Short history of Monson is a local ‘Hidden Treasure’

HOLLIS – The Hollis Heritage Commission will sponsor a Hidden Treasures event from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Lawrence Barn, 28 Depot Road.

There will be displays, talks, horses and interactive activities centered on Hollis colonials, their march to Lexington and Concord, and their part in the battle of Bunker Hill and the Revolutionary War.

This family-friendly event is in collaboration with the Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area in partnership with the National Park Service.

In preparation for the celebration, the HHC is introducing a series of Hollis historical treasures that date to its early settlers and founding charter of 1746. Come visit the heritage celebration and see how many treasures you can identify.

Treasure No. 4: What happened to Monson?

The charter map of 1746 shows a mystery town named Monson, named by then Gov. Wentworth. This early settlement of 17,000 acres lasted from 1737-70.

The town was bounded by Hollis to the south and the Souhegan River to the north, and remained incorporated for about 24 years. Records show the early town officers included Robert Colburn, town clerk; Benjamin Hopkins, Robert Colburn and William Nevins , selectmen; and Thomas Nevins, constable.

The town appropriated funds to build the only public structure, a pound to contain disorderly cattle. It never had a schoolhouse, meeting hall or minister.

The town grew from 14 households in 1747 to about 293 residents in 1765, but the life was hard. After futile attempts to redraw boundaries to gain more land, and to collect taxes for a school and meetinghouse, the people of Monson petitioned the general court to end their charter in 1770. In that petition, they reported the land was "poor, broken, baron, and uneven." Once the town surrendered the right to a municipal life, the land was distributed to Milford, Brookline, Hollis and Amherst.

Remnants of Monson still exist in the Hollis landscape. Thanks to the efforts of Russ and Geri Dickerman and a group of residents from Hollis and Milford, Monson was rescued from a potential development of 28 luxury homes in 1998.

Monson Center is now protected by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. It is considered a significant archeological site, with many original foundations of homes built in the late 1700s.

Russ and Geri Dickerman restored the last standing house on the property, the Gould House, which serves as a small museum. Hiking trails through the 269 acres provide a wide variety of recreational scenery. Hollis and area residents can now cherish the hard work of the original Monson settlers as they hike through their attempt to build a town more than 260 years ago.

Sources: Worchester, Samuel, "History of the Town of Hollis," 1870; www.forestsociety.org/property/monson-center.