Early Years: New Boston in the 1700s
One day, after planting, he discovered tracks, evidently made by a moccasined foot, and knowing Indians were still lurking in the vicinity, and were watching an opportunity to either take his scalp or carry him prisoner to Canada, he sauntered back to his cabin without manifesting any alarm, secured his gun and axe, and thinking Indians were in ambush in a direct route, he proceeded in a northerly direction to the north branch of the Piscataquog, thence up said river some distance before he ventured to take an easterly course, eventually reaching home [to Chester] in safety.
In looking over the records, we do not find any reasons why they should claim this grant; neither have we the petition, but we must go wholly upon supposition. The most probably and reasonable is, that on the coast of Massachusetts it was so thickly settled there must be some opening or avenue for the young men. These grantees were all Bostonians, and men of wealth and title; hence it would not seem that it was for themselves or descendants, but to improve the new lands and encourage settlement.
This fragment of a 1754 lot plan (rotated so that North is up) shows New Boston divided into many rectangular lots.
The most worn section in the upper right of this copy is where the first settlement and first mill had been built 18 years earlier.
All that remains is stones and bricks.
Illustration from "Forest Life and Forest Trees" by John S. Springer 1856
It was of great value to the early settlers, having been flooded at some period by the beavers, which would destroy the timbers, and being abandoned by them, their dam went to decay, and after the water dried off, a kind of grass, known as the blue joint, sprang up and grew luxuriantly, affording a supply of hay to keep cattle before there was a sufficient amount of land cleared for that purpose.
Great Meadow Farm, established by Thomas Smith or his son Samuel, was farmed by Smith descendants for 200 years.
The enterprise was one of hardships and difficulty. The forest growths were dense and heavy, the surface broken and hilly, the soil rocky and stern.
The first act after the purchase of a lot of land in the unbroken wilderness was the felling of the huge trees in the primeval forest and clearing them away by piling the logs and burning them and sowing the land with rye, or by planting corn between the fallen trees, where it grew luxuriantly.Many of the "huge trees of the primeval forest" had trunks of four to five feet in diameter!
The next move was to build a log house by cutting logs of equal lengths to form a square... placed on top of each other the height of six feet or more and then covered with pine splints. A stone chimney, an excavation for a cellar, and the ground floor constituted the dwelling of the early settler.
The first path from one house to another was marked by the seared trees. Afterward a tract of land was cleared to admit of travel with sleds, but not with wheeled vehicles. It required a great amount of labor to remove stumps and build a road in those days.
They were obliged to yard their sheep in a strong enclosure built of logs to preserve them from destruction by the wolves, who made night hideous by their howlings.
A census taken by the proprietors from September 20th to the 24th of the year 1756 reported "twenty-six men, eleven women, nine boys and thirteen girls," making a population of fifty-nine persons in all. The same committee reported "thirty houses, one dam and one saw and grist-mill, four frames and four camps, one house cut down, with one hundred and forty acres of improved land."
Previous to this date they suffered all the hardships and privations necessarily attendant upon a new settlement, living in log houses a long distance from neighbors, with no roads except a bridle-path through the forests, guided by marked or spotted trees, with the underbrush cut away, so that a horse might pass in summer, but in winter the usual mode of traveling was on snow-shoes. Tradition says that the snow fell to a greater depth in the dense forest than at the present time [1880s].
The house furnishings would not compare favorably with the drawing-room or parlor of the present day. They consisted principally of a very few cooking utensils, straw bed, etc. After the erection of saw mills they could procure boards to make tables and seats.
Their diet was of the plainest character, consisting mainly of soups, beans, or barley and rye, and Indian bannock [a flatbread fried in fat], and milk was added to this after sufficient land had been cleared so that they could keep cows. Meat was rather a luxury than an article of diet for every day consumption.
So far as animal food was concerned, it was procured from the forests. The deer remained in limited numbers, and bears were numerous, and as every man owned a gun, they could procure a supply of meat, particularly of the latter [i.e., bears], although not as palatable as the deer.
Another source from which to vary their diet was fish, with which the streams and ponds abounded to the degree that in the spring, when the suckers left the ponds for the brooks, in the spawning season, they could throw them out with shovels.
Their clothing was of home manufacture, spun and woven from the wool of the sheep or the flax raised on the farm. Manufactured articles and store goods had to be transferred on horseback or on a drag drawn by a horse. These goods came from the older towns on the coast.
We have no drawings of the "eleven women and thirteen girls" mentioned in the 1756 census of New Boston.
My photos of women in Colonial dress are from the Minute Man National Park.
In 1763 the township of New Boston received its charter in the name of King George III.
The valley of the Piscataquog has ever been noted for its excellent lumber, and in the time of the Royal Surveyors, a deputy surveyor and agents were always appointed in Goffstown and other adjacent towns, "to prevent waste in the King's woods." Masts of great size and of extra quality were cut on the "Squog" and its branches, for the King's navy... Some of the largest and most valuable masts ever cut in the Province, were cut in Goffstown and New Boston.
Sometimes ninety to a hundred oxen, hitched up in a double string, were needed to haul in a single mast sled, so heavy was the giant log. On long hauls, as many as six or eight oxen would die from exertion.
The banks of the Piscataquog, its entire length, a distance of ten miles or more, was lined with pines of a large size and good quantity.
Some fifteen or twenty years prior to the Revolution, the British government undertook to procure masts for the royal navy, from Concord and vicinity, by floating them down the Merrimack River to Newburyport; but in going over Amoskeag Falls most of them were broken. The project proved a failure, and was given up.
They next turned their attention to the Piscataquog and its branches as a better field of operation, and to give even better facilities for conveyance, built a road from Squog Village (what was then Bedford) to Oil-Mill village, in Weare. The road was known as King's Mast road, and the King's surveyor went through the woods and put the broad "R" on all pine-trees suitable for masts for the royal navy.
It was a capital crime for a man to cut on his own land any pine-tree twenty inches or more in diameter, and was punishable with a fine and confiscation of the lumber.
Trees and Ships in the New Hampshire State Seal
The Raleigh has a checkered career of adversities, while becoming the first to carry the American flag into sea battle. She was unable to go to sea for 15 months for lack of armament, and after her first voyage to France for munitions, her captain was dismissed for incompetency. Soon thereafter she was beached off Maine, captured by British warships, and used for the remainder of the Revolutionary War against her own country.