Rick Church

Kulish Ledges Hike

by on March 27, 2014 in Hikes and Nature
Al Stoops hands out goodies at the East Pinnacle

Al Stoops hands out goodies at the East Pinnacle

March 1: Nelson’s own naturalist, Al Stoops, led a Harris Center sponsored hike up the Trail Group’s newly cut Kulish Ledges Trail. With temperatures not much above 10 degrees, thirteen people from Nelson, Hancock, Francistown and Peterborough donned snowshoes for the inaugural hike. The snow was deep, but hardened by freezing and thawing, supported us well. A light dusting of powder on top showed many tracks which Al helped us identify: grey squirrels, mice, snowshoe hares and at least one bobcat. We saw places porcupines snacked on some hemlocks and woodpeckers had torn up old snags in search of insects.

The Bailey Brook Bridge in the snow.

The Bailey Brook Bridge in the snow.
Several hikers expressed their admiration for the bridge’s design. One noted that the hand rails were high enough to be useful with 18”of snow on the bridge.

Several hikers commented that the trail was well sited and all marveled at the view from the East Pinnacle: Spoonwood Pond and Lake Nubanusit with Crotched Mountain and North Pack Monadnock on the horizon. Hikers advanced several new theories about the purpose of the Barstow cast iron cook stove (circa 1890) seen along the way. Some favorites: a hunting camp, a logging camp, a cabin housing men cutting firewood for the long winters.

Eric Masterson, Land Protection Specialist at the Harris Center, graciously thanked the Nelson Trails Group for the nice job making the trail. Al Stoops and I were pleased to accept the praise on behalf of the fifteen volunteers who worked so hard to make this 1.5 mile trail available for all to enjoy.

Roxbury is Born

by on February 3, 2014 in Home Page, Rick Church

[Editor’s note: this article follows another recently published article about how the town of Sullivan was created. For a complete list of Rick’s many articles on the history of Nelson, click here]

God's Barn Roxbury NH

The Roxbury Meetinghouse, known as “God’s Barn” , from this 1912 photo, replaced the original meeting house which was raised in 1804. That was used as a place of worship, and following the approval of incorporation in 1812 it was then used for official government business as well.

Roxbury was born in an Act of The New Hampshire General Court in 1812 and formed of pieces of Packersfield [now Nelson], Marlborough and Keene. The creation of Roxbury was a co-operative effort led from within Packersfield by respected citizens. It took years of negotiations led by a determined group of families who had settled in the town’s southwest quarter at about the time of the revolution. They were united by their near simultaneous settlement and by their origin. Most came from Rutland, Massachusetts. Town Records make it clear that the special needs of those living in the southwest corner of the town were recognized and accommodated. They had roads, a school, leadership roles in Packersfield government and there was concern for their spiritual lives. It was a far different process than the formation of Sullivan over the “remonstrance” of Packersfield. It also took twenty-five years.

The negotiation seems to have begun the year Sullivan was formed. The petition for a new town made the usual case of citizens being cut off from the center of the old town.  In fact Packersfield residents living in what would become Roxbury had to travel about four miles by road to the Packersfield meetinghouse. Still, southwestern Packersfield was connected by the town’s most important road – the one that connected it to Keene. Indeed there was a well-developed network of roads with road building as active there as in any part of the town. They had their own school house and most of the families mentioned in this article had sheds for their horses at the meetinghouse on the hill in Packersfield. The process was a negotiation not a seizure of land with Packersfield citizens presenting their case for a new town in Packersfield town meetings. Continue Reading »

Sullivan is Born: The “theft” of 3,200 acres

by on January 19, 2014 in Home Page
John Sullivan, President of New Hampshire

John Sullivan, President of New Hampshire

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.


Nelson, called Packersfield prior to1814, has lost three large chunks of itself to the formation of new towns since its incorporation in 1774. This is the story of the first of these: Sullivan. Towns in New Hampshire granted by the Masonian Proprietors consisted of lines drawn on maps in Portsmouth with little reference to the geography except for major rivers and the existence of previously granted places. History has proved these divisions unstable and many New Hampshire towns have been formed subsequently from pieces of older towns. In Cheshire County examples of such new towns are Troy, Sullivan, Roxbury and Harrisville. Three times between 1786 and 1870, the legislature determined that citizens would be best served by the creation of new towns formed from significant parts of Nelson and adjoining towns. Continue Reading »

The Nelson Town Hall Over the Years

by on August 18, 2013 in Home Page, Rick Church

town hall with stepsKaren Tolman was going through some old pictures of Nelson this spring and came across this picture of the center of Nelson taken sometime in the late nineteenth century. One notices immediately how densely settled our town center was then. Karen’s eagle eye noticed that our town hall had front steps in those days and that the building looks taller than today. Karen, Bert Wingerson and I have solved some of this puzzle using old photographs, original town records, a very interesting deed and a history of town buildings written by the Reverend Millard Hardy (1850-1939.)


The history of the Nelson Town Hall that stands on Nelson Common today is one of periodic change and renewal.  It was built in originally1846 using pieces of the Second Meetinghouse and new material. Once the Congregational Church was finished and ready for use, the Second Meetinghouse on the old common was disassembled. The porches were removed as intact units and moved to their current location on Old Stoddard Road and reassembled as the home of George Whitney. Jack Bradshaw owns “The Porches” today.  The forty-five by sixty foot frame was disassembled and substantially reworked to become the present Town Hall. This Town Hall was taller than it is today and had front steps. It has been changed a number of times to accommodate the needs of the Town. Continue Reading »

Maintenance Contracts: A Reflection of Farm life in Early Nelson

by on July 27, 2013 in Home Page


Howard House

The foundation of the home of Augustus and Josephine Howard on Old Stoddard Road. The home in which Jacob and Abigail Wheeler enjoyed the use of the two north rooms.

The Sawyer Family’s contract (see the prior article) transferring the family place from father to son in return for lifetime of support was a common arrangement many families found useful. Historians call these “maintenance agreements.” In the Sawyer case it provided a working farm for a son looking to establish his own farm and provided his parents with an assurance that they could live comfortably when they were no longer able to work the farm.  The author has read and recorded ten contracts between generations in Packersfield and Nelson covering nine families. These are in the form of deeds recorded at the Cheshire County Registry of Deeds. Undoubtedly many more families made similar but less formal, arrangements. The ten formal contracts we do have, document the change in the daily life of early Nelson as farm families changed from a virtually cashless and self-sufficient lifestyle to one more integrated with others and, indeed, the whole world.  World events beyond the world of New England hill farms determined the changes these agreements reflect.

All of the agreements required the provision of housing and a means to stay warm. The Sawyers got their own house; others were provided “comfortable house room” – their own space in the common house. Jacob and Abigail Wheeler, for example, got “the east front room in the house now standing on the farm in which they now live with the privilege of the kitchen, oven and sellar [sic] and chamber [upstairs room] as may suit them.” When Augustus sold that hillside farm and moved to Avery Sprague’s 140 acre farm on the Old Stoddard Road, the Wheelers moved with him. Their new living arrangement gave them the right to the “two north rooms….with the privilege of using the chamber, oven and cellar as may suit them…”

The day-to-day requirements of life reflected in these agreements changed as life on Nelson’s farms changed. Continue Reading »

Social Contracts of the Early Settlers

by on June 30, 2013 in Home Page, Promote

[Editors Note: 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. In this article (and another to be published in the near future) Rick shows us what solutions were put in place.]

Waterfall on the road to Benjamin Sawyer’s farm house

Waterfall on the road to Benjamin Sawyer’s farm house

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. Continue Reading »

A Modern School: 1855

by on February 24, 2013 in Local Business, Rick Church

The record of District Number Seven ends as it began. By 1851 that nice brick building, built only thirty years before, needed a major overhaul. Some in the district thought it needed to be replaced. In that year there was an article on the school district warrant to repair the building. It was passed over.

1883 School #3

Up until 1876 Nelson paid tuition to send students to old Number Seven. On the other side of Nelson, School Number Two was accepting students from District Number Four in Stoddard where there was no school building at the time.

In 1854 James Derby, Darius Farwell and William Seaver petitioned for a special meeting to consider building a new school. The resulting warrant had two articles. One to build a new school and one to repair the old one. The meeting voted to have the Prudential Committee make repairs. They didn’t.

In March 1855, Joel Bancroft, the second generation of that family to be involved with the school, and Chauncey Barker petitioned for a special meeting to repair and enlarge the school. At the next meeting on April 5th, Chauncey Barker moved that the district buy 22 desks and seats and arrange them after the Woodcock Patent; take down the old seats and remove the partition between the school room and the entry. Voters said “no”

School #7

Abandoned the old building looked like this.

Undeterred, and only five days later, there was another petition for a special district meeting to see if the district would appoint a “Disinterested Committee” and delegate to them the power to decide whether to repair the school. Three weeks later, the district meeting voted to appoint a “Disinterested Committee.” The committee members were from Hancock.

The “Disinterested Committee” chosen:

Nelson had done this before. In 1838, when the brick schoolhouse in Nelson Village was built, a private group asked to build a second floor at their own expense.

School # 7 Today

School # 7 Today

When it was finished, there was a dispute about what each party’s share should be. A disinterested committee of Hancock people was appointed to sort it out. Wisely the committee held the upstairs group responsible for the front 5 feet of building that housed the stairway to the second floor, but held they were not to pay for the roof that the school would have had in any case.

In three weeks the Disinterested Committee recommended “covering the floor, furnishing lathing and plastering the walls, fixing the window frames to receive the lathing, affixing Woodcock Patented seats instead of the old ones…” The building really had deteriorated in the thirty-five years since its construction. Continue Reading »

School Vandalism (In the Olden Days)

by on January 18, 2013 in Educational, Life in Nelson, Rick Church
1883 School #3

1883 School #7: The shutters on the windows in this 1883 picture certainly weren’t installed to deflect arrows.


Early Nelson schools experienced vandalism.  Numerous rules were adopted and published by the town that defined responsibility for damage and that give us a picture of the problems for schools almost two hundred years ago – problems not so different from today. An example is an 1838  set of bylaws adopted on the occasion of the opening of the two-storey brick schoolhouse in the village.


To preserve the schoolhouse from petty damages:

First: That from and after this day if any person or persons shall break a square of glass from the schoolhouse in this district, such person or persons shall replace the same within two days after it is broken or pay the sum of twenty-five cents to the agent of the district to be appropriated by said agent to the use of the district. Continue Reading »

Heating a One-Room Schoolhouse

by on November 18, 2012 in Rick Church


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.

In 1823 the procurement method changed and the district started buying wood. Wood was bid off by individuals and often each cord supplied by a different bidder.

School Number Seven burned 4 cords in a winter school session lasting twelve weeks. Buying their heat this way dropped the cost to $4.99. Continue Reading »

Sophia Returns

by on November 3, 2012 in Favorites, Nelson People, Rick Church

by Rick Church

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 provides, and the generosity of Nancy and Ray Foster.

Sophia Griffin's samplerA sampler is an early piece of needlework stitched, or wrought by a young girl in school with silk thread on a linen background as a demonstration of accomplishment. Samplers can run the gamut in quality and complexity. The first attempt at making a sampler usually contained only alphabets, numbers, name, date, and sometimes a small amount of decorative stitching. Sophia Griffin’s sampler is a good example of a simple sampler done at a young age.

This spring Nancy and Ray Foster of St. Petersburg, Florida were doing a much needed weeding out of long stored and treasured things.  Among them was a sampler that had been given to Nancy’s mother, Doris Parrish, by her longtime friend, Carolyn (Peachy) McGlinty in the early 1970’s.  The sampler came with a written history that had come from a family bible. Nancy recalls: “ I cannot recall how the sampler was transported to Woburn, but once it was in Woburn, my Mom proudly displayed it on her dining room wall. At that time, there was never any discussion as to where Packersfield was or who the little girl may have been, only that it had more sentimental value than historic.” Continue Reading »

A New School is Built

by on October 23, 2012 in Rick Church, Uncategorized

This is the second installment of a long article on the operation of one of Nelson’s early schools.  The main source for the series is the seventy page record of School Number Seven from 1820 to 1858 which was generously donated to the town archives with many other valuable historical papers by Ethan Tolman. Thanks to a grant secured by Susan Hansel, the record of School Number Seven is preserved and available to the public on a CD at the Olivia Rodham Memorial Library.  The balance of the source documents are the Nelson Town Records preserved in the Town Archives and material on the Woodcock Patent located at the Cheshire County Historical Society. Click here to read the first article in this series.

Nelson SchoolFolks who were in Nelson in the late nineteen-nineties will recall it took the Nelson School District three years to design, achieve political support for and build an addition to the Munsonville School. In 1821 School District Number Seven faced similar issues and dealt with the inadequacies of the old wooden building in a matter of months.

A year after repairing the school roof for $7 the District launched a major project: 1821 February, “voted to appoint a committee to examine the schoolhouse and see what repairs are necessary and report to the next meeting.” The committee members were Bethuel Harris, Palmer Bryant and Samuel Scripture. The committee took a week to do its work. There is no record of their report, but it resulted in a district meeting in March to consider a warrant article to raise $200 to build a new school house or repair the old one.

At that meeting the district voted to build a new school locating it on James Bryant’s land on the east side of the road that led to Dublin from Captain Scripture’s. This is on the Tolman Pond Road across from Scripture Road today. It was to be made of brick and be 20‘ by 23’ with a wooden shed on one end. Major Bethuel Harris was chosen to make out the bill of materials for the project. Then they adjourned for 10 days. Continue Reading »

An Early Nelson School

This is the first installment of a long article on the operation of one of Nelson’s early schools.  The main source for the series is the seventy page record of School Number Seven from 1820 to 1858 which was generously donated to the town archives with many other valuable historical papers by Ethan Tolman. Thanks to a grant secured by Susan Hansel, the record of School Number Seven is preserved and available to the public on a CD at the Olivia Rodham Memorial Library.  The balance of the source documents are the Nelson Town Records preserved in the Town Archives and material on the Woodcock Patent located at the Cheshire County Historical Society.

Settlement in Nelson had increased remarkably in the years immediately after the revolution increasing from 186 in 1776 to 721 by the first national census in 1790.  With that growth came things that made settlements, proper towns: things like schools. In an era when we worry about dwindling school enrollment in our town of seven hundred, it is ironic to think back to 1790 when Nelson (then Packersfeld) had seven hundred and twenty-one inhabitants and a surfeit of students.

Nelson divided itself into nine school districts in 1789.  Thanks to Ethan Tolman’s donation of a collection of his mother’s papers, the Town Archives has the written record on one of those early school districts from 1820 to 1858. School District Seven included the Southeast Quarter of the town from the area of Tolman Pond (Bryant Pond in those days) to today’s Harrisville it included the Bancrofts at the current junction of the Cabot and Tolman Pond Roads, the Yardleys on the Clymer Road, Samuel Scripture on the Scripture Road and Grovers and Morses around Tolman Pond. Later came the Tolmans, the Bryants, the Farwells and the Harris’ of the mill village that came to be named after them.

When those first school districts were established in Nelson, each was given their proportional share of 270 pounds and required to build a school. School taxes were levied on the whole town and funds were allocated to each district in proportion to their valuation.  Continue Reading »

Nelson Trails Committee Has a Run-of-the-Mill Expedition

by on August 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Members of the Nelson Tails Committee and friends recently visited the Taylor Mill Historic Site in Derry New Hampshire.  The site is home to a 200 year-old “up-down” working sawmill that has lovingly been restored to working condition by caretaker, Robert Spoerl.  Nelson had a number of such mills in its early history. The group watched intently as water was released to turn the huge water wheel and the reciprocating saw cut a 2” pine board. The visit and a tour of the mill in operation was arranged by committee member, Dave Birchenough, an old friend of Robert Spoerl’s. Continue Reading »

Nelson Trails Update

by Rich Church (May 12, 2012)

The Nelson Trails Committee is working to add two to four new trails this year. The two most active projects are on Cobb Hill and in Munsonville.

Pair of Canada Geese

Pair of Canada Geese

At 1900’, Cobb Hill is one of the area’s highest points. It is flanked by two old roads that join Nelson and Harrisville which run on the east and west sides of the hill. The Harris Center already maintains the Jane Greene Trail that comes up from Hancock to a lookout on the east side of the hill with a beautiful view of Mount Monadnock.  We hope to extend the Jane Greene Trail so hikers from all three towns can enjoy visiting the lookout and the high bush blueberries growing on the windy summit and loop back to their starting point.  Further work with the landowners must be complete before a trail can actually be laid out. The trails committees of Nelson and

Eric Sandberg spots proud parents with 5 goslings

Eric Sandberg spots proud parents with 5 goslings

Harrisville are co-operating with the Harris Center for Conservation Education on the project.

Further along is the development of a trail that explores the wetland across Granite Lake Road from the Nelson School.  This opportunity offers a visit to an old gristmill site and bird habitat long of interest to the Audubon Society.  The trail will be laid out so as to afford opportunities to enjoy this important piece of habitat without intruding unnecessarily on bird life.  Troy Tucker has already started to clear the portion of the trail that runs through his property. Kathy and

Julia Lennon and Kathy Schillemat spot spring flowers

Julia Lennon and Kathy Schillemat spot spring flowers

Duane Schillemat have generously offered their driveway as the access point.

The Committee has been learning about trail making from the experts. Tom Duston, chair of the Chesterfield Conservation Commission, has spoken to the group and recently spent a rainy morning walking Cobb hill to share tips on good trail layout and construction.  He’s produced a six-page guide on the subject to help inform our work.  On May 12th, committee members Susan Hansel, Julia Lennon, Kathy Schillemat, Eric Sandberg and I walked the Audubon Society’s Cove Trail at the Sucker Brook Sanctuary to observe good trail making practices in wetland bird habitat.  The views of Mount Monadnock over Silver Lake were beautiful. A pair of Canada Geese announced their landing in the cove with loud honking. Another pair paddled by with their five youngsters.  A plethora of  wildflowers including numerous painted trilliums graced the side of the path.

Painted Trillium

Painted Trillium

I can recommend the Sucker Brook Sanctuary for anyone wanting a comfortable walk through hemlock groves, past boulder strewn landscapes and rock outcrops with beautiful forest flowers, water foul and song birds to add to your enjoyment. Parking is on Breed Pond Road. Directions and a trail guide can be downloaded from New Hampshire Audubon .

Bailey Brook Trail

The Nelson Trails Committee sponsored a hike recently with the Harris Center to the Bailey Brook Trail. The hike drew more than 30 people on a clear and cold Saturday, February 11th.  It was led by Rick Church, of our trails committee, and Ben Haubrich, a Harris Center guide. Meade Cadot, senior naturalist at the Harris Center and Martha Pinello, an archaeologist from Monadnock Archaeological Consulting, were along to explain the natural and cultural items of interest.

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Hikers gathered at the Nelson Common and carpooled to Maury Collin’s.  The group walked up and over the hill behind Maury’s house, the area of a new conservation easement and looked across the valley toward Osgood Hill and more land protected by the Harris Center.  The hike followed a logging road back to the Old Stoddard Road where we turned east. Meade Cadot pointed out black bear markings on most of the telephone poles along the road. These are territorial markings.  Most of the poles showed teeth marks and one had bear hair imbedded in the pole itself.

Continue Reading »

Nelson Trails Explores Cobb Hill

by on December 5, 2011 in Hikes and Nature, Recreation
cobb hill explorers

Nelson and Harrisville Trails Committees and friends at the David Marshal home site.

The Nelson Trails Committee is exploring Cobb Hill on the line between Nelson and Harrisville with the hope of laying out a network of trails. Several ancient roads and a Harris Center trail provide a good starting point.  There are a number of early cellar holes in what was originally the southeast corner of Nelson. There should be circular walking routes available from both towns. The Harrisville and Nelson Trails Committees are working jointly on the project.

The committees have walked the territory on two separate hikes covering about five miles in the process. Sunday, December 4th saw thirteen committee members and friends from both towns assemble at the end of Nelson’s Nubanusit Road for an afternoon’s exploration of Cobb Hill. The temperatures were in the forties; there was a brisk, cold wind on the high ridge and a skim of ice on some of the puddles in the road. Continue Reading »

A New Minister

by on November 1, 2011 in Life in Nelson, Rick Church
Mrs.Gad Newell

Sophia Newell (or possibly an imposter) in front of the Gad Newell home, on Cemetery Road.

Editors note:  This is the third and final article in a series relating the founding of the first ministry in Packersfield.  The first detailed the many efforts to acquire a minister for a small, remote community. Several ministers came for trial periods and several offers of employment were made before Jacob Foster accepted the call. The second discussed Foster’s contentious dismissal for reasons the records do not make clear.  What is clear is that the parting was difficult.  This final article deals with the start of Packersfield/Nelsons longest ministry, that of Gad Newell.  Sensitive to the situation in the aftermath of the Foster mess, the young Newell took a healing approach.

In the aftermath of the Reverend Jacob Foster’s dismissal, Packersfield moved on.

A much more established community now, the town seemed to have little trouble finding a replacement.  The process took two years, but there is no record of repeated trials of new ministers and rejected offers of employment. The town provided a settlement of 170 pounds (a sort of signing bonus) and offered the new preacher a salary of 70 pounds per year.  The new minister was a twenty-nine-year-old Yale graduate named Gad Newell.  The Reverend Newell was installed on June 11, 1794 and retired 43 years later.  His letter to the people of Packersfield bespoke his faith in God and of the healing needed in the aftermath of Jacob Foster’s dismissal reproduced here in its full late eighteenth century eloquence: Continue Reading »

Trails in Nelson

The Nelson Trails Group recently explored the old class six road to the “Hart Lot” with its extensive foundations and mill site.  The site was home to a sawmill operated in the early nineteenth century.  The mill location on a falls in Bailey Brook provides habitat for numerous wild flowers; wild ginger graces the Osborne home site and there are numerous day lilies contributed by later summer residents, perhaps the Harts.  The road was closed by the town in 1922.

The old mill site is on the upper falls of Bailey Brook . The falls had a lot of water going over  it from recent rains and downstream the brook ran through its rocky bed with a musical sound.  The banks were lush with ferns. Bailey Brook briefly forms a wetland before entering a cut with steep banks culminating in the waterfall that can be seen from Old Stoddard Road.

The Nelson Trails Group, established under the auspices of Moving in Step, is working to make the beautiful, educational and historic places in town accessible to the walking public.  The nearly twenty-member committee plans to start by identifying Nelson’s abandoned but accessible old roads.  The first project,the town’s first documented road laid out in 1773 and only closed in 1959, is the original road from the Packersfield meeting house to Dublin some call the Klemperer Road.  It features gentle walking on an old road, four old cellar holes, and a number of vernal pools.  Forest types change as you pass stonewalls and are the result of early land use by the settlers there and the date of their final abandonment.

The group is in the process of documenting the natural and historical things of interest along some of our old roads and is seeking abutting landowner co-operation so that more Nelson walkers can enjoy the natural and historical features of Nelson’s abandoned roads. If you ware interested in participating, please call Rick Church at 603-847-3206.

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 721.  The census of 1790 listed 160 families.  The town had grown to the point where Foster’s contract called for full pay — 70 pounds in 1774 money.  We can estimate that the number of families had increased by about sixty and just under half had joined the church. Mid-way through Foster’s tenure as town minister, Packersfield undertook the construction of a much larger meetinghouse. Begun in 1786 and finished enough for use by 1788 it was, at sixty by forty-five feet and twenty-eight feet at the eaves, a house of worship to make any town and its minister proud. Continue Reading »

Founding the Church

by on March 30, 2011 in Life in Nelson, Rick Church

The Reverend George Whitefield did not (as far as we know) ever preach in Nelson, but he was a contemporary of Treadway and Foster, of whom no portrait is known to exist .

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 the first settled minister one for the ministry and one for the school forever.”  One lot from each of these shares was to be in the center of the new town where a “convenient meeting house” would be built.  The meetinghouse was to serve as a place of worship and for public meetings. Breed Batchellor laid out ten acres of common land for this purpose in the original layout of the town.

In support of the requirement to establish religion, the town hired and paid for the minister and erected a meetinghouse to serve as the site of both civic and religious life of the town.  While not all town residents were church members, the minister’s salary was paid by the town, leaving both church membership and town residents with a joint responsibility for choosing or dismissing ministers.  The Congregational Church in the form of a Venerable Council of local ministers played a role as well, approving ministers as suitable or not.  Town financial support began to change when other denominations began to hold services in Nelson and ceased shortly after the Toleration Act (1819) passed by New Hampshire required that churches be privately supported. Continue Reading »