Windham Life and Times – November 13, 2020

The Border Dispute

Butterfield Rock | Indian Meadows II

William Harris in his Exeter Newsletter column says, “Butterfield’s Rock, one of the natural curiosities and noted landmarks of the town, (located on the grounds of Windham Country Club) has been known by that name  for nearly two hundred years. In the Londonderry Proprietors Records under the date October 29, 1723, occurs this record: ‘Laid out by the order of the town a farm given in Charter to Mr. David Cargill Junior containing one hundred acres of land lying and being to the southwest of the rock called Butterfield’s rock.’ It apparently took its name from a Jonathan Butterfield, of Chelmsford, to whom 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 down the woods in the south part of town to improve the pasturage…”

     In fact, the land running between Cobbett’s Pond and Canobie Lake was once a huge Native American summer settlement where the Indians would grow the three sisters of corn, winter squash and pole beans. They had burned off this land creating what were known as “Indian Meadows.” A huge number of Indian artifacts were in fact found by the state of New Hampshire when they were reconstructing Cobbett’s Pond Road and arrow-heads were once commonly found on the shore of Canobie and Cobbett’s. A few years ago, my son found a round, fish net weight while diving in Lake Winnipesauke. As the Native Americans moved further north to avoid the advancing settlers, these meadows were coveted by the Europeans. You can imagine having to cut old growth timber with little more than an ax on your farm. The Indian Meadows were already burnt off or had small, new growth which could also be easily burnt off again. I often picture the Indian settlement as it must have looked in Windham. Running along the Range with crops growing and Indians fishing and hunting on Cobbett’s Pond and Canobie Lake. The crow is a Spirit Animal Totem, and I notice there is a murder of crows that congregate near the Range. Maybe they have been doing this since the time of the Indians, with corn nearby, for hundreds of years.

     “The north east 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 Jeremy Hill in Pelham. The bounds of Londonderry, when incorporated in 1722 overlapped the 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.” W.S.H. If you open your eyes, past and present are both filled with beautiful mystery. 

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