Thursday, May 10, 2018

200th Anniversary of Nutfield, from a 1919 Boston Newspaper

Transcribed from The Boston Herald, Sunday, August 17, 1919; Boston, Massachusetts, page 45

Londonderry’s Anniversary “Meeting” of 1869 is to Reassemble After an “Adjournment” of 50
Years – But the Cider Provided for in the Will of Dr. Sylvanus Brown Will Not Be Available
By Hobart Pillsbury
Londonderry, Aug. 16

Just 50 years ago one of the greatest celebrations ever held in New Hampshire took place at Derry in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the organization of the historic town of Londonderry, a town that originally included a part of the city of Manchester, and the present towns of Londonderry, Derry and Windham.  In the official record of that celebration, which has been preserved in the archives of both town and state, the last minute reads thus:
It was now announced by the president of the day that the regular program had been carried out, and it was moved and seconded that the meeting be adjourned for 50 years.

On Aug. 24 that same “meeting” is to reassemble.  Some of the same men and women, although not many, who voted to “adjourn for 50 years” will be present at the reassembling.  There will be others present, United States senators and members of Congress, governors, ex-governors and distinguished men, who were not heard of and perhaps not alive when the former festivities took place, who will join in what will be the most elaborate of the many Old Home week reunions of New Hampshire.

But Time’s speeding onward:
How soon in its flight
Will it bear us afar and away out of sight?
How few, on another centennial day,
Will return and talk over the years sped away?

This verse closed a poem read 50 years ago to the celebrators.  New Hampshire towns, which boast a records of 200 years of uninterrupted organization, take especial interest in the preservation of the old home spirit and the observance of Old Home week.  It is just 20 years since the late Frank W. Rollins, the Boston banker, at that time Governor of New Hampshire, conceived the idea of promoting an annual reunion of those natives of New Hampshire who had moved away.

Horace Greeley’s Dedication

Horace Greeley said, in an oration at the 150th Londonderry anniversary, that “we shall cordially agree to devote this festival to the memory of that Scotch-Irish race who first settled this town.”  The Scotch-Irish blood survives in Londonderry today, to a greater extent probably than in any town in the United States.  What Greeley said 50 years ago is true:
The old township has been cut up into several:  old landmarks have disappeared; old fashions have changed; new institutions have changed old habits and softened rugged peculiarities; but the Scotch-Irish people remain; their genius lights up most of the faces now looking into mine.

One of the participants in the celebration of 1869 was Dr. Sylvanus Brown, a physician of Derry, who died with a few years and left the town a legacy which should be allowed to draw interest until 1919, when the entire fund was to expended in the purchase of cider and distributed among the multitude present at the 200th anniversary exercises.  Whether by providential provision or otherwise, the fund got lost in the financial meanderings of the town in the course of 40 years and no money exists today with which to buy cider.  Furthermore, no cider exists, under the bone dry laws, which could be used for celebrating, and that would be of sufficient caliber faithfully to carry out the provision in the will of Dr. Brown.

E. H. Derby, a prominent Boston lawyer of two generations ago, speaking at the Derry celebration of 1869 referred to the five great anniversaries that were that year observed and that might fittingly be noted in 1919 – the birth of Napoleon, the Pacific railroad, the Suez canal, the invention of the steam engine and the settlement of the Scotch-Irish in America.  The last, according to Bancroft, is as important to America as the landing of the Puritans, and it is held by many that the Scotch-Irish did more for civil and religious liberty, more to sever the ties that bound the colonies to England, and more to establish American independence than did the Pilgrim Fathers.  New Hampshire people are sometimes inclined to weary of the frequent praise of  Massachusetts and the Pilgrim Fathers and the Puritans as the only settlers of New England who came with high courage and firm religious convictions.  The five shiploads of Scotch Irish that arrived in Boston include men who, in the words of Parson Macgregor, “wished to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience and the rules of His inspired word.”

The Story of Londonderry

The story of Londonderry is one of the heroic memoirs of American colonization.  Londonderry was settled by Scotchmen as a result of British oppression.  The English Parliament passed laws which were oppressively felt in Scotland by the Scotch Presbyterians.  Thousands of these Scotchmen early in the 17th century passed over into Ulster in Ireland and resettled that community under favorable terms of the King of England.  These Scotch became Irish, but were not of the Irish.  They did not intermarry with the Irish or agree with them on matters of government and religion.  There was strife which culminated in the memorable siege of Londonderry, the chief city of Ulster, in 1688 – 89.  The Scotch Protestants and the Irish Catholics strove for supremacy with such bitterness that at length the bolder souls among the Scotch, failing of that measure of freedom which they had been led to expect, decided to emigrate to the new world.

Some of the immigrants went from Boston to Worcester, and the Londonderry colonists originally started for Casco Bay, Me, with a view to exploring the territory there.  They spent the winter of 1718-19 at Portland, and suffered many hardships from cold and scarcity of food.  In the spring they sailed down the coaset and up the Merrimack river to Haverhill, from which they explored by land into the desirable tract at Londonderry, to which they originally gave the name of Nutfield.

On April 11, 1719, there arrived in what is now Derry 16 families of Scotchmen from Londonderry, Ireland.  The Rev. James Macgregor delivered under a spreading oak at a place called Horse Hill, the first sermon ever preached in town. The colony was a great success.  Soon there were 70 families, and the first settlers made their “home lots” of gorund only 30 rods wide and one mile long, in order to protect themselves against the Indians.

The settlers purchased the territory from John Wheelwright by a deed that was drawn up at Boston on Oct. 20, 1719.  This John Wheelwright was a grandson of a minister of the same name who had bought the land from the Indians in 1629.  One June 21, 1722 they got a charter from the King of England confirming their titlte to the town on condition that once a year they should pay the King a quit rent of one peck of potatoes forever and should reserve for the royal navy all the trees grown in the town suitable for masts for ships.

Church Well Finished, but Homes of Logs

The early settlers built their homes of logs, but in two years they had a church edifice built of good timber and well finished at what is now East Derry, on the sight of the present Congregational Church.  Able-bodied men attended divine worship fully armed against the raids of the Indians, and there is still preserved the musket which the minister, Mr. Macgregor, habitually carried into the pulpit.

In 1723 a log schoolhouse was built.  It was 75 years before anybody in town had a first-class vehicle to ride in, John Prentice having the first, and he drove a chaise which was considered highly extravagant at the time.

They were loyal to the government.  In the old French war, in 1745, Dr. Matthew Thornton, who afterwards signed the Declaration of Independence, served as surgeon in a campaign of great hardship against Cape Breton.  In 1756, when attempt against Crown Point was made, the town raised three companies of troops which served under the command of three Londonderry soldiers, Robert Rogers, William Stark and his brother, the celebrated John Stark, who afterwards became New Hampshire’s most celebrated general in the revolutionary army.

The spirit of these men was the spirit which identified their sympathies with the cause of independence from the start.  Even before the battle of Lexington and Concord four Londonderry boys deserted from the British army because of their revolutionary principles, and were recaptured at Haverhill, Mass.  A company of Londonderry men under the command of Capt. Aiken proceeded to Haverhill and rescued them.

Londonderry at Bunker Hill

When the news reached New Hampshire that Gen. Gage was marching at the head of British troops from Boston into the interior, the Granite state dispatched at force of 1200 men to Cambridge and Charlestown.  The “History of Londonderry” related that “men dropped their implements and in a few hours all who could bear arms were assembled on the Common at the meeting house.”  They were Minute Men, indeed, and a Londonderry contingent fought at Bunker Hill, where New Hampshire troops were conspicuous for gallantry.

The ancient records show that on Dec. 17, 1776, the town meeting voted
that the remainder of the powder shall be divided to every one that hath not already received of the same, as far as it will go; provided he produces a gun of his own, in good order, and is willing to go against the enemy, and promises not to waste any of the powder, only in self-defense; and provided, also, that he show twenty good bullets to suit his gun, and six good flints.”

When the revolutionary war was over it was proposed to reinstate the Tories as citizens of the town. To this proposal the town sent a memorial to the New Hampshire Legislature, saying:
We expect that you will use your best endeavor that nothing may ever be done for those infernal wretches by the state, further than to provide a gallows, halter and hangman for every one that dare show their vile countenances amongst us.”

It was during this period that sharpers and hawkers took advantage of the depreciation of government money.  The town took official cognizance of the high cost of living, particularly as regarded professional fees and money-changers’ commissions.  A vote was passed to reduce the fees of lawyers 50 per cent on the ground that “they would not then be so fond of business, and people would have time to breathe.”

Large families grew up among the early settlers of Londonderry.  It was the rule rather than the exception to have 8, 10 or 12 children, and there appeared to be no difficulty in supporting families of this size out of the product of the farms.  The settlers introduced the Irish potato into this country and they learned from the Indians how to catch salmon at Amoskeag in what is now the centre of the city of Manchester.  Salmon abounded near the falls at Amoskeag.

Londonderry also developed the linen industry in America, and years ago every house in town had its weaving loom at which the women were particularly adept.  The Londonderry weavers had almost a national reputation for quality of product.  Their frugality and industry enabled them to maintain their large families, and from the original 70 families in the town, it was stated by Charles H. Bell, the former United States senator, at the last celebration in Derry, that “as near as he could figure out, upward of 50,000 descendants of these Scotch-Irishmen were then living in the United States”.

Some Amusing Incidents

The Londonderry men were always religious and maintained the church with considerable dignity.  The minister of Londonderry received a larger salary than the chief executive of New Hampshire.  They were men of plain speech.  The minister one day made many parochial visits, and toward evening rode a horse up to the home of one of his elders. He had, as a matter of course, been pressed at every dwelling to partake of the liquid refreshments which are now taboo, but were then considered indispensable, and between fatigue and overhospitality on the part of his parishioners, found it hard to keep himself upright in the saddle.

The elder’s keen eye took in the situation.

“Wont’ ye light doun, parson,” said he, “and come in and get something do eat, for I perceive ye’ve had enough to drink, already.”

To show how obstinate these men were, the story is related of the representative from Londonderry to the New Hampshire Legislature who differed decidedly from the speaker in matters of religion and politics and had also expressed doubts as to the speaker’s honesty.  At the close of the session it was customary, and as today, to offer resolutions of felicitations to the presiding officer and present him with a substantial gift.

In this particular session the managers of the Legislature feared to encounter the public opposition of the outspoken “gentleman from Londonderry” to their resolution, and thought it prudent to confer with him in private as to their plans.  They showed him the resolution, which was in the ordinary form, presenting “the thanks of the Legislature to the presiding officer for the dignity, ability, and integrity with which he has discharged his duties.”

The gentleman from Londonderry perused the resolution carefully and said:
“There is only one word I object to; strike out “integrity’ and I will vote for the resolution.”

Which was done, and the records of the Legislature stand in that way today for that particular session.
It was the ancient practice in the town to sit at the table in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  In other towns it was found more convenient for the communicants to remain in the pews.  Londonderry stuck to its practice for many years, until finally the minister announced that parishioners would remain in their pews during the service, but seats at the table would still be provided for such as might object to the change.  Most of the members adopted the prevailing fashion; but quite a few would not change and sat at the table.  The latter faction dwindled in numbers until there was but one old gentleman who would not yield his assent.  Year after year, until he went down to his grave, each day of communion, in sunshine and in storm, found him sitting at the table, solitary and conspicuous, in mute but faithful protest against an innovation for which he found no warrant in Scripture.

The first display of musical instruments in church ever made in New Hampshire took place in Londonderry, and the incident is somewhat peculiar.  It appears that the minister had formerly been a chaplain in the British army and had learned to play the violin.  He brought his stringed instrument to America, no doubt hidden in the bottom of his chest, and late one night one of the elders, passing the parson’s log cabin, heard the “linked sweetness long drawn out” peeped through the window and discovered the man of God in the very act of drawing the bow.  Of course the elder reported what he saw to the session, and a decree was made that the minister should “hang up the fiddle and the bow” for three successive Sundays in front of the pulpit.

Londonderry got its charter as a town in 1722 and the name was then changed to Nutfield.  One provision of the charter was that fairs should be held in May and November and for over 50 years these were great events.  Merchants came from Boston and Salem to exhibit their wares. Toward the last, however, these fairs became mere riotous gatherings and were abolished.

The town prospered so that 100 years ago it was the first in importance in New Hampshire.  Two famous academies were founded, Pinkerton Academy for boys and the Adams Female Seminary for girls.  In the later one of the faculty was Mary Lyon, who founded Mt. Holyoke College.

The first marriage in Londonderry was that of John Wallace to Annie Barnet, in 1721.  The first funeral was that of John Clark, in 1720.  The first birth was that of Jonathan Morrison, and it was an occasion of much anxiety which mother’s son should obtain the prize of a lot of land which was assigned to the first son born in Londonderry.  This first born was an uncle to one Jeremiah Smith, who was later well known as a “millwright, blacksmith, carpenter, house-joiner, stone-cutter and gunmaker,” being evidently a gentleman of some versatility. 

One of the athletic exercises in the early days of this town was to see who could soonest load a wagon with barrels of cider.  Young men about town, when meeting on the road, would frequently unload and load again just for this purpose.

The New Hampshire Legislature used to have sermons preached before it by distinguished clergymen.  On one occasion the Rev. Dr. Morrison of Londonderry delivered the sermon and the customary motion was made to print the same as a public document.  An amendment was offered “provided they would print the brogue” and solemnly carried.

John Montgomery, one of the early Londonderry weavers, wove the linen for George Washington and other officers of the army and received from Congress for this service 40 pounds in money and a diamond ring as a premium.

Colonists of Londonderry went out from that town to settle many other towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  An expedition went to Bedford in 1737, Peterboro in 1741, Acworth in 1766, Antrim, Henniker, and Deering in 1767, and New Boston in 1774.  The town of Windham was carved out of Londonderry in 1741 and Derry in 1827.  Other towns settled principally by men of this town were Londonderry, N. S., Londonderry, Vt., Windham, Vt., Truro, N.S., and Cherry Valley, N.Y.

Romance of “Ocean Mary”

The most charming of the many stories that are connected with Londonderry is that of “Ocean Mary” and it is said that there is every reason to believe it true.  In July, 1720, a ship, whose name has not been preserved, set sail from Londonderry in Ireland for Boston with a number of well-to-do families on board bound for the Scotch-Irish settlement in New Hampshire.  Among the passengers were James Wilson and the young wife whom he had married a year before on their way to take up the land of which Wilson was one of the original grantees.

Concerning the first few days of the voyage of this immigrant ship little is known, except that there was a protracted calm, followed by a storm of unusual violence, by which the ship was driven from her course.  The passage across the Atlantic was about one-third accomplished when events transpired that mad the trip memorable in the lives of all on board.

One evening the lookout saw on the horizon a sail silhouetted against the rising moon.  The strange craft came nearer and nearer, and by morning her low hull could be seen like a black shadow under her full set of canvas.

The pirate ship came within gunshot of the emigrant ship. There was nothing to do.  The emigrants had nothing but a few muskets for arms, and she was too slow to run away.

Boats were soon alongside and the ocean robbers fell to work, swarming over the decks as men accustomed to plunder and kill and with plenty of knowledge as to both.  Crew and passengers were seized, searched, robbed and bound, and either rolled into heaps or left where they lay.  Valuables were gathered into parcels and made ready to be transferred to the marauder’s vessel.

The robber chief went below, found the officer’s quarters, threw open the aftercabin door with a rough hand, and came upon a young woman lying in the berth.

“What are you doing here?” demanded the ruffian.
The terrified woman uncovered an infant’s face.
The pirate drew near to her.
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“A girl,” said the mother.
“Have you named her?”
The pirate went to the cabin door and ordered no man to stir until further orders.  His followers ceased their pillaging and their chief returned to the berth where the woman lay.
“If I may name that baby,” he said to her with quiet voice, “I will unbind your men and leave your ship unharmed.”  May I name the girl?”
Then the robber bent over and took up the hand of the tiny baby.
“Mary” was the name the woman heard his speak.

When the child drew its hand away from his, the mother saw a tear on the pink fingers.
The pirate ordered all captives unbound and goods and valuables restored to the places from which they had been taken.  Then, with his crew, he left the emigrant ship and pulled to his own vessel.  But the emigrant ship had scarcely got underway than a new alarm came. The pirate was returning.

If the passengers were dismayed by his reappearance they were surprised to see him come on board alone and go directly below to the cabin.  There he took from a parcel a piece of brocaded silk of fine texture and beautiful design. It was of a plaid pattern, combining many hues of red and green, wonderfully harmonized and softened with lines of white.

“Let Mary wear this on her wedding day” the pirate said.

He left the ship and was seen no more.

The ship reached Boston and no further incident disturbed the passage.  James Wilson died soon after landing and the mother went with “Ocean Mary” to live in Londonderry, where friends awaited them.  The mother married at Londonderry some months afterward James Clark, the great-great grandfather of Horace Greeley.

In 1738 one Thomas Walker emigrated to America, settled in Londonderry, and married on Dec. 18 of the same year the girl “Ocean Mary”.  The wedding dress was the pirates’ silk.  Four sons were born to her, one of whom, Robert Walker, built the finest house in Henniker, N. H., still standing.  “Ocean Mary” lived in this house, on a sightly hill, until 1814, when she died at the age of 94 years.

She was tall, graceful, with light hair, blue eyes, and a florid complexion.  She had an aristocratic nature, her manner was fine and her ways kindly. Her granddaughter and great granddaughter have worn the pirate’s silk at their weddings, and although mellowed with age, its richness is still preserved.

Many of the older buildings of the town are still standing.  One is the homestead of Matthew Thornton, the first New Hampshire signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Another is the Col. Lane house in which Gen. Derby resided and where the Marquis de Lafayette on his visit to America lodged over night.  The Parker homestead with its beautiful cedar trees in front is the old parsonage of the original Presbyterian church.

The original Pinkerton Academy through whose doors have passed hundreds of men and women who later achieved prominence in all parts of the country, is standing on its original site, within a stone’s throw of the present large and stately academy.  The old academy was used from 1814 to 1887 as the headquarters of the institution.

The Hood farm, where originated the H. P. Hood & Sons milk business, is a place pointed out by natives, not so much because it was Mr. Hood’s first farm, but because before that it was the old Redfield tavern where Lafayette dined.  The birthplace of Gen. George Reid may be seen today, an extremely old style frame house.  Gen. Reid was really one of the great generals of the revolutionary army, although history does not give him that prominence.  To New Hampshire’s people the figure of Gen. Stark overshadows that of Gen. Reid, but there is at the present time a disposition to give Gen. Reid his due and accord him something of the honor to which his services under Washington entitle his memory.  The next session of the Legislature will be asked to place a portrait of Gen. Reid in the State House.

The Adams Female Academy is standing, and the building that was originally used a s boarding house for pupils at that institution is lately used as a boarding house for summer boarders, for whom New Hampshire is a mecca.  It is called “The Elms”.

One of the features of the 200th anniversary celebration will be the historical pageant on the grounds of Pinkerton Academy on Monday, the 25th.  This pageant has been written by Mrs. J. G. McMurphy of one of the old families and it pictures scenes in Londonderry, Ireland, the parting of old friends, the embarkation for America, and the settlement of the town.  The central theme of the pageant is education with freedom to think and to act according to the dictates of conscience.

Among the speakers will be Gov. John H. Bartlett, Senator George H. Moses, Representative Sherman E. Burroughs and Chief Justice Frank N. Parsons of the state supreme court, himself a native of the town.  The presidents of the days of celebration include six distinguished sons of the town.  They are George I. McAllister, an eminent lawyer at Manchester; Charles M. Floyd, former Governor of New Hampshire; Chief Justice Parsons, Robert Lincoln O’Brien, editor of the Herald; Charles H. Hood, present head of the Hood milk concern, and Rosecrans W. Pillsbury, publisher of the Manchester Mirror.  The committee on the celebration is headed by Perley L. Horne, principal of Pinkerton Academy.”


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "200th Anniversary of Nutfield, from a 1919 Boston Newspaper", Nutfield Genealogy, posted May 10, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).

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