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" Bringing the Presence of the Past into the Present "

 New Hampton’s First Library Was Not Named Gordon-Nash!
Many of us grew up benefitting from the foresight of our townsman, Judge Stephen G. Nash (1822-1894), who formed a private non-profit corporation that became the Gordon-Nash Library. Supported by large gifts from his estate, land was purchased, a beautiful building built, thousands of his books donated, and an endowment created to support future operations. The library opened in 1896 and today continues to serve “residents, students, and sojourners,” exactly as he envisioned.
Before Judge Nash was born, however, an industrious group of our town’s leading citizens banded together to form, “The New-Hampton Social Library.” With the blessings of the State of New Hampshire, on June 14, 1813 a charter was granted to William B. Kelley, Samuel Kelley 3rd, Thomas Simpson, Joseph R Kelley, Nicholas M Taylor, Ebenezer Sandborn, Joseph Robinson and Daniel Smith to form a library. Unlike the funding for most town libraries (taxes) or the Gordon-Nash (a private endowment), the New-Hampton Social Library was supported through subscriptions – fees paid by the users – and thus not really open to everyone.
While the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH now holds the early records of the New-Hampton Social Library, the Fire Vault in the Gordon-Nash Library has two titles from this early cultural landmark. Both titles are religious, and both, according to their bookplates (below), could be checked-out for ten weeks at a time. Although the content was ponderous, and the time and the evening light scarce in the early 1800s, one would hope that patrons were able to read a book from cover-to-cover in less than two-and-a-half months!

New-Hampton Social Library
Annual Meeting fourth Monday in September
To be returned in ten weeks.
At a later date the books were kept in the house of John and Abigail Nash, parents of Judge Nash, and one wonders if this early exposure might be where the Judge, to our great fortune, developed the traits of a “19th century bookworm!” With any luck, another volume, or two (or three) from our first library will surface in a bookshelf in someone’s home, or a trunk in the attic. Don’t worry, we won’t collect any overdue notices if you have gone beyond those original ten weeks!
For more information on the history of the town, please visit the New Hampton Historical Society website at
Kent Bicknell
Historian, NHHS
September 13, 2019


Other Connections to our Town's Rich History....

NHS Students Petition for Music in the School Program...195 Years Ago!
The Village Fountain - Thanks to the W.T.C.U. and New Hampton Garden Club
Celebrating Sarah Dow MacGregor: A Most Generous Friend of New Hampton
New Hampton Had a Train Wreck?

Main Street - U.S. Cavalry enroute from Fort Ethan Allen VT to Portland ME
1798 Receipt for a Town House pew
New Hampton Town House
86 Town House Road

New Hampton Town House
Also known as the Center Meeting House, Old Meeting House
New Hampton, NH was incorporated on November 27, 1777.  By 1797-1798 the townspeople were already considering the construction of a meeting house.   At the annual town meeting in March of 1798, the voters of New Hampton decided to erect a meeting house.  Two more town meetings in April and September were required to settle all of the details of the building project.  But, the building was ready for use by the next annual town meeting in March of 1799.  It is believed that the architect/builder was Samuel Kelley, one of the town’s first settlers.  The New Hampton Town House began as the meeting house for the Town of New Hampton, serving both for religious services and town meetings.   The Town House stands on the town common on a 5.5 acre town owned lot at the northeast corner of Town House Road and Dana Hill Road, considered to be the “Center”.   This location was referred to as the “Town Common”, the “Center” and is now known as the “Old Institution”.

Click here for more on its history.
Click here for some interior and exterior photos.

Stage Curtain Restoration, 2014
A hundred years ago, grand drapes and painted backdrops were the primary artistic feature of the cultural life of almost every village and town in Northern New England and were found in town and grange halls, theaters and opera houses.

Click here for further information including photos of the curtains and biographies of the artists who painted them.

Click here for the Survey & Treatment Proposal for the Ives curtain - the Grand Drape Advertising Curtain depicting the covered bridge that once spanned the Pemigewasset River in the vicinity of the present Route 104 bridge.

Click here for the Survey & Treatment Proposal for the Thompson curtain - New Hampton Town House.
Supported in part by a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts
and the National Endowment for the Arts.