From The History of Salisbury p 17 Hills, by John Dearborn 1890:
“Searle’s or “Meeting House hill”, called Mount Zion on the Proprietors’ book and “Mount Pisgah'” by Mr Webster, was named for the first settled minister, to which was added its first supplementary name from the fact that it was the location of Salisbury’s Zion, or its first church. It is near the center of the original town, and its summit was the scene of the alarm fires, which were kindled as signals in the perilous days of the pioneers, and presents many magnificent landscape views. At one time it was thickly settled but now only a single set of building reman.” -1890
At one time the top and side of Searle’s Hill was the site of a rugged, determined small settlement graced by Salisbury’s First Meeting House. No buildings remain.
Before the formation of Franklin, which absorbed part of eastern Salisbury, Searle’s Hill was not on the eastern edge of Salisbury as it is now but rather closer to center.
Franklin was incorporated as a town in 1820 and a city in 1895 and was created from sections of Salisbury, Sanbornton, Northfield and Andover.
Prior to creation of of Franklin, Salisbury (also previously know as Baker’s Town and Stevenstown) extended from the Merrimack River to the slopes of Kearsarge.
“This first church was a Congregational, established Nov 17, 1773, Mr. Jonathan Searle, who was ordained the same day was the first minister in which office he remained until Nov 8, 1791. The Meeting house which existed in Mr. Searle’s time was located on a very high high (now known as Searle’s Hill) some three miles from the eastern boundary of the town; but, despite the distance and the extreme height of the hill, the people-men, women and children-were regular attendants at the little temple. This church was never thoroughly completed and was sold in 1790”- History and Description of New England, New Hampshire by Austin Jacob Coolidge, John Brainard Mansfield 1860
(Please note dates for the Church range from 1764-1773. Perhaps the difference is the date begun and the date established with a minister). The sale of pews actually began in Kingston NH in 1768. by 1773 John Webster was working on the clapboards.
The Webster family attended services at the Church atop the hill and many trudged the arduous path up the mountain. At one time there was a connecting road from the Punch Brook Road near the Webster Farm (now in Franklin) into Shaw’s Corners and up to Searle’s Hill.
An article form the Granite Monthly May 1880 written by Walter Harriman includes a detailed description of a journey to Searle Hill in 1875 titled: A Day With the Websters
A letter written by Anna R. (Webster) Eaton exists in our archives and is reproduced on this website . She was the daughter of Nathaniel Webster and granddaughter of Deacon Moses Sawyer who preached on Searle’s Hill. In this letter she describes the Church on the high hill, visible for all to see. Anna Eaton Letter
Records that indicate the following for the Searles’ Hill community (Dearborn’s History of Salisbury NH 1890):
- SIGNAL STATION: The site of an early fire signal station by pioneers warning of Indians.
- MEETING HOUSE: Meeting House 1764 Kingston NH- Proprietors, Deacon Elisha Swett and Jonathan Woodman committee to designate location. Ten acres north side of Searle’s Hill. Did not contain a steeple and though well attended for a time was not fully completed. Approx 1772. Disassembled and reconstructed at junction of Rte 4 and 127 in South Road Village Salisbury. Currently exists as Salisbury Congregational Church. Re erected at new location Sept 1, 1791
- PARSONAGE: Northwest of the Meeting House. Approx 1772. After Mr. Searle’s death Dec 1818, the house was occupied by his son Amos Searle until his death in 1831. His Widow occupied it with her son Daniel Franklin Searle for some years. The house was large, two stores and the lower story extending back and the roof of the main house covering the extension, referred to as a “comb-case roof”. It was eventually sold and taken down and the timber used in construction of other buildings. (from John Dearborn History of Salisbury)
- SCHOOLS: Location of first Searle’s Hill School near Meeting House. First Salisbury Schoolhouse constructed of logs. Larger than 20 feet square. Seating was simply boards long the walls. Second School: At base of Searle’s Hill on Center Rangeway, Thompsons Corner built 1816.
- CEMETERY: Location: just east of the Meeting House. Very likely still in existence but no stones remain.
- RESIDENCES: Among the homes were the following:(from John Dearborn History of Salisbury): William Calef b. Kington june 1737, homestead west of the Meeting House resided there until death 1843, Jonathan Calef south end of lot No 18. home built prior to 1786 building moved in its entirety to Fourth NH Turnpike (rte 4),destroyed by fire 1886, WilliamWebster Farm (uncle to Daniel) east side and site of granite quarry with exceptional granite, John Calef Homestead, west of the Meeting House, opposite William Calef homestead.. Died May 1851. Pictured below. Destroyed by fire approx 1910.
For more information about the town’s First Meeting House on Searle’s Hill:
Compiled By David Rapalyea
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