Early Settlement of Jaffrey, New Hampshire

After the township was surveyed and divided among the proprietors, a bounty of 142 was offered, for the purpose of encouraging settlement, to the first five men who, with their families, should settle within one year from that date, June, 1750. and remain one year. The same proportion was also allowed to one or more families complying with the same conditions. Whether any settlement was made does not appear from any known record. A traditionary report, however. has it that a Joel Russell and his family attempted a settlement in the southern part of the town, and while there a son was born to him, the first white child born in the township. Whether he settled soon enough or remained long enough to claim the bounty does not appear. There is a reliable account of a settlement in 1752, made by Moses Stickney, Richard Peabody, and others, and that while here Simon Stickney, son of Moses, was born, December 9, 1753, making him, setting aside the Russell tradition, the first white child born in the township. This settlement, however, proved a failure, through fear of Indians, and all the settlers left, except one man, a Captain Platts, probably the pioneer of Rindge. The first permanent settlement, then, was not made until 1758, by John Grout and John Davidson. Grout settled on lot 20, range r0, and Davidson on lot 21, range 3. Grout was a prominent man, and made, in connection with Gilmore, an early report of the settlement of the town to the proprietors. He died in 1771, and tradition claims that his body was buried where the first meeting-house was subsequently built. John Davidson remained here until his death in 1811. A third traditionary report has it that his daughter Betsey was the first white child born in the town. From the report made by Grout and Gilmore, as mentioned above, and from other sources, the following list of the pioneers has been prepared, those who became permanent settlers having a star prefixed to their name:

John Borland,
Joseph Caldwell,
James Caldwell,
James Caldwell, Jr.,
Thomas Caldwell,
______ Chrysty,
Daniel Davis,
*Joseph Dunlap,
*John Davidson,
Thomas Davidson,
Thomas Emery,
______ Fitch,
*Roger Gilmore,
*John Gilmore,
*John Grout,
______ Glover,
Enoch Hale,
______ Hale,
*John Harper,
Widow Henderson,
*Joseph Hogg,
*William Hogg,
Robert Holmes,
Jonathan Hopkinson,
David Hunter,
Ephraim Hunt,
John Little,
Andrew McAlister,
Alexander McNeil,
William Mitchel,
______ Munroe,
James Nichols,
______ Organ,
Jonathan Parker,
______ Russell,
*William Smiley,
John Swan,
*Joseph Turner,
*William Turner,
Thomas Turner,
Solomon Turner,
______ Taggot,
George Wallace,
Thomas Walker,
Robert Wier,
*Matthew Wright,
Leranus Wright.

In 1773 the population had grown to 303 souls, representing fifty-two families. On the 17th of August they received, in answer to a petition to provincial legislature, a New Hampshire charter, in which the town was given a new name, Jaffrey, in honor of George Jaffrey, one of the Masonian proprietors and at that time a member of the Governor’s council. Captain Johnathan Stanley was authorized, within sixty days, to warn the first town meeting. After the incorporation the settlement increased rapidly, large number during and after the Revolution coming in from Massachusetts.

Pursuant to a warning duly issued by Captain Stanley, the first town meeting convened on the 14th of September, when the municipal. government legally organized by the election of the following list of officers: Cap Jonathan Stanley, moderator; William Smiley, town clerk; Captain Jonathan Stanley, William Smiley, and Phineas Spaulding, selectmen; Roger Gilmon tythingman; Hugh Dunlap and John Harper, field drivers; John Davidson constable; Roger Gilmore, Robert Weir and Samuel Sherwin, to count the selectmen and constable; David Allen, William McAlister, Robert Weir, Ephraim Hunt, William Turner, and John Gilmore, surveyors; and William Hogg and Joseph Wright, fence viewers. Henry Coffeen was chosen a representative to the third provincial congress at Exeter, May 11, 1775. William Smiley was the first representative to the state legislature, in 1784. Asa Parker was the first state senator in 1826-27. Roger Gilmore was the first justice of the peace, appointed in 1785. The vote of public money for support of schools is recorded under date of 1775, when £8 were raised. No attempt towards building a school-house was made until 1788, when it was voted that each school district build a school-house within eighteen months; but how many was built in accordance with this vote is unknown. The first college graduate was David Smiley, who graduated from Harvard in 1796. Alexander McNeil was the first keeper of a public house, near the center of the town. The first town-meeting was held at the inn of Francis Wright, where Dana S Jaquith now resides. A Mr. Breed is said to have been the first merchant, or storekeeper, though the names of Joseph Thorndike and David Sherwin are the first on record, in 1793. The first postoffice was probably established in 1801, with Peter Lawrence, postmaster. The first mail stage, Dearborn & Emerson, proprietors, was established from Boston to Walpole and return once a week. The first saw-mill was probably built by Thomas Davidson, on lot 22, range 5, where O. J. and A. S. Raymond now own property. About this time, sooner or later, two others were built at what is now locally known as Squantum. The next saw and grist-mill was built by John Borland, at what is now East Jaffrey. In 1778 he sold the same to Dea. Eleazer Spofford, who was the leading man in that business till 1813, when he sold his farm to Daniel Adams, and his mills and water-power to a company, who in 1814 built a factory for the purpose of spinning cotton yarn. This yarn was made into cloth by hand-looms. The other mills were, one south of the meeting-house, built by William Davidson, and one at the Spring village by Abram Bailey. On the site of the last mill there was afterwards erected a woolen-mill by Edward Bailey, which on being burnt, was supplanted by a wooden-ware establishment. In 1833 a saw-mill was built by John Hodge, on a stream running from Hodge pond to the Contoocook river. It was burnt in 1836, re-built, and went into disuse in 1860. A fulling mill was built by Josiah Belknap at an early date, near the site of the William Davidson mill. He removed to Springfield, Vt., about 1818. A fulling-mill was built at East Jaffrey, by Joseph Lincoln, and afterwards owned for many years by Samuel Foster. It is now used for a knife factory. A mill was built by a corporation called the Cheshire mills, afterwards owned by Alonzo Bascomb. now used for the manufacture of paper pulp. On or near the site of the first cotton-mill built in Jaffrey, Alonzo Bascom built the present large brick-mill now owned by the White Bros. A starch-mill was built at Squantum, and burnt January 2, 1839, with Samuel Abbott in it.

Among the distinguished men who have had their homes in Jaffrey, and to whose memory the town fondly turns, may be mentioned the following: Rev. Laban Ainsworth, born at Woodstock, Conn., July 19, 1857, and died here on Wednesday, March 17, 1858, aged one hundred years, seven months and twenty-eight days; Hon. Abel Parker, born at Westford, Mass., March 25, 1753, came to Jaffrey, May 5, 1780, and died here in 1831, aged seventyeight years; Hon. Isaac Parker, born here April 14, 1788, and died at Boston at an advanced age; Levi Spaulding, born here August 22, 1791, and died in Ceylon, June 18, 1873; Hon. Joel Parker, LL. D., was born here January 25, 1795, and died August 17, 1875.

Of the old inhabitants in the town, at the present time, Benjamin Cutter is the oldest, being ninety-two years of age; Ethan Cutter the next oldest, ninety years; Eleazer W. Heath also ninety years; Abner Bailey, the next, at eighty six; John Felt, the next, at eighty-five years.


Hurd, Duane Hamilton. History of Cheshire and Sullivan counties, New Hampshire. Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis. 1886.

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