Great Meadow Paddle and more…..

 by Dave Birchenough

Saturday August 22nd, a brave cadre of eleven paddle-hikers went deep into Nelson’s Great Meadow wilderness to conquer Nubanusit Creek, tested their skills against beaver construction projects and learned all about flora and fauna from Al Stoops, our intrepid resident wildlife biologist. 

Weather was a challenge. Kidding! It was a perfect day – 75º, sunny with just enough clouds for shade when we needed it and plenty of extra water to slide right over those beaver dams. A few adventurers even triumphed by going over the final six-foot high dam. Don’t miss next year’s paddle-hike. These photos are from another Great Meadow paddle – everyone on Saturday was smart to not bring a camera.

Last week Maury Collins and I rebuilt the main Murdough Hill Meander bridge by eliminating the upstream hand rail to provide more walking space. For safety, we decided to reconstruct the upstream bottom foot rail and moved all the decking to create more tread width. It feels nice and roomy now. The millstone remnants are more impressive every time I see them. Next we plan to improve access to the trail by building a small gravel parking lot at the trailhead on Granite Lake Road.

A workday is planned September 12th at 1PM on a new trail near the Village on land conserved by the Conservation Commission some years ago. The trail will explore the old stone dam built to support Asa Wilson’s sawmill in the nineteenth century and the beautiful brook that runs through the property. Anyone interested in helping with the project is welcome to join us. We’ll be breaking in our new tools acquired with the help of the Nelson Conservation Commission and a grant from the Quabbin to Cardigan Partnership. You’ll find the work party just off Log Cabin Road behind Bert Wingerson’s house.

One of Nelson’s Old Mills: the Stephen Osborn Place written by Rick Church

Taylor Saw Mill in Derry NH. This is an example of an early nineteenth century saw mill similar to the Osborn Mill.

Osborn Mill:

In the woods off Old Stoddard Road lies the site of the home farm of Stephen Osborn. All that remains today is an extensive array of building foundations that once housed Osborn and his extended family. The old road leading there from Old Stoddard Road bisects the building sites with some surface foundations on the right (probably a barn and a house) and the main house and a large barn attached to the house by an ell on the left. Each site has its own well. Stephen Osborn, like so many citizens in Packersfield in those days could be characterized as a farmer, everyone did that to some extent, or as a craftsman, many made or grew things to trade with their neighbors, but also as a manufacturer of finished wooden products. His enterprise made him a relatively prosperous man.


Bob Spoerl,  operator of Taylor Mill

Further down the same old road, and on Bailey Brook, is the site of his sawmill. Built at the top of a waterfall some twenty-five feet high, there is a partially destroyed dam across the brook at the top of the falls. A depression in the top of the dam marks the location of a wooden sluice that once carried water to the top of an approximately 15’ diameter overshot waterwheel. The wheel was mounted on a shaft that was carried between the two large stone piers. That was connected to an elaborate system of shafts and gears to operate reciprocating saws located in a building to the left of the piers as you look down from the dam.

When the dam gate was closed, a small millpond was created and the water level raised so water could be diverted down the sluice to power the mill. There was not enough capacity behind that dam to store water for dry seasons. Without a substantial reservoir of water, the mill would have been too seasonal to be economically successful. Water to run the mill more reliably was stored behind a stone dam some 400 yards upstream. Water released from this dam was channeled by a stonewall along the stream bank assuring that water for sawing arrived in a timely manner and with some force. Osborn established the mill early in the 19th century.

Stephen Osborn was born in 1771 and married Rachael Baker of Marlborough, Massachusetts in 1792. They seem to have moved to Packersfield with a family of four children in 1799 or1800. The earliest record of them in Packersfield is a tax roll entry in 1800. They were taxed for one cow. A few years later they were taxed for one half acre of tillage in addition to a few farm animals. Osborn was a modest farmer to say the least. He was not a landowner until 1815 when he bought the farm of 104 acres from Zachariah King of Danvers, Massachusetts. It is likely that he leased the farm at first and built a house on the property. Perhaps this first farm consisted of the buildings on the right of the road; the well and foundations on that side are much less substantial. The town established a road to the Osborn house in 1815 and the mill was probably built at that time.

Osborn home foundation

Osborn home foundation

Stephen and Rachael had seven children including Cyrus, his oldest son, and Mary, their first child born in Packersfield. Mary married Nathaniel F. Davis of Stoddard. Nathaniel’s farm straddled the Stoddard line north of the Osborn place. Both Cyrus and Nathaniel Davis seem to have lived at the family place and been part of the business. In 1827 Stephen decided on Cyrus as his successor selling him the place in return for a mortgage and a maintenance agreement for himself and his wife. Cyrus’ plans seem to have changed in 1838. Cyrus and his father terminated their agreement and Cyrus’ interest was sold to his brother-in-law, Nathaniel.

We know the site was a sawmill from the inventory of the place on the death of Stephen Osborn. When Stephen wrote his will in the spring of 1844, several months before his death, he described himself as being “feeble of body but sound of mind and perfect memory”. He named Nathaniel Davis as his sole executor. Nathaniel and his wife inherited the home place and the mill, though the mill was not specifically mentioned. Stephen’s estate contained all the usual home furnishings and agricultural implements as well as many wood working tools including 3 saws, a lot of chisels, 3 hammers, a lot of shaves, a lot of augers, a lot of bits and bit stock, a square and compasses, a lot of planes, a broad axe and two hand axes. These tools suggest the production of planed lumber including boards and beams. The augers and bits suggest that the mill had been developed to turn wood into cylindrical shapes as well.

Falls Mill site

Falls Mill site

Charles Bemis’ unpublished notes on the history of Nelson “manufactures” written in 1913 states that the mill produced tool handles including those for scythes, snathes, hoes and rakes. This kind of small turning work was common at Nelson mills with relatively small water flows producing modest power. Such a mill supplied tool handles for a much wider market than the town itself.

Stephen’s will shows that he died a relatively prosperous man owning, among other things, several dress coats, six vests (including three velvet and one silk) a suit and twelve cotton shirts. There was enough linen to supply beds for a very large family even if only half were in use at a time.

Nathaniel Davis inherited the farm and the mill. It seems to have been a going concern until at least 1858 when the official map of Cheshire County shows a sawmill at that location. It seems the mill closed sometime during the Civil War. Closure may have been occasioned by poor management, but there were numerous environmental factors working against the mill’s success. The war changed markets dramatically requiring difficult or impossible adjustments for people like Nathaniel Davis. Sheep farming was experiencing a rebirth thanks to a demand for wool for uniforms. That benefited sheep farmers and wool processors, but not enterprises like Davis’. New Hampshire hill farms, in decline since the 1830’s were hit hard by the absence of large numbers of young men serving in the Union army. The kind of farming that had supported the Osborn mill was hard hit by this manpower loss. If the mill’s traditional markets were shrinking, Davis could have turned his hand to turning work required by the war. The bigger problem was probably a shortage of raw material. Extensive land clearing had stripped the land of trees and what little wood there was fed the voracious appetite of the steam boilers at the woolen mills in Harrisville which consumed thousands of cords per year.

Osborne Cellar Hole

Osborn Cellar Hole

Evidence of the closure can be seen in the absence of woodworking tools in the inventory of the Davis estate. By the time of Nathaniel’s death in 1866, there were only farming tools in his inventory indicating that the mill was no longer in operation. Gone were the planes, carpenter’s squares, etc. that are the stock of a woodworking business. In fact the place was sold to satisfy Nathaniel’s debts. His estate inventory listed exactly $10 in cash. Twenty-fours years after his father-in-law, Davis died a man of very modest means.

His widow, Mary, lived on the place for a few years by exercising her right to one third of the estate. According to the probate records, she was entitled to “that part of the dwelling house… which includes the parlor, parlor bedroom, kitchen and pantry with a privilege in the chamber, cellar and woodshed and small barn. Said dower to be subject to the right of tenant and occupancy of the other two thirds of the house and other buildings as they now stand.” Neighbor, James Stevens, purchased the farm from the estate.

In 1870 the place was purchased by Parker Hart. He was from Hancock, Massachusetts and likely used it as a seasonal home. His widow, Elizabeth, sold the place in 1901 to Louis Cabot, a wealthy Bostonian, who amassed thousands of acres in the northeast quarter of Nelson and probably did not use the buildings personally. Elizabeth may well have lived in the house as her deed of sale describes her as “of Nelson.” The daylilies that have naturalized throughout the foundation across the road from the main house are her legacy to our generation. The sale out of the Cabot estate in 1917 was the last deed to mention buildings. The town discontinued to road to the place in 1922.

Osborn Well

Osborn Well

The site may be visited via the Bailey Brook Trail created by the Nelson Trail Group; the tail begins 2.9 miles out Old Stoddard Road.

Absolutely Magic

by on August 12, 2015 in For Kids, Home Page, Library

     Magic Show at 6:30pm in the Town Hall, sponsored by the Olivia Rodham Memorial Library


Funding for the Kids, Books, and the Arts event is provided by the Jack and Dorothy Bryne Foundation, CHILIS, Cogswell Benevolent Trust, and is supported in part by a grant from the NH State Council on The Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts as well as funds administered by the NH State Library and provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Please contact the library in advance for the need for a sign language interpreter.

Nelson Town Hall Front Door

written by
Karen Tolman

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 Moose Plate Grants are funded by the sale of “moose” conservation and heritage license plates.

Nelson’s Grant Writing Committee asked Linda Willett, Executive Director for Historic Harrisville, Inc. (HHI), for a cost estimate to repair the windows and door based on Preservation Guidelines recommended by architect Rick Monahon as part of a Preservation Alliance Grant awarded to the town to create plans to preserve both the Town Hall and the Old Brick Schoolhouse. The town received the maximum amount given for any Moose Plate project, $10,000, and Fred O’Connor, Project Manager for HHI, was hired to do the restoration because of his expertise in the field. Both Linda and Fred are very highly regarded in the building preservation community as is exemplified by their work on Harrisville Village’s National Historic Landmark buildings.

This summer HHI hired a very dedicated intern, Maia DiLorenzo, from Boston’s North Bennet Street School, who is a student in their preservation carpentry program. Fred had already preserved the windows in the Town Hall, but the door remained to be tackled. And tackled it was by Maia, under the tutelege of Fred. Maia has documented her work in exquisite detail with both photographs and a project report, which have now been filed as part of the municipal records in our Town Archives.

The Town of Nelson is very grateful to HHI and Linda Willett, Executive Director, for sparing Fred and Maia long enough to do this important work.

Above is a slideshow (photos by Maia) of the project.

  • Maia removing the door.
  •  Layers on paint were stripped from the front door: dark green, light blue, medium blue/gray, mint green, light yellow and white.
  •  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 bottom interior rail had extensive wood failure where it is believed an ant infestation created voids as deep as 1¼” and subsequent rot starting at the upper strike stile tenon and extended horizontally approximately 24” across the interior face. For these reasons, the rail was cut to eliminate the most extensive failure and a replacement piece of eastern white pine was added measuring approximately 35” long x 5” wide x 1 7/8” thick. Stock for this piece could not be sourced locally, so two pieces were glued together to achieve the necessary thickness.”
  •  Samples of repairs to individual pieces.
  •  Individual pieces laid out on the workbench.
  •  All of the pieces repaired, primed and ready to be reassembled.
  •  Our new front door.

Monadnock Music is Celebrating its 50th anniversary in Nelson

by on July 20, 2015 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

Gil Rose conducts Monadnock Sinfonietta

Monadnock Music is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special free concert at the Nelson Congregational Church on Saturday, July 25 at 7:30 pm. Featuring guest artists from Monadnock Music’s past 50 years, the concert will include music of Johannes Brahms, W. A. Mozart, Sergei Prokofiev and James Bolle, among others. This promises to be a delightful evening of music and memories. For more information: or Hunt and Allison Smith, 209-3304.

Artisan/Craft Fair in Nelson


Nelson Congregational Church Artisan/Craft Fair
July 18, 2015
9:00am – 3:00pm
On The Lawns Nelson Congregational Church

Lovely local crafts and artisan folk gather for the first annual fair.  Enjoy the beautiful village while shopping for local items.
More info:Joy Birdsey 603-847-9533

Scots Gaelic Singer – Jennifer Licko

by on July 7, 2015 in Concert, Home Page, Music, Promote
The Monadnock Folklore Society 
Scots Gaelic Singer 
Jennifer Licko
Wednesday, July 15 – 7:30 PM
Nelson Town Hall
Admission $12/$9(senior, student , or in advance)
Jennifer Licko, a Scots Gaelic singer living in Brazil, but originally from North Carolina, is an International touring artist featured on national radio in the US, and a respected musician within the Celtic genre while acquiring fans outside of that niche. Jennifer masterfully combines the Appalachian music of her North Carolina roots with the traditional Celtic music of her ancestors. “Jennifer Licko could very well be the heir-apparent to Canada’s Loreena McKennitt and Clannad’s Maire Brennan,” says Celtic Life Magazine.

The folk music of North Carolina has strong roots in Celtic traditions; Jennifer Licko will be singing various types of traditional Scots Gaelic song such as oran luadh (work songs) and puirt a beul (dance tunes), along with folk songs (from North Carolina via Scotland) sung in English including some of her original material which has been greatly influenced by Irish and Scottish songwriters such as Dougie MacLean and John Spillane.

Jennifer will accompany herself on guitar and bodhran and at times will ask the audience to participate in singing and rhythm parts in the spirit of the oral singing tradition.

Jennifer’s most recent album ‘A Thousand Curses Upon Love’ has been receiving critical acclaim from the Celtic/Folk and World music community and is receiving national radio airplay. Currently Jennifer is working on a new album with producer and guitarist Patsy Obrien (The Cathie Ryan band) and four time All Ireland fiddle champion, Dylan Foley (The Yanks). The long awaited album will be trad based with world influences. The Irish Edition writes, “At times, Jennifer Licko has a haunting vibrato in her voice, at times she attacks songs with a deep feeling, but she always attracts as she sings.”


Larry Ames 
Monadnock Folklore Society

Rainbow viewed from the Library

by on July 1, 2015 in Home Page


At the Nelson Library in July

by on July 1, 2015 in Home Page, Library, Promote

nelsonfiredept 09

July is a busy month at our Library.  There are programs for kids and adults.

2015 Summer Reading Programs for Kids

2015 Summer Forums 

Book Sale Donations Needed Now for August Sale

by on June 15, 2015 in Home Page, Library, Promote


Library booksale in the Town Hall

Please bring your donations of  books to the library.  The annual book sale, hosted by the Friends of the Library on Old Home Day, supports the library in many ways.  Your donations make that possible.  Clean gently used books are needed.  We cannot use textbooks or magazines. This year, the book sale will be in the meeting room below the library. Thank you.

“Sustainability and Simplicity: a Personal Journey.”

by on June 15, 2015 in Home Page, Promote


The Nelson Sustainability Group’s first speaker will be David Voymas, whose topic will be “Sustainability and Simplicity: a Personal Journey.” David and his wife, Barbara, began considering the implications of sustainability in the 1970s: their journey has brought them to Nelson, where they are working to build a simple and efficient lifestyle.
David’s presentation is scheduled for Thursday, June 18, at 7 pm, in the Nelson Town Hall. Refreshments will be served. We invite your participation.

2015 Preservation Merit Award

by on May 26, 2015 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

To see more click here:  Award           Special Announcement

 The Town of Nelson has received the 2015 Preservation Merit Award, from the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, for the work that we completed on our Town Hall last year.image

Memorial Day in Nelson 2015

by on May 26, 2015 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

May Pole Event in 2015

by on May 6, 2015 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

The Morris teams, Firebird (a team of men and women, newly established and practicing in Harrisville) and Jack in the Green Morris Men welcomed the spring on Sunday May 3rd in the Nelson Common.

A Maypole was erected by David & Heather Bower and music provided by Allison and Hunt Smith.
A Cake walk was part of the Maypole. The Men Who Cook  sold breads to benefit a local charity.
Nelson folks provided plants for a plant swap. Everything from house plants to garden veggies were available.


Nelson Conservation Committee Vernal Pools

Kathy Schillemat led an exploration of vernal pools on Saturday, May 2nd, sponsored by the Nelson Conservation Committee.20150502_10473820150502_11065720150502_102409

Results of the 8th Annual Nelson School PTO Auction

by on April 29, 2015 in Home Page, Nelson School, Promote

iPhone Image A91C5A

Nelson School 8th Annual Auction update!

What do YOU call Success?

Success can be described in many different ways, but here at the Nelson School we would call the 8th Annual Nelson School PTO auction a huge success! Why?

Because the looks of happiness on the children’s faces as they proudly held up their artwork, a donation that they or their friend had obtained, or something they donated from their family. Their huge eyes of wonderment as Ckris Wallenstein challenged the substantial crowd to dig deeper into their pockets for a few more dollars to make the goal of books for the school a reality. The excitement they showed as they bid on fun items with play money, hoping for that special treasure.

Success is alumni of the Nelson School volunteering valuable time to watch the wee ones of our current families and friends.

Success is the teamwork of educators, parents and friends coming together to achieve a common goal through laughter, life happens moments and family challenges.

Success is many, many community members and businesses donating items and services to ensure the fundraising event meets the school’s goal- BOOKS!

Did we meet that goal? Yes, we did! Together we reached a total raised by the auction, cash donations, food sales and a 50/50 raffle of $10,000.

A huge thank you of everyone in our Nelson School communities and the Monadnock Region and beyone! You did make a difference and from the bottom of our hearts, we all appreciate it!

Joy Birdsey Smith

NS PTO Treasurer

It’s Auction Time!

8th Annual Nelson School PTO Auction, Saturday May 2nd

Nelson Town Hall

Preview 10-4

Children’s Auction 4:30pm (free)

Live Auction 5:00pm

Auctioneer:  Chris Wallenstein

FREE child care available 4:15-until the end

 This year’s Nelson School Auction will prove to be the best ever!  Come check out the many, many items available!  (Helicopter ride for two to the NASCAR race in July, Loudon, NH and return trip, includes tickets to the race, $1,000 certificate to Wilson Orthodontics, gift certificates, massages, local artwork, food entertainment, surprise work of the Nelson School children, crafts, books, kayak and paddle, furniture, auto certificates and detailing, and fun things you need anyway!)

 Think future gift giving, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, family vacation, Christmas shopping early!

 The children’s this year is much needed BOOKS!

 Can’t come to the auction?  Silent bids are welcome!  Preview all day 10-4!

Can’t attend the preview?  Check out the website listed below and email either or by 4:00pm May 2nd to put in your silent bid!

 Thank you for your continued support!

Telescope at the Library

by on April 15, 2015 in Home Page, Library


The telescope is the equal property of Harrisville Public Library in Harrisville and the Olivia Rodham Memorial Library in Nelson. This telescope was purchased through a program with The New Hampshire Astronomical Society, and particularly it’s Educational Outreach Committee. The goal: To help foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy, and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance to experience the excitement that comes from discovery.

This is an Orion StarBlast 4.5-inch Astronomical Telescope, with a zoom eye piece and supportive material. There is an instruction manual, a laminated, spiral-bound 4 by 6 inch copy. The telescope is easy to use and is robust. It has a wooden base, not the usual spindly tripod legs. The telescope is of manageable size, but has a relatively large optical tube. This means that the Moon and deep sky objects will show far more detail than one could see with the common “beginners” telescopes. It also has a large field of view that allows the object to stay in the eyepiece longer.

Patrons (adult)  may borrow this telescope for 2 days, understanding that it may take up to 2 library days to get the telescope. Please pick and return the telescope up on the days agreed upon, so that others can use it too. The Borrower is responsible for returning the telescope during library hours, in good condition. The Borrower will agree to pay for any repairs due to negligence or accident.

Reserving: To reserve the telescope, please call or email the library, or 847-3214.

Granite Lake Association Lake Host Program

by on April 15, 2015 in Hikes and Nature, Home Page, Promote

granite lake2Are you interested in volunteering some of your time to become a Lake Host at the Granite Lake Boat Ramp this summer? Our Association has a fantastic group of volunteers who give of their time to sit at the boat ramp and do courtesy boat inspections for the New Hampshire Lake Association. Volunteers have been giving of their time since 2002 and have made a significant contribution to their community. Some of the volunteers don’t even live on the lake, but realize what a beautiful resource the lake is to our town. Becoming a volunteer is easy, a morning of your time to become trained in identifying invasive aquatic species and courtesy boat inspection procedures and you are on your way to becoming a member of a very important group. Sitting at the boat ramp, meeting new and interesting people who share a love of lake are just some of the things you will enjoy during your time as a lake host. Time spent at the boat ramp depends on how much you feel comfortable with, an hour or two is very much appreciated.

We also have some paid lake host opportunities. If you know a young person, 16 years or older who you think would be a reliable individual please have them call me. They would need to be willing to work on the weekends and provide their own transportation.

If you would like more information please call me at 847-3082.

Anita Flanagan

Managing Lake Host Point Person

Low Lily

by on April 15, 2015 in Home Page, Promote

presented by the The Monadnock Folklore Society 


Friday, May 8 – 8:00pm

$15/$12(senior, youth, or in advance)

LOW LILY, formerly called Annalivia, is an American ‘roots and branches’ string trio which draws from tradition and today to create their own brand of new acoustic folk music. The members – Liz SimmonsFlynn Cohen, and Lissa Schneckenburger – are masterful players and have long histories with traditional music, ranging from bluegrass to Irish, Scottish, New England and Old Time Appalachian music. This background, combined with each member’s stellar compositional skills and cutting edge arranging chops, makes for music which sounds rooted yet contemporary. Folk and string-band enthusiasts alike will be drawn in by the expert vocals and songwriting, excellent musicianship, and innovative approach. The members of Low Lily are seasoned musicians and have individually toured and performed with the likes of Ruth Moody, Cathie Ryan, John Whelan, Aoife Clancy, Adrienne Young, Childsplay and Solas, among others.

Bluebird Program

by on April 8, 2015 in Home Page, Library, Promote


 Wednesday, April 15th, at 6pm in the Library.

This program includes bluebirds, other birds that nest in bluebird boxes, nest box management, and more. The focus definitely is on bluebirds, but the speaker, John also shares his passion for the natural world in hopes the audience will take in some broader and deeper messages about nature – and life. The program has variety, feeling, and is thought provoking. Sprinkled throughout are just a few wildflowers, butterflies, and quotes by some of the great naturalists of the past. With beautiful photographs, sounds, and a sincere, enthusiastic presentation style, this program is of interest to anyone who appreciates nature.
Related Personal Background of the speaker:
John has maintained a trail of bluebird nest boxes in central NY north of Syracuse for 4 decades and has fledged over 13,000 bluebirds in boxes he personally monitors. He has done slide programs and workshops for hundreds of groups in 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces. John was a co-founder of the New York State Bluebird Society in 1982 and was elected a lifetime (volunteer) director in 2002. He has received numerous awards for his bluebird conservation work, including the John and Norah Lane Bluebird Conservation Award from the North American Bluebird Society. He is a past board member of that organization. In 2010 he was a recipient of the Hero of Conservation Award from the Syracuse Post Standard. An experienced birder, John is a member of the Onondaga Audubon Society near Syracuse. A retired banker. BA in Biology, SUNY Oswego.