Colony Of New Hampshire

A Brief History

"New Hampshire derives its name from Hampshire County in England, and was first applied to the territory in 1629, in honor of Captain John Mason, Governor of Portsmouth, in Hampshire, England, and also the proprietor of the territory now so called.

At an earlier year, in 1622, that same Captain Mason, Sir Ferdinand Gorges, and others, had obtained from the Council of Plymouth, a grant of land partly in Maine and partly in New Hampshire, which they called Laconia. In spring of 1623, they sent two small parties of emigrants to settle it. Some of these commenced to stay at Little Harbor, on the west side of the Piscataqua River, near present day Portsmouth. The others planted themselves at Cocheco, afterwards called Dover, further up river. The principal employment of the new settlers was fishing and trade.

In 1629, the Reverend John Wheelright, a former patron of Anne Hutchinson, purchased the Indian territory lying between the Merrimack and the Piscataqua Rivers. He afterward laid the foundation of the town of Exeter. During that same year, this tract of country, which was a part of the grant to Gorges and Mason, was conveyed to Mason alone, and then received the name New Hampshire. By him the first house was erected at Portsmouth in 1631.

In 1641, the settlements of New Hampshire formed a coalition with Massachusetts, whose protection they enjoyed for nearly forty years. In 1680, however, the territory was separated from that colony, by order of the king, and constituted a royal province, thereafter to be governed by a president and council, appointed by the crown, with a house of representatives elected by the people. No change of land titles was effected.

The first legislative assembly under this royal charter was held in March 1680. It consisted of eleven members. A declaration within their original code of laws was offensive to the king, indicating, as he thought, an unwarrantable spirit of independence. 'No act, imposition, law, or ordinance,' the declaration stated, 'shall be imposed upon the inhabitants of the province, but such as shall be made by the assembly, and approved by the president and council.' This is believed to have passed twelve years before a similar enactment in Massachusetts. Thus, early did a spirit of liberty and independence germinate among the granite hills of New Hampshire, and give promise of fruit which came to full maturity 95 years later.

In 1681, Robert Mason, grandson and heir of John Mason, himself having been appointed one of the council, arrived in New Hampshire. By virtue of his claim to the territory, he assumed the title of Lord Proprietor, and demanded that leases should be taken out under him. His claims and demands were resisted in the courts of law; and although judgments were obtained against landlords in the province, so universal and determined was the hostility of the people to Mason, that they could not be enforced.

For several years, both Massachusetts and New Hampshire were ruled by one governor. At the time of the revolution in England in 1689, when Governor Andros was seized and imprisoned in Massachusetts, the people of New Hampshire, assuming the government again, placed themselves under the jurisdiction of that colony. This was in 1690. In 1692, a separation was again effected, and a royal government reestablished. In 1699, the two provinces were once more united, and the Earl of Bellamont was appointed governor of both.

In 1691, Samuel Allen purchased from the heirs of Mason all their titles to lands in New Hampshire, and for several years grievously annoyed the people, by the prosecution of these claims. In 1715, however, Allen's heirs, not being able to substantiate them, gave up the controversy, of which a descendant of Mason revived his claims, alleging a defect in the conveyance to Allen, but at length, this long and unhappy controversy was terminated, the heirs of Mason consenting to take only the unoccupied portions of the province, and releasing all others. In 1741, the final separation of Massachusetts and New Hampshire took place, at which time a separate governor was appointed for each.

New Hampshire as well suffered calamities during the early Indian Wars. An attack in 1689 upon Dover, probably perpetrated by Sachem Bomazeen, is noteworthy. The principal citizen of Dover at that time was Major Waldron, a man said to be of cruel bearing towards the Indians. Having decided upon a plan of attack, the Indians object was to alleviate suspicion, which they did most effectually by a gesture of respect. On the night of the tragedy, some of their squaws had obtained permission to sleep in the fortified houses of the town.

The inhabitants of Dover had retired for the night, and quiet pervaded the town. Doors were then softly opened, and the signal given. The Indians had stealthily reached their posts. They rushed into Major Waldron's house, and made for his bedroom. Awakened by their yells, Waldron arose, seized his sword, and drove them back. Again they returned to the charge, and while he was attempting to get his other arms, a blow from a tomahawk knocked him to the floor. He was taken and set upon a table, where he was treated with insult and indignity. After feasting upon provisions in his house, each of the Indians, approaching Major Waldron, gave him a deep knife-gash across his chest, saying as they did it, 'I cross out my account.' The tortured man grew quickly weaker and weaker, and when he was ready to fall, an Indian held his own sword under him, upon which falling, his earthly miseries were soon at end. Similar barbarities were enacted at other houses in the village, yet it is said that a woman was spared because of her kindness to an Indian shown thirteen years before. What strange contrarieties sometimes meet in the human condition.


— A History of the United States, by Charles A. Goodrich, 1857 (edited)


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