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Primary Source Analysis: Chartering a Town

By sarah_g_rooker on December 18, 2013 in Flow of History
0

Chartering a Town

Towns and cities in Vermont and New Hampshire were formed by charters. A charter is the document that grants a group of people known as proprietors the right to form a new town. New Hampshire’s royal Governor, Benning Wentworth, issued most of the charters for the towns along the Connecticut River.

By reading a charter students will find out the size of their town, when it was chartered, the names of some of the first settlers, and what they had to do after they got their land.

Focusing Questions

When was my town chartered?
How large was my town?
What did the first settlers need to do after they got their land?

Topical Understandings

Towns were chartered by the Governor.
Towns were typically 6 miles x 6 miles square.
Settlers had to plant a certain amount of land within a certain period of time.
There were other conditions of settlement, such as not cutting the large white pines, and setting aside a plot of land for a minister.

Background Information

Why did settlers come to New Hampshire and Vermont, and where did they come from?

Materials

Copies of your town charter–enough for each student OR the sample charter attached (which has been divided into student study groups with questions)
OR use the online interactive (coming soon)

Procedures

Towns and cities in Vermont and New Hampshire were formed by charters. A charter is the document that forms a new town. New Hampshire’s famous royal Governor, Benning Wentworth issued many of the charters for the towns along the Connecticut River.

By reading a charter you can find out the size of your town, when it was chartered, and who some of the first settlers were, and what they had to do after they got their land.

  1. Use the online interactive with your students or hand out copies of your own town charter (call your town clerk to see if they have a copy or look in your town history).
  2. Using the online interactive as a guide, cut up a photocopy of your town charter into small sections or mark small sections of the charter for students to read and analyze.

Questions to ask students:

    • Where was this charter written?
    • Under whose authority?
    • What is the size of the grant in square miles?
    • What shall this town be called?
    • How many families are they hoping to have live there?
    • What will two events will be held as soon as there are enough families?
    • In the future, when will town meetings be held annually?
    • When are town meetings held today?
    • What must “grantees, heirs or assigns” do within five years? Why?
    • Who has rights to the pine trees? Why?
    • What is the date of this charter?
  1. Report back and discuss.
  2. Go back to students’ Abenaki Homeland/Colonization map and have them draw in a square representing their town, along with the date of its charter.

Literature Connection

Diana Appelbaum, Giants in the Land

Try the online activity

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