When a band of Scottish-Irish Presbyterian families trekked to New England from Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1718 to start a new life, they brought with them strong leadership in their ministers, including the Rev. James MacGregor.
They also brought hope as they ventured to their new land.
The original 16 families eventually came to an unoccupied and ungranted tract of land where chestnut, butternut and walnut trees flourished — “Nutfield.”
On April 12, 1719, MacGregor delivered his first sermon in the new land.
“The spot chosen for this first religious service was under a large oak, on the east side of Beaver Pond,” according to George Willey’s Book of Nutfield. “Mr. MacGregor’s text was from Isaiah 32:2, ‘And a man shall be as a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’”
Willey’s massive, comprehensive 1895 history of Nutfield including his own introduction where he stated that he hoped to offer a detailed look at the beginnings and the history that followed.
“Here is the material for real history,” Willey wrote. “Back of the so-called public events behind the acts of public bodies, lie the causes which spring from the character of the people and always in them centers our real interest. In the southwestern part of Rockingham County are many historic places. Many of her citizens have played as prominent a part in the life of State and Nation as those of any other section of New Hampshire. To pay fitting honor to the men and women of the past, and at the same time do adequate justice to those of the present is the object of this work.”
Historian Richard Holmes writes in his book “The Road To Derry” that in June, 1722, Nutfield received its charter, signed by Gov. Samuel Shute of Massachusetts and Lt. Gov. John Wentworth of New Hampshrie on behalf of King George I of Great Britain.
“The new town took the official name of Londonderry after the Northern Ireland county where the Aghadowey pioneers had emigrated in 1718,” Homes writes.
As part of the original charter, certain rules had to be followed including: a meetinghouse had to be built within two years; each year in October a peck of potatoes must be sent to the royal governor as a token rent; no one is permitted to cut down trees that were of sufficient size to be used as ships’ masts; a town fair would be held every May and October and a town meeting would be held every March.
Holmes writes that as each year passed, Londonderry grew larger and larger with more people coming there to live. By the mid-18th century if was the second largest town in New Hampshire with Portsmouth taking the top honor. The 114 square miles of Londonderry would not remain intact forever as soon, it would be broken off into pieces to become new communities including Windham, Derryfield in Manchester and eventually Derry and Londonderry.
As 2019 continues on, the spirit and traditions of those earliest of settlers to this area remain strong as communities honor the past, the present and look to the future.