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Let’s look at when Hudson was established

By Ruth Parker | Mar 22, 2020

HUDSON — While giving tours and talking town history, we at the Hudson Historical Society, frequently hear the question, “When was our town established?

The bronze tablet pictured here identifies the five birthdays, or founding dates, for the Town of Hudson.

Dunstable, Massachusetts, was founded in 1673. Most of the land contained within the present boundaries of Hudson was included within Dunstable, the exception being about 4,600 acres in the northeast part of Hudson, which was then a part of Londonderry.

The geography of Dunstable included land on both sides of the Merrimack River including all or parts of some 14 towns in present day Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In the early days of Dunstable, land had been granted on the east side of the river, but no real settlements occurred here until about 1710. We remained a part of Dunstable until 1733.

As the number of settlers on the east side of the river increased, we petitioned Massachusetts to be set off as a separate town. This petition was answered on Jan. 4, 1733, when the charter for Nottingham, Massachusetts, was granted, this town included all Dunstable lands on the east side of the river.

The General Court ordered that a town meeting be held within three months and a minister be settled within three years.

After survey and much debate, the center of the town of Nottingham, Massachusetts, was agreed upon and a meeting house built on what is now Musquash Road. The town of Nottingham remained as such for only nine years, until 1741.

The ancient boundary between the provinces of New Hampshire and Massachusetts was based upon the Merrimack River and the misconception that the river flowed from west to east – with no idea of the abrupt bend northward the river made near Chelmsford. This resulted in some dual grants by the rival provinces of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and a boundary dispute which was not settled until 1741.

At that time, the line was established to run 3 miles north of the Merrimack River from the ocean until reaching a specific point north of Pawtuckett Falls; after that the line ran due west to the Connecticut River. All land south of this line was in Massachusetts. Land to the north was in Nottingham, New Hampshire. It was called by many historians as the District of Nottingham, as the towns had not yet been incorporated under the laws of the Granite State.

During the time, after 1741, a number of smaller New Hampshire towns were spun off from Nottingham and were incorporated within New Hampshire. One of these, Nottingham West, was incorporated in 1746 and a charter issued July 5, 1746. Nottingham West contained most of the lands of the present town of Hudson, except for those acres in Londonderry and minor adjustments to the boundaries with Windham and Pelham.

We remained as Nottingham West until 1830. At the annual town meeting of 1830, the voters of Nottingham West adopted an article to petition the General Court of New Hampshire to alter the name to Auburn or to designate some other name. The name was changed to Hudson July 1, 1830.

Our town has five founding dates or birthdays. In 1672, we were established as Dunstable, Massachusetts; 1733 as Nottingham, Massachusetts; 1741 as the District of Nottingham, New Hampshire; 1740 as Nottingham West, New Hampshire; and in 1830 as Hudson, New Hampshire. This confuses our celebrations!

In 1933, we celebrated the 200th birthday of incorporation of Nottingham, Massachusetts. In 1972, some 39 years later, we celebrated the 300 birthday of the founding of Dunstable!

To my knowledge, there never was a centennial or bi-centennial celebration for Nottingham West, and no centennial celebration for changing name our to Hudson in 1830. So, when will our next celebration be? Perhaps it will be in the year 2030, some 10 years from now, when we celebrate the 200th anniversary of changing our name to Hudson.

Ruth Parker is a lifelong resident of Hudson with family ties that date back to the colonial days. Her work, shared via the Hudson Historical Society, will be featured bi-weekly.

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