Life in Nelson

Colonial-Inspired Kitchen Door Garden

by on July 15, 2017 in Agriculture, Home Page, Uncategorized
If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Colonial-Inspired Kitchen Door Garden behind the library, now is a good time to do so.
Borage flowers are blooming and honeybees have discovered them and we have four Swallowtail caterpillars enjoying the dill plants. Keep an eye out for the caterpillars or their pupa once they mature enough to transition into a butterfly.

Small native pollinators are enjoying the Chamomile and Calendula flowers. The Nasturtium are blooming and spreading.
Volunteers are showing up in the garden. No not volunteers weeding, though those would be welcome. We have a volunteer Borage growing from between the Forget-me-nots and Purslane springing up near the Chamomile.  You might be interested in the fact that Purslane is an edible and can be put into salads, while you are adding to your salad, throw in some Calendula petals and Nasturtium and Borage flowers!

Dry Calendula petals and make a salve for dry cracked skin in winter. (seeds are available in the library)

Enjoy the photos from this weeks garden. Notes from Val of Ag-Com.

R.P. Hale

by on July 5, 2017 in Home Page, Life in Nelson
Prints of Nelson at the 250th celebration.
The first edition will be of 100, signed and numbered, and will go for $20 per print.  Upon selling 35 prints (to cover the engraving and materials),
I will start sharing the proceeds with you for the historical society or some such local effort.

May Pole Event

by on April 26, 2017 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

May Day Pole

No one knows the true origin of the celebration of May Day. Some say it is as old as time itself. What we in Nelson and Munsonville know is that May Day is a day of casting off the cares of winter, and to enjoy the beautiful New England spring.

We come together on the Town Common, some to dance and others to visit with those we may have not seen since the first snowflake fell. The children are delighted with the bright colors of the May Pole ribbons, waiting their turn to help weave the ribbons when it’s time for the May Pole Dance. But first, we are treated to the trumpet soundings of Jack In the Green as he heralds the arrival of another beautiful Spring in Nelson.

The Jack In the Green Morris Men and Firebird (a team of men and women, newly established and practicing in Harrisville) will be dancing, of course!  The fun will begin right at 10:30.  We’ll have a Cake Walk for the children.  And gigantic bubbles will be back to enchant the kiddos!
Our May Day celebration will take place on May 7th, beginning at around 10:30 am.  We hope to see you there!  Folk of all ages look forward to this annual community event.


Wild Edibles

by on January 24, 2017 in Agriculture, Home Page, Promote, Wildlife

This Saturday, January 28th 11am
Al Stoops will be lecturing on Wild Edibles
at the Olivia Rodham Library
Come for coffee and donuts and stay for the talk.

Learn about easily identifiable edibles, Al Stoop’s lecture is sure to be informative, and thought provocative.

You will leave thinking differently about our woods in Nelson.

If you enjoy Al’s talk, perhaps you would like to join Al and Kathy on their Monday forays into the woods.

Photos by Kathy Schillemat

Nelson, NH in the New York Times

by on February 4, 2016 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

February 3rd, 2016 New York Times. To see the online article click here..

2015 Celebrate Nelson

by on October 27, 2015 in Home Page, Life in Nelson, Social Event

Nelson’s creative juices will be on display once again.

So, join us to help


Saturday, November 7, 2015

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The Nelson Town

 The Olivia Rodham Library Lower Level

The Old Library

Celebrate-Nelson-SceneCelebrate Nelson 2014

Living among the trees and hills and valleys and neighborhoods of our little town, the people of Nelson will leave their homes on November 7 and gather in Nelson Village to overflow it with items for sale and/or information about their hobbies, passions, occupations and livelihoods:

sawing complex jigsaw puzzles

clearing walking trails in our woods

folding paper into origami

protecting the water quality of our lakes and ponds

boiling maple syrup

recording CDs of local performing artists

advocating for agricultural activities

planning art exhibits for Nelson’s sestercentennial

writing about Nelson’s history, as well as fiction and poetry

wrapping beads with wire into custom jewelry

crafting by some of Nelson’s school children

extracting local honey

continuing the Friends of the Library summer book sale

painting landscapes, flowers and abstracts

performing live on the stage in our preserved Town Hall

constructing wreathes for our holiday doors

studying Nelson’s future sustainability

carving wood into decoys

preparing a revised local phone book

drawing Zentangles on shelf mushrooms

revamping Hotel Nelson Revisited into a CD

spinning yarns, stuffing duvets, weaving and knitting with wool from Nelson’s sheep

sculpting forms from stone

selling food from what’s prepared in our kitchens and grown in our fields

and handcrafting many more items that add to this impressive variety of skills

Don’t forget the new edition of the Nelson Phone book being sold for $2 in the lower level of the library.

And, if this list doesn’t tempt you, come by to pick up the 3rd annual “collector’s item” calendar depicting old photographs from Nelson and Munsonville. This 2016 edition focuses on the occupations, hard work and passions of some of our earlier residents—thus honoring their contributions to our town.

There will be door prize drawings for those who visit all three venues

Light refreshments will be available

Don’t miss this wonderful display of

the many talents of our Nelson neighbors

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

by on August 20, 2015 in Life in Nelson, 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.

Nelson Town Hall Front Door

by on August 11, 2015 in Karen Tolman History, Life in Nelson

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.

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

Seed Catalog at the Nelson Library

by on March 31, 2015 in Agriculture, Home Page, Promote

written by Jacqueline Roland

Seed Catalog Photo

Snow-covered backyards provide the perfect canvas for imagining your next prolific summer garden! As you develop your garden plans for this year, please consider growing some of the wonderful seeds that are available from the Nelson Library Seed Catalog! The seeds in the catalog are from Nelson seed savers, which means that they’re better suited to our local growing conditions than the seeds you’ll find at a garden supply store.
Seeds that are currently available in the catalog include:
Bush Yellow Wax Beans “Indie”
Yellow Onion
Sweet Pepper “Carmin”
Cucumber “Marketmore”
The Library Seed Catalog is a free resource for Nelson residents! Why not try growing something new this year? You have nothing to lose!

Igloo on the Nelson Green

by on February 9, 2015 in Home Page, Life in Nelson


On February 8th, 2015 several people gathered on the green, which is now white,

in the center of Nelson to build an igloo and a snow cave.

 That is one way to beat cabin fever during this long and cold winter.

Haying at Tolman Pond

Editors Note: Renn Tolman, son of Newton F. Tolman, grew up in Nelson, and passed away in Homer, Alaska on July 5, 2014  t the age of 80. Betsy Street recently found a few essays written by Renn when he was a student at UNH, in the late 1950s. This one is very slightly edited and transcribed by Karen Tolman.

Haying in Nelson

the old Model A Ford truck with Bobby Curtis and Foster Sisson “making the load” and Pop (Wayland Tolman) looking out the window. Pop was Renn and Barry’s grandfather.

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.

Exactly how many acres his fields totaled is uncertain because they were scattered, irregular fields of a New Hampshire hill farm, but ten was the number he would quote if anyone asked him. Of course this acreage was figured without taking into account the combined areas of the rocks that stuck up in the fields. It is a worn-out joke that New Hampshire fields grow rocks as well as hay.

The only field that you could mow with the assurance that the mowing machine wouldn’t tip over and that was relatively rock-free was the Intervale, a ten-acre field of which my grandfather owned half. The Intervale, however, presented a different problem. It was as flat as a pond and tended to degenerate into a swamp on a wet year. Continue Reading »

Dancing Forever in the Nelson Town Hall

This article was published on 1990,  in Leisure Weekly, a Keene-based entertainment newspaper that has long since ceased publication. Many things have changed since then,  but some will remain the same, even with the new renovations  ~ Gordon Peery (author). 

Not too long ago a piano tuner submitted a bill for work done on the piano in the Nelson Town Hall. With his invoice he included the following comment:

“Because of the age of this piano and long abandoned construction practices, it is impossible to give this piano a highly accurate tuning. It has numerous false beats, inharmonicity, and heavy wear. Surprisingly, the overall tone is superior and the action is still fast and responsive. I suspect the piano is favored by those who play on it.”

Over the past decade I have come to know that piano well, playing for contradances that occur regularly in the Nelson Town Hall. I have always enjoyed playing it, though from its condition it seemed like I shouldn’t.

The remarks of the piano tuner helped me to understand why I enjoyed playing it. Then it occurred to me that what was said about the piano was also a perfect description of the hall itself.

The old timber frame building doesn’t pretend to be anything fancy. The light fixtures, the windows, the architectural lines, all clearly address function over aesthetics. But the building, in its simplicity, harbors an elegance, or perhaps rather, a neutrality that facilitates the elegance of song and dance within.

Go to the Nelson Town Hall on any Monday night of the year and you’ll find anywhere from a handful to several dozen dancers moving forward and back, up and down, intertwining, moving through the graceful figures of a contradance. Though the Monday night dance is just about 10 years old, the contradance tradition in Nelson goes back long enough so that no one really knows when it began. Continue Reading »

The Town Hall Gets Off the Ground

by on May 1, 2014 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

Take a Hike

by on February 22, 2014 in Hikes and Nature, Life in Nelson, Recreation

Join members of the Nelson Trail Group on three hikes exploring some of the beauty of our town.

trails committee workdays 023

Members of the Nelson Trails Committee pose on a newly constructed bridge in this photo from last summer.

Saturday, March 1, 9:00 AM – Kulish Ledge Inaugural Hike – Harris Center hike led by Al Stoops. Meet at Bailey Brook trailhead near #611 Old Stoddard Road. Hike ends by 2 PM. This is the first organized hike on the trail built last year by the Nelson Trail Group. Hikers will enjoy the beautiful views from the ledges on the north side of Osgood Hill. There should be plenty of winter tracks to interpret. Bring snowshoes and a lunch

Saturday, March 8, 10 AM – Tolman Pond Hike – Exploratory hike led by Dave Patek and Tom Murray. Meet at Dave Patek’s high field on Cabot Road just uphill from the junction with Merriconn Road. (not the field on the corner of Tolman Pond Road.) Join the Nelson Trail Group as we explore possible routes for a new trail around Tolman Pond. The brook draining the pond falls through a rocky gorge that should feature beautiful ice formations this season. This hike will be about two hours. Bring snow shoes.

Sunday, April 13, 1:00 PM – Cellar Holes of Nelson – Another hike sponsored by The Harris Center hike led by Rick Church. Explore six cellar holes on the abandoned portion of Log Cabin Road. Most date to 1780. Meet in the Village. Back by 4 PM.

People interested in joining the Nelson Trail group should contact Rick Church at

603- 847-3206

Nelson History Is Alive in Many Ways

There was a celebration of Nelson’s history at the Olivia Rodham Library on Saturday, December 14th. It began with the unveiling of the painting of Helen Towne painted by Marie Spaeth in 1933 that was recently purchased by several donors, and given to the Library for permanent display.  Marie Spaeth was a part of the so-called “Pennsylvania Settlement an Art Colony in Nelson, New Hampshire” and that is the title of the book written by Teri Upton in 2012. Teri spoke briefly about the gifted and talented group of people who came to Nelson in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and lived in the old farmhouses, mainly in the summertime. Many of them were from Philadelphia and friends and colleagues of Olivia Rodham.

Bert Wingerson read excerpts from the book by Bruce White called “Sunsets, Stars and Blueberry Pie” about his childhood spending summers in what was Olivia Rodham’s house. Bruce recalls fondly his memories of Helen Towne working on her family’s farm, tirelessly. Helen was a member of the Warner family and spent her entire life in Nelson. Continue Reading »

Farm Table

by on June 12, 2013 in Agriculture, Food, Home Page, Promote

Farm Table The Nelson Congregational Church and the Nelson Agricultural Commission are proud to announce the return of the Sunday Farm Table on the church lawn starting on Sunday June 16 continuing on Sundays through the local growing season to September 15  from 9am-3:30pm.  Available local produce, foods, even flowers will be at table on the grass strip to the right side of the church. The commission and local farmers and anyone with produce to give are encouraged to share their abundance. The Farm Table project was envisioned as farmers had an abundance of produce and our communities have many mouths to feed.

The church and commission will rotate shared responsibility for setup and cleanup.  Anyone wishing to help is welcome to sign up.  Call David Voymas  (Ag .Com. chair for more information, ideas and questions ) at 847-3137.

The Farm Table will be set and a donation box on the table will be available.  All are welcome at the Farm Table.   Proceeds will help fund local missions and needs.

Nelson Folks Welcome in the Spring

by on May 6, 2013 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

maypoleThe Maypole Dance, Morris Dancing, the Cakewalk, and some nice visiting, on Sunday.
Spring is Here!



Photos courtesy of Jacob & Elizabeth Jarvela

Security Alert

by on May 2, 2013 in Home Page, Life in Nelson

Public Notice

The Nelson Police Department would like to give our citizens a quick reminder.

SecureWe all have busy lives and often find ourselves rushing when we leave home. We would like to caution everyone to take a few minutes to make sure your doors are locked and that keys are removed from your vehicles. The last couple of months we have seen numerous burglaries in Nelson as well as in other towns throughout Cheshire County. We are now asking for your help. If you see anything that doesn’t look right please just note any license plate or description of individuals. At no time should you make contact or stop anyone. Please give us a call at 355-2000. Your help is valuable and always appreciated.

Chief Richard Pratt, Nelson Police Department.

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 »