Committee members from towns representing the original “Nutfield” settlement continue to meet and to plan for one of the biggest birthday parties Southern New Hampshire has ever seen.
“Nutfield,” encompassing parts of what is now Derry, Londonderry and Windham, was settled in 1719 by the Rev. James MacGregor and a group of Scotch-Presbyterians wanting to own land and worship freely. They settled in what is now East Derry, and worshiped in a congregation that evolved into the First Parish Church.
Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith is the chair of the combined committee. In a phone interview Friday, he said he’s pleased with what’s been accomplished so far “We are at the point where we have a general overview of what we want to do,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of having subcommittees work on each part.”
The work is mostly planning and organizational at this point, Smith added. “There’s not a lot of heavy lifting.”
The celebration will begin in April 2019 in Derry and conclude during the August Old Home Days in Londonderry.
In the March 20 meeting, the group discussed having a commemorative coin minted Smith said he had reached out to NH Pewter, a Somersworth company, and gotten quotes. The company can provide coins for $7.50 per coin, minimum of 200, or $5 per coin, over 200. The price includes set-up and processing, but not shipping.
Debra Paul, Nutfield publisher and representative of the Historical Society, brought in samples of brochures and booklets. The committee decided on a style and asked Paul to prepare quotes for 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 pieces. The booklets will include an introduction, a map, a history of Nutfield and a calendar of events. The booklet is estimated to be 20 pages, with each town having five pages and responsible for its own calendar.
Paul has also taken responsibility for the cover art and reported that she has been in contact with the Londonderry Arts Council, and at least two members are interested in doing the cover. The group discussed subcommittees and determined that each town should have four, in the areas of Sponsorship, Event Planning, Calendar and Program, and Media. The Media subcommittee will have one person from each town serving as an administrator for the internet.
In addition, the steering committee formed an Historic Landmark Tour subcommittee, with Londonderry resident Ann Chiampa at the helm.
In a phone interview Thursday, Chiampa said she is putting together a tour of historic properties in Londonderry, and is open to helping the other towns with theirs. She isn’t sure yet if the tour will be by bus or self-guided, she said. Chiampa really likes the idea of a “then and now” format, showing what was on the property 100, 200 or 300 years ago, contrasted with what’s there now. Some of the properties are well-known, such as the Mack family homestead and the Pillsbury house. Others don’t have as high a profile, but were the setting for everyday people living everyday lives, she said. She’s open to commercial as well as residential businesses, and those that overlap, such as the Greenwood family store that was on the site of the current Crossroads Mall. “The family had a store in part of their house,” Chiampa said. Other small neighborhood stores included Ralston’s, at the corner of Mammoth Road and 102, and one at the site of today’s Mobil service station at the junction of Route 28 and Route 128. The Historical Society has a couple of wooden vegetable signs from that store, she said.
There was also a horseback riding camp, where Papa Gino’s is on Route 102, and a swimming hole where an older cousin was a lifeguard, she said.
Chiampa, who grew up in Manchester, remembers driving to Londonderry with her mother in the 1950s to buy eggs at Merrill’s Farm. “We would go into the house, and the grandmother would be in the kitchen in her rocking chair and would sell us eggs,” she said. Later, when Chiampa attended Memorial High School, she became friends with kids from North Londonderry, who attended the city school because LHS wasn’t built yet.
The current Harvey Road was called Skim Milk Road in the early part of the 20th century, and the parents of a high school friend used to live there, Chiampa said. When Grenier Field came in they had to vacate their home, and they moved to a house on Mammoth Road, she said.
Chiampa wants to “tell a story” with her tour, she said. She’s also thinking about a “Then and Now” calendar, and though the history of the town predates cameras, she’s sure she can locate some pen-and-ink drawings of the earliest Londonderry.
“It is good to know the three towns are working together, that there is cohesion among the towns,” Chiampa said.
One of Derry’s most ambitious projects is the restoration of First Parish Meetinghouse, which has stood in East Derry since 1769. It was the second home of MacGregor’s congregation and has served as a library, town offices, and venue for Town Meeting as well as hosting congregations.
Paul Lindemann, a spokesman for First Parish Church and a member of the 300th Anniversary Committee, said that the church building is being restored in an ambitious project that includes two Land and Community Heritage Preservation (LCHIP) grants, a hefty investment by the congregation, and a newly-formed 501 (c) 3 group.
The church members raised the first $1 million for the renovation internally, according to Lindemann. For the remainder of the estimated $2.5 million they are asking for community support. The 501 (c) 3 group is independent of the church, he said, noting that some private investors and some corporations weren’t comfortable donating to a church project, even though the project is of wider historical interest.
“None of the money goes to the operation of the church,” Lindemann stressed. The tower, or steeple, was removed a couple of years ago and is being repaired in Nottingham. LCHIP provided $125,000 for the tower in 2015. An LCHIP grant provided $59,000 for the roof restoration, he said.
Lindemann said the group hopes to finish interior work in 2018 and 2019, so the Meetinghouse will be ready for the Tricentennial celebration.
“We have huge hopes,” Lindemann said.
To learn more or to donate, visit www.nutfieldhistory.org or call the church at 434-0628. The 300th Committee’s next meeting is Monday, June 5, at 5:30 p.m. in the Londonderry Town Offices.