Rochester Division Petition – May 1802

By Muriel Bristol | May 29, 2022

The Mitchell-Cony directory of 1907-08 printed the names of the Rochester, NH, division petitioners of May 28, 1802, as well as the text of the June enabling act that followed the granting of their petition.

Rochester encompassed originally 116.6 square miles. Its South Parish had 45.4 square miles, its West or Northwest Parish had 36.9 square miles, and its North or Northeast Parish had 34.3 square miles. A Rochester town meeting of 1774 voted to divide the town along certain agreed lines. Then the Revolution sidetracked the actual divisions for a time.

Rochester had erected a new meeting house in 1780, for which all the parishes were taxed although it was situated such as to serve primarily the South Parish. The North or Northeast Parish petitioners would complain of having to travel 12 or 15 miles to conduct official business or attend church. Inhabitants of the West or Northwest Parish petitioned for their division in 1783, but their prayer was not answered at that time.

The proposed division lines were called into question in 1793 and outside parties were asked to reexamine or verify them. The West Parish petitioned again to be divided along those verified lines in December 1798 and was set off as Farmington, NH, in 1799.

At the time of this 1802 petition, Rochester consisted of a North or Northeast Parish (Milton that-would-be) and a South Parish (Rochester that-would-remain).

Petitions of this period employed generally a certain structure or style. They featured at their head a salutation. Then the petitioners would “humbly shew,” i.e., they “showed” or set forth, a set of facts that they have identified as being or leading to a problem. After those facts have been set forth, the petitioners “pray” or request that a proposed solution be adopted by the authority to whom they have addressed their petition. Finally, the petitioners affix their names.

(The U.S. Declaration of Independence followed this same general format. It does not address an honored authority – for obvious reasons – but is addressed instead to the opinion of “mankind.” It set forth a set of facts – “a long train of abuses” – that constitute a problem. But in place of praying that a particular solution be adopted by an honored authority – prior petitions to that authority having been answered only with further injuries – it instead “declared” its own solution, followed by the well-known signatures (set forth in columns)).

Here is transcribed the full text of the North Parish’s division petition itself (and the same petitioners’ names as transcribed by Mitchell-Cony, although this time in column order).

To the Honorable Senate and house of Representatives of the State of New Hampshire to be convened at Concord in the 1st Wednesday in June next ~

Humbly sheweth

Your Petitioners, Inhabitants of that part of Rochester calld the North Parish, that as early as the year 1774, the Town of Rochester at a Legal Meeting voted that it was expedient to Divide the Town into three Separate Towns or Parishes, and then voted where the Division lines should be, Since that time have erected and compleated a meeting house solely for the accommodation and Convenience of the South Parish ~ that in the Year 1793 some parts of the Town Complained that the Division lines were not equal and right. A meeting was calld, and the town voted to refer the Subject to a respectable Disinterested Committee who reported in favour in favour of the former lines agreed upon and established by the Town ~ that in the Year 1798 application was made by the Inhabitants of the West Parish, to the Honorable Legislature of the State, for an act of incorporation, agreeably to the abovesaid lines, which was Granted, by reason of said Act the town divided into two parts, that only [Converge?] one upon the other about 150 rods ~ that many of your Petitioners have to travel twelve and some fifteen miles to attend meetings for the public worship of god and to transact Town business ~ And many other inconveniencies are experienced by your Petitioners by reason of their being in an unincorporated State ~

Difficult Word - 1802
The difficult word in brackets in the paragraph above as written. Is it Converge, Commence, or something else?

We therefore pray your Honours to incorporate all that part of Rochester that lies between Farmington and the Easterly line of the State into a Separate and Acting Town with Town priviledges, so as to enable the Inhabitants to assess, Collect and appropriate money for Civil and Religious purposes ~ this we apprehend will have a happy tendency to promote good order, unite and harmonize the whole and make us better men and more useful Citizens ~ And will we hope add a respectable town to the State of New Hampshire.

As we in duty bound shall ever pray ~

Rochester May 28th 1802.

[Page One, Column One:] James McGeoch, John Hanson, Richard Miller,

[Page One, Column Two:] Joseph Plumer, Moses Chamberlin,

[Page One, Column Three:] Benjamin Scates, James C. Hayes, Elijah Horn, Thomas Nutter,

[Page Two, Column One:] Shadrach Hard, Nathaniel Gilman, Benja Haggins, Francis Drew, Paul Jewett, John Witham, Humphrey Goodwin, John Remick, Junr., Saml Chapman, Isaac Brackett, Abraham Dearborn, Joseph Dearborn, Nathaniel Dearborn, William Berry, James Berry, Jr., James Berry, Jeremiah Goodwin, Hanry Rollins, Henery Rollings, Wm Corson, Nathl Jewett, Nat Pinkham, William W. Lord, Benjamin Jones, Samuel Twombly, Jotham Ham, Joseph Cook, Samuel {his X mark} Wentworth, Jr., Shubel Roberts, Stephen Jennes.

[Page Two, Column Two:] Francis Berry, Joseph Berry, James Merrow, Obadiah Witham, Gershom Wentworth, Ruben Jones, John Jones, Josiah Witham, Amos Witham, Samuel J. Wentworth, David Wentworth, Timothy Roberts, John Wentworth, Jerediah Ricker, Limuel Ricker, William Hatch, John Downs, Stephen Wentworth, Jr., Samuel Twombly, Jr., Dudley Burnham, John Twombly, Ernest Corson, Otis Pinkham, Francis Nute, Samuel Nute, Jr., William Tuttle, Robert Mathes, Clement Hayes, Wm Palmer, John Palmer,

[Page Three, Column One:] Dudley Palmer, Ephraim Drew, John Scates, Ephraim Twombly, John Remick, David Corson, Fredrick Cate, John Fifield, Robert Heart, [E] William Jones, Joshua Corson, Richard Horn, Jonathan Dore, Gilman Jewett, Lias Ricker, Ebenezer Ricker, Daniel Dore, Josiah Willey, Robert McGeoch, Nicholas Hartford,

[Page Three, Column Two:] Samuel Nute, John Ricker, Wentworth Cook, Gershom Downs, Samuel Palmer, Peltiah Hanscom, Levi Jones, Richard Walker, John Twombly, Ichabod Hayes, Caleb Wingate, Daniel Hayes, Jr, Jotham Nute, Ezekiel Hays, Joseph Walker.

At the foot of the petition’s third page are notes of its progress through the NH House of Representatives, as indicated by then House Speaker John Prentice (1747-1808) of Londonderry, NH, and the Governor’s Deputy Secretary Nathan Parker.

State of New Hampshire } In the House of Representatives, June 8th 1802

Upon Reading and Considering the foregoing petition and the report of a committee thereon Voted that the prayer thereof be granted and that the petitioners have leave to bring in a bill accordingly.

Sent up for Concurrence. John Prentice, Speaker

In Senate the Same Day Read and Concurred. N. Parker, DySy

See also Northeast Parish in the First (1790) Federal Census and Northeast Parish in the Second (1800) Federal Census.


Mitchell-Cony. (1908). Town Register Farmington, Milton, Wakefield, Middleton, Brookfield, 1907-8. Retrieved from

NH Department of State. (n.d.). New Hampshire, Government Petitions, 1700-1826: Box 36: 1797-1800. Concord, NH

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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