Merrimack, NH, June 27, 1995

Dick's great- great- great- great- great- grandparents Josiah and Rebecca (Foster) Hodgman lived in Merrimack during the American Revolution. Dick took the day to drive there and to Gilsum, New Hampshire, where another set of ancestors had lived at the same time. There was so much to do in Merrimack that Gilsum was delayed until Thursday. The following is Dick's account of the day in Merrimack.

On June 5, 1750, George II granted the second charter to Merrymac. The first charter had been granted in 1746, but some residents wanted the town to be expanded and petitioned for more land. The text of the second charter was copied into the town record on pages 1 and 2. I was allowed to view the town record book and make copies from it in the town clerk's office.

In the 18th century, the town clerk was responsible for making entries in the town record book. Joseph Blanchard, town clerk in 1750, penned the copy of the town charter shown above.

The town record book includes minutes of town meetings, births and deaths, and records of censuses. The census from 1773 (56K) numbers the town at 552, including 13 slaves.

Unmarried|Married  |Boys    |Men 60 |Females  |Females|Widows|Male  |Female|

Men from |men from |16 years|Years &|Unmarried|Married|      |Slaves|Slaves|

16 to 60 |16 to 60 |Old &   |Upwards|         |       |      |      |      |

years old|years old|Under   |       |         |       |      |      |      |


   50    |   82    |   129  |   8   |  170    |  89   |  11  |  8   |  5   |

By 1776, the town name was spelled Merrimack in the town record book.

The call for town meetings was made at the direction of the selectmen, and the call was recorded in the town record book. The calls were under the official heading "Province of New Hampshire" in 1771.

The time around the Revolution was one of rapid change and turmoil. In February 1776 (34K), the call for town meetings was under the heading "Colony of New Hampshire". In February 1777 (40K), the call was under the heading "State of New Hampshire".

Other effects of the Revolution were seen as well. At the town meeting of March 31, 1777, the town voted to purchase 150 pounds of gunpowder and to build a stock and whipping post. In the meeting of April 14, 1777, it was voted "To see what method the Town will take to Raise the Proportion of Soldiers that are now called for the Term of Three Years or During the War between America and Great Britian."

The town meeting of February 9, 1778 resolved that ".. the articles of Confederation as formed by the Continental Congress appear to be well appointed to cement the union of said states, to confirm their mutual friendship, establish their freedom and Independence and promote their general Welfare."

In the meeting of March 9, 1778, my ancestor Josiah Hodgman was elected "Constable of the North Side of Souhegan River". According to The History of Merrimack, New Hampshire, Volume 1, "Constables levied and collected taxes in addition to keeping the peace. It was also their job to 'warn' people when there was a meeting."

In the meeting of May 8, 1778, "Solomon Hutchinson was chosen to Represent the Town of Merrimack in the Convention to be holden at Concord on the Tenth Day of June Next for the Purpose of forming and Laying a Permanent plan or System of Government for the future happiness of this State --Agreeable to a vote of the General Assembly in February Last." The people of the town, at least the male property owners, were participating in deciding how to govern themselves as a free people.

In the meeting of May 8, 1778, the town also considered " see if the Town will make John Alld any consideration for a 30 Dollar Bill which was paid his son when engaged in the Continental army which proves to be Counterfit--was also dismissed." In the town meeting of March 8, 1779, the town voted to pay the thirty dollars to John Alld.

Josiah Hodgman's son Josiah married Sarah Crosby Cummings. They are my great-great-great-great-grandparents. Sarah's father Jonathan Cummings jr. and grandfather Jonathan Cummings both lived in Merrimack, and appear in the town records as selectmen and in other official positions from 1750 on.

After spending the morning in the Merrimack town clerk's office, I set out to find Turkey Hill Burial Ground. It it is the oldest burial ground in Merrimack, located next to the site of the original town meeting house. I drove around Turkey Hill twice without finding it, so I decided to ask for further directions when I returned to the town clerk's office in the afternoon. To compensate for my frustration, I went to Newick's Seafood Restaurant and indulged in a fried clam and scallop luncheon.

I went back to the town clerk's office in the afternoon. After that, I went to the Merrimack Library, just across the street from the town hall. There I found a vertical file with population history, and a copy of The History of Merrimack, New Hampshire, Volume I, Merrimack Historical Society, 1976. I wanted to buy a copy of the town history, so I left a message on the Historical Society's recorder. They never returned my call; I will have to write them.

Merrimack had 819 souls in the first federal census in 1790. It rose to 1250 by 1850, then was back to 951 in 1890. It was under 2000 until 1960. Then Merrimack grew explosively - 2,989 in 1960, 8,595 in 1970, 15,406 in 1980, and 22,156 in 1990.

I found the Turkey Hill Burial Ground just south of the Turkey Hill Bridge, which crosses the Souhegan River. The bridge itself showed up often in the town records, for it washed out repeatedly. It was a covered bridge until the 1960s, when it was destroyed by arson.

This photo is of the Josiah Hodgman burial plot. Josiah, Rebekah, their daughter Rebekah (17) and son Stephen (2) are buried here. Notice the footstones as well as headstones. Josiah died at 40 years old; Rebekkah followed him two years later at 39. The burial ground is surrounded by a New England stone fence. Just to the south of the burial ground is the original entry stone from the town meeting house.

Merrimack, New Hampshire History & Genealogy

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