Oran Edmund Randall.

History of Chesterfield, Cheshire county, N.H., from the incorporation of township number one, by Massachusetts, in 1736, to the year 1881; #c together with family histories and genealogies .. online

. (page 1 of 45)
Online LibraryOran Edmund RandallHistory of Chesterfield, Cheshire county, N.H., from the incorporation of township number one, by Massachusetts, in 1736, to the year 1881; #c together with family histories and genealogies .. → online text (page 1 of 45)
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■ ist of the grantees, together with their shares, see Appendix.





for tUh-ription we //. 11,32,31: for ■■ .ft/ of the ;;r2>%° west ;"
but its length was not stated. According to measurements made at
a later date, this line has a length of nearly four and one-half miles.

The same surveyor also surveyed, in 1793, the line that sepa-
rates Chesterfield from Winchester and Hinsdale, and found it to
have a direction of "west, io}4. ° north," starting from the southeast
corner of Chesterfield. The length of this line was also not stated,
but it is about seven and seven-eighths miles.

The surface of the town is, for the most part, hilly, the meadows
and plains being comparatively limited. At a few points on
the Connecticut there are small meadows and plains, some of the
latter having an elevation of 200 feet, or more, above the river.
There are also small meadows in other parts of the town, through
which flow some of the larger brooks.

" Wantastiquet," or "West River Mountain," lies in the ex-
treme southwest corner of Chesterfield, and northwest corner of
Hinsdale. This mountain rises abruptly from the Connecticut, and
has an altitude of about 1200 feet above sea-level. From its sum-
mit, in the days of the early settlements, the Indians are said to
have watched the operations of the settlers in the vicinity of Fort
Dumraer. From this circumstance, the name of "Indian's Great
Chair" has been applied to a particular portion of the summit of
this mountain. The longer axis of Wantastiquet is nearly parallel
with the river, and is from three to four miles long.

"Mount Pistareen" lies east of Spaffbrd's Lake and near Fac-
tory Village. Its altitude cannot be stated exactly, but is not far
from 1000 feet above the level of the sea. This mount, either in
whole or in part, is said to have been bought for a pistareen (about
18 cents) : hence its name. By whom it was bought, or by whom
it was sold, for the sum above stated, has never been learned.

There are several hills in the town worthy ot mention. " Streeter
Hill" lies in the north-western quarter of the town, and is so called
because it was at one time inhabited by several families of the name
of Streeter. According to tradition, this hill was called "Poplar
Hill" by the first settlers, because portions of it were covered with
a vigorous growth of young poplars, which sprang up after the In-
dians had ceased to set their annual fires, as was their custom in


some parts of the valley of the Connecticut. The altitude of Street-
er hill is somewhat greater than that of Pistareen.

" Barrett Hill" lies near the southern boundary of the town, in
a direction a little east of south from the Centre Village. " Hall
Hill" is in the eastern part of the town, near Factory Village, and
is considerably higher than Streeter hill. "Atherton Hill," also in
the eastern part of the town, was so called from the circumstance
that Joseph Atherton settled upon it in 1795. There are several
hills in town higher than Streeter hill, but which have received no
particular name.

There are no large streams of water flowing through Chester-
field ; but the' Connecticut river flows along its western border, as
already stated. The word Connecticut is of Indian origin, and is
derived from the words quinneh, tuk and ut : the first meaning
long, and the second, river with waves. ®hiinneh-tuk-ut is said
to have been applied by the Indians to land lying along the river.
This river was usually called by the early settlers the "Great
River." Its height above sea level, at a point opposite Brattleboro',
is 214 feet.

The largest brook, flowing wholly within the limits of the
town, is "Catsbane Brook." This stream rises in the low lands
south of the Centre Village, and in the vicinity of Barrett hill, and
flows in a north-westerly direction for the distance of about five
miles, emptying into the Connecticut near the West Village. The
name of this brook can only be accounted for by the following tra-
dition, which has been handed down from the first settlers : At a
very early period in the town's history (perhaps before the town
was settled) two men, who were traveling through the forest, stop-
ped on the banks of the brook to eat their lunch. Having finished
their meal, one of the men said he wished to set out again on the
journey. The other replied that he wished to take another draught
of the water of the brook. "For your sake," said his companion,
prefacing his sentence with one of those exclamatory phrases much
used even at the present day, "I wish this water had catsbane in
it !" He probably meant ratsbane. The fact that the brook has
received so singular a name, renders it quite probable that the tra-
dition is substantially true. There are reasons for believing that
the name was applied to the stream before the town was settled, as


there is evidence that scouts, soldiers, and perhaps hunters some-
times crossed this bi - ook on their way to and fro, between No. 4
(Charlestown) and the settlements below No. 1 (Chesterfield).

The lowest point of the water-shed, near the head of Catsbane
brook, is estimated to have an elevation of 650 feet above the sea,
or 200 feet above the highest part of Hinsdale plain. The two most
important tributaries of this brook are the "Lily Pond Brook" and
the "Wheeler Brook," — the former being the outlet of the "Lily
Pond." The Wheeler brook is so called because Peter Wheeler,
Sen., first settled near it, he having been one of the earliest settlers
in the town. It was often improperly called Catsbane brook in
early times, and is sometimes so called at present ; but it is rather
a tributary of the Catsbane than a continuation of the main stream.

"Governor's Brook" is a small stream in the northwest quarter
of the town, and was so named because it flows for a considerable
part of its course, through what was once called the "Governor's
Farm." (See Chap. I.) It empties into the Connecticut.

"Leavitt's Brook," in the southwest quarter of the town, re-
ceived its name from the circumstance that a man by the name of
Leavitt was drowned in the Connecticut, many years ago, not far
from the mouth of the brook. The general direction of the course
of this brook is northwest, and it has a length of nearly three miles.

There is a brook which rises in the low lands lying just east of
the Centre Village, and flows through a beautiful glen near the resi-
dence of Henry C. Marsh. This brook is a tributary of the Wheeler
brook, and might appropriately be called "Marsh's Brook."

"Partridge Brook," in some respects the most important stream
that has its origin in the town, is the outlet of Spaflord's Lake. It
takes the water of the lake from the "channel" near Factory Vil-
lage, flows a short distance in a south-easterly direction, then turn-
ing sharply to the northward, plunges down through a deep gorge,
and flows on, for a distance of about two miles, to the Westmore-
land line. From the line it continues its course in a north-westerly
direction through Westmoreland, for a distance of four miles, or
more, and empties into the Connecticut near the County farm. How
the name of this brook originated, is not known; but it is certain
that the name was applied before Chesterfield was settled, inasmuch


as the brook was called "Partridge Brook," in the proprietary rec-
ords of Westmoreland, as early as 1752.

The "Wild Brook" — probably so named because it flows for
some distance through land formerly owned by Nathan Wild, the
surveyor and almanac-maker, — is a tributary of Partridge brook.
A part of its course is through a deep, narrow gorge cut in the solid
rock. This gorge is one of the most remarkable of Nature's works
that can be found in the town.

"Broad Brook," in the south-eastern quarter of the town, flows
into Winchester, and finally empties into Ashuelot river, only a
small part of its course being within the limits of Chesterfield.

"Spaffbrd's Lake," which has become a popular place of re-
sort in the summer season, lies nearly in the centre of the northern
half of the town. This beautiful sheet of water is of an irregularly
ovate form, and has an area of probably from 650 to 700 acres.
The longer axis of the lake is about one mile and a half, and points
nearly northeast ; its greatest breadth is about one mile.* The
shore of this lake is, in great part, either sandy or rocky, and its
water is remarkably pure, being supplied mostly by springs; for
there are only three or four brooks of any consequence that empty
into the lake, and it is doubtful whether they do any more than
supply the loss from evaporation in the summer months. "Pierce's
Island," in the south-western part of the lake, contains about six
acres, and is much used in summer by camping parties. Indian
relics — principally stone pestles and arrow-heads — have been found
on the island, and tradition says that it was once used by the sav-
ages as a stronghold, or a place of refuge.

There is no record known to be in existence which shows how
the lake came by its name of "Spaffbrd's Lake ;" but the tradition
has always been, that a man by the name of Spaffbrd lived, at a
very early period in the town's history, near its shore : hence its
name. Whether or not there is any truth in this tradition, it is cer-
tain that the records of the town do not show that any person by
the name of Spaffbrd ever lived in Chesterfield in early times, al-
though two of the grantees bore the names of John Spaffbrd and

*According to Dr. Jackson, Spafford's Lake has an elevation of 738 feet
above the sea, or about 500 feet above Connecticut river.


Silas SpafTord. There are some reasons for believing that the lake
received its name before the town was actually settled, and that the
SpafTord who is said to have lived near its shore, was a hunter
whose residence was only temporary.

There are several small ponds lying wholly or partly within
the limits of the town, but which are not of sufficient importance
to be described here.

"Catsbane Island," which lies about half a mile below the
mouth of Catsbane brook, in the Connecticut, is worthy of men-
tion. This island — which is in view from the lower ferry — con-
tains but a few acres, and is principally noted as being, in all prob-
ability, near the place where the Indians crossed the river on their
way to Canada, after having defeated Sergeant Taylor's party in
July, 174S. (See Chap. I). The Indians may, in fact, have passed
over the island itself, in crossing the river.


The rocks of Chesterfield belong principally to that group of
rocks denominated by Prof. C. H. Hitchcock, the "Coos Group,''
and consist of quartzite, gneiss, mica slate, mica schist, hornblende
rock, and conglomerate. In the south-eastern quarter of the town
there is found, in great abundance, a rock called "porphyritic
gneiss." This rock is not found in the western part of the town.
No valuable minerals have been found in any considerable quanti-
ties ; yet, iron ore was discovered many years ago on Wantastiquet,
and graphite, or plumbago, may exist in some localities. The so-
called "mine" on Wantastiquet, is in Hinsdale. Quartz is found in
considerable quantities ; in one or two localities, in a pulverulent
condition. Inferior specimens of tourmaline have also been found.

Numerous evidences of the action of moving ice, in the Glacial
Period, exist in the town. In some localities the ledges are grooved
and striated in a way peculiar to those regions that have been sub-


jected to glacial action. Enormous bowlders, evidently brought
from a great distance in some instances, have been deposited upon
the highest hills. It is highly probable that Spaftbrd's Lake is also
the result of glacial action.

Near the mouth of Catsbane brook are examples of river ter-
races. The upper one of the two which lie south of the brook, has
an elevation of 400 feet above the sea. The height of the river
terraces in Chesterfield and Westmoreland, varies from 350 to 400
feet above the sea. No fossils are known to have been discovered,
the rocks, for the most part, not being of a kind known as "fossil-


The Flora of Chesterfield is about the same as that of the
neighboring towns. When it was first settled, there was a heavy
growth of white pine, oak, hickory, chestnut, maple, beech, birch,
poplar, and other trees. These still exist in large numbers, although
the pines, and many of the other trees, are mostly those that have
sprung up since their predecessors were cut down for timber or
charcoal. The "shag-bark" hickory, or "sweet walnut," the chest-
nut and butternut, thrive in certain localities, producing an abun-
dance of nuts. Hemlock-spruces also abound in some parts of the
town, as do many other trees of less importance than those already
mentioned. Of smaller plants there is a great variety, as is usually
the case where there is a considerable diversity of conditions.

The Fauna of the town does not differ essentially from that of
the surrounding towns. All the larger wild mammals have disap-
peared ; but, for a number of years after the first settlement was
made, bears, panthers, lynxes, wolves, and deer existed in consid-
erable numbers. Wolves were especially abundant, and somewhat
troublesome. Persons venturing out of their houses after dark are
said to have carried, sometimes, torches, or pieces of burning wood,


as one of the best means of defence. Otters and beavers undoubt-
edly lived about the streams, when the first settlements were made ;
but they long ago disappeared, excepting, perhaps, a few otters that
have been killed within the memory of the oldest inhabitants.

Of the smaller mammals, raccoons, hares, rabbits, foxes, squir-
rels, weasels, ermines, skunks, minks, muskrats, woodchucks, and
porcupines are found in greater or lesser numbers.

The birds need not be particularly described. There is only
one species that is much hunted for its flesh, namely, the rufted-
grouse, or "partridge."

There is but one species of venomous reptiles in the town, and
that is the mountain rattlesnake. This snake is found, in consider-
able numbers, in the south-western quarter of the town, on and about
Wantastiquet or West River Mountain. No deaths, however, are
known to have been caused by the bite of the rattlesnake, since the
settlement of the town.

The most important species of fish that live in the ponds and
streams of the town are pike, pickerel, black bass, trout, dace, eels,
horned-pouts, suckers, flat-fish, and perch. Pike, pickerel, black
bass, dace and flat-fish are not indigenous to Spaffbrd's Lake ; but
the other species that are found in it may be — including the so-
called "clear fish," or "white fish." Josiah Bennett, of Westmore-
land, introduced pike into the lake about 1848, putting in seven or
eight which he had caught at Bellows Falls. The next year, nine
more, caught at the same place, were put in by persons residing at
Factory Village. It is not known who first put pickerel into the
lake, but this species has been in its waters for many years, and may
have been brought from Harvard, Mass. Dace and flat-fish have
also been in the lake for many years ; the former longer than the
pike, and the latter forty-five or fifty years. Bass have been intro-
duced within a few years.

At the time of the first settlements, shad and salmon used to
come up the Connecticut in great numbers, and supplied the settlers
with an abundance of excellent food. Manv years have passed
away, however, since they have shown themselves as far up the
river as Chesterfield ; and the modern fisherman can only look back
to the days of his ancestors, and regret that he did not live when
they did.



From the Incorporation .of Township No. 1, by Massa-
chusetts, in 1736, to the Actual Settlement
or the Town in 1761.

The Indians of the Connecticut Valley — First Settlement in Northfield, Mass.
— War with the Indians — Second Settlement in Northfield — King Will-
iam's War — Queen Anne's War — Third and Permanent Settlement of
Northfield — Father Ralle's War — Fort Dummer — Scouting Parties — "Ar-
lington" Granted — Granting of Townships No's 1, 2, 3 and 4 — -Shattuck's
and Hinsdale's Forts — Final Determination of the Line between Massachu-
setts and New Hampshire — Settlement of Charlestown, Putney and West-
moreland — War between France and England — Murder and Pillage by the
Indians — No. 4 Abandoned — The Fort at No. 4 Besieged — Winchester and
the Ashuelots (Keene and Swanzey) Burned — Massacre of Capt. Melvin's
Scouts — Capt. Hobbs' Fight with the Indians — Sergeant Taylor's Party
Attacked— Pe*ace — No. 1 Re-granted under the Name of Chesterfield —
The Charter — Names of the Grantees — Survey of Chesterfield, West-
moreland and Walpole — The Chart of the Town — Why the Town was
not Immediately Settled — Last French and Indian War — Sufferings of
the Valley Settlements — Massacre of the St. Francis Indians by Captain
Rogers' Rangers — End of the War.

In order to realize how painfully slow was the advance of civ-
ilization up the valley of the Connecticut river, it will be necessary
to take a brief survey of the principal facts in the history of the
valley towns, anterior to the date of the settlement of Chesterfield.


In 1636, about sixteen years after the Pilgrims landed at Ply-
month, a settlement was begun at Springfield, Mass. In 1654, a

Online LibraryOran Edmund RandallHistory of Chesterfield, Cheshire county, N.H., from the incorporation of township number one, by Massachusetts, in 1736, to the year 1881; #c together with family histories and genealogies .. → online text (page 1 of 45)