ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT SURVEY OF NELSON TOWNSHIP, NEW HAMPSHIRE
A Plan of a Tract of Land called Monadnock Number six Measured according to an agreement with Thomas Packer, Esq as Follows. December 9, 1768
22 1/2” x 30”. Ink and watercolor wash on sheepskin, somewhat faded.
This is the original manuscript survey for Nelson Township, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, executed under an agreement with Thomas Packer, one of the original propreitors and son-in-law to Lt. Governor John Wentworth. Originally called Monadnock Number Six, the township name was changed to Packersfield in honor of Thomas Packer shortly after this survey was completed in 1768. It was executed by hand by Breed Batchelder (1740–1785), the town’s first settler and a prominent figure in its early affairs. After serving in the French and Indian War, Batchelder took up surveying and moved to the newly established township where he eventually became one of its largest landowners with over 9000 acres. He was hired by the proprietors in 1768 to make this survey. Eighteenth century township surveys on vellum are extremely rare. This example is one of the finest known.
Thomas Packer was high sheriff of Portsmouth, N.H. and ultimately fell into disgrace after a number of unpopular acts. He was admonished in 1768 for his handling of the execution of a young girl convicted of concealing the death of her illegitimate child. Public sympathy for the girl had led to a petition to the governor for clemency, but Packer hastily performed the execution minutes before the pardon arrived. The citizens of the town burned him in effigy that night. In 1814 that the name of Packersfield was finally changed for a more heroic namesake, Lord Horatio Nelson.
Located in the highlands separating the watersheds of the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers, Nelson Township’s important topographical features are easily identifiable on the map. At its center is the small “Center Pond,” with a bounded tract immediately to the east labeled “10 acres,” which may have been intended as the site of the original village. Silver Lake, Nubanusit Lake, and Spoonwood Pond are identifiable to the east and south.
Some of the ink on the map has faded, and the text is only partly legible. The title and surveyor’s name are supplied in part from a careful tracing made in 1891 by Samuel Wadsworth, historian and founder of the Historical Society of Cheshire County. He probably owned the map at that time, but he donated his tracing, not the map itself, to the society where it was consulted in connection with this description.
Batchelder’s relationship with the town soured with the outbreak of the American Revolution. An outspoken loyalist, he repeatedly insulted and threatened his patriot neighbors. When he was called before the town committee, “witnesses testified that he had said that he would rather be tried by hell-hounds than the committee, that he drank health to the King and confusion to the states, and that he would rather be hanged than come under the rule of an independent state” -- Rumrill. He was eventually run out of town and forced to hide in a small cave for three months. His whereabouts were finally discovered and he fled the area on foot with the townspeople in hot pursuit. He joined the British army, where he fought with Burgoyne at the Battle of Bennington in 1777. Remarkably, an old Packersfield neighbor, Richard Farwell, is said to have recognized him from across the field, taken aim, and fired, hitting Batchelder in the shoulder. “This amazing story has been familiar to generations of residents of Nelson and Roxbury. The name of Breed Batchelder, Batchelder’s Cave and Batchelder’s Stairs are well known today more than 200 years later” -- Rumrill.
Rumrill, The Story of Six Nelson Families, Finding History at the Historical Society of Cheshire County, August 2006; also see [David Allen], Cheshire County, New Hampshire, 1753 – 1816: the early maps: with a narrative history of the town grants (1983).
Inventory No. 7415