All history should be the history of the people. It is what the people are doing in villages, communities and families, that lie at the foundation of national character, and sentiment, and consequently of national events. Those matters which possess a natural interest to a particular neighborhood, from association with the familiar names and places, are of interest to every one who seeks in the experience of the past for that wisdom that may, be desired from a knowledge of what those who lived before us have done and suffered.
These records present to us pictures of human life, its virtues and failings, such as we can best understand. The village disputes, religious quarrels, and political discussions of past times, are analagous to those to which the present generation is exposed. They afford examples of character and conduct of which we can see the beginning and the end, and may draw therefrom most useful lessons. We are living over the same lines with some variations, but subject to the same general laws of action, inasmuch as we possess the same natures and are governed by the same passions and motives, which lead to similar results.
The historic genealogy of a village may be made as useful a guide through the devious paths of life as the chart of the mariner to him, who sails among the breakers of the great deep, pointing out the track that others have pursued, and showing where and how they have advanced in safety, and also wherein they have become the victims of passion, folly and heedlessness.
By reference to various authorities it appears that so late as 1760 there were no settlements in New Hampshire north of Charlestown, which was then called No. Four; nor were there more than three towns settled south of Charlestown in the Connecticut valley within the present limits of New Hampshire. Hinsdale, or Fort Dummer, was settled in 1683, Westmoreland or No. Two in 1741, and Walpole in 1752. With the exception of Walpole, these towns were all settled by Massachusetts men, for until 1741, it was supposed the north line of Massachusetts would include these towns. At Hinsdale and Charlestown forts were built at an early period of their settlement and soldiers were stationed there for the double purpose of affording protection to the inhabitants and arresting the progress of the Indians from Canada, while meditating incursions upon the frontier, towns. And so little interest did New Hampshire feel in the settlement and development of this country that in 1745, when Governor Wentworth recommended to the Assembly to take and sustain their newly acquired Fort Dummer, which fell to them upon the establishment of the line between the two colonies, the lower house declined the acceptance of this place and also of No. Four, alleging that the fort was fifty miles distant from any towns settled by New Hampshire; they did not own the territory, and that they were not equal to the expense of maintaining the places.
It was not until 1752 that the Governor of New Hampshire was permitted to adopt any measures to secure to that colony this valuable country. He then made several grants of townships on both sides of the Connecticut River, and a plan was formed for taking possession of it, the great richness of which they had heard, from hunters and returned Indian captives. There was a term of years, from 1752 to 1760, during which the governors of New Hampshire and Massachusetts were too busily occupied in prosecuting the war with the French and Indians to allow them to give much attention to the extention of their settlement. But, in the year 1760 the last act in the bloody struggle was accomplished in the capture of Montreal by the forces under General Amherst, and Canada was reduced to a British province.
It is said during the war the seasons were fruitful, and the colonies were able not only to supply their own, troops with, provisions, but also the British fleets and armies with food and refreshments of all kinds. But after the close of the war there followed two years, those of 1761ú62, of great scarcity; so great as to make it absolutely necessary to seek supplies from abroad. During the drouth of 1761 disastrous fires raged in the forests in various parts of the state. And in the succeeding years the emigrants who passed northward, in search of new. homes traversed immense tracts of territory covered with the charred remains of forests, whose naked trunks and leafless branches were fast going to decay.
It was in the year 1761 that His Excellency Benning Wentworth turned his attention to this wilderness, and with the assistance of his secretary, Theodore Atkinson, resolved to change its forests into fruitful fields and cover them with cheerful homes. In this vicinity the towns of Canaan, Dorchester, Enfield, Grantham, Groton, Hanover, Lebanon, Lyme, Orford, Plainfield and Rumney were incorporated by separate charters.