History of the Area
Dunstable’s first settler was Edward Tyng, a man who emigrated from its sister town and namesake Dunstable, Bedfordshire, England, UK. The New England town of Dunstable, originally part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was first settled in 1656 and incorporated on October 15, 1673. Once comprising of 200 square miles, the land it covered now includes eleven present-day towns: Dunstable, Tyngsborough, Pepperell, and Townsend in Massachusetts, as well as the New Hampshire towns of Nashua, Hollis, Brookline, Hudson, Litchfield, Merrimack and Milford. The Tyngs were among the early settlers of land purchased from the Wamisit and Naticook Indians in 1661 for £20 sterling. In the early 1670s, settlers began to migrate north and west from Boston and started to build homes and clear the land for farms. However, due to rising tensions and violent disputes between English colonists and Native Americans in the area, many settlers were scared away when word of massacres began to reach them. The subsequent battling would come to be known as King Philip’s War.
When the war ended in 1677, some of the former settlers returned to their homes in Dunstable. Yet little over a decade later, the fighting started up again when Native American raiding parties led by French officers began to move down from Canada into New York and New England. In September of 1691, a raiding party struck families near what is now Fairgrounds Elementary and Middle Schools, in Nashua. Later that month, they struck families near the Nashua River, killing several residents. In the summer of 1702, a Native American raiding party surprised 10 men, women and children in their homes, killing them all. Again, the settlers were being scared away.
On September 4, 1724, Abenaki warriors captured two Dunstable men, Thomas Blanchard and Nathan Cross, and they were taken as captives to Quebec. In response, the Dunstable militia hastily pursued the natives up through the Merrimack valley and the entire force, save for one man named Jonathan Robbinse, was killed. As a result, Captain John Lovewell, a resident of present-day Nashua, and his militia company led three expeditions northward against the Indians. The first two resulted in victories for Lovewell and his men, turning Lovewell into one of the most revered Rangers of his time. However, during the third and final expedition, an Abenaki warrior shot and killed Captain Lovewell. The battle continued for ten hours, with many casualties, until the Abenaki chief Paugus was killed. Without support from the French, the western Abenaki were forced to make peace with Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Britain and France finally came to terms in 1713.
During this period, New Hampshire disputed Massachusetts’ claim to the lands south of Lake Winnipesaukee, along the Merrimack River. The King’s Council, based in London, settled this dispute and on March 5, 1740 King George II awarded the upper valley of the Merrimack River to New Hampshire, thus dividing the original township of Dunstable into two. On December 15, 1836 the New Hampshire Legislature approved changed Dunstable, NH to Nashua, NH. The change became effective January 1st, 1837. There was a disagreement between the residents of the north and south side of town on where the new town hall should be placed. It went to the referendum and the more populous south won the referendum and the town hall was built on the south of the Nashua river. The residents of north Nashua then formed their own town and called it Nashville, NH. It was not until 1852 when the two communities resolved their differences and reincorporated as the present-day City of Nashua.
History of the land where The Nature Of Things resides
Joseph Swallow was the grandson of Ambrose Swallow Sr., one of the original settlers of Dunstable. Joseph founded and built a farm on the land where the Nature of Things is now located and that is where our story begins. Joseph had six children, one child (Joseph born August 6, 1746) with Susannah Sanderson who died in 1748, and five children (Thomas, b. 1746, but died in his youth, Silas b. July 25, 1754, Susannah b. 1756, Esther b. 1759, and a younger Thomas b. 1760) with Esther Robbins of Westford, whom he married in 1751. Joseph Swallow built the red farmhouse located at 20 Gregg Road in 1749 and the historic barn that resides on our property in 1750. That barn burned down in 1890, however it was rebuilt on the original granite stone foundation, which remains to this day.
Joseph Swallow met an unfortunate demise during a thunderstorm. He was waiting out the storm in the barn and during a lull, thinking the storm had passed, went out in the fields. He was struck and killed by lightning, in the proximity of what is currently known as the “deer field,” which is located in the 350 acre Dunstable Rural Land Trust parcel that abuts our property. Following Joseph’s death, two sisters, presumably named Susannah and Esther, lived on the property until the turn of the 20th century. Both sisters ended up marrying, Susannah to Phineas Whitney (date unknown) and Esther to Jeremiah Hunt on November 17, 1796. The farm was then left to a niece, who used the property as a summer residence.
In the 1940’s, Dr. Paul deNichola, whom the deNicola Breast Health Center at Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center was named after, bought and restored the original home. Hugh and Cay Gregg purchased the property in 1947, when Hugh decided to move from Cambridge, Massachusetts to practice law in Nashua. He became Mayor of Nashua in 1950 and, as the youngest person ever elected to the office, served as Governor of New Hampshire from 1953 to 1955. Hugh and Kay had two sons, Cyrus and Judd, who both grew up in the old house. Cyrus became a successful businessman and Judd followed his father’s footsteps, pursuing a career in politics and holding such offices as Mayor of Nashua, U.S. Senator, NH Governor, and U.S. Congressman. During the time that the Gregg family owned the property, many republican candidates running for the Office of President of the United States, including President George Herbert Walker Bush and George Walker Bush, visited Hugh and Cay Gregg on the property.
A few years after Hugh Gregg passed away, Cay Gregg sold the property to the current owners, Denis and Deborah Gleeson in April of 2006. The current farm is approximately 22 acres with 15 acres situated in New Hampshire, with 7 acres located in Dunstable, MA. The Gleeson’s worked closely with their Nashua neighbors and their Dunstable neighbor, the Dunstable Rural Land Trust, as they developed the land in an environmentally friendly manner, leaving approximately 19 acres undeveloped while creating 30,000 square feet of facilities. The property now boasts several environmentally friendly, green buildings, a working farm, soon to be three barns, and a greenhouse, as well as a sustainable early childhood and elementary school campus. All human-occupied buildings have been built or redesigned to the highest energy efficiency standards. The campus boasts the first LEED Platinum Commercial Building built in the State of New Hampshire. The Platinum Building also received the 2010 Lean & Green Building Award from Business New Hampshire Magazine. The historic Swallow barn was restored and protected to last another several hundred years for future generations to enjoy.