Nutfield and Londonderry, 1719-1720
The Scotch Irish petition, signed in Ireland, bears the date "this 26th day of March, Annoq. Dom. 1718," a few weeks only before the Rev. Mr. Boyd set sail for New England, where he arrived about July 25th. While his friends were crossing the ocean, Mr. Boyd endeavored to interest Governor Shute, Judge Sewall and the Rev. Cotton Mather in their behalf. Evidently he could do little more in Boston than call upon persons of influence before his flock came into the harbor.
We have seen that many of the settlers went to the frontier settlement at Worcester, and still others to Casco Bay, where Governor Shute was endeavoring to foster the growth of Falmouth. James Smith went to Needham, Walter Beath to Lunenburg, and Matthew Watson to Leicester, although it is not al ways possible to say that these or others went imme diately to the towns where they eventually settled. The followers of the two clergymen, Boyd and Mc Gregor, desired a grant of land which they might control rather than permission to settle among the old stock that had founded the colony. These men remained in Boston while negotiations went on. The Rev. Mr. McGregor and Archibald Boyd, perhaps a brother of the clergyman of that name, sent the following petition to the General Court:
"A Petition of Archibald Boyd, James MacGregory & sundry others Setting forth that the Petition ers being under very discouraging circumstances in their own Countrey (viz. the Kingdom of Ireland) as well on the Account of Religion, as the Severity of their Rents & Taxes; & having heard of the great Willingness to encourage any of his Majestys Prot estant & loyal Subjects of sober conversation to set tle within this Province they have this last Sum mer, with their Families, undertaken a long & hazzardous Voyage to the sd Parts & are now residing in & about Boston, & have been waiting the Meeting of this Honble Assembly: And Praying that the Court would be pleased to grant unto them a convenient Tract of their wast Land, in such Place as they shall think fit, where they may without Loss of time, settle themselves & their Families, as over forty more Families who will come from Ireland as soon as they hear of their obtaining Land for Township ; which they apprehend will be of great Advantage to this Country by strengthening the Frontiers & out Parts & making Provisions Cheaper.
"In the House of Representatives October 31, 1718: Read and Committed. In Council; Read."
The above petition shows that the rigorous laws relating to religion, and the rise in rents and taxes about Coleraine in Ireland, brought about the Scotch Irish migration. The reference to forty families soon to follow may indicate some connection in the plans of the McGregor company and the Eev. James Woodside s party which finally settled at Bruns wick. The petition was granted November 20, 1718, and a committee of six was appointed to lay out a town for the people from Ireland. It was to be six miles square, of unappropriated lands "in the East ern parts. " Eighty house lots were to be laid out in a defensible manner, and not exceeding one hundred acres more to each lot. When forty lots had been taken the owners would manage all their own pru dential affairs, and upon the settlement of eighty families they could then dispose of common lands. With true New England spirit, provision was made for two hundred and fifty acres to be set aside for the ministry before any other allotments were made, and a like amount for a school.
Parker states that the company which passed the winter of 1718-19 on shipboard in Casco Bay explored the country to the eastward, and finding nothing satisfactory that had not been claimed they ascended the Merrimac to Haverhill, April 2, 1719 ; at this point they were told of a fertile tract of land covered with nut trees, lying about fourteen miles north west of the meeting-house at Haverhill. Leaving their families there, or across the river at Bradford, the men of the party, James McKeen, Captain James Gregg and others, at once mounted horses and rode over to examine the land. They found it satisfactory and named the place Nutfield, on account of the trees growing there. They remained to build a few temporary huts near a small tributary of Beaver Brook, which they called West-running Brook. They then returned to Haverhill for their wives and children. Those who had remained on the south side of the Merrimac at Bradford or Andover crossed over the river in boats. The Haverhill rabble had no love for the Irish, and greeted them with jeers and ridicule. When nearing the shore for a landing one of the boats turned over, so that women and children were thrown into the water. This afforded boundless delight to the onlookers, and at last inspired a local bard, who sang:
"Then they began to scream and bawl,
And if the devil had spread his net
He would have made a glorious haul."
Several of the company went to Nutfield by way of Dracut, a town near the mouth of Beaver Brook, where it joins the Merrimac. They met the Rev. Mr. McGregor and asked him to go with them. The two parties journeying to Nutfield met on April llth, at the little hill where the men had on the pre vious visit tied their horses. This happy and mem orable occasion was made impressive by an address from the Eev. Mr. McGregor. He congratulated his friends on the termination of their wanderings after enduring the perils of a voyage across the ocean and a pitiless winter. He besought them to be stead fast in their faith in the midst of a strange people and unknown dangers.
Before he returned to Dracut the next day he preached from Isaiah xxxii. 2, "And a man shall be a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. He stood under a large oak tree, east of Beaver Pond and within sight of the first rude cabins of his people, who now gathered round him. His tall figure was erect and commanding, his dark face serene and strong. It was a time for courage and for prayer. They had come over the sea to escape persecution and had met everywhere in the new world intol erance and distrust. They had not only to subdue the wilderness but to kindle a brotherly Christian spirit in the grandsons of those who founded Ply mouth and Boston.
The settlers decided to build on either side of West-running Brook, each home lot to be thirty rods wide, fronting the brook, and extending back from the bank to a distance sufficient to make each lot contain sixty acres. In this way they were able for a few years to live in a close community as a pro tection from the Indians. Two stone garrison houses were built for further safety, although as it hap pened the town was never attacked, and one man, James Blair, never sought their sheltering walls.
There is a tradition that this immunity from In dian assault was due to a bond of friendship between McGregor and Philippe, Marquis de Vaudreuil, Gov ernor-general of Canada. It has been said that the two men, the Catholic nobleman and the Protestant commoner, attended the same college. The improb ability of the story is apparent, although some form of intercourse between the two may be inferred from the fact that a manuscript sermon in McGreg or s hand bears on the margin Vaudreuil s name and titles. The following paragraph in Sewall s Diary, under date of March 5, 1718-19, refers . to news obtained by Boyd, possibly from a letter writ ten by Vaudreuil, although there is not the slightest evidence that it was sent to McGregor. The passage reads: "Mr. Boyd dines with me: he says there is a Report in the Town that Govr Vandrel [Vaudreuil] has written that he can no longer keep back the In dians from War."
In these days of hewing and building at Nutfield we get a pleasant bit of humor in the story of the construction of John Morison s log cabin. John was at work on the bank of West-running Brook, selecting from his pile of logs those that he pre ferred for front wall and for sides, and those best suited for beams to support the roof. His wife Margaret, engrossed by her share of the home du ties, nevertheless found time to watch his progress and also to cast an eye about upon the work being done by other women s husbands. As the cabin grew she became anxious, and approaching him in a manner unusually affectionate she said: "Aweel, aweel, dear Joan, an it maun be a loghouse, do make it a log heegher nor the lave" (higher than the rest). It was her grandson, Jeremiah Smith, whose inheri ted desire to excel made him a member of Congress and chief justice of his state.
But there was in these settlers something more vital than even a proper pride. They were every where devout. "When a religious organization was needed the Bann company at once thought of the Rev. Mr. McGregor. He accepted their invitation to settle at Nutfield and in May, 1719, removed with his family from Dracut to the new village. This must have been a contrast indeed, leaving the wellestablished town for a large field covered with stumps of trees, intersected by a brook, and dotted with log cabins. But between the stumps potatoes and beans and barley grew, and where the smoke curled from the clay chimneys he knew that there he should recognize voices, and should meet eyes that were familiar with Coleraine in old Ireland, with the Salmon Leap, the Giant s Causeway, Boyd s mountain, and even with God s house in far-away Aghadowey church-yard. There he had been known as the "Peace-maker," and he lived to be revered anew in his New England home.
The settlement had been made at Nutfield under the impression that the lands were in Massachusetts, but in May, 1719, the General Court decided that New Hampshire had jurisdiction over them. James Gregg and Eobert Wear, in behalf of the Scotch Irish at Nutfield, then asked the governor and court assembled at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a township ten miles square. Meanwhile, to obtain a title to the lands of Nutfield, which were claimed by several persons, they applied to Colonel John Wheel wright, the chief claimant. By virtue of a deed or grant made to his grandfather and others by repre sentatives of all the Indians between the Merrimac and the Piscataqua, the colonel held a title which commanded attention. His deed to James McGregor, Samuel Graves, David Cargill, James McKeen, James Gregg, "and one hundred more" was dated October 20, 1719.
Lieutenant-Governor Wentworth, on account of a dispute as to the title, refused to make a grant, but by advice of his council extended to the people the benefits of government and appointed James McKeen a justice of the peace and Robert Wear a sheriff. The petition 1 reads: "The Humble peti tion of the People late of Ireland now settled at Nutfield to his Excellency the Governor and General Court assembled at Portsmouth Sept 23d 1719.
"Humbly Sheweth, That your Petitioners having made application to the General Court met at Bos ton in October last2 and having obtained a grant for a Township in any part of their unappropriated lands took incouragement thereupon to^ settle at Nutfield about the Eleventh of Aprile last which is situated by Estimation about fourteen miles from Haverel meeting House to the North West and fif teen miles from Dracut meeting House on the River merrimack north and by East. That your petition ers since their settlement have found that the said Nutfield is claimed by three or four different parties by virtue of Indian Deeds, yet none of them offered any disturbance to your petitioners except one party from Newbury and Salem. Their Deed from one John Indian bears date March the 13th Anno Dom : 1701 and imports that they had made a purchase of the said land for five pounds, by virtue of this deed they claim ten miles square Westward from Haverel line and one Caleb Moody of Newbury in their name discharged our People from clearing or any wais improving the said land unless we agreed that twenty or five and twenty families at most should dwell there and that all the rest of the land should be reserved for them.
"That your petitioners by reading the Grant of the Crown of Great Britain to the Province of the Massachusetts bay, which determineth their north ern line three miles from the River merrimack from any and every part of the River and by advise from such as were more capable to judge of this Affair, are Satisfied that the said Nutfield is within his Majesties Province of New Hampshire which we are further Confirmed in, because the General Court met at Boston in May last, upon our renewed application did not think fit any way to intermeddle with the said land.
1 i That your petitioners therefore imbrace this op portunity of addressing this honorable Court, pray ing that their Township may consist of ten miles square or in a figure Equivalent to it, they being al ready in number about seventy Families & Inhabi tants and more of their friends arrived from Ireland to settle with them, and many of the people of New England settling with them, and that they being so numerous may be Erected into a Township with its usual Priviledges and have a power of making Town Officers and Laws, that being a frontier place they may the better subsist by Government amongst them, and may be more strong and full of Inhabitants :
i That your Petitioners being descended from and professing the Faith and Principles of the Establist Church of North Britain and Loyal Subjects of the British Crown in the family of his Majesty King George and incouraged by the happy administration of his Majesties Chief Governour in these provinces and the favourable inclinations of the good people of New England to their Brethren adventuring to come over and plant in this vast Wilderness, humbly Expect a favorable answer from this honourable Court and your Petitioners as in duty bound shall ever pray, Subscribed at Nutfield in the name of your people Sept ye 21st 1719
" James Gregg
Nutfield was incorporated as the town of Londonderry in June, 1722, and an interesting list of proprietors was appended to the act.
It would be fruitless to follow longer the fortunes of the New Hampshire Londonderry, since Parker has written the story in all its detail. The people throve and multiplied, they tilled the soil, fished at the Amoskeag falls, and made linens and hollands that became known far and wide.
It is said by Parker that sixteen men with their families first settled on the " common field " about the mouth of West-running Brook. Perhaps they should be defined1 as the immediate friends of Mr. McGregor. The town in December, 1719, voted to grant a lot to each of "the first Comers to the town which is the number of twenty." The sixteen men were:
James McKeen, of Ballymoney, 2 County Antrim: he married 1st Janet Cochran, 2d Annis Cargill. His daughter married James Nesmith. He died No vember 9, 1756, at the age of 91 years.
James Gregg, of Macosquin, County Londonderry: he married Janet Cargill, sister of Mrs. McKeen above and of Mrs. James McGregor.
John Barnett, Captain, and Jean his wife. Their children are mentioned in the records as early as 1722. He died in 1740 at the age of 86. Jean or Janet was the widow of John McKeen, a brother of James McKeen.
Archibald Clendenin, and Miriam his wife. Their children are given in the birth records as early as 1720.
John Mitchell, Captain, died in 1776, aged 80. His wife Eleanor died in 1771, aged 74.
James Sterrett, of whom little is known. His home lot was isolated, and next to it he had a grant of 80 acres laid out in 1729.
James Anderson, and Mary his wife. Their children are mentioned as early as 1720. He died in 1771, aged 88. His grand-daughter Alice married the Rev. Joseph McKeen, first president of Bowdoin College, grandson of James McKeen.
Allen Anderson, married a daughter of Hugh Rankin but died childless. Land was laid out to him in 1728.
Randal Alexander, and Jenet his wife. Their chil dren are mentioned on the birth records. He died in 1770, aged 83. The "Randal" in Scotch Irish names came from the great Earl of Antrim.
James Clark, and Elizabeth his wife, had a child whose birth is recorded in 1726. He became a deacon, and had four sons and a daughter.
James Nesmith, married Elizabeth, daughter of James McKeen. He died in 1767, aged 75. She died in 1763, at the age of 67.
Robert Weir or Wear, and Martha his wife. A daughter Elizabeth was born in 1723.
John Morison, and Margaret his wife. He died in Peterborough in 1776, aged 98. She died in 1769, aged 82.
Samuel Allison, and Catherine his wife. Their children are mentioned as early as 1721. He died in 1760, at the age of 70.
Thomas Steele, married Martha Morison, sister of John Morison above. He died in 1748, aged 65. She died in 1759, aged 73.
John Stuart, and Jean his wife.
The records speak of twenty "first comers," so that we should, perhaps, add four others to the above list. These might be Goffe, Graves, Simonds and Keyes, or the first two, with the Eev. Mr. McGregor and a fourth. At best we can only offer a surmise.
With the sixteen settlers should be associated the Eev. James McGregor who married Marion Cargill, the sister of Mrs. McKeen and Mrs. James Gregg. These people were all from the banks of the Bann Eiver, or the Bann Water, as it was called, and had ties of blood or social intercourse to hold them together. James McKeen and his brother John were in business together at Ballymoney, county Antrim, in 1718, and had prospered. They determined to emigrate to America, influenced perhaps by James s brother-in-law McGregor who felt keenly the effects of commercial depression and religious strife in Ireland. John McKeen died a short time before the ship was to sail ; but his widow with her four chil dren continued with the party, which was evidently composed of families allied by marriage or closely associated with the McKeen business interests in Ballymoney, or with the Rev. Mr. McGregor s reli gious life across the Bann at Aghadowey and Macosquin. We are not surprised therefore to hear that McKeen s daughter said to her granddaughter one day that " James McKeen, having disposed of his property embarked with his preacher, Rev. James McGregor and sixteen others, who had bound themselves to him for a certain time to pay for their passage to America." He no doubt engaged the ship and became responsible for most of the expense of the enterprise.
The news that the Scotch Irish were to have a tract of land ten miles square for a town of their own soon attracted settlers from Boston, Worcester, and Falmouth. In September, 1719, there were seventy families at Nutfield, not all, however, of Scotch Irish connection. The list of proprietors of Londonderry in 1722 records about one hundred Scotch Irish land owners, and also several of English descent, John Wheelwright, Benning Wentworth, Richard Waldron, Edward Proctor, Benjamin and Joseph Kidder.
It is difficult to name the seventy families who set tled at Nutfield before September, 1719 ; there must have been in addition to the sixteen original fam ilies at least twenty five who came during the sum mer of 1719. Some of these twenty five or more we know: others are to be found probably in the list of proprietors of 1722. One might name :
David Cargill, a selectman in 1719 ; he may have been the father of Mrs. McKeen, Mrs. Gregg and Mrs. McGregor: he was elected as the first select man, a courtesy perhaps to his distinguished sonsin- law, for he served but one year. He had been a Ruling Elder of the church in Aghadowey, Ireland, and died in 1734, at the age of 73. His wife Jenet survived him for eleven years.
Alexander McMurphy, mentioned very early. His son John was a Justice of the Peace, and the town's first representative.
James Reid, a graduate of the University of Edin burgh; among the first settlers, and prominent. He died in 1755, at the age of sixty.
John Wallace, who came in 1719 or 1720, and mar ried in 1721 Annis Barnett. They had four sons and four daughters.
John Bell, from Ballymoney in 1719 or 1720. The grandfather of Governor Bell of New Hampshire.
Abraham Holmes came with his wife and children in 1719. He died in 1753, at the age of 70. His wife Mary Morison was probably a sister of David and Samuel Morison. They brought a very interesting letter from the church in Aghadowey, Ireland, signed by John Given and David Cargill. This letter reads :
"The bearer, Abraham Holmes, Janet Givens his
mother-in-law, Mary Morison his wife, and their
two Children has lived in this Congregation the most
part of them from their Infancy, and all along, and
now at their departure they were not only sober and
free of publick scandle, But also of good Eeport
and Christian Conversation (Children exepted) now
Communicants with us. And now being about to
transport themselves to New England in America we
have nothing to hinder their being received as mem
bers of any Christian Society, and may be admitted
to sealing ordinances wherever providence may or
der their lot; all of which is certified at Ahadonia
[Aghadowey] this 12th day of June 1719.
The following men are mentioned in the historical statement with which the first town clerk opened his book of records :
Robert Boyes, a prominent pioneer, who was sent to Ireland after Mr. McGregor s death to secure a successor in the pulpit ;
Alexander and James Nichols, both useful men ;
Alexander McGregor, doubtless a relative of the clergyman ;
James Blair, the man who lived without fear of Indians and was never molested ;
Alexander Walker, and James Morison.
Among those who may have been of English ori gin, but were very early in Nutfield two appear on the town records in 1719 :
John Goffe was town clerk from 1719 to 1722. He probably belonged to the Charlestown family of the same name.
Samuel Graves, a selectman as early as 1719. One might expect him to be a relative of the McKeen connection, for he was a grantee from Wheelwright of the Nutfield township, and the other four grantees mentioned, McKeen, McGregor, Cargill and Gregg were all related one to another by blood or marriage.
Two other men are noted by the editor of the printed Londonderry records as early settlers, Jo seph Simonds, who appears in the historical state ment, and Elias Keyes, who, like Goffe and Graves, fails of mention in the statement.
So ends a list which is far from satisfactory since many others may have been in Londonderry during the summer of the year 1719. Goffe, the town clerk, placed upon the Nutfield records birth dates which antedate 1718. It cannot be assumed that settlers reported these facts before the settlement was made at West-running Brook. Probably Groffe, who recorded his own early family statistics, did a like service for his friends the Graveses, MacMurphys, Leslies and Smiths. They were, perhaps, all in Nutfield in 1719.
The early settlers of Londonderry comprised many who remained but a short time and moved on to new plantations.
John Archibald, Jr.
James Alexander called "early" by Jesse McMurphy
Robert Actmuty or Auchmuty
John Barnett, Jr.
Dr. Hugh Bolton
David Cargill, Jr.
William Humphra or Humphrey
James Lesly or Leslie
James Lindsey [of Mendon, turner, 1731]
Rev James McGregor
John Morison, d. 1736
John Morison (Jr.)
Robert Weir or Wear
The following proprietors of Londonderry in 1722 have not been included above ; few if any were Scotch Irish : Col. John Wheelwright, Edward Proctor, Benjamin and Joseph Kidder, Joseph Simonds, Elias Kays, John Robey, John Senter, Stephen Perce, Andrew Spaulden, Benning Wentworth, and Richard Waldron. The Scotch Irish had their wish fulfilled, the desire for a town to be ruled by their own kith and kin.