The first map in this collection shows the Massachusetts grants in western New Hampshire. Though dated 1753, the map records the political status of Cheshire County and the surrounding area in about 1740, when the boundary dispute between the two colonies was settled. The towns shown here were granted by Massachusetts; most of their names and many of their boundaries would later be altered when New Hampshire assumed its authority. The map is a detail from the Plan of the British Dominion of New England, prepared by William Douglass, a Boston physician.
The scale of this reproduction is about six inches to the mile. The map shows the Massachusetts claim between the Merrimack and Connecticut Rivers. Massachusetts insisted that its northern boundary was a line extending westward from a point (Endicot’s Tree -upper right) near Lake Winnipesaukee.* What later became Cheshire County is the area to the left of the vertical tear in the map.
Along the Connecticut River the numbered towns correspond to the modern towns of Chesterfield, Westmoreland, Walpole, and Charlestown (now in Sullivan County). Along the Ashuelot River are the towns of Winchester, Swanzey (Lower Ashuelot) and Keene (Upper Ashuelot). Hinsdale was then partly in Winchester and partly in Northfield. Two of the several towns with Canada in their names were in Cheshire County. The odd-shaped Canada-tcr-Rowley included large parts of Jaffrey and Rindge, and Canada-tesylvester included most of what is now Richmond. The “Canada Townships” were given by Massachusetts to veterans of a military expedition to Canada.
Only four of the Cheshire County towns shown on this map had any inhabitants in 1740: Hinsdale (north part of Northfield), Winchester, Swanzey and Keene. The map clearly shows that these towns were on the New England frontier. Frontier life was dangerous, as indicated by the “Frontier double Line of Townships as a Barrier against the Indians” across the top of the map. These towns had been authorized in 1736 apparently with the hope that settlers would move there soon: none did. The “Barrier against the Indians” was more effective on Douglass’ map than it could possibly have been on the ground. Two of these grants included parts of the present Cheshire County towns of Alstead, Marlow, Stoddard, and Gilsum.
Forts provided more protection from the Indians than vacant towns. The presence of Fort Dummer on the Connecticut River, seen in the lower left, encouraged pioneer settlers to come to the Ashuelot valley in the 1730s. In the early 1740s, another fort was built 30 miles upriver at Township No. 4, providing increased security for the western frontier.