Don’t think of them as poor or marginalized

A fair number of the Piscataqua’s early settlers were from prosperous, even well-connected, families.

The question is just what prompted them to relocate to the primitive, even harsh, conditions along the Piscataqua River.

David Thomson, the son of a Scottish minister, has the King’s ear and a debt of gratitude.

The Hiltons are part of an extensive and prosperous fishmonger clan.

Thomas Roberts’ father, by some accounts, becomes a baron. Even if he didn’t, Thomas still becomes a member of the powerful fishmonger guild.

The Hilton brothers weren’t exactly out of the loop, either.


Powerful? Take Francis Champernowne, a 1640 signer of the Dover Combination, a remarkable document stating the residents’ desire to be freed from being subjected to company-town decisions being made in England. While I see scant evidence that Francis actually resided in today’s Dover, he did have extensive landholdings in New Hampshire, including the current towns of Greenland – named for his Green Land farm – and Madbury, then part of Dover and named after his ancestral home, Modbury, in Devon, England.

His father, Sir Arthur Champernowne, owned at least eight merchant ships or privateers and had fished New England since 1622. In 1635, Sir Arthur financed a settlement under his son, Francis – likely the southern part of Kittery, Maine, which became known as Champernowne’s Island, today’s Cutt’s or Gerrish islands – as well as another on Braveboat Harbor in York. Francis may have also lived at Strawbery Banke (today’s Portsmouth) until 1640.

Sir Walter Raleigh. His nephew was a big settler along the Piscataqua, Did he dress anything like this?

Captain Francis was well-placed. His great-aunt Catherine was the mother of both Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Ralegh/Raleigh Gilbert, an important explorer and adventurer of the New England and Canadian coastline. Captain Francis was also a “beloved” nephew of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, proprietor of Maine and unofficial godfather of New England itself.

Francis was often at sea, to England and Barbados, especially. During the early part of the English civil war, his Royalist leanings led him to join King Charles I’s fleet under the Earl of Marlborough. Returning to Dover by 1646, he left for the Caribbean in 1649 but returned to Maine in the early 1650s, where he later became a commissioner and justice under Charles II.  In April of 1678, he signed the articles of peace with the Abenaki at Casco. He was an ardent Anglican and died in Kittery.

It’s enough to make me think living conditions back in merry old England weren’t that great, either.


The Waldron family that soon comes to dominate the growth around the Lower Falls, or today’s downtown Dover, came from wealth in Warwickshire, England. William drowns, but brother Richard turns Dover into something of a personal fiefdom while rising to become Speaker of the Assembly once New Hampshire is under Massachusetts rule. He builds the first saw mill and grist mill at the falls, has extensive shipping connections, dominates the fur trade with the native Pennacooks. He didn’t exactly start from scratch.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about him. Man, will you.


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