History of Richmond
Originally a part of Massachusetts, the town was first chartered in 1735 by Governor Jonathan Belcher. Granted to soldiers returning from the war in Canada, it was named Sylvester-Canada in honor of Captain Joseph Sylvester of Scituate, who was killed in 1690 during an attempt to capture Quebec. After New Hampshire became a separate colony, the town was incorporated in 1752 as Richmond by Governor Benning Wentworth and named after Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, a staunch advocate of colonial independence. It was settled about 1757 by emigrants, including many Quakers, from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, who are buried in its ancient cemeteries.
Some pertinent facts:
- First road through town was laid out around 1735 (went from Northfield through Winchester and Richmond to Royalston and on to Lunenburg and Boston). Two Richmond sections remain open today: Quaker Lane and Turnpike Road.
- Ist town meeting was held in 1765
- Town grew rapidly with the development of many grist, saw and other mills making pails and chair parts; local industries included tanneries, blacksmiths, shoemakers and hatters; a succession of stores and public houses served the traveling public; 14 neighborhood school houses were built.
- Richmond’s maximum population of about 1400 was reached ca. 1800. It subsequently declined to 295 in 1960 before rebounding to less than 1200 in 2010.
- Richmond was the birthplace of Eliza Ballou, mother of James Garfield, our 20th President, who visited her childhood home (still standing) in Richmond with her son before he was elected to office.
- Richmond was the home of Hosea Ballou, founder of the Unitarian Universalist Church.
- Today Richmond’s history is preserved through its remaining public and private buildings (Brick Church, Schoolhouse #6, Town Hall and Veterans Hall) and its many early homes located along rural byways. These can be enjoyed when one has time to meander its backroads on a lazy day and ponder, “if only those old walls could talk.”
Thank you to Bob Weekes for writing this brief history of Richmond