The First Settlers, Their First Year


Excerpts from Charles Coffins “HISTORY OF BOSCAWEN AND WEBSTER, FROM 1733 TO 1878”

In the spring of 1734, the proprietors of Contoocook made preparation to comply with the conditions of their grant. Those intending to settle in the plantation left their homes in April. The route was from Newbury to Haverhill, or Hampstead to Tutfield (Derry), thence to Amoskeag falls, and from thence, by the east side of the Merrimack, to Penacook ferry, which had been established 1731. Another route, leading from Newbury to Chester, thence to Pembroke, had been blazed through the woods in 1726, but the road through Derry was the one most travelled.


During the year, thirty-three settlers came to Contoocook, to begin, as it were, life anew in the wilderness. Rev. Mr. Price has handed down the names of twenty-seven only ; but from a deposition made by Moses Burbank in 1792 Col. Henry Gerrish’s papers the number is stated as being thirty-three.

Barker, David

Dagodon, William

Bean, Sinkler

Danforth, William

Bowen, John

Danforth, Nathaniel

Bishop, Josiah

Eastman, Joseph

Bohonnon, Andrew

Emery, Edward

Burbank, Moses

Fitzgerald, Edward

Call, Philip

Flanders, Jacob

Cook, Thomas

Flood, Richard

Corser, John

Gerrisli, Stephen

Meloon, ISTatlianiel

Gould, Ambrose

Peters, William

Jackman, Richard

Rix, Nathaniel

Jackman, George

Rolfe, Daniel.

Manuel, Joel

In imagination we see them toiling through the forest, following the rude path from Nutfield (Derry) up to Suncook, across the ” dark plains ” in Concord, crossing the Merrimack just above the mouth of the Contoocook.

Upon the interval are open spaces where the grass grows luxuriantly, but everywhere else they behold an unbroken forest.

Ascending the high bank, they come to the blazed lines where John Brown has laid out the new town. There is no house to shelter them. The first nights they spend beneath the shelter of the trees. They select the sites for their log houses. The forest resounds with the sturdy strokes of their axes. They have a single plow, owned by Stephen Gerrish. The oxen are yoked to it, and the virgin soil of the intervale, which has lain undisturbed since the morning of creation, is turned to the sun. Ere many days have passed, each man has a cabin built of logs, covered with bark, or with long shingles rived from some giant pine.

During the first season they must subsist upon provisions brought on horseback, or on their own backs, from Newbury, save that now and then their trusty rifles bring down a deer. During the spring and summer months they can add to their stock of provisions b}^ spearing salmon in the river, and there is a plentiful supply of pickerel, horned pouts, and perch in the river and ponds, while the brooks are alive with trout. The days are long and wearisome. They work early and late, suffer many privations and hardships; but they are rearing their future homes, and the hardships are forgotten in anticipation of better days.

It is not probable that many of the settlers’ families came in the spring, but most, if not all, were there before the close of the year.


Nov. 8.  A meeting of the proprietors was held at the house of Archelaus Adams in Newbury. It was voted that a saw-mill should be built at the charge of the proprietors, and Daniel Hale, Joseph Gerrish, and Thomas Thorla, were chosen a committee to attend to the matter. The same committee was empowered to rectify any mistake made in the laying ont of lots, and John Brown, the surveyor, was engaged to go to Contoocook to show the proprietors the location of the lots.

Five of the proprietors, Joseph Lunt, John Coffin, Thomas Thorla, Benjamin Lunt, Benjamin Coker, and Edward Emery, entered their dissent in regard to the power of the committee.

Dec. 18, another meeting was held. It was voted that the intervale should be fenced by the fifteenth of May of the following year, at the expense of the owners of the lots, and any proprietor neglecting to build his proportion’ should make satisfaction. It was also voted that Joseph Tappan should obtain a grindstone for the common use of the proprietors.

At this meeting further action was taken towards building a saw-mill.

[From the Records.]

” It was put to vote by the moderator where [whether] there should be a grant of [land] made to those men hereafter named, of the little stream [Mill brook] at Contoocook near the upper end of the lots or town, and fifty acres of land laid square adjoining to the mill for commencing thereof on both sides of the stream and also one whole right throughout the town or plantation on condition they build a saw mill there by the first of September next ensuing the date hereof, and a good grist mill so soon as there is settled twenty families on the said plantation in case there is water enough to accommodate both mills and the mills be built and in the length of time by clearing the land or any other way it shall be judged that there is not water to answer the end for said mill or mills or that the men are obliged to raise the dam so high to save water to saw or grind so as to be judged hurtful : then the proprietors shall pay the men that built the mill or mills for them the price of what they shall then be accounted worth, or else procure for the men that built the mill or mills the stream commonly called or known by the name of [Mill brook] Contoocook & the privileges thereof as was reserved as by record may appear as they taking the land as it was reserved by each [of the] falls for conveniency of the mills for part of their rights.”

The above, evidently, was not drawn by the clear-headed clerk, Joseph Coffin, for we find an explanatory note in his hand-writing, as follows :

” The true intent & meaning of the above written vote is that if the nine Gentlemen,  do build mills on Contoocook river to our acceptance then the society is not to procure said stream [ in blank ] for those men which built on the little stream. Those men that have undertaken to build the aforesaid mill or mills at the above plantation are as followeth to wit : *

” Joseph Gerrish Esq, Mr Tristram Little, John Coffin, Mr Joseph Noyes, Lieut William Ilsley, Cor Thomas Thorla, John Moody Jr, Daniel Coffin, Benjamin Pettengill, Lieut Benjamin Lunt, Dea. James Noyes, Joseph Coffin, John Webster, Lieut Moses Gerrish, & Capt Edward Emery, these men above named are to give bond for their well performing their work.”

At that meeting Robert Adams, Joseph Morse III, and Richard Hale, were appointed a committee to take a bond of the above named, and Henry Rolfe was chosen to confer with them in regard to building the mill.

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