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Ford Cemetery at Musquash Road

Ford Cemetery S

Entrance Gate Ford Cemetery

The Ford cemetery is located on Musquash Road less than 1/4 mile south of  the site of the first meetinghouse of Nottingham. and on the same side of the road.   The location of the meetinghouse is at the entrance to the  Musquash Conservation Area and is identified by a granite marker.  This  cemetery, also known as the South End cemetery and the Musquash cemetery,  was laid out and dedicated as a burial place in 1734, just a short time after the building of the meetinghouse.
The custom of the early settlers in this part of New England was to have a public burying ground, or church yard as often called, connected to and often times surrounding it on three sides of the meeting house..  This was not practical at this location because the land in that vicinity was rocky and ledgy, not suitable as a place for the internment of the dead.  The selected site is as near the church as as a suitable plot of ground could be found.
To locate this cemetery one needs only to travel south on Musquash from the conservation area less that 1/4 mile.  On your left you will find a gravel driveway; the cemetery will be found a short distance in on this driveway.  Be careful as the cemetery cannot be easily seen from Musquash Road.  This burying ground contains about 1/4 acre, enclosed by a stone wall with an iron gate.  Above the iron gate is perched a long granite post laying horizontal  with the ground and supported on each side buy a similar granite post.  You walk under this post as you open the gate to enter the cemetery.
The most frequent names found within this yard are Snow, Merrill, Ford, Fuller, Gowing, Barron, Wilson, and Connell.
There is no debate as to the antiquity of this place; in fact some historians have claimed that it is the most ancient of all Hudson;s cemeteries.  The earliest date found in this yard is that on the headstone of Ensigh John Snow, “who departed this life March the 28th, A.D., 1735.  Aged 68 years, 4 month, and 3 days.  This headstone is a very thick, wide and heavy one and not very high.  This is the most ancient inscription of any, not only in this yard, it also predates the earliest date of 1738 found in Hills Farm cemetery or any other cemetery in town.  Ensign John Snow resided nearly on Musquash Road.  The first town meeting of Nottingham, MA  was held at his house on May 1, 1733.
This yard is the final resting place of Rev. Nathaniel Merrill, the first minister settled in this town. and his wife Betsey. He preached here for more than 50 years.
Without a doubt the most intriguing headstone within this yard is the double stone indicating the death of Capt. Thomas Colburn, age 63, and his 3 year old son, Thomas.  Both were killed on August 30, 1765 while asleep in their bed by a single flash of lightening.
The most recent, and I believe the last, internment to be made in this place, were those of Leslie Shunaman (died 2005)  and his wife Leslie (dield 2004).  Louise and Leslie were well known residents of Hudson and life members of the Historical Society.
I have a mystery concerning this cemetery and perhaps some of our readers can help!  Allen Morgan grew up in South Hudson and recalls visiting this cemetery with some of his ‘buddies’.  He recalls an inscription within this cemetery which reads “here lies the body of x who was lost at sea and never found”.  I have searched the cemetery and the inscriptions printed in 1908 by Kimball Webster and can find no reference to this!!  If anyone has an idea they can sent email to Ruth at HudsonHistorical@live.com or leave a message at 880-2020.
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Hills Farm Cemetery

Cemetery Roadway S

Cemetery and Chapel Gate

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.
Cemetery and Chapel Gate S

Roadway to Hills Farm

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.

Senter Cemetery at Potash Corner

Senter Burial Ground at Potash Corner

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.

John Senter Memorial

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.

The Senter Homestead on Old Derry Road

Thomas Senter Home S

Senter Farmhouse Old Derry Road

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.