By Muriel Bristol | April 24, 1820
A “number of respectable citizens” of Wakefield, NH, sought to split off the southerly part of Wakefield and the northerly part of Milton, and then join them together as a new town.
… in 1820 an effort was made by the people living in this [Wakefield] town below Lovell’s pond with others living in the Northerly part of Milton, to have that part of Wakefield south of Lovell’s pond and the northerly portion of Milton incorporated into a new town, Luther Dearborn of this [Wakefield] town and John Remick, Jr., of Milton headed petitions to the legislature for the new town which was to be called Lisbon. The Rev. Mr. Piper favored the project and suggested the name Milfield for the new town (Thompson, 1886).
The pro-division petitions have not come to hand. But a few of Wakefield’s pro-division advocates can be found in other documents. Luther Dearborn has been mentioned as having been a principal actor.
J. Hall appeared in the title of the following renunciation as having been a pro-division signer, and four other formerly pro-division inhabitants would appear as signers of a November renunciation. (Their names appeared also in the June remonstrance petition).
A Certificate of Persons who signed a Petition of J. Hall and others wishing not to be considered as members
We the undersigned Inhabitants of the Town of Wakefield having signed a petition for the separation of the Towns of Wakefield & Milton to form a new Town without duly Considering the subject and after a more mature Consideration of the subject have signed a remonstrance against said separation and therefore wish the Legislature of the State to consider us as Strenuously opposed to said separation.
John Paul, Joseph Edgerly, Nathl Abbott, Jona Copp
Another twenty-seven Wakefield pro-division petitioners would sign a renunciation in November 1820. (See Wakefield Pro-Division Renunciation – November 1820).
The impetus behind the Wakefield and Milton pro-division petitions had been a desire to thereby split Milton’s militia company, which included southern Wakefield, into two parts for the benefit of those having to travel the greatest distances to militia musters and trainings. (The Wakefield anti-division remonstrance would open by describing the original pro-division signers as respectable citizens, but it would close by characterizing them as selfish and partisan disturbers of the peace).
Ten years earlier, the Third (1810) Federal Census had enumerated a rather generous number of Wakefield householders endowed with military, civil, or religious titles. They included Capt Benjan Cook, Jonan Copp, Esqr, David Copp, Esqr, William Copp, Esqr, Capt Jonathan Copp, Capt Jona Copp, Willm Sawyer, Esqr, Capt Joseph Manson, Capt Richard Dow, Elisha Sanborn, Esqr, Lt James Hutchens, Capt David Spring, Avery Hall, Esqr, Colo John Gillman, Colo John Palmer, Capt Andrew Gillman, Majr Joshua Hall, Dr Thomas Lindsay, Revd Asa Piper, and Luther Dearborn, Esqr. (Rev. Asa Piper and justice-of-the-peace Luther Dearborn, both advocates in 1820 of forming a new town, were in 1810 next-door neighbors).
Although Wakefield did have its own separate northerly militia company in 1810, it might still seem to have been a bit top-heavy in having two colonels, one major, one lieutenant, and seven captains all at the same time. It seems more likely that some at least of these military titles were courtesy ones, a residue of having held that rank at some time in the past. That is to say, some of them at least were likely former militia officers or even former Revolutionary War officers, rather than active ones.
Some rough calculations may give some idea of the relative sizes of Wakefield’s pro- and anti-division contingents. (The 1820 census was then in process only, and ultimately not preserved, except as aggregate totals. The 1810 census figures are used here as being those cited in the anti-division remonstrance). Wakefield had 1,166 inhabitants in 1810, of which 605 were male. Roughly 375 of these were below voting (and petitioning) age. That left roughly 230 potential petitioners. (N.B., 61 of those potential petitioners were above militia age). So, the 197 anti-division remonstrance petitioners represented roughly 85.7% of Wakefield’s 1810 electorate. (Leaving as many as 14.3% in the pro-division category).
(There was a companion remonstrance from the Milton voters that also opposed the division (representing roughly 65.3% of its 1810 electorate)).
As previously mentioned, Wakefield’s entries for the Fourth (1820) Federal Census are missing (as are those of Milton). The following anti-division remonstrance – signed by those 197 men opposing the proposed town division – supplies the names of at least a large portion of Wakefield’s householders (and those living with them). (There was a companion remonstrance from those Milton voters that opposed the division).
Such petitions employed a certain structure and style. Their overall tone is respectful. The authorities to whom they are directed are characterized as “honorable” and they are frequently asked – “we pray” – to consider some measure by virtue of “their wisdom.”
They begin with a salutation. The petitioners might identify themselves and their situation. There is usually then a recitation of facts, each one prefaced with “That.” Finally, the petitioners would “pray” that some proposed solution be adopted. (This term of phrase, although frequently employed in this type of writing, sounds somewhat archaic nowadays. The only higher authority to whom modern speakers might address a “prayer” is the ultimate one: God).
(Wakefield’s NH state representative for the 1820-21 biennium was William Sawyer (1774-1860)).
A Remonstrance of the Inhabitants of Wakefield praying that the southerly part of Wakefield and the northerly part of Milton May not be Incorporated into a separate Town.
To the Honorable Legislature of the State of New Hampshire convened at Concord June Session A.D. 1820.
Your memorialists, Inhabitants of Wakefield in the County of Strafford in said state; having lately learnt, that a number of respectable Citizens living at the Southerly part of Wakefield were about to present a Petition to the Honorable Legislature praying that the Southerly part of Wakefield and the Northerly part of Milton may be incorporated into a separate Town. Never having seen said Petition, nor heard of it untill since the last annual Town Meeting, we are wholly ignorant of the reasons they offer for the groundwork of their prayer. But we feel it a duty that we owe to ourselves and to Posterity to remonstrate against the prayer of said petition being granted. We do not deny, but cheerfully admit, that there may be cases, in which it is necessary, that the Legislature should incorporate new Towns, taken off from one or more old Towns. But we think and hope to be able to convince the Legislature, that this is not one of those cases.
The Town of Wakefield is small in Territory and its Inhabitants few in numbers compared with many other Towns in the State. It does not exceed six miles square, when brought into such form, and a large proportion of said surface is covered with Ponds, Heaths, and Stagnant waters, more than two thousand acres of the Northerly part of the Town is composed of poor gravelly Pitch pine plains of the worst quality on which neither Man nor Beast can make a living. The Town, according to the last enumeration, contains only Eleven hundred and sixty-six Inhabitants scarcely able to maintain their corporation. Increase of taxes is the natural consequence of the division of Towns. Public buildings are now erected fit and convenient for the Town, one of which called the old meeting-house is situated at the northerly extremity of the new contemplated Town and more than one mile South of the center of Population of the whole Town of Wakefield, in which the Town have always held their Town Meetings untill the last annual Meeting. The other, called the new Meetinghouse, is situated at the center of Population of the Town, in a handsome flourishing Village, to which all the roads in Town lead and center. If the Legislature should grant the prayer of the Petitioners, Wakefield will be deprived of nearly one-half of its cultivated soil, comprehending the ancient and best Settlements in the Town. It will subject the Inhabitants of the old Town, as well as the new, to many disadvantages and inconveniences, and to an expense more than they are able to bear. New Public Buildings must be erected or the old ones removed, new roads leading to new centers must be laid out, made and kept in repair. School Districts will be split & divided, school houses thrown off from their centers, farms divided partly into the new and partly into the old Towns.
There are other considerations which we beg leave to suggest. Property of almost every description has a local value; and in perhaps no instance more so than in those little Villages in the center of Country Towns. In the Village in the center of Wakefield, Traders, Mechanics, and others have purchased house lots and garden spots, some at the rate of more than a thousand dollars per acre, and erected Houses, Stores, and work shops thereon with the reasonable and well grounded expectation that the center of Town, public business and Buildings would there continue. But if the Town should be divided, this village will be situated at the Southern extremity of the Town and thereby its value and local situation destroyed. But what advantages and privileges do the Petitioners derive by a division; or in other words, what inconveniences and hardships do they now suffer? We apprehend none. The Public Buildings in which the Town assemble, either for Religious worship or Town Meetings are both from one to two miles nearer the Southerly part than the Northerly Yet the inhabitants of this quarter are very well [all] located and make no complaints.
We are aware that Petitioners for the new Town will point out by Carrigain’s Map, or some other Survey, what a handsome, beautiful five-mile square Town may be made out of Wakefield and Milton, and then attempt to show and make it believed, that the remaining part of those two Towns will be equally as good as the whole and in a better form.
But we apprehend that the wisdom of the Legislature will not warrant the practice or establish the principle of cutting up and destroying old corporate Towns for the sake of making handsome new-formed Towns, and thereby destroy the harmony and happiness of its inhabitants.
During nearly fifty years the inhabitants of Wakefield have lived in peace and harmony and conducted their public affairs with an unanimity not surpassed if equaled by any Town in the State. We now appeal to the Wisdom of the Legislature, as the Guardians of our rights, liberties & privileges, to keep us together in our corporate capacity and not permit the party feelings and selfish motives of the few to disturb the peace, interest and happiness of the many.
Jonathan Copp, Henry L. Wiggin, Elias Wentworth } Select Men
William Sawyer, John M’Crillis, Spencer Wentworth, John Hill, John Roberts, James Young 2, James Dame, John S. Wentworth, Silvanus Wentworth, John Wentworth,
Saml Sevrans, Saml Sevrans, Shadrach Folsom, Robert Quimby, Nathl M. Meserve, Reuben [Currier?], Mason Dorr, Benjamin [Dorr?], Benjamin Bickford, James Shepard, John Brooks, Ephraim G. Smith, John Nocks, Nicholas Nocks, Zachariah Nocks, Daniel M.D. Smith, Joshua Nock, Joseph Burbank, Isaiah Varney, Abner Nutter, John Dore, James Thompson, John Thompson, Daniel Smith, Eliphalet Clough, Samuel [Ames?], Israel Wiggin, Joseph Corson, Simeon Philbrick, Jeremiah Wiggin, Walter Cate,
Moses Young, Mark Young, Mark Wentworth, Phineas Wentworth, Paul D. Young, John Campnell, Ephraim Wentworth, Thomas Cook, Daniel Young, Edmund Wentworth, Thomas Bickford, William Dame, Joseph Young, John Cook 2th [?], Stephen [Burbank?], James Young, Richard K. Young, Jesse Cook, James Cook, Peter Cook, John Blake, Thos Wiggin, Henry Wiggin, Benjamin Cook, John Blake, Jr, Joseph Bennet, Jonathan Quimby, Eliphalet Quimby, Amasa Quimby, Daniel Quimby, Jacob Clark, John Cook, Nathaniel Cook, Samuel C. Dame, Levi Dearborn, Simeon Dearborn, Thomas P. Clark,
John Dame, David Allen, John Clark, Jr., Ambrose Swasey, John Wingate, Dodavah Copp, Isaac B. Chesley, Stephen Fellows, Jeremiah Dearborn, David Dearborn, Jona Dearborn, Levi Neal, Asa Dow, Jonathan Brown, Jonathan Copp, Richard Dow, Josiah Dow, Joseph [M’Coon?], John Campernell, Jr., Nathan Dearborn, Stephen Horn, Nathan Dearborn, Samuel his X mark Dearborn, James Perkins, John Sanborn, Jr., Samuel Chamberlin, Richard Cook, Ebenr Hill, Jonathan Burley, James Hill, William Burley, Benja Brown, William Brown, Noah Horne, Daniel Horne,
Jacob Lock, John Lang, Richard Land, Caleb Weeks, John Weeks, Josiah Allen, Mark Allen, John Watson, Nathan Watson, Joshua Vickery, Samuel Vickery, John Clark, Phineas Weeks, Nathaniel Lock, Nicholas Tuttle, Joseph Pike, Joseph H. Pike, Moses Gage, Jonathan Gage, John Gage, Benjamin [—–], James [—–], Joseph Maleham, Nathan Mordough, Benjamin Dame, Josiah Warren, Peter K. Wiggin, Elisha Rollins, Jacob A. Chesley, Thomas Nudd, Jr, Daniel T. Carter, Alvah H. Sawyer, Ichabod Richards, Joseph Wiggin, Henry M. Lindsay, George Hill,
Joseph Hill, Tobias Hanson, John Fellow, Nelson Nutter, Thomas Nudd, Nathaniel Evans, Stephen D. Hutchins, William Clark Frost, James Martin, Isaiah Hodgdon, Joseph Hodgdon, Otis V. Geodey, Joseph W. Sanborn, Eliphalet Philbrook, Joshua Edgerly, James Edgerly, William Parsons, James Garvin, John Paul, Miles Davis, Wentworth Davis, Wm French, Moses French, John Hanson, Wentworth Garvin, John Sanborn, Daniel H. Sanborn, Samuel R. Hutchins, Ezra M. Hutchins, Charles Carter, Nathl Cook, Jr, Timothy Watson,
William Perkins, Joseph Palmer, Shadrach Allen, John Copp,
Noah Kimball, Noah Kimball, Saml Burbank, John Horne, Joseph Edgerly, George Lindsay, Nathl Abbot, Ebenr Garvin, Richard Russell, William Bennet, Daniel Hall, Elisha Sanborne, Joseph Hutchins, Nathan Weeks.
See also Milton Militia Dispute – 1820 and Milton Anti-Division Remonstrance – June 1820
Find a Grave. (2007, October 15). Jonathan Copp. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/22229979/jonathan-copp
Find a Grave. (2012, June 19). Luther Dearborn. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/92171689/luther-dearborn
Find a Grave. (2012, June 19). Rev. Asa Piper. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/92206616/asa-piper
Find a Grave. (2012, June 23). William Sawyer. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/92415030/william-sawyer
Find a Grave. (2012, June 24). Henry L. Wiggin. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/92466261/henry-l-wiggin
NH Department of State. (n.d.). New Hampshire, Government Petitions, 1700-1826: Box 47: 1819-1820