Windham Life and Times – February 18, 2016

Butterfield’s Rock

Butterfield's Rock Windham NH

Butterfield’s Rock Windham NH

Origin of the Name


“WINDHAM FEBRUARY 14.— “The popular clamor for preparedness appears to be about one-third genuine scare over the hallucination that Germany is coming over to gobble us up, one-third attempt to make political capital by discrediting the present administration, and one-third desire to stimulate certain lines of business for selfish pecuniary reasons.” (So the military industrial complex celebrates 100 years.)

“We couldn’t help being amused at two contiguous items in a recent paper, the first stating that a jury had awarded a man damages of $1900 for the loss of some fingers in a machine, while the second stated that another man was awarded $275 by a jury in the same court for the loss of his wife, who had been enticed to leave him and take up her abode with another fellow.”

“Butterfield’s rock, one of the natural curiosities and noted landmarks of the town, has been known by that name for nearly two hundred years. (300 years now.) In the Londonderry Proprietors’ Records under the date October 29, 1723, occurs this record: ‘Laid out by order of the town a farm Given in the Charter to Mr. David Cargill Junior containing one hundred acres of land lying and being to the south west of the rock called Butterfield’s rock.’ It apparently took its name from a Jonathan Butterfield, of Chelmsford, to whom there 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 the woods in the south part of town to improve the pasturage. The northeast 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 near Jeremy hill in Pelham. The bounds of Londonderry when incorporated in 1722 overlapped this 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.”

GOULDINGS BROOK: In doing research for this article, in the History of Dracut, I came across the following interesting information about early place names which were known before the Windham was settled by the Scotch-Irish. “In 1682, the Negus grant was purchased by Peter Goulding of Boston, who sold it the same year but, very singularly, the tributary of Beaver Brook still retains the name of Goulding’s brook, sometime corrupted to ‘Golden.’ …the grant covered the land between the two brooks at their junction, and extended nearly to the Moody Hobb’s farm on the road from Pelham Center to Windham…”

Some additional information about early place names in Windham include the following: “With the exception of he small grants to Caldicot and Negus, the latter called Goulding farm, all of the territory north of the tracts described was reserved land and was laid out in lots. They were usually located with reference to certain natural features such as Goulding’s Pond, Goulding’s Brook, Ledge of Rock’s Pond and Distracted Meadows. The latter were partly in the Gage Hill district and partly over the Windham line. Goulding’s Pond is in Windham and is called Cobbett’s Pond. It is one of the sources of Goulding’s brook which flows into Beaver brook near Pelham center. Ledge of Rock’s Pond has been called Goulding’s but is now Simpson Pond. “ (And now Moeckel Pond.) “ Morrison says the, “brook is call Golden or Golding’s Brook, tradition says, is so called from the fact that that an ox by that name died upon its banks at an early date. This was at the time when Chelmsford and Dracut people used to turn their cattle into the neighborhood in spring to get fresh grass and to browse during the summer. They also set forests on fire to kill the wood, so that the grass would grow more luxuriantly, and in early days the hills in that part of town were black with the burned and dead trees caused by these devastating fires. A Mr. Golding (Goulding) owned land in the vicinity. This undoubtedly gave it its name.” It also appears that there was a Deer Jump on the banks of the Merrimack River as well as on Moeckel Pond in Windham.

As for Butterfield’s Rock, it is no doubt named for Benjamin Butterfield or one of his descendants. Benjamin was one of the first settlers of Chelmsford, MA., in 1653. He would have likely turned his cattle out in wilderness that is now Windham.


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