Continuing with the markers of our historic past, this week we visit the Musquash area and the site of the First Meeting House. Shown here is the second of two markers placed by the town Bi-Centennial Committee following the 1933 celebration. It was placed near the No 1 schoolhouse, still standing in 1933, which was also the general location of the first meetinghouse for the town of Nottingham, Mass. Today the marker faces Musquash Road and is easily visible as you enter the Musquash Conservation Area. When you are in the area and look closely behind the marker you will find remnants of the foundation stones of the No 1 school. The 1933 committee searched the area for a suitable boulder and located one in an old wall on the north side of the schoolhouse. The marker on granite boulder with a bronze tablet was placed in June 1934. The bronze has since been removed by vandals and the inscription placed directly into the granite.
Nottingham, Mass was granted a charter, separating it from Dunstable, in 1733. The town was required to establish a meetinghouse and establish a minister within 3 years. Settlements within the town of Nottingham were primarily along the river; but they extended for the full length of the town to Lithcfield on the north and including much of Tyngsboro at the south. Imagine the difficulty the early town had in agreeing upon a center of town and location of the meeting house! Finally, on May 27, 1734 it was voted to build the house on this site and to raise it by June 5! With a schedule like this, I believe the men folk of the town were working on the side frames of the house before this site was selected. About 1 year later they voted to add a pulpit and seats the meeting house. Four different sites were considered before this final selection was made.
Nathaniel Merrill, the first settled minister, was ordained here as a congregational minister in November 1737. His farm was located on the Back Road (now Musquash) 1/4 mile north of this site. He remained here until his passing in 1796. Strictly speaking Rev. Merrill was not settled within 3 years; but, the early residents did not neglect their responsibility. Money was allocated to hire preachers from time to time for short periods until Rev. Merrill was settled in 1737.
Once established little appears in the town records about the meeting house until the settling of the province line in May 1741 and the subsequent incorporation of New Hampshire towns; especially Nottingham West. These boundary changes completely upset any agreements and calculations for a meeting house in the center of town. The town center had just shifted north to about the location of Blodgett Cemetery. Photo from the Historical Society collection.