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.

When our small city turns into a four-day party

Though Eastport was settled relatively late – that is, toward the end of the Revolutionary War – it was instilled with a Colonial flavor by prominent early residents who were resolute veterans.

A continuing spirit of Tea Party and Minutemen makes Independence Day in New England feel different than those elsewhere. It’s not just the place of the Shot Heard ‘Round the World. It’s the region where thickheaded Yankees have always doodled.

Quite simply, history is palpably alive everywhere across New England.

Boston, of course, is the epicenter, but across the six most northeasterly states, local observations uphold distinctive traditions. Think of musketeers firing a round ever so often along the town parade route, along with fifes and drums.

As an independently enterprising oceanside village, Eastport soon had a reputation as a hive of privateering – that is, legalized piracy – and not-so-legal smuggling. That independent streak gets its own attention in the city’s annual Pirate Festival a week after Labor Day.

How joyous!

Unlike much of America, the city had frontline experience of the War of 1812. Fort Sullivan atop the bluffs surrendered to the British Navy in 1814, and Eastport then remained under the royal thumb until 1818.

Two years after its reunification with the United States, Maine became liberated from Massachusetts for the first time since 1653 and began to breathe into its own unique character.

For its part, Eastport rocketed as a center of shipping, shipbuilding, fishing, and sardine canning before the big decline of the 1900s set in.

Today, the tiny city’s locals remember a vibrant past and close-knit community, one that spanned the shorelines on both the American and Canadian sides of the watery border.

Is a renaissance on the horizon? There are signs for hope.

All of these strands infuse the holiday here.

Here’s a taste of last year’s pyrotechnics fired off from the fish pier downtown.
Yes, fireworks can be visually composed, leading your eyes around the sky.

The national holiday also marks the opening of New England’s short summer season. After a cold, dark, long winter, Eastport’s small year-’round populace can actually come out into the open air for long times together. The ocean and lakes are finally warming, to the extent that they do, and that attracts vacationers to join in.

After months when only a stray New Hampshire or Massachusetts auto plate is seen around here, I’ve now seen those of every state but Alabama, Hawaii, and North Dakota (not all at the same time), some seeming rather exotic.

And the Fourth includes the city’s Old Home Week, with high school reunions and the return of many summer residents.

A lot happens over a four-day span. There’s a doll carriage and wagon parade. A torchlight parade. Car shows, bike races, water games, pet show, rubber ducky race, festive all-you-can-eat blueberry pancake breakfast, free outdoor movie, contests, live music, and a street dance, all with a small-town flavor.

A traditional visit by a large U.S. Navy vessel failed to materialize, a consequence of being on Ukraine-related alert. Three different ships had expressed interest in landing at the Breakwater before the turn in world events.

While fireworks were displayed off over the harbor on the Fourth, America’s Independence Day (the beautifully designed and executed big show fired from the town’s Fish Pier was followed by a joyously rowdy encore from a diner’s smaller private pier), the companion July 1 presentation for Canada Day, in honor of our neighbors in New Brunswick, was still a victim of Covid cutbacks. Some residents, though, could view shows happening on Deer Island across the water.

Seems ever so fitting to shoot the works twice, considering Eastport’s dual connections.

it really does feel like a party’s come to town.

How do you celebrate the Fourth?

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.


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.


Maine is the one of the most unchurched states in America

It’s edged out by Vermont and is a hair ahead of New Hampshire, according to 2014 figures from Pew.

It also has the oldest population in the nation and not much in the way of other civic associations and social clubs these days, from what I see. Are people even getting together anymore? What’s been happening with traditions like hunting and fishing or the Grange?

When I say “unchurched,” I’m referring here to active attendance and membership, not the buildings, institutions, or hierarchies. It’s the interactions of a body of believers.

Somehow, I view the decaying landmark white churches and spires as mirroring a general decay in employment opportunities and a fraying social structure. As for families and friends? They’re not what they once were, either.

This is New England, after all, with images of Minuteman patriotism, Puritan uprightness, and democracy-in-action town meetings, not the Far West. “The way life should be,” as one of Maine’s travel slogans proclaims while overlooking some serious and troubling realities.

Are there any viable alternatives on the horizon?

How do we care for “the least among us” when we all seem to be racing to the bottom line?

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.

There are good reasons to join in a pre-release purchase of a new book

When a commercial publisher issues a print edition of a new book, the process includes a long buildup. Advertising and press releases go out ahead of a release date, followed by the mailing of advance reader copies for reviewers, retailers, and involved parties to examine. The author might even be signed up and prepped for a book tour of public readings and interviews.

It hasn’t been quite that orderly for ebooks, though things are shifting.


Check it out at Smashwords and its associated digital ebook retailers.

A pre-release period is one alternative strategy. It gives booklovers an introduction to a coming attraction and an opportunity to be among the first line up for a new work, often at an attractively discounted price.

In effect, this creates two release dates – an advance ordering period followed by a second big occasion when the book itself is finally “published” and available to all. It’s one way for authors to build up a stronger initial sales tally on opening day, tweaking the important algorithms that determine the placement of the work in the digital lineup where it can be more easily seen.

Even a few buyers can make a huge difference, and this approach avoids the uneventful situation of simply dropping the book, ragtag, into the marketplace.

In my case, the big release date is set for September 8 at Smashwords and its affiliated digital bookstores, including the Apple Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Scribd, and Sony’s Kobo. And until then, it’s being offered at half price.


This option also allows me time to tweak the text, if necessary, and invites you to share in building a buzz. Nothing beats word of mouth, for sure.

Quaking Dover is one work where people have told me they want to read the book when it comes out, and here’s their chance to confirm that.

So buy early and save. Pretty please?

Many factors came together to greet Friends

We’ve been looking at fundamentals that set early Dover apart from the rigid Puritan culture that dominated the Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut colonies.

What we’ve also seen is that other localities settled before the great Puritan migration also had conflicts in the face of what is widely presumed to be characteristically colonial New England. Notably, these were Cape Cod; Salem, Massachusetts; Hampton, New Hampshire; and Maine – all of which harbored Quakers. Merrymount, we should note, was one settlement the Puritans outright eradicated through violence.

I’ve been arguing that folkways from Devonshire were far more influential in Dover’s soul than was the commercial nature of the early charters. The Puritans who put down roots in Dover were largely from Devon, not the East Anglia of the Massachusetts Bay arrivals.

One thing that puzzles me is the reticence of the Church of England to establish parishes in New England colonies before Massachusetts subsumed New Hampshire and then Maine. Many of the inhabitants identified as Anglican and preferred its rites but were without priests and guidance. They privately chafed at the Calvinist strictures, and some openly welcomed Quakers who ultimately entered as the principal alternative.

I suspect it wasn’t our message that attracted the early converts as much as our very presence and timing. You know, that “perfect storm” thing.

The upshot was that by the time Dover entered its fourth decade, it was primed for a Quaker seed to land and sprout, with roots here reaching all the way back to one of the very first settlers of the province as well as a few other independent spirits.

The ground itself and surrounding waters proved to be fertile for Friends. Not that the first decades would be easy.

Let’s just say it’s not just size that makes Dover different from Boston.


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

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


The Shapleighs of Maine have an impact on Dover, too

Alexander Shapleigh, an eminent merchant, sailor, shipowner, and shipbuilder from Kingswear in Devon, knew the New World coasts early. For instance, on September 20, 1610, he was recorded as master of the Restitution of Dartmouth when it was seized by the pirate Robert Stephens while returning from a fishing voyage to Newfoundland and bound for Portugal.

It wasn’t the only ship he owned. The largest was the Golden Cat, of 450 tons – twice as large as most of the ships of the time, such as the Mayflower, and three times as large as Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind.

Alexander and his descendants were soon pivotal in the founding of Maine. His son-in-law, James Treworgy, served as his principal agent.

Treworgy was instrumental in the purchase of five hundred acres at Kittery Point in 1636 and the erection of the first house in today’s town of Kittery – one that would later be occupied by William Hilton when he moved from Dover Point. Under the agreement, he was “to pay annually 100 of Merchandable Codde dride & well conditioned as Acknowledgmt to the Royaltie of Sir Ferdinando Gorges Knight … to be payd … uppon the Feast of St. Michaell ye Arch Angell. Moreover if hereafter there shall be any Profitt to be raised for Keeping a ferre within the sd Limmetts yt then Sir Ferdinando Gorges Knight … is to have One Halfe of the Benefit & Mr John Treworgy … the other Halfe.”

Perhaps the Hiltons had a similar agreement with Mason and his heirs.

On January 10, 1637, Shapleigh also obtained another eight hundred acres in today’s Eliot, where the next year he built a large dwelling known as Kittery House, named after his manor of Kittery Court overlooking the River Dart in Kingswear and lending the Maine town its name. The new house was two stories that included a kitchen, cellar, and garret – ten rooms in all, plus a brewhouse, barn, and outbuildings. It is said that the first cup of tea in this country was brewed here.

A stretch of Hilton Point, where Dover was first settled, is seen from the Maine site where Alexander Shapleigh erected his Kittery House and mills.

The Eliot site was on Sandy Hill straight across the Piscataqua from Hilton Point, at what’s sometimes referred to as Watts Fort or Point Joslyn. Here he also built a sawmill and another mill both powered by the tide at today’s Shapleigh Old Mill Pond, which adjoins the river. Tide pouring into the pond in one direction ran the mill, as did the release of impounded tidewater on its release. The Eliot estate soon emerged as the base of Shapleigh operations rather than the property at Kittery Point downstream from Portsmouth.

The proximity to the Hiltons across the river underpins a much different understanding of early development of the region than I’d previously imagined. Barely a mile separated the two settlements. The importance of today’s Eliot and the three Berwicks in those years turns out to be greater than the conventional histories convey when they refer to the locations as Kittery, the town that encompassed them, suggesting that those events took place far downstream in the shadow of Portsmouth. Not so.

Quite simply, the development Dover – and later, its Quakers – was closely intertwined with that of Eliot and the Berwicks along the river, and more flourishing than assumed.


Treworgy appears to have still been in the area in 1647 but disappeared sometime before July 1650, when his wife is described as a widow. As one genealogy notes tersely, “like other males of the family, he vanished early and without record.” Or, by another account, he was killed by Indians.  Or a third, with him in Nova Scotia in 1650, where he had gone in the interests of fishing.

Nothing is known of Alexander after 1642, other than he, too, was deceased by 1650.


Treworgy’s widow, Catharine Shapleigh, then wed Dover founder Edward Hilton sometime after the death of his first wife. You could say it was an example of “marrying the girl next door.” They then relocate to Exeter, where their children marry eminently.

William Hilton, meanwhile, moved into the Kittery Point house after relocating from Dover, and then less conspicuously on into Maine. Makes me wonder about the nature of the brothers’ relationship – or how their wives interacted.


The figure who most interests me is Alexander Shapley’s son, Nicholas.

In 1641 Treworgye sold his holdings, including his boats and other fishing trade equipment as well as his real estate, to his wife’s half-brother, Nicholas, for 1,500 pounds, to pay off creditors.

Just north of the Kittery House compound on the Piscataqua riverbank is Sturgeon Creek, an impressive inlet at high tide and about two miles downstream from Newichawannock, or South Berwick, and it was soon attracting inhabitants. The neighbors dwelling around Sturgeon Creek even convinced the elder Shapleigh and Treworgy to enlarge the house into a garrison for protection against Native raids.


Once Nicholas Shapleigh arrived for good in his own vessel in 1644, he quickly amassed great wealth as a lumber merchant, building a sawmill and gristmill and gaining great influence. During the troublesome times of the changing governments in the in the Province of Maine, he was either elected or appointed to most of the offices in the hands of the government or the people. He was one of the first three selectmen of Kittery after its incorporation.

He managed to balance forces. He was a loyal follower of Gorges and his King, yet was among the first to take the oath of allegiance to Massachusetts after it took control of Maine in 1652. Despite being a leader of the Royalist movement that opposed Puritan rule, as Provincial Councilor, he nevertheless accepted appointment by the Massachusetts authorities to be treasurer of the Maine province and be the major in command of its militia. Nor did his strong royalist views prevent him from becoming business partners with Puritan merchant Humphrey Chadbourne, his niece’s husband.  A staunch Anglican, he sheltered Quakers and yet owned slaves. As a soldier, he and Richard Waldron were appointed on February 21, 1676, to treat with the Indians for peace during King Philip’s War. (In September, however, Major Waldron shattered any hopes for ending the hostilities.) In 1678, with Captain Francis Champernowne, once of Dover, and Captain Fryer of Portsmouth, he was appointed by Massachusetts to settle a peace with Squando and all the Sagamore upon the Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers. They met the Natives at Casco and entered into articles of peace on April 12, 1678. This treaty put an end to the distressing wars which had existed three years and had greatly reduced the number of inhabitants in Maine.

Nicholas was sympathetic to the itinerant Quakers, so much so that he, too, was often considered one.

In 1663, for instance, when he was accused of favoring the Quakers, the town constable was ordered to go to Shapleigh’s house on First-days to prevent the holding of meetings there. In 1669, he and another selectman plus the town clerk were all accused of being Quakers and removed by the county court. The town then had to elect others.

In 1674 he was imprisoned in Massachusetts but released on the plea of his half-sister Catherine Hilton and the payment of two hundred pounds.

Nicholas Shapleigh died in 1682, age sixty-four, killed by a falling mast at a ship launching at John Diamond’s, across the river from Portsmouth.

The third house erected in the early 1800s on the site of the original Shapleigh manor still stands.

As I look at the many purchases and sales of lands by the Shapleighs and others, it appears unlikely they were planning to settle long there themselves. I’m left wondering if the real purpose had to do with shipbuilding – waterside sites where the vessels could be launched, as well as proximity to lumber. That would also explain the many sawmills we find mentioned, for more than just houses or barns.


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

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.