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.   

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