The oldest towns in the present county
of Windham were granted by the Colonial government of New Hampshire,
when Benning Wentworth was governor of that province. Their corporate names
remind one of the Earl of Halifax, the Duke of Marlborough, the Earl of
Wilmington, the Marquis of Rockingham,
Francis Fane and Charles Townshend,
who were distinguished members of the ministries of whose pleasure Gov.
Wentworth held his office.
Of New Hampshire Grants on the
east side of the Green Mountains, the seventh in chronological order was
called Townshend. This town is situated a little north of the geographical
center of Windham county, and at the time Acton was annexed was bounded
N. by Acton and Athens, E. by Athens and Brookline, S. by Brookline and
Newfane, W. by
Jamaica and Windham. While on the E. and
S. the bounds of 1840 remain at the present day.
Within the limits of the town are four
neighborhoods: the East Village, West Village, Harmonyville, and Simpsonville.
Of these, the largest is the East Village, which is the business center.
West river in passing through the southwesterly
part of the town receives the waters of Acton brook,
Fair brook, Negro
brook, Jay brook, and Mill brook.
Fletcher brook is a tributary of Acton
brook. Numerous springs and rivulets furnish an abundant supply of
pure water. The land rises often gradually, sometimes precipitously,
to the ridges by which the valleys are terminated. These divides
are of considerable height, and especially in the vicinity of West river,
preset a succession of rocky hills. Two of these eminencies have
been named Peaked mountain and Bald mountain, from the peculiarity of their
The original town has nearly the rock
formations which exist in Acton. Fine specimens of water crystals
have been found at the southeast part of the town. A ledge
upon the James Grey farm affords material for excellent lime. Boulders
of granite and syenite that can be split into fence posts are occasionally
found. The primitive forest, unbroken, and extending to the summit
of the hills, mostly consisting of maple, birch, beech, hemlock and spruce.
Among these are interspersed the ash, oak and elm, basswood, cottonwood,
butternut and pine.
Two flourishing villages besides many
comfortable and desirable dwellings scattered about town, are outgrowths
of what has been done here in the way of business. The inhabitants,
with few exceptions, have been engaged in agricultural pursuits, and their
success has been such that Townshend in 1891 ranks in populations as ninth
of 23 towns comprising the county of Windham, and the sixth in wealth.