Townsend Historical Society
To cultivate and encourage
interest in the history of Townsend.
To collect and preserve historical items, books, manuscripts, pamphlets, biographies, anecdotes of Townsend;
To promote research into Townsend history;
To prepare and present papers on such subjects.
The Society will mount appropriate marks, monuments, tablets and inscriptions at the site of historic events.
The Society will own property of historic value, maintain it, arrange for restoration and make it accessible to public viewing.
The Society will establish and maintain endowment funds for its future welfare.
History of the
The Townsend Historical Society was formed in 1897 by a group of people who recognized the importance of saving the tangible and intangible treasures of Townsend’s past. When the Hart Memorial Library was built, a room was reserved for the Society’s use as a meeting place and display space. The creation of the Children’s Room in that space forced the Society to move out. It was not until 1973 that a permanent home was acquired for the Society: The Reed Homestead located at Townsend Harbor.
A Brief History of Townsend
Townsend, Massachusetts was incorporated as a
Town on June 29, 1732 and was named after Viscount Charles
Townshend, a British cabinet minister. About 1780, residents and
town clerks began to spell Townsend by omitting the "H"
and giving it its present orthography.
Townsend was incorporated in 1732. The first Meeting House was
built about 1730 on top of Meeting House Hill. As the town grew,
the meetinghouse became too small, so a new and larger one was
erected just behind the first one. The people then wanted a
meetinghouse more centrally located, so the House was moved to
the center of Town and became the Methodist Church. The church
has been renovated recently and the old slave pews were
The first mill of the town was built in 1733 in "Townsend
Harbor." The pond at Townsend Harbor came into existence in
1734 when the dam was built for this mill. The Conant House,
Grist Mill and Cooperage are places to visit now, in the Harbor.
The Reed House belongs to the Historical Society and a
"must" to visit.
Up until 1744, the only schooling that most children received was
from their parents in their own home. During that year the town
voted to raise and appropriate 20 pounds for the support of three
schools. Later, the town progressed and small school houses were
built throughout the town. Some are still standing today. Still
later, they held school in the large white building opposite the
Common on the corner of School, Howard, and Highland Streets. In
1835 for about 25 years, there was a Female Seminary in the
"West Village", which eventually failed for financial
When the British marched on Concord on April 19, 1775, word was
received in Townshend that afternoon. A cannon was fired on the
common - calling out the alarm. Seventy-three men from town
marched to Concord to join the other towns in fighting the
British. These men were gone twenty-one days, at which time they
were called back to take care of the Tories reported in Townsend.
Several Tory properties were confiscated and sold at this time.
The Boston and Keene, NH stagecoaches began to run in 1806,
initially making three trips a week. Soon it became a popular
trip, and they made one trip daily. The stages would arrive about
noon in the "West Village" and the passengers dined at
the Joslinville Tavern (the big mansion at the corner of Main
Street and West Meadow Road - now 519 Main Street).
The largest business for many years was the coopering business.
This was run by the Fessenden family for three generations. It
was located between the railroad tracks and Route 119 (Main
Street) near the center (behind the Medical building). When the
business ceased operations in 1960, most of the building was torn
down. Later it burned completely.
Local History Reading and Resources:
- The book History of the
Town of Townsend, 1676-1878, by Isthmar Sawtelle is in the
Townsend Public Library, the office of the Town Clerk.
- Divinity and Dust, by Richard Smith, published in 1975
tells the story of Townsend's past, and is available from the Historical Society
Records of the Town of Townsend from 1732 to 1850, a record book of
Intentions of Marriage, Births, Cemetery Records, Warnings Out, Baptisms and
Records of the Poor was published in 1992.
- A Village Hooped in Steel, about the Fessenden family
in Townsend, written by Richard N. Smith, was printed in
1979 by Nashoba Publication and is available from the Historical Society
This page last updated: January 19, 2018