Amos Newton Somers.

History of Lancaster, New Hampshire online

. (page 1 of 71)
Online LibraryAmos Newton SomersHistory of Lancaster, New Hampshire → online text (page 1 of 71)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

o 0^


- ^x

^^/. v^'



s .A

^,. .-^^

v^*^ -^ct

■>^ -^

^^" '^^


.s -n*..








Published and Issued by Order op the Town


Its Co7)i7nittee.






At the annnal March meeting, 1892, the town took its first steps
towards a history. It was then contemplated that the history should
embrace a narrative, an account of the trades and business, churches,
schools, and the like, and also personal biography of the early settlers
and their families. As the work grew it was found that all this could not
be included within one volume, and it was therefore deemed best to
exclude all personal biography and the genealogy of families, save as the
same might appear in narrative and other form. The town has a large
amount of biographical material to be used at some future day, when
another volume of history may be published. It was gathered by the
committee for this volume, but left out for the reason that it would make
the book too large. The committee regret the necessity of such action,
but congratulates the town that it now has in safe keeping much valuable
matter concerning its pioneers, who acted so well their parts in founding
a town and a civilization that we trust will bring no discredit upon them
or their works.

James W. Weeks,
Henry O. Kent,
Chester B. Jordan,
Lancaster, July i, 1898.



Chapter I. Discovery and Exploration of the Upper Coos
II. Location and Charter of the Town

III. The Town as a Civil Organization

IV. The Settlement of the Town ....
V. The Survey, Relocation, and Allotment of the Lands

VI. The Organization of the Town ....

VII. The Building of Roads and Bridges

VIII. The Revolutionary Period .....

IX. The Town from 1776 to 1800 . . . .

X. The Town from 1800 to 1850 ....

XI. The Town from 1850 to 1897 ....

XII. Education in Lancaster .....

XIII. The Establishment and Development of Religion in Lancaster

XIV. Lancaster in Relation to the Vermont Controversy
XV. Some Early Marriages and Deaths in Lancaster

XVI. Some Early Private Accounts with the Town
XVII. Religious Holidays, Musters, Raisings
XVIII. Some Temperance Movements in Lancaster
XIX. The Political History of the Town
XX. Some Authors of the Town and their Writings
XXI. The Early Post-riders and the Mails .
XXII. Some Epidemics that have Prevailed in Lancaster
XXIII. The Railroads


Chapter I. The Natural History of the Town

II. Localities, Streets, Parks, and Cemeteries

III. Material Growth of the Town

IV. Domestic Life in Early Times
V. Games, Sports, and Amusements of Early Times

VI. Mercantile Enterprises and Merchants
VII. Manufacturing Enterprises of the Town
VIII. Banks and Other Corporations
IX. The History of Education .
X. The Churches .
XI. The Newspapers of the Town
XII. The Learned Professions

XIII. Fraternal Societies

XIV. Public Buildings
XV. The Fire Department

XVI. The Civil List of the Town

XVII. The Soldiers of Lancaster .

XVIII. The Centennial Celebration of the Settlement of the Town of

Lancaster, 1764-July 14, 1864 .....




Weeks, Major John W.

Weeks, William D.

Wells, John Sullivan

Whidden, Beni- Franklin

White, John H. • •

White Mountains from District No. lo

Williams, Jared Warner, Governor .

face page 94



The Indian name of Cohoss, or Cowas, was known to the settlers
of the towns in the southern part of New Hampshire and Massachu-
setts since the beginning of the troubles with the Indians and French.
In a vague manner it signified a large and valuable tract of land
along the Connecticut river. As early as 1704 we find this name
appearing in the Provincial Records, Vol. VI, pp. 278, 874. Hun-
ters had followed their craft within this territory for many years,
and had brought to the settlements glowing accounts of its fertile
meadows and. richness of timbers, as well as its abundance of game.
In the spring of 1752, John Stark, afterward known as General
Stark, his brother William, Amos Eastman, and David Stinson were
set upon by a party of St. Francis Indians while hunting on Baker's
river, in the present town of Rumney. John Stark and Amos East-
man were captured, while David Stinson was killed, and William
Stark made his escape. These two prisoners were taken to the set-
tlement of the St. Francis tribe in Canada, passing through the
Cohoss country, halting to hunt at points along the route. They
camped the first night at the mouth of John's, river. These two
young men had thus a good opportunity to view the famed " Co-
hoss Meadows " so much talked of in the lower settlements of New

On the return of Stark and Eastman, who were ransomed in the
summer of 1752, they gave a glowing account of the Cohoss country,
which excited renewed interest in the previous desire and immature
plan for its settlement. During that year Governor Wentworth
made several grants of townships on both sides of the Connecticut
river, by which he hoped to secure the settlement of this coveted
country. Accordingly a party set out to lay out a township on
either side of the river where Newbury, Vt., and Haverhill, N. H.,
now are. A prompt remonstrance on the part of the St. Francis
Indians led to the abandonment of the plan for a period of ten years.


In the spring of 1754, the governor sent Colonel Lovewell, Major
Talford, and Captain Page out in command of a company, with John
Stark as their guide, to explore the Cohoss country. They left Rum-
ford (now Concord) on March 10, 1754, and in seven days reached
the Connecticut river at Piermont, where they tarried but one night
and then beat a hasty retreat, reaching Rumford after an absence
of thirteen days. In the absence of any recorded reasons for such a
failure to carry out an order of the government we are left to infer
that these explorers were afraid of meeting the Indians who claimed
the territory they had entered upon.

The same season another exploring party was sent out on the
same mission. This party consisted of Captain Peter Powers, of
Hollis, N. H., Lieut. James Stevens, and Ensign Ephraim Hale, of
Townsend, Mass., with a company of soldiers. They left Rumford
on Saturday, June 15, 1754, and proceeded with much difficulty
from bad weather and swollen streams, up what Captain Powers
called the " Great Valley," or Cohoss. From the journal of Captain
Powers it is quite certain that his company reached Isreals river,
within the present locality of the village of Lancaster, and remained
but a single day, long enough to mend their shoes, and then returned
on account of the exhaustion of their provisions. Captain Powers
and two of his men marched up the Connecticut river five miles,
where they discovered evidences that the Indians had been encamped
within a day or two, making canoes. Captain Powers's party were
prudent, at least in avoiding any chance of meeting the Indians.
They were not sent out to conquer the inhabitants of Cohoss, nor to
take any formal possession of the country, but to examine it and
report to the government. Powers's description of the country
through which he passed is accurate, terse, and clear. He named
Isreals river Powers' river, in which he no doubt acted in good faith.
It is not at all probable that he had any knowledge of its previous
name in honor of. Isreal Glines, who had his hunter's camp on it
many years before, while John Glines, a brother of Isreal, had a
camp on John's river. Powers gave as a reason for the river being
called John's river the fact that John Stark had lodged on its banks
while a captive of the Indians in 1752. He seems, from these con-
siderations, to have known nothing of the Glineses.

The Glines brothers, as also one Martin, who hunted on the
meadows and pond that bear his name, came here for no other pur-
pose than to hunt and trap. Whatever information they conveyed to
the lower settlements on leaving the Cohoss country about 1752, is
merely a matter of conjecture. As hunters they were not interested
in having the country settled. Powers's expedition, on the contrary,
was sent out to gain accurate information of the country and report
the same to guide the government in its designs to have the country


settled before the French should seize it and erect forts and hold it
for France, Little or nothing resulted from the Powers exploring
expedition, unless it had the effect to allay the fear of the French
occupation of the Cohoss country. No effort was made by the
authorities of the Province to form settlements above " No. 4" (now
Charlestown), after the Assembly refused to concur with Governor
Wentworth in granting townships in 1752, until 1761, although
many petitions were made for authority to do so. The dangers
and expense accompanying the formation of new settlements many
miles away from the older fortified settlements, was the chief and
only reason holding in check many families anxious to acquire lands
in the rich "Cohoss Meadows." The projects of the governor and
one Captain Symes, and Theodore Atkinson, who pressed the ques-
tion upon the attention of the Assembly at home, and the agent of
New Hampshire, and the king abroad, involved a military occupation
of the country. They saw and urged the necessity of a strict mili-
tary government of their proposed settlements involving the erec-
tion of strong garrisons in the centre of the settlements. Such,
indeed, would have been the situation had the Assembly concurred
in the governor's plans, for not only was there a strong determina-
tion on the part of the Indians to prevent further encroachments
upon their hunting grounds, but the French were ready, and only
too willing, to offer the Indians all possible encouragement to resist
the extension of English settlements northward. The French hacj
by that time made Crown Point as much of a stronghold on Lake
Champlain as Quebec was on the St. Lawrence river, and were jeal-
ous of any encroachments upon the territory above " No. 4."
These projects only related to the " Lower Coos," as it came to be
known later ; but if such were the dangers confronting settlers at
that point how much greater would they not have been in the
" Upper Coos" ?

So great was the hostility and daring of the St. Francis Indians
that they attacked "No. 4," as late as the 30th of August, 1754,
which at the time was defended by a garrison under the noted
Captain Phineas Stevens, and carried away into captivity eight per-
sons. So great seemed the dangers from these Indian attacks that
towns as far south as Fort Dummer (Hinsdale), Westmoreland,
Keene, and Swanzey sent up petitions to the General Court, and
even went so far as to petition the General Court of Massachusetts
Bay Colony for protection against the Indians.

The controversy between Massachusetts and New Hampshire over
the boundary question had been settled by King George II in favor
of New Hampshire in 1740, which naturally lessened the interest of
Massachusetts in the territory in dispute between the New Hamp-
shire settlers and the Indians. New Hampshire was not strong


enough at that time to invite the combined assaults of the French
and Indians, hence many plans for the settlement of new territory in
the north had to be abandoned until a more promising time.

That time came only with the close of the last French and Indian
War, lasting from 1755 until 1760, when Quebec and Crown Point
had been wrested from the French, and the St. Francis tribe of
Indians had been almost annihilated by the famed Robert Rogers
and his Rangers, who, returning from that memorable victory,
passed down the Connecticut river through the " Upper Coos."
This ever-memorable expedition of Rogers's Rangers did more to
open the way for the exploration and settlement of the " Cohoss "
country than all movements combined, for it crushed the hostile
spirit of the Indians, and admonished the French that the English
purpose to have and hold the Connecticut valley was indisputable.
Rogers had been in the "Upper Coos" early in the season of 1755,
and erected a fort near the mouth of the Upper Amonoosuck, which
he named Fort Wentworth. The site of this old fort is a matter of
some interest in the early traditions of the " Upper Coos." In his
report of the expedition he says of " Coos" (he spells it Cohas), " it
is a tract of twenty miles in length and six in breadth, which, for its
beauty and fertility, may be deservedly styled the ' Garden of New
England.' "

On their way from St. Francis, Rogers's Rangers passed through
the " Upper Coos." Pressed by hunger and fatigue, some of them
sought to get out of the wilderness by passing through the White
Mountain notch. Several of them passed up Isreals river toward
the " notch " with an Indian guide, who seems to have misled them.

Only one of their number, one Bradley, succeeded in making
the trip, to tell the sad story of their sufferings. Others of the
Rangers passed down the Connecticut river. Too weak to bear the
burdens of their guns and knapsacks, they hid them among the
rocks and passed on, empty-handed, to the settlements on the river
below. Many of these relics have since been found in the town of
Lunenburg, Vt.



David Page of Petersham, Mass., having become dissatisfied with
an allotment of land to him in Haverhill, N. H., of which he was
one of the grantees, in 1762, immediately set about making arrange-
ments to found a settlement, in which his fancied rights should be
duly respected in the land allotments. In company with sixty-nine

Ox Israels River, Lancaster.

Starr King Mountain.

Presidential Range from LeGro Hill.


other persons, he procured a charter for a town in the Upper Coos
country, then known to be very rich meadow-land on the Connecti-
cut river.

Page had in his employment at the time a young man by the
name of Emmons Stockwell, who is supposed to have been in this
region before, as one of Rogers's Rangers. Whether he was one of
the party that destroyed the village of St. Francis in 1759, is not
certainly known. There is a chance that he might have accom-
panied Major Rogers in 1755, when he built Fort Wentworth in
Northumberland, near the mouth of the Upper Ammonoosuc river.
On that occasion detachments from various companies were assigned
to Major Rogers for that purpose, and we predict that the name of
Emmons Stockwell will be found in some Massachusetts company,
as he was a resident of that state. Then, too, young Stockwell, and
even Edwards Bucknam, another young man of Petersham, in the
employment of David Page, may have hunted in the " Upper Coos
Meadows." At all events it was from the knowledge these young
men had of the country that led Page to secure a charter for it, and
enter into the scheme for its settlement. Knowing how desirous
Governor Wentworth was to grant charters, and lay the whole
country under the rule of the king, Page and his followers were
encouraged to ask for a charter of the rich meadows, which was
no sooner asked for than granted. In fact, many of the governor's
warmest friends were among the grantees.

Without any previous survey of the lands, the governor, probably
with the assistance, and at least by the suggestion, of his petitioners,
blocked out a township of certain arbitrary dimensions, to contain a
definite number of acres, and granted it under the name of Lan-
caster. This grant was supposed to cover all the broad meadows,
now in Lancaster, and known as the " Upper Coos Meadows," and
the water power of Isreals river. How arbitrary the grants of
towns were can readily be seen by a glance at the plots that were
always made out on the backs of the charters, and are now repro-
duced in the "State Papers, Vols. 24 and 25, Tow^n Charters."

The north line of Lancaster was to be the same as the south line
of Stonington, granted to John Hogg and others, Oct. 20, 1761, In
consequence of the general ignorance of the governor's petitioners
in respect to an unsurveyed country, it happened that the south line
of Stonington was some eight or nine miles lower down the river
than they supposed, and included all the coveted meadows of the
Upper Coos. That threw Lancaster still further south ten miles,
upon territory, now included in the towns of Dalton, Whitefield, and
Littleton. As granted, and by the description in the charter, Lan-
caster was to corner on the Connecticut river a short distance below
the mouth of Beaver brook.


But for the failure of the grantees of the town of Stonington to
take possession of their territory and settle upon it, David Page and
his followers would have found themselves forced to move off the
rich meadows of the present Lancaster, and either content them-
selves with the less desirable territory within their grant, or to have
sought still another location. The desire of David Page to get as
good land as there was within his supposed grant, led him to take
possession of the broad meadows, then near the centre of Stoning-
ton, under the supposition that he was within his lawful limits.

The charter for Lancaster was granted July 5, 1763, and David
Page sent his son, David Page, Jr., and Emmons Stockwell to take
possession of the territory that same year. Tradition says they
came some time in the fall, built a log cabin on the meadows, cut
grass, and stacked it to feed their cattle that were to be driven up early
the following spring. One tradition says that after accomplishing
this task they returned to Massachusetts, and came back with David
Page and several other young men the following April to find that
the spring freshets had carried their hay off and flooded their cabin.
Another tradition says that these two young men remained here all
winter and subsisted by hunting and fishing. This latter tradition
is the more plausible one, and is probably true.

It would seem much more likely that the mistake of locating the
Lancaster settlement on the territory granted to the Stonington
people was made by these young men coming in advance of the
elder Page. They knew something of the country, at least Stock-
well did, and as it was supposed that under the charter they were
going to take possession of the Coos Meadows, they pitched upon
the most valuable lands. That was undoubtedly their instruction
from David Page. Then, too, we must consider the fact that these
young men would not have the charter to guide them in fixing the
bounds of the town. It may be doubted whether David Page, Sr.,
himself would have done better even with his charter to aid him in
fixing upon the bounds of the town.

There is no reason to suppose that the grantees of Lancaster
intended to dispossess the grantees of Stonington of their valuable
territory. The fact that the former found themselves upon the lands
of the latter, after a renewed effort had been made by John Hogg
and his followers to regain the land they lost by a failure to comply
with the terms of their charter, does not convict them of stealing
the lands of their more fortunate neighbors, who had received a
prior grant of them. That the readers may better judge how easy
it was to make mistakes in finding the rightful limits of the towns
arbitrarily laid out without a previous survey of them, I will give
here the descriptions of the bounds of Stonington that they may be
compared with those of Lancaster in the charter which follows :


Bounds of Stonington. "Beginning at A Maple Tree wliich Stands on the
Easterly Side of Connecticut River and is about Thirty Miles on A Straight Line
from Ammoiuisek Rivers Mouth and from thence Northerly up Connecticut River
as that runs about nine miles on a Strait Line to an Elm marked Standing on the
Southerly Side of the mouth of a Small Brook running into Connecticut River &
carrying that Breadth Back between two East lines so far as that A Paralell Line
to the Strait Line from the Maple afore Said to the Elm afore Said will make the
Contents of Six Miles Square and that the same be, and hereby is incorporated
into a Township by the name of Stonington." [State Papers, Vol. 25, p. 394-]

Taking Cargill brook in Northumberland as the small brook
referred to here, we would have a distance of nine miles to the point
I have designated as the intended northwestern corner of Lancaster.


" Province of New-Hampshire.
Lancaster GEORGE, the third

< P. S. S By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King,

^ >.^v^ ' Defender of the Faith &c.
To all Persons to whom these Presents shall come. Greeting,

Know ye, tiiat We of our special Grace, certain knowledge, and meer Motion, for
the due Encouragement of settling a New Plantation within our said Province,
by and with the Advice of our Trusty and Well-beloved Benning Wentworth,
Esqr; Our Governor and Commander in Chief of Our said Province of New
Hampshire in New England, and of our Council of the said Province ; Have,
upon the Conditions and Reservations herein after made, given and granted, and
by these Presents, for us. our Heirs, and Successors, do give and grant in equal
Shares, unto Our loving Subjects, Inhabitants of Our said Province of New-
Hampshire, and Our other Governments, and to their Heirs and Assigns for ever,
whose Names are entered on this Grant, to be divided to and amongst them into
Seventy Six equal Shares, all that Tract or Parcel of Land situate, lying and
being within our said Province oi New-Hampshire, containing by admeasurement
Twenty three Thousand & Forty Acres, which Tract is to contain six Miles
square, and no more ; out of which an Allowance is to be made for High Ways
and unimprovable Lands by Rocks, Ponds, Mountains and Rivers, One Thousand
and Forty acres free, according to a Plan and Survey thereof, made by our said
Governors's Order, and returned into the Secretary's Office, and hereunto an-
nexed, butted and bounded as follows, Viz. Beginning at a Stake & Stones
standing on bank of the Easterly side of Connecticut River, which is the South
Westerly Corner bounds of Stonington, thence running South fifty five Deg' East
seven Miles by Stonington To the South Easterly corner thereof, then turning off
& Runing South Sixty nine Deg^ West Ten Miles, then turning off again &
Runing North twenty six Degrees West to Connecticut River thence up the River
as that tends to the Stake & stones first above Mentioned the Bounds begun at
And that the same be, and hereby is incorporated into a Township by the Name
of Lancaster And the Inhabitants that do or shall hereafter inhabit the said Town-
ship, are hereby declared to be Enfranchized with and entitled to all and every
the Privileges and Immunities that Towns within Our Province by Law Exercise
and Enjoy : And other further, that the said Town as soon as there shall be Fifty
Families resident and settled thereon, shall have the Liberty of holding Two

Fairs, one of which shall be held on And the other on the

annually, which Fairs are not to confine longer than the

respective following the said ^ and that as


soon as said Town shall consist of Fifty Families, a Market may be opened and
kept one or more Days in each Week, as may be thought most advai,tagious to
the Inhabitants. Also, that the first meeting for the Choice of Town Officers,
agreable to the Laws of our said Province, shall be held on the first Tuesday in
August next which said Meeting shall be Notified by Uavid Page who is hereby
also appointed the Moderator of the said first Meeting, which he is to Notify and
Govern agreable to the Laws and Customs of Our said Province ; and that the
annual Meeting for ever hereafter for the Choice of such Officers for the said
Town, shall be on the Second Tuesday of March annually, To Have and to
Hold the said Tract of Land as above expressed, together with all Privileges and
Appurtenances, to them and their respective Heirs and Assigns forever, upon the
following conditions, viz.

I. That every Grantee, his Heirs or Assigns shall plant and cultivate five Acres

Online LibraryAmos Newton SomersHistory of Lancaster, New Hampshire → online text (page 1 of 71)