Jaffrey Town History


Long before the colonists arrived, members of the Sokoki band of Abenaki Indians, lived in the area of Jaffrey. We do not know much of their history, yet we do know about their lifestyle and culture. The Sokoki lived as hunter-gatherers and as basic farmers. They predominantly grew corn, squash, beans and tobacco. Archeological evidence points to their inhabitation of the area for at least 10,000 years. Thus the Sokoki of the Western Abenaki were the first true inhabitants of Jaffrey. In February of 1706/7, Lieutenant Seth Wyman of Groton, became the first recorded colonist to visit Mount Monadnock. Giving the lay of the land, he quite possibly and unknowingly, visited the future Town of Jaffrey. He was on a scouting mission with a force of 40 men. This occurred at the beginning of the French & Indian war. Originally, Jaffrey was a township of Massachusetts. In the great boundary dispute between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the court of King George II, decided that 22 towns actually belonged to New Hampshire and not Massachusetts. In 1741 the new boundary line was surveyed. This boundary has existed until the present day. Settlement of the Town of Jaffrey, then known as Monadnock #1, was begun in 1742 by Abel Platts.


Jaffrey was incorporated as a township in 1773. In 1775 the Revolutionary War broke out. Fifty two men from our small town arrived for duty only four days after the battle of Lexington and Concord. These men from the Town of Jaffrey took part in the Battle of Bunker (Breeds) Hill. As General Benedict Arnold fought through the Maine wilderness, a Jaffrey man, one John Dole, was with him. Upon their arrival at Quebec, the force was hungry, cold and worn out. Most of the soldiers under Arnold's command were captured or killed. One of those captured was Mr. John Dole. Men from Jaffrey as well as men from the rest of New Hampshire took part in the Battle of Bennington. Here a group of rag tag farm boys defeated some of the best trained troops in the world. When news of the Hessian defeat reached the cities bells rang in all the steeples. The effect on the Continental Army was tremendous. The Continental Army went on to defeat the bulk of Burgoyne's Army at Saratoga. Throughout the Revolutionary War, men from Jaffrey served in both the New Hampshire militia and the Continental Army. From Bunker Hill to Yorktown, the men of Jaffrey made great sacrifices and served with distinction. Without the sacrifices and service that was rendered by men like these, from throughout the thirteen original states, we may never have gained our freedom. While the men were away, the women of Jaffrey continued the task of raising families and running farms. To their credit they faced an enormous task in an era that did not recognize the contributions of women. Without their sacrifices, the men would not have had the opportunity to leave and fight for freedom. 

About the Seal

The arms on the town seal are those of the Hon. George Jaffrey (1717-1801) after whom the town was named in the charter of August 17, 1773. His father and grandfather, also named George, were prominent citizens of Portsmouth and the Portsmouth vicinity. The third George, before the Revolution, was judge of the Supreme Court, Councilor, Treasurer of New Hampshire, and one of the Masonian proprietors. 

"Arms, paly of six ar. and sa. over all a fesse of the first charged with three mullets of the second. Crest, the sun rising through a cloud ppr. Motto, POST NUBILA PHOEBUS. These are the arms borne by the Jeffrey's of Kings Wells, Scotland" 

(New Eng. Hist. and Gen. Register, v.31 (Boston, 1877) .p.61. See also Bolton's American Armory (Boston, 1927), p.90, & letter of Edward Gilchrist, Esq., April 3, 1927 (V.I.S. archives). On the crest, cf. Fairbairn's Crests (Edinburgh, 1860), v.2, Pl.67, Cr.g, and Boutwell's Heraldry (London, 1954), p.81. 

In non technical language the description would be: six vertical stripes, alternating white (argent, silver) and black (sable), surmounted by a horizontal band of the first color bearing three stars of the second. Motto: "After the clouds, the sunshine."


During the War of 1812 Jaffrey men again answered the call to arms. Eighteen men and boys from Jaffrey volunteered to fight the British. These men saw little action but there spirit and sense of duty will be remembered. The War with Mexico made hardly a stir in New Hampshire. Only two Jaffrey men are credited with volunteering for duty. The War was short and no call for action or volunteers was raised in Jaffrey. Hundreds of men heeded the call of service to the Union during the Civil War. Jaffrey residents served with valor throughout the war taking part in every major campaign of the war. An interesting volunteer of note is George Montear, an escaped slave from Virginia, moved to Jaffrey and enlisted and served with U.S. Colored Troops.


Sixty one young men saw service in the Armed Forces of the United States during World War 1. Fourteen of these young men saw overseas service. One young man was taken from the town in the Battle of Apremont, France. His name was John Humiston, after whom Humiston recreation field is named. The Wall Street "crash" of 1929 was heard and felt in faraway Jaffrey. Yet, as a community, Jaffrey banded together. Times were tough and the situation between landlords and tenants exemplifies what happened in Jaffrey throughout the depression years. Many tenants were unable to pay their rent and extensions were granted. As one landlord put it, " ...they paid it all finally." March 18, 1936, was the day that the Flood hit Jaffrey. As with other New England towns Jaffrey was inundated with water. The main bridge into town was washed away. All industry and lines of communication were destroyed. It was days before communication with the outside world was reestablished. It was then that the town learned the extent of the flood. The damage from the great flood had barely been repaired, when Jaffrey had to face another natural disaster. This disaster was the 1938 Hurricane. On Wednesday Sept. 26, flood conditions were arrived at after three days of constant rain. The new main bridge was washed away. And trees fell throughout the town. Some remain to this day where they fell.


Jaffrey men and women were once again called by their nation. During World War II, 504 Jaffrey men and women joined the Armed Forces. Of those that served, nine men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Here on the home front Jaffrey once again proved to be an extraordinary town. Whatever wartime restrictions were imposed on it's citizens were accepted without grumbling, for grumbling doesn't win wars. From tire rationing to war bond drives, from victory gardens to "ersatz" coffee, the residents of Jaffrey supported their nation and their men and women in uniform. While throughout the war the people of Jaffrey had enthusiastically done their share on the home front, there was a sigh of relief everywhere when the war finally ended.