I S T O R Y of Peterborough, New Hampshire
AN ABBREVIATED HISTORY
OF THE TOWN OF PETERBOROUGH NH
"History of the Town of Peterborough,
by Albert Smith, M.D., LL.D, 187
other sources (for info after 1876)
Peterborough, County of Hillsborough, latitude forty-two degrees, fifty-two minutes,
longitude seventy-two degrees, three minutes, is situated in the southwestern
part of the county, bordering on Cheshire County, and lies in an amphitheatrical
form, with the Monadnock and the large elevated ride of land north of it on the
west, the Pack Monadnock and its range, extending through Sharon to New Ipswich,
on the east. The village is situated on the Contoocook [River] not far from the
center of town, and is the place where these opposite sides converge."
a meeting of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, assembled
Dec. 5, 1737, Samuel Heywood and others [of Hopkinton]
petitioned that court "that they might be granted a tract
of land on the Souhegan
River (PDF) for a township." In 1735 that court voted
them "a township of six miles square." On January 16,
Jonathan Belcher signed an act empowering them to survey the
land. Joseph Wilder was selected as Surveyor, and Joseph
Richardson and Zacheus Lovell as Charimen, to run the
lines around the grant, north-east from the "great Monadnock
surveyors reported back to the Legislature on May 21, 1738.
General Court approved the survey and authorized Jonathan Prescott to call the
first meeting of the proprietors, which he did on 25th of July, 1738 at the
public house, or tavern, of Luke Verdy, in Boston.
29 Nov 1738 "it is evident that [these] four men (Hill, Fowle, Gridley
and Prescott) had become proprietors of all but two lots in the township --
at that meeting a committee was appointed to "view" the township and
to lay out "the town lots." This committee consisted of John Hill,
John Fowle Jr. , Jeremiah Gridley, Jonathan and Peter Prescott.
names of the first settlers [from several sources] included William Robbe,
Alexander Scott, Hugh Gregg, William Gregg, Samuel Stinson, William Robbe, William
Wallace, and William Mitchell. "No permanent settlements took place until
1749... Of the party that came in 1739, all were probably driven away, by fear
of the Indians, before any considerable clearing had been made... In 1742, a party
of five, came from Lunenburg and cleared a small patch of land near the old meeting-house...they
abandoned the settlement at or before the alarm of the war in 1744" [i.e.
French and Indian War] and it was not resumed until the peace of 1749. "Another
attempt was made before 1744 by William Menee, John Taggart, and William Ritchie,"
who left and returned in 1749 or 1750. Another account states that Capt. Thomas
Morison and a Mr. Russell came to the town as early as 1744. The first
child born in Peterborough, was not born until Feb. 22, 1751.
is believed that Peterborough received its name in honor of the Earl
of Peterborough, however there is no documentation to prove same. "In
a certain deed to Lieut. John Gregg, of the farm C, by John Hill
Dec. 6, 1743, it is described as 'East Monadnick'." It is first
recognized in their records by the name of Peterborough, at their first meeting
held in Peterborough, Sept. 22, 1753.
settlement went on prosperously up to 1759. The town was officially incorporated
Jan. 17, 1760 within the Province of New Hampshire, granted by George the
Second, King. The first meeting was called by Hugh Wilson, authorized to
do so in the charter. The meetings of the town after this organization have been
held continuously to the present, with the exception of one in 1770 and the other
of the early settlers were of Scottish or Irish origin. Families from Lunenburg,
Mass. and Londonderry, N.H. can be found in the lists off the early settlers
[in addition to the list above, which included]: William Ritchie, Dea. William
McNee, Dea. William McNee Jr., Joseph Caldwell, John Taggart, Gustavus Swan, William
Stuart, William Smith, Samuel Miller, Thomas Cunningham, Alexander Scott, James
Robbe, John White, John Morison, Jonathan Morison, Capt. Thomas Morison, John
Smith, Dea. Timothy Davison, Thomas Turner, Dea. Samuel Mitchell, William Scott,
William Mitchell, Rev. Mr. Harvey, Samuel Stinson, William Robbe, Samuel Todd,
Dea. Samuel Moore, John Ferguson, David Bogle, James McKean, Jotham Blanchard,
Maj. Samuel Gregg, Lieut. John Gregg, Hugh Wilson, Jotham Blanchard, William McCoy,
George McClourge, Thomas McCloud, Capt. David Steele, Samuel Miller, Joseph Hammill,
Maj. Robert Wilson, Dr. John Young, Samuel Brackett, Thomas Little, Abraham Holmes,
Abel Parker, Elijah Puffer, and others.
"their dwellings were miserable huts, not a board upon or within them till
1751, when three frame-houses were erected."
first meeting-house "which must have been erected as early as 1752 or
'53 for several years was furnished with no other seats than rough boards laid
loosely upon square blocks of wood."
first use made of our water-privileges was for a saw and grist-mill. .
. built by Jonathan Morrison in 1751 for William Gordon, of Dunstable, Mass."
1788 "a small portion of the town situated on the south-east corner. . .
and on the east side of the mountain, was set off to Temple..." In 1791 when
Greenfield was chartered, lots one to six were added to that town.
- the first census of Peterborough was made in 1767, as follows:
men from 16 to 60|
16 and under|
66 and above|
census was taken again in 1775 as follows
under 16, |
from 16 to 50|
gone to the army|
and slaves for life,|
of 1790 and beyond - Population of Peterborough
the battle of Bunker Hill, though there could not have been more than seventy
or eighty families in the town, twenty-two of our citizens [of Peterborough] were
present and seventeen actively engaged in the fight." For further details
of Peterborough and the Revolutionary war, view "History
of Peterborough - American Revolution" (13 pages, PDF file, please be
patient for this to download)
Seventeen days before the Declaration
of Independence, the following resolution was signed by eighty-three of our
"In consequence of the Resolution
of the Continental Congress, and to show our determination in joining our American
brethren in arms, in defending the lives, liberties, and properties of the United
Colonies, We, the subscribers, do hereby solemnly engage and promise, that we
will, to the utmost of our power, at the risque of our lives and fortunes, with
ARMS oppose the hostile proceedings of the British fleets and armies against the
first house for public worship was erected in the year 1752.
It is first mentioned after incorporation in 1761, when "sixty-eight
pounds were voted to repair the meeting-house from falling trees
and fire." In 1774 it was voted "to build a new meeting-house"
but that house was not raised until 1777 and finally finished
first store opened [in Peterborough] in 1771...The
first clothier's shop, for taking in wool to card and cloth
to dress, was built by William Powers, in 1780, and this
was the only factory in town till 1793; when, a wooden building
. . . was erected by Samuel Smith . . . and included
a paper-mill, a saw-mill, an oil-mill, a clothier's shop, a
trip-hammer shop, a wool-carding machine, and a dwelling house."
The first school house was probably erected around 1790,
when the town was divided into five districts and "provision
made for the erection of five buildings."
first post office was established with the appointment
of John Smith [as postmaster] on Oct. 1, 1795.
1796 Samuel Eliot Morison house built, aka Bleak
Wilson Tavern built.
"Peterborough Social Library" was established
in 1811. The Peterborough Social Library "became
gradually neglected, and was sold about 1830. The
Peterborough Town Library was established in 1833, and was,
"without doubt, the first free public library in the United
cemeteries were established in the town since its settlement,
the Old Cemetery, the Village Cemetery and the Pine Hill Cemetery.
SEE Cemeteries under the "Genealogy"
section of this web site. In addition there are several
small "family" cemeteries and gravesites.
In addition to the above, a few burials were made in a little
graveyard on the meeting-house hill. William Stuart, the first
person who died in town, March 15, 1753, aged thirty-three years
was buried here, and then five other burials (which have stones)
took place, and a few mounds and head-stones indicate a few
"A spot was selected near, situated on the side of the
hill, east of the meeting-house of about one and a half acres,
and walled in for this purpose which is now known as the Old
Cemetery." The first burial in this yard was Samuel,
son of Capt. Thomas and Mary Morison, died Dec. 22 1754,
aged one year; and then burials occurred there until 1834, upon
the establishment of a new yard.
" Old Bell", the first cotton linen factory
founded in Peterborough NH.
1824 the Unitarian Church, on the corner of Main
and Summer Streets was built. It was designed by Charles Bulfinch,
one of the architects of the Capitol at Washington DC and also
the Boston MA State house. This building was original a Congregational
first town hall was built in 1830. Previous to this
time all town meetings had been held in the meeting-house. It
was built on the Mitchell Flat on Lot No. 5. At a meeting of
the town March 13, 1860 it was voted to build a town-house,
and it was erected in 1860.
Cemetery was established in the town meeting of April 8,
1834 "that the town take one acre of land on the
north end of the new graveyard."
Savings Bank was incorporated in 1847. It was organized
in 1859 by John H. Steele, William Follansbee, Timothy K. Ames,
Whitcomb French, James Scott, Albert Smith, Daniel B. Cutter,
Samuel Nay, Abraham P. Morrison, Abial Sawyer, Norton Hunt,
and Samuel Adams, as board of trustees.
first newspaper in town was published by William P. and
John S. Dunbar in the latter part of 1829 and called
the Hillsboro Republican and New Hampshire Clarion. It
closed April 29, 1831. The second paper [in pamphlet form] called
the Peterborough Messenger, was published by Samuel P.
Brown in the summer of 1847 and discontinued after about 10
Joseph Noone's Sons Company created, at one time was the sole
source of felt for the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving
(used to engrave printed currency).
1837 a building was erected to serve as the Peterborough
Academy. In 1888 it was bought by the town, but delegated
to the Aaron F. Stevens Post 6, G.A.R. to serve as their
hall. After 1917 it became the headquarters of Wm.
H. Cheney Post No. 5 of the American Legion. The soldier's
monument originally placed in Putnam Grove in 1869 was removed
to the front of this building.
Young (of the Mormon aka Latterday Saints) was in Peterborough
NH in 1844 when he received the news that Joseph Smith
had been killed. The immediately left and returned to Nauvoo,
Illinois. Reportedly 136 citizens of Peterborough and surrounding
area followed him there (including Washington
and Susannah Taggart) and later to Utah. According to "New
Hampshire: A Guide to the Granite State, page 219: "A Peterborough
girl became his thirteenth wife...."
first number of the Contoocook Transcript, published
by John R. Miller and Kendall C. Scott was issued June 2,
1849 with four hundred subscribers. It was been continued
uninterruptedly to this time, the present proprietors having
early changed the name to that of The Peterboro' Transcript.
Town Clock was purchased in 1856 and erected in the
tower of the Congregational Church.
May 3, 1856: "Voted, That the town purchase a
fire-engine and the necessary apparatus for the extinguishment
of fires." Prior to this the only means of extinguishing
fires was a large fire-engine belonging to and attached to the
Phoenix Factory, and a smaller one belonging to the Union Manufacturing
Putnam Grove (now Putnam Park) was presented to the Town
of Peterborough by Miss Catherine Putnam. She had come to Peterborough
from Boston because of her failing health, and it became her
home for the rest of her life (A Good Town To Live In, 1926)
Hill Cemetery was established in 1867 after it was
found that all the lots in the Village Cemetery were taken up.
The cemetery contained about forty acres.
1870 in addition to textile goods, piano stools, machinery,
precision instruments, wrapping paper, and lumber were produced
in the town.
Peterborough started to become a summer resort destination
with four hundred visitors each summer.
Sesqui-Centennial celebration (150th) was held at Peterborough,
NH on 24 October 1889. The honorary committee for that
occasion consisted of: Frederick Livingston, John H. Morison,
William S. Treadwell, Jesse Upton, Theophilus P. Ames, Alvah
Ames, John Little, Samuel R. Miller, Nathaniel H. Moore, Daniel
B. Cutter, Asa Davis, Amzi Childs, Thomas Little, Nathan B.
Buss, Sargent Bohonon, and Samuel Converse.
Hampshire's first state park was created in 1891
when Charles F. Melendy and Austin A. Spofford deeded a three-acre
tract of land on the summit of South Pack Monadnock to the state.
The following year the park was dedicated in memory of General
James Miller, a hero of the Battle of Lundy's Lane in the War
The Peterborough Town Library was designed by resident
George Shattuck Morrison, a nationally renown bridge engineer,
in 1892. Morrisons straightforward design, with
an emphasis on function and long-lasting materials such as brick
and iron, was augmented with a Classical Revival portico in
1914, at the bequest of his sister. Established in 1833,
Peterborough is credited with being the oldest free library
in the world supported entirely by public funds. [from NH
State Register of Historic Places].
The American Guernsey Cattle Club was organized in 1877,
and its office was moved to Peterborough NH in 1894 when
Peterborough resident, William H. Caldwell, became the club's
Peterborough Civil War Monument (a bronze statue of a soldier)
was designed in 1869 by Martin Milmore, Esq. of Boston
and produced in the Ames Foundry of Chicopee MA. The pedestal
is of Concord Granite, designed at Chicopee and wrought by D.C.
Hutchinson of Manchester NH. The face of the granite pedestal
contains a bronze memorial tablet with an inscription of those
from Peterborough who died during the War of the Rebellion (Civil
War). It was originally installed in Putnam Park in June of
1870. The monument was moved to its present location in 1902
(the new location was originally the Peterborough Academy, then
occupied by the GAR and currently the home of the American Legion).
This monument is detailed in "Dedication
of the Soldiers' Monument at Peterboro', N.H. on Friday, June
Marion Griswold (Nevins) MacDowell transferred the deed
of the Peterborough property to a newly-created Edward
MacDowell Association to honor her husband. A large
studio was built, and the first resident artists, Helen and
Mary Mears, sisters, moved in. This was the beginning of the
Colony. Edward MacDowell died January 23, 1908.
Out-Door Players was launched in 1912 by Marie Ware
Laughton at a location on the Middle Hancock Road. A summer
school camp, special lectures, and summer plays were presented
for many years, with Boston University offering a credit certificate.
Later it was operated by the Norfleet Camp.
Sargent Camp for girls was established in 1912 by
Dr. D.A. Sargent of Harvard and was situated just outside of
Peterborough, on about 250 acres bordering on Half Moon Lake.
Used from June to September by students in the Sargent School
for Physical Education, and had an average attendance of 350.
The use changed in July and August when it was used as a junior
and senior recreational camp for girls.
April 4, 1917, the U.S. Senate voted in support of the
measure to declare war on Germany. The House concurred two days
later. The United States later declared war on Austria-Hungary
on December 7, 1917 and the United States became a participant
in World War I. Peterborough honored those who fought
by posting an honor roll, noting the names. "Keeping the
Home Fires Burning Till The Boys Come Home" it proclaimed.
The names noted on the honor roll include (in the order that
they appear there):
Ames, Charles W.
Bastille, John E.
Bishop, Chester A.
Bishop, Harold I.
Bishop, Perley G.
Bonnette, David I.
Bowler, Lewis P.
Caldwell, William R.
Cass, Harley M.
Chamberlain, Lloyd M.
Cheney, Charles W.
Cheney, William H.
Colburn, Alfred J.
Crowell, Paul F.
Cunningham, Roger F.
Devio, John P.
Diamond, Arthur L.
Dorman, James H.
Ellis, Raymond S.
Bagley, Earl C.
Cleveland, Hollis H.
Derby, Marshall A.
Egan, George K.
Batchelder, Charles F. Jr.
Hills, Frank S.
Fenerty, Frank F.
Fontaine, Archille J.
Foster, Frank S.
Fraser, Charles E.K.
Garneau, Charles J.
Garneau, Fred J.
Girard, Walter H.
Goodwin, Lloyd T.
Hall, Cherry A.
Hannon, Daniel E.
Harpell, Carroll D.
Lebritton, Arthur P.
Liscord, Paul S.
Mahoney, Daniel P.
Marquette, Samuel J.
Martin, George C.
Martin, Henry A.
McConville, Joseph A.
McLaughlin, Frank A.
McNeil, William A.
Merritt, Charles W.
Montgomery, Gayle H.
Hough, Elmer W.
Kearns, John T.
Lash, Albert L.
O'Neill John F.
Paquet, Raphael A.
Ramsey, George M.
Hall, Pearl A.
O'Connor, Charles G.
Parker, Walter M.
Peaque, Edward J.
Ramsey, William M.
Robbe, Louis E.
Smith, Harry F.
Sounier, Peter E.
Spaulding, Carl A.
Thomas, John J.
Vaughan, Arthur C.
Vose, Roy M.
Walbridge, Robert E.
Weeks, William P.
Waite, James E.
White, Alpheus B.
Williams, Clarence B.
Derby, Robert W.
Greene, Edward F.
Austin, James W.
The Peterborough Historical Society building was erected
in 1917 by Mrs. Perkins Bass, and endowed by her with
the sum of $50,000. (from A Good Town to Live In, 1926).
After the old Town House was destroyed by fire, a new
one was built, completed in 1918, at a cost of $75,000.
Architects Little & Russell designed the building after
the famous Fanueil Hall of Boston. (from A Good Town To Live
called Four Wind Farm, Mariarden was started in 1920
by Mrs. Marie Glass (Burress) Currier, a former actress who
married lawyer Guy Wilbur Currier in 1894. a summer theatre
and school directed by Mrs. Guy Currier, offering classes in
drama and dancing. The season ran through July and August. According
to "The Bones of the Earth," by Howard Mansfield,
page 148, "Bette Davis began at Mariarden. Her mother had
brought her to Peterborough, but she could not afford the tuition
at Mariarden, so she enrolled her daughter at the Out-Door Players.
Davis was discovered dancing there and given a full scholarship
to Mariarden. She performed in As You Like It, A Midsummer's
Night Dream, and many dance productions."
to 1923 residents of Peterborough and surrounding towns
traveled twenty miles for the use of the hospital. Through the
generous gift of his former home and grounds by Robert M. Parmelee,
and their reconstruction by Mrs. Elizabeth Cheney and Mrs. Carl
Kaufmann, the town had "The Peterborough Hospital."
During the first year of its operation, there were 274 admission,
of which half were surgical cases (from A Good Town to Live
in, 1926). The hospital was renamed Monadnock Community Hospital
War Memorial: In 1924 an ornamental gateway was created
to cover the entrance to the park between the Town House and
the Peterborough Historical Society. It was erected by subscription
($10,000). A bronze tablet bearing the names of 113 men of Peterborough
who answered the call during World War I. (from A Good Town
To Live In, 1926).
Players was founded in 1933 by Edith Bond Stearns,
who purchased the Hadley family farm.
town was a model for the play, Our Town, written
by Thornton Wilder while in residence at the MacDowell Colony,
and premiering in 1938. His
fictional town of Grovers Corners appears to have been named
for Peterborough's Grove Street.
A New England Hurricane, followed by a fire damages a great
deal of downtown Peterborough.
Forest was a gift to the State of New Hampshire by Mrs.
Elizabeth Yates McGreal, a long time resident of Peterborough
NH and a nationally known writer. The forest is 47 acres with
hiking paths and home to the Wildflower Garden, along with a
learning center, and is operated by the Division of Forests
and Lands of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic
In 1984 several computer and amateur radio magazines
were headquartered at Byte Publications located at 70
Main Street in Peterborough: 73 Magazine, Byte, Cold Fusion
and Run. "Peterborough was clearly the per capita magazine
production capital of the world." (The best of BYTE,
by Jay Ranade and Alan Nash, page 6)
and Genealogy of Peterborough, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire
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