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Address delivered 1899 Old
Home Day and printed in a local paper.
The Old Homes Remembered with Appropriate Exercises
Historical Sketch of the town by J.H. Dolbeer
Who can imagine the feelings that prompted those
men, who one hundred and seventy five years
ago, with their gun and axe, those inseparable
companions of the successful pioneer, left their
home by the sea and on foot, made their way
through the unbroken forest to this wilderness?
Was it all a desire to make for himself a home
- to secure a farm, to own property, or was
there mingled with it a spirit of adventure
- the hope of making some valuable discovery,
the expectation of becoming famous?
Whatever may have been their ambitions, certain
it is that they must have experienced trials,
mishaps, danger and suffering that are difficult
for us this late day to conceive of.
In tracing an historical sketch of Epsom, the
material for making it sensational or thrilling
is lacking, save as they come down to us in
tradition or story, if we may except the captivity
of Mrs. McCoy by the Indians.
The early history of the town was sadly neglected,
the brief records of the town clerk and church
scribe being absent - the only thing upon which
the historian can safely rely.
A short historical sketch was published by the
late Rev. Jonathan Curtis in 1823 which is valuable
so far as it goes.
It is impossible to tell the exact date of the
first settlement made in town, but somewhere
about 1725, one William Blazo, a Frenchman,
came here and commenced his home near where
what is commonly known as the Old Center.
It is said of him that he was rather changeable
in his plans and moved about from place to place,
so much so, that in after years, it was frequently
said of persons who were discontented with their
lot and were seeking unsuccessfully to better
their conditions, that they had Blazo's row.
It is also said that this Blazo was the first
white person who died in town and the first
who was buried in the old burying ground on
Following Mr. Blazo came the McCoy family who
settled on Sanbury hill whose history of Indian
trouble is familiar to all. The youthful Samuel
Blake, frequently referred to as "Sergeant
Blake" at the age of fifteen years was
among the earliest settlers, settling upon the
farm now owned and occupied by. D.G. and J.A.
Chesley, descendants of said Blake.
Some of you may be interested in the charter
or grant of the town which is as follows:
George, By the Grace of God, of Great Britain,
France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith.
"To all People to whom these presents shall
"Know ye, we, of our especial knowledge
and meer motion, for the due encouragement of
settling a new plantation, by and with the advice
and consent of our council, have given &
Granted, and by these Presents, as far as in
us lies, do give and grant unto all such of
our loving subjects as were inhabitants and
free holders in the year one thousand seven
hundred and twenty-three, in our town of New
Castle and in the Parish of Greenland, both
within our Province of New Hampshire, in New
England, to be divided among them in proportion
to their Respective Rates, which they paid in
the year 1723 aforesaid, one tract of Land to
be laid out at the head of Nottingham and Northward
of land formerly granted to the children of
Saml. Allen, decsd., the same to be six miles
in Breadth and four miles in Depth, or in such
other form as the land ungranted, in that place
will admit, so as it contains the same Quantitiy
of Land, and the same to be a town corporate
by the name of Epsom to the Pursons aforesaid
forever. To Have and to Hold and said Tract
of Land to said Grantees and their heirs and
assigns forever upon the following conditions:
"1st. That they build twenty Dwelling Houses
and settle a Family in each within the term
of four years, and break up three acres of Ground
for each Settlement, and plant or sow the same
within four years.
"2d. That a housebe built for the Publick
worship of God within the term of six years.
"3d. That One Hundred acres of Land be
Reserved for a parsonage, one hundred acres
for the first minister of the Gospell and one
hundred acres for the Benefit of a School. Provided,
Nevertheless, that the Peace with the Indians
continue during the aforesd conditions.
"Rendering and paying therefor to us, our
heirs and successors, or such other officer
or officers as shall be appointed to Receive
the same, the annual quit rent or acknowledgement
of one pound of good merchantable Hemp in sd
town, on the first day of Decembr yearly, for
ever, if demanded.
"Reserving also unto us, our heirs and
successors, all mast trees growing on said Land,
according to an act of Parliment made and provided
in that case.
"And for the better order, Rule and Government
of the said Town, we, by these Presents, Grant
for us, our heirs and successors, unto the aforesd
Proprietors, and those that shall inhabit the
said Town, that yearly and every year, upon
the first Wednesday in May, they may meet at
any place within our Province of Newhampshire
aforesd, until the settlement of the aforesd
Town is perfected, and afterward in the said
town, to elect and chuse by the Major part of
them constables, Select men and all other Town
officers within our aforesd Province have &
enjoy, and we appoint our Loving Subjects, Theodore
Atkinson, Joshua Foss & Capt. Samuel Weeks
to be the selectmen to manage the affairs of
the said town for the Present year and untill
others are chosen in their Room by the aforesd
"In Testimony whereof we have caused the
seal of our said Province to be herewith annexed.
"Witness, John Wentworth, Esq., our Lt.
Governor and Commander in Chief in and over
our said Province, at our town of Portsmouth,
the eighteenth day of May, in the Thirteenth
year of our Reign, anno Domini 1727.
"By order of his Hon. The Lt. Gov., with
advice of the counsel.
"RICHD. WALDRON, Clerk.
"Province of N hampshire: Recorded in ye
18th Book, pages 479 & 480, this 29th of
"JOSPH PIERCE, Recorder.
"Pd 2s 6d."
By an act of the Provincial Legislature, passed
February 21, 1778, the time holding the annual
meeting was changed from the first Wednesday
of May to the third Wednesday of March.
The first meeting of the proprietors was held
at the ferry house in New Castle, Dec. 4, 1727.
It was first voted that the moderator be chosen
by holding of hands, the place not being convenient
for writing. At this meeting a committee was
chosen to run the line of the town and have
five shillings for their work.
On the 15th of May, 1728, at a meeting held
at the same place the regular officers were
elected and another committee, James Randall,
Daniel Lunt and James Seavey, were chosen to
run out the bounds of the town and do it as
soon as possible, and the selectmen were directed
to raise thirty pounds upon the proprietors
to defray the charges.
On the first and second days of May following
the survey was made by the above committee who
reported as follows:
"We, whose names are underwritten, being
hired by the selectmen of Epsom to lay out the
said township of Epsom according to the Charter,
have laid it out and bounded it as follows,
viz: Beginning at Nottingham head line four
miles north westward from Chester line at a
maple tree marked with letter N on the eastside
for Nottingham and Epsom on the west side for
Epsom, from thence running west-northwest four
miles to a pitch pine tree which is one mile
west from Suncook river, from thence running
northeast and by north six miles to a tree westward
of the Suncook river from thence running east-southeast
four miles to a hemlock tree standing by Nottingham
head line by a pond called Epsom pond, with
several marked by it; from thence running southeast
and by south by Nottingham head line six miles
to the maple tree first mentioned.
Laid out and bounded this first and second day
of May, one thousand, seven hundred and twenty-nine,
Jedediah Weeks, Committee
Edward Hall, surveyor
At a later meeting it was voted "that the
selectmen procure some industrious person to
view the said land and to see where and in what
method to lay out their lots and whare to settle
the town and to du what they shall think proper
for advancing the settling of the town aforesaid
and to raise money sufficient to defray the
charges thereof upon the proprietors."
In May, 1732, it was voted "that there
be laid out at some convenient place in the
town suitable for building a meeting house and
for settling twenty-one families accordingly
one thousand acres in fifty-acre lots, one lot
to be given to every person who will settle
and will fulfill the charter so far as relates
to building a house and clearing three acres
of land," and it was further voted "that
thirty acres be added to each of the twenty
men mentioned in the above vote to be laid out
in some other part of the town as the proprietors
shall think best, beside the fifty acres above
mentioned to make up each man eighty acres."
At the proprietors meeting held at the house
of Daniel Lunt in Greenland, May 22, 1732, the
following twenty men drew their twenty lots,
viz., James Seavey, Richard Goss, Thomas Berry,
Daniel Lunt, Noah Seavey, William Lock, Samuel
Dowst, Zach Berry, Eben Berry, Solomon Dowst,
Samuel Wallis, William Wallis, John Blak, Josiah
Foss, Simon Knowles, Paul Chapman, Joseph Lock,
Jotham Foss, Jediath Weeks and James Marden.
These several lots have since been known as
the "home lots" and are situated upon
both sides of the road leading from Deerfield
past what is known as the old Center. Perhaps
the highway may have been changed a little since
the lots were laid out, and I understand they
extended, or what is now Deerfield, to just
west of the town house. There are certain questions
that have arisen in my mind in reference to
these settlements. It seems by the record that
there were twenty lots laid out and they were
drawn by the above named twenty men, yet, we
are told that the parsonage lot, the school
lot and the ministers lot, each to contain one
hundred acres, according to the charter, were
all included within this territory. It is also
noticeable that none of this property is held
at the present time by persons bearing the name
of the original owner, nor by any of their descendants
unless it be that the Chesley brothers are descendants
of John Blake.
Several years ago the Suncook Valley Times of
Pittsfield published sketches of Epsom and Epsom
people from which I quote.
"The early proprietors and settlers of
Epsom were of good English stock, though there
was a small company of Scotch Irish from Londonderry
who settled here in 1738. Among this number
were the McClarys McGaffeys, Dickeys, Wallaces,
Epsom was at that time a frontier town with
a few scattering pioneers striving to find a
local habitation and a name in these unbroken
Theodore Atkinson, a wealthy land holder, was
a leading spirit among the proprietors in inducing
a few families to push a settlement so far in
the woods. None of the adjoining towns were
settled until many years afterwards. This was
nearly thirty years before Chichester, Pittsfield
or Barnstead were settled, twenty years before
Concord received its present name, twenty years
before Northwood and Deerfield were incorporated
and thirty-six years before the Revolution.
The first settlement in the Suncook valley was
made here and not a tree was cut between this
and the Canadas, and not a clearing or friendly
smoke or any signs of civilization to break
the monotony of the unbounded forest or cheer
the loneliness of the early settlers. Meager,
indeed, are the record and traditions concerning
these hardy foresters during there many years
of border life before the Revolution. Nottingham
fort was their nearest neighbor and asylum of
safety. The Indians frequented the valley and
the bears, wild cats, deer and catamount roamed
through the forests undisturbed.
The proprietors built a blockhouse or garrison
for refuge in case of danger. It was built near
where Andrew McClary then lived, now the residence
of Joseph Lawrence. To this place of refuge
Mrs. McCoy was hastening when captured by the
Indians. Though the Indians were generally friendly,
the inhabitants were greatly annoyed and the
growth of the settlement slow and difficult.
During the French and Indian war, commencing
in 1756, Epsom was a frontier town. The people
lived in fear of the scalping knife and the
tomahawk and suffered by the incursions of the
prowling savages. Garrisons were established
at Epsom, Beech street, Pembroke and a fort
at Canterbury. Government frequently sent small
detachments of troops up through this section
scouting for the enemy and to protect and encourage
the settlers. Capt. Andrew McClary was the leading
man in this section in all military matters
and rendered the colony efficient service during
these perilous times.
In 1755 he applied to Governor Wentworth and
obtained a company of troops to go in search
of the Indians that committed the massacre at
Salisbury. At another time he obtained a small
company to aid in doing garrison duty at Epsom
while the Indians were seen lurking around.
Of the families that were prominent in the affairs
of the town in its early days the name of McClary
stands foremost. For thirty-five years some
members of that noted family served the town
as one of its selectmen, representative from
1775 to 1797 and from 1810 to 1818, town clerk
fifteen years, state senator ten years, the
honorable John president of the Senate in 1784.
The Locke's appear in 1746, Frances Locke selectman
from then to 1749, Ephraim from 1754 to 1776,
perhaps not continuously but the greater part
of the time, and later other members of the
family till 1865.
Samuel Jackson served five years about 1770
and then nothing more is said about him.
From 1745 to 1765 the Libbey family were prominent
- Samuel, John, Isaac and Isaac Jr.
About the same time one Nathan Marden was member
of the board of selectmen and town clerk and
his name also appears upon the church records
frequently, but I can learn nothing further
about him or his descendants.
About 1760 the Sanborn's begin to take part
in the affairs and from then until1870, we find
their name in the records. The first was Reuben,
then Eliphalet, two brothers I take them to
be, then Josiah selectman, then Frederick and
Henry F. H.F. two, also representative. Another
early officer was Col. Jeremiah Prescott, from
which Prescott's bridge derives its name, then
Thomas Babb, twenty years in office, Levi Brown
six years, the Tripps - Richard, Jeremiah and
Thomas. About 1804 Thomas D. Merrill appears
and until 1875 was generally in office either
as clerk, selectman or representative.
Dr. Samuel Morrill was town clerk from 1801
to 1819, and the records show him to be the
right man in the right place, also selectman
Squire Hanover Dickey comes to notice about
1820 and Winthrop Fowler in 1824, and he and
his descendants have been frequently honored
by the citizens.
Then there were others who served shorter terms
such as Capt. James Gray, Dr. David L. Morrill,
afterward Governor of the State, William Ham,
Levi Locke and after his son Benjamin L., Eliphalet
Wiggin, John Griffin, Nathan Bickford, Jonathan
L. Cilley, James Martin and others.
From 1779 to 1800 there are several names that
appear on the town records two or three times
and then nothing more is said about them, and
they are names with which we are not familiar
One of these is Benjamin Goodwin, as it appears
in one place and in another it is Gooding, selectman
four years. John Casey. Clerk from 1780 to 1784,
a fine penman. Solomon Sutton serving both as
clerk and selectman, Amos Morrill, selectman
from 1790 to 1793. Who can tell where they lived,
what their occupation or where they went?
The record of this town in the wars in which
this nation has been engaged is one of which
we may justly be proud.
We have the names of thirty five of its citizens
who did valiant service in gaining the Independence
of this country.
Again I quote from another "The seven years
war which closed in 1760 had completely aroused
the military spirit of the province and organizations
with experienced officers had been maintained
up to the time of the Revolution. A new regiment
was then formed, the Twelfth comprising the
towns of Nottingham, Northwood, Deerfield, Chichester
and Pittsfield. " "Coming events cast
their shadows before." The people were
expecting a serious conflict.
The battle of Lexington on the 19th of April,
1775, sounded the tocsin to arms. Signals flamed
from the hill tops and fleet messengers transmitted
the news from town to town. The sturdy yeomanry
of the Suncook Valley snatched their trusty
fire locks and powder horns and started for
the scene of hostilities with spirits as brave
as ever animated a soldier and with hearts as
noble and honest as ever throbbed in the cause
of liberty and freedom.
They were governed by one common impulse and
they came from blazed paths and crooked roads
that wound through the forests and thickets.
They were all known to each other as brothers
and townsmen. Each soldier represented a household
and they and their cause were commended to the
protection of heaven at the morning and evening
devotions in the service of the Sabbath.
The men from this section reached Nottingham
square about 1 o'clock, where they found Captain
Cilley and Dr. Dearborn with a company of about
sixty men making with themselves about eighty
men. There is much to be written concerning
the achievements of this distinguished company
and many of the able men composing it, but the
most remarkable and thrilling incident in this
connection was their famous march to Cambridge.
There is not a parallel in the annals of all
the wars in this country and such wonderful
powers of endurance by a whole company of men
excites our surprise as their patriotism does
our pride and admiration.
No other location can boast of sending braver
hearts or tougher men to aid by their valor
and perseverance in establishing the noblest
republic that ever cheered and blest a prosperous
people. This noble Spartan band opened a series
of brilliant exploits by performing one of the
most remarkable physical feats ever recorded
in our nation's history.
Dr. Dearborn gives an account of it and Bancroft
a passing notice and tradition relates it from
generation to generation, but it should be familiar
to every son and daughter of New Hampshire as
one of the brightest testimonials of our devotion
to the cause of freedom and independence.
Accustomed as they were to life in the open
air and trials of strength by long journeys,
hunting, trapping and scouting, they knew little
of fear or fatigue.
Leaving Nottingham square at 1 o'clock in the
afternoon they pushed on at a rapid pace as
if the destiny of the province or hopes the
nation depended upon their alacrity or speed.
At Kingston they took a double-quick or dog-trot,
and followed it without a halt to Haverhill,
crossing the Merrimack river in a ferry boat,
at sunset, having made twenty-seven miles in
six hours. But this is not all; they halted
at Andover for supper and then started for a
night march and on the morning of the twenty-first
inst., at sunrise, there were paraded on Cambridge
common, "spilling for a fight."
Those from Epsom had traveled seventy miles
in less than twenty-four hours and the whole
company from Nottingham, fifty seven miles in
less than twenty hours.
Did bone and muscle ever do better?
"That was the spirit of '76. That was the
kind of stuff the men were made of who lived
in the Suncook Valley one hundred and twenty-five
The record still further reads: Andrew McClary,
killed at Bunker Hill; William McCrillis, killed
at Bunker Hill; Lieut. Andrew McGaffey, wounded
at Bunker Hill; Weymouth Wallace, wounded at
Bunker Hill; Adj. John McClary, died of a wound
at Albany; Ozome Lock, killed at Bennington;
Francis Locke, died at Chimney Point; Peter
Pomp (an African) died at Valley Forge; Simon
Sanborn, died at Chimney Point; Noah St. Clair,
wounded at St. John."
We find the record of forty-seven men who enlisted
in the war of 1812, the most of them serving
but sixty days.
In the War of the Rebellion, Epsom was well
represented, but it was so recent that most
of you are familiar with its details.
More than eighty men were credited to the town,
while there were many others who were natives
of this place who enlisted from other localities.
Twenty or more of these brave men never returned,
some killed on the field of battle, some dying
in the hospitals from wounds or diseases and
others against whose names are written missing
The population has varied with the passing years.
In 1767 the enumeration by the selectmen gives
forty married men and forty married women, seventy-one
boys under sixteen years, sixty six girls, two
widows and fifteen unmarried men over sixteen
years of age, a total of two hundred and thirty-nine.
In 1791 the population of the town was 799,
in 1800 it was 1034, in 1810 it was 1156, in
1820 it was 1336, in 1830 it was 1418, the highest
it has ever been. In 1840 it went down to 1205,
in 1850 it gained to 1366, in 1860 it went back
to 1216, in 1870 it dropped to 993, in 1880
down to 909 and in 1890 down still lower to
815, and I think the census of next year will
keep it about where it was in the last.