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The Town of Lyme - Our History and Our People

The Town of Lyme, New Hampshire was chartered in 1761. Residents of towns along both sides of the Connecticut River refer to this area as “The Upper Valley.” Settlers arrived from southern New England in 1764. Shortly thereafter they petitioned Eleazer Wheelock, the founder of Dartmouth College, to recommend a pastor for the newly established congregation in Lyme.

The original church covenant was signed in 1771 and the first meetinghouse was built in 1781. Subsequently, the agricultural community experienced population growth. As the town moved into a new century, a new and larger meetinghouse was dedicated in 1812 and it continued to meet the needs of the town through the town’s period of rapid growth (maximum population 1,824 in 1820); its gradual decline (minimum population 830 in 1930); and its recent increase to a current population of around 1700.

Lyme followed a typical economic pattern for a rural, northern New England town. It moved rapidly from subsistence farming, to market farming, to sheep raising, to mixed agriculture and finally to dairy farming. Although most residents today commute to work in neighboring towns, there are still a few remaining farms. The church at one end of the town common, and the elementary school, and library at the other end “bookend” traditional community businesses, which include a country store, a hardware store and post office, two restaurants, two inns, two branch banks, professional offices and various small businesses.

The citizens of Lyme work hard to maintain Lyme’s physical and natural beauty by careful planning, zoning and conservation. A striking example is the large amount of land that has been conserved by its environmentally sensitive citizens. Smarts Mountain rises to the northeast of town and several brooks flow though its rolling hills into the Connecticut River. There are wilderness areas such as a town forest and the Grant Brook nature trail. There are secluded ponds such as Trout Pond and Pout Pond. Near town is Post Pond, which is the town’s center for swimming and other recreational activities. The Dartmouth Skiway, located a short distance from Lyme Center, is open to the public and the town’s children ski free of cost at the facility. The Appalachian Trail runs through part of Lyme and provides an excellent opportunity for outdoor recreation.

Two miles east of Lyme Common is the village of Lyme Center, whose focal points are the Baptist Church and the Lyme Center Academy Building, which recently gained statewide recognition for its completed renovation. The second floor of the Academy Building is an ideal place for community functions. The first floor is the home of the Lyme History Museum. The people of Lyme take great pride in their local heritage, working hard to preserve its historical structures and its natural beauty.

The town and groups within the town sponsor many activities. Some examples are the Memorial Day parade, 4th of July festivities, Old Home Day, and the Pumpkin Festival. Other examples of locally supported groups and activities are the Utility Club, which is a fundraising and social service organization for women; the Lyme Historians, who organize our museum and offer multiple tours and reminders of the town’s history; the library, which also opens its doors to guest speakers and artists; the Women’s Fellow- ship, which is a fundraising organization benefitting the church and many outreach needs; Those Guys, a men’s service organization; the Ladies Aid, which facilitates a quilting group; the town recreation committee, which provides swimming, soccer, baseball and other sports programs; the elementary school which regularly invites the community to attend its programs; and the Lyme Foundation, which was created to help fund projects which maintain and enhance the quality of life for its citizens.
Nearby Dartmouth College, with its abundance of cultural, athletic, and adult educational programs, is a significant asset to Lyme residents, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center offers world-class health care.

It is no wonder that retirees move to Lyme for its quality of life, and that young families are attracted to its school, outdoor opportunities and community-centered activities.