Sullivan County, New Hampshire
Charlestown


 
 History of Charlestown, N. H.
 

Plantation No. 4, which eventually became Charlestown, was originally chartered by Massachusetts in 1735.  No. 4 was the farthest north, and the most exposed, in a chain of four settlements which were created primarily to protect the western Massachusetts towns that were often the target of Indian attacks.  When the French and Indian Wars took place, the settlers in this vulnerable outpost pulled several houses together, built a palisade to protect them, and created the Fort at No. 4--a fortified village, not a military fort.  Life at the fort was dangerous and hard until King Philip’s War finally ended. 

Since the area settled was actually in New Hampshire, the town was chartered by New Hampshire in 1753, and named Charlestown.  At one time, so many noted lawyers and judges resided in the town that it was known as the most important law center north of Boston.  The rude frontier outpost became a cultured village of gracious homes.  During the 1800s, the town was a destination for summer visitors who stayed in the many large hotels.

Today, Charlestown is located in what is called the “Quiet Corner” of New Hampshire, surrounded by hills, beside the Connecticut River. It is still a small town with about 5,000 people. It is a fine place to live or visit, and the town has preserved many of its wonderful historic features. Proud of its history, the town has retained many records of its earlier days, and has many resources for those seeking information about their forebears.

Three histories have been written about the town. Anyone with ties to Charlestown should have all three volumes of its history.  A real feel for the past and the times the early settlers lived in, as they built the town and the country, are recorded, as well as many personal sidelights about various people in the village. It is fascinating reading.

See the  "To order Charlestown Histories Section."
 

 

Charlestown National Register District of Historic Places -- Main Street


Mary Cushing home -  The Judge's Daughter


Charlestown’s Main Street is the longest National Register District in New Hampshire.  Wonderful old homes and buildings, dating to the 1700s and early 1800s line the street.  More detail about these houses will be found in The Second History of Charlestown. The district was placed on the register in 1987  online at The National Register of Historic Places and Connecticut River Joint Commissions  

Two “Walkabout” booklets are available to anyone wanting a guide to the Main Street houses. Both the original “Walkabout” booklet (primarily concerned with buildings’ exteriors), and the “Walkabout--Second Time Around” (primarily concerned with buildings’ interiors) are available from the Charlestown Historical Society.  Refer to the historical society's section on this web page.

 

 North Charlestown National Register District of Historic Places -- North Charlestown

 

Additionally, there is a North Charlestown National Register District of Historic Places. North Charlestown Village on River Road (Route 12-A) in North Charlestown was placed on the National Register in 2005.  This small farming village is notable for its early buildings (late 1700s, early 1800s), and for surviving the centuries with very little change. Further information is available online. Information can also be obtained at the Town Offices, Silsby Free Public Library, and the Charlestown Historical Society. Frizzell’s Second History of Charlestown and Higgins' Third History of Charlestown also have information about this area. More information available here

 

 

Saunderson’s History of Charlestown
 

Rev. Henry H. Saunderson wrote and published this history of early Charlestown in 1876.  This volume is an invaluable resource, beginning in the days of the first settlers, and the French and Indian Wars, and continuing through the 1800s.  It has a well-researched genealogical section. The history has been reprinted in hard cover, and is available from the town.   

 

Frizzell’s Second History of Charlestown
 

Martha Frizzell, and others, wrote and published this second history in 1955.  This book briefly covers the early period detailed by Saunderson, then continues on from 1876 to 1955.  It covers the growth of the town,  property ownership from early days, organizations, businesses, and has a genealogical section that emphasizes the inhabitants during the 1876-1955 time period.  This history has been reprinted in hard cover, and is available from the town. 

 

Index to Frizzell's Second History of Charlestown

A complete Index to individuals' names was compiled by Robin Van Mechelen in 2006, and opens the door to the rich source of genealogical information in the Second History. Each mention of a proper name and the corresponding page number is listed. The index is available from the Charlestown Historical Society for $25.00 which includes shipping and handling. Checks should be made payable to the Charlestown Historical Society and mailed to:
P. O. Box 159
Charlestown, NH 03603 

 

Higgins' Third History of Charlestown

This is the most recent town history, published in 2013. It was written by Joyce Higgins and others who were knowledgeable on topics covered in the book. The hardcover book updates the Second History, beginning in 1955 and continuing through 2013, while containing new material on the early days in Charlestown. Resources for researching local people, places, and history, as well as genealogies are included, together with photos and humorous anecdotes. Signed copies are available.

 

To Order Charlestown Town Histories

Mail a check or money order, made payable to the Town of Charlestown to the
Town Offices
P. O. Box 385
Charlestown, NH 03603

for the cost of the book plus a $5.00 shipping fee per book

Saunderson's History of Charlestown - 1876  $30.00
Frizzell's Second History of Charlestown - 1955  $25.00
Higgins' Third History of Charlestown - 2013  $40.00

A special price of $60.00 is offered to those buying both a Second History and a Third History at the same time; a savings of $5.00 Shipping is $5.00 per volume, but can be combined for a lower cost if more than one history is ordered.

 

 


 

Charlestown Selectboard Offices (Town Offices)
P.O. Box 385 
216 Main Street  
Charlestown, NH 03603   
603-826-5821
email: jessica@charlestown-nh.gov 


Charlestown Town Clerk
P. O. Box 385
26 Railroad St.      
Charlestown, NH 03603   
603-826-5821  
deb@charlestown-nh.gov

The Town Clerk has the vital records and town reports from the 1700s to current.
Early records are SOMEWHAT fragmentary.

Access The Charlestown town website at http://www.charlestown-nh.gov/public_documents/Charlestownnh_Webdocs/hist_sites

Silsby Free Public Library
Hours vary seasonally.      
 

226 Main St. 
P. O. Box 385 
Charlestown, NH 03603  
Phone: 603-826-7793
silsby@charlestown-nh.gov
www.charlestown-nh.gov/Public_Documents/CharlestownNH_Library/index
Head Librarian: Sandra Perron

 

 

Charlestown Heritage and Historic District Commission
P.O. Box 385  Charlestown, NH 03603

The members of this town commission are appointed by the Selectboard. In 2014, the town voted that the Heritage Commission should take over the duties of a Historic District Commission. To its previous duties of promoting the preservation of the historic buildings and objects in the town, especially the two National Register Districts, educating townspeople on the importance of preservation, and promoting pride in historic houses, has been added the responsibility of creating and regulating a state-designated town historic district.

The commission is currently working on updating our National Register District buildings' descriptions and working with the Planning Board to develop a historic district ordinance. Other projects have included an annual essay contest for middle-schoolers, benches, National Register plaques, and working with a Boy Scout to earn his Eagle badge by recording the names and burial locations in the oldest section of Forest Hill Cemetery. All meetings are open to the public.  For a brochure, contact the Heritage Commission.  

 

Charlestown Historical Society
Joyce Higgins, President 
P. O. Box 159
Charlestown, NH 03603 
603-826-9726  Email: Joycehnh@cs.com
Marge Reed, Archivist  603-826-4478


The Charlestown Historical Society maintains an Archives Room at the Town Hall at 11 Summer Street, off Main Street. All the town cemetery records are available and the archives are sorted into many categories, with much other unclassified material available for research.  It is a treasure trove of historic photos, old newspapers, etc.  Researchers are welcome every Tuesday morning from 9:00 a.m. to noon or other times by appointment.  If coming from a distance, please contact the Archivist, Marge Reed, 603-826-4478, to confirm that the room will be open. 

Written, emailed, or phoned inquiries to the society will be researched through the sorted materials and the town histories, as time permits, for a small donation. The society holds monthly meetings with programs of historical interest, and has occasional special event programs. All programs are free and guests are always welcome.  For a brochure of programs, contact the historical society. The society does not have a web site.

Membership dues, annually, are $5.00 per individual or $12.00 per family. Other membership categories are:  $25 Contributing Member, $100 Sustaining Member, and $300 Lifetime Member.      

The historical society's meetings and events are listed on the town's website, www.charlestown-nh.gov under Historical Information.


 



Books and Other Items Available from C.H.S.
 

 

The Judge's Daughter $20.00 $4.00 shipping
   
This softbound, 314-page book contains the transcription of the diary Mary Cushing of Charlestown began in 1861, when she was nine years old, and kept until 1866. This remarkable diary details a New England childhood and the home front during the Civil War. It also contains genealogical information about Mary's family and all of the people in her diary. Fully annotated and footnoted, the book follows Mary's life and her family until 1923. Signed copies are available.

 

 

Index to the Second History of Charlestown $25.00 (includes shipping)
Walkabout Booklets $2.50 each; Houses on Main Street; Original (house exteriors) or Second Time Around (house interiors)
Old Town Reports, specify year $2.00 each These contain births, marriages, and deaths for the year.
Postcards, either District No. 8 District School, or Scenes of Charlestown $1.00 each
2015 Historic Charlestown Scenes Calendar $10.00

 

   Little Red Schoolhouse, District No. 8



Listed on the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places, this 1774 one room schoolhouse on Acworth Road is maintained by the Charlestown Historical Society. The school is available free to school groups who wish to spend a day studying as their grandparents did.  Docents tell children about schooldays of yore. 

Open houses at the schoolhouse are scheduled for May and October of each year.  The society is also always glad to open the school for tours by groups or individuals.  Contact the society for information.

 

 

     Charlestown Vital Records (births, marriages, deaths)

These records, from the 1700s to present, are located in the Town Clerk’s office.  Records are incomplete due to several factors, including a fire.  Town Reports usually contain vital records for each year, and Saunderson’s History lists early marriages and Publishments (engagements).  The genealogy sections of all town histories contain much information.  The Charlestown Historical Society maintains files of local newspaper clippings of births, marriages, obituaries, and miscellaneous information clipped from local sources.

 

 Charlestown Town Reports 


Annual Town and School Reports are available at the Town Clerk’s Office, Silsby Free Public Library, and the Charlestown Historical Society.  Reports from 1852 to 2013 are available (a few years are missing), and the historical society will do lookups.  Many of the reports contain vital records (births, marriages, deaths) for the previous year.  The earliest printed reports do not list vital records.  Town reports prior to 1852 are in hand-written volumes in the Town Clerk’s office. Old Town Reports may be purchased from the Charlestown Historical Society--see the C. H. S. section.

 

Town Archives


See information under the Charlestown Historical Society         

Silsby Free Public Library also has historical resources and photos of the town. Historic photos and other archival material are in the process of being stored electronically and will be available to the public via an online index at some time in the future.  Call 603-826-7793 for library hours and services available.  
The Elms Hotel circa 1868  

 

Deed Research


Prior to the mid 1820s, Charlestown was in Cheshire County.  Those deeds are located at the Registry of Deeds, 33 West St., Keene, NH. Deeds date back to the 1700s. The deeds are not currently online, but may be examined in person at the registry. 

Charlestown is now located in Sullivan County. Deeds from the mid-1820s are located in the Registry of Deeds, County Court House, 14 Main Street, Newport, NH 03773. They are also available online at www.nhdeeds.com

 

 

Charlestown Military Information
 

A Roll of Honor has been compiled by the Charlestown Historical Society, which includes all veterans, town militia, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution, Grand Army of the Republic, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, their auxiliaries, and other individuals who have served in patriotic roles. As far as is available, information includes the branch of service, dates served, place of burial, and where the information was found. Contact the historical society to search for individual listings among the over 2, 000 names. The society archives also contain newspaper clippings and photos of some military personnel.

 

   Charlestown Cemetery Records  

Records of the town’s five cemeteries (including St. Catherine’s Catholic Cemetery) are available at Silsby Free Public Library, the Town Offices, and at the Charlestown Historical Society, as well as the Cemetery Department. The historical society will do lookups.  Photos of headstones will be taken for a small donation to the society.

The photo shows "Voices From the Past", a cemetery walk event the Charlestown Historical Society held to bring former Charlestown residents to life.  The characters told of their lives in the past in Charlestown. Over 100 visitors came to meet their former "neighbors."  

 

Churches of Charlestown
 

Old Churches

Congregational Church
est. 1835 
71 Main Street
P.O. Box 1498
603-826-3335 or 603-826-5126

South Parish Unitarian Church
Est. 1754
242 Main Street
P.O. Box 886
603-826-5607

St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church
Est. 1880
291 Main Street
P.O. Box 332
603-826-3359

St. Luke's Episcopal Church
Est. 1857
176 Main Street
P.O. Box 326
603-826-5192

North Charlestown Methodist Church
Est. 1830
471 River Road
P.O. Box 735
North Charlestown
603-542-5783

New Churches

Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd
Est. 1993
20 Summer Street
P.O. Box 418
603-826-4110

Charlestown Bible Church
Est. 2004
37 Hammond Road
P.O. Box 461
603-826-5121

Life Fellowship Foursquare Church
Est. 1990
65 Wheeler-Rand Road
North Charlestown
603-826-3979

Victory in Jesus Family Church
Est. 1992
319 Claremont Road
North Charlestown
603-542-0266

Defunct Churches

Yellow Meeting House
Est. 1802
(used by many denominations)
Wheeler-Rand Road
North Charlestown
Demolished in the mid-1800s,
no known records exist)

Charlestown Methodist Church
(Millerism),  Est. 1836, defunct 1856
Main Street
No known records exist
 

 

Other Charlestown Historical Information Online


“All Roads Led to Charlestown” and “Fish and the Fisherman,” an article about early fish culturist Livingston Stone. were written in conjunction with the History Harvest and Flow of History programs at the Bellows Falls, Vt., Waypoint Center.

www.historyharvest.org/story.php?recid=13
www.flowofhistory.org/pdf/fohspring05.pdf

 

Walking Trails
Contact the Conservation Commission,
Town of Charlestown, same town contact information as previous items. 
Map is available.
 
603-826-4400

 

Charlestown's Fort at No. 4
P.O. Box 336
4 Springfield Road
Charlestown, NH 03743 603-826-5700

Fort No. 4 Association - click for online details
This living history museum is open during the summer season.  It recreates life as it was in the days of the French and Indian Wars with costumed enactors and special events. School groups are welcomed. Admission is charged.  See the fort’s web site for more specific information.
 

 



Charlestown Links

 

The Fort at No. 4  Springfield Road,  P.O. Box 336 Charlestown, NH 03603 603-826-5700
www.fortat4.com 

Charlestown Main Street Historic District -  (photos of old houses)
Charlestown Railroad Station
Claremont Chamber of Commerce
Railroad Stations in New Hampshire - (by county) & old time post cards
 

If you know a Charlestown link that would be appropriate to add to this page, please 
mail to: joycehnh@cs.com

 

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