Lyndeborough had a complicated origin

LYNDEBOROUGH – If the government of Massachusetts hadn’t been so arrogant, Dr. Jere Daniell told a packed conference room at the Tarbell Library recently, “New Hampshire would be part of that state.”

He implied Massachusetts hasn’t changed very much.

Daniell, who retired from the history department at Dartmouth College 11 years ago, gives about 50 talks a year throughout the state. His topic of discussion for this event was New Hampshire’s colonial history with an emphasis on Lyndeborough.

Lyndeborough has a complicated history, Daniell said, since it was chartered three times: first in 1735 by the Province of Massachusetts as Salem-Canada, second in 1753 by the Masonian Proprietors as Lyndeborough, and lastly in 1764 by the Province of New Hampshire as the town of Lyndeborough.

In his hour-long talk, Daniell discussed the three charters along with the origin of our state, which involved a grant to a Capt. John Mason in 1620, the civil war in England, which resulted in the death of King Charles, the restoration of Charles II, and the regranting of what is now New Hampshire to Mason’s heirs.

Massachusetts, in the meantime, claimed Maine and all parts of New Hampshire “south of the Merrimack River.” When it was discovered that the river runs mostly south, they claimed everything south of Lake Winnipesaukee and east of the river.

When that was challenged by Mason’s heirs, Massachusetts began granting towns in the disputed territory, possession arguably being nine points of the law.

Those who received land in what is now Lyndeborough – along with parts of Wilton, Greenfield, Temple and Mont Vernon – were descendants of the war with Canada in 1640 and the land was compensation for that service. Each grantee received 300 acres.

Benjamin Lynde, for whom the town is named, was not an original grantee. He was a wealthy magistrate in Salem, a smart man and a land speculator. He was also part of the group named by the English king to settle the boundary between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. That settlement gave the southeast part of the state to Mason’s heirs, who sold their interests to a group of Portsmouth-area businessmen – those “Masonian proprietors” – including our first royal governor, Benning Wentworth.

Most of those receiving land in the interior wilderness didn’t want to come here and sold their interests. Lynde ended up owning a great deal of land in town.

But changes in the charter required getting a new deed to the land, paying a collection of fees, and a lot of paper work even back then, and Lynde assisted the town with that process, as well as getting the town chartered by the new royal province of New Hampshire so that they could legally form a government.

Lynde, as far as it is known, never visited the town and left his affairs in the very capable hands of his son-in-law, Rev. William Walter.

Daniell provided a number of humorous digressions along the way, such as the political conniving of Benning Wentworth and his vast number of relatives and close associates who owned a great deal of the southwestern part of the state.

Wentworth also claimed what is now Vermont – he named Bennington for himself – and granted a number of towns in that state before the king’s council told him the Connecticut River is the boundary. At the same time, New York claimed Vermont, resulting in that state becoming an independent country for a short time to get rid of all the competing claims.

Daniell is one of many speakers provided by the New Hampshire Humanities Council. He has said that it is his ambition to speak in every library in the state and he is nearing that goal.

This was Daniell’s first visit to Lyndeborough, where he was cosponsored by the Library Trustees and the Heritage Commission. All of his talks (he does not call them lectures) are free and open to the public.