Other History

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 »

Sugaring Season News

[Editors Note: Candyce Fulford has found (and transcribed) three articles from the New Hampshire Sentinel (now Keene Sentinel) published in March of 1891. The first and third are written by “Themistocles”, and the middle article by “Recorder”. While a variety of news is covered, the focal point seems to be about maple sugaring, and a rivalry between the two reporters becomes quite evident.]

Date: Wednesday, March 11, 1891    Volume: XCIII    Issue: 10    Page: 5

NH Sentintel March 1891The Presiding Elder of the Methodist church has appointed Rev. William Merrill to preach here each Sunday, and his first discourse was delivered in the hall last Sunday.  An effort will be made to organize a Sabbath school, next Sunday.  Hereafter, service will begin at 10:45 o’clock a.m., instead of at 1:30.

Already preparations are being made for the annual sugar-making, and perhaps it is with the view to obtaining the government bounty on maple sugar that a few are making improvements in their appliances.  H. D. Taylor has contracted for one of Wheeler’s new process evaporators to be put in this Spring, which is expected to make a saving in labor and time, with less waste, and improvement in quality.  The furnace is portable and made of iron.  We haven’t room for extended description, but presume Mr. T will be pleased to show it in operation to all his friends and give them a taste of sugar.

If the destruction to sugar lots goes on as it has in this town for the past twenty years, it won’t be long before all the maple trees in town won’t make sugar enough to be entitled to a bounty.

Badly drifted roads affected the attendance of the regular meeting of Granite Lake Grange last Friday night, but nearly one-third of the members were present, and enough to make a good meeting.  The report of the special committee on a children’s fair, in the Fall, was heard, and the proposed plan accepted.  The committee was granted a sum of money with which to issue premiums, and it is hoped that enough enthusiasm will be developed to make the projected fair a success.  The Lecturer’s programme consisted of music, readings and a talk upon the subject of maple sugar-making.  Past Master Taylor read a paper upon maple sugar-making in the earlier times, and remarks were made upon the subject by several experienced sugar-makers.  The evidence was all in favor of cleanliness as the first requisite for first quality.  The theory was also advanced, based on tests and observation, that the flavor and lightness of color depended a good deal on the soil upon which the trees grew.  The subject for the next meeting is How can we make our homes more attractive, in-side and out?”

Gideon Vigneau has sold his place at the centre to Mr. Simmons of Keene, head clerk for Wm. G. Hall, for a Summer residence.  Mr. V. is moving to Keene.


Date: Wednesday, March 18, 1891    Volume: XCIII    Issue: 11    Page: 5

Town meeting has come and gone, and perhaps it may interest the outside world to know, as in the days of the civil war “All is quiet on the Potomac;” so we make the announcement.  Circumstances over which we had practically no control having rendered it inadvisable to attend that meeting, we are obliged to take reports concerning it, at second hand.  We think we speak advisedly in the statement that the vote of the town transferring all future town meetings, and the transaction of all town business, to Munsonville, by a meager majority variously stated at from one to not over three, said vote being secured by the action of a good number, owning little or no real estate, as a flagrant disregard of the rights of a majority of real estate owners of the town which is unprecedented in the history of Cheshire county.

The young people connected with the Y. P.S. C. E. furnished refreshments on town meeting day, the proceeds to be appropriated to the payment for the new organ, recently purchased.

F. D. Taylor and George Bailey were chosen new members of the school board on March 18th.

Preaching at the Centre by Rev. Mr. Newhall, March 15th.  It is announced that preaching services will now be held regularly till the middle of next month, by which time a stated supply is expected.

We think Brother Themistocles is very liberal in the free advertisement he gave H. D. Taylor in relation to the implied invitation to friends or the public calling to see the operation of his new sap evaporator, and to test the virtue of his maple sugar.  If there should not happen to be enough of Mr. Taylor’s sugar to go around, we would suggest that Themistocles is himself a sugar maker, and we hope Mr. T. will be equally liberal and direct those wishing to test free sugar to give him a visit and try his sugar for themselves.


Date: Wednesday, March 25, 1891     Volume: XCIII  Issue: 12  Page: 5

There was a quiet wedding at the home of the late Ezra Wilder, on the 15th inst., the contracting parties being Miss Lucy M. Wilder and William Wood, and the officiating clergyman, Rev. William Merrill of the Methodist society in this village.  The future residence of the bride and groom will be Fitchburg, Mass.

At the chair shop the timber is being fast converted into stock and it is probable that all now in the yard will be sawed up much earlier than has usually been the case.  The band saw, under the direction of Sawyer Gibson, seems to be doing excellent work and proving to accomplish what was claimed for it when put in, viz: – A time and labor saver, and an economizer of timber.  In the finishing department, several new and very attractive styles of chairs are now being made.  Samples recently shown your correspondent were considered of a taking style, and excellent in workmanship and finish.

Sumner P. Fisher expects to move into his new house about April 1st.

Perhaps we were somewhat liberal in our implied invitation to taste Mr. Taylor’s sugar, but we only referred to those persons interested in improved sugar apparatus and did not expect the whole community would accept it as an invitation to a feast.  When Themistocles gets a new evaporator he will be pleased to do as he suggested Mr. Taylor would be glad to do.

Sugar makers in this vicinity have not tapped their orchards yet.

At the regular meeting of the Granite Lake Grange, last Friday evening, it was voted to have a public sugar party in the near future, the date to be determined by a committee.  The lecturer’s hour was given to readings and a discussion of the question, “How can we make our homes more attractive inside and out?”  In the opinion of the speakers it was not necessary to have unlimited means to make our homes more attractive, but the great essentials were neatness and order about the premises, and a cultivation of the homely virtues of good nature and forbearance about the household.  Shade trees and flowers, a well kept lawn and vegetable garden are no small items in the attractiveness of a farm home.  For the next five months the grange will meet but once a month, the third Friday.  Subject for April 17th, “Temperance.”

Frank B. Hardy has been incapacitated from work for two weeks with erysipelas in his face, but is now nearly recovered.


A Hike Up Rollstone Mountain

Editor’s Note: Rollstone Mountain was also the inspiration for a contra dance tune written by Ralph Page. It was recorded in 1975 by Rodney Miller (fiddle), Randy Miller (piano) and Peter O’Brien (harmonica), on one of the first local recordings of dance tunes: “Castles in the Air“. It was arranged for the Nelson Town Band to play in the town’s musical history, The Hotel Nelson, in 1997, and the band continues to include it in their repertoire. You can hear the original recording by clicking on the link below.

by Al Stoops

Three inches of fresh snow greeted us Nelsonites that morning, two days before Christmas. Our weekly Monday hike was on Friday this week, and we looked forward to exploring the extreme northeast corner of town. We hoped to check out some rumored trails around Rollstone Mountain, an intriguing area on USGS maps and Google-Earth satellite views. Rollstone Mountain and Holt Hill make up the uplands in the extreme northeast of Nelson. Strangely, the hill is higher than the mountain. Years ago Sue and I had followed a bobcat here, along logs and across walls, round feline tracks in powder.

Four of us carpooled from the village, skidding up slippery Old Stoddard Rd, barely squeezing by the Hayes wrecker parked mid-street on the straight uphill stretch of road past the town barns. The car on the flatbed was an indication of the driving conditions. So was the greasy road itself.

Two sections of Nelson’s town lines cross Rye Pond: a north-south section of the border abuts Antrim to the east. North of the east-west line sits Stoddard. It’s a wild area—most who drive NH 123 between Hancock village and South Stoddard spend less than a minute in Nelson, but a disproportionate percentage of the town’s moose collisions likely happen in those few rods. We parked on the shoulder and heading into the woods of Antrim. Continue Reading »