Concord is a city with a complex past. Its not surprising that people aren’t quite sure what anniversary, or even which ‘founder,’ to celebrate historically. In the case of anniversaries–they celebrate them all.
Anyone who was present for Concord New Hampshire’s 200th birthday bash in 1925-26 would be very confused, 90 years later (today) to see the “Celebrating 250 years in Concord” headlines (touted at the Concord Historical Society, and at concord250.org).
The numbers just don’t add up. So why the discrepancy?
It appears that the City of Concord, affectionately called City in a Coma by some residents for its lack of parties and night life, want to change that perception. Perhaps by holding MORE FREQUENT and YOUNGER celebrations, it will appeal to a larger crowd and get them excited about the city’s history. I mean 250th sounds like a lot more fun than a ponderous 290th birthday party doesn’t it?
…CONCORD’S CONFUSING HISTORY MAKES FOR CONFUSING CELEBRATIONS…
Concord,like many of the early inland New Hampshire townships had uneasy beginnings. Due to several factors, including the whims and infighting of several royal rulers and colonial governors in granting land, sometimes the same land was granted several times to different people. To add to the confusion,”squatters” on occasion settled on a spot and refused to move. Arguments arose between adjoining states, towns and villages as to the boundaries and who had authority, and who should receive the settler’s tax money. All of these factors were ingredients in Concord’s historical goulash. What we know now as Concord was called Penacook [with various spellings], then a little later Rumford, and finally Concord.
If that is not confusing enough, Concord New Hampshire has a plethora of dates connected with its founding, any one of which could used as a celebratory starting point. Back in 1853 when the state issued Concord a city charter, the town fathers selected 1725 as the its historical starting point. The city SEAL has two dates on it–1725 and 1853. Are either of these the dates being celebrated in 2015? No!
…PAST CELEBRATIONS OF CONCORD…
Knowing a bit about how Concord has celebrated its milestones in the past may help us understand today’s rejoicing.
-1-  In 1825 it is possible that Concord celebrated a 100 years of existence, however, probably only in a minor way. In 1825 the town’s anniversary was greatly overshadowed by the nation’s jubilee, or the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of Independence. This latter event was celebrated throughout New England “with more than usual splendour.” Notices were sent out in July of 1825 by a Concord committee chosen by the Selectmen to promote the jubilee of the Declaration of Independence (not the birthday of Concord).
-2-  In 1875 Concord’s local newspaper, The New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette touted the city’s THIRD SEMI-CENTENNIAL (150 years) based on the “original grant of the township in 1725.” [actually of Penacook plantation]. In June of that year the City Hall was host to exercises in the form of addresses and music. Dinner was served later at the Eagle Hotel. Then mayor Kimball presided, and a veritable who’s who attended including Rev. Dr. Bouton, Concord’s first historian who gave his blessing to the entire affair.
[1725-1875. A discourse on the Growth and Development of Concord NH in the last fifty years; being the third semi-centennial, by Nathaniel Bouton]
-3-  In 1915 during one of the city’s parades, a float holds a replica of the first public building in Concord, and celebrating the “Town of Concord’s 150th anniversary.” [This is celebrating a new date–1765. This was the year in which Concord, formerly Penny Cook, afterward called Rumford, and then in a quirk of history becoming a part of the town of Bow, finally was separated (from Bow) in 1765 and incorporated as its own township, and named CONCORD.]
-4- [1726, 1853] In 1926 the City of Concord announced in its annual report that “we are now entering upon the 200th anniversary of the year of our settlement of Penny Cook, now Concord, upon our 74th year as a city….” It was recommended a pledge of $2,500 to defray the expenses of the celebration during this year. [So basically 1726 and 1853 were celebrated, the two dates on the town seal]
-5-  In 1952 the City of Concord prints its annual report, the cover showing a Concord Coach with the years 1853 and 1953. The inside cover touts:
The Capital City
of New Hampshire
Reports to its People
on its 100th Anniversary”
Page 25 proclaims: “Commemorating Concord’s Past 100 Years. The Early History of the City from 1853 to 1900.” Completely left out is reference to any earlier history, except for showing a photo of the 1915 parade float [mentioned above] of the Town of Concord’s 150th anniversary.
-6-  In 1965 a book is written called “At the Bend of the River,” [At the Bend in the River: A History of Concord, New Hampshire : Issued on the Occasion of the Concord Bicentennial, 1765-1965 : Containing a History from the Earliest Times, a Record of the Bicentennial Corporation’s Participants, Events of the Bicentennial Year Scheduled at the Time of Publication and Messages of Firms Contributing to Concord’s Growth and History, by Stephen W. Winship] was issued on the occasion of the Concord Bicentennial, 1765-1965. Celebrations were held, bands played and a time capsule was buried with instructions to open it up 50 years hence, in 2015.
-7- [today] Fast forward to 2014 and 2015. The time capsule mentioned directly above is the very same time capsule dug up in June of 2014 [the early digging necessitated by the current ongoing road work in Concord projected to continue into 2015]. The City of Concord held an “Unearthing Ceremony” with music, speeches and general good cheer. To honor the past and affirm a commitment to the future. The capsule is on display at the Merrimack County Savings Bank. According to a June 1965 account in the Concord Monitor, “The capsule holds histories of city organizations, samples of local industry products, city records, newspapers and bicentennial mementoes.” It is currently on display at the Merrimack Savings Bank pending its opening on 7 June 2015.
So…to recap: Concord has celebrated the following anniversaries of its varying states of “existence” …. 150th (in 1875), 150th (in 1915), 200th (in 1926), 100th, (in 1953), 200th (in 1965), 225th (in 2015). Fred Astaire is credited with saying: “Old age is like everything else: to make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.” Concord appears to be taking the staying young idea seriously. I know lots of people who would knock off 65 years if they could too! As far as I am concerned, Concord is 290 years old next year, and I’m sticking to it.
…THE FORGOTTEN CELEBRATIONS (Anniversaries that Concord will probably never celebrate, and with good reason)…
—8 May 1659, first grant of “Pennecooke.”– This area’s first settlement in 1659 was named for the Indian name Pannukog, meaning crooked place or bend in the river. Some men of Dover and Newbury MA petitioned the general court for “the grant of a tracke of land…to the quantity of twelve mile square…at a place called Pennecooke.” Richard Walderne/Waldron headed the list of twenty-two signatures. This was granted 8 May 1659 but the plantation was not settled per the grant.
—1662, Pennycooke does not become part of Malden, Massachusetts—
In 1662 inhabitants of Malden MA presented a petition to annex or add Pennycooke to their township, but the prayer was not granted. Salem MA petitioned for the same thing at a later date, and again it was not granted.
20 May 1727 the government of New Hampshire granted the townships of Bow, Canterbury, Chichester and Epsom. The grant of Bow … covered about three fourths of the plantation of Penacook…New Hampshire was determined to resist, pending the settlement of the boundary line between the two provinces [of New Hampshire and Massachusetts] the claim of Massachusetts to the possession of [these] lands….there was to come…a long, vexatious, and injurious controversy…to a period twenty-five years later.” [NOTE: prior to this point the Penacook colonists had received their grants from the Province of Massachusetts. This re-granting was a bit of oneupsmanship on the part of the Province of New Hampshire, to prove that the area of Penacook/Rumford was part of New Hampshire and not of Massachusetts.]
–1733, The plantation of Penacook was incorporated as Rumford. The town meeting of January 1733 was the last for “Penacook” as a plantation as the petition of Henry Rolfe “for himself and other grantees” was before the general court of Massachusetts and shortly afterwards, in an act of incorporation the Plantation of Penacook became the Town of Rumford. This is a timeline way-mark generally ignored, and rightfully so for celebration purposes.
…WHO REALLY FIRST SETTLED CONCORD?…
And as long as I am writing about Concord history, I’d like to take on the question of its “first settler.” I know all about the lovely monument placed in 1924, in memory of Captain Ebenezer Eastman, “First Settler of Concord in 1727.” It was placed there by the Eastman Family Association, who could of course not have had any ulterior motive in promoting one of their own family members.
Capt. Eastman indeed arrived in Penacook in the Spring of 1727, having a log home ready for his family by the autumn. But wait, the history briefly mentions two men who were there earlier–spending the winter of 1726-1727 in the town, before Ebenezer Eastman arrived. Even the early Eastman family genealogies do not mention Ebenezer as being the “first” settler, but simply an early one.
It is not until 1895, one hundred and sixty-eight (168) years after the fact that in the story, The Capital of New Hampshire, found in the New England Magazine, June 1895, page 477 erroneously prints: “The first settler of Concord is conceded to have been the proprietor, Ebenezer Eastman of Haverhill, Massachusetts, who brought his family here in 1727.” Wait! No one conceded anything.
Note also that the two earliest histories of Concord state specifically that Eastman’s was the first FAMILY (emphasis on family) to move to this place, but that two individuals SETTLED EARLIER. Ebenezer Eastman arrived in the spring of 1727, while in the winter before in 1726 and 1727, Henry Rolfe and Richard Urann spent their time clearing the land.
The ANNALS of the town of Concord, by Jacob B. Moore, Concord, 1824 states: “During the year 1727, the block-house was finished; considerable quantities of corn and hay were gathered, and the wilderness reduced to some degree of cultivation. Several dwellings had previously been erected; and in the fall of this year the first family, that of Ebenezer Eastman, moved into the place…..Jacob Shute drove Eastman’s team…..Though Eastman’s was the first FAMILY of settlers [emphasis on FAMILY by Moore] it is believed there were several individuals who settled previously. “Dr. Rolfe was the first settler, and resided near the residence of the late captain Emery. He was father of Benjamin Rolfe, Esq. The second settler was Richard Uran, afterwards of Newbury. They passed the Winter of 1726 at Penacook, living mostly upon the fruits of the wilderness and the charities of the Indians.”
The History of Concord, from the First Grant in 1725, to the organizations of the city government in 1853…. by Nathaniel Bouton, Concord, 1856, states in the official proprietors records on page 83: “At a meeting held at Ipswich, on the 9th of September 1726, Esn. John Chandler, John Ayer, and William Barker were chosen a committee of the proprietors “to go out and clear a sufficient cart-way to Penny Cook — the nighest and best way they can from Haverhill. Richard Hazzen, also, was one who went “to search out a way from the place where Chester meeting-house stands to Penny Cook,” and mark the same.” This way was party cleared during the fall, and, according to tradition, several persons, among whom were Henry Rolfe and Richard Urann, passed the winter of 1726 in the settlement–suffering severely from the cold, and for want of suitable provisions; and that they were relieved by the aid of friend Indians who still dwelt there. In January 1726, (the reader will bear in mind that this is old style–the year then commencing the 25th of March), the committee of the Court, having taken a bond of five pounds from each of the admitting settlers for their lots, to be paid on demand…”
It is obvious from reading the earliest histories of the settlement, that Henry Rolfe and Richard Urann, and possibly others were the FIRST SETTLERS, but their families did not spend that first terrible winter with them. It is acknowledged that the Eastman family was probably the earliest FAMILY of settlers, who arrived later in 1727.
Both Henry Rolfe and Richard Urann were both involved in the towns affairs (Henry Rolfe more-so). Henry Rolfe was many times moderator of meetings, served on many committees, and often held positions of trust. Bouton’s History of Concord notes: that the first meeting of the settlers in Penny Cook, “was at the block house of Capt. Henry Rolfe, moderator being present… 6th day of March, 1727… Capt. Henry Rolfe, Messrs. Ebenezer Eastman and James Mitchell be a committee to agree with some person or persons to build a saw mill….[and other mills] . This proves that Henry Rolfe already had a rustic block house built when Ebenezer Eastman arrived in the plantation.
Henry Rolfe’s descendants remained in the area, one coming immediately to mind–his great-granddaughter and legislator Mary L. (Rolfe) Farnum. Another close relative (but not descendant) was the famed baseball player, Red Rolfe.
Richard Urann/Urin [my 6th great grandfather] was, by 1725, among those on the original list of the first settlers of Penacook (Concord), NH. He was in Concord the winter of 1726, and drew lots 6, 8, and 42 in the division of land there. Although he may have sold portions of his lot (1731), at the time of his second marriage in Newbury MA in 1742, he was still listed as a resident of Concord. After that marriage, he is believed to have remained in Newbury, and died there in 1776. His children stayed in the Concord area–a son John residing in nearby Boscawen, along with a daughter Mehitable who married Edward Fitzgerald. His descendants remained in the area, to this day, myself being proof of that fact.
Annals of the TOWN OF CONCORD, in the county of Merrimack, and state of New-Hampshire, from its first settlement in the year 1726 to the year 1823 with several biographical sketches, to which is added a Memoir of the Penacook Indians, by Jacob B. Moore, 1823
The history of Concord : from its first grant in 1725, to the organization of the city government in 1853, with a history of the ancient Penacooks ; the whole interspersed with numerous interesting incidents and anecdotes, down to the present period, 1855 ; embellished with maps ; with portraits of distinguished citizens, and views of ancient and modern residences – by Nathaniel Bouton, Concord, 1856
Concord Historical Society – preserving the past, protecting the future.
History of Concord – from the official City of Concord web site.