EAST STREET REVISITED
Historical Association Program and Ice Cream Social
McClary Cemetery, Epsom, NH, July 13, 2008
The site and surroundings we
observe here today are quite different from its appearance when the town
was established some 280 years ago. What we now call Center Hill Road
has had several different names in the past, but it was originally called
East Street; being that portion that ran from the Deerfield line east
of here to this location. This area could in earlier times, have been
considered the town center, for from here was easy access to the meetinghouse,
the school, several stores and taverns, the parsonage, town pound and
town common. In slightly later times there was the Union or vestry built
by the Congregational Society; the local Doctor's house, who later went
on to be Governor of New Hampshire; the home of the local lawyer; and
one of the first town Post offices. In and around the area were the early
farms and mills which helped sustain the population as it began to grow,
later spreading to the outlying areas of Slab City, Gossville and New
We know by deed from his father, Samuel Wallace of Rye, that George Wallace was living on home lot #11 by 1741. This lot was later Babb and Griffin homes, and currently that of the Stewarts. About 1739 he had married Margaret, the daughter of Andrew McClary. Since the Wallace's were from Rye, we can assume George met her during his time in Epsom, which helps place the McClary family in town. Samuel's son William Wallace by 1742 owned home lot #6, with the parsonage lot on the West and land of Joshua Berry on the east.
It has to be noted that there was some shuffling of the lot numbers early on. The reason is not clear, nor is there any written documentation how or why it was done, but in looking at the 20 home lots, space had to be made for the school and minister. Whether these were inserted and that caused the re-numbering is not known for sure, but the last two westerly lots were added to the east end of home lots, those being numbers 10 and 11. So the home lots were drawn consecutively, probably drawn up in numerical order, but were changed. This has caused confusion through the years in various histories and deeds - so when researching, it helps to know who your neighbor was to help identify where families were living. And this brings us back to the McClary's.
Just when the McClary's arrived in Epsom is unknown. They purchased land in Nottingham in 1728, and he is mentioned in their records as working on laying a floor in the blockhouse there in 1729. He is elected a selectman in that town for 1733-1734, making him a resident there during those years. It is also mentioned that the McClary's may have built a stockade or blockhouse in Epsom, and is perhaps the one mentioned in the records of the History of Gilmanton as being in town in 1736. Certainly they were around enough for George Wallace to marry Andrew's daughter Margaret around 1739. In any event, Horace McClary in his book on the family, places the family on home lot #2 in 1738. Oldest son John and his wife established a home across East Street from his father in 1741 on one half of home lot #19.
More research needs to be done on the Berry family of Epsom. Joshua Berry appears on deeds in this early period on home lot #5. John Mark Moses, whose 4 part history of the Early Settlers of Epsom states that "the French war of 1745-1749 was the great interruption in Epsom's history and caused a complete desertion of the town at one time. The McCoy's, McClary's, Wallace and Blakes were probably the only families of that period that became permanent residents. It is likely that the Locke, Berry and Allen families were represented." Indeed, Andrew McClary was back in Nottingham in August of 1744, having taken the Epsom town book of records with him.
On August of 1747, Isabella McCoy was captured by the Indians.
Following the French and Indian War, the activity and the growth of the town picked up at a feverish pace. In 1749 Thomas Blake petitioned to be an Inn Keeper. The proprietor's renewed efforts to raise money for the support of the Gospel. Andrew McClary is now called 'Inn Keeper' and the elder McClary by 1757 is sick, weak in body, and makes out his will. With few exceptions, the proprietors meetings during the 1750's are held at McClary's Inn. In 1759, Charles McCoy petitions for a license to "keep a tavern of place of public entertainment for all sorts of social liquors. The next year he sells to the Sanborns, who in 1761, have been approved by the Selectmen of Epsom to "keep a house of entertainment for horse and man and travelers in said Epsom."
Though the town was growing quickly, the town still had no minister, and the original meetinghouse had disappeared sometime before the end of the French and Indain War. The proprietors addressed the issue in August of 1761 while they were courting Rev. John Tucke to be the minister. The records state, "that the meetinghouse shall stand on the same lot where the old meetinghouse formerly stood, at or near the burying place." Again, another confirmation of an original meetinghouse. Finally, on September 23, 1761, Rev. John Tucke is ordained as Epsom's first minister, fulfilling part of the original charter. Rev. Tucke settles in Epsom and buys outright the 50 acre parsonage or ministers lot. He later buys the 50 acre adjoining lot to the east. Though it was discussed in 1761 to build a new meetinghouse, it was not built until 1764, length fifty feet and forty feet wide. After it was built, pews were sold, and the list of purchasers gives us a good look at the families in town - those being:
Exactly where the old meetinghouse stood has been a mystery. It is never mentioned in any old deeds, though the monument places it here (though the monument also states it is the site of the first meetinghouse built in 1764, for which we now there was an earlier one at the same location). The cemetery here is mentioned as a boundry in deeds; and one map shows it kind of set in the road. Looking around the cemetery, it is apparent that the meetinghouse actually stood in the current bounds of the cemetery - as originally the cemetery had no walls.
Mary L. Cass, in some remarks
states the following from her recollection of the old meetinghouse:
Based in part on her description, researching the selling of pews and other information, George Yeaton came up with a plot of the interior of the old meetinghouse.
It was also at this time when
the proprietors started discussing the building of a school, with a bid
going to Ensign McGaffey at 312 OT to raise board shingle clapboard and
stone. On April 19, 1766, a note in the records shows that a meeting be
moved from the meetinghouse to the schoolhouse and carried on there, giving
us an approximate date for the first schoolhouse. It is interesting to
note that on a hand made map of the area shows a school house, perhaps
later, between the old McClary house and the Stewarts on the east end
of old East Street. Also during this time, discussions began on possible
fencing of the old burying ground. The census of 1773 gives a good indication
of the population and how it had grown from 36 polls just 13 years earlier.
After the Revolution, if you stood outside the old meetinghouse, you would see across the street the schoolhouse (the current building was constructed in the 1880's); You could see Squire Merrill's store and residence; Capt. Heath's Tavern, site of traveling zoo's and probate courts; Babb's store and the Post Office at James Harvey McClary's place; the home of David Lawrence Morrill and later his brother Samuel, both Doctors, and one later Governor of the State; the parsonage, the town common, the town pound, all just across East Street. Also, about 1825, the Union Hall or Vestry build by the Congregationalists while the town no longer by law could support a minister. For a time the new Baptist Society and Congregationalists alternated between the school and the meetinghouse - not unlike when the Meetinghouse doors where nailed shut during Rev. Tucke's tenure. From here also are the graves of many of the early settlers of Epsom - soldiers, ministers, doctors and prominent players of the town's past. Many unmarked, and the oldest readable stone from 1771. The earliest known burial of William Blazo in 1761, though there were probably more dating perhaps back to the first meetinghouse. The street was lined with elm trees, planted by residents before the Civil War, and thus for a while East Street was seen in picture post cards as Elm Street. Later other stores, cobbler shops, the John C. Hall house, the Carter place and many other fine homes have come and gone. East Street was walked by many people from it earliest citizens, to countless soldiers and patriots who fought in the Revolution and Civil War, politicians, doctors, lawyers, business men, clergymen, merchants, farmers - all part of Epsom's heritage, and it started here, one road from which our town emerged.