During the summer of 1761, several individuals had selected their lots, commenced clearing, built a camp and laid in some provisions, with the design of attempting to pass the winter in town. Benjamin and John Mudgett, two brothers from Brentwood, were of this number. They had erected a camp on lot No. 3, third range, first division of 100 acre lots, a little Northwest of the spot where the first school house in district No. 1, now stands, and in the late fall went down to bring up their families, but their removal for some time delayed by the deep snows of that winter. They at length however commenced their journey, and on the memorable evening of the 26th of Dec. 1761, Benjamin Mudgett and his wife arrived in town, having come that day from Epsom, a distance of not less than 12 miles, on foot, and if tradition be correct, on snow shoes also. It is related of Mrs. Mudgett, that she became exceedingly wearied long before they reached the camp, and often halted to rest. At length when about a mile from the end of her journey, she came to the conclusion that she could go no further, and sat down upon the cold snow saying to her husband, " I may as well die here as anywhere; if I attempt to go farther it will kill me, and if I stop here I shall but die."
We can but faintly imagine the feelings which possessed their bosoms at this moment. In the waste howling wilderness, separated from all friends, who could assist them, by many a weary mile traveled over, the shades of night now drawing around them, and yet at an oppressive distance from the poor shelter, which had been provided for their accommodation. But they had hearts not easily subdued by discouragements like these; and after a little respite, she made one more effort, and they at length reached their "home in the wilderness." Mrs. Mudgett was the woman, who set foot on the soil of Gilmanton, and she passed one night in town with no other woman nearer than Epsom! On the next day Dec. 27th, John Mudgett and wife with great weariness reached town, having found little better traveling than their predecessors. On the 10th of January following, about 15 days later, Orlando Weed and wife joined them and here these three families remained through the winter; their nearest neighbors being in Epsom, at that time a day's journey removed from them. How dreary their situation must have been, will appear from the following entry, made in a journal kept by Mr. Benjamin Kimball of Concord, "The winter of this year (1762) was very severe. Snows were so frequent and so deep as to prevent passing in any direction for two months, being nearly six feet on level." Had they been visited with sickness, or had fire consumed their provisions, their suffering must have been intense, even if they had not perished. The arrival of the first family has heretofore been fixed on the 27th of Dec., but this point is settled by the following certificate made by Mrs. Mudgett at the age of 78, the original copy of which is still preserved.
"I, Hannah Mudgett the wife of Benjamin Mudgett, hereby certify that I was born in the town of Brentwood, on the 9th of June, 1739, was married to Benjamin Mudgett on the 21st of Dec. 1761, and arrived in Gilmanton on the evening of the 26th of Dec. the same year, where I lived ever since. I moreover state that I was the first white woman who ever set foot in Gilmanton, was the first woman who ever came here to settle, and that I passed one night in town before any other woman arrived. This, I now state in my 78th year.
Mrs. Mudgett was the daughter of Joshua Bean, who, by two marriages, had 21 children, 5 of whom, 4 sons and one daughter, early settled in town. He followed them from Brentwood with the rest of the family, and became a resident in Gilmanton, about 1780, and died in town. Mrs. Mudgett lived in Gilmanton until the inhabitants had increased in number to more than 5000. This was before Gilford was disannexed. The latter years of her life, she spent in Meredith with one of her sons, near Bickford's Mills, where she died July 9, 1834, at the advanced age of 95. Samuel, son of Mrs. Mudgett, b. Feb. 15, 1764, was the first male child born in town. There is a tradition of an attempt by Major Richard Sinkler of Barnstead, to supplant this heir of Mrs. Mudgett, in receiving a right of land, which was said to be offered by the Proprietors to the first son born in town. The tradition represents Major Sinkler as erecting a camp, just over the line in Gilmanton , and as moving his family there just before the birth of a son, with a design to obtain by stealth the Right of land, without becoming a settler. The story is doubtful authority, inasmuch as no record appears on the Proprietors' books of their having made an offer of land to the first son born in Gilmanton. Moreover, the town of Barnstead had no inhabitants at this periord, nor until 1767, three years after this son was born. Major Sinkler was an actual setter of Gilmanton, and a resident of lot No. 1, first rage of lower 100 acres for many years. He was one of the petitioners for the first town meeting in 1766, who were all real settlers of the town.
History of Gilmanton
Written by: Daniel Lancaster
Published in 1845