Salma Hale.

Annals of the town of Keene, from its first settlement, in 1734, to the year 1790 .. online

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Online LibrarySalma HaleAnnals of the town of Keene, from its first settlement, in 1734, to the year 1790 .. → online text (page 1 of 6)
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ffirst published in the Collections of the Ntw-Hampshire Historical SocietT.

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The following annals were compiled at the request of the New-
Hampshire Historical Society, and of several citizens of Keeoe.
It was thought of some public importance to seize the opportunity,
now rapidly passing away, of placing on record, to preserve from
oblivion, the most interesting events which, since its first settle-
ment, have occurred in this place. It has been the principal
object of the compiler to give a correct and lively impress of the
age gone by. This he thought could be best arcomplishpd by
copying freely and fully such written documents as came under
his inspection. " Speak, that I may know thee," was the address
of a Grecian sage to a stranger. That the present generation
and posterity may know their ancestors, they have here been
brought forward to speak for themselves.

For the facts and proceedings, not related in the words of the
actors, the public are indebted to Thomas Wells, Joseph Ellis, and
several others, aged and respectable inhabitants of this town, or
of that portion of Sullivan which once formed apart of it

^nnal!^ of icrcnr.


Keene, which is one of the shire towns in the
county of Cheshire, was first settled under the au-
thority of Massachusetts. At the time of its set-
tlement, the line between that colony and New-
Hampshire had not been surveyed, nor its direction
ascertained, and it was generally supposed that
the valley of the Ashuelot* would fall within the
boundaries of the former.

1732. '

In June, Gov. Belcher, in his speech to the
" Great and General Court" of Massachusetts, re-
commended, that " care be taken to settle tfie un-
granted land." In the House of Representatives,
it was thereupon voted, "that there be seven towns
opened, of the contents of six miles square ; one
vest of the Narraganset town, that is near Wachu-
sett Hill ; one between the equivalent lands and
Rutland, on or near the road lately laid out from
Swift River to Rutland ; one at Poquaig, (Athol)
on Miller's river ; one west of the town called
Northtown ; two on Ashueiot river, above North-
field ; and the other in the eastern country, at the
head of Berwick : that committees be appointed to
admit settlers and lay out house lots, so that the
settlements may be made in a defensible manner,
and to direct in the drawing thereof, but not to lay
out any further division witliout directions from thi^,
court ; that there shall be sixty-three house lots,
laid out in each township, one for the first settled
minister, one for the ministry, one for the school,
and one for each of the sixty settlers, who shall set-

* In the Indian language, the won! Ashueiot is saul to mean a colUction of ma-
■ly waters.

4 dnnals of Kecnc

tie thcreOD, in his own person, or by any of ha
children ; the rest of the land to be allotted or di-
vided equally into sixty-three parts ; that one year
from the survey be allowed for the admission
of settlers, and that the committee be directed to
demand and receive, from each settler, at his ad-
mission, five pounds,* part of which shall be em-
ployed for reimbursing the province the money to
be advanced for paying the committees, and the
charg»iS of the survey, the remainder to be em-
ployed for building houses of publick worship, or
otherwise, ac the General Court shall order ; that
each settler actually live on his land w ithin three
years after his admission, and continue there for
the space of two years after, in person and with
his family, if such he have ; that he do, within five
years from his admission, build a Jiouse on his land,
of eighteen feet square and seven feet stud, at the
least, and within the same time do sufficiently fence
and till, or fit for mowing, eight acres of Jand ; and
in case any settler fail of performance, his right to
be forfeited ; and the committee for admitting set-
tlers are directed to take of each, at the time of
admission, a bond for twenty pounds for the use
and benefit of tlie settlers, in case he fail of per-
forming the conditions mentioned ; and the settlers,
in each" town, shall be obliged to build a suitable

* This was piobnbly of the paper money then current in IMassncliusetts Like
the contiiipntal money of later times, it was at par when the first issues were made,
but afterwards depreciated greatly. The following table, shewing its value at dif-
ferent periods, will enable the reader to calculate the value of the sums hereaf-
ter mentioned in this history. The second and fouith col:unns shew the value, in
paper, (old times) af an ounce of silver, which was equal lo six shillings and
pjnht pence, lairful nnoney,































Soon after 1749, old tenor rose to lilty !>liiHiiit;s the ounce, the General Court of
M.'.-sachusetts having eneaaed to rtuiceni ir at that rate with the money received
froin tlic British parliamentras a iciniburscment for the pxpenscs incurred in tak-
ing Louisboura;. At 50s. the ounce, 100 pounds were ef|nal to £13, 6j. M. lawful -
atid 45 shillings were equal lo one dollar-

Annals of Keene. 5

nieetins: house, and settle a learned and orthodox
minister, in such town, within five years from their


On the first of July, this vote was concurred by
- the Council, and " consented to" by the Governor;
but the committee appointed to make the survey
not attending to their duty, it was, Oct. 19, IT.i.J,
voted, that another committee, consisting; of Jo-
seph Kellog, Timothy Dwight, and William Chand-
ler, be appointed, with directions, forthwith to lay
out the townships at Poquaig and on Ashuelot riv-
er, " unless they find that, by reason of laying out
the township granted to Col. Willard and others,
(Winchester,) the land remaining at Ashuelot river
will not well serve for two townships, in which
case, they are directed to lay out only one on that


In Februar}', the committee made a return to
the General Court of a " Plat of two townships,
each of the contents of six miles square, situated
on each side of Ashuelot river above the tract of
land lately granted to Col. Josiah Willard and oth-
ers, beginning at a spruce or white pme tree, stand-
ing about midway between the south and ea^t
branches of said river, about five perch east of
the bank of the main river, and thence runnin«-
each way as described on the plat." This is tlie
dividing line between the upper and lower town-
ships. The plat was accepted, and the lands con-
tained in said townships were declared to lie in, and
constitute a part of, the county of Hampshire.

In March, a committee was appointed to lay out
house lots, in the townships mentioned, who, in
June, made a report of a plat of the house lots in
the upper township on Ashuelot river. Of these
Jots, fifty-four were laid out on the village plain.

Annals of Kecnt.

twenty-seven on each side of the main street, and
the other nine upon the plain, on Swanzey line,
north of the factory. They were 160 rods long,
and eight wide, each containing eight acres. The
sur\eyors reported, that near the Sf)rii^e or white
pine tree, above mentioned, they made their first
station. Hence originated the name, Statia, which
has been appHed to an excellent farm in that quar-
ter of the town. The lots owned by Daniel Wat-
son, and Dr. Twitchell, are the most northerly of
the house lots.

This committee being also authorized to admit
settlers, they notified all persons, desirous of taking
lots, to meet at Concord, in Massachusetts, on the
26th of June. A few days previous to that time^
the General Court voted, that, after the sixty i)er-
sons for each township shall have drawn lots, giv-
en bonds, and paid their five pounds, according to
the order of this Court, passed Jul}', 1732, they
forthwith assemble, at Concord, Mass. and then
and there choose a moderator and proprietors' clerk,
agree upon rules and methods tor the fulfilment of
their respective grants, for making further divis-
ions, and for calling other meetings, and attend to
any other matters or things necessary for the spee-
dy settlement of said townships. No charter was
ever granted to the proprietors by Massachusetts,
and their title to the lands rested wholly upon
these several votes of the General Court.

Agreeably to the notice given by the committee,
a meeting was held at Concord, on the 26th June,
when the sixty settlers, for the upper township, on
Ashuelot river, were admitted. Among them are
found the names of Jeremiah Hall, John Hawks,
William Smeed, Isaac Heaton, John Guild, Joseph
Ellis, John Nims, Josiah Fisher. Mark Ferry, and
Stephen Blake.

The next day, a full meeting of the proprietors
was held at Concord; Samuel .Sady was chosen

Annals of Keene. V

Moderator, aad Samuel Hey wood, proprietors'
Clerk, " who was sworn before the worshiplul Jus-
tice Goddard ;" anil the meeting was adjourned to
the 18th of Sept. then to be held on the town-

In the succeeding September, seven persons,
proprietors, or sons of proprietors, whose names
were Jeremiah Hal), Daniel Hoar, Seth Heaton,
Elisha Root, Nathaniel Rock wood, Josiah Fisher,
William Puffer, set out for the township. None of
them having previously visited it, they were ac-
companied by Deacon Alexander, of Northfiehl,
as a pilot. They did not arrive at the line of the
township until late in the evening of the i8th. the
day to which the meeting was adjourned; and as
soon as their pilot informed them they had passed
it, they opened the meeting, and adjourned to the
next day.

At the meeting held the next day, a vote was
passed, that the whole of the interval land in the
township should be surveyed, and that half of it
should be lotted out in two enclosures, one so sit-
uated as to accommodate the 54 house lots, laid out
on the village plain, the other so as to accommo-
date the 9 house lots, laid out on Swanzey line. A
committee was also appointed " to search and find
out the best and most convenient way to travel
from the upper unto the lower township."

At this period. Upper Ashuelot was a frontier
settlement, in the bosom of the wilderness. It was
of course most exposed to savage incursions, and
was liable to suffer, in their extremity, all those;-
distresses and calamities, w hich may be alleviated,
if not prevented, by the assistance and good offices
of others. Its nearest neighbor was Northfield,
twenty miles distant ; Winchester, which was first
granted, not being then settled, or containing at
most not more than two or three huts.


8 Annals of Keene.


The next meeting of the proprietors was held
at Concord, Mass. on the last Wednesday of May.
The committee appointed to survey the interval
land made a report. The lots they had laid out
contained eigfit acres ; and as they were not all
equal in quality, the proprietors voted that certain
enumerated lots should have qualification, or al-
lowance, to consist of from two to four acres each,
and appointed a committee to lay out these allow-
ances. The practice of qualifying lots, thus intro-
duced, was afterwards pursued, and occasioned
great irregularity in the future allotments of land.

At this meeting, a committee was also appointed
"tojom with such as the lower town proprietors
shall appoint, to search and find out whether the
ground will admit of a convenient road from the
two townships, on Ashuelot river, down to the town
of Townshend."

At a subsequent meeting, held in September of
the same year, on the township, the proprietors
were assessed in the sum of sixty pounds, and a
committee was " appointed to bill out this money
according to the proprietors' directions." It ap-
pears by the record, that the mode of billing out
the money remaining in the treasury was often
practised. A committee was also appointed to lay
out a road to the Saw-mill place, which is about
three quarters of a mile north from the house lots,
and where the lower Saw-mill on Beaver brook now
stands. A vote was also passed, offering one hun-
dred acres of" middling good land," and twenty -five
pounds, to any person or persons who would engage
to build a saw-mill, and saw boards for the propri-
etors, at twenty shillings per thousand, and slit work
for £3, lOs. per 1000. John Corbett and Jesse
Root, appeared and undertook to build the mill, and
a committee was thereupon appointed to lay out
the land. The mill was to be finished by the first

Annals of Keene. 9

A^y of July, 1736. Under date of May, 1735, ap-
pears a record of the expense of laying out the
second division of lots. The surveyor was allowed
4.J shillinjxs, (70 cts ) four others were aUowed 12
tshiliings and two others 10 shillings per day.


On the 30th day of September, a meeting of the
proprietors was 0{)ened, according to appointment,
at the house lot of Joseph Fisher, but was immedi-
ately removed to the Ao/we of Nathan Blake. This
house was probably the first erected in the town-
ship. A committee was appointed " to agree with
a man to build a great mill," and they were author-
ized to offer " not exceeding forty pounds encour-
agement therefor." The proprietors also voted to
build a meeting-house, at the south end of the town
street, at the place appointed by the General Court's
committee, (near where Mr. Carpenter's house now
stands) to be forty feet long, twenty ttet stud, and
thirty-five feet wide, and to lay boards for the low-
er floor — the house to be finished by the 2bth daj
of June, 1737.

At the same meeting, a vote w?s passed to widen
the main street, which was originally but four rods
wide. It provided that, if the proprietors of the
house lots, on the west side of the street, would
surrender four rods in depth, on the end of their
lots adjoining the street, they should have it made
up in quantity, in the rear. This proposition w^as
acceded to ; and to this measure the village is in-
debted for its broad and elegant main street.

No person had hitherto attempted to remain
through the winter on the township. Those who
came in the summer to clear their lands, brought
their provisions with them, and erected temporary
huts to shelter them from the weather. In the
summer of 1736, at least one house was erected ;
and three persons, Nathan lilake, Seth Heaton and

10 Annals of Keene.

William Sraeed, the two first trorii Wrentham and
the last from Deerfielcl, made pre{)arations to pass
the winter in the wildertiess. Their house was at
the lower end ol the street. Blake had a pair of
oxen and a horse, and Heaton a horse Fw \he
support of these, they collected glass in tfie opi ii
spots; and in the first part ot the winter, they em-
ployed them in drawing logs to the saw-mill, which
had just been completed. Blake's horse lell
througii the ice of Beaver brook and was drowned.
In the beginning of February, their own [)rovisions
were exhausted, and to obtain a supfily of meal,
Heaton was despatclied to Noithfieid. I'liere
were a few families at Winchester, but none able to
furmsli what was wanted. Heaton procured a
quantity of meal ; but before he left .Northiield, the
snow began to fall, and wh( n, on his return, he ar-
rived at Winchester, it was uncommonly deep, and
covered by a sharp crust. He was told " that lie
might as well expect to die in Northfield and rise
a;:ain in Upper Ashuelot, as ride thitii^r on horse-
back." Recollectinir the friends he had left there,
he nevertheless determined to make ttie attempt,
but had proi-eeded but a short distance wnen he
found that it would be impossible to succeed. He
then returned, and directed his cour'^e to^wards
Wrentham. Blake and Smeed, hearing nothing;
from Heaton, gave the oxen free access 'o the ha},
left Ashuelot, and on snow shoes proceeded either
to Deerneld or Wrentham. Anxious tor their ox-
en, tliey returned early in the spring. 1 hey tound
them near the Branch, south-east of Carpenter's,
much emaciated, b\jt feeding upon twigs and such
grass as was bare. The oxen recognised their
owner, and exhibited such pleasure at the meeting
as drew tears from iiis e)es.

At a meeting of the proprietors, held IVTay 12,
they voted to assess sixtj pounds ou the propria-

*.innals of Keene, ] 1

tor<! of the hon^e-lots, for the purpose of hiring; a
gcspel minister, and cliose a committee to au;ree
■with so'iie meet person to preach tiie ijospel
among; tnem. '1 his meeting was atljourned, to be
held at the meeting;-house place, on tlie "iOtli of
IVlny. On the day appointed, it was there opened,
but was immediately removed to the interval hind,
and there a vote was passed, that another division
of meadow land should be made. A committee
was also chosen to '' represent this propriety in ap-
ply Ingj to, and receiving; of the Honourable the
General Court's committee, for this townsnip, the
motjey 2;ranted to said proprietors when they shall
have the frame of a meetnig;-house raised, and forty
proprietors settled on the spot.''

'I'he next meeting; was held at the nieeting;-house
frame^ June ;J0. Jeremiah Hall was recompensed
for his services in searching; for, and laying out, a
road to Townsend, and two others were added to
the committee appointed to apply to the G«neral
Court's committee " for the one iuindred pounds."
mentioned in the proceeding;s of the last raeetinj?.
It was also voted, " that no meeting; of the proprie-
tors be held, for the future, but at this place, so lons^
as there shall be seven proprietors inhabiting here."

At a meeting: held October 'iti, a vote was passed,
that " the ivorthy Mr. Jacob Bacon should draw for
the second division of meadow land, for tlie whole
propriety." This is the first time that the name of
Mr. Bacon, who was the first settled minister of the
town, is mentioned in the records.

At the same meeting, a vote was passed, to lay
out cue hiridred acres of upland to each house-lot
or right. The proprietors were to draw lots for
choice, and he who ilri^w No. 1, was to make his
pitch by a certain day ; and those who drew the
successive numbers on successive days, excludino-
Sundays, thus " giving every man his day." Each
lot was surveyed by a coaimittee, in such plan and

Ifi Annals of Keene*

in such shape as the proprietor drawing it directed^
Some of the phins recorded in the proprietors' re-
cords, (xh;bit figures which Euclid never imagined,
and probably could not measure. Common land
was left in every part of the township, in j)ieces of
all sizes and shapes. In this manner, great confu-
sion in lines was introduced, by which the owners
of real estate are yet perples.ed and embarrassed.


On the 7th February, Jacob Bacon, A. M. was
chosen proprietors' Clerk and Treasurer. A vote
^vas passed, raising 240 pounds to support the
preaching of the gospel, and other necessary char-
ges, and a committee appointed to provide preach-
ing. A committee was also appointed " to procure
an anvil, bellows, vice, sledge hammer and tongs,
fit for the work of a blacksmith, and to let the same
to a blacksmith, as long as he swall use and improve
them in the proprietors' business, by faithfully do-
ing their work, at their request, before any other
business or work, for any other person or persons
whatsot ver."

At a meeting of the proprietors, held at the meet-
ing; house in the township. May I, the proprietors
proceeded to the choice of a suitable person to set-
tle in the ministry, and Mr. Jacob Bacon was unan-
imously chosen. A vote was also passed, offering
Mr. Bacon, as a settlement, (50 pounds, (in ')ills of
credit of tiie old tenor,) provided he accept the
call of the proprietors. B} another vote, he was
offered a yearly salary ot 13o pounds (old tenor)
for ten years, with an addition of ten pounds year-
ly afterwards, so long as he continued the minister
of the place, and a committee was appointed to lay
these proposals before him.

I he proposals were accordingly laid before him
by a letter from the committee. On the 5th of Au-
gust, Mr. Bacon, by letter, accepted the call on
condition tluit the town would furnish hioi " a vear-
ly supply of fire wood, at his door."

J^nnals of Keene. 13

At a Tneetinf]^, held Oct. '2, the proprietors voted
^' to ydd ten pounds to Mr. Bacon's sukiry, at the
end ot" ten years alter his ^ettlin«»; anioni*; them, and
thereby raise his sahiry to 150 pounds, money of
the present currency; and to find him so mucli
good fire wood as he shall need, ready drawn to
his door."

Although the whites were, at this time, at peace
■with the Indians, yet, deemina; it not prudent to
remain \\Jthoutsome means of defence, the propri-
etors, at this meetinji;, voted, that they would finish
the fort, which was already be^un, and that every
one that shoiild work, or had worked, at said foit,
should brino in his account to the surveyor of hiiih-
ways, and should be allowed therefor, ou his high-
way tax bill. This fort was situated on a small em-
inence, a few rods north of the house of Dr. Ad-
ams. When completed, it was about 90 feet
S(juare ; there were two ovens, and two wells in
the enclosure. It was built of hewn lo<is In the
interior, next to the walls, were twenty barracks,
each having one room. On the outside, it was
two stories high, in the inside, but one. the roof over
the barracks inclining inwards, (n the space above
the barracks, were loop-holes to fire trom with mus-
kets. There were two watch houses, one at the
south-east corner, and one on the western side, each
elected on four high posts set upright in the earth.
And for greater safety, the whole was surrounded
by pickets.

On the IHth of October, a church was gathered,
and Mr. Bacon ordained, the churches represented
being those of Wrentham, Sunderland, Northfield
and Med way.

December 4, the proprietors voted, " to finish the
meetinij house, on the outside, workman-like, viz.
to cover it with good sawed clapboards, well plan-
ed, good window frames well glazed, and handsome-

14 dnnals of Keene.

]y to case the doors ; and so far to finish the inside
as to lay \'hv loner fioor and build tlie body ot the
seats, tlie pulpit, one pew, the table and deacon's
seat, all completely, workman-like."

About this tnnr, John Andrews came from Box-
ford to settle in Upper As^luelot. He sent back
Epliraim Dortnan and Joseph Ellis, with a team of
ei2;lit oxen and a horse, to bring up his turuiture.
Tne route they came, which was pro[)ably then the
best, il not the only one, led throuijh Concord,
Worcester, Brookfield, Belchertown, Hadley, Hat-
field, Deerfield, Northfield. Winchester, Swanzey,
and on the bank of the Ashuelot to the house lots.
When tiiey passed through Swanzey, it rained
hard, and they did not reach the station until night.
As it continued to rain, was very dark, and as tlie
water, which already covered the mjeadows, rose
rapidly, they, apprehensive of being drowned, un-
yoked their oxen, chained their cart to a tree, and
hastened to the settlement, then a mile distant. As
soon as day light appeared, the next morning, a
boat was despatched in search of the cattle and
furniture. When passing over Bullard's island, a
man cru'd to them tor help. It was Mark Ferry,
the hermit. Wearied with the noise and bustle of
the settlement, lie had retired to a cave, which he
had dug into the bank of the river, where he c n-
stantly resided. Ttie water had now driven him
from his dwelling, and compelled him to seek re-
fuge on a stump, where he then sat, with a calf in
his arms, over which he had drawn a shirt. The
boatman answered, '' we must take care of the neat
cattle first,"' and passed on. Tliey soon came to
tie cart which was .ifloat. Proceeding further, and
guided by the sound of the bells, which the cattle
as u'^ual wore, they found them on several little
hillocks, some with only their heads out of water.
They fon ed them into the water, and guide<l them,
swimming, to highland, where they lett tliem untd

Mnnah of Keene. 15

the flood subsided. Hearing cries for help belov/
them, they proceeded to (Jrisseu's house, iii tiie
bjriiers of Swanze}, to the chaiuber and to the top
of which, the taniily had been driven. These, they

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Online LibrarySalma HaleAnnals of the town of Keene, from its first settlement, in 1734, to the year 1790 .. → online text (page 1 of 6)