THE EARLY SETTLERS
The first settlers upon the territory now called Wilton, but originally Salem-Canada, were from Danvers, Massachusetts and Nottingham, New Hampshire now called Hudson. The dangers, labors and sufferings which they underwent were not unlike those to which all the pioneers of New England were subjected. Hard work, meager fare, solitary lives, exposure to untried climate, apprehensions from the savages, sickness and wounds without surgical and medical care, deprivation of social, intellectual and religious privileges these and kindred ills were their lot.
For three years after the settlement began the wife of Jacob Putnam was the only woman who resided permanently in the town. During one winter such was the depth of snow in the woods, and such the distance from neighbors, that for the space of six months she saw no one but the members of her family.
In 1739 Jacob and Ephraim Putnam, John Dale, and John Badger commenced a settlement on the southerly side of the territory thus laid out of Salem–Canada. Ephraim Putnam located what is now Lot No.14, in the fifth range, at the intersection of the roads near the north cemetery, and a daughter of his was the first child born in Wilton.
Jacob Putnam located on the southeast part of Lot No. 15, in the fifth range (the original boundary of the lots was a large pine tree on the north bank of the stream a short distance below the old sawmill). He built the house where Michael McCarthy now lives. It was two stories in front and one back, the front rafters being short, and the back ones long. Many of the old houses were built in that style of architecture. The house remained in that shape until it was remodeled, with some additions, by Mr. Joseph Wilson, a few years before he sold it and removed to western New York.
John Dale's first camp was near where the roads cross, east of the old house that he afterwards built, now owned by Mr. S. H. Dunbar, and that is said to be the first two-story frame house built in what afterwards was Wilton. It is lined between the outside and inside finish with bricks, for protection against the Indians. The farm remained in possession of John Dale, John Dale Jr., and John Dale 3rd, who died April 3, 1843, and was sold at auction by the administrator in November following to Abel Fisk Jr.
The history of another of the early settlers, John Badger, is a romantic one. We glean from Mr. Grant's History of Lyndeborough and Dr. Ephraim Peabody's Wilton Centennial the following interesting particulars:
John Badger was a native of England, and immigrated with two of his brothers, Joseph and Eliphalet, to America about 1728–9. His father was wealthy and had business for him to transact in Scotland. There he met Mary McFarland, with whom he fell in love, but his father, with the prejudice then prevailing against the Scots, forbade the connection. So the brothers were dispatched to America, and settled first in Nottingham, New Hampshire. But the precaution of the father was defeated. Mary followed her lover to America, and they were married in Maine. But after some removals they came to live in Salem–Canada, and located their dwelling about a third of a mile east of John Dale's house. The swell of land on which they lived has ever since borne the name of the Badger Hill. Badger moved into his cabin in April, 1739, but the hardships of the pioneer life were too much for him. The other settlers, near him went in the winter to a block-house situated on the hill northeasterly from the present glass works in Lyndeborough. But the Badgers with their three children, David, Robert and Mary—a younger one, Betsy, having died of injuries received in the burning of a house in Nottingham—remained in their cabin during the winter. Badger died of consumption in February, 1740.
Dr. E Peabody, thus tells, the pathetic story in his Wilton Centennial address:
Mr. Badger died in the night. The nearest neighbor was three miles distant and the ground was covered with snow. His wife composed him on the bed as for rest, left her children (of whom she had three, the oldest but eight years of age) with their breakfast, and with strict injunctions not to awake their father, as he was asleep, and, putting on her snow-shoe's proceeded to seek assistance. That, indeed, was a dreary morning, as she went forth through the solitary woods of winter. Death is in her home and her children wait her return. Uphold her trembling heart, then Father of the fatherless, and the widow's, God! Neighbors returned with her. A tree was hollowed out for a coffin, and so, in the solitude was he committed to the earth. Death at all times comes chilling the hearts of men with awe and fear. Even in populous cities, in the midst of the throng and busy voices of life, an awful sense of solitude rests on those who witness the departure of the dying; and days and years shall pass, and they who beheld the scene shall enter that chamber with silent steps and hushed voices and a shadow over their souls. What then must have been her loneliness— a solitary widow in the wilderness! She must watch by the bedside of her children alone; her tears shall be shed alone; she shall no more kneel by her husband's side to pray; his voice shall no more waken her at morning, and when the night approaches she shall unconsciously look forth to the forest, watching, for his return, who shall never return again.
A single example like this shows the hardships of the first settlers of our new region better than any general description, however extended or graphic.
But the terrible hardships and trials through which Mrs. Badger passed were too much for her nervous system, and she became insane. In this condition of irresponsibleness, after a few years, she committed suicide.
David and Robert Badger settled in Lyndeborough, a little north of the Badger Pond.
The descendents of the English John Badger and the Scottish Mary McFarland are widely scattered over New England and the Western States.
There is a conflict of authorities in regard to the place Mrs. Badger went after the death of her husband. Mr. Grant, in his history of Lyndeborough states that she removed with her children to Nottingham. But Mrs. Mary Pettengill of Wilton, granddaughter of Mary Badger, says she went to Hollis. We cannot decide which is correct.
There is also some variation in the account of the Badger children. Mr. Grant, a grandson of David Cram and Mary Badger, in his sketch of Lyndeborough in the County History says: "the names of the children of Badger were David, Robert, Mary and Betsy, the last named of whom was the youngest and died young in consequence of injuries received in the burning of a house in Nottingham." The mother and children after the death of the father moved back to Nottingham.
Mr. Grant also says he "has attempted to gather up a few fragments of history connected with 'the first settler' of his native town from a source which will soon be removed from the earth,” viz.; Sarah Badger, a granddaughter of the said John Badger, who now resides on the spot where David, the son of said John, lived and died. He believes the substance of it is truthful and correct.
But Mr. Sewall Putnam learned for Mrs. Herman Pettengill, a daughter of Gideon Cram, and granddaughter of David and Mary (Badger) Cram, who had consulted records in Lyndeborough, that Mr. Badger died in February, 1940, and Mrs. Badger soon went to Hollis. And that on August 27, 1740, a daughter was born to Mrs. Badger, who was named Mary, who was the grandmother of Mrs. Pettengill, and after whom she was named. Mary Badger married David Cram, and their son David was the father of our respected townsman, David Cram.
It is desirable to be perfectly accurate in all matters of history, whether it be that of a nation or town, but where authorities, like those above, are in conflict, the only course is to state both sides, and leave the reader to decide which side has the preponderance.
Source: The History of the Town of Wilton.
By: Abiel Abbot Livermore and Sewall Putnam
Transcribed by: Helen Coughlin
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