Historical Timeline

  • 1774 —The frame of the courthouse was built close to the Webster Tavern, near the corner of today's Main and Highland Streets. Mrs. Webster did not want those being punished in the stocks and at the pillory post to be viewed by her tavern guests — not good for business! The frame of the structure was moved to another location Owned by Capt. Webster near the corner of Pleasant and Russell Streets.The courthouse was one of two Grafton County courthouses, the other being in Haverhill. The building served as a courthouse for 49 years. Many of New Hampshire's early statesmen and governors would have visitied this building. It was also used as a meeting place during the days leading up to the Revolutionary War.

  • 1806 — Young attorney Daniel Webster from Franklin pled his first criminal case in this very building. Though he lost the unwinnable case, he went on to grander things. As his stature as a lawyer, orator, and stateman, the Courthouse became a noted landmark and tourist attraction, even when it became rundown. It was featured on post cards, hotel promotions and souvenir china.

  • 1823 — The Courthouse ended its judicial service when a new courthouse is built on the common. During the ensuing years the former courthouse served as a school and was later moved to South Main Street where it was used as a paint shop and wheelwright shop.

  • 1873 — A group of 14 young ladies conceive of a plan for a circulating library. They raised funds by presenting teas and various forms of entertaiment including lectures and a fair. They used the funds to purchase books and opened the library in donated space over the express office on Main Street. 

  • 1876 — Sen. Henry W. Blair, once an attorney in Plymouth, was then a US Senator in Washingtion DC. He realized the historical value of the 1774 courthouse and took it upon himself to save it from the ravages of time. He made arrangements with Grafton County to have it moved to land behind the new courthouse (where it stands today) and make much needed repairs. At a cost of $1,000 (equivalent to approximately $220,000 in today's dollars). He repaired the broken window frames, cleaned the defaced door, and replaced the missing cupola (but in a less grand scale and without a bell). He also remodeled the interior.

  • 1878 — Sen. Blair presented the Old Webster Courthouse to the Young Ladies with a lease for 100 years to serve as the home of their library. (It served as the town library for 112 years.) It was for their use as long as it remained a place for _______

  • 1986 — The Old Webster Courthouse is one of the buildings in Plymouth's historic district,  which was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the oldest surving civic structures in the state of New Hampshire.

  • 1990 — Having outgrown the tiny Courthouse, the Young Ladies Library Association raised funds to build the town of Plymouth a new, larger libray to accomodate the growing needs of the community. Through wise investment of monies left by the estate of Charlotte Pease (a native of Plymouth with deep family roots in the town and a member of the YLLA) the Association was able to partner with the Pemigewasset Bank, and with its donation of the Pease homestead, created Pease Public Library.

  • 1991 — With the Old Webster Courthouse now vacant for the first time in over 100 years, the Young Ladies needed to put it to proper use to honor their agreement with Sen. Blair. They decided to offer it as museum space to the Plymouth Historical Society. While the Society had organized in 1973, it never had a central location to house its collection — it was stored in the homes, barns and businesses of its members. This was a wonderful arrangement for both organizations, and a good use for the historic courthouse.

  • 1991 — Grand opening

  • 1991–2013 — Now with a place to exhibit its collection…

  • 2013 — in 2013 Plymouth celebrated its 250th Anniversary. With a focus on Plymouth's past, the Old Webster Courthouse became a center of activity. 

  • 2013 -- On December 31 the alarm at the Courthouse went off. Responding to the call, the door was unlocked but it would not open all the way. Peering through the small crack it was not clear what was blocking the door. Once eyes adjusted to the dark interior a scene of devestation was revealed. Half of the ceiling had collapsed, covering everything with dust and debris and compromising artifacts. Though it was New Year's Eve Day, various community members jumped into action to secure both the collection and the historic building so dear to so many.

  • 2014 — During one of the coldest Januarys in recent memory, repair work began on the Old Webster Courthouse. The remaining half of the ceiling and the collapsed half were both reinforced for safety and to prevent further damage. The collection of the historical society and artifacts belonging to the YLLA were removed to off-site storage. The interior was cleaned up and experts were called in to come up with a plan. A civil engineer, an historical preservation expert and various preservation contractors are consulted. The rafters of the remaining ceiling were reinforced. The rafters for the collapsed part of the ceiling were replaced with new materials, a bit sturdier than those used over 200 years ago. It was decided that the ceiling should remain the beadboard that was present at the time of the collapse. The fallen boards were painstakingly reclaimed and provided approximately 90-95% of the wood needed to reconstruct the ceiling. The remaining boards were carefully milled and stained to match the existing boards as closely as possible. New insulation was installed as was new lighting—school house pendant lamps more suited to the time period as well as new track lighting to better illuminate displays.

  • 2016 — At the end of January, with a newly renovated and open space available inside the Old Webster Courthouse, the Plymouth Historical Society hosted a Reminiscing Night about the Courthouse during the period it served as the town library. The evening is taped and played on the local cable station to be shared with those who could not attend.

  • 2016 — With repairs now complete, the Historical Society begins to bring the collection back into the Courthouse and rethink how to best store and exhibit the artifacts while keeping the space flexible for both exhibits and meeting space. Concurrently, PHS is setting up an electronic cataloging system so they may keep a more accurate record of the collection as it is brought back to the museum. 

  • 2016 — The Historical Society celebrates a Grand Reopening on June 4 with a ribbon cutting and "visitors from the past" as well as a new exhibit about Plymouth in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite the surprisingly steamy weather, a standing room only crowd is in attendance.