Piscataqua Plantations

A History of the Piscataqua River Region

Category: 1630s

1630 Strawberry Banke Portsmouth

Coming Soon. Rough Draft.

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 establish a fishing and trading post and to look for gold. This was 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, earlier identified on John Smith’s map.

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 Kettry (Kittery) named after the Shapleigh’s estate.

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 here 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 soon after that, abandoning the New Hampshire colonists to fend for themselves. Puritan businessmen from England quickly took over at Strawberry Bank. (11)

Despite the constant complaints from the early residents of the Great House, life was better here than the early years at Jamestown or Plymouth, where half the new colonists died. A precise and extended inventory of all three plantations made after John Mason’s death offers a look inside the great houses where everything belonged to the proprietor. The inventory shows scores of items, including: guns (161), swords (61), shirts (80), pairs of stockings (204), iron kettles (23), rugs (40), musical instruments (17), sugar (610 lbs), corn (140 bushels), pine planks (1,151), livestock (155 head), and bibles (1). Clearly Portsmouth was not founded for religious freedom. (7)

No written description of the Great House at Strawberry Bank survives, but a look inside a 1640-era manor at Cape Elizabeth offers clues. Plantation owner John Winter described his manor there as 40 by 18 feet with a large fireplace, an attached room near the kitchen, storage for twenty tons of casks, a steward’s room, and a sizeable eating area. Each room had doors and locks. Of the two large chambers, one was big enough to sleep all the men working at what is still called Richmond Island. (7)

More likely, the Great House was a post-in-ground structure like the mid-1600s Humphrey Chadbourne site excavated by Emerson Baker in South Berwick. Baker also excavated a 1636 site in York, Maine. Data accumulated from these modern scientific digs, Candee points out, give us more detail from which we can speculate about Portsmouth’s first houses. We are fairly certain where that the Great House stood on the crest of a hill that sloped down to the sea and to the tidal inlet or “cove” that gave Puddle Dock neighborhood its name. The cove, now filled in, was an attraction to the early settlers. (7)

One of its old chimneys and the southern wall of the Great House were reportedly still standing in 1695. Historians generally agree that the Great House, the first European-built structure in Portsmouth, sat near what is now the southeast corner of Court and Marcy streets (formerly Pitt and Water streets). That puts it across from the modern entrance to the Memorial Bridge end of Prescott Park. Strawbery Banke Museum today is literally in the “back yard” of the original Great House. The area that is the museum may once have been used as an orchard. The Laconia Company’s original thousand-acre grant to John Mason included much of what is currently downtown Portsmouth. (7)

Garrison House in York Maine is probably similar to the one built in Portsmouth as well.

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 1637, 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.

People of Interest:

BERRY, WILLIAM, was in the service of Captain 
John Mason in 1631. He died about 1654, and his 
widow, Jane, married Nathaniel Drake. After mar- 
riage they lived at Strawberry Bank. He died before 
June, 1654.
FERNALD, RENALD, M. D. He came to Ports- 
mouth with the first settlers of that town, in 1631 ; he 
was surgeon of Capt, John Mason's company. It is 
said that he was surgeon in the English navy before 
engaging to serve Captain Mason's company. Prob- 
ably Capt. Mason wanted to have his men well cared 
for, so induced the navy surgeon to resign and come to 
America. He became the physician for all the settle- 
ments along the Pascataqua river. He also made him- 
self useful in official capacities. He was clerk of the 
Court, for Dover and Portsmouth ; recorder of deeds ; 
town clerk of Strawberry Bank ; surveyor of land ; and 
commissioner for the settlement of small cases. So 
Dr. Fernald was a very useful, active and influential 
man in the settlements outside of Portsmouth, as well as in it. His wife's name was Joanna. He died in  1660, and it is said his grave is in the Point of Graves  Cemetery.

1630 Quamphegan Newichawannock South Berwick

In May, 1630, the barke Warwick found its way up the Piscataqua and Newichawannock rivers. On board were Ambrose Gibbons, Roger Knight and probably Thomas Spencer. Their wives came the following year. It is reasonable to assume that there were a few other servants of Capt. John Mason in this first ship’s company. Anchor was cast at the foot of Little Johns Falls, where even at low tide the water is deep. The neighboring shore on the eastern side of the Newichawannock river soon came to be called the Lower Landing, or Pipe Stave Landing. The adventurers came to plant a colony, to carry on trade with the Indians and to obtain lumber. They meant also to explore a large region, hoping to find various mines (12).

The leader, Ambrose Gibbons, must have been somewhat acquainted with the river and his landing place. He was not sailing in the dark to a wholly unknown destination. Probably he had been there before and consulted with Sagamore Rowles at Quamphegan, giving some presents for a piece of land on which to establish a trading post. As early as 1621 the Council of New England at old Plymouth, Devonshire authorized Ambrose Gibbons to deliver to Capt. Mason possession of Cape Anne. For eight years he had been Mason’s factor at Cape Anne, where he built houses, brought cattle and set up the trade of fishery. In 1630 “the Massachusetts Colony violently seized upon that part the Province . . . “and turned the servants and tenants of John Mason out of their possessions.” (N.H. Prov. Papers, XVII, 534) The advantages of trade, the water powers the forest of pine, and the abundance of salmon and sturgeon determined his choice of this locality for a permanent settlement (12).

This original settlement at “Newichawannock” was built and fortified with a palisade and was used as a “trading post” until it burned and nothing remains of this settlement except the site of the old “well” which Ambrose Gibbons dug to accommodate the Newichawsannock settlers.

William Chadbourne, father of Humphrey Chadbourne built


GIBBONS, AMBROSE The plantation at Newichawannock (now South 
Berwick) was begun, probably, in 1631. Ambrose Gib- 
bons had charge. Mason and others wrote to him un- 
der date of Nov. 5, 1632, "We praie you to take care of 
our house at Newichawannock, and to look well after 
our vines; also you may take some of our swine and 
goates, which we pray you to preserve." This implies 
that a house had been built sometime before and vines 
planted. Here trade was carried on with the Indians, 
who sometimes came to the number of one hundred. A 
deposition shows that a piece of land was purchased of 
the Indians. It probably lay on both sides of the Little 
Newichawannock River, now called Great Works 
River. July 13, 1633, Gibbons wrote Mason that 
Thomas Warnerton had charge of the house at Pascata- 
qua, or Little Harbor and had with him William 
Cooper, Ralph Gee, Roger Knight and wife, William 
Dermit and one boy. Certainly this was not a large 
colony, but Capt. Walter Neal, Mason's agent in the 
GODDARD, JOHN, 1608-1660. He was one of 
Capt, John Mason's colonists who came over in the ship 
"Pied Cow," and landed in a cove a short distance be- 
low Quamphegan Falls (South Berwick), 13 July, 1634, 
He helped build the saw mill and grist mill at Great 
Works. Mr. Goddard was a carpenter and was under 
contract, with others, to work for Mason five years ; it 
appears he worked only three years, so in April 1653 
Joseph Mason brought an action against Goddard "for 
breach of contract in not keeping the saw mill and a 
corne mill in repayer and worke the full time of five 
years, etc." Goddard had come down river to Dover, 
where he got land on better terms than he could around 
the "Great Works." He had a lot on Dover Neck in 
1648. He was made freeman in 1653, and he is fre- 
quently mentioned in the Dover records. He owned 
land at Oyster River and other parts of the old town ; 
he was famous as a mill builder, being more active in 
business than in politics. His four daughters married 
men who became distinguished in the town and pro- 

1631 Frank’s Fort Eliot

“Frank’s Fort” or “Frankfort Island” as known to Google Maps is now an island and is perhaps the first structure built in what is now Eliot Maine, located in Mast Cove close to the Eliot Boat Basin. During the 1630’s the land was still connected, steep but flat on top. Sea level rise and the fast moving waters of the Piscataqua erroded the land and it’s now an island. The island is now private property owned by James Austin of Kittery Point.

1665 Map – The “E” represents Frank’s Fort and “F” Watt’s Fort

Built in the summer of 1631, Frank’s Fort, an ancient name, is named after Francis Williams, overseer of the Laconia Company. The company failed, but more about the Laconia Company can be read about here (coming soon).

Franks Fort, and about one mile north “Watts Fort”, also called Darby’s Fort, which used to be another stop for the Laconia Company men traveling along the Piscataqua. They were never actually fortifications and no structures can be seen today. Watts Fort is completely under water

From “Old Kittery and Her Families

During the American Revolution, rebels attacked the British occupied Fort William and Mary at New Castle. They took firearms and gunpowder and burried them powder Franksfort Island. The cache was then distrubuted to the militia and was used at the battle of Bunker Hill in Boston.

I’ve also read that “in 1524, John Verrazani, an
Italian navigator, in the employ of the French, or Franks,
explored the Piscataqua ; and from this source came the
name, Frank ‘s Fort” (19) although I do not believe this account at this time.

From Google Maps

1631 The Castle Fort William and Mary New Castle

1634 Nicholas Frost Eliot

(More coming)

Born in 1585, Nicholas Frost and his decendants were major pioneers of the Piscataqua area and still own land here today. From Tiverton, England, he probably first built a house at Sturgeon Creek in Eliot, and then moved two miles inland, sailing up the creek to the very bottom of what was known as Frost’s Hill. This second residence was built towards the back end of 617 Goodwin Road.

The First house at Sturgeon Creek is said to be the first residence in Eliot Maine. The land was given to him by Thomas Wannerton, though evidentally not legally, and became neighbors of Alexander Shapleigh and James Treworgy.


1634 Sturgeon Creek Villiage Eliot

Coming Soon. Updated 5-8-2020

Native American name for fish? Native camp on the north side

The William Everett Tavern was located at what is known as Jocelyns Point, and later Leighton’s Point, which was a large 3 story house built about 1640. He was licensed to keep a tavern in 1649, and at that time there were 3 other Inns or Taverns, Mavericks, Emerys, and Jenkins. It was here at Everetts Tavern, that he courts of General Assembly and other town meetings were held. On November 16th 1652 residents of Kittery were effectively bullied into signing a submission to the Machassuets Bay Authoriy, to which was later contested by Gorges. While there is a plaque commemorating the historic event, it is believed the original location of the site may have been washed away by the Piscataqua. (3)

In 1638 (or 1635 as I’ve also read) Alexander Shapleigh, an agent of Ferdinando Gorges, sailed up the Piscataqua on his ship “Benediction” and landed in present day Eliot. He built the “Kittry House” which name was transfered from their manor in England. His faily hails from the Dart River, Kittery Point, Kingware Devonshire. In Eliot, their manor house, complete with kitchen, brewhouse, barn, and outbuildings, cellar, garrett, a total of two stories and 10 rooms. Before Kittery was a town, which was incorporated in 1647, most of the population lived in this area. (3)

Shapleigh’s interests were in the trading posts of Maine and New Hampshire, where he found a market for his goods sent over in his ships. His large interests in New England were looked after by the Treworgys and his son Nicholas, whose transactions in his name, with the depositions of servants, would make it appear that he was here at times when actually he was in England. [8]

Alexander spent most of his time in England and his family here managed his estates. On 2 Apr. 1641 James Treworgy sold all of Alexander’s property in America to Mr. Nicholas Shapleigh, then of Kingsweare, son of Alexander Shapleigh for £1,500. The ordinary, warehouse and a small parcel of land was left in possession of Capt. William Everett who died soon afterwards. In 1652 67 acres of land was confirmed by the town to Nathan Lord, son-in-law to Capt. Everett. Another 20 acres were confirmed to the heirs of Nicholas Frost. Another 47 acres were granted to others due to overlapping boundaries to other grant holders leaving Maj. Nicholas Shapleigh with about 760 acres of land.

From an article in the “Boston Globe” it seems as though the first cup of tea made in this country was made at Kittery House.[11]

The William Everett Tavern was located at what is known as Jocelyns Point, and later Leighton’s Point, which was a large 3 story house built about 1640. He was licensed to keep a tavern in 1649, and at that time there were 3 other Inns or Taverns, Mavericks, Emerys, and Jenkins. It was here at Everetts Tavern, that he courts of General Assembly and other town meetings were held. On November 16th 1652 residents of Kittery were effectively bullied into signing a submission to the Machassuets Bay Authoriy, to which was later contested by Gorges. While there is a plaque commemorating the historic event, it is believed the original location of the site may have been washed away by the Piscataqua. (3)

Just north, were Sandy Hill Farm is, was part of the Shapleigh family and River Road used to be called Sandy Hill. John Shapleigh and son Nicholas was attacked by natives along spruce creek, near the Kittery Trading Post. Nicholas was killed and John was taken prisoner and ransomed.

“F” Represents Watt’s Fort, which was still attached to the land. The large house may be Hammond Garrison?
The Road between 1 and 2 is Varney Lane in Eliot.
The Road along 4-5-6 is River Road Eliot.
1- W. M. Everett 1640, WM Leighton 1656
2- Abraham Conley, Thomas Jones
3- Reynold Jenkins
4-Nicholas Frost
5- JNO. Leighton 1690
6- Church

1630 Agamenticus Gorgeana York

It’s both shocking and fascinating to see this area mapped by early explorers.

Early Dutch, Spanish, and English maps showed the York River and surrounding area. It was highly probably that there was a Native American village on the east side of the river where the land would have already been cleared and fields set for planting. Mount Sasanoa was the Native American name for the highest point, Mount Agamenticus.

Captain John Smith originally marked this spot “Boston” when he expored and mapped the region in 1614 before there was a wharf built at the end of the Charles River. (4)

On John Smith’s map also appeared the name Plymouth – where the Pilgrams landed a just few years later in 1620 (4) which, similarily enough, was built over the Native American villiage Pawtuxaway.

The Agamenticus plantation was personally established from afar by Ferdinando Gorges whom received an original land charter in 1606. This critical early chater would later be crutial for a court case settled in the Vatican giving the English claim over this land.

In 1620 Gorges, Mason, and other business partners obtained a new charter from King James, and in 1622, obtained the grants for New Hampshire and Maine. See previous articles XXX which discuss the settlements on the New Hampshire side. (This can possibly come out)

Some accounts say that in 1623, in addition to Odiorne, a sister settlement was made at Agamenticus, now York, however, Rufus M Sawyer said “It is not quite certain when civilized men first pitched their tents at Agamenticus. A fertile valley partles intervale from one to two miles wide and heavily wooded with pine and oak. On the eastern bank of the river, near the ocean, was an admirable site for a future city, backed by the knoll of Sentry Hill, from which, inland, could be seen a bird’s eye view of the three-mile-square plantation, which in 1642 was to be enlarged to twenty-one square miles.” (4)

But there is actual evidence of when settlers started building here. Edward Godfrey, who originally came over with David Thompson and lived in the Great House at Odirone in 1623, is said to have built the first house in York in 1630. In 1654 writing:

“Seweth that he hath been a well wisher incourarger and furderer of this Col. of N. E. for 45 years (1609) and above 32 years an adventurer on that design (1621-2), 24 years an inhabitant of this place (1630), the first that ever bylt or settled ther…” (Mass. Arch). The years in brackets added by the author (10).

The Cape Porpoise Grant, made to John Stratton, December 2, 1631 was taken over by Thomas Gorges when he came over to govern for Ferdinando. Twelve hundred acres of land on each side of the Agamenticus (York) River were included in the grant, and these men brought settlers. (9)

The colonists send by Gorges came prepared to clear forests, procure lumber, build mills and ships, and cultivate the ground. They began the embryo city by building cabins on the eastern bank of the Agamenticus (York) River near its mouth.

In 1635 the Council for New England gave up it’s charter and Gorges reclaimed all the land of the original Mason and Gorges grant (from the Piscataqua to the Kennebunk). He renamed that whole area of land New Somersetshire (9). William Gorges, nephew of Ferdinando, was sent over in 1636 and acted as Governor of the Province for two years. (4)

In 1636 an attempt was made to establish the first authorized government by Ferdinando’s nephew William, but it was abandoned a year later. In 1637, King Charles I made Sir Ferdinando govenor of all New England. In 1639 the King of England issued a grant for New Somersetshire but directed that the mainland be called “The Province of of Maine and not by any other name” (2) which was the original name from from the Mason and Gorges land grant in 1622!

Thomas Gorges, a fine, attractive person, a lawyer by profession (9), Ferdinando’s “truly and well beloved cousin” came to the Province in 1640 and was Deputy Governor about 4 years. He built his house at Agamenticus, at what was known as Gorges Point, which lies between the Judicature Creek and the River, about three and one half miles from the sea. It’s just north of Intersate 95.

In 1642 the first official “city” charter was established in America, named Georgiana, after Ferdinando himself. It included twenty-one miles on the north side of the York River, bordering on the coast, and numbered 300 inhabitants. (9)

Trade had already sprung up between Agamenticus, Piscataqua, Saco, St. John, Boston, Pemaquid, Lygonia, Kennebunk, and Nova Scotia. On June 28th 1643 Thomas Gorges wrote aletter to Governor John Winthrop (Mass Bay) stronly urging that decisive measures should be taken to destroy the power of French Govenor d’Aulney, at St. John. (5)

In 1652, after Kittery was forced to join Massachusetts Bay colony, and Georgiana was too, and thus ended Gorges’s decades of work. It was here that the name was changed to York. In 1653, Wells, Cape Elizabeth, and Saco submitted. By 1658 Scarborough and Falmouth gave in.

In 1660 the Bay Colony aquired New Hampshire and Maine, and a committee of English Parliment concluded that the Mason and Gorges claims were well founded and the Bay Colony was forced to surrender New Hampshire.

Court cases and disputes between the Bay Colony and Maine continued to 1677 when they finally agreed to Gorges claim, however, purchased the rights for 1250 pounds.

1635 Oyster River Plantation Durham

(rough Draft, Coming Soon, Jan 2020)

Situated beside Great Bay at the mouth of the Oyster River, Durham was originally called Oyster River Plantation. It was settled in 1635 as a part of Dover

n the 1600s, before people had a major effect on the river, Great Bay, into which the Oyster River flows, was a port where sturdy oceangoing ships could anchor at a place called Durham Landing. But as time passed, settlers built dams and cleared the forests for farmland. As forests diminished, soil usually held in place by tree roots started to wash into the river, causing its waters to fill with silt. By the 1800s, oceangoing ships were unable to reach Durham Landing except at extremely high tides.

The Oyster River community was one of the three original Dover settlements, which also included Hilton Point and the current Durham town center. The population of this settlement is said to have peaked at around 300 people in the mid 17th century. However, the population was reduced in 1694 after a Native American raid, commonly known as the Oyster River Massacre or the Raid on Oyster River. In total around 94 inhabitants were either killed or taken hostage by the Native Americans under French command.

Additional notes from the author:

BURNHAM, ROBERT, 1614—1691. He was 
born in England and came over in the ship "Angel Gabriel," which was wrecked at Pemaquid, on the coast of Maine, 15 August, 1635, but the passengers all escaped, and later came up the coast, stopping where each one might fancy. Mr. Burnham at first tried his fortune 
at Ipswich, Mass. He was at Boston in 1644, and pros- 
pered in business there until 1654. He was a carpenter 
by trade and assisted in building houses there, and part 
of the time he was boss of the business. He came to 
Oyster River in 1654, and at first engaged in work at 
his trade. In 1656 he purchased 200 acres of land from the heirs of Ambrose Gibbons, who died that year, hav-  ing given the farm to his grandson, Samuel Sherburne.  When Mr. Burnham took possession, he built a  house for himself, on a steep hill, on the south side of  the river, about one mile below Durham Falls. This  craggy and precipitous eminence was, and is, approach-  able on only one side, so in the Indian wars it had to be  defended at a very small space, in case of an attack.  There was just room enough on top for the house and  the palisade that enclosed the yard. The Indians never  disturbed Mr. Burnham ; they saw it was useless to try  to capture or burn this garrison. The house long ago  disappeared, but the cellar with its stone wall is per-  fect, showing that Mr. Burnham was not only a good  carpenter, but also a good stone mason ; he knew how to  build a stone wall that would stand against the frosts of  untold winters. There is a smaller cellar entirely sep-  arate, but near the house cellar, which may have been  used for storage purposes, especially for powder in  time of war. The Burnham records of the 18th cen-  tury speak of the "Cellar" — and the "Cellarhouse." At  one end of the garrison-cellar is a depression where  stood the barn and other out-buildings. In their old  records, the "little barn" is mentioned. The house was  capacious; built of large, white oak timbers, covered  with wide boards and clapboarded, so that it was very  strong and warm to withstand the weather. When  it was taken down in the 19th century, the woodwork  was perfectly sound, and much of it was used in build-  ing the present farm buildings of the Burnham family,  which are located by the roadside, on the level ground  west of the hill. Near the foot of the hill is a never-  failing spring of water.  From the early records, it seems quite certain that  Ambrose Gibbons was settled on that land as early as  1640 ; of course he had a house and out-buildings, but it  is not reasonable to suppose that he built the house that  Mr. Burnham had for his dwelling in Indian war times.

1638 Exeter

(rough draft coming soon Jan 2020)

A deed of land signed April 3rd, 1638, by John Wheelwright and others established Exeter, named after Exeter located in Devon, England. It originally also included Newmarket, Newfields, Brentwood, Epping, and Freemont. The fresh waster Exeter River meets the salty Squamscott river which flows into Great Bay, which flows into the Piscataqua.

The land was purchased by Wheelwright from “Wehanownowitt, sagamore of Puschataquake.” (13) Members of the Squamscott domain, they were a sub-group of the Penacook, who were a member of the Wabanaki Nation.

John Wheelwright was banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony and without about 175 people in tow, settled just north of the boundry, the Merrimack river. Wheelright was sharing “dissident religious views” of his sister-in-law Anne Hutchinson.

“It was without any kind of central government. It lay within the bounds of grants given by the Plymouth Company to John Mason in 1622 and 1629. Mason, however, had died; his grandson and heir, Robert Tufton Mason, was a minor in 1638 and could not pursue his claims. The English government was too preoccupied with the troubles that eventually resulted in the Civil War to listen to complaints by Mason’s advisors. As a result, the area and the earlier settlements, such as Portsmouth and Dover, were without any central government….They also made Exeter the only New Hampshire town settled for reasons of religion.” (15)

Thomas Wilson established the first grist mill on the eastern side of the island in the lower falls. This mill was established within the first season of settling in Exeter, and his son Humphrey assumed control of the mill in 1643, when Thomas died. (14)

In 1647, Edward Gilman, Jr. established the first sawmill, and by 1651 Gilman had his own 50-ton sloop with which to conduct his burgeoning business in lumber, staves and masts. Although he was lost at sea in 1653 while traveling to England to purchase equipment for his mills, his family later became prominent as lumbermen, shipbuilders, merchants and statesmen. (14)

The Gilman Garrison House, a National Historic Landmark, and the American Independence Museum were both former homes of the Gilman family. The Gilman family also donated the land on which Phillips Exeter Academy stands, including the Academy’s original Yard, the oldest part of campus. The Gilmans of Exeter also furnished America with one of its founding fathers, Nicholas Gilman, and the state of New Hampshire with treasurers, a governor, representatives to the General Assembly and judges to the General Court.

The first settlers accomplished a great deal in their first five years in Exeter, despite the enormous difficulties they faced, with no outside financial backing and Massachusetts’ continuing animus against them. Wheelwright organized a church sometime in 1638, one would expect immediately after arriving. He wrote the Exeter Combination (it is considered to be in his own hand), which on July 4, 1639, thirty-five freemen of Exeter signed. That document declared the settlers’ intention of establishing their own government. (15)

In the winter of 1639 Exeter parceled out to its inhabitants its salt marshes, natural meadows, and upland lots for planting. The government functioned: it passed regulations controlling lumbering and the pasturage of swine; in 1640 it authorized Thomas Wilson to operate a grist mill; it ordered the owner of swine that had damaged and Indian’s corn fields to make restitution in kind; it made provisions for a “band of soldiers”; and it passed a number of other regulations, which give us some idea of life in earliest Exeter. We know little about how the town looked but can assume that some of the settlers built substantial houses because there were two carpenters among the first settlers, and because we know that at least two of their houses were in use many years later. Most of the first settlers, including Wheelwright, lived on the west side of the river, but a few lived on the east side. The settlers raised cattle and swine; they made barrel staves and shakes entirely with had tools; they did some planting; and they exploited the abundant fish in the rivers.(15)

In 1643 Exeter twice petitioned the Massachusetts Bay Colony to take Exeter under its jurisdiction. The second petition was accepted in September; thus Exeter joined Dover and Portsmouth, which had already accepted Massachusetts’ jurisdiction under favorable terms. (Hampton had been part of Massachusetts since its founding in September 1638.) No doubt the pressure of being alone on the frontier and the influence of new families that had settled in Exeter since its founding overcame the opposition of Wheelwright and others who were under the ban of Massachusetts. Wheelwright and a number of his followers went into exile once again, this time to Wells, Maine. The remainder of Wheelwright’s life was long and eventful. Massachusetts lifted its sentence of banishment against him in 1644; he accepted a call to the Hampton Church in 1647, remaining there until going to England in 1657. There he was warmly received by his college classmate Oliver Cromwell and his friend from Boston days, Sir Harry Vane. He returned from England to the pulpit of the Salisbury, Massachusetts Church in 1662, where he remained until he died at about eighty-seven in 1679.

People of note:

COLCORD, EDWARD, 1615—1682. He was 
born in England. It is stated that he came over when 
he was 16 years old ; perhaps he did ; if so, he was drift- 
ing round the settlements, from Maine to Massachu- 
setts. The first record of him is when he was at 
Exeter with Rev. John Wheelwright, where he wit- 
nessed, if he did not participate in, the founding of 
that town. In his various rambles, he had been at 
Dover, and perhaps knew something about the head 
waters of the Squamscott River, and by that acquired 
knowledge may have assisted Mr. Wheelwright in se- 
lecting a place for his proposed town. It is not known 
where Wheelwright first met Colcord. 

He was at Exeter and witnessed the signing 
of the deed, 3 April, 1638, given to Wheelwright by — 
AQUAKE" — by which the Exeter territory was ac- 
quired from the Indians. Colcord did not sign the 
Exeter Combination agreement for good government, 
made 4 July, 1639 ; neither did he help organize the 
Church. But in October, 1640, he was at Dover and 
signed the Combination agreement, then drawn up and 
signed by the inhabitants. He appears to have resided 
in Dover for several years following. 

He was then a young man of twenty-five, and in  some way had become acquainted with the laws, and  law methods of that period, so that he was really the  first practicing lawyer in the town of Dover. He had  cases in other parts of Old Norfolk County. He re-  mained in Dover until 1645, and was one of the active  business men of the town. In 1642 the town gave him  one of the 20-acre lots on the west side of Back River,  He received other grants of land, which shows he was  in good favor with the town. For a year or two he was  a magistrate for the settlement of small cases.  In 1645 Mr. Colcord appears in the history of  Hampton as a resident of that town, and there was his  home nearly all the rest of his turbulent life, engaged  in conducting lawsuits for others, or in defending him-  self against attacks from others. He died at his home  there, 10 February, 1681-2. 
OILMAN, JOHN, 1624-1708. He was born in 
England and came to Exeter in 1649. He immediately 
became prominent in the affairs of the town. He was 
in partnership with his brother Edward engaged in the 
saw mill and lumber business, until his brother was lost 
at sea in 1653 ; he then inherited a large share of his 
brother's property and carried on the business alone 
and did much in developing the resources of the town. 
He was chosen selectman more than one half of the 
years between 1650 and 1680. He was repeatedly 
elected Commissioner to end small cases. He served on 
important committees for the town. The town gave 
him grants of land, and the special right of a grist 
mill. For two years he was Associate Judge in the 
Court of old Norfolk County. He was one of the first 
Councillors when New Hampshire was made a province 
separate from Massachusetts. In 1682 he was ap- 
pointed Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. In 1693, 
he was Speaker of the House of the Assembly. The 
thing that is to his lasting memory is the log house, 
built in 1650, that was a garrison in Indian war times, 
and is now standing and well preserved. When Daniel 
Webster attended school at Exeter Academy he had a 
room in that house. This room is carefully pointed out 
to visitors. John Oilman m. 30 June Elizabeth Tre- 
worthy. He died 24 July 1708; she died 8 September 

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén