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Monday, July 14, 2014

Nashua Historical Society is hosting an opening reception for its new exhibit on farms and agriculture in the early days of Nashua.

NASHUA – Pretty much anywhere that present-day Greater Nashua residents live, play, work and recreate – even parts of today’s downtown – hardy men and women once toiled from sunup to sundown tilling and cultivating by hand sweeping farmlands that extended for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of acres.

As much as a century before America was even born as the nation whose birthday we celebrate every July 4, when sun, wind, water, horsepower and human know-how and muscle pretty much covered the extent of mankind’s available resources, the multi-town region called Old Dunstable, with its rich soil and bountiful waterways, was rapidly becoming the go-to place for growing farming families with plenty of mouths to feed. ...

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NASHUA – Pretty much anywhere that present-day Greater Nashua residents live, play, work and recreate – even parts of today’s downtown – hardy men and women once toiled from sunup to sundown tilling and cultivating by hand sweeping farmlands that extended for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of acres.

As much as a century before America was even born as the nation whose birthday we celebrate every July 4, when sun, wind, water, horsepower and human know-how and muscle pretty much covered the extent of mankind’s available resources, the multi-town region called Old Dunstable, with its rich soil and bountiful waterways, was rapidly becoming the go-to place for growing farming families with plenty of mouths to feed.

If you find yourself wondering what was life like for our agrarian predecessors, you can find plenty of answers on Thursday, when the Nashua Historical Society hosts an opening reception for its newly-
completed exhibit.

Called “Settling the Lands of Old Dunstable: Farms and Agriculture in the Early Days of Nashua,” the program starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 17, in the Frank B. Clancy Library, part of the Speare House Museum at 5 Abbott St.

A welcome and introduction to the exhibit will kick off the evening, followed by ample time for visitors to peruse the many types of items on display.

Those planning on attending are asked to either call or email the society (see accompanying details) sometime Monday for planning purposes.

While Old Dunstable and, eventually, Nashua, were home to scores of farms big and small until the industrial revolution came along in the mid-19th century, the exhibit is highlighting artifacts associated with 12 local farm properties.

One of them is the former Hayward Farm, for a time also called Riverview Farm, which sat off Broad Street on the west side of the Nashua River – where the Nashua Mall and plaza are today.

The evening’s refreshments will include an ice cream social, featuring – appropriately enough – ice cream from today’s Hayward’s, a descendant of the former farm.

Not unlike most any historical endeavor, researching old local farms can turn up some pretty fascinating, even if not quite accurate, tales and legends.

Some of those are sure to spring from artifacts on display in this exhibit.

In the 1870s, a Nashua attorney named John B. Hill began assembling personal accounts and other historical writings of prominent local men, among them the Honorable S. T. Worcester and Colonel Ebenezer Bancroft, the pioneering landowner who farmed hundreds of acres where the Pheasant Lane Mall and several retail plazas are today.

Hill collaborated with local printer E. H. Spalding to publish the collection, which coincided with the bicentennial of Old Dunstable in 1878.

The Bancroft farm, Hill relates, was split between New Hampshire and Massachusetts when the state line, which they then called the province line, was established in 1741.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).