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.

These volumes contain important records of the small rural town we call Nelson, originally Packersfield, from the 19th century, revealing how the schools, poor farm, roads and tax records were part of the social fabric of the community. They list who lived in the town and who the officials were over a period of several decades. Thaddeus Barker, John Breed, Josiah Robbins, Nathaniel Griffin, and George Tolman, to name a few who were tax collectors, selectmen,  and just ordinary citizens who paid taxes.

The reports show what was needed to run a rural school, such as lots of cord wood purchased from several different individuals. The records tell us the amount of salary and board money paid to single female teachers in 12 week increments and where they roomed. The school meeting reports were signed by Joel Bancroft, John Yardley, Horatio Osgood, Lyman Stone, and Milan Harris, to name a few.

There is a detailed list of items purchased for the Poor Farm giving us clear insight into what it took to maintain that facility even for a few years. In 1853, the Overseer of the Poor Farm, Upton Burnap, bought 2 large rocking chairs, 2 clothes lines, 3 dozen clothes pins, 1 ox yoke and bows, 1 iron shod bed and 1 pail. The complete list of items purchased the year before takes several pages in the record book.

The reports also give a detailed account of payments to Gad Newell, the first minister of Nelson, over the many years he was pastor. They give a list of the poor (before the farm was established), who took them in, and what the town paid for room and board. There are many entries listed to Dr. Nehemiah Rand, the town physician. Most importantly, these carefully written accounts indicate a commitment by the town to maintain these facilities, taking care of the poor and educating the children.

Thanks to the many people who buy the Moose Conservation License Plates that fund this grant for the protection and preservation of materials that are important to the history of New Hampshire and to our beloved town of Nelson.

Susan Hansel

Assistant Archivist

Town of Nelson


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