Windham Life and Times – April 26 2019

Nutfield 300

Above Left: Rev. McGregor preaches first sermon in Nutfield. Above Right: The “Double Range” along West Running Brook. The “Common Field” can be seen in the middle near the top abutting James Gregg’s land. The highway laid out in 1723 can be seen on the lower portion of the map. In order to be oriented correctly map should be rotated counter-clockwise

The Double Range | Wiley’s Book of Nutfield

“The appearance of the settlement along the banks of West Running Brook in 1720 must have been romantic. Imagine the thick growth of forests largely composed of walnut, chestnut, butternut and oak, and wild game some of it unpleasantly fierce and dangerous to encounter alone or without arms. It required some time for each family to clear away timber enough to let the sunshine and build a log cabin. The cabins dotted the slopes a little back from the brook, probably concealed from each other by the forests, and reached by private paths hastily cut among the trees. On frosty mornings the white curling smoke form the cabins along West Running Brook, rising over the tops of trees may have been a pleasing feature of pioneer life. In order to have corn and beans and other garden crops before fields could be cleared around each cabin, the settlers combined their strength and cleared a tract of land together, and all joined in planting and cultivating this tract, and the name by general consent became the Common Field. It is easily recognized now on the west side of the turnpike about a mile below Derry Lower Village, and just north of the brook. The map will enable the reader to locate the Common Field of early settlers at the south end of the Gregg land. The engraving is intended to give a view of the homesteads in their position and relative positions.”

“It is interesting to pursue the record and observe the list of names, the pioneers of a township that has become rather famous in the production of hardy, enterprising men who have continued building towns and cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and are found in every State. As far as possible to decipher the writing of a list of names, all but three of which are on the margin of the page, in a volume that thousands have handled and turned to the sunlight until the ink has nearly faded from sight, the first twenty settlers in Nutfield were: James McKeen, James Greg, Samuel Graves, David Cargill, Robert Wear, John Morrison, James Anderson, Thomas Steele, Alan Anderson, John Gregg, John Barnard, Archibald Clendennen, James Clark, James Nesmith, John Goffe, Elias Keyes, Joseph Simonds, James Alexander, James Sterrat, and Samuel Allison.”

“For convenience in visiting one another, these families had their homesteads laid out in narrow farms of sixty acres each, arranged in parallel lines so that the cabins, all being at the ends of the farms, were not over thirty rods apart, and by placing two ranges together, both facing the brook, the cultivated ends approaching each other, two rows of rude cabins were stretched along West Running Brook from the point where it empties into Beaver Brook, then called a river, to the most easterly side of the settlement, about five hundred rods distant. As the farms were three hundred and twenty rods in length the Double Range embraced an area of two thousand acres.”

To identify the sites of the original settlers a few directions only are requisite. The easiest method is that following the record of the laying out of a highway, always bearing in mind the dimensions of the original homesteads. The position of the highways will indicate the situation of the cabins, and quite frequently the record indicates on which side of the road one must look for traces of the log cabins and cultivated fields.

“High-minded and generous as the early Scotch-Irish settlers of Nutfield were they naturally had some of the defects of their virtues, and it is quite possible that even in their primitive surroundings worldly pride sometimes asserted itself. Illustrative of this is the anecdote related of the wife of the oldest John Morrison. When he was building his first rude dwelling in Londonderry she came up to him one day and, twining her arms affectionately around his neck, said: ‘Well, well, dear John, if it must be a log-house, do make it a log higher than the rest.’ The chronicles are silent on the point whether the Covenanter rebuked his wife’s sinful pride, or whether he yielded to the temptation.”

 

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