John Farmer.

An historical sketch of Amherst, in the county of Hillsborough, in New-Hampshire, from the first settlement to the present period online

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Online LibraryJohn FarmerAn historical sketch of Amherst, in the county of Hillsborough, in New-Hampshire, from the first settlement to the present period → online text (page 1 of 4)
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THE preservation of historical facts is supposed to confer an obligation
9n posterity. Though these facts may sometimes appear trivial when first
brought to view, yetitis generally true, that they will acquire an importance
proportionate to tlieir antiquity. Those which are exhibited in the following
Plistorical Sketch may be less interesting to us, than to posterity, who will
best know how to appreciate their value.

It is gratifying to an inquisitive mind, and imparts profitable instruction, to
review the conduct and examine the records of those who have passed before
us on the theatre of action. It is a subject of delight torecalthe "days of
other years ;" — the days when the goodly heritage we now enjoy began to
emerge from an uncultivated slate — when the wilderness budded, and at a
succeeding period, blossomed as the rose. It is obviously our duty to vener-
ate the memory of those, to whom, under Providence, we are indebted for our
civil and religious privileges, and cherish a remembrance for the principles
which influenced their conduct. A few observations relating to the earliest
European inhabitants of New-England may not be improper. Our fathers
were a race of men peculiarly qualified to engage in settling a new country.
They were men of courage, enterprize and perseverance. They were a re-
ligious people. The cause of religious freedom had a principal agency in their
removal from their native country. "They were," says Dr. C. Mather, "a
chosen company of men, picked out of, perhaps, all the counties of England.'*
It was the remark of a worthy magistrate of the colony of Massachusetts,
that " God sifted a whole nation that he might send choice grain into this

The first planters of the most ancient towns in New-England, were princi-
pally good substantial farmers or yeomen in England, or their immediate de-
scendants. They were probably such as are described by Harrison, a writer
of the sixteenth centurj, as follows. " This sort of people," says he, "hav«
a certain pre-eminence, and more estimation than labourers and the common
sort of artificers, and with grazing and frequenting of markets, and keep-
ing of servants, do come to great wealth, insomuch that many of them are
able, and do buy the lands of unthrifty gentlemen, and often send their sons
to the schools, to the Universities, and to the Inns of court ; or otherwise
leaving tliem sufficient lands, whereupon they may live without laboar, and


do make them hj those means to become gentlemen." It \» ccilain tliai
saany of those who formed the first settlements were persons of consider-
able estates.

Our fathers, previous to their leaving England, lived in houses or cottages,
" distributed into several rooms above and beneath, and were coated with
•white lime or cement, and were roofed with reed.'* Others, of less substance,
lived in cottages, consisting generally of two rooms on the ground floor, the
outer for the servants,the inner for tlie master and his family, and these were
thatched with straw. When they arrived in this country, and formed set-
tlements in the wilderness, they built their first houses in a rude and inele*
gant manner, of rough materials, and were seldom mors than one story high.
And as they had been accustomed in their native country, to use thatch for
a covering to the roofs of their houses, they used the same materials for sev-
eral of the first years after their arrival here. The houses built in the coun^
try the first hundred years, and till past the middle of the last centurj^, gen-
erally fronted towards the south, without any reference to the course or
direction of the road. Hence we see at the present day some old
houses facing the south, with the road running behind them ; others with the
end towards the road ; and some with one of the corners.

There was a difference between the circumstances of those who planted
our earliest towns, and their posterity, who formed more modern settlements.
The Fathers of New-England entered an unknown wilderness, were surround-
ed with savage tribes, and exposed to their ferocity and the dangers and dis-
tresses of famine and disease. They were three thousand miles from their
native country, without neighbours, and unable to procure assistance in view
of the most serious evils, and were assailed with disease and death. The
settlers of plantations at a later period did not experience these evils to the.
same extent, though their hardships and privations were very great. In case
of assault from the Indians, they could seek shelter in the older settlements ;
when famine approached them, they could receive supplies from their breth-
ren. But still they were surrounded with difficulties, which to surmountj
required great hardihood of body and intrepidity of mind. Let us then,
ever remember our fathers witli veneration and respect.
Amherst^ 24 ^pril, 1820.


AMHERST, in the county of Hillsborough, is
situated on both sides of Souhegan river, in latitude 42** 51'
north. The principal part of territory lies on the northern
side. It is nine miles in length from north to south ; the
greatest breadth is four and a half miles ; its least breadth is
rather more than two miles. It is bounded on the wpst by Mont
Vernon, on the north by New-Boston, on the east by Bedford
and IVIcrrimack, and on the south by Hollis and Milford.
The distance of Amherst from Portsmouth is about 55 miles,
from Boston, 48 miles ; and from Concord, the seatof gov-
emmt-nt of the state, 30 miles.

As this sketch will be confined to the history of the town,
the writer will forego any farther geographical description.
Amherst has its origin from a grant of the General Court of
Massachusetts, to the posterity of those who served in the
war with King Philif) in 1675. It appears from our histori-
ans that this grant did not originate from the most dismterested
motives.* It originated rather from motives of policy than
from motives ot benevolence.

From Governor Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, it
appears that the General Court of that province, in 1728, devi-
ated from their ordinary prudence in the distribution of terri-
tory, and, ''• on a sudden laid plans for grants of vast tracts of
unimproved land." Under the old charter of the province,
and the new, till this period, the government had granted
lands for the purpose of having settlements formed. But at
this time, the disposition of the Court was such, that pretences

* About 20 years since, [i. e. 1748] and for some following years, the Gen-
eral Afsembly of this Province [Massachusetts] were in the humour of divid-
ing and appropriating most of the then reckoned Provincial or nnoccupied
Lands : that in Case of future Claims by the crown, &c. by possession they
might atleasl retain the Property.

Our General Assembly at this time were in such a Hurry to appropriate the
Tacant Lands, that several old Townsliips were encouraged to petition for
an additional new Towusliip ; and when they were satiated, the Assembly in-
troduced by way of Bounty to the Descendants of the Soldiers in the Indian
War of King Philip, 1015, and of the Soldiers in Sir William Phipps'' Ex-
pedition against Canada, 1690, grants toeach of fhs'je expeditions. l>avslai<-^'
Summary, Vol, I, JVe/e io page 505.

were encouraged and even souglit after to entitle persons to
become grantees. The first, w^ho were selected, were the
posterity of all the officers and soldiers' who served in the
memorable expedition of 1675. Almost forty-eight years
had elapsed since that event, and most of the officer'* and sol-
diers engaged in it were dead. Of one hundred and twenty
persons, to whom this town was assigned, only nineteen, who
served in that war, were living in 1733.

In June, 1728, the court g'aated two townships, each of the
contents of six miles square, to the officers and soldiers, (or
their lavirful representatives) belonging to the province of
]\Iassachusefts, who were in the service of their country in the
Narraganset v.'ar, as a reward for their pub'ick service and in
full satisfaction of the grant formerly made them by the court.
In June, 1732, in answer to several petitions, an additional
grant of five more townships was, and a committee of
live persons* were appointed to survey and locate them in
some of the unappropriated lands of the province. Each town-
ship was to contain six miles square. The conditions of the
grant of these seven townships w ere, that the grantees should
assemble within two months and regulate each propriety, or
township, which was to be held and enjoyed by one hundred
and twenty grantees ; that they should settle sixty families at
least in every township, and a learned orthodox minister,
within seven years. The government, which was to be at the
expense of locating the townships, reserved in each, one right
for thr first settled muiister, one for the ministry, and one for
the school.

As might have been expected, considerable difficulty arose
from the number of descendants, who presented their claims
for the right of the same ancestor. In order to remedy this
evil, the court ordered that where the person was deceased,
who had been in the service, the grant should belong to his
legal representative in the follov/ing manner. ' That the
eldest male heir if such there n.ight be, otherwise the eldest
female, if they pleased, should hold the land, by paying to the
other descendants, or heirs, such proportionable parts of ten
pounds, (which was judged to be the value of a right) as such
descendants or heirs would be entitled to, provided that said
land descended according to a law of the province for the set-
tlement of intestate estates.'

'i'he grant ol ilie additional five townships did not immedi'^
rjtely receive the approbation of the governour. 'J he act ;
for granting diem passed the house, 30 June, 1732, and

* John Chandler, Edward Shove, Thoma? TilcsloiiPj John ITobson an^
."*amuel Chundler.

did not iTceive his signature till the twenty-sixth April.,
the year following. But the grantees were incessant in re-
newing their application-j ; they even went so far as to ap-
point a person* to use his interest with the governour to in-
duce him " to sign the grant." Hovy far the influence of this
person might have operated, it is not necessary to determine.

After a great number of meetings and adjournments of the
committee of the Narraganset grantees, the grantees them-
selves assembled at Boston, on the common, and formed into
seven distinct societies, each society consisting of one hun-
dred and twenty persons, and entitled to one township. Three
persons from each society were chosen a committee, who met
at Luke Verdey's in Bosron, on the 17 October, 1733, and
assigned the seven townships as follows. Narraganset No. I,
situated " back of Saco and Scarborough," now called Buxton,
was assigned to Philemon Dane and company ; No. II, at
Wachuset, now called Westminster, to James Lowden ; No*
III, at Souhegan-West, now Amherst, to Richard Mower ;
No. IV, at Amuskeag, to Edward Shove ; No. V, at Souhe-
gan-East, to Col. Thomas Tilestcn ; No. VI, in the county
of Worcester, and now called Templeton, to Samuel Chandler ;
and No. VII, in Maine, to Col. Shubael Gorham.

This town which was called Narraganset No. Ill, was as-
signed to 29 persons belonging to Salem, 7 to Marblehead,
27 to Lynn, 5 to Gloucester, 9 to Andover, 14 to Topsfield,
14 to Beverly, 4 to Wenham, 4 to Boxford, 1 to Scarborough,
S to Reading, 1 to York, 2 to Falmouth, and 1 to Chatham.
1714. ^ ^^^* meeting of the grantees of No. Ill, or
Souhegan-West, as it was generally called, was holden
at Salem Village, now Danvers, on the 17 July, this year,
when a committeef was appointed to " take a particular view
of the circumstances of the township," who were " to have
power to employ a surveyor and such pilots as might be ne-
cessary." A committee! was also appointed to subdivide the
township. On the 2 September, the society met to receive
the report of their committee, who, having been disappointed in
the choice of a surveyor, made no report. They however de-
clared verbally, " that they had been on the land and found it
well timbered." The proprietors at this time voted that the
township should be " subdivided as soon as may be" — that
the committee appointed for that purpose should lay out to
each proprietor for the first or home lot, sixty acres, and what
was wanting in quality to be made up in quantity.

* Mr. Samuel Welles.

+ Capt. Beujamin Potter, Capt. Richard Mower, and Mr. Daniel Kennej.
% The above gentlemen with Messrs. Cornelius TarbelJ, £b«nezer Ray
mood, Jeremiah Gatchcl, Joha Bisbj aad Thoman T»rbos>

About this time the first settlement was commenced by-
Samuel Walton and Samtiel Lampson, who were the earliest
inhabitants. They were from the county of Essex. Walton
died in this town, hut none of his posterity remain here.
Lampson removed to Billerica about five years after this town
was inc«rporated, and died there.* His children remained in
town, and his posterity still remain in Mont- Vernon. His
son Jonathan Lampson died there in 1815, at the age of 90.
Lampson and Walton first seated themselves about a mile
from the present compact part of the town, on the Boston road,
and here, it is said, was erected the first house in town. It
was built of logs and stood where the tavern now stands.
They afterwards took up other lots in different parts of the
town, leaving their first habitations. Other setders from Mid-
dlctonin Essex, and the adjacent towns, arrived within a few
years, and commenced settlements in different parts of the

-y On the 8 January, the proprietors granted to Rich-

ard Mower, liberty to draw lot No. 21, upon the
conditions that he should, within eighteen months, build a
convenient house of entertainment, fence in a pasture of six
or eight acres, and provide a sufficient ferry boat to transport
any of the proprietors over Souhegan river. On the first of
May, a committee was appointed to take a view of the town-
ship, and locate a spot for a meeting house, burial ground
and training field. A tract of land containing thirteen acres
and one hundred and forty rods v/as designated for these pur-
poses. Measures were taken this year to build a bridge over
Souhegan river. It was also voted that a convenient meet-
ing house be built on that piece or plat of ground laid out for
that purpose.

In 1736, a person was appointed to wait on the selectmen
of Dunstable, and request them to lay cut a highway from
Nashua river to Souhegan bridge.

^w^o Fourteenth February, the proprietors voted to
build a meeting house, 45 feet long and 35 feet wide.
It appears to have been raised 16 May, 1739, when Capt.
Ebenezer Raymond was desired to make provision for the
occasion. It stood upon an eminence about one fourth of a
mile from the present meeting house, near the house formerly

* In or(3er to ascertain the lime of Mr. Lampson's death, the ivriter ad-
dressed a line to the Rev. Dr. Cumings, who says, he was admitted a mem-
ber of the church in Billerica, on a letter of dismission and recommendation
of the church in Amherst, May 30, 1765. The Doctor further adds, " I have
a perfect recollection of him, but can give no account of his decease, whick
must have been prior to July, 1784, when my private records of mortality
eommeuced." MS. letltr of Rev. Dr. Cumings, 1819.

+ For some notices of several of the early settlers, see Appendix No. I.


^dccupied by Major Turner Crooker. After the present house
of worship was built, it was converted into a court house, and
was finally burnt by an incendiary in 1790.
^ y-Q A grant of sixty acies of land, adjoining the falls of

Souhcgan river, was made to Solomon Wilkins up-
on these conditions : — *•' That he should build a good grist-
mill and keep it in repair, and at all times supply the inhabi-
tants of Souhegan-West with meal when they should bring
corn to be ground, for the customary and lawful toll." If any
extraordinary casualty should happen, and he neplect to grind
for the space of eight months, the privileges granted were to
revert to the proprietors. These conditions do not appear to
have been fulfilled by him, for a grant with similar conditions
was made 30 April, 1741, to John Shepard, afterwards Colo-
nel. Instead of sixty, there were granted to him one hundred
and twenty acres, which extended down the river to the bottom
of the falls.
J y . This year the proprietors settled the Rev. Daniel

Wilkins. The plantation at this time contained but
fourteen fiimilies. It seems to have been a primary object in
the grants of townships in New England, that the gospel
ministry should be established. Indeed in the grant of some
towns in the early settlement, this seems to have been the
principal condition. In the grant of all the Narraganset town-
ships, it was stipulated that the proprietors should settle a
learned orthodox minister within the spate of seven years.
The proprietors of this town at an early period of the settle-
ment, manifested a disposition to have the inhabitants enjoy
the ordinances of God. In December, 1738, they voted that
the inhabitants should receive ;^.20 from the treasury, "toward
their having the word of God preached among them for the
enjuing six months." They afterwaids voted that the settlers
should have fifty shillings for every Sabbath they should have
preaching among them.

As an inducement for persons to become inhabitants of this
place, the proprietors voted that each settler should receive
twenty pounds, provided he had complied with the conditions
required by the grant of the general ,ourt.

Sixty families were required to be settled here before the
expiration of seven years, but it may be supposed that the time
was extended to a longer period ; for in 1747, the proprietors
chose a committee to adopt measures, which " should oblige
sixty families (with those already settled here) to settle im-
mediately, or procure some to settle here for them»"


.^r-> •''^ hridge over Souhegan river near Milford mills
' ^'^' was erected about this time. Several publick roads
were laid out this year ; — one from Stdem-Canad:i,now Lynde-
borough, to Milford bridge, and another from the bridge to
the meeting-house. The road from I^ovejoy's bridge, frcim
Small's and Sawyer's were laid out about the sftme time.

Near this period, there were seven garrisoned houses, which
afforded places of security to the inhabitants in times of alarm
and danger. Besides these, there was, according to Douglass,
a fort or block house which was maintained at the publick ex-
pense. The Indians at this time, made fiequent irruptions
on the frontiers, destroying the fruits of industry and capti-
vating the settlers. Though Amherst was for some time one
of the frontier tOAvns, and exposed to their incursions, yet it is
not recollected that they ever committed much mischief in
this place ; nor is there recorded any account of their killing
any person w^ithin the precincts of the town. It is believed,
there were few or no Indians in town at the arrival of the first
settlers. There had been a considerable number, and some
of their rvigwa7ns were then visible. They had dwelt prin-
cipally upon the river ; and human bones, supposed to be those
of Indians, have been washed from its banks within the recol-
lection of the present inhabitants. The name of the river is
derived from the Indians, and signifies, it has been said,
crooked* Like many other Indian ;iames, it has changed its
orthography, but retains the pronunciation familiar to our
earliest inhabitants. Its most ancient name was Souhegenack,
It was explored before the year 1683, and some grants of
land, situated on its banks, were made by the government of
Massachusetts prior to that time. At a subsequent period,
the vicinity of this river was examined in search of metallick
ores and minerals. Mr. Baden, an ingenious miner and as-
sayer, was sent over to New-England by a company of gentle-
man in England for this purpose. Lead ore was found near
this river, and the Merrimack, " but not plenty, and so inter-
mixed with rock and spar, as not worth working."

^^,gQ This year, the town received a charter signed by
Benning Wentworth, governour of the province,
which is dated the eighteenth of January. It now exchanged
the name of Souhegan-West for Amherst, which was given
to it in honour of Jeffery, Lord Amherst, commander in chief
of the British army at the conquest of Canada, in 1 760. This
distinguished nobleman, who sustained many important offices
in England, died at his seat in Kent, 3 August, 179r,
aged 80.


The first meeting under the charter was holden on the 20th
February. Colonel John Gofle, who was authorized to call
the first meetingof the inhabitants, presided as moderator. Sol-
omon Hutchinson* was chosen town clerk. VV^illiiun Brad-
ford, Reuben Mussey, Joseph Gould, Thomas Clark, and the
town clerk, were chosen the first selectmen. Soon after the
town was chartered, the inhabitants at a publick meeting, chose
Rev. Mr. Wilkins for their minister, and voted him an annual
salary of forty-seven pounds, ten shillings, sterling money of
Great-Britain, or an equivalent in the currencv of the pro-
vince, upon the standard of Indian corn at two shilings per
bushel, and pork two pence halfpenny per pound, sterling.
A committee was chosen to present to Air. Wilkins the votes
of the town on this occasian, to whom he made a written re-
ply at the same meeting, containing his acceptance of their

The whole of Amherst at this time lay upon the northern
side of Souhegan river. Its boundaries commenced at the
river, *' thence running north one degree west, on the town-
ships of Merrimack and Bedford, six miles ; thence running
west on Bedford and a tract of land called New-Boston, six
miles ; then south about five miles and an half to Souheg.ui
aforesaid ; then by said river to the place where it began.f"

The year 1761 was distinguished by a very severe drought,
which operated severely on the frontier towns. The crops
were cut short so as to render supplies from abroad absolute-
ly necessary.:|;

^ The last meeting of the proprietors on record was

' holden 14 March, 1763. The proprietor's clerk,

Major Joshua Hicks of Salem, had deceased, and the records

* Mr. Hutchinson lived on the spot where the house of the lion. J. K.
Smith stands. His dwelHug liouse was burnt in March, 1761. He removed

from town in and afterwards went to the state of Maine, where he died

a few years since, aged about 90 years.

t A portion of the present territory of Amherst was comprehended in the
deed, obtained 17 May, 1629, by Rev. John Wheelwright and others, from
Passacouaway, Sagamore of Penacook, Runaawit of Pantuckt-t, Wahangno\r-
awit of Swamscot and Rowls of Newichwannock. Thus, it seems, the right
to a considerable part of the soil of this town was obtained from the original
proprietors, which was " more valuable in a moral view, than the grants of
any European prince could convey." Mason's grant from the Council of
Plymouth included the whole of Wheelwright's purchase

:j: The following instance of its effects is given on the authority of a gentle-
man of respectability resident in town.

A man belonging'to this town of the name of Ckrfc, having a family de-
pendant on him for subsistence, went on foot to Charlestown Ferry, and
procured from a vessel a bushel of Corn, wliich he brought on his back to
LovewelPs mills in Dunstable, where he had it ground into meal, and from
■hence in the same manner brought it home.

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Online LibraryJohn FarmerAn historical sketch of Amherst, in the county of Hillsborough, in New-Hampshire, from the first settlement to the present period → online text (page 1 of 4)