There has long been a camaraderie among historical societies. It is natural to reach out to share interests as well as concerns. Historical societies look forward to receiving the new year’s program listings of other historical societies and attending programs offered.
Sometimes two historical societies plan to share an evening together. – This custom was established by the late Raymond Wixson more than ten years ago as a joint meeting of Gilford’s and Laconia’s historical societies, a yearly event that occurs each October with the two societies alternating in planning the evening’s program.
In a somewhat similar vein, this year the historical societies of Gilmanton and Gilford have planned to spend an evening together.
On Tuesday evening, June 28th, members of the Gilmanton Historical Society will be hosted by Gilford’s Thompson-Ames Historical Society for a tour of two of Gilford’s museum buildings. The evening’s get-together will begin at 7:30 at the Grange Museum Building (which is on the National Register of Historic Places as the John J. Morrill Store of 1857) and then proceed to the 1834 Union Meetinghouse (which is on the NH State Register of Historic Places). The public is also invited to attend.
In addition to being neighboring towns, Gilford (established in 1812) shares historical background with both Gilmanton (established in 1727) and Laconia (established in 1855), as stated in the book The Gunstock Parish: A History of Gilford, New Hampshire penned by Adair Mulligan.
In 1620, responding to the encouragement of Sir Fernandino Gorges, King James I of England issued a charter for a council to grant land, control trade, and administer the colonies in New England. This council, known both as the Council of Plymouth (England) and the Council of New England, had the authority to “oversee in the New World land from the 40th to the 48th parallel and from sea to shining sea,” to quote Adair Mulligan.
“The council began to make land grants almost immediately, starting with its own members. In1622 the council granted Sir Gorges, governor of Plymouth and president of the council, and to Captain John Mason, council secretary and a London merchant, a tract of land bounded by the Merrimack and Kennebec rivers and extending inland to ‘the Great Lakes and the River of Canada’ (Lakes Winnipesaukee, Champlain, and the St. Lawrence River). This territory was named ‘Laconia,’ after the lakes lying within these boundaries, and was the first sale of the territory of Gilford….
“The two men divided their land purchase seven years later. Gorges took the portion from the Piscataqua north to the Kennebec, known from that time on as Maine.
Mason took the southern half, between the Piscataqua and the Merrimack and sixty miles inland on each river. This land was to be called New Hampshire. What some believe is the first written description of Lake Winnipesaukee and its islands dates from a 1632 report, just after John Mason received his land grant, when he dispatched Captain Walter Neal to look over the place….
“Gorges and Mason also received a charter for the ‘Laconia Company,’ an enterprise for promoting trade in furs with the Indians of the Lakes Region…(but it eventually) went bankrupt.
“Captain Mason …advanced large sums of money for arms, ammunition, clothing, tools, fishing gear, provisions, and cattle to promote settlement of his New Hampshire estate. He died, however, without ever having set foot in the New World. He willed the New Hampshire lands to his daughter, Ann Mason Tufton, and her heirs, who became known to historians as ‘the Masonian Heirs.’ His grant became a legal nightmare in the courts.
“For over 150 years, no one really knew where Mason’s grant to New Hampshire was. One source of dispute was whether the line overland between the headwaters of the Merrimack and the Piscataqua was curved or straight. The line was later determined to be straight, and ran from the seacoast to Rindge, New Hampshire, across the Belknap Range and Lake Winnipesaukee’s Long Island, including the eastern part of Gilford. A larger problem, however, was that no one had noticed that the Merrimack, which flows west to east near the coast, takes an abrupt right angle turn from the north some miles inland. As it turned out, both the colony of Massachusetts (per the charter issued to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629) and (per the 1622 charter to Sir Gorges and Captain John Mason) John Mason’s heirs claimed the same territory.”
Massachusetts’ Governor Endicott was determined to resolve the boundary matter. So, in 1638, explorers sent out to mark the northern boundary marked a large pine tree (“Endicott’s tree”) on the river in the area of present-day Franklin, NH. Later, in 1652, when the tree could not be located, Governor Endicott ordered Captain Symon Willard and Captain Edward Johnson to head up a survey team to mark the northern boundary. On August 1, 1652, with the help of others, including some Native Americans, the team chiseled upon a large bolder, in what is now the Weirs, the name of Governor Endicott, of the Bay Colony, as well as the initials of the two leaders and the date. (Note: On June 4, 2005, the Weirs was the site of the dedication of Robert Morton’s Native American Sculpture atop Historic “Endicott Rock” Monument.)
Adair Mulligan goes on to say that in 1664, a commission appointed by King Charles II declared that Massachusetts’ northern boundary was three miles north of the mouth of the Merrimack, not the source (at the Weirs). Then in 1679 the Province of New Hampshire was established. In 1716, leadership of New Hampshire fell into the hands of a series of Wentworths -- John , then Benning, and then John’s grandson John.
Again quoting from The Gunstock Parish: A History of Gilford, New Hampshire, “On My 20, 1727, His Majesty’s provincial Lieutenant Governor John Wentworth … signed a charter for six central New Hampshire townships: Barnstead, Bow, Canterbury, Chichester, Epsom, and Gilmanton…. The charter called for establishment of a town (Gilmantown) of some 85,000 acres or 133 square miles, about one-third of which was later set off in 1812 as Gilford. The early boundaries of this vast new town included the present Gilmanton, Belmont, Gilford, Lakeport, and that part of Laconia south of the Winnipesaukee River.”
But it wasn’t until 1761 that the first settlers arrived in Gilmanton. Finally, in the mid-1770s, settlement spread to Gilmanton’s Upper Parish, also known as Gunstock Parish, which later, in 1812, broke away and became Gilford.
With these common background threads of history, it is no wonder that the members of Gilmanton’s and Gilford’s historical societies are looking forward to being together on Tuesday evening, June 28th. The public at large is also invited to join us.
For further information, please telephone Thompson-Ames Historical Society at 527-9009 or log onto T-AHS’s website, www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org.
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