Atkinson Celebrates 250: Politics Leads to Birth of a Town

Col. Theodore Atkinson never lived in town.

Atkinson, N.H., is celebrating its 250th anniversary with a variety of events between Thursday, Aug. 31 and Monday, Sept. 4. To help give meaning to the festivities, WHAV presents a special series of little known facts about the town, heard on-air at 97.9 WHAV FM, Monday through Thursday, at 7:45 and 11:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

Atkinson Celebrates 250 is brought to you, in part, by Red's Shoe Barn of Dover and Plaistow, N.H.

If New Castle, N.H., hadn’t already existed, residents of what is now known as Atkinson would address their return envelopes differently.

Historian Steven Lewis said New Castle was the preferred name when the territory pondered splitting from Plaistow, N.H., in 1767. The name was already taken by what is today the state’s most eastern town and the only one entirely on islands.

Residents didn’t seek to break away because of any particular differences with the rest of Plaistow. The reason, Lewis said, travel conditions made it difficult to get to church.

“Travel in the middle of winter was probably very difficult. They didn’t have snowplows, paved roads, decent bridges. I get it,” he told WHAV.

In any event, breaking away from Plaistow required approval from the then-still British Crown-controlled province. The breakaway region needed some clout to achieve their goals, as Lewis explains.

“If you’re trying to get the New Hampshire government to grant you a township, why don’t you appeal to one of the magistrate’s ego and name it after him?”

Atkinson Celebrates 250 is brought to you, in part, by RMON Networks.

And so, it was. The new town would be named for Col. Theodore Atkinson.

According to the Atkinson Historical Society, the colonel had been “a commander of some renown during the French and Indian wars and served as collector of customs at Portsmouth.” He later became secretary of the colony, named by his uncle, Gov. Benning Wentworth.

Atkinson never lived in the town, Lewis notes. However, the colonel did own property there which he rented in return for a wild turkey.

Atkinson’s formal celebrations begin Aug. 31. A full calendar of activities appears at atkinsonnh250th.com.

Tomorrow: Atkinson Celebrates 250: Building the Town

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