This town, named in honor of British naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson, was granted in 1752 as Monadnock No. 6, or Packersfield. It was incorporated in 1774 and took its present name in 1814. It lies on the line between the Connecticut and Merrimack river watersheds.

Quiet Nelson village contains a fine 1841 village church in Greek and Gothic revival style and attractive homes. Munsonville, on the shores of Granite Lake, is mostly made up of summer homes today, but was once a busy industrial site, making use of abundant water power to produce cotton cloth and chairs.

Nelson was primarily an agricultural community, and today is largely a residential and vacation retreat.