Tracing The New Hampshire-Massachusetts Border: History And Trivia

If you’re wondering where exactly the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts lies, you’re not alone! This boundary between two New England states has a fascinating history behind it that many people don’t know about.

Here’s a quick answer to your question: The 193-mile border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts was first surveyed in 1641 and runs roughly northwest to southeast following the Merrimack River for part of its length. It was formally established with the border towns in 1741 after years of disputes between the colonies.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will trace the full history of how the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border was determined, from the early Colonial era disputes to the surveying and marking of the border line. We’ll look at key events, agreements, and controversies that shaped this important boundary. We’ll also highlight some interesting trivia and tidbits about the towns and attractions that lie along the border line today.

Early Colonial Disputes over the New Hampshire-Massachusetts Border

The history of the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border is filled with fascinating stories of colonial disputes and political maneuvering. From the very beginning of European colonization in North America, the border between these two neighboring colonies has been a subject of contention and legal battles.

Massachusetts Bay Colony’s Original Charter

The Massachusetts Bay Colony, established in 1628, was granted a charter by the English Crown that included a vast territory. This original charter granted Massachusetts Bay Colony authority over lands that encompassed present-day Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and parts of Vermont.

However, the specific boundaries were not clearly defined, leading to confusion and conflicting claims.

The lack of clear boundaries in the original charter laid the groundwork for future disputes between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. As both colonies expanded and settled new territories, conflicts arose over overlapping land claims and jurisdiction.

New Hampshire Split from Massachusetts

In 1679, New Hampshire officially separated from Massachusetts and became its own colony. This separation was driven by a desire for greater independence and autonomy from Massachusetts. However, the issue of the border between the two colonies was left unresolved, leading to ongoing disputes for many years to come.

With the split, New Hampshire claimed that its southern border extended as far south as the Merrimack River, while Massachusetts argued that it extended only to the northern bank. This discrepancy led to conflicting land grants and conflicting legal jurisdictions, creating a complex and messy situation for both colonies.

Long-Running Border Disputes

The border disputes between New Hampshire and Massachusetts lasted for several centuries, with intermittent legal battles and negotiations. In the 18th century, the border was finally settled, but not without significant compromises and adjustments.

One notable dispute arose in the early 19th century when the states realized that the boundary markers established in the 18th century were inaccurate. This led to a joint surveying effort to determine the correct border, which resulted in the establishment of the current border between the two states.

Today, the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border is well-defined and peaceful, but the history of its creation is a reminder of the challenges faced by early colonists in establishing clear boundaries and resolving disputes.

To learn more about the history of the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border, you can visit the New Hampshire and Massachusetts government websites.

Key Steps in Surveying and Marking the Border

The New Hampshire-Massachusetts border has a rich history of surveying and marking, with several key steps taken over the years to establish and maintain the boundary between these two states. Let’s take a closer look at some of the important surveys and marking efforts that have shaped this border.

The Saltonstall Survey of 1641

One of the earliest surveys conducted along the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border was the Saltonstall Survey of 1641. This survey was carried out by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, led by Sir Richard Saltonstall, to establish the boundary between their territory and the New Hampshire Province.

The survey helped define the initial border line and set the stage for future surveys and disputes.

Woodward and Saffrey’s Survey of 1740

In 1740, the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts was again surveyed, this time by a team led by Josiah Woodward and Richard Saffrey. Their survey aimed to settle the ongoing disputes and conflicts over land ownership along the border.

Woodward and Saffrey’s survey provided more clarity and precision to the border line, ensuring a more accurate demarcation of the boundary.

Marking the Border Line

Once the surveys were completed, the next crucial step was to mark the border line physically. Various methods have been used over the years, including placing markers, erecting stone or metal monuments, and even cutting lines on trees.

These physical markers serve as a clear indication of the boundary, helping to prevent further disputes and confusion.

Today, the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border is marked by a combination of stone monuments, metal plaques, and painted lines. These markers can be found at regular intervals along the border, serving as a reminder of the historical surveys and the agreed-upon boundary between the two states.

For more information on the surveys and marking of the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border, you can visit the official websites of the respective states: and

Formal Agreement on the Border in 1741

In 1741, a formal agreement was reached between New Hampshire and Massachusetts regarding their shared border. This agreement was the result of years of disputes and negotiations between the two colonies.

Border Towns Commission

To resolve the border disputes, both New Hampshire and Massachusetts established a Border Towns Commission. This commission consisted of representatives from both colonies who were tasked with determining the exact location of the border.

The commission conducted surveys and studied historical documents to gather evidence and arguments from both sides. Their goal was to find a fair and mutually acceptable resolution to the border issue.

The King’s Decree

After much deliberation, the Border Towns Commission presented their findings to King George II of England. The king reviewed the evidence and issued a royal decree in 1741, officially establishing the border between the two colonies.

The king’s decree settled the border dispute and provided a clear and definitive boundary line. This decision brought an end to years of uncertainty and tension between New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Final Resolution

The formal agreement reached in 1741 established the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts as it exists today. The boundary line runs along natural features such as rivers and mountains, ensuring that both colonies have clear and distinct territories.

This resolution not only provided a clear demarcation of the border but also set a precedent for future border disputes between other colonies. The process of negotiation and the involvement of the king in settling the dispute highlighted the importance of diplomacy and compromise in resolving territorial conflicts.

To learn more about the history of the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border and the events leading up to the formal agreement in 1741, you can visit the official websites of both states:

Trivia and Points of Interest Along the Border

Border Marker #1

One interesting point of trivia along the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border is Border Marker #1. This marker, located in the town of Salisbury, Massachusetts, is the starting point of the border between the two states. It was originally placed in 1642 and has been a significant landmark ever since.

Visitors can take a trip to Salisbury and see this historic marker for themselves. It’s a great spot to capture a photo and learn more about the rich history of the border.

The Old Man of the Mountain

The Old Man of the Mountain was a unique rock formation located in New Hampshire, near the border with Massachusetts. It was a beloved symbol of the state and appeared on New Hampshire’s license plates for many years. Unfortunately, the natural formation collapsed in 2003 due to erosion.

Despite its disappearance, the Old Man of the Mountain remains an important part of New Hampshire’s history and is still remembered fondly by locals and tourists alike. Visitors to the area can explore the Franconia Notch State Park, where the Old Man of the Mountain was once located, and learn more about its significance.

Bear Brook State Park

Bear Brook State Park is a popular recreational area that spans both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, and camping. It is known for its beautiful scenery and diverse wildlife.

With over 10,000 acres of land, Bear Brook State Park provides ample opportunities for exploration and adventure. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful hike or a fun-filled weekend camping trip, Bear Brook State Park is a must-visit destination along the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border.

For more information about the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border and its points of interest, you can visit the official websites of the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.


The New Hampshire-Massachusetts border has a long and complex history behind it, with disputes, surveys and formal agreements shaping its path. After years of controversy, the border towns were finally established in 1741. Today, it’s fascinating to explore the many landmarks and trivia that lie along this important boundary line between two New England states.

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