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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.
On a beautiful fall day in October 1956 Saint Anthon’y Friary on the Lowell Road was dedicated. By that time the building was complete, landscaped, and the access road from Lowell Road paved. Bishop Brady of Manchester was the celebrant. Of the many sites considered in 1954, this 148 acre property with 2,700 feet on the banks of the Merrimack River far excelled others. It was 3 miles from the Nashua train station with 10 trains to and from Boston on weekdays, 6 on Sundays. The property was purchased from Laurette Jacques, The site was blessed and groundbreaking began March 26, 1954. Careful and professional design resulted in a 3 storey quadrangular building with 115 private rooms plus rooms for visitors, suites for staff, an infirmary, a 2 story choir, and a library on the third floor. The Province received much professional help for which they were grateful.
For nearly 25 years The Friary served to educate young men for the priesthood. By 1979 the Friary building and then 172 acres was put on the market and the Town of Hudson was offered first refusal. After 25 years of landscaping by the Capuchin monks the property had pine and fir forests, red and white oaks, maple, birch, ash, hickory, and other trees. There were also handball courts, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and self contained water ans septic systems.The 3 story building was served by 4 stairways and an elevator.
The town received permission for a special town meeting on October 19, 1979 in order to decide on the acquisition of the Friary at a cost of $2.8 million. Many were in favor and many were opposed. A majority of the voters favored the the purchase but; a 2/3 vote was needed. The purchase was defeated by 22 votes.
Moving forward to present time, a part of the site has been commercially developed by extending Executative Drive. The Lowell Road frontage at 161 Lowell Road has not been developed. Information and photo courtesy of Brother Roger and now a part of the Historical Society collection. (Published HLN June 19, 2015)
The Alvirne Memorial Chapel at 160 Derry Road is one of the most popular and widely known historic sites in Hudson. In this photo we see the chapel as it looked soon after it was built. In November 1908 Dr. Alfred Hills announced his plans to erect a chapel in memory of his wife Ida Virginia Creutzborg who had passed away suddenly in May that year. He named this chapel Alvirne, after their nearby summer home. The stones used for the exterior walls were weathered granite; made available as a result of a recent addition to the cemetery. A belfry in front provided a resting place for the bell.
Architect Hubert A. Ripley published the drawings and specifications for this chapel in the January 1910 edition of Architectural Review. In these drawings was a note: “Bell Not Included”. Upon seeing this the question became Why? We have just recently learned the answer. A close up photo of the bell, taken from a elevated bucket, showed that the bell in the Alvirne Memorial Chapel is the very same bell donated to the Chapel of the Holy Angels by Dr. and Mrs. Hills in 1890. Dr. Hills saved the bell from the Holy Angels Chapel only to have it to place in the Alvirne Chapel some short time later.
Mrs. Hills passed May 19, 1908; by November of the same year Dr. Hills announced his plans to build the Alvirne Chapel in her memory, and by November 1909 the chapel was consecrated. This leads me to speculate that perhaps the plans for the Alvirne Chapel were in the minds and discussions ob both Virginia and Alfred before her death. Photo from the Historical Society Collection.
Between 1886 and 1905 the Chapel of the Holy Angels in Hudson served as a mission chapel of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Nashua. Initially services were held at the number two school off River and Steele Roads. In 1890, after the town voted to build a new school house, the church purchased the old house and moved it onto the east side of Lowell Road, just north of Stewart’s Corner.Renovations were made to the exterior and the interior of the building. A belfry and cross was placed over the front gable. In the belfry there was a bell from the foundry of Clinton H. Meneely, Troy, NY. This bell was inscribed with “Let him that heareth say come.” The belfry and bell were the gift of Dr. and Mrs. (Virginia) Hills. Other improvements were also made and the chapel was consecrated in September 1892. Weekly services continued through 1905. By 1907 the building was sold and converted into a dwelling. Until recently we had no knowledge about the disposition of the bell. Next week we will see that the bell was saved and placed in another building in this town. Photo from the collection of the Hudson Historical Society.