A Brief History of Washington, NH
Washington, New Hampshire is unique in that it is the first town incorporated under the name of George Washington. This occurred on December 13, 1776, while General Washington was serving as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, and over 12 years prior to his inauguration as our first President on April 30, 1789. (To read more, see the full article in our 2001 Spring Newsletter.)
The area was originally part of a larger land charter granted by the Province of Massachusetts on January 15, 1736, and called “Monadnock Number 8.” It was one of a succession of towns that ran from Merrimack to the Connecticut River meant to form a protective line of defense that also included Hopkinton Number 5, Henniker Number 6, and Hillsborough Number 7.
Interested in seeing more archival photos of the area? Contact Us to inquire about seeing our historic Postcards, other photography, and archive materials.
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The Early Years
New Concord / Camden
In 1746, this land was purchased by the “Masonian Proprietors” who, on December 6, 1751 granted a portion of it to Capt. Peter Prescott of Concord, Massachusetts, who called it New Concord. Stephen Hosmer’s survey of 1753 found New Concord to be six and a half miles wide by eight miles long, and containing 33,280 acres. Still roughly the size of Washington today.
The New Concord grant transferred to Colonel Reuben Kidder, Esq. of New Ipswitch in 1768, who renamed it Camden, after Royal Governor John Wentworth's friend, the Earl of Camden, Chief Justice of England. The first settlers arrived in May, 1768 and camped at the outlet of Millen's Pond. Each was granted 100 acres of land with the privilege of choosing land from any part of the township.
The first census, taken in 1773, showed that Camden had 14 log houses, 7 framed houses, 6 barns, 44 "cattel," 12 sheep, and 263 acres of cleared land owned by 28 families. Total population was 132.
Late 1700's – 1830
Washington Finds its Name
On September 22, 1776, with the War for Independence under way, the inhabitants of Camden sent the petition to the New Hampshire General Assembly requesting the name change of their town from Camden to Washington mentioned above. This petition was granted on December 13, 1776.
Washington was included in Cheshire County until July 5, 1827, and then became part of the newly incorporated Sullivan County, where it remains today.
1830's – 1930's
A Thriving Community
In 1830 the town population reached a peak of 1,135. Many mills were built along the streams and soon Washington was manufacturing lumber, barrel staves, shingles, chair parts, bobbins, whip sockets, hosiery, bricks and washboards. Farmers grew crops, and water-powered grist mills ground flour.
By 1886 fifty-three tons of maple sugar was being produced annually, and wool and mutton had become important to the economy of the town.
During the “railroad era” commencing in the second half of the 19th century, Washington became known for its mountain air, healthy water and its many hotels and tourist homes.
With the discovery of rich prairielands in the western U.S., Washington’s farmers found it more difficult to compete. This caused many to abandon their rocky hill farms and join the migration westward.
Today Washington, NH is home to many people seeking a rural
New Hampshire lifestyle, or vacationing on its 26 surrounding lakes and ponds. Click on an image to see more details.
Washington, NH — An Inviting Place to Live
Population continued to decline, and by the Great Depression of the 1930’s it reached a low below 200. Happily, people are returning and population has been climbing, reaching 1,123 with the 2010 census.
Today, Washington's over 26 sparkling lakes and ponds, clear mountain air and beautiful scenery has largely made us a retirement and summer vacation community and inviting tourist area. As all those who visit or live here know, it is one of New Hampshire's best kept secrets!
Read More About Washington, NH
To learn more about the fascinating history of our town and its people, check out the following collection of materials available through our Gift Shop: The History of Washington New Hampshire 1768 – 1886, Portrait of a Hill Town: A History of Washington, New Hampshire 1886 – 1976, and ..A Sacred Deposit. All three books are available at the Museum Store or online as individual books or a set of three.