There’s more to history than the usual names-and-dates scenario

As I’ve admitted, many of the historical persons in my new book, Quaking Dover, really deserve full-length biographical treatment or maybe individual operas or Hollywood blockbuster movies, if only we had time to linger. Four hundred years requires a lot of compression and that meant keep moving ahead. Anyone looking for a writing prompt can dig in with a host of possibilities on the list.

Retired librarian Olga R. Morrill, bless her, rises to the challenge with her historical fiction, Vagabond Quakers: Northern Colonies, published in 2017, focusing on the three women missionaries who came to Dover in 1662 and were whipped out of town in what was essentially a death sentence.

In doing so, she also portrays Richard Waldron and Nicholas Shapleigh as fully fleshed characters, even though they both have much more ahead in their lives after the three troublesome Quakers venture off-stage, the part she follows as the women venture south. (Yes, we need a full bio for each of the guys, please.)

As fiction, Vagabond Quakers resorts to some creative history and plausibility to fill in huge gaps. I see this in Waldron’s chronology, especially – with details where my findings and her tale conflict – but she does induce a compelling drama even in the minor players. She weaves fact and fiction seamlessly and manages a credible dialogue. (What they actually said would sound unintelligible gibberish to our ears.) If only I were sure which parts arise in her invention and which parts rest on solid evidence.

I’m happy to see that she examines Waldron’s life as a major figure in Boston, not just his existence as the most powerful man in New Hampshire, where he’s usually confined in the telling. Dover may have been his private fiefdom, out on the fringe of New England, but he wasn’t exactly provincial. She even manages to stir some sympathy for the man I dub the perfect villain.

She also gives full due to the deep conflicts in the town church before the Quakers arrive. Those are something I’ve long suspected contributed to the willingness of so many residents to join Friends early on. My one quibble is that I think Elder Starbuck would have been in the other party than the one where she places him.

For me, Morrill’s biggest contributions come in her envisioning the proceedings from the women’s perspective – not just the Quakers, but even those in the Waldron household. In the actual dates-and-names history, they’re mostly invisible. Many of Dover’s earliest wives remain ciphers, and even too many of their first and maiden names are missing. As for their language, demeanor, and dress? Morrill has me willingly suspending disbelief in her storytelling. Was one of the Quakers of short stature? Not that I’ve found anywhere. As for singing? Unlikely, but the quirk does pop the individual into three dimensions.

The events she describes in what would seem an out-of-the-way frontier settlement remain an important breakthrough in establishing religious freedom, anywhere.

Morrill and I both find these events to be endlessly fascinating, and hope you will, too.

Let me know of examples of courage you find that match the Quaker women’s.

Don’t overlook Baltimore

There are reasons it’s also known as Charm City. Or, as they say of neighboring D.C., it has Northern charm combined with Southern inefficiency. By the way, don’t blame me for that perspective.

USS Constellation, built in 1855, graces the Inner Harbor. (Photo via Wikimedia)
  1. Baseball great Babe Ruth was born here (1895) and poet Edgar Allan Poe died a drunk on its streets (1849).
  2. Speaking of baseball, the Camden Yard ballpark spurred the return of smaller professional arenas to central cities across the continent. Now, if the Birds could only fly higher than the Yankees or Red Sox in their division. They really are doomed in that association.
  3. Speaking of birds, the Baltimore Oriole got its name because its colors resembled those of the coat of arms of Maryland founder Lord Calvert. I have no idea about their religion, but he was an advocate of religious liberty.
  4. The port was second only to Ellis Island in the number of immigrant arrivals in the 19th century. And while the city sits below the Mason-Dixon line and has a Southern outlook, it also has a strong German presence and Northern connection strengthened by the Baltimore & Ohio train tracks.
  5. With his profits from those rails, Quaker Johns Hopkins founded the nation’s first research university in 1876. Today it and its related hospital and institutions are the state’s largest employer.
  6. The metro area is also home to McCormick spices. You can smell it in the humid spring air.
  7. The National Aquarium crowns the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor as a popular destination. The waterfront is also graced by the tall-masted USS Constellation of Civil War glory.
  8. American Methodism was founded in 1784 at the site of today’s Lovely Lane church. And a 1789 conference at Old Otterbein Church led to the formation of the United Brethren denomination of German-Americans (it merged in 1968 with the Methodists, giving them the “United” in today’s name). Also in 1789, the nation’s first Roman Catholic archdiocese was founded in the city; its cathedral was finished in 1821. It even produced a saint, I believe.
  9. A flag waving over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics to the National Anthem, the one that was much in the air yesterday, but the music’s from a much older British drinking song. How ironic, especially since it challenges even the most professional singers.
  10. The city doesn’t show up in my fiction, despite my living in the inner city’s Bolton Hill and suburban Owings Mills for three years. Even if the place is so hot and humid you have to turn on your air conditioner on the same day you turn off your furnace. Or, as they say of neighboring Worshington, it’s built over a swamp you know.

Ours was a bloody frontier much longer than most Americans know

In 1676, during King Philip’s War, a number of Natives fleeing from the Massachusetts Bay colony militia received shelter among the Pennacook tribe living around Dover. The refugees were part of what’s called a rebellion that began the previous year, the first in a series of armed campaigns between the colonists and the Indigenous peoples in and around Dover and beyond.

The existing accounts, of course, are one-sided, but the devastation afflicted innocent non-combatants on both sides.


Up to this point, most of the fighting was to the south, though there were fatal attacks in Oyster River, still part of Dover, among others.

Not all of the tribes aligned with the rebellion. The Narragansetts, for one, were neutral, yet more than 600 were killed by the colonists in revenge.

Dover’s Richard Waldron and Maine’s Charles Frost led colonial forces in an incursion on the Mi’kmaq in French-held Acadia – today’s Downeast Maine.

In the midst of this, two events in Dover added fuel to the conflagration. Until now, Dover had largely mutually positive relations with the Natives, Waldron aside.

Waldron was ordered to attack the Natives who had found refuge nearby and turn any combatants over to the Massachusetts militia. He instead invited about 400 Natives to participate in a mock battle against the New Hampshire militia. After the guests had fired their guns, Waldron took them prisoner and sent them to Boston, where the leaders were executed. Others were sold into slavery in “foreign parts,” mostly Barbados.

The usual take on the “mock battle” comes from Waldron’s account and often has most of the captives being returned peacefully. In contrast, the Indigenous version handed down orally has the event being an invitation to a feast. Only twenty of the Natives were armed, and at least 350, mostly women and children, were taken, sold, and never returned. Among the consequences was the fall of the peaceful, Christian Wonalancet as sachem and the rise of the warlike Kankamagus.

Major Richard Waldron masterminded the sham war game that led to the captivity of local Natives who came in peace.

Quakers were no doubt appalled by Waldron’s dishonesty and physical violence as well as the enslavement – New England Friends, including children, had faced being sold into slavery by Puritan authorities at the height of the persecutions. Moreover, Friends cherished good relationships with the Natives.

They were not alone.

“The local Indians were released but never forgave Waldron for the deception, which violated all the rules of honor and hospitality valued by both sides,” as one version, drawing on the colonial record, relates.

Despite its brevity, King Philip’s War is considered the greatest calamity in 17th-century New England and the deadliest war in Colonial American history. Within a year, many of the towns had been destroyed or damaged, and the economy of Plymouth and Rhode Island colonies was all but ruined. Hundreds of Wampanoags and their allies were publicly executed or enslaved, and the Wampanoags were left effectively landless.

For northern New England, it was only the beginning of a series of wars connected to European conflicts that would devastate the frontier until 1763, when New France was surrendered to Britain.


One of the fortified garrison houses built in Dover. Each one was surrounded by a palisade. When the neighbors arrived for the night, things must have been pretty crowded.

Along the Piscataqua, the Natives were patient, waiting 13 years for revenge. As historian Jeremy Belknap related: “Friday the 28th June, 1689, was the fatal day in the morning of which Major Richard Waldron was murdered and the destruction of Cochecho perpatrated by the Indians of Pennycook and Saco. This caused the absence of Mr. Pike for some years.”

Was the town’s minister permanently injured in the attack? Or suffer mental illness as a consequence?


The Reverend John Pike noted “the eastern Ind joyning with those of Pennicook (thro the Instigation of Hawkins & a Sagamore) suddenly seized on Cochecho, about break of day, wn all things were silent & secure. Killed 23 persons … and carried captive 29.”

This was the beginning of King William’s War, a series of massacres orchestrated by Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin and Father Louis-Pierre Thury.

In New England, the conflict originated in the failure of the settlers to adhere to the treaties and agreements made at the end of King Philip’s War, but the renewed outbreak of hostilities was also the North American theater of hostilities originating when King James II, the last of England’s suspected secretly Roman Catholic kings, was deposed and replaced by Protestants William and Mary. Hence, the “William” in what was also known as Father Baudin’s War and Castin’s War. Baudin was a French Sulpician priest who had trained to become a musketeer and later ministered in Acadia. This segment would continue for nine years, ending in 1697.

Waldron had dismissed concerns about renewed hostilities, telling residents to go and plant their pumpkins, and he would take care of the Natives.

Instead, in the attack, the sword-wielding elderly Waldron was cut across his belly with knives, with each warrior saying “I cross out my account.” Five or six dwelling houses were burned, along with the mills. Fifty-two colonists, a full quarter of the entire population, were captured and carried off to Quebec or slain.

One view of the attacks.

The Indigenous account of 80-year-old Waldron’s demise is more detailed. His nose and ears were cut off and stuffed in his mouth, as were his thumbs. To the Natives, he had turned his nose to injustice, refused to hear all sides, and cheated on weights in trade – placing his thumb on the scale. He also avoided trading them useful goods they desired and instead paid them in rum or trinkets.

The garrisons were houses that had been fortified from 1675 and on, set within palisades and designated as places of shelter in the event of attack. At the time of the 1689 attack, there were an estimated fifty such sites within and around the sprawling town.

The most extensive toll came at Richard Otis’s garrison, where the 64-year-old blacksmith, his son Stephen, and daughter Hannah were killed. His third wife, Grizel, three-month-old daughter Margaret, three daughters from his first marriage, Judith, Rose, and Experience, and at least two grandchildren were taken captive. One adult son, Richard Jr., escaped. The garrison was burned.

The Otis family was Quaker.


Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


Our city even has a forested state park

Eastport may be a city, but much of it is still forest.

Shackford Head, between Broad Cove and Deep Cove, has one of those. And it’s a state park. Mercifully, it even escaped becoming an oil refinery in the 1970s and ’80s, thanks to some dedicated citizen action.

This is all that remains of five Civil War ships that were burned between 1901 and 1920 at Cony Beach at today’s Shackford Head State Park. The vessels were brought close to shore and set aflame to release metal for scavengers to collect at low tide. This is Cony Beach with Shackford Head beyond.

I should note that the Shackford family, so prominent in the settling of Eastport, had roots in Dover, New Hampshire, before spreading into Newburyport, Massachusetts, and then shooting up here. It seems that our house was built in the 1830s by one of them.

Apart from that, the 90-acre state park allows for some delightful hiking and vistas without having to drive miles from home. You know,  needed a quick fix of more nature.

The shoreline can be quite rugged but have a pocket beach below.
Deep Cove flanks one side of the park.
Sometimes a trail takes to a plank walk over muddy stretches.

At last Dover Friends were allowed to organize and build a place of worship

One of the unanswered questions in Colonial history is why the anti-Quaker acts weren’t applied uniformly. Only in bursts, apparently to curb their political influence. In small communities across New England, Friends were important parts of the economy and social life – and often related by marriage to the dominant Puritans.

Still, during the yearly years of Quaker existence, much of the activity continued more or less underground. Friends’ absence from the town church may have been condoned if for no other reason than to avoid their nuisance.

Then, in 1679, the revocation of the Massachusetts Bay colony’s charter reestablished New Hampshire’s independence and also allowed for Friends both there and in New Hampshire to finally formally establish their Meetings.

After decades of worshiping in homes, barns, outdoors, or other places, Friends could finally build their own meetinghouse.

Dover’s first meetinghouse, just south of today’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School, was one of the oldest in the New World. After the erection of the town’s third Quaker meetinghouse, in 1768, the first building was shipped across the Piscataqua to a site a mile away up Sturgeon Creek.

Dover’s first Quaker meetinghouse was to the right of the Pinkham cemetery.

Salem, Massachusetts, claims to have built the oldest, but Dover’s may have been earlier – now, if only some solid documentation existed to support that claim.

Did it resemble the one built about the same time in Salem, Massachusetts? (Photo by Kathleen Wooten)

Around 1680, with the lessening persecution, Dover Friends were able to formally organize into a Monthly Meeting, although they were already the fifth oldest worshiping body in New Hampshire. After years of gathering together wherever they could find, the Quakers erected their first meetinghouse, choosing a site on Dover Neck on a site between today’s Pinkham Cemetery (begun in 1700) and across today’s Dover Point Road from the Roberts farm and First Settlers Cemetery (1633). The structure remained there until Dover Friends erected a third meetinghouse in 1768, and the original was disassembled, ferried across the Piscataqua River, and rebuilt in Eliot – about a mile to the east, not far from the site of the Shapleigh manor where the three Quaker women had earlier found haven. By road, incidentally, the two meetinghouse sites are more than ten miles apart. Although Eliot/Kittery is sometimes honored as the first Quaker meetinghouse in the Maine colony, that designation may belong to Friends at Falmouth, who are believed to have constructed their own in the 1750s.

The Dover Neck Friends meetinghouse was among the first in the American colonies. Between 1672 and 1682, only seven had been constructed in heavily Quaker New Jersey, and perhaps only four in Pennsylvania. Third Haven, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, was open by 1682 and remains the oldest Friends meetinghouse in continuous use. The oldest confirmed date for a Quaker meetinghouse in New England is 1688 in Salem, and a reconstruction of that building is on the grounds of the Peabody-Essex Museum.


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

Nantucket’s Starbucks came from Dover

Although it’s offshore of Cape Cod and close to Rhode Island, Nantucket Island was purchased by investors mostly from the Merrimack River watershed just south of the Piscataqua. Prominently, however, one was from Dover – Edward Starbuck. And his son-in-law, Peter Coffin, was another.

Edward’s the origin of the Starbuck surname in America, a signer of the 1640 Dover Combination, and a prominent figure in Dover’s early history. The name also shows up as Starbird or Starboard.

And, no, these Starbucks weren’t known for their coffee.

Before the arrival of the Quakers, Edward was an elder in First Parish, but historian George Wadleigh cites two curious controversies.

In 1648, “The Grand Jury presented Elder Starbuck for disturbing the peace of the church, and for refusing to join with it in the ordinance of baptism; for which he was admonished and discharged.”

Discharged, we can assume, from the office of elder, and not simply having the charges discharged.

(This was a month before future Quaker Richard Pinkham was ordered to start beating the drum to summon congregants to the Sunday service.)

In 1649, the baptism issue apparently involved the matter of children, perhaps his daughter Shuah, but then spread to his very hairstyle.

“The Court being informed of a great misdemeanor committed by Edward Starbuck of Dover, with profession of Anabaptism, for which he is to be proceeded against at the next Court of Assistants, if evidence can be prepared by that time, and it being very far for witnesses to travel to Boston at that season of the year, appointed Captain Thomas Wiggin and Mr. Edward (George?) Smith to take the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution of Starbuck, whose offence, apparently, was the wearing of his hair beyond the statute length, ‘after the manner of ruffians and barbarous Indians,’ which had been decreed by the Court to be ‘sinful.'”

Let’s note that Anabaptism here doesn’t mean Mennonite. The term was applied to many who objected to the Puritan orthodoxy.

I suspect that some of Edward’s opposition to infant baptism was stimulated by Hansard Knollys before his hasty departure from the First Parish pastorate. Knollys, after all, then became a founder of the Particular Baptists back in England, and as elder, Edward would have been close to him.

Nantucket Island was soon famed for its whalers, and perhaps notorious as a den of Quakers.

I’m uncertain whether Edward had any connection with Quakers in Dover before he removed with his family to Nantucket around 1660, but his Dover-born son Nathaniel definitely identified as a Friend.

In fact, Nathaniel’s wife, Mary Coffin, was a powerful Quaker minister who’s credited with converting the whole island to adopt the faith or at least make it the official town church. Besides, by doing so they wouldn’t be taxed to support an ordained minister.

Mary’s father, Tristram, was one of the island’s proprietors and originally from Devonshire as well as the progenitor of a line in Dover.

Edward Starbuck, meanwhile, was from Derbyshire.

Further connecting the two families as the marriage of Edward’s daughter Abigail to Dover resident Peter Coffin, also prominent in the settling of Nantucket Island and a cousin of Mary.

Another daughter, Sarah, married Joseph Austin, who showed up in Dover around 1647 as part-owner of a sawmill. He was born about 1616 in Dover, Kent, England, and appeared in Hampton, New Hampshire, in 1642.

They had six children before his death on June 27, 1663. She then married Humphrey Varney. Many of her descendants by each husband were Quaker.

Four of the children moved to Nantucket Island: sons Benjamin and Nathaniel and daughters Mary, who wed Richard Gardner, and Deborah, wife of John Coffin.

Their son Thomas remained in Dover and married Ann Otis, daughter of Richard Otis and Rose Stoughton. Together they had fourteen children who then became the stem of the family that proliferated in Dover Friends Meeting.


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

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary. Its influence is wider than anyone I’ve found has suspected.


Ten 19th century developments that greatly improved life where I live … and in much of the rest of the world

Some of these have already passed into oblivion, but they were still part of the transformation.

  1. Window screening. Maine is loaded with black flies and mosquitos. Somebody still had to go outdoors, though.
  2. Steamships. Not just allowing you to get away or back, but conveying the mail, especially. Think Internet and email for comparison. Remember, Eastport was a major port, including the exportation of canned sardines.
  3. Railroads. Ditto for mail and newspapers. As well as exporting goods to market. Or deliveries back. (Think Amazon.)
  4. Canning. Home canning, of course, but also grocery stores. Out-of-season food options suddenly exploded. Winter wasn’t mostly beans. Not that we’re so fond of it now that we have frozen food choices. But sardine canning also became the economic powerhouse of Eastport.
  5. Sanitation. Let’s start with antiseptics and move on to indoor plumbing as well as the rotary washing machine. Nowadays, that also means the clothes dryer and dishwasher.
  6. Electrical lighting. Especially in those truncated winter nights we have up here.
  7. Linotype. I used to live in Baltimore’s Bolton Hill, where its inventor resided. Daily newspapers and cheap books became commonplace.
  8. Telephone. Did any other invention save more steps? Or do more to relieve loneliness?
  9. Sound recordings. You no longer had to be a musician to have decent music any time you desired.
  10. Automobile. John William Lambert invented the first practical American gasoline automobile in 1891 in southwest Ohio and later moved his operations to Anderson, Indiana. I remember visiting a friend and seeing an old car with an impressive Lambert name in brass across the radiator sitting at an open garage door. “Ann,” said I, “is that car any relation to you?” She replied that her grandfather used to make them but otherwise conveyed no knowledge that he had been so prominent a figure.

And let’s not forget toilet paper to our roll of advances.

Up from the ashes of 1886, our downtown

Devastating downtown fires were a big hazard for 19th century American cities, large and small, from New York, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis down to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Portland and Bangor, Maine, closer to home. (For the record, San Francisco actually suffered more from the fires than from the 1908 earthquake just before them.) It’s a long list, actually, and some center cities were leveled by flames and intense heat more than once.

Eastport was one of them, with great fires in 1839, 1864, and 1886 – the last one barely missing our house but leaving the rafters spookily charred.

That blaze, in October, started in one of the sardine factories on the waterfront and spread quickly, consuming almost every building along the harbor.

An antique store window is fun to browse, even when the shop’s closed.

Remarkably, the city rebounded quickly, with most of the Water Street buildings completed and reopened within the next year or two – many of them designed by the same architect and resulting in a visual unity for the five-block stretch.

Today the entire downtown district is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Still, here’s what we have. Put another way, every city needs a center, and a shopping mall just ain’t the answer.

The big challenge, of course, is finding the right mix of business and residence to keep it vibrant. Eastport’s off-season populace falls short of what’s needed but just may be changing in the aftermath of Covid-19.
We have art galleries, thank you.

A downtown is more than a place to shop, for one thing, though that helps. It should be pedestrian friendly, with places to stop and sit and meet folks and chat or maybe just stroll afterhours. Cafes, restaurants, and pubs help, too. A post office and banks as well. Throw in a few theaters, nightspots, galleries, churches. Then offices, hair stylists and barbers, upstairs residences, even a hotel or more.

A tucked-in amphitheater overlooking the harbor actually has concerts in the summer. It also provides one more place to simply sit and relax.
The street’s not one-way but should be, if we could only conveniently connect it as an easy round-trip..

Tell us something that makes your community special. Where would you take us if we visit?

For Quakers, preaching by women was normal  

Puritans had many fears regarding the Quaker outbreak and thus targeted Friends far more severely than any others. Quakers, for all their objections, were in debt to radical Protestantism like the Puritans’ more than they were (and are) willing to admit, yet they also stridently demanded that believers take holy perfectionism to a higher order than the Puritans would or could. More inflammatory, Friends openly criticized and even ridiculed Puritans for falling far short of that goal.

Puritans, in response, viewed Quakers as a chaotic threat to godly and social order and watched suspiciously and intently for signs of witchcraft.

Nothing, apparently, inflamed Puritan authorities more than the Quaker embrace of endorsing both men and women in public ministry.

Quite simply, Friends touched a sore, raw spot in the Puritan worldview. Sometimes, the ones you criticize most harshly who are those most like you. (That’s something that’s been observed in literature, especially.)

Preaching by Quaker women on the street and other public places was common at the outbreak of the movement.


WHILE FRIENDS DID NOT ORDAIN or hire individuals to prepare sermons for delivery from a pulpit each week, they did welcome appropriate vocal messages arising in their otherwise silent gatherings in worship. Appropriate were utterances deemed prophetic – explosive mixes of personal perception and Scripture that Quakers felt were being delivered by oracles of the divine – and those who voiced them consistently were endorsed as ministers. Quickly, a unique incantatory style evolved, regardless of the speaker’s background. It did, however, baffle many stuffier types, including the Puritan clergy.

The three Quaker women who were stripped and whipped out of Dover in 1662 were far from alone. Anne Hutchinson had already born its weight in New England earlier. Her adherents had, in fact, nearly toppled the Puritan polity from its position.

Other women Quaker ministers soon returned to Dover, notably the elderly Elizabeth Hooton.

She appears to have been a public preacher among the General Baptists in England, even before she took under her wing a young George Fox, who is generally considered the founder of the Quaker faith. Contrarian that I am, I consider her to the first Quaker, the one who converted you, George.

What she suffered in New England was horrific.

Quite simply, Hooten was a tough old bird. God bless her!

You’ll find a lot more about her in my new book.


MANY FOLKS THINK OF A QUAKER SERVICE as silent, or what we sometimes call “open worship,” and while many Meetings today have pastors, others – including Dover’s – observe mostly a profound silence occasionally punctuated by a vocal message, song, or prayer.

The practice continued once Friends had settled into more orderly Meetings.

Historically, though, a Friends Meeting often had long, impromptu preaching, often of a half-hour or more. Among the Dover members recorded in that role were Tabitha and Mehitable Jenkins, Valentine Meader, Mary Bunker, John Twombly, Benjamin H. Jones, and Amos Otis.

Dover Friends also welcomed itinerate ministry from visitors, some of whom spent protracted time in town. One was the English Friend Samuel Bownas, who may have “learned silence” here. He’s best known for his book, A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister, which sought to curb affectations that had crept into the practice. His guidance still helps.

From their journals, we glean sharp insights into the life of Dover Meeting and nurture of spiritual experience. Even their encounters addressing the wider rough-and-tumble community.


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

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary. It wasn’t just any old town.