There’s more to the legacy of New Hampshire’s Hiltons

While Edward Hilton is hailed as the father of New Hampshire and was early on joined by his older brother William, both drifted away from my history Quaking Dover. Still, some points of interest remain.

Among them:

  1. His son, Edward Hilton Junior, married Anne Dudley, daughter of Puritan minister Samuel Dudley, allying his line with a prominent early New England family in Exeter. I sense there’s much more to this union that is presented.
  2. Edward’s grandson, Colonel Winthrop Hilton, was slain by Natives in 1710 while harvesting mast trees in Epping. He had succeeded Richard Waldron as head of the New Hampshire militia. His other grandfather was Massachusetts governor John Winthrop. So much for high connections.
  3. Winthrop Hilton’s brother Dudley was carried off in the attack and never heard from again.
  4. Edward’s nephew Captain William Hilton mapped an island in South Carolina in 1663, naming the location Hilton Head Island. He also mapped Cape Fear that year. He sailed out of Charlestown on Boston Harbor but acknowledged finishing the maps in the home of Nicholas Shapley in Maine – that is Shapleigh, a major figure in my book. Just look at Billy’s uncle’s second wife.
  5. That is, the elder Edward’s second wife, the widow Katherine Shapleigh Treworgy, who had a daughter marry into the equally prominent Gilman family.
  6. Into the late 1900s, one line continued to live on the farm settled in Newmarket around 1630. In fact, they claimed it was the oldest homestead in the state.
  7. Descendant Daniel Hilton, born in 1794, removed from Newmarket to Meredith, where he had 18 children and left an estate of 80,000 acres by the time of his death in 1867. His ancestry also included Thomas Wiggin, who had brought many of the first wave to settle in Dover after the Hiltons.
  8. Daniel’s son Charles became chief engineer of the New York Central railway, in charge of the building of bridges over the Hudson River and a viaduct in Albany in addition to Grand Central Station and grain elevators in New York City. So much for humble Granite State beginnings. He was also a high-ranking Free Mason.
  9. The Hilton family burial ground along State Route 108 in Newfields, just across the town line from Newmarket, rather thickens the plot.
  10. There’s no connection to Conrad Hilton and his hotel chain.


So this is how Dover’s early houses looked?

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.

Fish-drying racks would have been important.

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.

The Maine historical site adds details to the reasoning behind their reconstruction.

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?

Pemaquid, out beyond the Piscataqua frontier

Call it a serendipitous trip.

My stopping off at the Colonial Pemaquid historical site in Maine during a weekend at the Common Ground Country Fair last year was an impromptu decision. I’d made a side trip to visit the iconic lighthouse down on Pemaquid Point in midcoast Maine and saw a roadside sign and thought, what the heck, on my drive back.

After all, the settlement had some connections to early Dover, as I note in my new book, but simply setting foot there gave me a more substantial sense of the place than as a footnote vaguely out there somewhere up the coastline.

At first, the state-managed site appears rather modest. Its small museum and nearby seafood restaurant were both closed, this being the shoulder season. But nosing around revealed much, much more, as I’ll explain here and in some upcoming posts.

It was settled by West Country fishermen, like those who were pivotal in early Dover, shortly after Edward Hilton and Thomas Roberts set up shop along the Piscataqua, so they would have shared a common culture. Notably, both sites were established before the great Puritan migration into Massachusetts Bay, bringing a much different English culture into New England.

Unlike Dover, the Pemaquid village was destroyed repeatedly in attacks from the French and their Native allies in the decades from King Phillip’s war on.

In short, English settlement was erased from Maine all the way down to Wells and York, close to Dover. I have to admit that caused me to give lesser attention to settlement much to the east of the Piscataqua River.

Still, the Pemaquid site, now in the town of Bristol, was left relatively undisturbed after the late 1700s. In the 1990s, though, extensive archeological excavations determined the shape of the village and a gave a clearer understanding of its economy and lifestyle. Today, the stone foundations and interpretative signage present some of their findings.

In those, as I’m excited to see, I got a clearer sense of how early Dover may have also emerged along High Street – today’s Dover Point Road.

I’d love to hear more about the settlers’ culture

What did they eat, for instance. Or, more accurately, how did they prefer it to be cooked?

And did children really smoke tobacco and drink beer, as seemed to be common among the Puritans.

My book, Quaking Dover, mentions a number of things that may have come down through the West Country culture of Devonshire. As one historian details, they were part of the Cavaliers’ lifestyle in Virginia, but for now I have no evidence of the degree they influenced the settlers in the Piscataqua watershed.

Still, I believe they were one of the reasons the Quaker message so readily took root and flourished there.

Not that Quakers or Puritans got very far in Virginia.

There’s a good reason Dover Friends didn’t have a meetinghouse before 1680

Or keep minutes, that we know of.

The Quaker Meetings in Salem, Hampton, and Dover were all in Puritan-governed colonies, and thus officially illegal at the time. Religious toleration around 1680 came with a change New England governance and a royal governorship in Massachusetts.

With it, Salem has claimed to have the first Friends meetinghouse in America, though it was built about the same time as the one on Dover Neck, just south of today’s St. Thomas Aquinas high school. And Third Haven on Maryland’s Eastern Shore may be a tad older than either one.

Now, if we only had documentation, we might find the honor of being first in New England belongs instead to Dover.

Perhaps one of your family lines runs through Dover Friends Meeting

We get the occasional inquiry from someone researching a family genealogy and wondering if they were part of Dover Friends Meeting.

Records for early Dover are pretty scanty, including both First Parish and the Quakers.

Family registers in New England Quaker Meeting minutes have never been indexed, unlike William Wade Hinshaw’s ambitious volumes for Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Ohio or the subsequent multivolume project for Indiana.

Well, Dover’s births, marriages, and deaths compiled for publication in the early 1900s can now be found online, for those so interested.

Also, I should point out that the Puritans never called themselves such and did evolve into today’s Congregational and Unitarian-Universalist denominations. First Parish is heir to that stream.

On the Quaker side, connecting the dots from the Dover Combination signers as an early census, the court convictions for non-attendance at public worship, and the Friends Meeting’s records from 1701 and 1703 on hinted at the foundation of Quaker membership in the early years. A survey of online family genealogies helped immensely in filling in the general body, though I take many of those details with a grain of salt.

So here’s the core of the historic Friends community around the Piscataqua watershed:

Ring any bells?

Dover was on the frontier of Friends

For much of its first century of settlement, Dover was on the frontier of English settlement. Tenuous outposts clung to the coastline as far as Pemaquid and Monhegan Island in Maine, but after hostilities broke out in 1689, European settlement was pushed down to Wells, just beyond Dover.

During this time, Dover Friends were both the furthest north and furthest east Quakers in the New World. Did they feel isolated or vulnerable? They did get some strong visiting ministry during those years.

Only when Casco Bay, or today’s Greater Portland, was resettled around 1740 did that begin to change.

The number of Dover Friends relocating to new Maine lands by 1800 continues to astound me. After all, the traditional historical focus tends to look south, to Boston and to the west beyond.

I’m sensing that there’s a much richer story looking in the other direction, involving Dover families of all stripes.

They weren’t always ‘innocent’ victims

Among the stories I deleted from the draft of Quaking Dover was one dealing with the fate of a grandson of Dover founder Edward Hilton.

While both of the immigrant Hilton brothers eventually left Dover, Edward’s family married prominently.

I still feel that the story illuminates the tensions of living on the frontier of early New Hampshire, as you’ll see. It just didn’t fit into the emerging thrust of my book.

Take a look:

In the summer of 1706, Winthrop Hilton led a work crew of 17 men into the forest of Epping, which was then still part of Exeter. Across New England, all white pines of two-foot circumference or more were reserved for the Royal Navy to use as masts, and the provincial surveyor recorded and marked these as the King’s pine. Hilton’s task was called limbing, in this instance the removal the limbs and bark from mast trees felled the previous winter.

“Their only tool was an ax,” Joy True, curator of the Epping Historical Society, explains. If the bark was not peeled off these tall, straight, majestic trees, they would become damaged by worms.

Hilton was also the highest-ranking military officer in New Hampshire, a position he filled after the death of Major Waldron in 1689. The family homestead in Newfields, also then part of Exeter, was a fortified, manned garrison.

“In 1706 the natives kept careful watch,” True writes. “They attacked and killed any man that left the shelter of the garrison. By the summer of 1710, the ravages of the war had greatly exhausted the people of the upper New England villages. Many of the men that were fit for military service were away at Port Royal in Nova Scotia defending settlers from Indian attacks. In the meantime, small bands of Indians in this area were making forays into the white settlements with increased daring.”

Colonel Hilton made for an exceptional target. As a leading figure in the expeditions to the eastern frontier, he had taken in the raid against the Indian settlement at Norridgewock, Maine. “As a result, he became the object of bitter grudges by the enemy,” True observes. “He was above average size, of muscular physique, and of resolute character. He was one of the best, a leader in his community; and he was respected by friends and neighbors. But Hilton had a darker side; he thought nothing of killing the enemy, man, woman or child. On Indian raids, he often spared the women and children, taking them into captivity. Hilton and his band of men, traveled far and near, pursuing the enemy. Is it any wonder, the Indians hated him, and plotted their revenge?”

He thought he had enough men to avert trouble, but it was, as True notes, “a wet and stormy day, and all their powder was wet, so of little use to them in an emergency. The attack was so sudden; they never had a chance to respond.

“Colonel Hilton had determined many years before that he would not be captured by the Indians. He would fight to the death rather than being captured. The enemy was aware of this, and after all their planning, they knew they could steal closer to Colonel Hilton and give him little opportunity to defend himself. Then they struck, their first target was Hilton, and then two other men were quickly killed, and two men were captured. The rest of the men fled for Exeter, and safety.”

One of the captives “was probably Dudley Hilton, brother of Winthrop. His body was not recovered at the massacre, and he was never heard from again.”


Let me now ask:

Does any of this fit into what you had envisioned as early New England?


White supremacy was there all along

Maintaining a unique group identity can be perilous, no matter how necessary.

The necessity side, at its best, has to do with trying to make progress, improve justice and physical comfort, live healthier, counter the corrosive forces of status quo and lethargy, be smarter, and so on. Put it any way you want, things in general could be better, and even thinking something like that will set you apart from the status quo of broader society.

On the other hand, humans are social animals. We need others as family, friends, colleagues, cohorts. We even need them to share our stories, histories, songs, and place on this earth. Relax, right?

It’s a complex calculus, then, around the world.

What I started to see in researching my book on a Quaker community in New England, though, was a blatant arrogance within the Puritan wave of immigration. I suspect similar sides are apparent in the Spanish settlers to the south or the French to the north, or, well, back in the Old World, all the way to China. Even one tribe over another.

I’m trying to look at this clearly.

The English, of course, knew they were superior to the French, who I gather saw it the other way around. (Insert proper expletive and spit appropriately.) And they were both superior to the Spanish or Portuguese or Italians, according to this scenario.

Germans? Not really on the scene in earliest settlement in America, far as I can tell, though the Dutch of New Netherlands add their own twist.

Remember, the English also looked down on the Scots and Irish, as well as the Welsh and Cornish.

Sounds to me like the old game, King of the Hill.

The comedian Eddie Izzard has an insightful riff on this where he says it all comes down to a flag. If you have no flag, you have no claim to your country or land. So, here, I’ll stick mine in the ground and this place is mine.

That does make for a short ride on the papal Doctrine of Discovery. Look it up, if you must.

What I’ve seen in my research is how this air of superiority made equitable dealings between the Europeans and the Indigenous peoples impossible. There was no eye-to-eye even exchange. Even the concept of farming was viewed as more productive, and thus superior, than the Native hunting and gathering use of a piece of land.

Well, I could argue that God preferred a wild-game offering over grain in Cain vs. Abel, Genesis chapter 4.

You know, quality over quantity.

As for equality? We have our guns and Bibles.

Which points to another distinction: written language. I’m a writer and a reader. You expect me to not take sides here?

Still, in the New England story, the English weren’t shy about labeling the Natives as “barbarians,” “savages,” and “heathens.” Never mind many of the practices of the English and French, who not only offered bounties on scalps – Native and the other side’s European – but also indulged in the practice themselves. As for heathen? For the Puritans, with their Calvinist inclination of proclaiming themselves God’s Elect, most other Christians were also lumped in that group, perhaps at a slightly lesser degree.

Many of the consequences, however, have been tragic, for all sides.

In some theology, pride is a sin, right? Ahem. (Hopefully, in contrast to justifiable self-esteem.)

Well, as some among us might note, I’m proud to be a humble Quaker. Not that we didn’t fall into that trap of feeling superior, too.

There’s plenty of work for all to do on this issue. I’ll leave my end of the discussion at that, for now.

More on the early Scots around Dover

The Scottish prisoners of war who had been deported in chains to New England and sold into indentured servitude were becoming free men about the time the Quaker movement came to the New World. It must have added to the volatile social, economic, political, and religious mix.

My book Quaking Dover examines the tensions between the traditions and values of the settlers from Devonshire and those of the Puritans originating from East Anglia. In the Piscataqua watershed, the Scots no doubt added another dimension to that culture clash.

Their number in a sparsely populated area is impressive – more than 50 men in Berwick, Maine, plus Oyster River, Exeter, and Hampton in New Hampshire. In short, they were a significant part of the inhabitants, even before many of them scooted off to places like York, Maine, or Boston.


A historical marker on Sligo Road in Rollinsford, opposite Berwick along the Salmon Falls river, summarizes the life of one as thus:

Near this place lived David Hamilton of Westburn born in the parish of Cambuslang, Scotland, in October, 1620; captured by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester, England. September 3, 1651 brought to America as a prisoner in chains on the “John and Sarah” in the same year; settled near here and married Annah Jaxson of Lanark, Scotland; killed by Indians on September 28, 1691.

The marriage to Anna Jackson took place in 1662 in either Dover or Saco, Maine. She is believed to be the daughter of Richard Jackson, another Scottish POW. We are left wondering whether she had somehow managed to rejoin her father in New England or whether Hamilton knew her in Scotland and arranged for her passage. I’ve found little more about her father and nothing about her mother, although the fact that he died in 1691 in Berwick has me wondering if he, like Hamilton, fell in an attack by Natives.

David and Anna settled in Rollinsford and had seven sons.

He was slain in 1691 while working on his farm. His wife presumably predeceased him.

Today, Hamilton House can be seen across the river from the site of their farm.

That house gets its name from their great-grandson Jonathan, a wealthy merchant who built a manor overlooking a broad cove of the Salmon Falls. There, he had ships unloaded and repacked.

The site, with a classic Georgian house erected by later residents, is now maintained as a museum by Historic New England and open to the public.


The Oyster River connection brings into the picture an early settler who bought seven of the prisoners. He was Valentine Hill, who arrived in Oyster River in 1643 and established a large farm and saw mill at the falls. His 1649 house, now part of the Three Chimneys Inn, is one of the oldest structures in New Hampshire. His prominence is reflected in his construction of a meetinghouse in 1655 for the village, which was still part of Dover. Or should we say the Scots laboring for him did? The Puritan minister at First Parish held services there as well as at the Fort Meetinghouse on Dover Neck.

Through his first wife, Hill was distantly related to William Hutchinson, whose wife Ann had been banished from Massachusetts in a religious controversy and resettled in Rhode Island, where many of her followers later joined in the Quaker movement.

Valentine appears to have been thoroughly Puritan, but not so his likely nephew John, who settled in Oyster River in 1656; many of his descendants were active Friends in Dover. I’m assuming that John was the son of a John Hill who settled in Dover by 1639.


One Scottish POW who definitely had a line of Quaker descendants was John Bean, who settled in Exeter. As I describe in my book, Joel and James Bean and their two sisters left Dover to assist the growth of Friends Meetings in Iowa and then the West Coast, including roles in the founding of two colleges.

Their great-great-grandfather Bean was a recorded Quaker minister in Brentwood, New Hampshire, but stubbornly refused to submit to eldering from New England Yearly Meeting colleagues and was ultimately “disowned,” or removed from membership. Even so, he then led a splinter Quaker body in town. Was that the Scottish heritage at work?