Henniker Historical Society

Introduction to the history of Henniker

The Only Henniker On Earth is a residential town located along the beautiful, meandering Contoocook River. In the settlement of the land dispute between New Hampshire and Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1740, Henniker was allotted township number 6 in the lines of towns between the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers. In the Charter of 1768, Governor Wentworth named the town of Henniker in honor of his friend, John Henniker, Esq., a wealthy London merchant of leather and furs.

Tradition states a few settlers arrived in the early 1730's but none stayed due to some Penacook Indian harassment and the French and Indian War. A marker on the north side of Rte 9/202 indicates where the first permanent settler arrived and settled in 1761. On Shaker Hill Road, just off River Road, another historical marker shows where the first framed house was built and the first child was born, both in 1763.

A town meeting was held on November 25, 1768, and Rev. Jacob Rice was hired as the first "gospel minister." In 1770, $20 was voted to build a log meeting house. It was burned ten years later, and a marker indicates the site on Flanders Road. The present Town Hall, completed in 1787, served as the second church and the town's meeting place. A marker on River Road shows the site of the first school house in town, but of an indeterminate date.

The Contoocook River, always a focal point, was first spanned in 1782 by a wooden bridge. The present double-arched Edna Dean Proctor stone bridge was built in 1835. The river's scenic beauty attracted a profitable tourist business in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Water power supported mills and manufacturing until all of the factories along the river were closed by the Flood Control Project of 1959. The Henniker portion of the Contoocook River is nationally known for its white water kayaking.

Henniker has been home to several interesting and outstanding people: Ocean Born Mary, whose birth saved a boatload of colonists from a pirate's wrath; Edna Dean Proctor, nationally-known poetess; Amy Cheney Beach, pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and composer; James W. Patterson, educator; and Ted Williams, baseball player with the Boston Red Sox and fisherman.

Today Henniker is a friendly, rural community in which to live. It is the home of New England College, founded in 1946, and of Pat's Peak Ski Area, opened in 1963. The Henniker Historical Society operates a museum and archive center in the historic Henniker Academy building at 51 Maple Street in downtown Henniker. Genealogical research is conducted from this 1836 school house.


Source material in the Society's archives that is used in researching Henniker's past residents includes volumes of unpublished genealogies of Henniker families by Francis Lane Childs, a catalog of photographs describing them by topic and by persons identified in them, obituary files and cemetery records. Also available are town reports, newspaper clippings, reports and papers previously written about Henniker history. The two major published histories about Henniker are:

History of the Town of Henniker, by Leander W. Cogswell, originally printed in 1880 by The Republican Press Association, Concord, NH. A new edition was published in 1973 by the now-defunct New Hampshire Publishing Company, Somersworth, NH. Reprints are now available from Higginson Book Company, 148 Washington St, P.O. Box 778, Salem, MA 01970; phone 978-745-7170; fax 978-745-8025.

As the Cogswell history was printed without an index, the Henniker Historical Society has now published one for the book. If you own the book you will surely want this index. A comprehensive index, it is a 128-page paper-bound booklet that may be placed next to the history on your shelf. The price is $14, plus $3 shipping & handling, and may be purchased at or ordered from the Society during our regular hours of 10am-2pm, Thursdays and 10am-1pm on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays. For additional information please call the Society at 428-6267, write to us at P.O. Box 674, Henniker, NH 03242, or send us e-mail at society@mcttelecom.com

The Only Henniker On Earth, by the Henniker History Committee, published for the Henniker Historical Society and the Town of Henniker in 1980 by Phoenix Publishing, Canaan, NH. This book covers the town's history for the hundred years since Cogswell's effort. It is available for sale at the Society..

See Publications of the Society for more history of our town.

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