Windham Life and Times – April 5, 2019

Nutfield 300

Introduction: April 11, 1719

This year, 2019, will mark the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Nutfield. This grant of land came through the Wheelwright deed for a ten square mile parcel that he had acquired from the Indians. Nutfield consisted of the towns of Windham, Derry, Londonderry and parts of Manchester and Salem.  Beginning below is the historical address by the Rev. J.G. MacMurphy  at the Nutfield Celebration of 1919.

The Derry News, September 12, 1919

“Following is part one of the ‘Historical Address’ delivered by the Rev. J.G. MacMurphy at the 200th anniversary celebration of this township.”

Anticipation of the Important Celebration

“For many years it has been in the minds of the lineal descendants of the pioneers that a large gathering should be held in 1919 to properly commemorate the achievements of two hundred years. Curiously enough it is generally claimed one person in his last will left a small legacy to be held in trust, for the purchase of apples, cider and nuts, to be liberally dispensed to all the guests and attendants of the town’s 200th anniversary celebration.”

“On many public occasions speakers have referenced to the probability that this date would be observed by an extraordinary effort, to duly memorialize the more conspicuous events of the town’s history, and to cherish with fond recollection the names of worthy men and women who have contributed most to the welfare, prosperity and honorable reputation of the community.”

“As a growing community it is quite impossible to conceive the amount of material necessary  to any historic account of the principal events and personal notices of the chief actors. There is no adequate work in existence to supply the need of the present generation. The History of Londonderry, N.H., is yet to be written and published in the rich abundance of the town’s inception, development and present conditions. The sources of information are numerous and sufficiently reliable and varied. The records of the town from its earliest beginnings to the latest transactions have been carefully preserved. There are details of the settlement, the laying out of homesteads and other subsequent allotments of land; the privileges of saw mills, gristmills, and water flowage; the names of the inhabitants as they arrived; the marriages, the births, the deaths, and all these records are accessible to the public at any time.”

“The New Hampshire Gazetteer is a series of published volumes in which to find a condensed account of the settlement of Londonderry and all the affiliated interest of adjacent towns in course of time taken off the original possession of this pioneer colony. There have been several large Rockingham County volumes published in which due space has been allotted to the history of this and neighboring towns closely allied together. At the end of the first hundred years of history the Rev. Edward L. Parker delivered a centenary sermon on the history of the town to a large and appreciative congregation in the First Church. The sermon was printed and copies are in existence, although rare and not easily found. About 1850 he wrote and his son published the History of Londonderry. It contained valuable copies of records, among them a list of names of those who in 1718 petitioned for land in America to settle upon; a list of those who did settle Londonderry under the Royal Charter of 1722; a list of the selectmen for a hundred and twenty-five years; a list of the Revolutionary War soldiers from this town; a list of lawyers, doctors, and prominent men who originated in this town.”

At the end of one hundred and fifty years there was held on the sand plains of West Derry an immense gathering of the inhabitants and descendants of Londonderry. There was due preparation and distinguished men were present to tell the experiences of their sturdy ancestors in opening up the wilderness to make comfortable homes; and after this big celebration, Robert C. Mack gathered material from the speeches, personnel and occasion to make a book and a committee provided for its printing, binding and distribution. This book is also rare now and not readily found. About twenty five years later was published a book that more than all others combined in the one universal reference book, Willey’s Book of Nutfield, to point out exactly where every head of family had a homestead, and the location of every allotment of land to him. It has aided materially in answering inquires genealogists usually seek to answer by consulting the Register of Deeds in Exeter. Again, it is particularly valuable in giving names, dates of death, kinship, and ages of all persons buried in Derry and Londonderry, so far as their graves had stones and inscriptions, Index with more than 700 names.”

The First Settlement

“There has been considerable emphasis laid on the fact that sixteen families and their pastor, the Rev. James MacGregor, are reported as the first to arrive on the site selected for the town. (The other Scots-Irish which had arrived on the five ships from northern Ireland in 1718 were spread around New England from Andover, Worcester, Boston and the coast of Maine.) They arrived early in the season for this climate and in a wilderness of wood and timber. (Although there were many Indian meadows where Native Americans had grown their crops and were much coveted by settlers since they had been cleared of trees and used for farming.) This was a country of many beeches, walnuts, oil nuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, in the season of gathering; and so they had chosen the name of Nutfield for their territory and they had the promise of an Indian deed to this land, briefly described as ten miles square and bounded by Chester, easterly by Haverhill, southerly by Dracut and Dunstable (Nashua) and westerly by the Merrimack River.”

“Why did those sixteen families and their pastor emigrate from Ireland and come here and settle in the wildness? It has been said they emigrated to obtain freedom of action and liberty of personal conscience. When did they arrive and how? They were here on Saturday the 11th and their pastor preached to them on Sunday the 12th day of April, 1719, on the Blessings of Christ’s Kingdom taking for his text Isaiah XXXII;2  ‘A man shall be as a hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry ground, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’  Imagine the conditions of this season of the year. The company had followed a trail from Haverhill about fifteen miles through the woods. The men and boys, perhaps no women of small children as they were to stay with their friends a month while preparations were being made to shelter them…”

 

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