1746 to 1773.--THE ONE PINE HILL CONTROVERSY.--ANNEXATION
OF ONE PINE HILL TO HOLLIS.--SECOND BORDER CONTROVERSY.--DISPUTE
ABOUT BUILDING THE NASHUA RIVER
The boundaries of the towns into which the parish of West Dunstable was
divided do not appear to have been satisfactory to any part of its early settlers. The
boundary line between Hollis and the new town of Dunstable, as established along Flint's
brook and pond and Muddy brook, soon became the occasion of a long, persistent and bitter
controversy. The story of this controversy may be best told by extracts from the original
documents relating to it still to be found in the office of the Secretary of State at
Concord. Before, and at the time of these Acts of incorporation into towns, there was a
settlement of very worthy people, consisting of about fifteen families, near the east side
of West Dunstable, and east of the new town line, known as "One Pine Hill." This
settlement had constituted an important part of the religious society of West Dunstable.
The settlers there had aided in the settlement and support of Mr. Emerson, in the building
of the new meeting-house, in fixing the site of it and their burial ground, and in the
laying out and making the public roads. In this settlement, among other worthy citizens,
were William Cumings and Thomas Patch, two of the deacons in the church of West Dunstable;
the brothers David and Samuel Hobart, the first distinguished for his gallantry as the colonel of a New Hampshire regiment at the battle of Bennington, and the latter as the first register of deeds of the county of Hillsborough, and a member of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety in the war of the Revolution. Much to their vexation and disappointment, and also to the chagrin of the people in Hollis, these settlers on One Pine Hill, found themselves on the wrong side of the town line and cut off from their former civil, social, and church relations with the settlers of West Dunstable. The only meeting-house in Dunstable, originally built for the accommodation of the settlers south of the new province line, as well as of those north of it, was from seven to eight miles distant from the settlers on One Pine Hill, while that in Hollis was less than half that distance. What was a matter to them of still more importance, the religious society in Hollis was well united in their popular and acceptable minister whose orthodoxy was without taint, while the society in Dunstable was distracted with bitter, chronic dissensions, mainly on account of the alleged heresy of their pastor, the Rev. William Bird, who was charged with being a New Light and follower of Rev. George Whitefield.
In these troubles of their neighbors, and late fellow parishioners, it was very natural that the kindly sympathies of the good people of Hollis should have been strongly with the settlers at One Pine Hill. The first reference we find in this matter in the Hollis records is in the proceedings of a town meeting, Oct. 26, 1747, at which the town "Voted to request of Dunstable the People of One Pine Hill with their Lands to be set off to Hollis, and chose Capt. Peter Powers, Thomas Dinsmore and Samuel Cumings to assist in that affair, and Rais Bounds between the Towns." It is very evident from the sequel of events that this very civil request of the people of Hollis was not hospitably entertained by their neighbors of Dunstable.
No further reference to this subject is to be found in the Hollis records till the annual town meeting in 1756, when the town "Voted to joyn with the One Pine Hill People, so called to get them set off from Dunstable to be annexed to Holles." Again in 1759, the town "voted 50 O. T. for the assistance of the People on the westerly side of Dunstable in their Petition to be annexed to Holles;" and lastly, at the March Meeting in 1764, "Voted to give the People of One Pine Hill, so called, 200 O. T. towards expenses in Getting off from Dunstable." The foregoing votes sufficiently indicate the sentiments and wishes of the people of Hollis.
We again recur to the documents already referred to, pertaining to this controversy, to be found at Concord. It will be seen from these papers that the people of One Pine Hill, aided more or less by their helpful allies in Hollis, were in almost constant rebellion against the ecclesiastical and civil authorities of their own town, for the seventeen years from 1746 to 1763. These original documents will still be found interesting to many, not only as containing important and unique matter of local town history, but also as showing the manner and spirit in which controversies of this sort were then conducted. They set forth very fully the questions in dispute, the arguments on each side, and somewhat of the evidence. To such as are curions in such matters, these papers may also be further interesting as affording an insight into the temper that animated the parties to this controversy and the sentiments which the good people of Dunstable, Hollis and One Pine Hill mutually entertained of the motives, conduct and Christian character of each other.
It appears from the town records of Dunstable, that the settlers on One Pine Hill, very soon after they found themselves, against their wishes, inhabitants of that town, petitioned the people of Dunstable for their consent to be set off to Hollis. This petition and all other amicable efforts on the part of the people of one Pine Hill were refused by the Dunstable town meetings.
The oldest of the documents above referred to, as found in the office of the Secretary of State at Concord, is a petition to the Governor and Council in the spring of 1756, signed by fifteen of the settlers on the west side of Dunstable, and the Selectmen of Hollis. In this Petition these signers from Dunstable say to the Governor and Council,
"That your Petitioners live in the west side of Dunstable and so far from the Meeting-House, that it is almost empossable for us to attend the Publick Worship of God there, for some of us live 7 1-2 miles and the nearest 5 1-2 miles from the Meeting-House so that we Can't and Don't go to Meeting there * * * * for they have set their Meeting-House to accommodate them Selves, and seem not in the least to Regard us only to get our Money. Our Difficulties are so exceeding great that make us Dispair of having any comfortable reviving Gospel Priviledges unless we can obtain the aid of your Excellency and Honnors."
"Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Excellency and Honnors would so far Compassionate our Circumstances as to Relieve us by setting us with our Land to Holles to which we once belonged and helped settel our Minister and now go to attend the Publick Worship of God. * * The furthest of us from Holles is not more than 3 1-2 or 4 miles, and the bigest part about 2 1-2 or 3 miles to which we can go with some degree of comfort. We therefore pray * * that you would be pleased to annex us to Holles with about 2500 acres of Land which wee have described in a Plan, which will greatly relieve us, * * and help us to a Comfortable Injoyment of Gospel Priviledges. * * And as in Duty Bound, &c. Signed:
|Selectmen of Holles."|
Upon being notified of this Petition, the people of Dunstable promptly met in town meeting and "Voted not to set off the land and inhabitants of One Pine Hill to Holles" and appointed Col. Joseph Blanchard, with two others, a committee to oppose the petition. Col. Blanchard at the time was a member of the N. H. Council, and made the answer to the Petition on the part of Dunstable. In this answer he stated that "About 1736, (9?) the old town of Dunstable was divided into two parishes. That what was then Holles & Monson with a part of Dunstable and Merrymac was the West parish and contained about 70,000 acres." That they had an annual tax of 2d. per acre for four years on the Land of nonresidents to build a meeting-house and support a minister, and an after tax of about the same amount. More than was needed for it, but they disposed of it all or divided it. That in 1741 the Province Line was run leaving about 2-3 of the Inhabitants and Estates of the East Parish in Massachusetts. * *
"On examination we find that Holles * * is about eight miles in length East and West and about four and a half miles North and South * * settled at each end. Some time after their Incorporation Holles set up a Meeting-House with a part of the money we and others paid for that use, and sett it about a mile and a half from their East line Regardless of the complaints of the Inhabitants on the Westerly part, so that many of them are eight miles from their meeting, as they must travil, much further than any in Dunstable are from our meeting-house.
"Wee are sencible that this vexatious Petition is stirred up and encouraged by Holles purely to prevent Justice to their Western Inhabitants which they foresee will obtain unless they can Cloak it by Ruining Dunstable.
"What Genius gave them front to mutter out this Motley Petition it is Difficult to guess.
"The Pretentions of Holles and the Petrs are totally Groundless Wherefore we pray that their Petition may be dismissed.
|Agts for Dunstable.|
I do not find in the records at Concord how or when the above petition was disposed of. It is evident however that it was not granted. It was said in the answer of Dunstable to a like petition a few years later, that when it was found that Dunstable would answer it, the petitioners were afraid or ashamed to appear in its defence. In the fall of 1760 the settlers at One Pine Hill again petitioned Dunstable for permission to be set off to Hollis, at this time offering to pay to Dunstable 1500, O. T., for the privilege. A town meeting was called in Dunstable to consider this offer, which was promptly rejected, the town voting at the same time "not to change their Meeting-House Place."
After this last defeat open hostilities were suspended till the spring of 1763, when the contest was renewed and a second petition presented to the General Court by Col. Samuel Hobart as attorney for the settlers at One Pine Hill.
In this petition Col. Hobart says that "about the year 1747 (?), (1746), a Committee of five, two of them from Dunstable, was appointed by the Governor &c., to view the Lands about Merrymac River to see in what manner it was Best to Bound them in the Incorporations, * * that this Committee went no Farther Westward than the Old Town of Dunstable. That a Comtee came down from Holles, and desired this Comtee to go and view the Situation at Holles and One Pine Hill, and urged it hard. But the Comtee could not be prevailed on to go any further that way, (the opposition we judge being made by Dunstable). * * Soon after Dunstable was Incorporated they got into Partys about Settling Mr. Bird. Each Party Courted Pine Hill's Assistance, promising to vote them off to Holles as soon as the matter was settled; and so Pine Hill was fed with Sugar Plums for a number of years, till at length Dunstable cast off the mask and now appears in their True Colours. * *
* * Under the Government of Massachusetts we belonged to Holles, and helpt Build a large Meeting-House and it was set to accommodate us, and helpt settle a minister not in the least Doubting but we should always belong there." * *
"We have ever since attended the Public Worship of God at Holles and paid our Taxes to the Minister there, tho. in the mean time we have been called on to pay Ministerial Rates with Dunstable in full proportion, except some trifling abatement they made us to keep us quiet. We know of no other Real objection that Dunstable has to our going off, but reducing them to too small a number to maintain the Gospel. But if their Inclinations can be judged by their practice it can't be tho't that they have any inclination to settle a minister * * Dunstable as it lyes now consists of about 100 Families * * All we ask to be set off is but about twelve. * * So that their opposition must arise from some other quarter to keep us as whips to drive out every minister that comes among them, for they are always divided and which side we take must carry the Day."
The Selectmen of Dunstable, on being notified of this petition, at once called a town meeting which voted to continue their defence, and appointed a committee of three to answer the petition.
This answer begun with the assertion that this "Complaint of the People of One Pine Hill was groundless and unreasonable. * * As to Dunstable Meeting-House which Petitioners complain of as being at so great a distance from them, it was owing to themselves -- for many of them voted to have it where it is -- and none of them against it. * * That they so acted and voted for fear it might be moved to a place more just and equal and so they be prevented from being set off to Holles. * * As in Times past so they are now stired up by some Holles People to bring this petition in order to uphold the unjust Proceedings of Holles in setting their meeting-house where it is. * * And now Holles are endeavoring to have the south part of Monson anexed to them, and should that be don and also the Westerly half of Dunstable then their meeting-house where it now is will be aboute right. So could it now be obtained to breake up and ruin two Towns it may hereafter be something of a cover to hide the iniquity of Holles and help the private interests of some mercenary persons, but can't possably promote the Public Good nor help the Interest of these Towns."
The case was argued on both sides, and the evidence and arguments convinced the General Court that One Pine Hill with its Inhabitants ought no longer to remain a part of Dunstable. Accordingly, on the 13th of December, 1763, an act was passed, entitled, "An Act Annexing One Pine Hill to Holles." This act was prefaced by a preamble in which it was stated "That sundry inhabitants of Dunstable had petitioned the General Assembly, stating that they were more conveniently situated to belong to Holles than to Dunstable -- That Dunstable is large, rich and able to spare them -- which reasons and the arguments and objections having been duly weighed, and it appearing reasonable to grant the Petition. * * Therefore be it enacted, &c."
Then follows a description of the part of Dunstable to be annexed to Hollis, in accordance with a survey and plan made by Samuel Cumings, the surveyor for Hollis and now at Concord. In running this new east line of the town this survey begun at the Pine tree standing on the hill called One Pine Hill, thence south 13 1-2ø, west 372 rods to Nashua river. The line was then run northerly, beginning again at the same Pine tree, one mile and 225 rods -- thence westwardly one mile and 23 rods to the northeast corner of Hollis as chartered in 1746 -- thus taking from Dunstable all that part of Hollis as it now is, east of Flint's brook and pond and Muddy brook.
This once famous pine tree, thus made to mark the boundary of the belligerent towns, and which gave its name to One Pine Hill, is now no more. It is said to have been a tall, straight pitch pine, near a hundred feet high, with no other tree of its species near it, standing solitary and alone on the summit of the hill. In early times, being conspicuous in all directions for a long distance, it served as a beacon to mark a place of rendezvous for backwoodsmen and deerhunters, whose names in scores were cut in its bark, from its roots many feet upward.
Thus at last ended by conquest the war between Dunstable and One Pine Hill and its ever faithful allies of Hollis, a war which had lasted, with varied fortune, nearly twice as long as the siege of Troy -- more than twice as long as our war of the Revolution, and, sad to tell, no Homer has yet sung its heroes -- no Marshall told its history.
SECOND BORDER TROUBLE WITH DUNSTABLE, NASHUA RIVER
A second border trouble, in respect to the boundary between Hollis and
Dunstable, began soon after the conquest of One Pine Hill. This controversy grew out of a
question in respect to the support of an expensive bridge across the Nashua river, in the
south-east part of Hollis, near the place in the Hollis Records at first called
"Lawrence's Mills," afterwards "Jaquith's," and in our times known as
"Runnell's Mills." A bridge at this place was very necessary to the people of
Hollis, being on their main road to market; but much less needed by Dunstable. So
indispensable was this bridge to Hollis, that in 1740, as we have seen, provision was made
for building it out of the "non-resident tax of 2d. per acre" granted by the
parish charter for the support of the ministry. But that tax being lost, with the parish
charter, I do not find sufficient evidence that any bridge was built at that place till
many years after the charter of Hollis and Dunstable as towns. These charters, as has been
seen, made the Nashua river from the Province line to Flint's Brook the boundary of the
two towns; the south line of Dunstable
beginning at Merrimack river, and running on the Province line "to" the Nashua, and the south line of Hollis, beginning "at" the Nashua, and running westwardly on the Province line six miles and ninety-six rods. A New Hampshire court in these times would have probably held that this charter descriptive of this boundary would have divided the river equally between the two towns, leaving the town line in the middle or thread of the stream, instead of on its banks, and each town under equal obligation to build the bridge. But we shall see by and by that the town meetings in Hollis and Dunstable did not take this view of the law.
In the early Hollis records there are many references to this bridge, and to the troubles in respect to it. The first of these is found in the record of the March meeting, in 1751 when the town voted to help build a bridge "across Nashua river near Dea. Cumings." From this vote it is evident that the bridge had not been then built, and that Dunstable was expected to help build it.
At the annnal meeting in 1756, Hollis "chose Capt. Peter Powers,
Samuel Cumings and Benjamin Abbott a Comtee to see if Dunstable will joyn with Holles to
bould a Bridge over Nashua river in some convenant Place where the Road is laid out from
Holles to Dunstable." It seems that Dunstable did not accept this invitation of the
Hollis committee, for it is found that a special town meeting in Hollis, in 1760, chose a
"committee to Petition the Generall Court for a Lottery to Bould a Bridge over Nashua
river if they think fit." But the "Generall" Court did not "think
fit" to grant a Lottery, as it appears that at the
annual meeting in 1761, the town without calling on Dunstable for help "Voted to have a Bridge built over Nashua river near Lawrence's Mills," and chose a committee to obtain
subscriptions for it. The next year, 1762, the town "Voted to raise Money to pay for the Building of the Bridge over Nashua river the Money to be redukted out of the cost of the Bridge that was subscribed out of town." From this vote it is evident that as early as 1762 a bridge had been built across the Nashua river mainly, if not wholly, by Hollis. In May, 1765, at a special town meeting, the town "Voted to Rebuild or Repair the Bridge over Nashua river, and that the 800 voted at the March Meeting for Making and Mending the Roads be laid out in Building and Repairing the Bridge." From the above vote I infer that the bridge built in 1762 was either washed away wholly in the spring of 1765, or so much injured as to need costly repairs. Though, in the language of the law, "often requested," the town of Dunstable, as it seems, had given no aid in supporting
this bridge, and the question of the legal liability of that town to aid in it was allowed to sleep till the annual meeting in Hollis in March, 1772. At that meeting, in pursuance of an article in the warrant, the town "Voted to appoint a committee to ask for and recover of Dunstable a share of the Cost of Building and Repairing the Bridge across Nashua River near Jaquith's Mills with power to prosecute if necessary."
This request of the people of Hollis, upon being submitted by the committee to a town meeting in Dunstable, in the month of June following, was curtly rejected, and it was "Voted that Dunstable would not do anything towards building a bridge over Nashua river."
But it fortunately so happened that not far from this time, the Mills
before known as "Lawrence's Mills," had become the property of Ebenezer Jaquith.
This Mr. Jaquith and Ensign Daniel Merrill lived in the bend of Nashua river on the
Dunstable side, their two farms containing about 500 acres, and comprising all the land in
this bend. These men were nearer to the meeting-house in Hollis than to that in Dunstable,
and like the saintly and sensible settlers on One Pine Hill, wished to be annexed to
Hollis and were willing to pay something for the privilege. With these new facts in view,
and the long and costly contest for the conquest of One Pine Hill not yet forgotten, a
special town meeting was called in Hollis in December, 1772, at which it was "Voted
that whereas, there is a
dispute with respect to the Bridge over Nashua river between Holles and Dunstable, and whereas Messrs. Merrill and Jaquith live more convenient to Holles than Dunstable, and are willing to pay something handsome towards the Building of said Bridge, and also considering the expense of Suits at Law in the Premises -- now in order to an amicable settlement of the matter, and for the Preservation and Cultivation of Harmony between said Towns -- Voted to accept said Families with their Lands, Provided Dunstable shall lay them off to us and assist in an amicable manner to get them incorporated with us. Also Voted that Samuel Hobart, Dea. Noyes and William Nevins be a Committee to treat with Dunstable on Bridge Affairs." The Hollis Committee soon communicated these amicable terms of peace to the Selectmen of Dunstable, who upon their receipt, summoned a town meeting of their constituents, by whom these neighborly overtures were disdainfully rejected and the meeting "Voted that the people of Dunstable would not pay anything towards the Building of the Bridge, nor would they consent to annex any more Land to Holles."
In the meanwhile the legal advisers of Hollis, "learned in the law," upon the examination of the charters of the two towns, had expressed the opinion that Nashua river, where it flowed between Hollis and Dunstable, was not in any part in either town, and that neither town was under any obligation to build a bridge across it. This opinion in respect to the law with the proposed remedy is set forth in the following preamble and resolution, adopted at a town meeting of Hollis, Jan. 20, 1773, called to consider the report of their Peace Ambassadors to Dunstable.
"Whereas it appears by the charters of Dunstable and Holles, that Nashua River is not in either town -- That it is highly necessary that a Bridge be erected over said River, but that neither Town is obliged by Law to make or maintain the same -- and Dunstable manifesting an unwillingness to do anything respecting the Building of a Bridge -- therefore, voted that William Nevins be agent of the Town to Petition the Governor and Council and General Assembly that Dunstable and Holles may be connected so that a Bridge may be built over said River."
Again at the annual town meeting in Hollis, in 1773, Col. John Hale, William Nevins and Ensign Stephen Ames were chosen to represent the matter in respect to the bridge, to the Governor and Council.
This proposal to appeal to the General Court, or Governor and Council,
very soon had the effect to render the people of Dunstable more placable, and more ready
to accept the treaty of peace offered by Hollis the year before. The choice of evils now
presented was another trial of their border troubles before the General Court or the
acceptance of the proposed compromise, and it is manifest from the doings of a town
meeting in Hollis on the ensuing 18th of March, that Dunstable had voted to submit to the
least of the
two evils. At this meeting Hollis voted.
"To extend the easterly line of Holles so far east as to include Messrs. Merrill and Jaquith with their Improvements, provided it shall be done without expense to the Town, and that Dea. Boynton, Reuben Dow and Samuel Cumings be a committee to agree with Dunstable in respect to Boundaries."
At a town meeting on the following 12th of April this committee made report as follows:
"We have met the Dunstable committee and have mutually agreed that the Easterly Line of Holles shall be extended Eastwardly to the following Bounds: To Begin at a Stake and Stones fifteen Rods below Buck Meadow Falls, at the River, which is Mr. Jaquith's northerly corner; Thence running southerly in a straight line to a Pine tree on the River Bank which is Mr. Jaquith's southwesterly corner. April 8, 1773."
This report was accepted by the town, and afterwards, in the month of May, 1773, at the joint request of Hollis and Dunstable, the General Court passed an act establishing the boundary line between the two towns as so agreed upon, where it has remained undisturbed from that day to this. These terms of settlement, though at first not willingly accepted by Dunstable, were exceedingly favorable to that town, and ought to have been ample satisfaction for the loss of One Pine Hill. It is true that Dunstable came out of the controversy short of 500 acres of territory, but in return for this loss, that town was relieved from the burden of aiding in maintaining this bridge in all future time; a charge that has already cost Hollis much more than the value of all the land so annexed.