Maybe I’m going soft, but I am viewing the Puritans in a fresh light

Readers of my new book are telling me how shocking they find the Puritans’ cruel persecution of the up-and-coming Quaker faith. That reaction is quickly followed with their disgust that the Puritans came to the New World for religious freedom but then refused it to others.

What we need to acknowledge, though, is how deeply our outlook is engrained with an expectation of freedom of speech and religion, something that would have been foreign to mindsets back in the 1600s. There, religion and politics were one, as in a one-party state. In England in the early 1600s, the king had the state church, what we know as Anglican or Episcopal, well under his thumb, while the Puritans had Parliament and its armies. It was a volatile mix, even before we get to New England, where my book is set.

I should emphasize that for us, as modern Americans, it’s all too easy to condemn Puritans as backwater bigots, when in fact they were radical progressives on many fronts. They were decidedly anti-monarchy and proto-democracy, and advanced a less feudal, more equitable economy and society. They championed education and literacy for men and women alike and founded Harvard College within their first six years in New England despite deep divisions within their attempt to establish a godly Utopia. Boston was even prepared to fire cannons at Royal Navy ships in the mid-1630s, had they arrived to revoke the colony’s charter, which the Puritans had obtained from the king in an end-run around the man who was responsible for New England’s development – Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the father of Maine and first cohead of New Hampshire, as you’ll find in my book. He definitely would have torpedoed their application. (Whew! The amassing details do thicken the plot, hard as they become to follow.) A Puritan wife could actually divorce her husband if he failed to fulfill her. And they loved their beer.

In other words, Puritans weren’t nearly as awful as we want to portray them today, even if they do come across as villains in my book, Quaking Dover.

Since its release, I’ve been coming to believe the Quakers pressed the Puritans simply for not going far enough in their reforms and intended Utopia. Historian Carla Gardina Pestana, in her wonderful “Quakers and Baptists in Colonial Massachusetts,” even came to the conclusion that the Quakers (or Friends, as we more often refer to ourselves) went out of their way to provoke the Puritan authorities. Ouch, I’m thinking that’s true.

More recently, in revisiting Kenneth Carroll’s book “Quakerism on the Eastern Shore,” meaning Maryland, I felt affirmed by his statement, “Quakerism was, in some ways, an extreme form of Puritanism,” followed by, “It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that Quakerism, in its opening days in Maryland, reached into the centers of Puritanism … for a great number of its converts.”

Well, that latter point was surprising to me. I do see Friends blending Mennonite strands via the English General Baptists into what emerged.


While my book is focuses on New Hampshire and its adjacent provinces, I’m finding that religious restraints in the southern American English colonies of the time were far harsher than those in New England. For instance, a provocative essay by Marilynne Robinson, “One Manner of Law, the Religious Origins of American Liberalism” in the November Harper’s Magazine, notes that the under the repressive laws in Virginia the penalty for missing church services three times or speaking ill of the king was death, along with the harshest penalties for minor infractions of other laws. She adds there was no mention of trial or appeal and much of what we consider Common Law was nebulous. The Carolinas were just as extreme.

Carroll, for his part, finds that in contrast to New England’s persecution of Quakers, “there may be a skeleton in the closet of the southern colonies also.” He remarks, “The intense persecution experienced by Friends in Virginia soon drove many of them into Maryland,” followed by a series of drastic laws that even kept Quakers from being allowed to enter the colony. “There was to be no challenge to the Established Church as the one religious institution in Virginia,” something that excluded Puritans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, and Roman Catholics alike. Carroll then states, “The full nature and extent of persecution suffered by Quakers in Virginia is not known. … We do know that William Cole, of Maryland, and George Wilson, of England, were imprisoned in a ‘nasty stinking, dirty’ dungeon in Jamestown where Wilson was whipped and heavily chained so that ‘his flesh rotted from his bones and he died.’” A number of Indian converts to Quaker faith may have also been sentenced to death because of their conversions.  And Maryland for a while also imposed harsh persecution, including the banishment and whipping of Quaker “vagabonds” from constable to constable through the colony.

Among those in the South who had visited Dover were William Robinson, before his execution in Boston, and Alice Ambrose and Mary Tompkins, once they left the north.

This statue by Sylvia Shaw Judson sits in front of the Massachusetts statehouse, with copies in Philadelphia and Richmond, Indiana. Mary Dyer was one of four Quaker missionaries hanged in Boston because of their faith. She’s the only one who hadn’t visited Dover, New Hampshire, although the site of the gallows later became known as Dover Street. As a fine point, she didn’t offer her life for religious freedom but rather as a sacrifice to a Truth she espoused.


To see how this played out in Dover, please turn to my book, Quaking Dover.

I, for one, would definitely like to see a fuller understanding of how religious liberty came about in the Southern colonies and also a presentation of how Puritans in New England evolved to emerge, in one strand, as Unitarians.

Considering the play, ‘Mother Whittier’s Meeting’

In timing my book for Quaking Dover for the 400th anniversary of English settlement in town, I gave myself a deadline that ensured it would actually be done. Otherwise, I’d still be researching it.

In some cases, that meant I didn’t simply follow a conventional account but came to my own original conclusions. In others, post-publication findings confirmed in what I’ve deduced. Besides, in a period of Covid restrictions plus my own relocation to the other end of Maine, opportunities in the archives were limited.

One of the works I’m glad I waited to read until my own work was done is Henry Bailey Stevens’ three-scene play, Mother Whittier’s Meeting. It was premiered outside the Dover Friends meetinghouse on August 17, 1963, to mark what he thought was the 300th anniversary of the Quakers’ presence in town. As I now see, the celebration was four or five years late.

Had I read the play first, I might never have written my own take of the history. He covers the heart of the plot in 200-some fewer pages.

Stevens himself is an interesting character who turned up around the time that the Dover meetinghouse was reopened for regular worship in the 1950s. He was the head of the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of New Hampshire in neighboring Durham but also harbored a deep interest in both history and dramatic literature, as well as an ardent vegetarian and pacifist. He even penned a series of Quaker family profiles for Dover’s daily newspaper.

The play itself is what we’d call “talky” – more dialogue than action. There’s no dancing or sword-fight scenes, as it were. The central focus shifts between Meeting as the community and as the house itself, or even turns to Abigail Hussey Whittier herself. Not that you really notice as you follow along.

There are points I’d heatedly contest. The first meetinghouse, for instance, was most likely not a log cabin.

But then I feel like cheering when Annie Pinkham shows up as a character. Her mimeographed brief history contained tidbits that would otherwise be lost to oblivion. She had every reason to believe she’d be the last Quaker in town once she locked the meetinghouse door.

Not so, as things turned out.

As for Stevens? His play, published by Baker’s Plays in Boston, isn’t his only significant book-length publication. Finding those, though, can be a challenge.


My history essentially drifts off about the time the textile mills take over

Among other things, I would love to know more about the livelihoods of Dover’s Quaker families, especially as they evolved over the generations. How did they acquire new skills, for one thing, as the town went from being a fishing and shipbuilding center to timbering and sawmills and then milling in general, even before its emergence as a calico capital?

New England farming, of course, underwent its own permutations, especially after wool was displaced by cotton in the early 1800s.

As Dover shifted from a rural village with agricultural roots and fishing and shipbuilding to an industrial city depending on an immigrant workforce, the Quaker presence shrank to a mere thread. Even so, as I like to think, some of the Friends’ values continued in the descendants of the Meeting’s earlier members, even when the family was no longer Quaker.

Many had moved north or east in search of new farmlands, and others were about to head off to Minnesota and Iowa.

Dover Friends Meeting was already declining when the textile mills started changing the character of the community. Moreover, the new arrivals brought new churches and ethnic identities, and these are stories waiting to be told in the upcoming celebrations. I’ll be all ears.

As the ownership of the mills passed to out-of-town investors, the profits being generated in Dover prospered an upper crust elsewhere, most likely the famed Boston Brahmins. In contrast, Dover became a largely working-class neighborhood. The same can be said for the busy rail lines passing through town.

The centerpiece of Dover is the Lower Falls of the Cochecho River, capped by a dam that increased the waterpower to the textiles mills. Here, water from the river rushes into the tidewaters below and runs through an arch in the mills that define the downtown. Who can’t be inspired by such a sight, whether the river’s running high or low, in season?

Although a visitor to Dover today would have no problem seeing the town’s character as New England, its identity today comes from the brick mills erected at the falls four-and-a-half or five miles north of the Hilton settlement. There is no town common, a wide green square surrounded by imposing Colonial houses and white church under a lofty steeple. The same can be said for neighboring Portsmouth, formed around the harbor, and Exeter, with the elite academy. Yes, there are the iconic church spires and rooster weather vane but not the central green common. Hampton, which remained largely agricultural, does have a tiny green, not that it would pasture a single horse.

As my new book and these blog posts note, David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America explains that the stereotypical New England arises in the customs and culture of East Anglia, the region of England that produced most of the Puritan migrants who shaped Massachusetts and Connecticut. He sharply counters that with the Quaker migrations from the Midlands into Pennsylvania, and from the Royalist cavaliers who predominated the Virginia planter society, as well as from the Borderlands people in northern England who share commonalities with the Scots-Irish settling the Appalachian spine from Georgia to Maine.

Fischer examines these complex workings in a set of specifics that include distinctive speech, architecture, geographic patterns of settlement, family, marriage, gender, sex, child-rearing, naming of children, attitudes toward aging, religion, magic, learning and education, food, dress, sports, work ethics and practices, use of time and recording, ideas of social order and institutions, authority and power, and more, including differing concepts of liberty and social restraint.

Quite simply, there was no generic Englishman. Even the dialects could prove incomprehensible when taken from one part of the country to the other.

While the new settlers to the Piscataqua settlement were primarily Puritans, imbued with its Protestant ethos, they were also overwhelmingly from Devon, with folkways quite distinct from their East Anglia brethren.

I suspect these contrasting folkways play a major, though previously undetected role, in the deep conflicts about to emerge in the seeming isolation along the Piscataqua as well as elsewhere in other pockets of New England.

Far from being a homogenous nation, Britain was a patchwork of many long-buried identities, some of them resurfacing in new guises. The country had never suffered an Inquisition, either, to suppress them. Its Christianity had been imposed from the conversion of the regional kings, whose subjects might publicly worship one way but another in private.

English Quakers, too, had never suffered the trials of sustained violence with New France and the Indigenous American tribes or racial slavery or a Revolutionary War, as their American coreligionists did, especially in New England. Little wonder the English Friends were baffled by the separations that ultimately divided Quakers in the New World.

It was a rich brew. And, frankly, still is.


Though Dover Quaker Meeting was reborn in the ’50s after a hiatus, its viability is challenged, but so is much more of contemporary American society.  Besides, I’m not comfortable in considering the period as “history,” much less examining it systematically or comprehensively, though I tell what I can. Some early readers think it’s the best part of my book. I won’t argue.

I will say that our Quaker Meeting is a beautiful community, one I love dearly and invite you to experience.

As well as Dover.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in your choice of ebook platforms at

Welcome to the upcoming 400th anniversary.

As we look for the face of baby Jesus

This morning, as so many Christians celebrate the birth of a divine baby, I find myself reflecting on another child who intersected my life many years ago.

Not my beloved stepdaughters, who arrived later, but a Kenyan introduced to me during the AIDS outbreak.

Along with a plea for help.

As clerk, I was able to respond, that first year without the approval of the Meeting, which has fortunately followed. We’ve all been enriched as a consequence. In fact, I find myself viewing much of the world through her lens.

As I wrote to her, years later, through one of our more or less annual letters:

It’s been more than a few years since I’ve communicated with you, but you have been on my heart and mind all along, plus those of many other American Friends. You’ve met a few of them, and I’ve felt comfortable leaving you in their embrace, though I haven’t forgotten about you. Far from it. When they bring news of you, we’re always heartened.

Through all of this, you’ve been an inspiration to me. You have what we call grit, or courage, and a lot more. When I was working as a newspaper editor, I had a shortcut to two of your portraits on my computer desktop, yes, right there in the newsroom, and when things got especially rough, like I was about to do something unQuakerly, I’d click on it, and your smile and determination kept me going on the right track. Thank you, simply for being you.

Once, when a Nigerian official was walking through our office, he stopped by my desk and I told him I knew somebody very special in Africa and brought up your triumphant face.

His reply? Yes, she’s Kenyan, and he grinned in appreciation. I guess being Kenyan is something special.

We do live in a small world!

You have many reasons to be proud. And, yes, we Quakers can be proud (for the right reasons) as well as humble. (You can ask me about the humility part later, if need be.)

I feel very deeply you have greatness ahead of you, though it will never be easy. What I do know is that Jesus will always be at your side, as he has been through your hardest sufferings, even though you weren’t necessarily aware of it.

Now, take a deep breath! And, as we Quakers say, Mind the Light!

Yours in that love …


What if God came down to walk in the garden with Adam and it was more like She?

Not a bearded old fart but a wise, calming, older woman?

Would it change the workings of the story for you?


That’s something I’d been pondering even before Regina Renee Ward’s amazing Bible half-hour presentations at New England Yearly Meeting’s sessions last summer. (Do check them out at NEYM’s website, even if you have an allergy to Scripture. She understands that aversion.) Aware of our varied backgrounds and outlooks, she tenderly took us very deeply into ourselves, personally and as a gathered body, via her selected verse of the day and its context plus brief commentary.

One of the books she recommended was Christena Cleveland’s God Is a Black Woman, and I wound up ordering a copy.

Let me say I definitely find it refreshing. Should I add, eye-opening? She was transformed by her encounters with the famed Black Madonna icons in Europe. Take it from there.


It has me returning to the concept of thinking in metaphor, which I feel is essential to religious slash spiritual practice.

Metaphor compresses image and concepts and actions in ways that legalistic, “thou shalt not” teachings fail to comprehend.

We can begin with the ways we envision something like God or Christ. To that, let me add, the concept of Holy Spirit becomes quite liberated from the earlier English translation of Holy Ghost. The first is definitely infinitely bigger than the second.


Well, the story of the Garden of Eden is one I come back to endlessly. It’s pointedly not a children’s tale, despite the efforts of Sunday schools, and that rib Adam lost is something, uh, more erotic. OK?

For now, though, I’m quite wrapped up in my new book about one community’s Quakers in early New England – which as readers of this blog, I hope you’re aware of.

So here we are! How ‘bout a walk?

My take on the causes of decline 

There are many reasons for the closure of the Dover Friends meetinghouse after the First World War, as I note in my book, along with its reopening in the 1950s.

Dover Friends meetinghouse, erected in 1758, the congregation’s third in town.

In an even bigger picture, we could argue about the marginalization of religion in American society in general, and then extend our consideration to lessened civic involvement and association.

My short quip is that Friends became too respectable.

For now, I’ll leave it at that – at least here, in a blog post. Many other factors come into play.

Besides, it’s the basis of enough for an entirely new book, rather than the history at hand.

Just what makes us tick, anyway – individually and together?


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in an iBook edition at the Apple Store.

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


Quakers and Salem, Massachusetts

One of the early centers of religious resistance was Salem, at the north end of Massachusetts Bay. Though infamous for the witch trials that began in 1692, it had a long history of dissenters, with the Baptist pioneer Roger Williams the most prominent.

It was founded in 1626, four years before Boston, not by Puritans but rather fishermen, led by Roger Conant from Devonshire, when the English settlers of Gloucester on Cape Ann relocated to the mouth of the Naumkeag River, the former site of an ancient Native village and trading center. After witnessing the mounting fear and despair at the Plymouth colony as its leadership devolved and a quarter of its population departed, Conant was especially troubled by what he saw as the rising violence and fanaticism of its Pilgrim authorities, even after he had moved away to Cape Ann.

Conant headed the new settlement for two years before he was replaced by John Endecott on the orders of the Massachusetts Bay colony and the village renamed Salem, reflecting the Puritan ideal of a New Jerusalem. It grew into an active seaport, becoming by 1790 the sixth largest city in the new nation.

Salem was also ten miles closer than Boston to Dover and soon had had a small but significant Quaker presence.

A reproduction of the first Quaker meetinghouse in Salem sits on the grounds of the Peabody-Essex Museum.

Its early persecutions were among the most intense anywhere, yet a remnant held on. The Meeting grew and spread, eventually relocating to Lynn and reaching up the Merrimack Valley of New Hampshire.

While Salem is infamous for its persecution of witches – events that ended the Puritan strand of New England Calvinist orthodoxy – I’m convinced that a bigger picture would be a culture clash between the Devon folkways and those of the East Anglia Puritans, something I investigate in Dover to the north.

In that fullness, Salem would be a really hot story all its own.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in a Nook edition at Barnes & Noble.

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


The Hussey family and that anvil in the Quaker meetinghouse

Hampton’s 1701 meetinghouse is now a private residence.

Through the first century of English habitation in New Hampshire, the other Quaker Monthly Meeting was at Hampton, and like Dover, it soon had satellite worship groups before coalescing in today’s Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Its full history is one that needs to be told. I’d like to know more about how it and Dover interacted.

Amesbury, Massachusetts, Friends meetinghouse.
Its interior has been lovingly restored. After her marriage in Dover, Abigail Hussey worshiped in Amesbury, eventually living just down the street.

Its Hussey family was one that came to be part of Dover Meeting. The family had two well-know weddings that occurred in the present Dover meetinghouse – May 3, 1769, of Samuel Hussey and Mercy Evans, and October 3, 1804, of their daughter Abigail to John Whittier of Haverhill, Massachusetts – another of Hampton/Amesbury’s Preparative Meetings.

Dover’s Hussey farm was on Baer Road in today’s Rollinsford but Somersworth at the time of the second wedding. It’s some beautiful farming country.

John and Abigail Hussey Whittier became the parents of the influential poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, who was a frequent visitor to Dover Friends. Her portrait, reproduced in my recent post about the Whittiers, hangs above the stairway from the main floor to the lower level of the meetinghouse.

Two stories are told about the anvil that sits in a corner of the Dover meetinghouse. One is that it was recovered from the ruins of the Otis house after the Cochecho Village massacre. Richard Otis was a Quaker blacksmith. The other is that it comes by way of the Hussey family, which turned Civil War cannons into plowshares.

The Hussey family has a significant presence in New England Quaker history. Settler Christopher Hussey, described as the most prominent man in early Hampton, was one of the purchasers of Nantucket Island in 1659, where son Stephen eventually moved as it became a Friends stronghold.

Though Christopher was not a Quaker, his other son, John, was severely fined and threatened as an early Quaker, as Elizabeth Hooton related from her American visits. He was a Friends minister, married Elizabeth Perkins from another distinctive Hampton Quaker family, and they had 17 children, mostly daughters, before migrating as Friends to New Castle, Delaware, in 1688 or 1692.

There is argument whether John and Rebecca Hussey’s son Richard (1660-1733) remained behind and moved to Dover or whether it was an immigrant. Either way, a Richard Hussey who was a weaver moved to Dover by 1691, wed Jane Canney, and had a dozen children. Among them was Joseph (1699-1762), who then married Elizabeth Robinson and sired Samuel Hussey (1714-1814), leading to the Whittier connection.

Some of the Nantucket line, however, reconnects in Berwick, Maine, complicating the picture, especially when a Hussey marries another Hussey.

Stephen Hussey’s second son, Bechelder, moved from Nantucket to Biddeford, Maine, which leads to son Stephen, who had 12 children, the last three born in Berwick.

More prominent among the Berwick Quakers were the children of Ebenezer Hussey, Stephen’s fifth son, who wed Abigail Hale.

What is known is that in 1770, James Hussey – possibly Richard and Jane’s grandson or great-grandson – moved from Dover to North Berwick. His son William (1800-1870) created an efficient plow in the 1830s.

It’s right beside the millstream. The textile mills were owned by another Quaker.

The enterprise drew on Quaker connections, beginning with Joseph David Hoag’s relocation from Charlotte, Vermont, to North Berwick in 1825. The son of famed Friends minister Joseph Hoag, he brought with him a cast-iron plow created by blacksmith Jethro Wood of Scipio, New York, another Quaker. Wood’s mother, incidentally, was Diannah Hussey, a niece of Ann Starbuck on Nantucket.

Got all that? Just go with the fact it was a potent mix.

As a farmer, William Hussey felt that the plow’s moldboard was much too short. After pouring lead to make a rough pattern of a longer board, he had castings made at a foundry in Newmarket, New Hampshire. The results were carted by horses to North Berwick, where skilled carpenter Henry Estes made the wooden framework. William then traveled among his farmer friends to sell the plows.

With the distinctive size and shape of the furrow board, the plow could be pulled by less power than its rivals. As the company’s business envelopes proclaimed, “If I don’t hold easy, draw lightly, and turn a flat furrow, after five days return me.”

In his later years, William Hussey ran the N. Hobbs Inn at Bracey’s corner, but as a staunch temperance advocate, he refused to sell liquor. He was also an ardent abolitionist.

That led his son, Timothy Buffum Hussey (1831-1913), to establish the T.B. Hussey Plow Company, now operating as Hussey Seating and the oldest business in Maine.

The company’s early headquarters.

After graduating from Friends School in Providence and teaching there, his son, Timothy Buffum Hussey (1831-1913), took over the business in 1855. With his younger brother, William Penn Hussey, he also operated a foundry nearby.

After the American Civil War, he bought up cannons and melted them down in the foundry to make plows – wryly upholding the swords-into-plowshares prophecy of the book of Isaiah.

After an 1895 fire nearly destroyed the firm, the Husseys refocused on building steel products including fire escapes and bridge supports. I like to think that the shift in focus came to their mind during Quaker Meeting.

Through much of this, Berwick was an independent Monthly Meeting – but it was still part of Dover Quarter and, thus, my history. Besides, when Berwick was laid down as a Meeting, its remaining members, including Husseys, once again were in Dover’s rolls.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in an iBook edition at the Apple Store.

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.

The ‘shadow Meeting’ extended beyond official members

I’ve long been fascinated by what I’ve come to call the “shadow Meeting” – people who continued to worship as Quakers and uphold many of the values after being “read out of Meeting” for violating its discipline, usually over marriage procedures.

It’s a fact for several generations of my own ancestry in North Carolina.

One place I see it in Dover is with the Varneys.

The patriarch of this prolific Quaker line was Humphrey Varney (1636-1714), a brickmaker who moved to Dover from Ipswich, Massachusetts. He married Sarah Starbuck, widow of Joseph Austin, as her second husband.

After the Dover’s disastrous massacre, their son, Ebenezer Varney (1664-1753), married Mary Otis after her return from captivity, and their son Peter (1666-1732) wed Elizabeth Evans.

The Varney house, which stood near today’s Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, was once the largest home in Dover. After the massacre, it continued to keep its doors unlocked so that passing Natives could spend the night.

After that, well, it seems the Varneys married into all of the other Dover Friends families. Many of them also spread, most notably across Maine.

The family made its imprint on Dover, though I’m not sure how many remained Friends.

Jesse Varney was a morocco shoemaker when his store was consumed in flames in December 1810.

By 1837, Varney’s Block stood at Lower Square on Central Avenue near Washington Street. In 1844, a bigger building was erected.

In 1847, 99-year-old Eunice Varney died. She was the oldest resident and a member of the Society of Friends.

There’s Varney Road, extending Long Hill Road to Blackwater Road. And Varney Cleaners, founded by Fred Varney.

The Varney School on Washington Street, used from 1861 to 1953 and now as law offices, was named in honor of Judge John R. Varney. He died in an 1882 fire that destroyed the Washington Street Baptist Church building.

George Varney was a prominent merchant for more than 40 years and owned a drug store on Washington Street before retiring in 1920 at age 65 and passing the next year. He built a large home on Arch Street in 1913.

John R. Varney was co-owner of two newspapers – the Dover Enquirer, purchased in 1868, and the Dover Daily Republican, acquired in 1880.

My curiosity, of course, wonders how many of the Quaker values continued in their lives, as well as what directions their faith took. I like to think it worked like yeast.

The family also made a big impression in Manchester. The Varney School, now a private residence on the West Side, was named in honor of one of the city’s mayors.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in a Nook edition at Barnes & Noble.

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


What values continue after a family leaves a tradition?

One thing that fascinates me in regards to religion is the distinction between faith, based on a holy experience, and a culture, handed down within a family.

Among the Dover families that belonged to Meeting are the Tuttles, long known for their Red Barn market. Yes, Red Barn, like the name of this blog.

Three Dover Combination signers shared a tragic introduction to the New World when their ship, the Angel Gabriel, broke up in the August 14 “Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635,” either in the harbor at Pemaquid, Maine, or at the Isles of Shoals.

One was John Tuttle, who was about 17 years old at the time of the disaster. After their rescue, he arrived in Chebasco (in Essex or Ipswich, Massachusetts). By 1638 Tuttle settled in Dover, where he was known as Shipwreck John and had a farm on today’s Bellamy River – one that grew into what was long known as America’s oldest family-owned and operated enterprise. (Never mind that Thomas Roberts’ heirs nearby would have a longer claim.) Tuttle’s son Thomas was killed by a falling tree while still a young teenager, leaving John Jr. to continue the family name.

Tuttles’ Red Barn along Dover Point Road remains a landmark, even after the family finally sold the farm.

Shipwreck John’s grandson, James Tuttle (1683-1707), is believed to be the first Quaker in the family. He married Rose Pinkham (1682-1728) and they had two children before his death – Elijah Tuttle and Phebe, who married Moses Varney. Yes, these Quaker families quickly intermix.

The next four generations were very active in Dover Friends Meeting, according to William Penn Tuttle, who added that their home was always a resting place for visitors during Quarterly Meeting.

And some of the family even went abroad in missionary service.

Their farm on Dover Point Road, with its red barn, was long noted as a marketplace for fresh produce.

Across the river in Maine, one line still produces remarkable cider each fall – King Tut’s. Yes, short for Tuttle’s.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in an iBook edition at the Apple Store.

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.