New Hampshire History

New Hampshire is a state of the United States of America located in the New England region in the Northeast. New Hampshire was one of the Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution.

Founding: 1600s–1775

The colony that became the state of New Hampshire was founded on the division in 1629 of a land grant given seven years previously by the Council for New England to Captain John Mason and Sir Ferdinando Gorges (who founded Maine). The colony was named New Hampshire after the English county of Hampshire. It was first settled at Odiorne’s Point in Rye (near Portsmouth) by a group of fishermen from England under David Thompson in 1623, just three years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. The settlers built a fort, manor house and other buildings, some for fish processing, on Flake Hill. They called the settlement Pannaway Plantation. In 1623 the English explorer Christopher Levett, an associate of Gorges and a member of the Council for New England, wrote of visiting Thomson at his Pannaway Plantation.[2][3][4] The first native Newhampshireman, John Thompson, was born there. (Note: this was the conclusion of several early historians. However, we now know that John Thompson was baptised at St. Andrew’s Parish in Plymouth, England in 1619. Most likely the first English child born in New Hampshire was Agnes Hilton, daughter of William Hilton, born at Dover in 1625.) New Hampshire was one of the original 13 colonies.

David Thompson had been sent by Mason, to be followed a few years later by Edward and William Hilton. They led an expedition to the vicinity of Dover, which they called Northam. Mason died in 1635 without ever seeing the colony he founded. Settlers from Pannaway, moving to the Portsmouth region later and combining with an expedition of the new Laconia Company (formed 1629) under Captain Neal, called their new settlement Strawbery Banke. In 1638 Exeter was founded by John Wheelwright.

In 1631, Captain Thomas Wiggin served as the first governor of the Upper Plantation (comprising modern-day Dover, Durham and Stratham). All the towns agreed to unite in 1639, but meanwhile Massachusetts had claimed the territory. In 1641 an agreement was reached with Massachusetts to come under its jurisdiction. Home rule of the towns was allowed. In 1653 Strawbery Bank petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to change its name to Portsmouth, which was granted.

The relationship between Massachusetts and the independent Newhampshiremen was controversial and tenuous. In 1679 the king separated them, and Upper Plantation became the “Royal Province” with John Cutt as governor. They were reunited (as part of the Dominion of New England) in 1686 and redivided in 1691. The “Royal Province” continued until 1698 when it came once more under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts with Joseph Dudley as Governor. In 1741 New Hampshire returned to its royal provincial status with a governor of its own, Benning Wentworth, who was its governor from 1741 to 1766.

Revolution: 1775–1815

New Hampshire was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted with the British rule in the American Revolution. It was the first state to declare its independence in January 1776, meaning that for the following six months until the founding of the United States of America with the Declaration of Independence, New Hampshire was the first post-colonial nation-state in the Americas. The historic attack on Fort William and Mary (now Fort Constitution) helped supply the cannon and ammunition for the Continental Army that was needed for the Battle of Bunker Hill that took place north of Boston a few months later. New Hampshire would raise three regiments for the Continental Army, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd New Hampshire regiments. New Hampshire Militia units would be called up to fight at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Battle of Bennington, Saratoga Campaign and the Battle of Rhode Island. John Paul Jones’ ship the Sloop-of-war USS Ranger and the frigate USS Raleigh were built in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, along with other naval ships for the Continental Navy and privateers to hunt down British merchant shipping.

On January 5, 1776, the Congress of New Hampshire, meeting in Exeter, ratified the first state constitution in the soon-to-be United States, six months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Concord was named the state capital in 1808.

Industrialization, Abolitionism and Politics: 1815–1860

In the 1830s, New Hampshire saw a major news story: the founding of the Republic of Indian Stream on its northern border with Canada over the unresolved post-revolutionary war border issue.

Abolitionists from Dartmouth College founded the experimental, interracial Noyes Academy in Canaan, New Hampshire in 1835. Rural opponents of the school eventually dragged the school away with oxen before lighting it ablaze to protest integrated education, within months of the school’s founding.

Abolitionist sentiment was a strong undercurrent in the state, with significant support given the Free Soil Party of John P. Hale. However the conservative Jacksonian Democrats usually maintained control, under the leadership of editor Isaac Hill. In 1856 the new Republican Party headed by Amos Tuck produced a political revolution.

Prosperity, Depression and War: 1920–1950

The textile industry was hit hard by the depression and growing competition from southern mills. The closing of the Amoskeag Mills in 1935 was a major blow to Manchester, as was the closing of the former Nashua Manufacturing Company mill in Nashua in 1949.

Modern New Hampshire: 1950–Present

The post-World War II decades have seen New Hampshire increase its economic and cultural links with the greater Boston, Massachusetts region. This reflects a national trend, in which improved highway networks have helped metropolitan areas expand into formerly rural areas or small nearby cities.

The replacement of the Nashua textile mill with defense electronics contractor Sanders Associates in 1952 and the arrival of minicomputer giant Digital Equipment Corporation in the early 1970s helped lead the way toward southern New Hampshire’s role as a high-tech adjunct of the Route 128 corridor.

The postwar years saw the rise of New Hampshire’s political primary for President of the United States, which as the first primary in the quadrennial campaign season draws enormous attention.