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TOWN HISTORY

 

Discover Henniker

 

Explore historic homes, churches, public buildings, and idyllic features of our double-arch stone bridge and lattice-truss covered bridge spanning the Contoocook River. Visit quaint shops and feast in rustic restaurants. Enjoy town concerts and our Farmers Market around the gazebo at the Henniker Community Park, have fun at Music on Main Street, or enjoy skiing and events at Pats Peak.

A Brief Town History

 

When the first permanent settlers arrived in 1763 in township Number Six, now called Henniker, they found tall trees with little undergrowth and only the foot paths of Penacook Indians. By 1768, over 50 families had homesteaded in the southeastern and northwestern areas of Henniker. They petitioned for incorporation and on November 10, 1768, the township received a charter and a new name --- Henniker. King James’ appointed Governor John Wentworth named the area in honor of a wealthy London leather and Russian fur merchant and his friend, Sir John Henniker, Esq – it would become the only such town named Henniker. ‘The Only Henniker on Earth.’
 
The Contoocook River bisects the town on its way to the Merrimack River and the Atlantic Ocean. First spanned in 1782 by a wooden bridge, today the town is linked by one of five bridges including the double arched stone Edna Dean Proctor Bridge, named for Henniker’s famous poetess, and a pedestrian covered bridge. The river's scenic beauty has attracted tourists since 1850 when over 10 trains a day serviced the town. 
 
Town Hall, located in the geographical center of Henniker, was built in 1787 and is still in use today as Henniker’s administrative center. At the beginning of the 1800’s it was decided to unify the southeastern and northwestern populations by creating a school, stores, publick house and churches in what today is ‘downtown Henniker’.
 
Henniker began as an agrarian township and grew to export apples and apple cider to cities all over New England. The Contoocook River’s water power supported mills and manufacturing in the days of the Industrial Revolution. Henniker produced paper, wood and baskets using the abundant forests. Remains of the mills and dams can be seen on the Contoocook River today. 
 
Henniker has always been a patriotic community. Hennikerites responded to the Lexington alarm in 1775 and over 100 men from Henniker fought in the Revolution. Henniker sent men to the War of 1812 and again 122 men fought for the Union in the Civil War. The next generation were in WWI. Woodman Park, Rush Road, and Hall Avenue remember three Henniker boys who died in the Philippines in WWII. Men and women from Henniker have served in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. 


Notable residents include ‘Ocean Born Mary Wallace’ and the ‘haunted house’ once owned by her son. Amy Cheney Beach,  a pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at age 16, is considered the first American woman composer. Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams was an avid fisherman and choose Henniker for his second home. Thomas Brown, a deaf mute at birth, was a Henniker farmer who led the development of the National Association of the Deaf. Charles Gaines’s field in Henniker was the site of the first paint-ball game.


Recreation and education provide the largest employment base. Pats Peak, open in 1963, offers family friendly skiing, snowboarding in addition to year-round activities. New England College, established in 1946, is an accredited, private college serving over 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
 
Summer concerts take place at Community Park on Main Street. Hikers and bikers use old railroad byways and land set aside for flood control. Amey Brook Park provides a quiet reflective site for rest and relaxation.