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The Story of Our Homestead

Moses of the Scotch Irish in America (1718)

In 1718, Reverend James MacGregor led 20 Ulster Scot (“Scotch Irish”) families of his Presbyterian Church in Aghadowey, Ireland to America in search of religious, political, and cultural freedom. He and the congregation were given a 100 square mile Royal land grant called Nutfield in what is now New Hampshire. The settlement's success earned Rev. MacGregor the title "Moses of the Scotch Irish in America." Today, Nutfield is considered America's first completely Scotch Irish settlement.

Double Range Nutfield

The Double Range (1719)

Each of the 20 families was given a sixty acre home lot along the West Running Brook where they built primitive cabins of hewed logs. The brook uniquely flowed westerly away from the Atlantic Ocean, unlike most streams and rivers in New England that flow towards the Atlantic. Among these families were the Gregg Family led by Captain James Gregg and his sons William and John.

The Common Field (1723)

Soon after settling Nutfield, the town’s proprietors designated two-and-a-half acres on John Gregg’s land to serve as the town’s garden until each family could cultivate their own land for gardening. Here the first white potato in North America was planted in what became known as the Common Field.

First Potato in America
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Pioneers (1700s)

The Greggs pioneered Nutfield's industrial growth and built several dams, the town's first meeting house, and a road that would become the Londonderry Turnpike (today Route 28 Bypass). This infrastructure proved valuable in connecting Nutfield to the rest of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and the community's rapid growth allowed the town to successfully petition the Royal Governor to be incorporated as a legally chartered town, called Londonderry.

Derry's Oldest Home (1720s)

During the 1720s, John and Agnes Gregg built a salt box center chimney colonial with a massive center chimney and fireplace. Through generations of careful preservation, the home stands today as the oldest home in Derry and the only home of the original 20 families of Nutfield that is still remaining on its original site.

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Distinguished Honor (1730 - 1815)

Colonel William Gregg, John Gregg's son, earned a distinguished military record. He helped the military prepare for the Battle of Bunker Hill, served as regimental muster master in his town, Major in the first New Hampshire regiment, and lieutenant colonel under Nutfield native General John Stark at the battle of Bennington of the American Revolutionary War.


Spirit of Hospitality

After the war, Colonel William Gregg managed the family farm and he was recognized for his spirit of hospitality. William's pastor and historian Rev. Edward L. Parker wrote that "his house was always the resting place of the weary, and none left it without feasting on the bounties of his board. Youth and age were delighted in his company, and his hospitality gained him numerous friends, in addition to those esteemed and honored him for the good he had done his country."

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Live Free or Die

Born 1728 in Londonderry (formerly Nutfield and now Derry), General John Stark is arguably the most famous American Revolutionary War hero. He lead attacks against the British army, contributed to the British surrender at Saratoga, and fought at Bunker Hill with Colonel William Gregg. He also served during the French and Indian War and his saying "Live Free or Die" is used as New Hampshire's state motto. 

Robert Frost (1900 - 1910)

One of Derry's most famous former residents, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Robert Frost lived at his farm nearly 1 mile away from Westbrook in the early 1900s. Many of his most notable poems were written about New England and his Derry life: West Running Brook and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Frost spoke at President John F. Kennedy's 1961 inauguration and his Derry farm is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. All of the quotes throughout our website are courtesy of Robert Frost.

"Ah when to the heart of men

Was it ever less than treason

To go with the drift of things,

To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end

Of a love and a season?"

The West Running Brook

In 1928, Frost brought the brook to the national stage with his poem entitled, The West Running Brook, and used the brook's unique direction as metaphor about how some men or women yielded to the irresistible impulse to sometimes go in a different direction, opposite the usual and accepted path. 

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Frost's poem describes Derry's rural setting that he loved so dearly and specifically mentions a frozen lake from his walk on the Turnpike. Legend is that a mill operated to the south of Westbrook along the brook and every year it would open around March/April. A ​lake would form due to the high flow of water and the cold temperatures caused it to freeze over.

"My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year."

Jerry and Beth Siragusa lived on Beaver Lake where they started a preschool and daycare at their home in 1982. In 1983, Jerry knocked on the McAllister's home, formerly the Gregg homestead, and he and Beth purchased the home later that year. For the next 40 years they raised 6 children and operated The Circle of Friends School at the historic site.  

More than 300 years after the Nutfield settlers shared the Common Field and Colonel William Gregg shared his home with guests, the Common Field is once again being shared with the community. The Siragusas opened The Westbrook Inn for wedding couples and private groups to celebrate and make lifelong memories with family and friends.

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Other Historical Figures from Derry

Founding Father (1776)

Ulster Scot Matthew Thornton held high positions as a military physician, President of the New Hampshire house of Representatives, drafter of New Hampshire's first constitution, and justice to the Superior Court, but he's most recognized for signing the United States Declaration of Independence as representative of New Hampshire. His Derry home is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Pioneering Female Education (1824)

In 1824, the Adams Female Academy opened in Derry and operated until 1887 as the nation's first endowed girls' school that issued diplomas, had a published curriculum, and owned its own building. Miss Mary Lyon was the academy's assistant principal and became a national leader in advancing female education. President Franklin Pierce and Ralph Waldo Emerson were among the school's notable trustees. After leaving the school, Lyon founded America's first women's college Mount Holyoke College.

Derry Depot (1849)

The Boston and Maine Railroad expanded to Downtown Derry and built the Derry Depot station in 1849 as a passenger and freight line. This station spurred massive growth to the downtown as Derry became a destination on the heels of the growing shoe industry and travelers' desire to escape north from the city of Boston. The Chester and Derry Railroad trolley also offered transportation for local residents. Derry Depot closed in 1970 and today is home to Sabatino's, a local Italian restaurant.

Beginnings of an Empire (1856)

In 1856, Harvey Perley Hood purchased the Murdock-White farm next door to the Gregg homestead to relocate his dairy company to Derry Village where he could farm cows and take advantage of the regional railroad. Through generations of ownership, HP Hood's company, the Hood Company, would become one of the largest businesses based in New England. A true Derry success story.

National Industrialist (1870 - 1911)

A trained shoemaker and war hero, Colonel William S. Pillsbury began managing the Boston Clement, Colburn Shoe Company's shoe shop in Derry during the 1870s. Under Pillsbury’s leadership, Derry became a national leader in the shoe manufacturing industry. He and his son later formed, W.S. & R.S. Pillsbury, and acquired hundreds of buildings in Downtown Derry. His shoe shop and real estate investments helped revitalize a depressed downtown as a bustling destination for workers and travelers. 

Spacetown (1961)

Derry native Alan Shepard became the first American in space on May 5th, 1961. His namesake is littered through town on buildings at the high school Pinkerton Academy, conservation land Shepard Farm, I-93's route through Derry/Londonderry called "The Alan Shepard Highway," and more. He served in the Navy during World War II and his legacy lives on locally as Derry's nickname is Space Town.

Historian Harriett Chase Newell

Newell is one of Derry's original historians and the author of eight books including the popular series, Houses of Derry. She was the 1966 Derry Citizen of the Year and highly regarded in town for her work. 

Historian Richard Holmes

Derry native and Army veteran, Richard Holmes has singlehandedly been the most significant contributor to the historical research of Westbrook. He's served as Derry historian for decades, written many notable historical books about the area, and been a reliable resource for the Siragusa family throughout the conversion of their homestead. Thank you Richard for your invaluable service and willingness to share your wealth of knowledge. 

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