Re-write coming soon 10/25/22
Tracking the history of this area is complicated and confusing, as the geographical area of Pannaway (Odiorne), Great Island (Newcastle), and Strawberry Bank were at points settled, abandoned, moved, and then resettled.
Captain Walter Neale was hired by Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason to lead a group to establish a fishing/trading post and to look for precious metals. This was also a Laconia Company operation. He arrived with a group of soldiers at Pannaway (Odiorne) in Rye, which was at that point “mostly abandoned” after the death of David Thompson. They then moved two miles east to a spot more near the entrance of the Piscataqua, which was earlier identified on John Smith’s map as a place of interest.
In all, forty-eight men and twenty-two women were paid and sent over on behalf of Mason and Gorges. These trips spanned a few years. Two ships, the Warwick, and Pide-Cowe were Portsmouth’s version of the Mayflower.
Humphrey Charbourne built the “Great House” which would be the center of the settlement. “[It] would be larger than the house at Panaway. It would be built of pine, with a stone foundation and chimney. Stone and pine were ready at hand, and Strawberry Banke became all at once a bustle of activity. In short order, a storehouse had been built, small houses for the tenants, a shelter for cows and sheep…wells had been dug, a blacksmith shop was in prospect…and on the edge of the woods was a sawmill and along the shore, platforms for drying the fish. (6)
As the story goes, the first men called the area Strawberry Banke after a patch of wild strawberries that grew near the Pistacaqua. This story is disputed by some, as this was also the name of an estate back in England (I have this story somewhere). Portsmouth was the name of John Mason’s estate back in England, as was Kittery, named after the Shapleigh’s Family estate.
John Mason’s relationship with his settlers was a slow tug of war with long months lagging between each transatlantic conversation. Mason’s agent usually begged for more goods made in England – shoes, nails, beer. Mason, in return, promised to send more supplies as soon as the colonists could produce something he could sell in England to pay back his investors. While furs and fish came from the settlement in South Berwick, the Great House produced very little. Strawberry Bank and Pannaway were, initially, failed investments. In 1635, as he was outfitting a ship to visit his colony for the first time, John Mason died. The Laconia Company folded around that time, abandoning the New Hampshire colonists to fend for themselves. Puritan businessmen from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and England quickly took over at Strawberry Bank as they did in Dover [and other areas]. (11)
The Garrison House in York Maine is also probably similar to the one built in Portsmouth.
Life was relatively peaceful for this settlement and trading with the Natives was commonplace. It wasn’t until King Philips War in 1675 that hostilities occured. Nethertheless, a small fort was built called “The Castle” in what is now New Castle, NH. A history of the Fort will be told on a seperate page.
After John Mason died in 1635, by 1640 the people of Portsmouth entered into a social contract to establish a government amounst themselves. They elected Francis Williams as Govenor, and Ambross Gibbins and Thomas Warnerton assistants.