Windham Life and Times – November 20, 2020

The Border Dispute

The Royal Border Settlement 1740-1 III

       Haverhill, Methuen, Dracut and Dunstable were all Massachusetts towns who claimed that their border lines travelled into southern New Hampshire until declared otherwise by the crown in 1741. William Harris who wrote a local column in the Exeter Newsletter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries wrote  about the border dispute between Massachusetts and New Hampshire:

     “In April 1719, a company of people from the vicinity of Londonderry, Ireland, commenced a settlement called Nutfield, having its center at what is now East Derry. They described themselves in their petition for a charter as ‘being descended from and professing the Faith and Principles of the Establist Church of North Britain’—that is, Scotch Presbyterians. Incorporation was at first denied by both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as it was doubtful which province had jurisdiction.”

     “In October following, the settlers obtained title to their lands by deed from Col. John Wheelwright, of Wells, ME., whose grandfather, Rev. John Wheelwright, the founder of Exeter, was supposed to have purchased in 1629 from Passaconoway and other Indians chiefs a large tract of land between the Piscataqua and Merrimack Rivers. Colonel Wheelwright’s deed conveyed a tract not to exceeding ten miles square, bounded by the Merrimack River at the west and the lines of Dunstable, Dracut, Haverhill and Cheshire (Chester). The description reads as if the north boundary of Dracut met the west line of Haverhill but when Methuen was incorporated in 1725, it was made out of the western portion of Haverhill and a strip about one and a half miles wide of ‘country land’ of unincorporated land stretching north from the Merrimack River, between the limits of Haverhill and Dracut.”

     “June 21, 1722, the governor and court of New Hampshire gave a charter incorporating Nutfield as the town of Londonderry. Its boundaries began at the southeast corner of Chester (which town had been charted the moth previous) and ran definite distances in specified directions, not naming the Massachusetts towns of Haverhill, Dracut and Dunstable, merely providing that this grant should not annul any claim which the Province of Massachusetts Bay might have to any of the territory granted. It must have been known at the time that the boundaries as given, overlapped by a considerable space the limits claimed by all three towns. There was considerable controversy and litigation between Londonderry and Haverhill settlers over lands in the strip which both claimed, until 1740, the province boundary dispute was ended by the decision king that the line should be three miles north of the Merrimack River, which decision was effectual the next year by the actual running of the line, practically where it is now. A portion of the Londonderry grant would have indeed fallen within Massachusetts if the province line had been run straight west from a point three miles north of the mouth of the Merrimack, which was all that New Hampshire claimed.”

     “The province line as located in 1741 divided Dunstable into two towns (the New Hampshire portion later becoming Nashua) , and cut off large tracts from the northern potions of Dracut, Methuen and Haverhill. The next year (1741-2) Windham, comprising the southern part of Londonderry, was set off to form as separate parish or town.”

     The part of the present Windham-Salem boundary running from ’Clark’s Corner’ (the small offset on Derry line) south to the head of Hitty Titty Pond (Shadow Lake) is a portion of the original boundary of Londonderry.  If we extend this line through Salem Depot village to a point in the southern part of Salem where the Windham-Pelham line boundary would intersect it, we shall enclose the original area of Windham as it was during the first eight years of its existence as a separate municipality, its other boundaries being virtually the same as at present.” (A portion of Windham split off to join the town of Salem. In effect, the towns of Salem, Windham Pelham Hudson, and Nashua came into existence because of the border settlement.) 

    “In May, 1750, Salem was incorporated and the line between that town and Windham was made to run west of Hitty Titty and Policy Ponds, putting those bodies of water wholy in Salem, as well as a number of Scotch-Irish settlers who naturally belonged to Windham. This caused dissatisfaction and within two years, (January 1752,) the line was changed to run practically as it does at present, to the head of Hitty Titty Pond, and from there through that pond and Policy (Canobie Lake) from end to end, and on to the Pelham line. Morrson’s History of Windham does not mention the original Salem boundary running west of Policy Pond, but it is given in Gilbert’s History of Salem and shown by a plan. This change in the boundary lines gave back to Windham number of families living west of Policy Pond, and transferred some situated southwest of that pond to Salem. It was also decreed at the same time that persons living in the part of Salem which had been Windham might join with the latter town in ecclesiastical matters if they wished. A number of families did so affiliate, and paid the minister tax to Windham, everybody in those days having to pay a minister tax somewhere. This arrangement continued until 1798, when the place of worship here was transferred from the Range to the present center of town, no longer accommodating the Salem people.” Facts about Dracut and Haverhill boundaries, both of which lapped over the present territory of Windham, will be given later.”   

Windham Life and Times – November 13, 2020

The Border Dispute

Butterfield Rock | Indian Meadows II

William Harris in his Exeter Newsletter column says, “Butterfield’s Rock, one of the natural curiosities and noted landmarks of the town, (located on the grounds of Windham Country Club) has been known by that name  for nearly two hundred years. In the Londonderry Proprietors Records under the date October 29, 1723, occurs this record: ‘Laid out by the order of the town a farm given in Charter to Mr. David Cargill Junior containing one hundred acres of land lying and being to the southwest of the rock called Butterfield’s rock.’ It apparently took its name from a Jonathan Butterfield, of Chelmsford, to whom was laid out one hundred acres of land, June 8, 1721. This land, however, was not near the rock, as it was west of Beaver brook. August 30, 1728, he again received ninety-eight acres, but its location is not clear. Morrison’s History of Windham says that Butterfield owned land in Londonderry, perhaps including the rock, before the coming of the Londonderry settlers in 1719. When Dracut, first settled in 1664, was incorporated in 1701, its bounds included the south part of what is now Windham, and the settlers of Dracut and Chelmsford used to pasture their cattle in the wild lands and meadows here. They burned down the woods in the south part of town to improve the pasturage…”

     In fact, the land running between Cobbett’s Pond and Canobie Lake was once a huge Native American summer settlement where the Indians would grow the three sisters of corn, winter squash and pole beans. They had burned off this land creating what were known as “Indian Meadows.” A huge number of Indian artifacts were in fact found by the state of New Hampshire when they were reconstructing Cobbett’s Pond Road and arrow-heads were once commonly found on the shore of Canobie and Cobbett’s. A few years ago, my son found a round, fish net weight while diving in Lake Winnipesauke. As the Native Americans moved further north to avoid the advancing settlers, these meadows were coveted by the Europeans. You can imagine having to cut old growth timber with little more than an ax on your farm. The Indian Meadows were already burnt off or had small, new growth which could also be easily burnt off again. I often picture the Indian settlement as it must have looked in Windham. Running along the Range with crops growing and Indians fishing and hunting on Cobbett’s Pond and Canobie Lake. The crow is a Spirit Animal Totem, and I notice there is a murder of crows that congregate near the Range. Maybe they have been doing this since the time of the Indians, with corn nearby, for hundreds of years.

     “The north east corner of Dracut as first laid out, was apparently near Spear hill, east of the southern end of Cobbett’s pond. From there the line ran northwest four miles to the Dunstable line near Beaver brook somewhere in the region of West Windham, from there running south by the Dunstable line about four miles to Jeremy Hill in Pelham. The bounds of Londonderry, when incorporated in 1722 overlapped the Dracut line, and it was not until 1741 that the line between Massachusetts and New Hampshire was definitely settled, substantially as at present. Windham was set off from Londonderry in 1742. There is an old path, still usable, running through the woods from near Butterfield’s rock southwest to near E.A. Haskell’s, which has always been called the ‘Dracut Road.’ It would be interesting to know more than we do of the early days to which these old names carry us back.” W.S.H. If you open your eyes, past and present are both filled with beautiful mystery. 

Windham Life and Times November 6, 2020



L to R: The Park-Armstrong Farm. (Common Man) Map of disputed border. This rock was the  SW bound of the Cobbett grant.

Frank Johnson wrote an interesting article about a Massachusetts and New Hampshire granite boundary marker that once stood north of Canobie Lake. Most people are unaware that this southern portion of New Hampshire was disputed territory until settled by the British Crown in 1740. In fact, Windham’s founding in 1742, came about in large part because land grants could be settled and people could feel confident in their titles.

The Border Dispute Between Massachusetts and New Hampshire

     One of the big losers in the settling of the border dispute was the Massachusetts, Rev. Cobbett descendants who now found their large grant of Windham land invalidated by the royal ruling. You see, the Cobbett’s land in Windham, which ran to the shore of Cobbett’s Pond, became invalid, because it had been granted in Massachusetts. Since Massachusetts had no authority in New Hampshire, the grant was worthless. They later petitioned for redress and were granted a large tract elsewhere in the state.

     Alexander Park, emigrated from Northern Ireland in 1728 with the intent of settling in Londonderry NH. He arrived in Boston with his family but was forced to stay in Methuen for four years, Morrison says, “deterred from joining the Londonderry settlement on account of the uncertainty of obtaining valid title to lands. The uncertainty was caused by the dispute between New Hampshire and Massachusetts about State lines. In 1734, New Hampshire was erected into a separate government. Boundary lines were run and established, but all disputes were not settled until 1741. Another fruitful obstacle to his settlement was the great dissatisfaction which existed among the Londonderry settlers themselves, in regard to the division of land. When these latter differences were adjusted, and the ‘Cobbett’s Pond’  land laid out in farms, Alexander Park and his family permanently located in what is now Windham.  But the trouble with the State lines remained; so when on Oct. 8, 1734, he bought of Samuel Allison (one of the first sixteen settlers of Londonderry) the place now owned by Robert Armstrong, he required of said Allison a bond for money, so that if he should be deprived of said land on account said land lying in Massachusetts, he should be protected against loss. Then he erected his buildings…” It is very possible that the Massachusetts-New Hampshire granite marker was located on what had been Park’s land. This farm was acquired by Robert Armstrong through a marriage to Alice Park in 1803.  

    According to Wikipedia, “The Province of New Hampshire and Province of Massachusetts Bay had disagreements over their mutual boundaries. With respect to the southern boundary of New Hampshire, the two provinces disagreed on the meaning of “three miles northward of the Merrimack River, or any part thereof”. New Hampshire drew a line from three miles north of the mouth of the river, while Massachusetts claimed a line three miles north of the northernmost part of the river, taking its territory far north past what is now Concord, New Hampshire. New Hampshire appealed to King George II, who in 1740 decreed the boundary to run along a curved line three miles from the river between the ocean and a point three miles north of Pawtucket Falls (Lowell), where the river begins to turn north. From there a line was to be drawn due west to meet the western boundary of Massachusetts (fixed in 1773 with the Province of New York). The line actually runs slightly northwest to southeast, so it follows no line of latitude. This gave New Hampshire even more than it had claimed, as Pawtucket Falls was south of the mouth of the Merrimack. At this time, the present northern boundary of Massachusetts was established.”    

     You remember the Cobbett’s land grant that was annulled by the settlement of the border dispute. It had laid unsettled for many years because of uncertain title. In 1741, New Hampshire legislature chartered the Town of Windham and appointed Robert Dinsmoor, Joseph Waugh and Robert Thomson, to call the first town meeting in 1742. Not long afterward, the very large, empty tract of land, that had been granted to the Rev. Cobbett family, was granted by the New Hampshire town of Windham to the Dinsmore family.  My father and mother still reside on that original grant of land. The water frontage ran from the brook at what is now Castleton, to a large boulder that once sat in the water of Cobbett’s Pond near Gardner Road. The Parks-Armstrong grant was located south of the brook, along Cobbett’s Pond to Canobie Lake. The Dinsmore land went north up over Jenny’s and portions of Dinsmore Hill where the Governor Dinsmoor marker is today. “Gardner” is in fact a Dinsmore family name and my grandfather built a cottage there which he was forced to move on the ice to another location when his father sold a part of his land to Edward Searles about 1912.   

Windham Life and Times – October 30, 2020

The Approaching Neo-Feudal Word.

Newell Farm Windham NH. Baldwin Coolidge Photograph. SPNEA

Prior to America’s Golden Age, in the mid-twentieth century, when national wealth exploded and a wide swath of the population was lifted into middle class, half the people lived in poverty. According to the Foundation for Economic Freedom, 56% of families in the United States were poor in 1900 compared to 13% in 1967.  Today, the trend is moving in the opposite direction.  There is a fascinating new book, “The Coming of Neo-feudalism” by Joel Kotkin in which he explores this ongoing phenomena occurring all over the world.  “Following a remarkable epoch of greater dispersion of wealth and opportunity, we are inexorably returning towards a more feudal era marked by greater concentration of wealth and property, reduced upward mobility, demographic stagnation, and increased dogmatism. If the last seventy years saw a massive expansion of the middle class, not only in America but in much of the developed world, today that class is declining and a new, more hierarchical society is emerging…The new class structure resembles that of Medieval times. At the apex of the new order are two classes―a reborn clerical elite, the clerisy, which dominates the upper part of the professional ranks, universities, media and culture, and a new aristocracy led by tech oligarchs with unprecedented wealth and growing control of information.” Solving this difficult dilemma and reversing this trend is the challenge of 2020. America must come to grips with this unfolding problem or the middle class will slowly disappear and the social safety net will break, leaving the poor and newly poor to eke out an existence in some bleak place like Miss Newell’s farm.

Farewell My Black and Yellow Friends

As the frost and nip of Winter approach…its to the hive or to die.

   So my passionflower vines (Passiflora incarnata) are still blossoming which is somewhat astounding given that it’s October 20th. These are native to the Southeastern U.S.  I told my son Isaac that I was a powerful Shaman but he informed me that I couldn’t possibly be a Shaman, because it requires going off into the woods, alone, until you become One with the Earth. Too smart for his own good, that one! Since I live near the lake, I can’t fertilize, so I buy a few containers of worms to throw in the bed to create a healthy eco-system. But the secret of my garden is tons of sunshine and lots of water and a bit of Native American wisdom which includes talking to my vines.

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed the bees are just laying in the Dahlia blossoms sucking up pollen. At first I thought they were dead but maybe they were just drunk on pollen. Actually I’m not sure. A colony of honey bees will live through the entire winter. They do not hibernate. When temperatures drop below 55 degrees part of the colony gathers in the hive for the winter. The others die. They create a cluster in the hive that creates a 90 degree temperature at its center for the queen. They shiver and flap their wings to keep warm and eat stored honey all winter. (Who or what  decides who gets in I wonder?) Bumble bees do not live through the winter. The last brood will contain a number of queens which mate and then find a safe nesting place (usually a small hole in the ground) for the winter. The rest of the colony dies. In any case, I am truly grateful for my vines, the worms and their black and yellow friends.

Windham Life and Times – October 16. 2020

/The Social Dilemma

The Kendall Mill was located on the Windham-Londonderry line and was operated as a grist, saw and cider mill. In the fall, farmers would bring their apples which were then pressed to make cider. Making cider was a social event for the community where friends and neighbors would meet and discuss the latest gossip and politics, face to face.

   OK, so I apologize; I was way too political in my last column. Just blame it on my social media feedback loop! My son was visiting for my birthday and we watched the eye-opening documentary on Netflix titled “/The Social Dilemma.” Everybody needs to see this documentary because it goes a long way toward explaining why we are so divided as a nation. The opening credits quote Sophocles which says, “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” So here is the “Cliff Notes” summary: The social media monopolies, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, and the rest mine your searching data so they can sell to you. They track what you like, and they even track how long you look at a photograph so they can determine every intimate detail of who you are and what you believe. So you are saying to yourself that you are well aware of that. Here’s the thing; since the social media companies exist to make money, by selling your data and selling to you, they have a vested interest in only presenting to you in your feeds, the things that you have indicated that you like or believe. Why would they do this? They do this because they want you to spend as much time on their platform as possible, and they keep you glued to your feed by presenting you things that make you happy…the things that cause a dopamine rush into the body. This would be all fine and well if it was just about making tons of money which it is for the internet media giants. The problem is, because we only see what the media companies algorithms perceive that we want to see, everyone in America is stuck in a echo chamber and continuous feedback loop endorsing and magnifying their own ideas and beliefs. We are never presented with opposing viewpoints because that might upset us and cause us to spend less time on the social media platform. As individuals, we begin to think that everybody thinks the same way we do, because we are being given what we want to see in our feeds. Everything we see is individually tailored to us and no two people have the same feed. One of the most dramatic moments is when all of these social media founders and high level managers say that they do not allow their own children to access the very social media platforms they operate, because it is much to dangerous for them. One way to escape is to turn off your feed and notifications.  We need to find a way to interact with other people, especially with people who don’t agree with us. Just listen to their point of view. You don’t have to agree with what they believe, you just have to respect their right to believe it. Remember this point, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

    So these tech elites do offer a solution which is actually much scarier than the problem itself. They seem to say that society needs “one truth,” so that we can unite and move forward to solve the difficult problems we face. Climate Change is one issue they address in the documentary. In other words, they want the government to censor “fake news” and present us with “the truth” we need. This is a totalitarian dream, to be able to drop “the truth” and only the “state’s truth” into peoples feeds. The internet was founded as a free-wheeling place of diverse views. They seem to be advocating the establishment of a “Ministry of Truth,” straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. And once “the truth” comes from a Ministry of Truth can a Social Credit Score System be far behind? Maybe the for profit “Attention Extraction Model” isn’t so bad after all?

Windham Life and Times October 9, 2020

The Whistle-Stop Tour

Teddy Roosevelt Campaigns at Windham Depot

So, are you as sick of presidential politics as I am? President Teddy Roosevelt was a flamboyant, larger than life character. He was a Republican, but more than any other president he was responsible for saving capitalism in America. “President Theodore Roosevelt was a leader of the Progressive movement, and he championed his ‘Square Deal’ domestic policies, promising the average citizen fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and pure food and drugs.”  Roosevelt became president after President William McKinley was shot by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, who said he had pulled the trigger out of a desire to contribute to the anarchist cause. “I don’t believe in the Republican form of government, and I don’t believe we should have any rulers,” he said in his confession. “It is right to kill them.”  There was a very strong anarchist-communist threat during McKinley’s presidency because the lack of fairness in America was a real issue. And the real issue of fairness is why we have a very similar threat today. Roosevelt said, “There is a widespread conviction in the minds of the American people that the great corporations known as trusts are in certain of their features and tendencies hurtful to the general welfare,” Roosevelt wrote in his first message as president, following McKinley’s assassination. He became known for the term “Square Deal” which reflected legislation and acts connected with his presidency, especially those which seemed to be undergirded by this sense of fair play and egalitarianism. The Northern Securities case, the break-up of Standard Oil, the Elkins and Hepburn Acts, the creation of the Bureau of Corporations, and his administration’s other actions connected with trust busting, for example, speak to Roosevelt’s desire to equalize the power imbalance between corporations and common people.”  Roosevelt and many other politicians of the time recognized that the concentration of power in the hands of monopolist corporations was bad for America, bad for Americans, and bad for business. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few was very similar to today. Today, American capitalism is again in need of reform. The treasonous off-shoring of jobs and industries has to stop. The financialization of the entire economy to benefit the top 1% at the expense of the rest has to be stopped. Bailing out giant banks has to stop. The bribes to politician’s family members from banks, multi-national corporations and foreign governments has to stop. Monopoly capitalism has to be broken up. Capitalism, regulated, brought about the biggest income gains for common people in all recorded history, in twentieth century America. So the question of 2020, which is staring us right in the face is this; what is to be done when both the Republicans and the Democrats have sold out the common man?

Windham Life and Times – October 2, 2020

The Political Philosophy of Dr. Seuss

The Sneetches and Yertle the Turtle | 2020

So Jon Carpenter and myself have been having some laughs over Dr. Suess. It seems that a few rhyming lines in an email can do that to people. Who can forget, “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am…I do not like them with a fox, I do not like them in a box…”…and on and on it goes. There are however, two stories by Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Suess that provide a keen observation of political philosophy and human nature. You should understand that Suess considered himself a progressive yet he also believed strongly in individual freedom. The two stories would of course be The Sneetches and Yertle the Turtle.

   In the story of The Sneetches, it seems that Star Belly Sneetches saw themselves as superior to Sneetches without “Stars upon thars.” And the Sneetches without “stars upon thars,” felt inferior which lead them to covet the very things they hated.

“Now the Star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.
The stars weren’t so big; they were really quite small.
You would think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.
But because they had stars, all the Star-bellied Sneetches
would brag, ‘We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.’ ”

     Off course both groups fell for the huckster, demagogue, “Sylvester McMonkey McBean, who uses their differences against both groups, for the sole purpose of self-empowerment and profit. Hmmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

“‘My friends,’ he announced in a voice clear and keen,
‘My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
I’ve heard of your troubles; I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that; I’m the fix-it-up chappie.
I’ve come here to help you; I have what you need.
My prices are low, and I work with great speed,
and my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed.’ ”

    As the story unfolds the Sneetches come to realize they have been conned by Sylvster McMonkey McBean. That he only cared about their differences in order to exploit them in his scheme to gain power and make money. In the end the Sneetches see, after they all have been scammed by the flim, flam man, that there are no real differences between Sneetches, and what counts is what is below the feathered exterior of their physical bodies. Sadly for the Sneetches, they learn this lesson long after they haver been duped out of all their money.

“Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
the Fix-It-Up-Chappie packed up and he went.
And he laughed as he drove in his car up the beach,
They never will learn; no, you can’t teach a Sneetch!”

“But McBean was quite wrong, I’m quite happy to say,
the Sneetches got quite a bit smarter that day.
That day, they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches,
and no kind of Sneetch is the BEST on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars,
and whether they had one or not upon thars.”

     So who do you think is hustler McBean in on our very own 2020 Sneetches Beach?

     Yertle the Turtle is even darker than The Sneetches, if that is possible. Yertle is the would be dictator, a king of the his turtle pond and he makes all of his fellow turtles climb on each other’s backs until he can see beyond the pond and to the wide world around him which he immediately declares is his. Everything he sees is what he covets and he doesn’t care who he has to climb on top of to get it. This story was actually written by Suess as a metaphor for a Hitler type dictator, but the same theme works for communists and tyrants of all stripes, and even those who have steered America’s disastrous foreign policy for several decades. Its all about concentrated power, and bullying tactics, all overwhelming individual freedom. Doesn’t anybody in the country remember the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson, or even the beloved Dr. Suess? Is the enlightenment dead; is man not born free? Are we to become cogs or cattle, to be chipped, or phone zombies all controlled from above? That’s odd…I’m actually feeling the weight of little turtle feet on my back as I’m writing this!

Both of the animated versions of these books can be found on YouTube. Why not check them out before you vote! Links at windhamnhhistory.org

You can watch the Sneetches on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/PdLPe7XjdKc

You can watch Yertle the Turtle on YouTube. https://youtu.be/kLgdDPoaz-I