Windham Life and Times – April 19, 2019

Nutfield 300

Rev. J.C. McMurphy Address | At the 200th Celebration

“The well chosen name, Nutfield, was destined to give place to another in the evolution of the town and perfecting the title. However, for the space of three years, everything seemed settled and permanent. The sawmills were busy turning out lumber of every serviceable dimension, the fulling mill at the upper Beaver Pond was busy making cloth, the gristmill below the sawmill, was busy turning out meals of corn, barley, oats, rye or wheat. Fish and wild fowl and game were abundant. West India goods were secured by a trip to Newburyport or Portsmouth, of if not too large an order from, Haverhill, only half as far away, might supply the need. But the exchange of domestic goods, such as grains and vegetables, eggs, pork, butter and cheese for imports of spices, tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, and other needed supplies necessitated longer trips of 30 or 40 miles. As has been intimated there were no highways in Nutfield. There were narrow Indian trails and travelling was precarious, with any vehicle calculated to carry a load of goods. There was a fairly passable trail to the Merrimack River at Amoskeag Falls and at several  other points.  There was a fairly good trail to Portsmouth, the port of entry and of customs, the place of exchange and of the Jail and seat of the Great and General Court of the Province of New Hampshire in New England, under his Majesty King George I. The inhabitants of Nutfield who emigrated from the Northern Ireland to take refuge in this wilderness had not been here long before they began to find themselves very much in need of the strong assistance and support of the Crown and Parliament they had tried to get away from. Their title seemed to conflict with other titles and claims on every side. It became necessary to appeal to the Great and General Court for protection and to have representation there. The ever ready town meeting furnished the representatives and established the custom which has been maintained down to the present day. In consequence of this appeal two men were sent to England as local representatives duly qualified and empowered to obtain a Royal Charter for the colony already on the premises; and guaranty them in the possession of the territory occupied by them and covered by the former deed; or, an equivalent amount of one hundred square miles.”

“June 21, 1722 was the date of the Royal Charter and quit-rent and great was the rejoicing except for the peck of potatoes and the ship’s masts. There were several important changes apparent in the Royal Charter. The name was changed from Nutfield to Londonderry, not by any means unsatisfactory. The colony lost the Merrimack River boundary and a wide strip of land on the West by the new grant; it, however, gained a considerable strip on the east from the claim of Haverhill. (Karma, for the miserable treatment and derision of “the Irish” by the English there.) The charter gave the colony a strip a mile wide and three miles long on the east side of the Merrimack river near Amoskeag Falls. A gore of land was lost to Chester but generally the colony remained in undisturbed possession of their houses and lands but the ship masts and potatoes were reserved for quit-rent annually on the first day of October forever. July 30, 1746 twelve men of Portsmouth for 1,500 pounds lawful money, bought the claim of one John Tufton Mason, heir to Capt. John Mason of London, to stop suits at law on some of this Londonderry territory, but the inhabitants were not disturbed beyond a little temporary anxiety as to their rights.” (Possession is nine-tenths of the law!)

“But September 23, 1751 the inhabitants of that part of Londonderry and adjacent to the Amoskeag Falls with other settlers held a meeting and took action for a separate town government, and through subsequent persistent efforts succeeded in being erected into a township under the name of Derryfield, and so continued until the city of Manchester was grown and incorporated depriving Londonderry of its richest possession, and Litchfield had come off the west and Windham off on the south reducing the size of Londonderry very considerably. All of these divisions and separations were in the same general movement of free men desiring local self government, and chafing with and under the feeling of their own importance and true values not being appreciated.”

“Possibly under this same conception of not being credited for their own importance in the growth and prosperity of the old town of Londonderry, July 2, 1827, the inhabitants of this eastern portion of town, where the first sixteen families and their pastor first settled on the banks of West running brook in April 1719 with the first church, the first school, the first saw mill and grist mill, the first graveyard, and all the associations of a hundred and eight years, became incorporated under the name of Derry, to have their own meetings, choose their own moderators, town clerk and selectmen; and henceforth like all liberty-loving and self respecting people, they have endeavored to rule and govern themselves in the most approved and democratic methods.” Windham became a town, by an act of  the Province of NH General Assembly, February 12, 1742.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.