Some historical accounts contend that the first housing in Dover was log cabins, as opposed to the thatched roof houses of Plimoth Plantation we can visit down in Massachusetts on our way down south of Boston to Cape Cod. (Go there, if you get the opportunity, by the way. It’s truly enlightening. And you won’t have to eat turkey or cranberry, not that I would object. Anyway, did those Pilgrims have mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes on that big event menu?)
Let me emphasize, log-style construction is often claimed for both the Hiltons’ settlement at Dover Point and the growing settlement’s first meetinghouse, which sat on what’s now roughly under a toll plaza on the Spaulding Turnpike.
Alas, both Dover sites represent lost opportunities for historical research.
In contrast, Colonial Pemaquid, Maine, from the same era, has been subject to extensive archeological work. This reproduction is a typical West Country fisherman’s family structure for the period, based on those findings.
Yes, that’s right. A whole family would fit in one.
Notably, the earliest residents there and in Dover were from the West Country of England – especially Devonshire. And from nearby Bristol, a name that’s been applied to both.
An extended conversation with one of the dedicated volunteer caretakers convinced me on this style, unlike log cabins, which were apparently brought to America by Scandinavians to Delaware a few years later.
In a related conversation, close to where I now live, I was surprised to hear that the French settlers on St. Croix Island in 1604 arrived with pre-fab housing and set it up, rather than constructing their village and fortifications from scratch. When the survivors abandoned the site in the spring of 1605, they readily dismantled these and took them to their new site, Port-Royal, Nova Scotia.
That had me wondering how all of that would fit into a ship, but then I started thinking of it as the cargo coming in one direction, replaced with fish, fresh timber, and pelts on the return. Maybe it was bigger than a bunch of U-Hauls. You’d be surprised how much we’ve shoved into a few of those.
So might something similar gone on when the English sailed up the Piscataqua? It would make a plausible alternative to the log cabin assumption.
By the way, the Borderlands region of England had a structure known as a cowpen (sounds like cabin), reflecting the reality of a somewhat temporary house that would be destroyed by fighting within 50 years. Or maybe even a wild party.
I’ve never been quite comfortable with the traditional log cabin description of Hilton Point’s early settlement. Point made?