Merrimack County to hold celebration Saturday in honor of 200 years

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 09-29-2023 5:28 PM

Merrimack County will celebrate its 200th anniversary this weekend, marking two centuries of settlement, development and abolitionist movements. 

After months of planning by staff, Merrimack County is hosting an anniversary event at the Boscawen Campus at 325 Daniel Webster Highway on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., to honor the county’s robust history. Plans include a cookout, a dedication ceremony, special guest speakers and tree plantings, musical presentations by the Concord Community Music School, a K-9 demonstration, informal booths, a kids’ activity corner, raffles, and more. 

Though the county was organized in 1823, many of the 27 communities, like Concord and Boscawen, were incorporated a full century earlier. As the state grew, so did the number of counties, until the number reached the 10 that exist today, according to documents provided by county staff. 

The first permanent European settlement in Merrimack County was established in 1727 in the town of Boscawen, which was named after a wealthy English merchant. Before that, it had been home to nomadic tribes that hunted and fished along the Merrimack River, which gave the county its name. 

The Merrimack River was a vital transportation and industrial hub in the 19th century. Merrimack, a Native American term for sturgeon, came from the Penacook people who lived in the area and named the river after the fish that was once plentiful in its waters. The Penacooks spelled it “Monnomoke” or “Merramake.”

In 1804, the first granite quarry in the United States was opened in Concord before the county was organized. Granite produced here helped build many notable structures like the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston and the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.

Eight years later in 1812, the New Hampshire State Prison for Men was built in Hopkinton but was moved to Concord in 1823 when Merrimack County was organized. However, Concord became the state’s official seat of government, and state capital, in 1808.

By 1830, more than 34,000 lived in Merrimack County. By 1880, the population hit 46,000. Now, more than 155,000 people call the county home and live in one of its 25 towns and two cities.

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Around the same time that the population reached nearly 50,000, the county held about 4,300 farms. In one year, farmers produced 586,000 gallons of milk and 908,728 pounds of butter.

Throughout the 19th century, Merrimack County was the center of the abolitionist movement and many residents of Concord were active in the anti-slavery movement. At one point during the century when slaves were fleeing to the North, Hopkinton established itself as a stop along the Underground Railroad.

In the mid-19th century, the Concord Railroad started operating in Concord which increased economic and rural development, created more jobs within the county and acted as a hub for travel throughout New England.

The county remains known for holding the state Capitol, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, its rural communities and several state parks, including Bear Brook in Allenstown, Mount Sunapee in Newbury, and Winslow and Rollins in Wilmot. 

For more information about this weekend’s festivities and the 200th anniversary celebration, visit the county’s Facebook page.

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