Chapter 3 of the Tales of the Indian Stream Republic
Loosely based on facts and locations, totally composed of fiction…
In 1763 Enoch Hapgood married Adele Somersworth of Concord New Hampshire soon after returning home from the Western frontier. He was working as a foreman for his father’s sawmill, which was a good trade.
One night his father mentioned at supper that the Viscount of Preston, a Scottish lord, was looking for someone to build and operate a sawmill in a township in the upper Connecticut river valley. Having a sawmill would serve to attract settlers, provide jobs, and in general provide the basis for a local economy. The offer included five-hundred acres more or less, of prime land free and clear. His land would be on the Southern border of the Preston Grant with the Connecticut River as his western boundary. His eastern property line would extend from the intersection of the North branch of the brook due South to the border of Woodbury Grant and west to the Connecticut River.
After some discussion after supper it was decided that Enoch should take the deal. Adele was fully supportive; most land deals included just forty acres with an annual quitrent fee. To own that much land without rental fee was too good a deal to pass up.
At that time all land under the British flag belonged to the King or Queen of England. It was His, or Hers, to dispose of as He or She saw fit. A grant of land, in the form of a Royal Charter, could be made to a loyal and trusted member of the royal court, or, more often it was sold to some individual or company to enrich the Royal treasury.
The British colonization of America followed this model that had been in place for at least a thousand years. It was also a carryover from the Romans, and in Briton, the Anglo-Saxons. The Charter holders then, acting in the name of the crown doled out land to the serfs, (quitrents) or Yeomen, (freeholders). The Crown reserved the right to govern the lands through Royal Governors who could call on the Army and Navy for support.
The royal House also reserved the right to tax whatever it wished to raise funds for the common defense and other costs of governing the lands.
Enoch knew many of the other settlers from his days with the Rangers. They had passed through just south of Preston’s grant on their way home from St. Francis. They had in fact made camp at Fort Wentworth at Stonington NH at the confluence of the Connecticut River and the Upper Ammonoosuc River. Unfortunately. at that time the fort had been abandoned for the winter. They had made camp there while a small party traveled to Fort Number Four at Charleston, NH to summon a relief party. There was no doubt that they could defend themselves from the few Indians left in the region. The land was rich and the forests were a good mix of hardwoods and softwoods.
Adele agreed for the first year she would stay with the Hapgood family in Concord, as she was with child. Enoch would go ahead to build a small cabin and spend the winter setting their new home and business in order. Enoch, his brother, Sam, and two other men from the Concord area set out on the first of May 1763. Each of the other two men had two oxen, and wagons loaded with hardware and supplies. They would also be preparing the way for their families. Former Rangers all, they had no illusions that this would be an easy undertaking.
Following the Pemigewasset River north to the pass through the mountains at Franconia they joined up with a large party led by David Page Jr. and Emmons Stockwell, who were to settle the new grant of Lancaster, on the Connecticut River. If he hadn’t already accepted rights to five hundred acres in Preston’s Grant, about forty miles travel to the north Enoch would have been quite happy accepting the invitation to settle in Lancaster. It was reassuring to know that a well-organized town was being set up within a couple days travel.
On the sixth of June they arrived in Preston’s Grant. As promised, his holding included land on the Connecticut River with a stream in a narrow valley running back into the imposing mountains beyond. Enoch and Sam spent another week walking his homestead, searching out a proper site for his future home and sawmill.
Plenty of good foundation stone for the mill would come from the brook without too much trouble. Flooding would be a problem, but with care, not a big one. The cabin would go to the north side of the brook in a stand of Maple where it would receive the benefit of the winter sun and have nice cool shade during the summer.
It would be a small cabin, twelve by twelve, one door and one window both on the south wall to provide light during the day. The walls would only be seven feet high so that it would be easy to heat.
A fireplace on the west end and a shed in the back for the oxen to shelter in with a canvas covered hayrack to supplement the grain he had hauled from Concord. For this year a packed earth floor would have to do. He’d lived with far worse serving with the Rangers.
They spent the summer putting up walls, cutting and splitting firewood and gathering hay from the floodplain by the river, splitting shingles for his roof, and helping his neighbors when needed.
Mosquitoes and biting flies were bad near the brook but his building site was high enough that the breezes kept the bugs away. He also found a patch of sweet fern that he could rub on the bug bites to get rid of the itch.
By early September 1763, they were ready to raise the roof which just about everybody in Preston’s Grant got together for. Once he had a roof in place they began packing clay mixed with sand and straw into the gaps between the logs of the wall.
Enoch also made a deal with Bradford Johnson, one of the first settlers, who was a stone mason to build his fireplace and chimney. He would be owing some sawmill production when he was up and running but that was a fair exchange of labor.
With the fall they also spent time hunting. They took two deer and a moose, and again worked a deal with a neighbor, trading the larger deer to have the moose and smaller deer, brined and smoked for his winter’s meat supply.
Once snow was on the ground and the bears were in their dens for the winter Enoch took another deer for fresh meat to add some variety to their meals. Venison was not rich in fat but there was enough to make a supply of pemmican. Root vegetables and wild sour apples would provide the rest of their diet for the winter.
With winter came time to start building up his supply of logs to turn into lumber. Winter cut trees had less sap in the wood so the lumber would dry quicker and with less splitting. None of the harvested trees would go to waste. What wasn’t usable for making lumber would make fine firewood. Once his own needs were met it gave him a tradeable commodity to stock up with.
By March they had piles of pine, tamarack, birch, black locust, elm, and maple logs plus all his next years firewood. Once the frost started to leave the ground they put the oxen to work pulling stumps to make a garden plot. The stumps themselves were arranged around the plot making a serviceable fence and the plot itself was well turned over by the oxens’ hooves as they strained to pull the stumps. Every day they added a wagon full of the winter’s manure to the garden plot. They planted Indian style; corn, with beans to climb the corn and squash and pumpkins as ground cover to keep the weeds down.
By mid-May 1764 the trails were dry enough that Enoch lent his brother and the pair of oxen to the stone mason who agreed to cancel some of his debt for a month’s labor. Enoch packed his trail pack and headed for Concord on foot. He stopped in Lancaster a day later, and spent a night there in exchange for carrying some letters back to Concord. Traveling fast and light as he had learned to do as a ranger, a week later his wife introduced him to his new son, William, who was six months old.