Introduction

Granted by the Masonian Proprietors in 1749 as Cochecho Township, New Durham was settled in 1750 almost entirely by colonists from Durham. It would be incorporated as New Durham on December 7, 1762.

 

With a somewhat uneven and rocky surface, the town was better suited to grazing than cultivation. Lumber became the chief article of trade, and by 1859 New Durham had five sawmills and four shingle mills. It also had two gristmills, and a gunpowder factory called the Eureka Powder Works. On September 19, 1849, the Cocheco Railroad opened through the town, connecting Dover with Alton Bay.

 

An early town minister, Reverend Benjamin Randall, founded a new religious denomination in 1780 called the Free Will Baptists, later known as Free Baptists. The church has two buildings in the community, the older built in 1819 on New Durham Ridge.​

Meetinghouse and Pound

The New Durham Meetinghouse and Pound are a historic colonial meeting house and town pound on Old Bay Road. Built in 1770, the wood-frame meeting house stands at was until about 1850 the center of New Durham, and was originally used for both civic and religious purposes. It was originally built as a two-story structure, but after the church congregation moved to its own building, the town voted to reduce it to a single story in 1838. It served as the town's principal civic meeting space until the construction of its present town hall in 1908. It was sold, along with the 1809 animal pound, to a local farmer, who used the building for storage. It was given back to the town by his heirs in 1979. The building was reported to be structurally unsound in 2014, but funding had been secured to stabilize it. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Town Hall

The New Durham Town Hall is located at Main Street and Depot Road in the center of town. The two-story wood frame building was designed by Dover architect Alvah T. Ramsdell and built in 1908, replacing the town's original 1770 meetinghouse. It is a stylistically distinctive combination of Colonial Revival and Italianate design, with an elaborately decorated hood sheltering the recessed entry. The northeast corner of the building is taken up by a 55-foot (17 m) tower, which has corner pilasters rising to the third stage, and a hipped roof topped by a weathervane. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Free Will Baptist Church

Benjamin Randall (February 7, 1749 - October 22, 1808) was the main organizer of the Freewill Baptists (Randall Line) in the northeastern United States. He was born at New Castle, New Hampshire into a New England sea captain's family. Randall experienced a conversion to Christianity in 1770 through the influence of George Whitefield. Randall served in the New Hampshire militia during the American Revolutionary War. Randall first united with the Congregationalists, but later was baptized in 1776 and united with the Baptists. He became a layman preacher in the Particular or Calvinistic Baptists in 1777. In 1779 he split with the Calvinist Baptists over their belief in predestination. On April 5, 1780 Randall was ordained in New Durham, New Hampshire. In the summer of 1780, a church was formed at New Durham, and the articles of faith and covenant were drawn up by Randall. By the end of the year the church numbered seven men and thirteen women. From the time of his lay preaching until his death of tuberculosis on October 22, 1808, Randall was instrumental in planting many Freewill Baptist churches throughout New England. He was the founder of the Free Will Baptist movement in America.

during construction, 1907

​​​​©  2017 by New Durham Historical Society

Encouraging interest in the history of New Durham