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Nelson, New Hampshire
Nelson Community Church and the town's iconic row of mailboxes
Nelson Community Church and the town's iconic row of mailboxes
Location in Cheshire County, New Hampshire
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Cheshire
Incorporated 1774
 • Total 23.2 sq mi (60.2 km2)
 • Land 21.9 sq mi (56.6 km2)
 • Water 1.4 sq mi (3.6 km2)  5.94%
1,493 ft (455 m)
 • Total 729
 • Density 31.42/sq mi (12.110/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-50580
GNIS feature ID 0873673

Nelson is a town in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 729 at the 2010 census. Nelson includes the village of Munsonville.


The Common, Nelson, NH
The Common c. 1914

Originally named Monadnock No. 6, the town was granted in 1752 by Governor Benning Wentworth. It was first settled in 1767 by Breed Batchelder. On February 22, 1774, the town was incorporated by Governor John Wentworth as Packersfield, after a major proprietor, Thomas Packer, the sheriff at Portsmouth. The name was changed in 1814 to Nelson in honor of Viscount Horatio Nelson, British admiral and naval hero.

Located on the height of land separating the watersheds of the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers, Nelson became primarily an agricultural community. The uneven surface proved good for grazing. But with streams rising from four ponds to provide water power, it also developed industry. The village of Munsonville, situated on the stage line at the outlet of Granite Lake, manufactured cotton cloth and chairs. The L. J. Colony Chair Co. produced between 25,000 and 30,000 chairs annually, hiring women and children from local farms to weave the rattan seats and backs. At one time, Munsonville had 1,000 homesteads and 10 school districts. The mills have since closed, and Munsonville is today a resort of summer homes.

Nelson is the home of a popular Monday night contradance. Similar dances have been held for over 200 years in Nelson's town hall. Many make the claim that this is the longest running public contradance in the world, though there have been no attempts to document this as an "official" record. The Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, a classical chamber music group which attempts to bring members of cultures in conflict (such as Israelis and Palestinians) closer together through music, is also in Nelson.


Nelson is located in the eastern part of Cheshire County, in southwestern New Hampshire. Its eastern border is the Hillsborough County line. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 23.2 square miles (60 km2), of which 21.9 sq mi (57 km2) is land and 1.4 sq mi (3.6 km2) is water, comprising 5.94% of the town. The eastern part of the town drains towards the Contoocook River, a tributary of the Merrimack River and part of the Gulf of Maine watershed, while the western part of the town feeds tributaries of the Ashuelot River, part of the Connecticut River watershed draining to Long Island Sound. Spoonwood Pond and part of Nubanusit Lake are in the east. Part of Silver Lake is in the south, and part of Granite Lake is in the north. The village of Munsonville is located at the outlet of Granite Lake. The highest point in Nelson is the summit of Osgood Hill (also known as Nelson Pinnacle), with an elevation of 2,253 feet (687 m) above sea level.

The town is crossed by the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, a 50-mile (80 km) hiking trail that traverses the highlands of southern New Hampshire from Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey to Mount Sunapee in Newbury. The trail passes directly through the center of Nelson.

The town is crossed by New Hampshire Route 9.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 721
1800 977 35.5%
1810 1,076 10.1%
1820 907 −15.7%
1830 875 −3.5%
1840 835 −4.6%
1850 750 −10.2%
1860 699 −6.8%
1870 744 6.4%
1880 438 −41.1%
1890 332 −24.2%
1900 295 −11.1%
1910 231 −21.7%
1920 171 −26.0%
1930 162 −5.3%
1940 282 74.1%
1950 231 −18.1%
1960 222 −3.9%
1970 304 36.9%
1980 442 45.4%
1990 535 21.0%
2000 634 18.5%
2010 729 15.0%
Est. 2015 717 −1.6%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 634 people, 247 households, and 162 families residing in the town. The population density was 29.0 people per square mile (11.2/km²). There were 400 housing units at an average density of 18.3 per square mile (7.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.48% White, 0.63% African American, 0.32% Native American, 0.16% from other races, and 1.42% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.58% of the population.

There were 247 households out of which 33.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.5% were married couples living together, 4.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.4% were non-families. 26.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.19.

In the town, the population was spread out with 27.1% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 105.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.7 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $41,250, and the median income for a family was $59,464. Males had a median income of $40,577 versus $25,000 for females. The per capita income for the town was $31,625. About 9.2% of families and 12.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.3% of those under age 18 and 3.2% of those age 65 or over.

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