Even at this early date, however, a spirited controversy was in progress between the provinces of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, relative to the position of the boundary line between them (see page 64). The final settlement of this mooted question by King George II., in 1740, left the new township far within the limits of New Hampshire. On the third of October the proprietor held a meeting, to consider this grave subject of, which the following records of proceedings is left:
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“The proprietors being informed that, by the determination of his majesty in council respecting the controverted bounds between the province of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, they are excluded from the province of the Massachusetts Bay, to which they always supposed themselves to belong
” Therefore, unanimously voted, shat a petition be presented to the Kings most excellent majesty, setting forth our distress estate, and praying that we may be annexed to the said Massachusetts province:
“Also unanimously voted, that Thomas Huschinson, Esq., be empowered so present the said petition to his majesty, and to appear fully to act for and in behalf of this town, respecting the subject matter of said petition, according so the best discretion.”
Notwithstanding Mr. Hutchinsons visit to the King and his solicitation that the prayer of his majestys subjects be granted, however, the boundary line was surveyed the following year, and it has never been changed.
From this time until 1753, then, the proprietors and inhabitants of Upper Ashuelot held their lands with no valid title, their property in reality belonging to the province of New Hampshire. But on the 11th of April, of that year, upon petition of the proprietors, a charter was granted by Governor Benning Wentworth, granting them the land embraced within the original limits of Upper Ashuelot, and a small additional strip on the. eastern side, forming a new township under the name of Keene. This name was given by Governor Wentworth in honor of his friend. Sir Benjamin Keene, who was then minister from England to Spain. As then granted, the township had an area of 25,248 acres; but from this, September 27, 1787, was taken 1,920 acres towards forming the township of Sullivan, and December 9, 1812, 1,472 acres more towards forming the town of Roxbury, while at another date, 154 acres from Swanzey were annexed to Keene, so that it now has an area of 22,010 acres.
The surface of Keene is so charmingly diversified as to be at once a joy so the artist and pride of the husbandman. It lies principally upon a level and substantially rectangular plateau, six miles in length and four in width, walled in on four sides by ranges of lofty hills. The mountain breezes which sweep, upon it from the north in winter have an edge “keener” than a razor; but he who endures she rigors of this season finds ample compensation in she genial season when the fertile plain and the rough hillsides are adorned with the verdure of spring, the blossoms and cloud-flects of summer, or the autumnal red and gold of the harvest fields and woodland foliage. Indeed, at this season it would be difficult to find a more charming retreat than this beautiful spot among the granite hills.
This broad valley is supposed to have been, in past ages, the bed of a primeval lake, and its deposits extend down to an unknown depth, covering about one-third of the territory, and varying in character from a clean sand to pure clay, with vast deposits of peat and swamp muck composed of the vegetable accumulations of centuries. These tracts, however, when properly drained, make meadow land that will vie in fertility with the prairies of the West. The valley is watered by the Ashuelot and its tributaries, affording many fine mill-sites. The soil, generally, in the valley, is fertile, while the hill-sides are well adapted to grazing. Granite of a good quality for quarrying abounds in many parts, while a peculiar variety of this rock, called “rotten stone,” is found in abundance in other localities, affording a fine material for road-making. It contains a portion of sulphuret of iron, which decomposes, and leaves the rock in a very fragile condition, easily reduced, and convenient for use.
In 1880 Keene had a population of 6,784 souls. In 1884 it had eleven school districts and thirty-one different public schools, twenty-one of which were graded, and one a high-school. Its twenty school buildings, including sites, furniture, etc., were valued at $88,610.00. There were 1,216 pupils attending these schools, 147 of whom were pursuing the higher branches, taught during the year by two male and forty female teachers, the former at an average monthly salary of $91.67, and the latter $44.00 per month. The entire amount of revenue for school purposes during the year was $17,425.72, while the total amount expended was $15,133.90.