Originally this story was part of one entitled: “Concord New Hampshire: A Year of Celebration in 2015.” Upon review 5 years later, and hearing many message board comments promoting fake news, I’ve decided that this topic should have its own headline.
History is a mix of real events, personal opinion and mixed messages. We’ve all heard that quote that history is written by the victors. In actuality it goes much further than that. Somehow we think that it is only recently that fake news has appeared, and it was all perfect before now. How wrong could we be? People talk about revisionist history as if it is a terrible thing–it is not always bad to review what happened with an unprejudiced eye.
…WHO REALLY FIRST SETTLED CONCORD?…
A friend of mine, Amy Cohen reminded me of a very simple fact–that the first settlers in my story were really not the first. Of course the Indigenous People–the Abenaki people were living, hunting, raising families, and dying in the region now known as Concord. They were here first. When I speak of “first setttler” in the context of this story, I mean specifically European colonists who arrived in colonial America, and who brought with them diseases that would kill off about 75% of the original native population.
Concord’s First European Settlers
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. [but really this was fake news].
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