Chesterfield is referred to as #1. It was the first in a series of townships created along the western frontier of New England in the midst of a dangerous period of strife with the native peoples.
This is a general map showing southwestern New Hampshire in the mid-1740s, when this area was still part of Massachusetts. Chesterfield is township “No. 1” on the Connecticut River, next to “Lower Ashuelot” (Swanzey) and Winchester. Chesterfield was one of four towns created simultaneously on the east bank of the Connecticut River in 1736 by the Province of Massachusetts, which claimed all this land in opposition to New Hampshire. Though dated 1753, this map shows the conditions of the mid-1740s.
A prominent feature of this map is Fort Dummer on the west bank of the river. This military garrison was built in 1724 by Massachusetts for protection from the Indians. This area was the northwest frontier of New England and was a dangerous place to be in the early 1700s. Conflicts with the native peoples were common. Encouraged by the French authorities in Quebec who were struggling with the English for control of North America, several groups of Indians made periodic attacks on settlements shown on this map.
At the bottom of the map is the northernmost settlement in the early period, Northfield (established in 1672). Old Northfield extended well north of its present boundaries – it included about 1/2 of today’s Town of Hinsdale. This old Northfield was laid out generally parallel to the Connecticut River such that it included all of the good valley land, including the mouth of the Ashuelot River and the nice bottom land just north of it. For many years after the chartering of Northfield, only the southern portion of the Town was settled – the part near today’s Northfield Village. The northern area was remote and dangerous. The risks were so high that old Northfield was twice abandoned in the late 1600s after Indian attacks.
Most of the land shown on this map was uninhabited in the late 1740s, and nobody is known to have lived in Chesterfield though these lands were probably visited by hunters and trappers. Catsbane Brook in West Chesterfield is shown on this early map. Note also “A Frontier double line of townships as a Barrier against the Indians” (top right).