Chronicles of America 

New Hampshire

Two more settlements remain to be considered before a survey of the foundations of New England can be called complete. When the Reverend John Wheelwright, the friend of Anne Hutchinson, was driven from Massachusetts and took his way northward to the region of Squamscott Falls where he founded Exeter, he entered a territory of grants and claims and rights of possession that render the early history of New Hampshire a tangle of difficulties. Out of a grant to Gorges and Mason of the stretch of coast between the Merrimac and the Kennebec in 1622, and a confirmation of Mason's right to the region between the Merrimac and the Piscataqua, arose the settlement of Strawberry Bank, or Portsmouth, and accompanying it a controversy over the title to the soil that lasted throughout the colonial period. Mason called his territory New Hampshire; Gorges planned to call the region that he received New Somersetshire; and both designations took root, one as the name of a colony, the other as that of a county in Maine. At an earlier date, merchants of Bristol and Shrewsbury had become interested in this part of New England and had sent over one Edward Hilton, who some time before 1627 began a settlement at Dover. The share of the Bristol merchants was purchased in 1633 by the English lords and gentlemen already concerned in the Connecticut settlement, for the purpose, it may be, of furnishing another refuge in New England, should conditions at home demand their withdrawal overseas. But nothing came of their purchase except an unfortunate controversy with Plymouth colony over trading boundaries on the Kennebec.

The men established on this northern frontier were often lawless and difficult to control, of loose habits and morals, and intent on their own profit; and the region itself was inhospitable to organized and settled government. Yet out of these somewhat nebulous beginnings, four settlements arose — Portsmouth (Masonian and Anglican), Dover (Anglican and Puritan), Exeter and Hampton (both Puritan), each with its civil compact and each an independent town. The inhabitants were few in number, and "the generality, of mean and low estates," and little disposed to union among themselves. But in 1638-1639, when Massachusetts discovered that one interpretation of her charter would carry her northern boundary to a point above them, she took them under her protecting wing. After considerable debate this jurisdiction was recognized and the New Hampshire and Maine towns were brought within her boundaries. Henceforth, for many years a number of these towns, though in part Anglican communities and never burdened with the requirement that their freemen be church members, were represented in the general court at Boston. Nevertheless the Mason and Gorges adherents — whose Anglican and pro-monarchical sympathies were hostile to Puritan control and who were supported by the persistent efforts of the Mason family in England — were able to obtain the separation of New Hampshire from Massachusetts in 1678. Maine, however, remained a part of the Bay Colony to the end of the colonial period.

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