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The first white people in New Hampshire


Captain John Smith
Captain John Smith

The first white people to visit New Hampshire may have been Norse seafarers in the 11th century, or Europeans who fished in North American waters in the 15th century. However, the first recorded visit to New Hampshire was made in 1603, when an English sea captain, Martin Pring, explored the shoreline and ventured a short way into the interior. He wrote enthusiastically of the abundance of wildlife in the area around present-day Portsmouth. Pring was followed in 1605 by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who mapped the New England coastline. In 1614 Captain John Smith repeated the process for the English.

The first settlements


The first settlements in New Hampshire were made in 1623. David Thomson, a Scotsman, arrived in the spring at Odiorne’s Point, in the present town of Rye, with a few settlers. Farms were established, and Thomson began fishing operations and set up a trading post. A few years later, Edward Hilton arrived from London and made a settlement at Dover. In 1626 Thomson left for what is now Boston, Massachusetts, and any settlers who remained at Odiorne’s Point were probably drawn to Strawbery Banke (later Portsmouth), settled in about 1630. In 1638 Exeter and Hampton were settled. Dover, Portsmouth, Exeter, and Hampton were the only permanent settlements in New Hampshire until 1673, when Dunstable, Massachusetts, was founded. Part of Dunstable became Nashua, New Hampshire, when the boundary between the two provinces was drawn in 1741, dividing several towns.

Early Land Grants


Land titles in early New Hampshire were confused because several conflicting grants were made. In 1622 two Englishmen, Captain John Mason and Sir Ferdinando Gorges, received a grant from the Council for New England (formerly the Plymouth Company) for the land between the Merrimack and Kennebec rivers. Smaller grants were also made, including one to David Thomson for his settlement at Odiorne’s Point. Edward Hilton, who established the settlement at Dover, did not receive a grant at this time, but was given legal standing in 1631. In 1629 Gorges and Mason divided their joint holding at the Piscataqua River. Gorges called his part, to the east of the Piscataqua, the province of Maine; Mason named his New Hampshire after the English county of Hampshire that had been his home. After Mason died in 1635, his heirs in England neglected his holdings, allowing others to occupy land that was part of his grant. When Mason’s grandson finally pressed his claim to the territory in 1660, a dispute erupted over land titles that dominated the political life of the province for decades. The so-called Masonian controversy was not finally resolved until 1746. "New Hampshire" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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