Monday, May 23, 2011

Chartering a Town

Chartering a Town

Towns and cities in Vermont and New Hampshire were formed by charters. A charter is the document that grants a group of people known as proprietors the right to form a new town. New Hampshire’s royal Governor, Benning Wentworth, issued most of the charters for the towns along the Connecticut River.

By reading a charter students will find out the size of their town, when it was chartered, the names of some of the first settlers, and what they had to do after they got their land.

Focusing Questions

When was my town chartered?
How large was my town?
What did the first settlers need to do after they got their land?

Topical Understandings

Towns were chartered by the Governor.
Towns were typically 6 miles x 6 miles square.
Settlers had to plant a certain amount of land within a certain period of time.
There were other conditions of settlement, such as not cutting the large white pines, and setting aside a plot of land for a minister.

Background Information

Why did settlers come to New Hampshire and Vermont, and where did they come from?


Copies of your town charter--enough for each student


  1. Hand out copies of your own town charter (call your town clerk to see if they have a copy or look in your town history).
  2. Cut up a photocopy of your town charter into small sections or mark small sections of the charter for students to read and analyze.
  3. Questions to ask students:
    • Where was this charter written?
    • Under whose authority?
    • What is the size of the grant in square miles?
    • What shall this town be called?
    • How many families are they hoping to have live there?
    • What will two events will be held as soon as there are enough families?
    • In the future, when will town meetings be held annually?
    • When are town meetings held today?
    • What must “grantees, heirs or assigns” do within five years? Why?
    • Who has rights to the pine trees? Why?
    • What is the date of this charter?
  4. Report back and discuss.

Literature Connection

Diana Appelbaum, Giants in the Land

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