Brother William takes a roundabout route

When Edward Hilton settles on Dover Point, his brother William is dwelling in the Plymouth Bay colony. It’s one more suggestion, in fact, that Edward knew about the Piscataqua watershed before setting forth himself.

William arrives on the second ship to the Pilgrim plantation, followed by his wife and family on the next. They definitely aren’t Pilgrims (the term wasn’t even in use then – Separatists was more accurate). And, for that matter, despite sharing a basic Calvinist theology, the Separatists hold some sharp differences from the Puritans who show up later.

Critically, roughly half of the settlers at new Plymouth aren’t members of the Separatist faith. And that includes the only ordained minister in the colony.

Thus, when William and his wife arrange for a secret Anglican (that is, Episcopal) baptism for their infant, a scandal erupts that sends them scurrying northward and brings to light the sordid background of the now disgraced minister who is promptly banished. (No spoiler here – but you’ll still have to read the book.) These events do present a grittier alternative to the Thanksgiving scenario we usually trot out about the Pilgrim experience.

I wonder how much early Dover resembled the 1630 village at the Pilmoth Plantation living history museum. These houses were dark and drafty, at best. Photo by Swampyank via Wikimedia Commons.

William winds up in New Hampshire, settling at the Pannaway plantation at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, where he’s soon making salt to be used for preserving fish for shipment.

And then, in the demise of Pannaway, he’s finally at Dover Point.

This isn’t the way his arrival in Dover is commonly painted. Quite simply, he isn’t one of the first two settlers. Thomas Roberts, Edward’s apprentice, earns that honor.

Still, like his brother, William is both a member of the powerful fishmonger guild in London and literate. And things get a bit rowdy when he moves on from Dover to live on the Maine side of the river.

Yeah, if you’re looking for gossip, there’s some juicy stuff on his part, especially when we meet his last wife. She’s definitely not holier-than-thou.

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