US History
US History E-Text > New England > New Hampshire
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The territory that afterward became New Hampshire was included in a grant of land in 1622 by the Council for New England to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason, both of whom had been interested in New England affairs from the beginning. The grant extended from the Merrimac River to the Kennebec.1 The first settlement was made in 1623 by a Scotchman named Thomson, at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, and was called Little Harbor. A few years later Edward Hilton, a London fish merchant, founded Dover six miles up the river. He was soon joined by his brother William and several families, and later by others from Massachusetts.

A company called the Laconia Company was formed in England in 1629, and the next year it sent a vessel to the mouth of the Piscataqua, bearing a colony of settlers with Captain Neal as governor. Portsmouth, first called Strawberry Bank, was settled, and Governor Neal spent several years exploring the forest. He brought back a discouraging report to his company, and the settlement was left to shift for itself.

In 1638 a settlement was made at Exeter between the Piscataqua and Merrimac rivers by John Wheelwright, the brother-in-law of Mrs. Hutchinson, who had been banished from Massachusetts.

These little towns had come into existence, each independent of the others. None of them had a stable government, and there was constant discord and turbulence. In 1639 the towns formed an agreement to unite, but as Massachusetts claimed this territory, the towns at length agreed to come under her jurisdiction. The union was formed in 1641, the people of the settlements retaining liberty to manage their "town affairs," and each town was permitted to send a deputy to the General Court at Boston.

New Hampshire continued a part of Massachusetts until 1679, when the king separated them. He joined them again in 1686; but they were finally separated in 1691, and New Hampshire again became a royal province, the president and council being appointed by the Crown and the assembly elected by the people. Until 1741, however, the governor was but a lieutenant under the supervision of the governor of Massachusetts.

New Hampshire grew very slowly for many years. The chief cause of this was the fact that the heirs of Mason claimed the right to the land, and their infinite disputes and litigations with the settlers concerning the land titles repelled home-seekers. At last, after a hundred years of controversy, the Mason heirs were satisfied (1749) by the purchase of their claims.

In 1719 a colony of Scotch-Irish immigrants settled in New Hampshire and founded the town of Londonderry, so named from the city in Ireland from which they came. These people were thrifty, and they soon began an industry which they had learned in Ireland -- the raising of flax and manufacturing of linen goods. The goods mady by means of the old spinning-wheel in these humble cabins in the forests became famous over all New England, and even in the mother country.

After the middle of the eighteenth century a bitter dispute arose between New Hampshire and New York concerning the territory lying west of the Connecticut River, both colonies claiming it. One of New Hampshire's governors had laid out about one hundred and forty townships in this disputed region. These were called the "New Hampshire Grants." But in 1765 the king decided the contest in favor of New York, and when the governor of that colony ordered the settlers, now several thousand in number, to repurchase their lands, they rose in rebellion. Led by Ethan Allen and Seth Warner, both afterward famous in the War of the Revolution, the "Green Mountain Boys" fought off the New York officers, and in 1777 they declared the "New Hampshire Grants" an independent state under the name of Vermont. Fourteen years later Vermont became the first of the states, aside from the original thirteen, to enter the Union.

The two proprietors of Laconia had, in 1629, divided their possessions, Mason receiving the portion that became New Hampshire,2 and Gorges the eastern portion, which was called Maine. It will be remembered that the Laconia patent was simply a grant of land from the Council for New England and not a royal charter. In 1639, however, Gorges received from Charles I a royal charter for Maine, from the Piscataqua to the Kennebec and one hundred and twenty miles inland. This charter was similar to that of Maryland, erecting a county palatine and proprietary province. But in 1677 the heirs of Gorges sold their rights to Massachusetts. The territory was now called the District of Maine, and under this name it was governed by the elder colony for nearly one hundred and fifty years, when, in 1820, Maine was admitted into the Union as a state.

We have now six important colonial settlements in New England, besides many smaller ones that are not usually accorded the dignity of separate colonies. Two of these six, Hartford and New Haven, had united and become one, and a similar union was to be effected between two others, Massachusetts Bay3 and Plymouth, thus reducing the number to four.4 These four, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, were among the thirteen states, the other two New England states, Vermont and Maine, as we have seen, coming into the Union after the Revolution.


Footnotes

1A second patent to New Hampshire was granted to Mason November 7, 1629, and the name New Hampshire was used; ten days later another to Gorges and Mason for "Laconia," and two years later still another to the same for the land near the mouth of the Piscataqua. It would be confusing to the reader to attempt to remember all the land grants and patents in addition to the royal charters of those times. Many of the charters and grants conflict, and many make grants of lands whose bounds were unknown. [return]

2Mason spoke of it as New Hampshire in his will of 1635, after Hampshire in England, where he had held an important office; but the colony was not so called by the settlers before the restoration of Charles II. For a hundred years and more after the colony was settled the heirs of Mason made the settlers much trouble by claiming their lands. [return]

3Massachusetts was called Massachusetts Bay for about a hundred and fifty years after its founding. [return]

4The union of Massachusetts and New Hampshire being temporary. [return]

Source: "History of the United States of America," by Henry William Elson, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1904. Chapter IV, pp. 117-119. Transcribed by Kathy Leigh.




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