Era 3: Revolution and the New Nation – 1763 to 1820
Compiled by Tom Sullivan and Louise Troehler
The town voted to build their first schoolhouse, voting 6 pounds sterling to defray the costs of the new school.
The town voted to build a pulpit and other additions to the meetinghouse with pew space assigned based on taxes. Ten pound sterling was raised for this work. Work was to be completed by 1 September 1765.
Town voted to build a new bridge over the Ashuelot River on road leading to Ash Swamp. Bridge to be completed by 1 April 1767. Thirty pounds of “of lawful money” was voted on to defray cost of bridge.
Priscilla Ellis was offered the position as the first school teacher, and given 13 shillings and 1 pence for her services in keeping the school.
The first census of Keene was taken, with a population of 430 people.
Josiah Williard proposed Keene as “Shire Town.”
Josiah Willard was elected as the first representative from Keene to serve on the New Hampshire legislature.
An act was passed to divide the province of New Hampshire into 5 counties, with Cheshire County one of the five.
The Majesty’s Superior Court of Judicature held its first session in Keene.
President Eleazar Wheelock and the trustees of Dartmouth College held their first meeting at the Wyman Tavern.
The town was divided into 4 school districts, with each district to have one new schoolhouse.
The province of New Hampshire became officially divided into 5 counties with the King’s approval, with Cheshire County one of the five and Keene becoming one of the “shire” towns for the county.
Committee was chosen to dispose of town lands to help pay off debts. No physical records of these sales have been found.
Census taken in Keene with 645 residents reported.
Keene residents, along with other New Englanders, were upset over British taxes, especially the one on tea. Keene was a member of a committee that kept in touch with other colonies. Keene had established a fully organized military company of 127 officers and men and a home guard of 45 men.
Boston Tea Party
Keene voters awaited word from the Continental Congress before joining in the boycotts. Most of Keene’s citizens were patriots and supported their countrymen.
Convention of area towns held in Keene to discuss patriotic action and encouragement to hold town meetings in response to Coercive Acts (or referred to in Boston as the Intolerable Acts).
The town voted to cooperate with the recommendations of the Continental Congress. Captain Isaac Wyman was chosen to represent Keene in Exeter for the selection of delegates to the next Continental Congress and to represent Keene at the Portsmouth General Assembly on 23 February.
Fighting at Lexington and Concord. Word did not reach Keene until the next day, 20 April.
Captain Isaac Wyman assembled citizen soldiers in front of the meetinghouse.
Keene’s militia met in front of the Wyman Tavern to gather supplies and begin their march to Concord, Massachusetts let by Captain Wyman. The route the 29 minutemen took went down Main Street to the Boston Road (Marker on what is now the corner of Main and Baker Streets).
The Keene troops arrived in Concord. Forty soldiers from Keene fought at Bunker Hill, but most returned home after a few weeks. There was no fighting in or near the Monadnock region.
Timothy Ellis was chosen to represent Keene at the Exeter convention, which met to set up civil government, organize governmental affairs, and to conduct government business.
Keene census reported a population of 756 people.
Keene town meeting declined to take action against merchants who sold tea and they named a committee to maintain order, suppress idleness, swearing and disorderly conduct, and enforce a boycott on tea.
Each town was sent an “Association Test” as a type of loyalty oath to be signed by all males twenty-one and older. Those who wouldn’t sign were ordered disarmed. In Keene, 133 men signed the test and 13 refused. Those men who refused to sign tended to be wealthier and whose allegiance to the Crown had helped them gain their wealth.
The Declaration of Independence was signed. News of the declaration reached Keene weeks later. Citizens of Keene assembled near the meetinghouse where a liberty pole was raised. A piece of Spanish silver was offered to anyone who would climb the flagpole to nail up the flag. Alec Hutchinson, a nine-year old boy, was the first to do this.
A smallpox epidemic swept through Keene as well as other colonies. Inoculation was new and almost as dangerous as the disease. Dr. Obadiah Blake, Dr. Thomas Frink, and Dr. Gideon Tiffany seemed powerless in the face of this epidemic.
Town meeting held regarding service of inoculation complaints.
A petition was sent to the New Hampshire legislature regarding the deplorable procedures in containing the spread of small pox.
Keene became a recruiting station during the Revolutionary War. Town Street soon became Keene Street, which today is Main Street. Keene was also a supply depot for food and clothing during the war. Hardships at home made army enlistment difficult.
Bounties of 30 pounds were offered to soldiers for their enlistment.
Rev. Aaron Hall was offered the ministry at the town’s church.
Rev. Aaron Hall accepted the position and began his 40-year ministry in Keene.
Keene voted to have their representative of the Continental Conference vote in favor of calling a convention to form a plan of government for the state.
Action was taken against Tories in Keene. Many were summoned from their homes and taken prisoner, but later released.
The Revolutionary War ends. This brought peace and security never enjoyed before in western New Hampshire townships.
New families began to arrive in the area. New homes were built, new mills constructed, and new local organizations started.
New Hampshire and Vermont boundary controversy settled.
Wolves stilled roamed the region, and a forty-shilling bounty was offered for each dead wolf. One wolf, and perhaps the last in Keene, was trapped as 1ate as 1789. At about this time a wide spread clearing of the forest began.
At town meeting it was voted on to give 60 pounds to the district schools, but each district was to provide for their own teachers and regulate their own affairs.
Plans were made for a new meetinghouse, presently the First Congregational Church.
A wooden jail was built at what is now the corner of Mechanic and Washington Streets. A whipping post and pillory were placed on Prison Street (now Washington Street). The jailhouse was also used as a workhouse for the poor.
Thomas Baker was appointed special justice of the court of common pleas and Luther Eames was appointed as coroner.
Population in Keene was 1,122
The Constitution of the United States was completed.
Keene’s first newspaper, “The New Hampshire Recorder”, was published by James D. Griffith, son of John Griffith of Boston.
Several Keene families gave 1,920 acres of land for the incorporation of the Town of Sullivan.
New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, with the Rev. Aaron Hall representing Keene at the Exeter Convention.
The population of Keene was 1,314.
New Hampshire established the first post office in Keene. Captain Josiah Richardson was appointed postmaster.
Eighty pounds was raised to purchase a bell for the meetinghouse.
Col. Isaac Wyman died in Keene at the age of 68.
Asa Bullard was appointed postmaster of Keene.
Prison Street Cemetery opened (now Washington Street Cemetery). The Lower Main Street Graveyard was abandoned.
The new Cheshire County Court House was bui1t in Keene on site of former court house.
Currency switched from the English system to the Federal System. At the annual town meeting in Keene the sum raised was stated in dollars and cents instead of pounds, shillings, and pence for the first time.
“The New Hampshire Sentinel” was established and published by the Honorable John Prentiss. This was the beginning of the Keene Sentinel.
The news of George Washington’s death took two weeks to reach Keene. Abijah Wilder, a 15 years old, climbed to the tower and toiled the bell all night long. The following day the flag was flown at half staff and the bell tolled until 4:00 in the afternoon.
A national day of mourning for George Washington. Citizens assembled in somber dress at 10:00 a.m. to march with muffled drums to the crepe decorated church for religious services. These included an oration and vocal selections by a choral group. A company of militia and cavalry formed an honor guard.
A traveler passing through Keene wrote that “We came into the beautiful compact town of Keene; I was pleased with the prospects it is composed of elegant houses neatly finished and painted. There is a large Congregational Meetinghouse and a Court House in the town, the land is very good and very 1evel for some ways round.”
The village of Keene contained 100 houses and shops, a meetinghouse, a courthouse, and a jail.
The population in Keene was 1,645.
The Social Library, a subscription organization in which borrowers paid the privilege of membership, was incorporated. It cost four dollars to belong. The Rev. Aaron Hall served as librarian. The first library was located at the site of the present Keene Public Library.
A stagecoach line ran from Boston to Keene twice a week. A plank walk, the first sidewalk, was laid along Pleasant Street (now West Street). It was laid from the meetinghouse to the mill sites at the Ashuelot River.
The Cheshire Bank received it state charter, with Daniel Newcomb as president and Elijah Dunbar as cashier.
Captain William Wyman, the fifth son of Col. Isaac Wyman, returned to Keene with a fortune after years at sea. He built a brick general store known for many years as the Eagle Hotel Block.
In 1810 Captain Wyman built one of the finest homes in Keene. Tradition claims that his ghost haunts the house he never lived to enjoy.
Abel B1ake built what is now called the Horatio Colony House Museum at 199 Main Street.
Dr. Amos Twitchell, who lived in Keene, proved his skill as a surgeon by conducting a rare operation in which he tied the carotid artery. This is perhaps the first time such an operation had occurred in the country.
Keene’s “gay blades” stole a historic cannon from Walpole. Return of the cannon was demanded by court action. Attempts to arrest the culprits proved unsuccessful. The cannon was hidden in a grainary near Main Street. On July 4, 1809, a group from Walpole went to steal the cannon back. Making such a terrible noise, the church bell was rung. The Walpole men got the cannon into the wagon and headed out of town, but Keene men went after them. The Keene men were unsuccessful in catching the Walpole folks, as they turned off on the wrong road. Rivalries such as these kept the local spirits high.
The Court House and Town Hall was moved to the corner of Court Street and Winter Street.
During this time Keene’s Main Street was often called, “Keene long pasture.” Consequently a law was passed forbidding livestock from running free. The town pound provided a valuable service by holding stray animals of all kinds.
The first meeting of the Keene Engine Company was held. This was the first successful movement to introduce the fire engine.
The population in Keene was 1,646.
Adolphus Wright opened a wig shop within his barbershop business, which also sold candy, toys, small wares, and homemade beer.
The War of 1812 began. Keene was well represented in the militia. News of the burning of Washington D.C. shocked Keene as it did the rest of the country.
Roxbury was incorporated, with Keene giving up 1,472 acres.
Miss Catherine Fiske opened her celebrated Young Ladies Seminary on Main Street where Keene State College is now located. Students were taught French, Italian, Latin, English, mathematics, history, geography, as well as painting, drawing, and ornamental needlework. The first piano in Keene was used at her school. Miss Fiske emphasized the importance of “manners, morals, and minds” to her students.
The New Hampshire Glass Factory, later known as the Keene Window Glass Company, began operations.
The announcement of Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans did not reach Keene until the Boston stage arrived on the 1 February. The news was greeted with great jubilation that the war was ending.
The first elephant exhibit came to Keene.
Francis Faulkner and Josiah Colony purchased a sawmill and gristmill on West Street.
The year was long remembered as the “year without a summer”. For more than twelve weeks during the spring and summer no rain fell in the region. It was cold and dry. Grass withered, corn and other crops did not mature, leading to much distress.
John Lyscom, Keene’s first dentist arrived in town.
The first cooking stoves were introduced in Keene and exhibited at Hall’s Store.
Samuel Dinsmor, a prominent Keene lawyer, was reelected to Congress.
The Reverend Zedekiah S. Barstow arrives in Keene to preach and teach. He and his wife moved into the Wyman Tavern and lived there for the next 55 years. Barstow was chosen as head of the school board and tutored students at his home. He was also the last minister to be come to Keene by a town vote.
A petition was presented to the Court that stated the jail yard for poor debtors included only a few houses, and asked that it be extended. The request was granted.
Temporary 1ocks were constructed between Keene and Winchester to connect the Ashuelot and Connecticut River. The state legislature approved completion of this work that enabled the town to take tolls and conduct navigation on the Ashuelot River. However, river transport enjoyed only a short period of success as it was soon replaced by railroads and highways.
The population in Keene was 1,895
Tom Sullivan teaches elementary school in Keene and Louise Troehler is an HSCC volunteer.