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The earliest known inhabitants of the area were members of the Nipmuc tribe, who lived in numerous villages along the Contoocook River. The English settlers arrived in 1734 and founded a town on June 30, 1749 which they named "Salem" after Jerusalem (the Hebrew word for peace). It was one of four townships granted by Colonial Governor Benning Wentworth; it encompassed what is now Auburn and Hudson as well as Salem. In 1808, however, local residents voted to dissolve this township because they felt that government affairs were too remote when administered from Concord. On January 13, 1840 another vote established a new township called "West Ward", but this name didn't last long: on March 7 it was changed to "Salem".