with a well and a chimney base. There is a barn foundation about 200 [...]

John Farwell

D-2-5 John Farwell John came from Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1772 at age 33. By the year 1774 he had 9 acres cleared and a frame house built with his family in residence. He probably responded to the Lexington alarm and marched from Packersfield in April of 1775. Later, in 1777, he responded to a [...]

John French

F-5-14 John French John French bought several lots of land in the Northeast Quarter from Breed Batchellor in 1774 and built a two-room log cabin (One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the First Settlement of Nelson New Hampshire 1767-1917) near here in 1775. He moved to Dublin in 1784 selling the farm to [...]

John Morse

Little is known about this early settler. There at least two people named John Morse in the records of early Packersfield. The one who built the house here one is the signer of the Association Test in 1776 and the one cited the record of a road that same year.

John Morse

E-3-12 John was the son of William and Mary (Burbank) Morse of Athol, Massachusetts.  He was born there on 16 Apr 1769. At the age of 34, he married Betsey Barrett on 3 July 1803 in Ashby, MA.  The couple had two children, daughters:  Betsey, born 25 May 1804 in Ashby,  and Olive, [...]

John Osgood

D-4-8 Nathaniel Breed moved to Packersfield in 1767 and built a “double pole house” at D-4-7 as there was no sawmill in town at that time.  He probably built a proper board house on this site in 1774.  In 1782 he sold the place to Samuel Cummings  -- a 240 acre farm with [...]

John Richardson

D-3-13 There have been three houses on this place. Thomas Richardson came to Packersfield from Attleboro, Massachusetts after the Revolutionary War, bought 200 acres on land in this area in 1784. In 1794 he sold 90 acres to his son, John, who built the first house here in 1795. John died in 1814 [...]

John Sprague

E-5-5 John Sprague bought 140 acres here from Uriah wheeler in 1784. He was a blacksmith by trade and came to Packersfield after service in the Revolutionary War. Born in Attleborough, Massachusetts, he arrived in Packersfield with his wife, Betsey. They had six children. They lived on the place until late in life. [...]

John Stroud

E-4-10 John Stroud An early settler arriving in 1771. Had a pole house built and 8 acres cleared in 1773. Marched from Packersfield in response to the Lexington alarm under Lt. Abijah Brown in 1775. Served at the battle of Bennington (1777). Left Packersfield in 1777 for Peterborough.

John White

E-5-4 The house currently at this location is a modern one built on the cellar hole of an older house built by John White in 1781. The original house burned the night of October 1, 1966. John White was a minuteman from Mansfield, Massachusetts who came to Packersfield in 1781. There is an [...]

Jonas Brigham

F-2-4 Jonas Brigham probably built here in 1789. He and his family, from Sudbury, Massachusetts, are listed in the Packersfield national census of 1790. He bought 100 acres here in 1796 and built a comfortable home with a well-developed set of barns and outbuildings a few hundred feet to the south. He moved [...]

Jonas Davis Farm 2

D-4-26 Approximate location of the second home of Jonas Davis. Remnants obscured when the current hose was built in1882. Jonas Davis was one of three brothers to come to Packersfield from Rutland, Massachusetts after the Revolution. He purchased 100 acres of land from his father, John Davis, in 1779 and added another 50 [...]

Jonathan Haild

B-2-7 Jonathan Haild Jonathan Haild (also Hale and Heald) moved here from Templeton, Massachusetts. He was born in Acton, Massachusetts in 1740. The Acton connection is undoubtedly how he met William Barker (C-4-1) and his family marrying that man’s oldest daughter, Rhoda. He served in the Braddock Campaign with his father-in-law. The Hailds [...]

Jonathan Lovejoy

D-2-10 Jonathan Lovejoy was born in Hollis in 1754, enlisted from there and settled here in 1791 after service in the Revolutionary War. He and his wife, Rebecca, had three children. Their youngest daughter, also Rebecca, married Absolom Farwell and lived with Jonathan until he died in 1825. The Lovejoys are burried in [...]

Jonathan Lovejoy Place

B-3-6 The Jonathan Lovejoy Place There are two small cellar holes here. John Wright was here as early as 1800. His name appears in the record of the road laid out early that year. He was here until 1804 when Ephraim Adams acquired the property. He sold in 1806 to Abraham Stiles who [...]

Jonathan Nichols

F-5-5 Jonathan Nichols This is a very small, primitive cellar hole approximately 18 x 20’. Nichols came about 1772 from Princeton, Massachusetts. By the end of 1773 he had built a log cabin, cleared seven acres and moved his family here. He was gone by the time Solomon Ingalls bought the lot in [...]

Joseph Briant

B-3-13 Joseph Briant The origins of this house are somewhat mysterious. The property seems to have fallen into tax arrears and was purchased by Jonas Minot, a Concord, Massachusetts investor in land in Packersfield and the father-in-law of Josiah Melvin, founder of the Melville family in Nelson. His partner in this investment was [...]

Joseph Brown

B-2-3 Joseph Brown Thought by Wadsworth to be an outbuilding in the William Parker Farm, it was more likely the home of Joseph Brown who purchased several lots in this part of Packersfield in 1788. He sold part of the property to William Parker and the balance, in 1793, to two Boston Merchants, [...]

Joseph Felt

C-5-7 Joseph Felt The place was originally cleared by William Priest starting in 1779. The sold the place to Joseph Felt in 1781 and bought Felt’s land further north at C-5-6. Joseph Felt came from New Ipswich, New Hampshire built a large house here following his service in the Revolutionary War. His record [...]

Joseph Felt JR

B-4-5 Joseph Felt Jr. Joseph Felt Jr. was part of the numerous Felt family that moved to Packersfield after the Revolution. They came from Lynn, Massachusetts. Joseph bought the property at B-4-5 from Stephen Harrington in 1816, but didn’t petition for a road to connect him to the center of town until 1822 when [...]

Joseph Stanhope

D-4-12 Joseph Stanhope Joseph was born on 16 November 1715 in Sudbury, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, the son of Jonathan Stanhope and Abigail (Howe) Stanhope. At the age of 40, he married Sarah Howe on the 31st of January in 1755 at a ceremony performed in Sudbury, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. She was 33 years of [...]

Joshua Felt

D-5-5 The exact location io this house is uncertain. It seems to have been several hundred feet north of today’s Old Stoddard Road though the location can’t be identified. Joshua Felt came to Packersfield by 1778 from Lynn, Massachusetts. He marched from Lynn to the Lexington alarm in 1775. He was wounded in [...]

Joshua Kittredge

C-4-1 The settlement survey in 1774 lists a sawmill and house here that had been built by Breed Batchellor as early as 1772. This was part of Batchellor’s estate that had been confiscated by the State of New Hampshire when he joined the British Army. It was bought first by Elisha Wheeler in 1781 [...]

Joshua Lawrence

A-2-15 Joshua Lawrence Joshua Lawrence was a cordwainer by trade and originally moved to Keene. In 1782 he bought this land and built a house here. It was subsequently occupied by Asa Lawrence, Eli Clark and Joshua Lawrence JR.

Josiah and Sophia Parker

B-3-5 There is a nice cellar hole and barn foundations here about 1500’ along an old town road that runs north from Apple Hill Road. This property was purchased in 1803 by Nathaniel Breed III, grandson and namesake of one of Nelson’s founders, who built the house here. The following year he sold [...]

Josiah Billings

A-2-1 Josiah Billings Nelson’s first resident. “Site of a small building said to have been erected by Josiah Billings before Breed Batchellor settled at K-4-7. [A-2-2] The occupant ran away leaving the house and contents which Mr. Batchellor occupied and appropriated.” Mr. Billings whereabouts were not entirely unknown at the time; deeds in [...]

Josiah Flint

B-2-8 Josiah Flint This lot was one of the Proprietor’s Lots in Monadnock #6, land reserved for the original proprietors with three lots reserved for the support of town functions: support of the gospel (2) and support of schools (1). The Town leased lot number one in the eighth range to Josiah Flint [...]

Josiah Parker

C-4-19 This is the approximate location of the Josiah Parker homestead. The site is now occupied by a much more modern building. Stone enclosures and potential barn foundations suggest it as the site for Parker’s house. Josiah Parker came to Packersfield from Wilton, New Hampshire in about 1789 with his wife Eunice (Pierce). [...]

Josiah Robbins

B-3-4 Josiah Robbins Josiah Robbins, the first of his family to settle in Packersfield, acquired this place on a 999-year lease from the Town. This lot was one of the lots reserved in the original grant of Monadnock #6 for the support of religion in the town.  Josiah acquired the property in 1802, [...]

Josiah Robbins

B-4-3 Josiah Robbins One of the founders of the Robbins family in Nelson, Josiah was born in Townsend, Massachusetts and came to Packersfield after his Revolutionary War service. He bought the property, partly in Sullivan and partly in Packersfield in 1807, built the home here and moved from B-3-4. He sold it in [...]

Josiah Whitney

D-5-2 Josiah Whitney bought lot #2 in range 10 in Packersfield’s northeast quarter in 1779. Clearing had been done there earlier by Elihu Higbe. He built first at D-5-7 and afterwards here. Nancy and Josiah Whitney came to Packersfield with their first two children; they added seven more.  In 1822 Josiah sold his [...]

Josiah Whitney

D-5-7 There is a small cellar hole at this site. Elihu Higbe cleared 12 acres of land here in 1773, but did not settle. Josiah Whitney bought the property in 1779 and built a modest house. There is a story that this house burned and he built a new one at E-5-2 in [...]

Josiah Woodward

B-2-5 Josiah Woodward Josiah Woodward bought land and water rights here in 1804 and moved here from Marlborough with his wife, Keziah, building a large two-story frame house. His wife died in 1810 and he remarried Sally Wakefield of Dublin. Josiah deeded half the home, mill and 110 acres to his son, Josiah [...]

Kingsbury

A-2-13 The Kingsbury Place This is a grand cellar hole today with nicely cut granite in its walls. It sits on a hill overlooking and just south of Otter Brook. James Clark was likely the first to build on this site in 1787. The first settler was actually Henry Bemis who built a [...]

Ladies Braid

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.

Lead Mine Farm

C-3-4This beautiful example of an early Nelson home is probably best known for its service as Nelson’s Town Poor Farm from 1851 to 1858.  It takes its name from a quarry on the property where graphite was mined in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Lead Mine Farm Joseph Beal, a blacksmith from Lynn Massachusetts, probably [...]

Leavit Phillips Place 

A-2-19 Leavit Phillips Place This homesite was built on an unfavorable north slope and was abandoned early in the migration of Packersfield farmers west for better land. Leavit Phillips had built it around 1808 and sold to Joshua Lawrence Jr. in 1819. Moses Clark bought it in 1824 and abandoned it a little [...]

Levi Wilder

B-2-6 Levi Wilder Levi and Sarah (Moody) Wilder and their infant daughter, Clarissa, settled here in 1786 moving from Templeton, Massachusetts after his service in the Revolution. According to his pension records, his house burned in August of that year while he and his family were are church. They rebuilt and welcomed another [...]

Listening to NH Spring’s Short Song

I heard the ice go out on Tolman Pond one year. My garden is next to the pond, and as I was breaking through the tough, heavy sod, I heard a soft music like silvery bells. Looking around me I realized that it was a warm breeze blowing the ice out of the pond. In a minute, it was over.

Live from the Tolman Pond Archives

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.

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.

Luther Heaton

Bricks from the house that Samuel Wadsworth built. A-2-8 Luther Heaton Luther and Joanna Eaton were the original settlers of the Wadsworth Place (A-2-7) but sold that to Samuel Wadsworth in 1807 and reserved ten acres here where they built themselves a small house and barn. In their later years they [...]

Luther Heaton Homestead

A-2-6 Luther Heaton Homestead Luther Heaton’s original house stood here on land he purchased from his father in 1784. Luther and his wife were childless and adopted his nephew, Samuel Wadsworth, as toddler. Samuel’s father had died before his on was born and his mother, Luther Heaton’s sister, gave her son to the [...]

Lyman Stone

B-5-3 Barker place in the late 1800s Lyman Stone This home is associated with two of Nelson’s founding families. John Breed JR was the grandson of one of Nelson’s founders, Dr. Nathaniel Beed. He was born to Nathaniel Breed’s second son, John, and his wife, Sarah Felt at D-4-9 in 1785. [...]

Ma Tolman’s Diaries

In the 50 years since her death, my great-grandmother’s diaries have resided under a built-in bench in a sunny spot on the south side of the farmhouse that looks out on Tolman Pond, in Nelson.

Making Cider

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.

Martin Lawrence

D-5-1 Martin Lawrence Martin Lawrence, a cordwainer by trade, and his wife Sally moved to Packersfield in 1794, buying 35 acres of land and a modest house from Timothy Pierce at C-5-2. Two years later he bought 100 acres to the south and across the road. He constructed a much more substantial home [...]

Melville Farm

D-4-19 The Melville Farm The house rebuilt after a 1925 fire. 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 [...]

Melville Store

D-4-16 Melville Store Uriah Wheeler built a house and tavern here as early as 1781. The establishment must have been quite commodious as town meeting were often adjourned to his house. The Wheelers sold the place to Jonas Minot of Concord, Massachusetts and Thaddeus Barker seems to have kept the tavern here from [...]

Memories of Old Home Day

When I was a kid back in the 1930s, Old Home Day was held in Melville’s Grove – a stand of hardwood trees along Center Pond Road a few hundred yards from the center of Nelson.

Munsonville School

B-5-13 In 1889 the town voted 33 to 32 to raise $1200 to build a new school here to replace the schools at C-5-9 and B-4-8. It took two years to agree in the site and build the school. Bricks from the two earlier schools were used in its construction. It has had [...]

Music and Dance in the Nelson Town Hall: The Myth, the Magic the Truth

What's behind the legendary status of the Nelson Town Hall? This video is from a Zoom presentation made for the Olivia Rodham Memorial Library, on December 19, 2020. Lisa Sieverts (dance caller) and Gordon Peery (piano player), both long-time participants in Nelson contra dances, have unearthed some charming nuggets of local history. Look [...]

Nathan Nye

C-2-5 Nathan brobably lived here from 1815 to 1830. Nathan Nye appears in the record of the discontinuance of a road in 1830, but was not mentioned when the road was laid out in 1799. He is likely the tenant of George Dodge who owned the property from 1815 on. [...]

Nathan Wesson

E-2-4 Nathan Wesson (also Weston) bought 105 acres of land here from James Bancroft in 1782. He came here from Hollis after two enlistments in the army serving in the Ticonderoga campaign and elsewhere. His introduction to Packersfield probably came from serving with Allen Breed and Joseph Felt. He built a house here in [...]

Nathaniel Barrett

F-5-6 Nathaniel Barrett Nathaniel and Mercy Barrett bought land here in 1778 from John French. His record of enlistment in the Revolutionary War (he enlisted from Mason, NH) suggests that he built here after the war – perhaps in 1783. The had six children including John who married Lucy Nichols (F-5-14) and Nathaniel [...]

Nathaniel Barrett Jr

F-5-1 Nathaniel Barrett Jr. This place is in Stoddard. Nathaniel was the second son of Nathaniel Barrett (F-5-6) built the house here around 1800. He died in 1847 and his widow, Relief, continued here until her death in 1866.

Nathaniel W. and Mary S. Fay

C-5-3 Nathaniel W. and Mary S. Fay This couple bought 110 acres on land on the Stoddard line east of Granite lake. The came from Lowell, Massachusetts. They built a small house here in 1851 and sold it in 1865. Nathaniel died in 1888 at age of 70 and Mary in 1891 aged [...]

Nathaniel Woods

E-3-6 Nathaniel Woods built this house on part of his farm after he sold the place to his son, Samuel, with the right to live there until he died. Perhaps the house was built to facilitate management of the brickyard across the road. The Woods and Felt families all operated the yard in [...]

Nature Gave Us an Early House Cleaning

The first snow is like a distant relative you thought wasn’t going to come for her annual visit for a while yet and so you had time to clean the house. Suddenly, in mid-November, there is the guest, waist-deep in your clutter.

Nehemiah Rand: 

D-4-28 One of the first settlers of Nelson Village, Rand bought a 3-acre lot from the estate of Henry Melville in 1839. Dr. Rand bought Dr. Calvin Hubbard’s practice in Nelson and moved here from Hancock. Dr Rand practiced medicine in Nelson and was a partner with Ruel Nims in the store on [...]

Nehemiah Wright

F-3-2 Brothers, Nehemiah and Oliver Wright grew up in Dunstable. In those days Dunstable straddled the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border where Dunstable, Massachusetts is today. Dr. Ebenezer Starr also lived there; he was the owner of some 700 acres in the southeast quarter of Packersfield. The Wrights bought 100 acres (known as the David [...]

Nelson Contra Dance November 10, 2007

Featuring David Kaynor, fiddle , Randy Miller, fiddle; Tom Hodgson, guitar; Hilliare Wilder, accordion; Will Miller, bohdran; Gordon Peery, piano; Jeff Petrovitch, caller

Nelson Contra Dance on NH Crossroads

In this New Hampshire Crossroads Program from 1983, Gordon Peery innocently perpetuates the myth that there had been dancing going on in the Nelson Town Hall for 200 years.

Nelson Cotton and Woolen Company

C-5-10 The mill site is the lowest of three on the stream that empties Granite Lake. The broken grindstone near the mill’s tailrace is evidence of its early use for grinding grain into flour.  Joseph Baker likely built the mill in the 1790’s as a saw and gristmill. By 1816 it had been [...]

Nelson History: Early Settlement

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.

Nelson History: In the Beginning

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.

Nelson Population Trends

Nelson's population in the Census of 1790 was 721. The most recent (2020) Census shows a population of 734 - a whopping increase of 13 people over a 230 year period. Of course there are some twists and turns in the story, and we've added some graphics to spice up the tale.

Nelson Roads and Cellar Holes Interactive Map Demo

This video is an edit of a Zoom presentation sponsored by the Olivia Rodham Memorial Library. Regular users of the library will know that there are frequently programs late Saturday mornings featuring speakers on a variety of topics. This (and other) Zoom programs provide a way to continue these programs while we are [...]

Nelson’s Civil War Hero

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.

Nelson’s First Fire Truck

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.

Nelson’s One Room Schools

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."

New Hampshire’s ‘Mongrel Season’

Everyone in New Hampshire knows that there are far more than four seasons. There are sub-seasons, mini-seasons, seasons that hide in the woods, and seasons that last for just a day. There are seasons that happen in the hills but not in the valleys, and vice-versa.

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.

Nineteenth Century Capitalism, Nelson Style

It is difficult not to view life in Nelson in the mid-nineteenth century as a stereotype -- a bucolic farming community relatively untouched by the national issues like industrialization and immigration. Indeed Nelson was a bit on the sidelines.

Nurse Place

B-2-9 Nurse Place This is one of the older sites in Packersfield. Note there are two cellar holes at this location about two hundred feet apart. One is small and, clearly abandoned many years ago. Built originally by Benjamin Nourse (also Nurs or Nurse) who came in 1772, they may have been inhabited [...]

Oliver Whitney

D-3-10 Oliver Whitney was born in Needham, Massachusetts in 1744. He responded to the Lexington alarm from Natick on April 19, 1775 and served a short enlistment afterwards. He married Hanna Chase and moved to Swansea. The couple moved to Packersfield with two young children in time to have Betsey who was born [...]

Oliver Wright

F-3-4 There is no trace of this house today. From road and property records we know its approximate location on the old road to Hancock a few hundred feet east of Nehemiah Wright’s cellar hole. The foundation was, likely destroyed when the house now occupied by Mary and Dennis Dellagreca was built in [...]

Olivia Rodham Library

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.

On the Ski Hill at Tolman Pond

I’ve just lugged a couple of green plastic chairs up to the top of the Jack Rabbit, a hill overlooking Tolman Pond and the 1790's vintage Farmhouse, which was cleared for skiing in the 1920’s - we're told one of the first such hills in New England.

Orrel P. Atwood

B-4-9 Orrel P. Atwood bought 12 acres here in 1853 from Nathan Taft JR. He was the 4th child of Phillip and Eunice Farwell Atwood, born in 1822. Orrel married Sarah Weston in 1848. Between 1851 and her death in 1856 the couple had for children and bult the house here. After her death [...]

Our Write Wing: The Authors of Nelson, Part I

"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.

Our Write Wing: The Authors of Nelson, Part II

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.

Our Write Wing: The Authors of Nelson, Part III

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.

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.

Packersfield’s First Minister: Jacob Foster

D-4-15 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. In 1781 Packersfield settled its first minister, Jacob Foster. He bought 100 acres of land near here from Uriah Wheeler his neighbor [...]

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!

Peletiah Day

E-5-7 The Peletiah Day Place This is the oldest standing house in Nelson. The original settler on this place was John Proute who is listed in Breed Batchellor’s list of settlers in 1773. He arrived in 1770 with his family of four and had cleared 16 acres by 1773. He probably originally built [...]

Pests

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.

Philip Atwood

B-3-8 Circa 1890 James Banks bought land here in late 1778 and is credited by Struthers with building the house. Perhaps he built a small part of the substantial house that strands there today though he did not own the property long. It is likely that Philip Atwood build most or [...]

Phillip Billhash

D-2-8 (alt Bailhash, Bilash) This modest cellar hole on the east side of the Nelson Road near Child’s Bog in Harrisville is one of Nelson’s oldest. Philip Billhash came as early as 1772 and had a pole house and fifteen acres cleared by 1774. That year the town laid out and built a road [...]

Ralph Page’s Northern Junket

From 1949 to 1984, Ralph single-handedly published 165 mimeographed issues of his Northern Junket magazine, which contained editorials, recipes, stories, dance notes, and sheet music for squares, contras, and international folk dances, and sheet music for many folk songs. Though he lived in Nelson, his popularity had him traveling all around the country and beyond.

Recollections from Henry and Judith Putzel

From Summer to Settler: This interview with Henry and Judith Putzel is one of a series of interviews conducted by Tom Murray. He is especially interested in talking with people who became “year-round people” after having spent time in Nelson as “summer people. "

Reuben Wellman

E-4-6 In 1774 Reuben Wellman built a home on 3 acres of land in the town's northeast quarter that had been previously been cleared by Michael Woodcock. Mr. Woodcock had arrived from Stoughtonham, Massachusetts in about 1772 and then removed to Chesterfield two years later. It was not long before Reuben and his [...]

Richard Farwell

C-2-1 Brothers Richard, Absalom and John Farwell arrived in Packersfield from Marblehead, Massachusetts early. All were signers of the Association Test in April 1776. Richard saw service early in the Revolutionary War serving with his brother, Absalom at Bennington and Saratoga. Richard, the youngest of the three, bought 120 acres of land here [...]

Rick Church’s Tidbits

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.

Robert Sheldon

B-4-1 Robert Sheldon Robert Sheldon settled here and built a large house and barns in 1795. Starting with 100 acres, he built a farm of several hundred acres. He and his wife, Polly Spoffird, raised eight children. He sold the farm in 1843 to Danforth Taylor JR. Danforth and Martha raised at least [...]

Roxbury is Born

Roxbury was born in an Act of The New Hampshire General Court in 1812 and was formed from pieces of Packersfield [now Nelson], Marlborough and Keene. The creation of Roxbury was a co-operative effort led from within Packersfield by respected citizens.

Roxbury Meeting House

A-2-3 Roxbury Meeting House A large number of Packersfield’s early settlers came from Rutland, Massachusetts in the mid to late 1700s and settled in the southwest part of Packersfield near the Batchellor farm, Ruth Batchellor herself had been a native of Rutland. As such the settlers formed a natural community within that corner [...]

Sally Baker

C-4-14 Sally Baker Nothing remains of this home The 1858 county map shows a home here occupied by S. Baker. Sally Baker’s husband, Zolvy, died on October 17th 1834 at the age of 37. Zolvy married Sally (Holmes) in 1828 and died a few years later leaving her with 2 infant children, Sally, [...]

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.

Samuel Adams

E-4-1 Samuel Adams built the first house here, moving here with his wife, Sarah Felt, and their oldest child, Sarah. As so many early settlers did, he came from Massachusetts after extensive service in the war. From his pension application we know he was” 5’ 5” tall and 28 years old” when he [...]

Samuel Felt

F-2-5 Samuel Felt Samuel came to Packersfield in 1777, and built the house at this location.  In his later years he must have gotten into some financial difficulties as the place “all of said Felt’s home farm” and some property Felt owned in Keene was foreclosed on in 1821 by Bethuel Harris. Felt seems [...]

Samuel Foster

F-2-2. Born in Boxborough, Massachusetts in 1765; he married Phoebe Teachout in early 1790. The couple moved to Packersfield from Williamstown, Massachusetts in the summer of 1790. Samuel grew his family (five children born in Packersfield) and his farm (almost 300 acres in the southeastern corner of the town by 1799. He sold in 1806 and moved briefly to Canada before settling in Chazy, New York where he died in 1831.

Samuel Heaton

A-2-18 Samuel Heaton There are two cellar holes here. The one near the road is small (20x25’) and 150’ up the hill is a much grander one (36x45’.) This was first settled by Samuel Heaton prior to 1794 for in that year he sold it to Dr. Cooke Lott and moved to Keene. [...]

Samuel Parker

C-4-7 There is no trace of this cellar hole today, It was graded over when the current home was built on the property in the 1990’s. Samuel Hartshorn bought land here from Josiah Parker in 1819 and built a house. He sold the place back to Parker in 1822. Josiah’s son, Samuel, bought [...]

Samuel Skinner

E-4-9 Samuel was one of the early physicians. He came to Packersfield in 1788 at the age of thirty-six bringing his wife and as many as seven of their children. He bought land and built a modest house on the south side of Osgood Hill. In 1791 he bought and moved to the [...]

Samuel Wadsworth Place

A-2-7 Samuel Wadsworth Place The land here was originally settled by Luther Heaton who bought it from his father in 1784. He built a house near here (A-2-6) where he lived with his wife, Joanna, until they sold the farm to his nephew, Samuel Wadsworth, and his wife Hulda (Heaton) Wadsworth. Samuel was [...]

Samuel Warren

D-2-11 Timothy Bancroft of Barnstable, Massachusetts bought the Right of Benjamin French (400 acres) in the southeast quarter of Monadnock #6 early. He sold 100 acres here in 1770 to his son, James. James acquired the balance of the French Right after his father’s death in 1780. James bult a board house here [...]

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.

School #4

C-5-8 Asa Stone sold 6 square rods to School District #4 in 1830.   “To be held by the school as long as it is maintained as a school.” A Brick school was built here and served the mill village of Munsonville until the Munsonville School as built in 1891. In 1878 the school [...]

School #5

B-3-15Packersfield established nine school districts in 1791 and raised 270 pounds with which to build them. The early schoolhouses were frame buildings completed sometime around 1795. They were replaced with brick ones in about 1820. This is the only original brick schoolhouse that still from that period. It was sold by the town in [...]

School #7

D-2-12 School #7 This was one of nine schools built by Nelson in 1789-1790. It served the families in the southeast quarter of the town and was located “on the road between Captain James Bancroft’s house and Dublin”. This one-room schoolhouse, originally built from wood, had perhaps as many as 40 students [...]

Scripture Place

D-2-13 Eleazur Twitchell was one of the earliest settlers on Monadnock #6. He bought his first land here in 1769 and built the home here in 1772.The family was originally from Sherborn, Massachusetts. Though he built a log house here early, owned hundreds of acres (Including all of Harrisville Pond) and had 25 [...]

Second Meetinghouse

A possible resemblance to a service in the Nelson Meetinghouse. The Second Meetinghouse was built in 1786 when the town, then called Packersfield, replaced its original Meetinghouse with a magnificent one modeled on one in Wilton. The town of Hancock, in turn, modeled their new meetinghouse on Packersfield’s. It was forty-five by sixty [...]

Shadrach Hill

D-3-9 Born in Southborough, Massachusetts in 1744, Shadrach Hill settled in Packersfield in 1776 buying 200 acres of land from John Estabrook. He moved from Framingham, Massachusetts where he served in the army fighting at Bunker Hill. He built the house here and moved his wife Ruth (Graves) and three young children. They [...]

Shoe shop

C-4-10 The site of a shoe shop built as part of Stephen Harrington’s tannery works. Established prior to 1822 and continued as late as 1857.

Simon Goodell

C-3-7 Born in Westminster, Vermont, in 1785, Simon Goodell attended two courses of lectures in medicine at the Dartmouth College. In 1812 he was recruited to practice in Packersfield by some influential members of the community. One of those members, Josiah Melville, sold Dr. Goodell the property here in 1815 and he built [...]

Sledding on Tolman Hill

This was in the mid-sixties. It was a rather warmish, foggy night in January. I had come back to New Hampshire to go to the contra dance - in Dublin, as it happened. I ran into Barry (Tolman)..........

Small Foundation Found at A-2-11

A-2-11 Unknown There is a small foundation with associated paddocks at this location. An extensive and well cultivated collection of fields surround the home site and a well-constructed road connects it to the main road. Samuel Wadsworth was told of this location, but never found it. He attributes it to Joshua Lawrence in about [...]

Social Contracts of the Early Settlers

The issue of social security is prevalent in our lives today. But this has always been a concern. In exploring our town’s archives, Rich Church has come across information about how people met the needs of being cared for in their later years.

Solomon Buckminster

A-2-4 Solomon Buckminster Place The house was probably built in 1783 by Benjamin Nurs JR. He sold it to Samuel Frink who owned it less than a year before selling it to Solomon Buckminster with “the dwelling house theron standing”. He was instrumental in the formation of the town of Roxbury and was [...]

Solomon Ingalls

F-5-2 Deacon Ingalls A short biography of Solomon can be found on page 93 of the pamphlet "Celebration by the town of Nelson" written and published for the town's 150th anniversary. Solomon and Mercy (Mary) Ingalls moved here from Andover, Massachusetts in 1783. Solomon had served several years with George Washington around New [...]

Solomon Kitteridge

F-5-4 Solomon Kitteridge Solomon Kitteridge moved to Packersfield from Amherst, New Hampshire after service in the Revolutionary War. According to his pension records he served at Bunker Hill in 1775 and at “The Cedars” southwest of Montreal where he has taken prisoner. He was exchanged and reenlisted, fighting at the Battle of Bennington [...]

Some Songs from The Hotel Nelson

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.

Sophia Griffin’s Sampler

The cross-stitched sampler that Sophia Griffin created as an eleven-year-old girl in Packersfield in 1801 has come home to Nelson.  This is a story of an old Nelson family; interest in family heritage and local history, the marvel of communication that the Internet can be and the generosity of Nancy and Ray Foster. [...]

Spring Cleaning (or An Empty Barn Full)

While driving around town looking at old barns, and imagining those long lost to decay, we wonder the plight of our old New Hampshire barns. Here's the scoop on our own barn!

Stephen Osborn

F-5-10 Stephen Osborn There are foundations for two houses on this site within a few hundred feet of each other. They are what remains of homes built by Stephen Osborn beginning in 1799. Stephen Osborn was born in 1771 and married Rachael Baker of Marlborough in 1792. In approximately 1799 they moved to [...]

Stephen Osborn’s Sawmill

F-5-12 Stephen Osborn’s Sawmill Signage Along the Trail - credit: Kathy Stickley Mullen - 2020 Probably constructed in 1815, the mill sits beside a 25’ water fall in Bailey Brook. Charles Bemis’ unpublished notes on the history of Nelson “manufactures” written in 1913 states that the mill produced tool handles including [...]

Stephen Parker

E-4-15 Stephen and Mary Parker moved to Packersfield from New Ipswich, New Hampshire in 1778 when Stephen was forty.  At one time owned extensive property on Osgood Hill. Stephen saw substantial service in the Revolutionary War. He seems to have had some financial difficulties, selling his land back to the mortgage holders eight [...]

Stories from the Old-Timers

In October, 2004, Lisa Sieverts sat down with old-timers Frank Upton, Renn Tolman, Barney Quigley, and Dudley Laufman, to collect some stories about contra (square) dancing and Nelson. These short videos were edited from the 90 minute interview.

Sullivan is Born: The “Theft” of 3,200 Acres

Imagine driving back to Nelson from Keene along Route 9 and coming to a store called the West Nelson Country Store. Today that’s the Sullivan Country Store. But for two fraudulent signatures on a petition in 1786, East Sullivan might be in Nelson today.

Suzanne (Vincent) Murray, an Interview

From Summer to Settler: This interview with Suzanne Murray, as enhanced by Tom Murray, is one of a series of interviews conducted by Tom Murray, her son. He is especially interested in talking with people who became “year-round people” after having spent time in Nelson as “summer people.”

Taylor Mill

B-4-7 Taylor Mill Taylor Mill This site is popularly called “Taylor Mill” because Frederick Taylor was its last operator from 1841 until well past the Civil War. When Monadnock #6 was settled, there were a number of small mills built (1773) on small but reliable brooks to furnish early settlers with [...]

The Abenaki

As early as 20,000 years ago, small groups of hunter-gatherers began to enter the pristine environment of this continent.They followed the wild game on which they depended across the ancient exposed bridge of land into the new world. They eventually expanded from the Arctic to the very tip of South America and moved eastward toward the shores of the Atlantic. Over the last hundred years, archaeological excavations have revealed some of their wandering, their hunting sites, their more extended camp sites and later their villages. All of this growth and social development occurred before the arrival of another group of people on the opposite shore that followed their need to find new territory to increase their food supply.

The Bailey Place

E-3-7 The Bailey Place This small house was built in 1933 on the foundation of Ebenezer Tolman’s second house in Packersfield. Ebenezer was a housewright and built three houses in the area between Tolman Pond and Nubanusit Pond when he first arrived. He built here in 1800 and lived here for five years. [...]

The Bancroft Mill

E-2-5 As early as 1830 Joel Bancroft built a sawmill at the outlet of the Great Meadow.  The elaborate foundation including a dry-stone arch and mill raceways can still be seen today.  In the late 1850’s the mill had been sold to the Sheldon and Tolman Clothes and Rolling Pin Factory. The proprietors [...]

The Banks Place

A-2-20 The Banks Place Rutland, Massachusetts provided many of the early settlers of this part of Packersfield. James Banks of Rutland built the place with its neighboring barn  in about 1780. His son, William, succeeded in 1807. Deacon Reuben Phillips and his wife Rebecca bought the place in 1836. They raised 14 children [...]

The Bassett Place

A-2-9 The Bassett Place There are two cellar holes here. The one near the road is small (20x25’) and 150’ up the hill is a much grander one (36x45’.) This was first settled by Samuel Heaton prior to 1794 for in that year he sold it to Dr. Cooke Lott and moved to [...]

The Blood Farm

E-2-1 Jesse and Lydia (Parker) Wright moved to Packersfield from Woburn, Massachusetts in 1780. Their initial lot was 104 acres, the common size for an uncleared lot. That year they built a house at E-2-1. There were here 13 years before they acquired additional property to the south and built a much larger [...]

The Burnap Farm

D-4-2 Noah Hardy built the cape cod style house on 100 acres of land here in 1785.  He came from Hollis, New Hampshire. His last enlistment (1780) was from Packersfield. It is not clear where he might have resided prior to 1785. He sold a small piece on the brook to Thomas K. [...]

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.

The Chandler Place

E-4-2 The Chandler Place Peter Chandler was born in Andover, Massachusetts in 1755 and moved to Packersfield with his wife, May, from Wilton after service in the Revolution. His pension application states that he enlisted in 1775 and served until May of 1780. He “received a wound through the body by a musket [...]

The Chapel-by-the-Lake

In the early development of manufacturing, areas that afforded the potential for water power were prime locations for community growth. In 1814, the Cotton Factory was built in a remote section of Nelson to take advantage of the water power from the outflow of the dammed Factory Lake, now known as Granite Lake.  [...]

The Chieftains and the Nelson Village Dancers

The amazing story about how their experience in the Nelson Town Hall inspired this legendary band from Ireland to bring the Nelson Village Dancers to dance on stage with them for four performances, including Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

The Confabulous Floppy Tolman and Her Confabulations

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.

The Cotton Factory in Munsonville

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 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.

The Eames Place

A-2-10 The Eames Place John Estabrook of Rutland, Massachusetts bought the land here from Breed Batchellor in late 1774. He probably built the house the following year. He signed the Association Test in 1776. He sold the place to Daniel Estabrook, probably a son, in 1784. He sold it to Robert Eames from [...]

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...

The High Drive Concert

The stage of the Nelson Town Hall has seen many prominent musicians over the years. March 24, 2019 brought the band High Drive, featuring Bonnie Bewick and Larry Wolfe, both members of the Boston Symphony, joined by our own Gordon Peery for a concert of (mostly) fiddle tunes. Bonnie and Larry and, three nights before, played at Carnegie Hall, but they found the energy and intimacy of the Nelson audience to be more satisfying.

The Hunting Farm

D-4-1 The Hunting Farm Charles Rice came to Packersfield from Sudbury, Massachusetts after service in the Revolutionary War and built a house on the 38-acre property. He sold the property in 1786 to his neighbor to the west, William Barker (C-4-1) and, likely, continued to live there until 1791. That year he moved [...]

The Jonas Davis Farm

D-4-4 Jonas Davis: Jonas Davis bought 100 acres of land here in 1778. He served in the Revolution from Rutland, Massachusetts responding to the Lexington Alarm and serving several enlistments as late as the end of 1777. In 1783 bought an additional 50 acres, married Hannah Woods and built this house. Their first [...]

The Kimball Place

C-3-16 David Kimball came from Boxford, Massachusetts.  He bought 100 acres in the original right of Alexander Parke JR.  in 1784.  The property was 100 acres and would eventually hold three houses. David Kimball saw much service in the Revolutionary first answering the call at Lexington in 1775, then only fifteen. He went [...]

The Kittredge Farm

C-4-3 Joshua Kittredge (also Kitteridge) married Solomon and Tabitha Kittredge's daughter Lydia on November 29, 1787 in Amherst, New Hampshire. They had three daughters, then she died. He remarried Beulah Baker on June 10, 1796. The following year he built a much larger house here using lumber he milled himself. [...]

The Management of Early Schools

While school districts were largely self-governing, they were subject to town oversight and a growing body of state regulation on the qualifications of teachers. There were two bodies established during this period to oversee the operation of Nelson’s schools: The Prudential Committee and the Superintending Committee.  These committees seem not to have existed [...]

The Nelson Congregational Church

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.”

The Nelson Town Hall Front Door

In 2013, the Town of Nelson received a grant from the State of New Hampshire’s Division of Historical Resources Moose Plate Program “to repair the historic windows and front door of the Nelson Town Hall.” The door was taken apart and each piece was studied, dissected, stripped, repaired, primed and painted. Here are excerpts from an example of the scrutiny that each piece received.

The Newell Mine

In 1851 brothers Silas, Edward, and Payson French leased mining rights on the Newell property from Oliver and Gad Newell. But the veins were narrow and short, and the deposit was probably worked out by 1855.

The Osgood Farm

B-5-2 The Osgood Farm Levi Warren purchased 100 acres here from Thomas Packer (III) in 1790 and probably built a house. Struthers writes that Warren lived here; he is listed in the 1790 census as a Packersfield resident. The Rev. Seward, in his Sullivan History, credits the house to Nathaniel Osgood. The current [...]

The Osgood Mine

D-4-9 The Osgood graphite veins were discovered in 1848 and property owner Horatio Osgood leased them to Moses Carelton of Lancaster, Massachusetts. Two years later, Calelton sublet them to J. and J. Seabury, a New York mining company; Jacob Seabury also bought the Town Farm Mine in 1858. The Osgood, or J. Seabury [...]

The Osgood Place

C-4-13 This two-story brick house was built by Abel Richardson about 1815. We know little about this energetic early citizen. He operated the mill at D-4-7 then lived and may have operated a tavern at D-3-11 before building this brick home on a hill in 1815. He seems not to be related to [...]

The Parmenter Mill

E-2-6 In 1856 Joel Bancroft sold 85 acres here to Appleton Parmenter. The site included a good mill site just downstream from the Bancroft sawmill.  Parmenter built a saw and grist mill here. In 1864 he sold the mill to his brother, Isaac, from Brooklyn, New York.  Sometime later the mill was sold [...]

The Poland Place

D-3-8 Known today as the Poland Place it was originally part of David Beard’s farm and, for a time owned by his son, Asa.  The modest house here was probably built by Asa around 1815. He soon got involved building the mill at the outlet of Granite Lake and building a larger house [...]

The Priest Farm

E-4-5 This cellar hole, the remains of a house built by Jeremiah Barrett in about 1775 is on the side of Green Gate Road, a private road today. Jeremiah Barrett, from Ashburnham, Massachusetts, bought the land here late in 1774 and probably built the house in 1775. He was here before moving to [...]

The Razey House

D-2-7 The Razey House:  This is a small cellar hole just a few hundred feet from Childs Bog. It is identified as the “Razey House”  on the 1858 County Map, but not in the 1877 map.

The Reverend Gad Newell

D-3-4 Born on Southington, Connecticut in 1763, Gad Newell was the second minister called by Packersfield and the longest serving, He trained for the ministry at Yale and was serving a congregation in Berwick, Maine when he got the call to Packersfield in 1794. Upon arrival he lived at D-3-11 while he built [...]

The Sawmills of Mosquitobush, 1850-1940

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.

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 Seaver Place

C-1-4 Nathaniel Breed JR. Acquired the property and its grist mill (C-1-3) in 1782. He was the oldest child of Nathaniel and Anne Knowles Breed and came to Monadnock #6 with his parents in 1767 at the age of fourteen. The Breeds lived at D-4-7 until 1782 when Daniel SR moved to New [...]

The Stoddard Farm

C-3-2 The place was first settled in about 1774 by Thomas Upham, an earlier settler of Packersfield who had pioneered at D-5-6. He probably built the house before moving to Wilton in 1777.  The Stoddard Family in the form of Richard and Rachael from Templeton, Massachusetts bought it from him. . Richard features [...]

The Story Farm

E-4-4 The place known today as the Story Farm is a substantial cellar hole on the north side of Greengate Road and a barn foundation across the road. The place was settled prior to 1774 by Abraham Griffith who bought 100 acres here and had cleared 12 acres and built a log cabin [...]

The Story of Nehemiah Flint

Nelson’s population had peaked by the time Nehemiah Flint bought his farm in 1827. The sheep craze had resulted in 85 -90% of the land being cleared. It was the height of the family farm producing surpluses sold into other states. But farmers were beginning to move west for more fertile, stone-free soils.

The Taft Place

C-4-18 The Taft House today Nathan Taft was born in Westminster, Massachusetts in 1771. He married Betsy Bolton of Gardner. He bought the land here in 1799 from Thomas Packer III and built the cape that exists today. They had six children including their oldest, Nathan Taft JR (born Nelson 1805). [...]

The Tolman Farmhouse

The original settler of the land on the north end of Tolman Pond [then Little Pond, later, Byrant Pond] was Jabez Grover who built the house at E-3-13 just up the hill. We lack deeds to definitively determine who built this house and when it was built, but a brick in the central chimney has “1791” inscribed into it and there’s no reason to doubt that date.

The Tolman Mill

Especially in Nelson, because of the available lumber and water supply, the early farmer found that he could keep up with rising living costs by supplementing his income through a small mill or shop and by manufacturing within the home.

The Town Farm Mine

C-3-17 This graphite deposit was discovered in 1853 on what was then the 156-acre Nelson Town Farm, and the selectmen were quickly authorized to sell the mining rights. The S. C. Griffin Company had a lease on the graphite veins as early as 1855; Parke Struthers (1968) reported that the Griffin company showed [...]

The Wilson Mill:

D-4-22 Situated at the outlet of White Pond today is a very large stone dam, a ruined concrete gate and spillway and numerous sone piers that held the structures of the milks here from 1796 to the end of the 19th century. It is referred to as the Wilson Mill after Asa Wilson [...]

Third Meeting House

D-4-18 Reuel Nims gave land here to the Town of Nelson if it would, at its own expense, erect a 34x48’ meeting house, Nims to get full use of the basement as a store house. The Congregational Church had given up its use of the Second Meeting House on the hill above the [...]

Thomas Butterfield

E-1-1 Thomas Butterfield A modest cellar hole today, this place was the early home of Thomas Butterfield. We know little about his origins. He came prior to 1780 as that year, and for several thereafter, he held Packersfield town offices including selectman in 1780. In 1787 he married Hulda (Heaton) Wadsworth, the widow [...]

Thomas Holt

E-5-6 A tanner by trade and part of the Holt family from Andover, Massachusetts, Thomas Holt bought the southern half of his father, Daniel’s, lot in 1788 and built a house with his wife, Polly. They sold the place to Nathan Town of Andover in 1804 and moved to New York State. The [...]

Thomas Knowles Breed

D-3-11 A well marks the site of this home, store and tavern today. Thomas was the 3rd son of Nathaniel and Ann Breed born in Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1761. He came to Monadnock #6 with his parents in 1768. He was an entrepreneur. He bought Nelson’ s first meeting house in 1788 and [...]

Thomas Knowles Breed, Fuller: 

D-4-3: Thomas was the 3rd son of Nathaniel and Ann Breed born in Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1761. He came to Monadnock #6 with his parents in 1768. After leaving home, he established himself at D-3-11 where he may have operated a small tavern and inn. He lived here while he operated the fulling [...]

Thomas Russell

C-5-1 Thomas Russell Thomas and Daniel Russell bought 40 acres here on Felt Hill in 1798 and built a small house. Russell sold the place in 1809 to Dr. Francis Appleton of Dublin. It is not certain that Appleton lived in the house.  In 1831 the place was annexed to the Jerry Felt [...]

Thomas Upham

D-5-6 Little remains of this home site. It was graded in when a large field was cleared recently. Thomas Upham was one of the earliest settlers on Monadnock Number Six arriving in 1769. By the settlement survey of 1773, he had 18 acres cleared, a pole hose built and his family living there. [...]

Thomas Wood Gurler 

C-1-2 Thomas Wood Gurler Thomas was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1775 and came to Packersfield with his parents, Nicholas and Betsy (Scripture) Gurler immediately after the Revolutionary War.  Nicholas, Thomas' father, died in Packersfield in 1785 and the young Thomas went to live with Samuel Griffin’s family at (D-3-6) where he later would [...]

Tilly Moors Davis

B-3-1 Tilly Moors Davis Purchased three acres of land here from his father, Alpheus Davis (B-3-2) in 1819.  He was a fiddler who played for dances.  Tragedy struck when his son, Jarvis, drowned in Woodward Pond in 1826. He moved to Langdon. The house was abandoned by 1835.

Timothy Bancroft

E-2-3 By Magicpiano - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, on Wikipedia This house is in what is now Harrisville, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Timothy Bancroft is believed to have built the ell of this house in about 1785; the larger main block was probably added in [...]

Timothy Pierce

C-5-2 Timothy Pierce Timothy Pierce: He came from Wilton, New Hampshire and bought 35 acres here in 1788.  Built a modest house on the west side of the road to Stoddard just south of the Stoddard line. Sold the place to his neighbor, Martin Lawrence in 1794. Martin probably lived here until i797 [...]

Town Meeting

This block print of Fran’s – as a work of “art” – is both typical, and terrible. Look at all those legs, table and human. Which is which? Are there enough to go around? I haven’t counted yet.

Town Pound

D-4-20 Town Pound There have been two town pounds on this location. Nelson’s first pound was built at the same time as the meetinghouse (1773) and almost directly across the road from it. This suggests they were of similar importance in the early function of the community.  It was a twenty-foot-square stonewall six [...]

Town Pound

D-3-2 Town Pound The third pound established in Nelson. It was a replacement for the earlier one at D-4-20 built by vote of the town in 1795: “build a pound of stone 35’ square the committee to recommend the height of the walls. Voted to set the pound in Capt. Ezra Smith’s pasture [...]

Town Pounds Overview

New England’s ancient Town Pounds are seen near the center of most towns even today. Substantial, square and made of large stones, town pounds are New England’s most  enduring and emblematic features of our agrarian past. Most towns have one that survives; Nelson has two!  They were built to hold the largest and most agile of domestic animals in temporary custody, protecting crops and precious cows, pigs, horses, sheep, oxen, etc until their owners could recover them.

Traditions on Ice

This year, the pond in my front yard froze over on November 15, a full three weeks before the deeper, clearer, windier lakes in the area. Our pond is a small, shallow puddle ringed by a protective army of white pines.

What’s Up with these Old Photographs?

Postcards of these photos are available at the Harrisville General Store (Harrisville, NH) and at various town events.    A load of basket-seat porch rockers, the L.J. Colony Chair Factory in Munsonville (NH), c. 1880.   Early view of Nelson (NH) village including school (center), an elevated Town Hall and church. Look at [...]

Whitcomb’s Blacksmith shop

D-4-10 Whitcomb’s Blacksmith Shop Levi Whitcomb bought the land just up the brook from the road in 1786 from Jonas Davis (D-4-4). He moved to Nelson following his marriage in Templeton, Massachusetts on the 4th of December 1786 to Hannah Baker and opened a smithy on the land. Parke Struthers writes that Whitcomb [...]

William Barker

C-4-16 This small cellar hole was, likely, the first house built by William Barker in 1779.

William Barker 2

C-4-11 William Barker moved to Nelson in 1779 and, probably first built and occupied C-4-2. There is no deed evidence of his purchase of lot #3, range 12 in the Northeast Quarter, but road records and a subsequent transfer of a half interest to his son, Leonard, are proof that he built the [...]

William Beal

B-3-11 William Beal William Beal seems to have come to Packersfield before 1772. He took over the operations at the grist mill located at the outlet of Pleasant Pond (now Silver Lake, C-1-3) succeeding Daniel Wood. In 1785 he left the mill business behind and moved to this location (B-3-11) to begin his life [...]

William Dewey

C-5-9 William Dewey The area just east of Granite Lake had a number of small farms established around 1800. William Dewey bought this land in 1805 and built a house. He wasn’t here long selling the place to Jesse Bennett of Ashby, Massachusetts in 1810. He was there two years before moving back [...]

William Orville Upton

D-4-27 Upton bought the former Jonas Davis farm and replaced the original Davis farmhouse which was slightly further up the hill. Moved in in 1882. He was married to Sarah Yardley. He was a wheelwright and Nelson Road Agent; Sarah seems to have been a mill worker. Their children included Horace and Frank [...]

William Parker

B-2-4 William Parker Came to Packersfield in 1789 with his wife, Mary, at age 24 after service in the Revolution. Died on the place in 1842 and was succeeded by his son, William, JR. He sold it to Reuben Phillips (B-3-7) in 1847 who sold it to his son, Joseph, the following year. [...]

William Priest

C-5-6 There is a modest cellar hole and barn foundations at his site. Joseph Felt bought this lot in 1779 and probably built the house. William Priest came to Packersfield the same year after service in the Revolutionary War. He enlisted from Temple, New Hampshire, but appears to have come originally from Walpole. [...]

William S. Buckminster

A-3-1 William S. Buckminster William “Stoddard” Buckminster bought land here from his father Solomon and built a frame house here about 1810. The brick house that stands there today was an addition likely added in the 1820’s. Born in Rutland, Massachusetts in 1778, he married Hannah, daughter of Bartholomew Grimes in 1806. They [...]

Wilson Barn

E-4-14 A barn on the Archaelous Wilson farm.

Woodward Pond Mill

B-2-1 Woodward Pond Mill We know of the existence of a mill here prior to 1788 because of a road laid out by the Town of Packersfield in November of that year as follows: “Voted to accept of a road laid out December 3, 1788 beginning at a hemlock stump marked on the [...]

Working from Home

by Alan Rumrill, reprinted with permission, from a recent Newsletter from the Historical Society of Cheshire County A load of chairs from the Colony Chair factory in Munsonville. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in substantial numbers of people working from home as a way to accomplish social distancing. This process has the [...]

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