Wilton History Timeline

1700's

1739: The first European settlers – Jacob Putnam, John Badger, and John Dale – arrive in Wilton, then called “Number Two”

1749: On 16 June the original royal grant to John Tufton Mason of the area that will become Wilton is parceled out among a group of investors known as the Masonian proprietors; with several lots reserved for the Ministry, the Minister, and the establishment of mills and schools

1761: On 18 June a Petition for the Incorporation of the Town of Wilton is sent to Royal Governor Benning Wentworth

1762: On 25 June Wilton is first incorporated as a Town, which grant was to remain in force until 1 January 1765. The first Town Meeting is held 27 June

An Early Town Warrant 1775View larger image

1765: On 2 January the second Act of Incorporation granted by King George III through Gov. Wentworth is granted to Wilton, “ to have continued until His Majesty’s pleasure shall be further known.” The Town History (published 1888) comments that “As His Majesty and His Majesty’s successors have, so far as is known, taken no exception to it, it is presumed that this act of incorporation remains valid to the present day.”

1767: The first schoolhouse is built in Wilton Center near the common

ca. 1770: Mills for grinding grain and processing lumber are built in various locations in Wilton

1772:  On 1 September the town votes to build the Second Meetinghouse (to replace the original log structure) in Wilton Center

1773: On 20 April the town votes to construct the Town Pound in Wilton Center. It also votes “to provide one barrel of West India rum, five barrels New England rum, one barrel of good brown sugar, half a box of good lemons, two loaves of loaf sugar, for framing and raising said meetinghouse.” The town also votes to “provide entertainment for those persons that help raise the same.” On 7 September the Second Meetinghouse collapses during construction because of a faulty center beam, hurling fifty-three men who were working on it some thirty feet to the ground. Five men were killed, several more crippled for life, and every person involved sustained major injury

1774: On 15 July the Town votes to send Jacob Abbot to Exeter (at that time the colonial capitol of New Hampshire) as a delegate for the purpose of choosing a representative from NH to send to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. On 8 September the town votes to enter into a non-importation and non-consumption agreement regarding goods from Great Britain

A Model of the Second Meetinghouse1775: On 5 January the Second Meetinghouse is dedicated. On 4 April the town votes to raise 29 “Minute Men” for the Continental Army. Many other Wilton men volunteer for service, and on 17 June, at the battle of Bunker Hill, 38 Wilton men in Colonel Reed’s regiment see action in the battle


1800’s

1811: The first mill for manufacturing potato starch erected by Ezra Abbot

1814: The first cotton and woolen mill is built in Wilton by William Bales and Amos Holt, Jr.

1816: The Post Office is officially established in Wilton

1827: The Baptist Church in Wilton Center is dedicated. Now a private residence, it is the oldest public building still standing in town

1829: The Second Congregational Society (consisting of seventeen members of the First Congregational Church who separated from that body over doctrinal issues in
1823) builds another meetinghouse in Wilton Center, only a few yards away from the existing Second Meetinghouse.  That same year the Wilton Manufacturing Company is incorporated on 23 June.  The company’s mill in the East Village, which makes carpet yarn, burns in 1839

1830: The town establishes a Poor Farm in West Wilton

1841: The Wilton Railroad Company is incorporated

1846: After several delays, construction begins on the rail line extension to Wilton from Nashua and Milford

1848: The Wilton Manufacturing Company is re-formed under the same charter and title as the previous company. Construction on the new mill building begins in 1849

1851: On 6 April the new Wilton Manufacturing Company mill begins making carpet yarn; the business is successful and the mill expands considerably over the next twenty years.  On 16 December the first wood-burning engine makes the run from Nashua through Amherst and Milford to Wilton. Train service is now available from Wilton through Lowell and on into Boston, which allows the dairy business in town to thrive

1858:  Daniel Cragin begins producing woodenware in an old fulling mill in Davisville.  The mill prospers and is expanded over the years; its products include wooden dry measures and wooden dippers

1859: On 8 December The Second Meetinghouse in the Center burns to the ground following a musical presentation by Miss Mary Thurston's Juvenile Singing School. The town opens an investigation into the cause of the fire, which concludes that it may have been “the work of an incendiary”


1860 Wilton Railroad Station1860: A new, large brick train station is built that can house an entire engine and tender under its roof, which replaces the original, smaller wooden structure





The New Town House and the Congregational Church
1861: The town constructs a new Town House (now the home of Andy’s Summer Playhouse) and the First Congregational Society builds a new church, both of which are located near the site of the Second Meetinghouse




The Whiting House Hotel1866: The Whiting House Hotel is built on Main Street. In only four years, the originalWhiting Hotel ca. 1873 hotel is enlarged to almost double its original size. A newspaper account in the 1870’s states that the hotel was “187 feet long and 40 feet wide. It contained 51 sleeping rooms, a hall, and the usual apartments of a first-class hotel. It was four stories in height on the Main Street side”

1867: Hillsborough County purchases the Whiting Farm in Wilton to serve as the new County Poor Farm. The site continues as the Poor Farm until 1895

1868: The town votes to sell the Town House in Wilton Center

1869: The town votes to continue holding Town Meeting in Depot Hall in the East Village until a new Town Hall can be built. On 28 December the building of the Liberal Christian Church (now the Bent-Burke American Legion Post) is dedicated

1872: The first Public Library opens in Wilton

Main Street after the 1874 Fire1874: On 2 December a massive fire destroys most of Main Street, including the Whiting House Hotel. On 23 December the town votesAftermath of the 1874 Fire to organize and equip an official Fire Department. That same year, the railroad line is extended from Wilton to Greenfield, and the Advance Grange is established in town




1875
: On 5 January, Elwin W. Major, a resident of Wilton Center, was executed by hanging at the State Prison in Concord for the poisoning murder of his wife, Ida Lovejoy. It was suspected that he was also responsible for the deaths of at least two other women.  After two trials, the first resulting in a hung jury, he was finally convicted and sentenced to death.  He protested his innocence almost up until the last moment of his life

1881: On 20 January a second great fire sweeps through Main Street in the East Village, destroying many newly-erected buildings including the Masonic Hall, the Bank, and the Library. In the fall of this year the Sacred Heart Catholic Church is built on Maple Street

1882:  Frank, Fred and James Colony, whose family owns and operates the Cheshire Mills in Harrisville and the Faulkner and Colony Mill in Keene, begin construction on a mill in the East Village to manufacture “flannels and dress goods”

1883: The Town votes to build, and construction begins, on a new Town House on the former site of the Whiting House Hotel. The Whiting family donates the land to the town for that purpose.  That same year, the Colony Brothers’ Mill begins operation on 1 February.  The building still stands as the home of WS Packaging/Label Art. 

1885: On 1 January the new Town House is dedicated. On 2 December a third major fire again burns almost all of Main Street, fortunately sparing the newly-constructed building

First Wilton High School1887: A High School is built in Wilton on Dale Street; the building still stands and is the former Odd Fellows building in the East village (now a private residence)





1888
: On 18 February the Wilton railroad station, which had already begun to show signs of deterioration, is heavily damaged by a derrick on a wrecker train. The first Wilton High School class graduates

1892:  A new train station (now privately owned and the home of Dr. Roy’s dental practice) is built to replace the old one

The Hillsborough County Poor Farm ca. 18901895: The County Poor Farm in Wilton is closed, the buildings and fields are sold to private owners, and the operation moved back to Goffstown. At its height, the farm was home to over 500 residents and consisted of several buildings including residential dormitories, an infirmary heated by a steam generating plant, and a “reform school.” The Poor Farm Cemetery, which is located across Burton Highway from the farm complex, and is still owned by Hillsborough County, is estimated to hold the remains of over 200 men, women, children and infants who died while residing there. The cemetery is on a tract of land currently surrounded by privately-owned woods, where a fence and marker erected in the 1930’s by Hillsborough County are all that remain to identify the spot

1896: A new Wilton High School is built (the large brick building that is now a part of Florence Rideout Elementary School); the International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) purchases the old building on Dale Street and occupies it until the early 21st century

1898: Putnam’s Store opens. The newly-built Masonic Temple on Forest Road is dedicated on 16 June

1900’s

1900: Rural Free Delivery is established in Wilton on 1 December. The Wilton Telephone Company is incorporated on 22 May

1902: The town votes to establish a reservoir and municipal water system

1904: Dr. Carrie Elizabeth Rice, Wilton’s first female physician, begins her practice of medicine in Wilton, which continues for over 40 years

Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library 19081908: David A. Gregg donates the land on Forest Road and an estimated $100,000.00 to build a new library for Wilton. The library is dedicated on 22 September.  That same year Daniel Cragin sells his mill in Davisville to Dr. E. B. Frye who, with his son Whitney, continues to produce dry measures and dippers, as well as cattle and sheep cards, ice cream freezers, and baskets

  
1911: The first silent films are shown at the hall in the Depot Store

1912: Silent pictures are shown for the first time at the Town Hall theatre

1917: Stanley W. Peters, who enlisted in a Canadian regiment at the outbreak of World War I, is one of two men (the other is Walter Larry) from Wilton killed in action while serving in the Canadian forces, at the battle of Arras. It is one of the most significant engagements of the war for the Canadian forces. Stanley is buried, with over 11,000 other Canadian soldiers killed in France, at Vimy Ridge

1918: Roy Bent, the only Wilton resident to lose his life while serving with the United States forces in World War I, dies of injuries suffered during training in Oregon

1919: On 25 June the Roy Bent Post #10 of the American Legion is established

1924: On 30 May a memorial is dedicated to all those residents of Wilton who served in the armed forces, from the French and Indian War through to World War I. It is located on the site where the L.I. Claflin Livery Stable once stood, at the confluence of Main Street and Forest Road, donated to the town by Henry Emerson, who served in the Civil War. The memorial includes the names of two Wilton women, Rachel Ring and Elizabeth Tolford, who served as nurses in World War I.

1925:  Joseph P. Sullivan, an apple wholesale dealer, begins to buy apples for distribution throughout the Northeast from many small and medium-sized orchards in Wilton, spurring the growth of the commercial apple business in town.  Through the next 50 years, growers such as Whiting, Batchelder, Holt, Badger Farm, McLeod, Pomme-a-Lane, Kimball Heights, Tallarico, Woodmont, Parker, and Stevens create a significant apple growing, processing and packing industry that remains a dominant force in the area economy until the 1970's, when increased competition from much larger scale commercial orchards in NY State and Washington State all but eliminates commercial apple operations in Wilton.

Wilton Winter Carnival Program1926: The first Wilton Winter Carnival is held. The Carnival runs every February for ten years; special “Snow Trains” Wilton Winter Carnival Admission Passrunning from Boston and Worcester bring large numbers of visitors to Wilton.  The Carnival features ski races, dogsled races, sleigh rides, hockey games on Frog Pond, evening dances at the school gym, and a host of other attractions, including a quarter-mile long toboggan chute on Carnival Hill that ran through three towns – Milford, Wilton and Lyndeborough – which earned it a mention in Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not”


1928
:  The Wilton National Bank is organized and opens on 1 November in temporary quarters in the Selectmen's Room in Town Hall

1929: The Wilton National Bank building on Main Street opens in April







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