Celebrate Nelson’s 250th

by on June 25, 2017 in History, Home Page, Uncategorized

The Nelson 250th Anniversary Committee invites the community to an all-day celebration of the town’s history on Saturday, July 8th. Activities begin at 10 AM and continue until 7 PM.

The Ebenezer Hinsdale Garrison Re-enactment Group will provide a living history “day in the life” of ordinary folks from the time of the early days of Nelson. Wearing traditional clothing of the mid-18th century, they will demonstrate such things as cooking over an open fire, sewing, embroidery, making a broom, making a basket, butter churning, candle dipping, children’s games, music, demonstrating what a soldier or scout would carry, and possibly even musket firing.

There will be an exhibit of Things Made and Used in Early Nelson from clothespins to samplers at the Old Library.

R. P. Hale, Colonial Printer, will be operating an antique printing press and selling wood-cut prints.

From 3 to 5 PM, there will be an Ice Cream Social ($5.00 to benefit the church) and Town Band Concert on the Nelson Congregational Church lawn.

Beginning at 5 PM, a Colonial Dance will be held in the Nelson Town Hall taught by Allison Aldrich Smith, Mistress of Dance. Music provided by Hunt Smith and R. P. Hale on instruments of their own making. Period dress encouraged but not required.

All ages are welcome. Admission is free. More information is available at http://nelsonhistory.org.

Click on this link  Celebrate Nelson’s 250th  to see all the events planned for the celebration of the founding of Nelson.

Nelson History Day Dec 14

by on December 6, 2013 in History, Home Page

Nelson History Day Dec. 14, 2013, 11:00 AM Olivia Rodham Library

The Library is sponsoring a presentation of the new 2014 Nelson Calendar with historic photographs of Nelson’s past to excite an interest in the upcoming 250th anniversary of Nelson’s founding which will happen in 2017.

Calendar Collage

Adding to the history theme, new books about Nelson’s past by local authors Renn Tolman, Terri Upton, and Bruce White and copies of a CD of Tolman Pond life by Karen Tolman will be presented and available for sale.

And a special event will be the unveiling of the painting of Helen Towne by Marie Spaeth that was purchased by contributions from generous town residents.

Please join us for a fun morning with Christmas cookies and cider.


Wanted: Old Photos of Nelson and Munsonville

by on July 20, 2013 in History, Home Page

We will be scanning photos on three different days at the Library:
Monday the 12th from 10 to 1
Wednesday the 14th from 4 to 6
Thursday the 15th from 6-7:30
History Group members will be there to assist.

Old CarDo you have old photos of Nelson and Munsonville – people, scenes, events – that you are willing to share? A group of local residents has been meeting informally to start putting together a digital archive of historic photographs of our town. Nelson’s 250th anniversary in 2017 is not far off, and we hope to be able to publish as many photographs as possible online (on the History section of this web site) or (if we stumble upon a pot of gold) in print.

We are asking people to bring their treasured old photographs to the library during Old Home Week, August 10-17, where we will be set up to scan them, write down caption information, and return the originals. We do not want to keep any original photographs. We would be happy to email you a digital file of your photographs. Watch for notices in the Old Home Day issue of the Grapevine II, the Moving in Step calendar, and posters around town for specific times for scanning.

The Nelson History Group usually meets on the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the library. The group is informal and voluntary, and anyone interested in local history is welcome to take part. For more information, call Karen Tolman (827-3226), Don or Barbara Bennett (847-3347), Bert Wingerson (847-9945), or Susan Hansel (847-9918).


What’s Up With the Town Hall?

by on June 7, 2013 in History, Home Page, Promote

Nelson Town HallThis photograph was recently discovered. It shows our Town Hall, but close scrutiny reveals that it is up a half-story from its present height (see the stairs leading to the door). Stay tuned for more information about this: when was the photo taken, when did the hall get “lowered” , etc. Click on the image for an enlarged view.


Old Town Records Now Digitally Preserved

click on image to see larger display

The town of Nelson has recently received the digitized copies of 5 books containing town records from 1802 to 1885. The contents include tax records and receipts, agreements and expense records for maintaining the town poor and a list of articles furnished by the committee for the poor farm. There is a list of jurors (1845-1875) and records of School District No. 5 (1820-1856), data that can be found nowhere else.

The Selectmen’s records from 1869-1884 list town expenditures and dog licenses issued 1884-1885. In the Selectmen’s book from 1802-1817 tax records are listed giving a clear picture of life in Nelson, naming the town officials at the time. Thaddeus Barker, John Breed, Josiah Robbins and George Tolman are but a few of the names mentioned in the records that span the whole of the 19th century. These volumes reveal how the schools, poor farm and roads were part of the social fabric of the community. They list who lived in the town and who were the tax collectors, selectmen and just ordinary citizens who paid taxes.

There will be a detailed index available for anyone wishing to do research. It will be
based on the index that exists in the Archives Office created by Bert Wingerson, Town

This project was made possible by a State of New Hampshire Conservation License Plant Grant, which allocates money raised from the extra cost of Moose plates to such worthy purposes. The original intent was to post these files on the web,  however due to the size of the files, this is not practical. Copies are available on CD from the library, and it is permissible to copy the files from the CD onto your personal computer.

For more information contact Bert Wingerson or Susan Hansel.

Town Archives to be Preserved

by on August 24, 2011 in History, Projects, Susan Hanse History

The Town of Nelson Archives has recently received notice from the State Librarian, Michael York that a FY 2012 Conservation License Plate Grant in the amount of $5,322 has been awarded to the town for its proposed project “Nelson Town Records.” This grant will conserve, microfilm and digitize five books containing town records from 1802 to 1885. These books are in the original bindings, some pages are loose and the paper is discolored and crumbling. The contents include tax records and receipts, agreements and expense records for maintaining the town poor and a list of articles furnished by the committee for the poor farm. There is a list of jurors (1845-1875) and records of School District No. 5 (1820-1856), data that can be found nowhere else. The digitized copies will be on the town website, available to all. Continue Reading »

Shoot: It’s Old Home Day!

Hey Nelson Folks: If you’ve spent time in the Town Hall you might have noticed a nice collection of pictures from Old Home Day of many years ago. This is a treasure, and wouldn’t it be nice to create an updated version (to supplement, not replace)?  So, here’s what we’ll do – on Old Home Day (or other times during Old Home Week), take pictures. Then, pick out up to five that you consider your best photos and send them to webmaster@townofnelson.com.  An impromptu committee will meet and pick out the best of the best, and make a new photo display (we’ll also create an online gallery on this web site).  Please keep your images in their original size so that they will retain their integrity when printed. Please either zip them or send them separately – so that no one attachment is over 10MB. You may provide captions if you want, and be sure to include your name for proper credit.

Building the Early Town: First Roads

by on May 29, 2010 in History

Nelson Highway DeptThe charter granting Monadnock Number Six to those early proprietors required that they provide the basic necessities for the new community’s viability.  Of necessity, building roads came first.

Breed Batchellor was the town’s first resident, settling as early as 1766.  He moved into an early structure built by Josiah Billings just over the east line of Keene in Monadnock Number Six, comfortably in Roxbury today.  That part of Keene was settled sparsely, but Batchellor’s home had access to Keene over Keene roads.  Dr. Nathaniel Breed followed Batchellor, building a large log cabin on the Old Stoddard Road followed shortly thereafter by Joseph Stanhope who built on the north slope of Osgood Hill on today’s Homestead Lane. Aaron Beel, James Bancroft, Phineas Stanford, Thomas Upham and Eleazer Twitchell are mentioned in the first road records as living in town. Certainly they created trails to serve their farms and these probably became the first roads.

In 1768 Breed Batchellor and Nathaniel Breed were appointed to layout roads.
Their layout is lost but we know there were at least five early roads that predate the first recorded layout in 1773:

  • From the site of the future Packersfield meetinghouse to Keene
  • From the meetinghouse site to Joseph Stanhope’s and on to Limerick (Stoddard)
  • From the meetinghouse site to the outlet of Pleasant Pond (Silver Lake)
  • From the meetinghouse site to the outlet of Center Pond
  • From the outlet of Pleasant Pond to Eleazer Twitchell’s

The first of these connected our town with the region’s most established town: Keene. It went from the old meetinghouse site west along the current Lead Mine Road as far as the house currently owned by Dorothy Iselin, where it turned south through the woods.  Then as now, it shortly crosses a brook and turns west south west and runs north of Woodward Pond. It comes out at the old Roxbury Center and passes Breed Batchellor’s cellar hole in present-day Roxbury. Roxbury calls its end “Middle Town Road” today. Continue Reading »


On Saturday, March 27, 7:00 pm, in the Town Hall, Nelson will again celebrate itself at the Hotel Nelson “Revisited”, in an adaptation from the 1997 original Hotel Nelson:  the wonderful musical theatre performance, written and staged by, for and about our town; and facilitated by composer Larry Siegel of Tricinium Limited.  At that time, Larry likened the process to the late 19th century town pageants…an art form that he has helped to reawaken in many of our small communities.

Hardly a substitute for the amazing hard work of the original production, the “revisit” has mildly adapted some of the original works to better accommodate the busy lives of those who are helping with this production.  We’ve also, reluctantly, cut and pasted here and there in order to make room for some newness that hopefully will speak for the ever-evolving newness that is Nelson – the new guests at the Hotel!  And to top it off, we’ve added a few PowerPoints here and there – well, there weren’t any computers in the late 19th century!

Those helping, who were not involved in the 1997 Hotel Nelson, are enjoying the opportunity to learn a little about the process that produced the original theatre; to learn some of the songs that were written and sung, and to otherwise be a part of something that again brings friends and neighbors together, in the spirit of community.

We hope that you’ll join us to learn a little about our town’s past and present, to witness some of our extensive local talent as they hold forth on (and off) stage – some reliving their 1997 roles, others filling in for those not available this time, and still others adding some additional flavors to the show.

In order to be certain not to exceed the fire-code seating limits (155) in the Town Hall, we’re asking you to reserve a seat by e-mail at: shansel@peoplepc.com or by phone at: 847-9918.  It’ll be first come, first served, and Susan will check your name off when you arrive at the Town Hall on March 27.  Remember that admission is free, but donations will gladly be accepted at the door.

Breed Batchellor: The Enemy

by on November 8, 2009 in History, Nelson People with 0 Comments

battle of benningtonFor newly incorporated Packersfield, the years 1774 and 1775 saw a great deal of growth.  A census taken in 1773 reported 117 residents in Packersfield; by 1775 there were 186 people in town, and by 1790 there would be 721!  Men using axes and oxen were clearing land. Numerous roads were laid out. The early battles of the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence seem not to have slowed the pace of settlement, though it forced the chief architect into exile in Canada.  Breed Batchellor, the man who had worked so hard to transform Monadnock Number Six into Packersfield, refused to sign the Association Test, an oath of loyalty to the new country. He became the enemy within. In a very short time the people who had ardently supported him in the struggle against James Blanchard in the incorporation struggle turned against him as a traitor.

Packersfield sent many of its young men to fight for independence and bought military supplies to support the effort.  A petition sent by vote of the town meeting reflected the commitment Packersfield was making to the war and its dread of Breed Batchellor, the Tory in their midst. Continue Reading »

Fight over Incorporation:

by on August 27, 2009 in Educational, History, Life in Nelson with 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles about the early history of Nelson. Click here to go to the previous article.


We dont know what our early Nelson forebears looked like, but we can speculate that they might have appeared something like this.

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.

The Blanchard family was important in early New Hampshire. Joseph was Agent for the Masonian Proprietors when they made the Monadnock Number Six grant. His son, Joseph JR was the surveyor that fixed its boundaries. Another son, Thomas, was one of the Monadnock Number Six proprietors though he immediately sold his share to Thomas Packer. Joseph had a stake in all of the towns granted by the Masonian Proprietors and was active with his associates in trading stakes in one town for those in another. The Blanchard family ended up with substantial stakes in Nelson, Dublin, Stoddard and Acworth.

The first documented interchange between the family and Breed Batchellor was Jonathan (another son) Blanchard’s sale of 2135 acres to Batchellor in 1763. Several of Joseph’s children inherited his interests in Monadnock Number Six including James and Catherine.

In August James Blanchard petitioned the Masonian Proprietors to block incorporation. His petition made it clear that he felt incorporation with its implicit recognition of all that had taken place under the Monadnock Number Six Proprietors was inimical to him. He accused Breed Batchellor of running the operation as a personal fiefdom for his own benefit and to the detriment of Blanchard and settler interests. The petitioners asserted that the terms of the grant had not been fulfilled. Further he charged Breed Batchellor with numerous illegal activities. His charges: Continue Reading »

Best Lecture by a Dam Site

by on May 31, 2009 in History, Life in Nelson with 3 Comments

On Thursday evening, May 28th, there must have been 80 people gathered in the Chapel by the Lake in Munsonville to hear a talk by Alan Rumrill, who is the director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County. The event was sponsored by the Munsonville Ladies Group. His talk was entitled The Power of Water: Munsonville from 1850 to 1950. He has kindly shared a summary which we are pleased to published here, as well as some pictures.


The Power of Water:

Munsonville From 1850 to 1950
By Alan F. Rumrill

The history of the small village of Munsonville is a familiar N.H. story as it has all the elements of the history of similar villages throughout southwestern NH during the 100 years from the 1850s to the 1950s. The same factors – natural, technological and economic – played leading roles in the growth, decline, survival and rebirth of Munsonville as they did in towns throughout our region.

Continue Reading »