Thursday, March 8, 2018

The 1719 Nutfield Story from an 1878 New Hampshire Newspaper

This account was transcribed from an 1878 newspaper. There are some slight historical inaccuracies, but the entire article is very interesting. Don't go looking for the apple tree on the shore of Beaver Lake, it is long gone and for a while it was replaced with a stone cairn.  A 20th century homeowner became annoyed with tourists visiting the cairn, so he destroyed it. The place is no longer marked, and is private property.

New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette
Thursday, December 19, 1878, Concord, New Hampshire, page 1

"Rambles in New Hampshire
Old Londonderry, in Nutfield, and its outcome – The Stark Cellar, and a comedy of errors – The Old Stone House -  Old Zekiel; his cabin, canal and pond – Stark’s quartermaster, and an uncommon epitaph – The origin of the Nutfield Colony, and how they found their home in the wilderness and lifted up their banner  - Foundations of New England Presbyterianism.

…The farm on which this cabin stood was probably settled originally by James Wilson, who came from Londonderry, Ireland, soon after the arrival of the first colony in 1719.  The place is known as one of the “exempt farms,” which sows that the original settler was a soldier in the defense of Londonderry at the siege of 1689, all such soldiers having been forever exempted, by act of parliament, from taxation in the British dominions.  Among others who had such exempt farms in Nutfield were Rev. Matthew Clark, the second pastor, Abraham Blair, John Barr, and William Caldwell.
                In 1789 the Wilson farm was sold to Joseph Proctor, grandfather of Alexis, by James Wilson, a son of James who was a son of James, an early emigrant from Londonderry to Nutfield.  One of the landmarks in the deed was “the old McCurdy cellar”, which shows that this ruin, still visible, was old nearly a century ago.  Robert McCurdy, who settled on this place, was an early emigrant from Londonderry, Ireland.  His name appears in the records of Londonderry, N. H., as a selectman as early as 1741, and it is in the list of subscribers to the test act in 1776. It was here that Henry Parkinson, Stark’s quartermaster, found his wife, Jenett, a daughter of Robert McCurdy, born in 1756.
                Henry Parkinson came with his parents from Londonderry, Ireland, to Londonderry, N. H. in 1744, at three years of age.  He was educated in the best manner from childhood, graduating with distinguished classical scholarship at Nassau Hall, now Princeton college, in 1765.  Dissenting from the dogma of “election” as held by the Presbyterian church, he declined its ministry, for which his parents had designed him, and devoted himself to the calling of a teacher.
                The people of Londonderry sprang to arms, full of fire, at the first note of alarm from Lexington in 1776, and a company of ninety-nine minute-men under Capt. George Reid joined the left wing of the American army a few days after the opening of the strife at Lexington.  Henry Parkinson marched as a private to the field in that company, but was immediately called by Stark, who knew him well, to the quartermastership of his regiment, sharing with the hero in the honors of Bunker Hill and Bennington, and continued in active service as quartermaster throughout the war.  The intimacy between the hero and his quartermaster continued through life, and after the old hero was, in his great age, confined at home, Master Parkinson made him personal visits annually down to the hero’s death in 1822 at the age of 94.  On retiring from the army, he returned at once to his old work as a teacher, establishing a classical school at Concord, in which fitting boys for college was a specialty.  This school he conducted for many years, with great reputation, often fitting boys for advanced college classes, among them Philip Carrigain, who entered junior at Dartmouth in 1792.  He built and occupied the house standing, which was removed a few rods in 1824 to make place for the First Church in Concord.  About 1800 he removed to a farm in Canterbury, and divided his remaining years between farming and teaching, dying in 1826.  One of his children, Mrs. Daniel (Nancy) Blanchard, a very intelligent, smart old lady, born in Concord in 1788, still survives, more than 90 years of age.  Master Parkinson was distinguished as a linguist, spoke the Latin with facility, and was a successful teacher. It is singular that no mention of either him or his school is found in Bouton’s History of Concord, and still more singular that on having his attention called to the oversight the author should have said he had never heard of such a man.  On a large handsome slate-stone slab in the ancient and well-preserved town cemetery at Canterbury Center is the following uncommon epitaph:
                “Here lie interred the remains of Henry Parkinson, A. M., long distinguished as an excellent classical scholar.  The following brief epitome of his life was composed by himself:  “Hibernia me genuit, America nutrivit; docui, militari, atquo mambus lanborani; et nunc terra me occupant, et quete in pulvere dormie, quasi in gremio materno meo;  Hoc ades amiec mi care, aspice, et memento ut moriendum quoque certe sit tibi.  Ergo vale et cave.”  A bent 23d Male A.D. 1830 aet. 79.”

The Latin may be put into English as follows:

“Ireland gave me birth, America brought me up; I taught, did military service, and labored with my hands; and now the earth embraces me, and I sleep quietly in the dust as in my maternal bosom.  Come hither, my dear friend; behold, and remember that you also must surely die.  Therefore farewell and beware.” Died May 23d, 1830, aged 79.”

By the side of this slab is another precicsely similar, with this inscription:
“Jennett, wife of Henry Parkinson.  Died Mar. 24, 1836, ae 80.”


In the reign of James the First, on the suppression of a rebellion in Ireland, two million acres of land in the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland, comprising nearly six entire counties, among which were Londonderry, Antrim, Choleraine, and Kilrea, fell by confiscation to the crown.  Upon these lands, from which the disloyal Catholics had been expelled, the king, by liberal conditions, induced large bodies of Presbyterians of Argyleshire, Scotland, to settle in 1612, the emigration continuing for the succeeding third of a century, whole congregations under the lead of their pastors often emigrating in a body.  The king wanted them there as a bulwark against Catholic disloyalty, and in the nature of the case they were held in intense hatred by the Irish, who waited for an opportunity for vengeance.  When James the Second, who had been driven from the throne by William, prince of Orange, landed in Ireland from France, his place of refuge, with a French army, to regain the throne, the Ulster Catholics thought their hour of revenge had come.  They joined the invading army of twenty thousand men which aimed to get speedy possession of the fortified city of Londonderry as the Protestant stronghold of the north, its reduction without delay being vital to the invader’s success. The city, with an ordinary population of ten thousand people and a few hundreds of soldiers, was soon increased by refugees to twenty thousand, with the garrison increased to seven thousand.  The people arose in their might, shut the gates of the city, deposed a disloyal governor, put in his place a Presbyterian minister – Rev. George Walker, an heroic man- and for one hundred and five days they maintained the defense in the midst of the most unparalleled suffering of sickness and famine; the word surrender never, it is said, having been heard in the city from the shutting of the gates till the throwing of supplies into the city by the English fleet ended the long agony and struck ruin to the plans of James.  Parliament, in grateful recognition of the supreme service of this heroic defense, immediately passed an act forever exempting from taxation within the British realm all who bore arms in this triumphant defense.
                The original Nutfield settlers were many of them natives of Londonderry, and participated in the horrors of that siege, some of them soldiers in the garrison, and all of them either residents of the city or of the surrounding country.  They had turned their backs upon a delightful climate and a productive soil, but they held their lands by lease and not, as they desired, in fee simple.  They could worship according to their faith, but were obliged to pay tithes to support the Church of England.  It was to find full religious toleration, larger civil liberty, and homes in fee-simple which in 1718 induced three hundred and nineteen of these people to petition to Shute, governor Massachusetts and New Hampshire, to grant them a home on liberal terms somewhere in the provinces, and which, on reception of favorable response, persuaded the most of them to embark in five vessels for Boston, where they arrived August 4, 1718.  All the petitioners to Gov. Shute except thirteen signed their names in their own fair hand; nine being liberally educated ministers and three others university men.  Four ministers came with this company.
                The most of the company left the vessels at Boston and scattered in search of homes for the winter in Boston and the neighboring tows; but sixteen families who had been parishioners of Rev. James McGregor in Ireland sailed in one of the vessels for Falmouth, now Portland, hearing of a good place to settle on Casco Bay. Winter, however, struck them early and suddenly, and they were ice-bound all winter in Falmouth harbor, and in so much distress that the general court at Boston, on petition of the citizens of Falmouth, ordered an hundred bushels of meal sent to “the poor Irish people.”  In early spring they set sail, and finding no spot along the coast to suit them they turned their course up the Merrimack River, arriving at Haverhill April 2, 1719,O.S.; and there, hearing of a fine country fifteen miles distant, to which the abundant nuts of its forests had given the name of Nutfield, the sixteen men proceeded at once to look it over.  Returning in a few days, after having put up some temporary cabins, they gathered up their scanty furniture and effects brought over the ocean, and men, women and children, full of faith and courage began their march into the wilderness.
                A part of the company took the indirect route through Dracut, where their pastor – Mr. McGregor, an heroic man, who had taught school there during the winter – was waiting to hear from them, and join them.  The two parties met at the foot of a hill in Nutfield, hitched their horses, and the men went out to take a look.  On their return one of their horses was gone, a serious loss to the straitened exiles, but a more serious alarm, as lurking savages were suspected.  Some time afterwards the horse was found, however, mired and dead in a meadow near where he had been hitched, and the name of Horse hill still commemorates the event.  Before moving forward the pastor addressed his flock, congratulating them on the propitious termination of their long wanderings, and telling them they were now pilgrims in the wilderness, strangers in a strange land, exhorted to continued confidence in God.
                On the eve of embarking from Ireland Mr. McGregor had, in a written discourse still preserved, addressed his flock from the words of the great leader of Israel to his people in the journey of the wilderness. – “If thy presence go not with me, lead us not up hence,” –
And now, the day after reaching Nutfield (April 12), he stood up and discoursed to them again.  The place of meeting was on the eastern shore of a beautiful sheet of water the name of which, in the language the Penacooks, was Tsnieto, afterwards called Beaver pond.  Beneath the arms an ancient and towering oak, close upon the borders of the waters, when the spring had scarcely unlocked the winter, they gathered for a solemn and formal lifting up of their banner in their new theater of labor, as a band of sternly religious men and women.  The sermon was from Isaiah xxxii 2. –
“And a man shalt be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”

The pastor was then forty -two years old and had been trained in the highest classical and theological culture, was a man of courage and wisdom, had been schooled in self reliance and hardships, was, though a mere boy at the time, an active defender in the siege of Londonderry, having the honor of firing the great gun in the tower of the cathedral answering the ships which brought relief from the long agony, and was in all respects a consummate leader of the colony.  When he died in 1729 the whole town mourned as at the loss of a father.  The oak beneath which that first sermon in Nutfield was spoken was always held in veneration by the people, and when, after standing sentinel of the sacred scene, with higher than druidical veneration, more than an hundred and twenty-five years, it fell, from decay, the large apple -tree which now marks the spot was planted as a memorial.  The Nutfield church was the first of the Presbyterian order planted in New England, and the most of the churches now in New England owe their existence directly or indirectly to the Old Nutfield establishment.  At some future time my notebook may furnish your columns something form………..(illegible)…… old and new.  M. B. G.”


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "The 1719 Nutfield Story from an 1878 New Hampshire Newspaper", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 8, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).

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