Governor Dinsmoor Plaque

Governor Samuel Dinsmoor | 1766-1835

    Governor Samuel Dinsmoor was born not far from this spot, on July 1, 1766. One day while haying a high field on a hot summer day, Samuel decided that a farmer’s life was not for him. “I was, one day, helping my father and my older brothers make hay in the meadow east of Cobbett’s Pond, when it occurred to me, I would like to go to college.”

   “At noon, while we were sitting under a maple-tree eating our dinner, I said to my father, ‘If you will help me through Dartmouth College, I will never ask anything more of you. I can fit with Parson Williams and board at home.’ ‘Very well said my father, ‘talk with your mother about it, and if she thinks best, I will do all I can to help you.’ Mother’s approval having been gained, I began, I began at once to study with Parson Williams.”  Leonard Morrison, the Windham historian says, Parson Williams “then lived on the farm subsequently owned by Rev. Mr. Cutler, successor of his ministry over the same church. At that time the meeting-house stood near the cemetery, at the west end of Cobbett’s Pond, and the road from his fathers to Parson Williams’s house led through Windham Range, the distance being a little less than four miles by the road. This was a daily walk, except when the pond was frozen so as to permit him to go over the ice. Preparation over, his brother John and he took a pair of oxen and cart, gathering such outfit of furniture, bedding, clothing, books as could be spared from the house, and started in August, 1785, for Hanover. They drove westwardly to the Connecticut River, then followed its course up to Hanover. At that time there was not even a trail from Windham thither, by way of Concord; and one occasion they were obliged to cut down a large pine tree to get through with their cart. In order to aid himself in paying his expenses while in college, he taught in the winter months, and, in addition to that, obtained from the faculty permission to open a store for sale of goods bought in Boston, and brought to him by ox-teams by his brothers. He graduated Dartmouth College in 1789, in a class of twenty-four, many of whom distinguished themselves in their professions, and as men of letters. After graduation, he continued to teach to obtain money with which to gain a profession. He studied law with Felix Sprague, in Keene, and while with him clerked in a store to pay expenses. By the advice and with the cordial cooperation of Mr. Sprague he opened an office in Keene. It is related of  him that in a single year of his practice his collections numbered a thousand writs issued by justices of the peace. This was indeed a sad commentary on the credit system of that day, but no small compliment to the young attorney whose integrity commanded this large amount of business.”

Governor Dinsmoor Biography from History of the Town of Keene from 1732, when the Township was Granted by Massachusetts, to 1874, when it Became a City by S. G. Griffin, M. A.  

     “Samuel Dinsmoor, (commonly spoken of as "the elder Governor Dinsmoor") son of William and Elizabeth (Cochrane) Dinsmoor, was born in Windham, N. H., in 1766, and was the fourth son in a family of ten children. His father was third in descent from a sturdy Scotch-Irish pioneer one of the band that settled Londonderry and Windham and was a typical representative of that noble race, inventing and constructing most of the implements with which he cleared and successfully cultivated his inheritance of 1,400 acres of primitive forest. Notwithstanding the hardships of such a life, with its limited supply of books, he displayed a taste for literature and a gift for versification which was further developed in his son, Robert, who achieved celebrity under the name of the "Rustic Bard." Having a strong desire for an education, young Dinsmoor readily obtained the consent of his parents, studied for a while under Rev. Simon Williams walking eight miles each day for that purpose-and entered Dartmouth college in 1785, his father sending an ox team to carry his small outfit. To aid in paying his expenses he taught school in winter, and, with the consent of the faculty, opened a small store for the sale of goods bought in Boston and hauled to Hanover by his brothers with ox teams.”

   “He graduated in 1789, studied law with Hon. Peleg Sprague, in Keene, and by Mr. Sprague's advice and encouragement made this town his permanent home. He married, in 1798, Mary Boyd Reid, daughter of Gen. George and Mary (Woodburn) Reid of Londonderry. She was noted for her lovely character and agreeable manners, and as being the wife of one governor of New Hampshire and the mother of another. Her father was a distinguished commander of one of the three Continental regiments of New Hampshire in the Revolutionary war. The Dinsmoors first lived in a house which stood on the site now occupied by the rear of the south end of Gurnsey's block. After the death of Mr. Sprague in 1800, Mr. Dinsmoor bought the" Sprague house," on the west side of Main street, now (1902) Mrs. Laton Martin's, and they spent the remainder of their days there. His first law office was a small building just north of his first residence, but he afterwards succeeded Judge Newcomb in another small building where the railroad track now lies, on the east side of Main street. That building was removed when the railroad was built and is now the residence of Mr. George E. Poole, 320 Roxbury street. In 1804-5 he was active in the reorganization of the celebrated Keene Light Infantry, was chosen captain, and commanded it with brilliant success until 1809, when he was promoted to major in the Twentieth regiment of militia; and the same year was appointed quartermaster general of the state, with the rank of brigadier general, which office he held during the war of 1812, and until 1816.” 

     “In1808 he was appointed postmaster, succeeded in 1811 when he took his seat in congress-by his partner, Booz M. Atherton. He was reelected to congress in 1812, and his votes there in support of the administration and in favor of the war with England so exasperated those of the opposite party in Cheshire county that upon his return from Washington, fearing for his personal safety, his friends in Keene formed themselves into a bodyguard for his protection. In 1821-2 he was a member of the state council; in 1823 a candidate for governor, but there was no choice by the people, and Levi Woodbury was elected. In 1830 he was the Democratic candidate for governor, and was elected in 1831 and for three consecutive terms for the second and third terms almost without opposition. ‘His official career was characterized by a spirit of impartial and disinterested thought for the welfare of the state. A conspicuous instance of this was his appointment of the late Chief Justice Joel Parker, a Whig, to a vacancy on the bench of the supreme court.’ It was he who first recommended to the legislature the establishment of a state asylum for the insane. He was the first president of the Ashuelot bank, in 1833, holding that office until his decease; and he filled many responsible positions in town and state, always with ability and strict integrity, and was a leader in all enterprises for the public good. He entertained much and very handsomely; and in his private life his geniality and winning manners made him loved and honored by all who knew him. He died March 15, 1835, surviving his wife about three months. His children were Samuel, born in 1799; Mary Eliza, born in 1801, married Robert Means of Amherst, N. H.; George Reid, born in 1803; and William, born in 1805.” 


 Memorial Table Erected

 The Derry Enterprise, July 6, 1909: “One of the most interesting events of a historic nature was the unveiling of the bronze table at Windham on Thursday July 1, the date marking the birth of the late Governor Samuel Dinsmoor, Sr, who was the chief executive of this state for three consecutive terms.”

     “The spot where the interesting ceremony took place is located on Jenny’s Hill. In the southern part of town, the premises now owned by E.F. Searles, but this was once the home to the Dinsmoor family.” 

     “At the March 1909 town meeting, the voters appointed a committee, consisting of William D. Cochran, John H. Dinsmore, Joseph W. Dinsmoor, J. Arthur Nesmith, William C. Harris, Edward A. Haskell, Charles O. Parker and William S. Harris to have charge of the dedicatory exercises.  The committee organized with Mr. Cochran as chairman and William S. Harris, secretary. It was decided to have exercises on July 1, the 143rd anniversary of the birth of Governor Dinsmoor.”

     “The invitations sent out bore the following stanza selected from the poems of Robert Dinsmoor, the ‘Rustic Bard’ who was a brother of the governor.


“...Though time all nature doth efface,

With you I’s view our native place,

Where sprang a numerous Dinsmoor race,

Round Jenny’s Hill,

And down its brow some burnie trace,

Or wimpling rill…”


   “The day set for the celebration was near perfect. Clouds obscured the hot sun so that standing or sitting out of doors in any spot was very comfortable. The place where the ceremonies were held, ‘Jenny’s Hill,’ not very easy to access, being some two miles from the nearest train station. The guests arrived, most of them on the noon train at Canobie Lake station. Governor Quimby and his party were met there by William F. Meserve who with his automobile conveyed them to J.H. Dinsmore’s for dinner, then to Jenny’s Hill, and also back to the station after exercises.  Several hundred people were present to enjoy the exercises.”

     “The site of the old Dinsmoor house, now recognizable by slight traces of the cellar, was marked by an American flag. In front of this has been erected a square battlemented tower, surmounting a high stone wall which extends along the roadside for a quarter mile. The tower is built of field stone, with cut stone trimmings of the same kind of granite quarried from the farm. In a recess in the front of the tower is set a handsome bronze tablet with raised letters giving the legend in capital letters


“Samuel Dinsmoor

Was born near this spot July 1, 1766,

Served two years in Congress,


Was elected Governor of New Hampshire

In 1831, ‘32, ‘33

Died in Keene, March 15, 1835.”


     “Arched above the recess is a cut stone, in which is engraved the date ‘1909.’ The tower stands some fifteen feet high, and is six feet square. The idea of permanently marking the birthplace of the noted son of Windham was suggested two years ago at the Old Home day exercises, by William C. Harris, one of the oldest residents of the town, 86 years of age, whose father owned the Dinsmoor farm 200 years ago. The idea met with the approval of the present owner of the farm, (Edward F. Searles), who generously built the tower and provided the bronze marker.” 

     “At first people gathered in the small grove of pines and chestnut near the monument where seats and a platform had been thoughtfully erected by the committee. When the time arrived for the unveiling of the tablet the group of people walked down the sandy road and stood in front of the monument and tablet.”

     “A platform was erected in front of the and here during the unveiling ceremonies were seated Governor Henry B. Quimby and members of his staff, Adj. Gen, H.B. Cilley, of Manchester, Colonel Reginald C. Stevenson of Exeter, Jarvis Dinsmoor of Sterling Ill., a grandnephew o the elder Governor Dinsmoor; A.E. Pillsbury, of Boston; W.D. Cochran, president of the day; William C. Harris and the Rossin Quartet of Manchester. The exercises opened with a selection by the quartet followed by a prayer by Rev. Albert Watson, with the Lord’s prayer as a response by the quartet.”

   “Chairman Cochran then stated that the gathering was for the purpose of dedicating the tablet marking the birthplace of Gov. Samuel Dinsmoor, who was born just 143 years ago Thursday. 

Here he was born, and they called his name Samuel, and the child grew up like other boys. The Town of Windham is proud that its son. The project of marking his birthplace and the whole animus of this gathering was gotten up y William C. Harris, who consulted the owner of the premises, who out of the generosity of heart has erected this memorial. We have with us a descendant of Governor Dinsmoor, Miss Mary B. Dinsmoor, who will unveil the tablet.”

     “As Mr. Cochran finished Miss Dinsmoor stepped forward and pulled the rope which released the American flag that covered the plaque. The quartet sang and this completed the exercises at the monument., and the audience returned to the grove, where the speaking took place.”