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Claremont History Museum, city to mark 250th anniversary in 2014

Some say start planning celebration now

September 10, 2009
CLAREMONT — In a little more than five years, Claremont will mark the 250th anniversary of the signing of its charter in October 1764.

While five years may seem like a long time, some in Claremont are already thinking about a citywide celebration.

"A couple of people, including Colin Sanborn and Sharon Wood, both with the Claremont Historical Society, have been talking about 2014 and the city anniversary and that we should start thinking about what we want to do," said Ray Gagnon, who joined several residents last week to talk about what the city might do to celebrate the 250th.

Gagnon said about dozen people with an interest in city history were there to toss around ideas on some of the activities that could take place and the organizations that would be involved. He hopes many more will want to be part of the planning and participation of anniversary events.

"We want this to be inclusive," he said.

Gagnon said his main interest is updating the city's historical record. The last book written on Claremont history by Otis Waite was published in the 1890s.

Gagon said the group wants to first form a 250th Claremont Commission/Committee and begin exploring the availability of grants for funding.

One idea to mark the anniversary was a community-wide yearlong celebration involving organizations and institutions.

"We talked about involving the schools, churches, the library and opera house (among others)" he said. "The alumni parade that year could have a theme based on the city's history."

Old mills days, focusing on the city's rich mill history along the Sugar River from the mid 1830s well into the 20th century, was another idea.

"I think there will be a lot of support and interest for this," Gagnon said. "There are all kinds of exciting ideas."

Claremont is not alone in marking its 250th birthday. Though a few years later than most, many towns along the Connecticut River were charted about the same time, thanks to the aggressive, some would say greedy, actions of the Royal Governor at the time Benning Wentworth, along with the end of fighting in what is referred to as the French and Indians wars with the British settlers.

In his book on the Connecticut River published in the early 1900s, Edwin Bacon wrote about Wentworth's land grant machine.

A surveyor from Dunstable, Mass., named Joseph Blanchard, began moving up the Connecticut River setting stones on stakes or marking trees every six miles as each town was to be six square miles, Bacon said. The surveys were done in 1760 and 1761, and once completed, Wentworth began issuing grants in "astonishing rapidity."

"The grant-mill ran on merrily without check, accumulating profits to the thrifty governor till the close of 1763," Bacon wrote.

Sixty grants were issued by late 1761 and 138, all the way up to Coos County, by 1763.

Wentworth took about 500 acres of each grant for himself. The best trees on each grant were reserved for the Royal Navy to make masts, and the land had to be developed or it would revert back to the hands of the governor. That last provision may be why Claremont's charter was a few years later than Newport's or Windsor's, 1761, to name just two.

Claremont Historical Society president Colin Sanborn said Claremont's first charter was issued in the 1750s and the town was called Buckingham. But no one settled the land, probably because it was too dangerous to venture up here with the war. Charlestown, more specifically the Fort at No. 4, built in 1740, was the northern most settlement along the Connecticut River.

Eventually that charter was revoked and a new one issued.

Gagon said the next meeting will be 6 p.m. , Monday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. in the Blackberry Patch Stained Glass Studio in the Moody Building and he hopes more people will attend.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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