There are eleven cemeteries or burial places in Hudson. They are Hills Farm, Ford, Blodgett, Hudson Center, Senter, Sunnyside, Westview, St. Pattrick, Holy Cross, Cemetery of the Unknown, and the Presentation of Mary’s cemetery. Last week we looked at the Senter Burying Ground at Potash Corner. This week we will visit the Hills Farm Cemetery.
Early settlements of Dunstable, MA (now Hudson) clustered around the Hills Garrison in the north and the Blodgett Garrison in the south end of town. The earliest of these occurred about 1710 when three sons of Samuel Hills (Nathaniel, Henry, and James) erected and settled in the Hills Garrison. The original part of the Hills Farm cemetery was located on level, sandy land about half way between what is now the Derry and Litchfield Roads and adjacent to Derry Lane. This was the south-east corner of the Hills farm where Nathaniel and his brothers settled. The exact date when this cemetery was first used as a burial place is not known but must have been some years after the Hills brothers settled at the garrison, and probably not earlier than about 1730. It is known that Nathaniel Hills buried two or three of his children in the in the ancient burial ground in South Nashua near the entrance to Royal Ridge Mall. The early settlers seldom erected head stones to identify the graves of their deceased loved ones; so, the markings we do find do not indicate the earliest interments.
The earliest date found in this cemetery is 1738, crudely cut into a common stone with no inscription to indicate the individual interred there. The next date found is that found in the inscription found on a headstone for Joseph Greele , who departed this life March 7, 1745, in his 95th year.
Even though this cemetery was on the Hills property and likely laid out by Nathaniel Hills it was it was used as a public burial place. The early families of Hudson found among the headstones include Hills, Greeley, Spalding, Marsh, Marshall, Pierce, Cross, and Sprake.
About 1872 small additions of adjacent land were added to the cemetery. These additions with some other vacant land in the yard were laid out into lots, streets were graded, the brush removed, and other improvements were made thus improving the overall appearance of the cemetery. The cemetery contained a little less than one and one half acres. In 1885, as permitted by state laws, the yard was incorperated as “The Farms Cemetery’ The charter was amended in 1905, changing the name to “Hills Farms Cemetery”. About this time Dr. Alfred K. Hills, realizing the need for expansion of the cemetery, purchased a large tract of land adjacent to the cemetery and extending to the Derry Road. He then had six acres of this parcel surveyed for an addition to the cemetery. Upon part of the remaining land Dr. Hills built Alvirne Memorial Chapel in 1908 as a memorial for his wife Virginia.
At the present time the Alvirne Chapel and the main entrance to Hills Farm Cemetery share access from 160 Derry Road. There is a secondary entry to the cemetery from Derry Lane. The entrance from Derry Road is through an iron gate between two granite posts inscribed with Hills Farm Cemetery on one and Alvirne Memorial Chapel on the other. Access to the cemetery is then through a right of way through the parking lot to a shaded, wooden drive which takes you to the cemetery. Hills Farm Cemetery is incorporated and under the management and direction of a Board of Trustees. This cemetery is open for new burials and there are lots available for purchase. The contact person for the cemetery is George LaRocque. The photos were taken by the author.
First a few words about Potash Corner and how it may have received its name. The term Potash refers to a variety of minerals which contain the element potassium in a water soluble form. The early settlers recognized the benefits of potassium both in gardening and as an ingredient for making soap. Its presence in the soil is a contributor to healthy plants and larger yields. Potash can be found in natural deposits; it is also a by-product of burning plant material such as wood. Thinking about it, every early New England home with their huge chimneys and fireplaces in each room had a ready source of potash.
Back to the naming of Potash Corner. The name may have been the result of natural deposits of potash and the early farmers had developed a method of removing the potassium by soaking in water. It is also possible that the corner had become a central location to deposit excess wood ash and thus sharing the potash with others – like a community compost pile for potassium. It is also possible that some combination of both these events lead to the naming of potash corner. Whatever the origin, the name survived and still remains on many of the maps of Hudson.
A small burying place, containing almost 3/4 acre, called Senter Cemetery or Senter Yard, was first located in the south west corner of Londonderry at Potash Corner. Likely set off from the Senter Farm from which it was named. Lookng at the names and dates on the inscriptions one can see it was used a burying place for Londonderry residents several years before the annexation to Nottingham West (now Hudson) in 1778.
We do not know the date this yard was first used for burials. From the inscriptions recorded by Kimball Webster in 1908 the oldest date found was upon a rough stone marked E.L. K.I.D. Feb. 24, 1759 which probably stands for Kidder. The next to the oldest is the marker for Jean Senter, wife of John Senter, died Jul 10, 1765. John and Jean Senter were the grand-parents of Deacon Thomas Senter. If John Senter was laid to rest along side his wife his marker, along with many other, have long since been destroyed or disappeared. In 1995 the descendants of John and Jean Senter placed a memorial marker at the cemetery in their memory.
At some early point in time the yard was enclosed within a respectable stone wall. As time passed and interest in the upkeep of the cemetery waned, the wall fell to disrepair and fell down is some places. Cattle could enter at will from adjoining pastures and the grounds became so covered with brush that the cemetery’s appearance was not a credit to the Town of Hudson. In 1897 the selectmen of Hudson caused the walls to be repaired and an iron gate erected. About the same time the brush was removed and the appearance of the yard was improved.
Within this cemetery the surnames most frequently found are Andrews, Farley, Greeley, Hobbs, Kidder, and Senter. A large number of grave sites in this cemetery are not marked with head stones and inscriptions. Some of these sites may have never been marked; for the others the markers have long since been removed or destroyed.
For the past several years the Senter Cemetery has been maintained in excellent condition by the Hudson Highway Department. A few years back the original iron gate was replaced by the Town Cemetery Trustees and Anger Welding. These photos ware taken by the author in August 2017.
Best known as the home of Deacon Thomas Senter this farm was home to five generations of the Senter Family, beginning with Samuel the father of Thomas. The farm were settled in the South West part of Londonderry near “Potash” Corner. This was the part of Londonderry annexed to Nottingham West in 1778. We know the location today as the intersection of Old Derry Road with Robinson Road and a bit north of the Senter Cemetery.
Deacon Thomas was born May 1753 in Londonderry, NH the son of Susan Taylor and Samuel Senter. Thomas married Esther Greeley, daughter of Ezekiel Greeley, circa 1775. Their family consisted of 7 daughters (Kate, Bridget, Susan, Charlotte, Esther, Rebecca, and Nancy) and 2 sons (Thomas, Jr and Charles). His wife, Esther passed at the age of 51 in 1800. Thomas married a second time to Mercy Jackson and a third time to Eunice White. There is no record of children born to these later marriages. Thomas was a farmer and he enlisted in the spring of 1775 for 8 months and served at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
On May 1, 1805 the Baptist Church of Christ of Nottingham West (now the First Baptist Church of Hudson) was organized in this home by a council called for that purpose. The new church consisted of 65 members who had been “sett Off” from the Baptist Church in Londonderry. That very same council held an ordination for The Reverend Thomas Paul. For several years following the new church did not have a settled pastor. The pulpit was supplied by various pastors, one of whom was the Reverend Thomas Paul. The early church had two deacons. Thomas Senter was chosen as one of the deacons, the other was Moses Greeley. The anniversary of the organization of the Baptist Church (now at 236 Central Street) is recognized annually on or near May 1 as a Roll Call. Members meet, enjoy a meal, fellowship, and call the roll. When a member’s name is called they respond with a verse of scripture.
This homestead remained with the Senter family until May 1889 when it was sold to Jeremiah Heath and his son George M. Heath. The Heath family owned the place until about 1921 when it was sold by Cora Heath, wife of George. Either just before or soon after being sold by the Heath family the ancient home was destroyed by fire. It is not clear if this was an intentional burn or not. From the June 30, 1921 article in the Nashua Telegraph we get a description of the house. The centerpiece of the house were two large brick chimneys probably made from Litchfield bricks. These massive structures remained standing after the fire; showing the huge arches in the cellar which supported 8 fireplaces. One for each of the rooms in the house. Cooking was done in an open fireplace. The house had a front and a back door which led into a hallway from which one you access any of the four rooms downstairs. The roof timbers were unusually strong and could have supported the extra weight of a slate roof. To my knowledge, all evidence of this house has been replaced by more recent developments.
While researching Moses Greeley for last week’s article and Thomas Senter for this week, I began to understand the significant role each of these gentlemen had to our town’s history; and the similarities of their lives. Let me share: They were farmers and neighbors, settling on the Derry Road. They had adjacent farms and their houses were within 1/2 mile of each other. They were both charter members of the First Baptist Church and both were elected as one of the two deacons for the church; a position held for life or until one resigned. They were not related but their lives and the lives of their families were interwoven. You see, Moses and Thomas married sisters. Moses’ first wife was Hannah Greeley. Thomas’ first wife was Esther Greeley. These ladies were the daughters of Ezekiel Greeley. The relationship between these two families continued beyond Moses and Thomas.
This photo of the Senter Homestead is courtesy of John Senter of Nashua; a direct descendant of Deacon Thomas Senter.