The physical fight for the town pulpit

As I ask just what made Dover so ripe for the Quaker message, I see how much earlier conflicts over the town’s official church open the way for an alternative congregation, once itinerant Friends visit town.

Dover’s first minister, solidly Puritan William Leveridge, arrives in 1633 and conducts the first religious service in New Hampshire, but he’s gone in 1635, leaving “for want of adequate support,” meaning salary, which he then finds around Boston and on in Long Island. His surviving scriptural notes are in Latin.

Perhaps two years later, maybe earlier, George Burdet shows up in the pulpit, while also taking over as “governor,” the proprietors’ agent, overseeing the northern half of the New Hampshire province. He feigns sympathy with the Puritans but secretly corresponds with Church of England Archbishop William Laud, who will eventually be executed by the Puritans. Before Burdet flees in adulterous disgrace in 1639 – or a year or two later – things get really interesting, though I’ll spare you the details now. Among other things, he gives the settlement the name Dover, not reflecting the famed English town with the white cliffs but rather an anti-Puritan wit and attorney who also founded the notorious Cotswold Olimpick Games, which included horse-racing, coursing with hounds, running, jumping, dancing, sledgehammer throwing, fighting with swords and cudgels, quarterstaff, wrestling, and gambling.

In contrast, the main sports New England Puritans accepted were hunting, fishing, and the mock battles the militias used for military training.

Dover’s first church probably resembled the one at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. (Photo by Swampyank via Wikimedia)

How did Burdet become the pastor in Dover, in the first place? Specifics are often lacking or blurred in the available records.

The Puritans organized their churches on a congregational structure, where the members themselves managed the affairs, including the selection and dismissal of ministers. The concept also grew into the New England town meeting system for managing secular affairs. It’s about as democratic as you can get.

The Church of England, in contrast, relied on an episcopal hierarchy, where the Archbishop of Canterbury and subordinate bishops ruled.

The differences between the Puritans and the Anglicans go far beyond organization and polity. They include baptism, marriage (a civil contract for Puritans at the time), funerals and burial, prayer (the Anglican Book of Common Prayer versus extemporaneous), liturgy (hocus-pocus, as some Puritans would say) or none at all, rituals and genuflection (superstition to the Puritans), the Virgin Mary and saints (ignored by the Puritans), Christmas (no holiday for the Puritans), and, especially, eternal salvation or damnation (the Puritans being certain that at least some of their brotherhood will be among the Elect God had chosen at the time of Creation). I’ll venture that the Church of England offers more creaturely comforts to its faithful than do the Puritans.

Quite simply, there are tensions within Dover and beyond. The Massachusetts Bay colony has just banished Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and Samuel Gorton, who all scoot off to the new refuge of Rhode Island – and Hutchinson’s brother-in-law, John Wheelwright, heads north to found Exeter, New Hampshire, near Dover. They’re all major figures in American dissident history.

Two mysterious figures then approach a newly arrived minister in Boston and lure him to Dover.

As a young Anglican priest in England, Hanserd Knollys had suffered a religious crisis that led him to resign from the pulpit and begin a quest that brings him to a Mr. Wheelwright, “a silenced minister,” near Lincoln, England. Yes, the same one who founds Exeter. Something in their discussions rekindles a flame within Knollys, liberating him to preach again but with such an intensity that he’s soon imprisoned in Boston, England, until he somehow escapes and sails in 1636 during a difficult voyage with his wife and only child, who dies en route, to Boston, Massachusetts. While living in impoverishment there, and prevented from preaching because of his antinomian theological views, he’s met by “two strangers coming to Boston from Piscattuah, hearing of me by a meer accident, [who] got me to go with them to that plantation, and to preach there, where I remained about four years.”

The only problem is that Burdet is still minister or at least physically present, but the governor’s role has been handed to John Underhill, himself in flight from Massachusetts after leading the militia in the Pequot massacre and running his mouth off.

Burdet forbids Knollys from preaching in Dover but is countered by Underhill.

Within this backdrop, Knollys is credited with formally organizing in 1638 the First Congregationalist Society, now known as First Parish, United Church of Christ (Congregational), and out of its longstanding worship together from 1633, it is regarded as the oldest church in the state.

If only it were that easy.

Hanserd Knollys

Adding to the conflict is Knollys’ evolving theology which will lead to his becoming a founding father of the Particular Baptist denomination, though he’s not yet quite there during his time in the Piscataqua parish. Otherwise, Dover might have been the first Baptist church in America, rather than the one in Providence, Rhode Island, founded in 1639.

From a later Baptist perspective, Knollys “preached with much acceptance upwards of three years. … However, his church in New Hampshire was split on the issue of infant baptism. This brought persecution on him by the Congregationalists. He, with others from his church, fled to New Jersey and eventually back to England.”

To put it mildly.

More directly, from a Baptist point of view, “America does not seem to have been a peaceful place for … Hanserd. While in New Hampshire, conflict arose between Hanserd and another minister, Thomas Larkham, who had arrived in New Hampshire in 1640. Larkham had wealth and influence, and had very lax standards for membership. This produced much division within the congregation, and Larkham at one point had Knollys removed from the pulpit. Many congregants then removed Larkham and restored Knollys as pastor. Larkham had armed men march up from nearby Portsmouth [still known as Strawbery Banke], conducted a trial which found Knollys guilty, fined him, and ordered him to leave. During his time reports circulated that Knollys was also censured for having a ‘filthy dalliance’ with some young females living in his house. Records indicate that this was a false report as other ministers spoke of Knollys with respect. There is also a record that Hanserd had filed suit with a claim of slander. It was never prosecuted, as the Knollys did not stay in the colonies.”

There were even reports of an armed skirmish between factions of the church.

But Larkham, too, suddenly departed from Dover in 1641 and returned to England.

There’s more, as Jeremy Belknap’s History of New Hampshire, reveals:

Larkham “came to Dover, and being a preacher of good talents, eclipsed Knollys, and raised a party who determined to remove him. He therefore gave way to the popular prejudice, and suffered Larkham to take his place; who soon discovered his licentious principles by receiving into the church persons of immoral characters, and assuming, like Burdet, the civil as well as ecclesiastical authority.” Except that Larkham was never “governor.”

Belknap continues: “The better sort of the people were displeased and restored Knollys to his office who excommunicated Larkham. This bred a riot in which Larkham laid hands on Knollys, taking away his hat on pretence that he had not paid for it; but he was civil enough afterward to return it. Some of the magistrates joined with Larkham, and forming a court, summoned Underhill, who was of Knollys’s party to appear before them, and answer to a new crime which they had to allege against him. Underhill collected his adherents; Knollys was armed with a pistol, and another had a bible mounted on an halbert for an ensign. In this ridiculous parade they marched against Larkham and his party, who prudently declined a combat, and sent down the river to Williams … at Portsmouth, for assistance.

“He came up in a boat with an armed party, beset Knollys’s house where Underhill was, guarded it night and day till a court was summoned, and then, Williams sitting as judge, Underhill and his company were found guilty of a riot, and after being fined, were banished from the plantation. The new crime which Larkham’s party alleged against Underhill was that he had been secretly endeavouring to persuade the inhabitants to offer themselves to the government of Massachusetts, whose favor he was desirous to purchase, by these means, as he knew that their view was to extend their jurisdiction as far as they imagined their limits reached, whenever they should find a favourable opportunity. The same policy led him with his party to send a petition to Boston, praying for the interposition of the government in their case: In consequence of which the governor and assistants commissioned Simon Bradstreet, Esq. with the famous Hugh Peters, then minister of Salem, and Timothy Dalton of Hampton, to enquire into the matter, and effect a reconciliation, or certify the state of things to them. These gentlemen travelled on foot to Dover, and finding both sides in fault, brought the matter to this issue, that the one party revoked the excommunication, and the other the fines and banishment.”

Yes, once again, religion and politics mixed.

George Wadleigh, reviewing the events, adds an extra element to the conflict. Larkham and Knollys “fell out about baptizing children.” Remember, Baptists would insist it was for consenting, informed adults only.

Let it not be said that Dover was a sedate fringe habitation.

Dover’s second meetinghouse was something like this, surrounded by a palisade. It was erected in 1654, before the Quakers further stirred things up.

And I’m certain these events all lead up to the faction that welcomes itinerant Quakers a decade later. After all, Dover would have a ready audience and prime examples for the Quaker criticism of “hireling priests” who saw the position as a rewarding salary more than as utter discipleship.

Until then, lingering tensions simmer.


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

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


Negative environmental impacts quickly followed

The fur traders’ hot market for beaver pelts in colonial New England soon reduced beaver populations, and fewer beavers meant fewer beaver ponds, an important source of the local Native diet, including roots and waterfowl.

Beavers were only the first of many species afflicted by European settlement in the Piscataqua watershed.

That was followed by the construction of mills, which were powered by water, and that meant dams. Some impounded incoming tides for release a few hours later. These were tricky to operate, though, and changed speeds depending on the strength of the incoming tide or the level of the water during its release.

Dams at the waterfalls became more common.

Either way, dams impeded upstream migrations of fish trying to return from the sea to their spawning grounds. These included salmon, sturgeons, eels, and river herring. Their reduced stocks afflicted both the Natives and the English inland fishing industry.

The mills also produced copious amounts of sawdust that choked river bottoms, reducing and killing off additional species.

The demand for timber itself cleared land all the way back eight to ten miles from the riverbanks, further eliminating wild game. The wood was needed not only for the sawmills but also as fuel for brickmaking, domestic cooking, and warmth through winter. Heating a house commonly required 40 cords of wood a year – no small feat of labor.

And runoff muddied and silted the streams.

Let’s not get too sentimental about the bucolic nature of the era, OK?


Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


Be among the first to read my new book … for free!

If you’re a reader of ebooks and fascinated by history, I’d love for you to get an advance copy of my new book, Quaking Dover.

In fact, as a follower of this blog, you’re getting a limited-time invitation to pick up a copy of the book for free.

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

All you have to do is speak up in the comments section of this post, and assuming that your address includes an email (visible only to me) or other contact info, I’ll send you a coupon to download the book in the digital format of your choice within the next 30 days.

It’s one of the advantages of ebook publication at

In the world of commercial book publishing, a printed edition typically appears in an Advanced Reading Copy run that allows reviewers, bookstore dealers, and other insiders a chance to hop on before the official publication. In the meantime, the author and editor have time to make fixes and set the stage for an auspicious opening day, one boosted by the buzz of the ARC readers.

So what I’m doing is the equivalent for a digital edition.

The release date on this book isn’t until September 8, but folks who preorder now can get in the front of the line at half-price. That strategy is one step for boosting the book in the crucial first-week sales algorithm.

Today’s offer, however, gives you a chance to own a copy now. In a way, you’ll even be getting involved with the preparations for the tiny city’s upcoming 400th anniversary.

My hope, of course, is that you’ll be excited by my story and happily post a brief review or two in response. If you don’t like it, of course, you can tell me directly and we’ll still have time to rectify that. It won’t even change my perception of you (insert Smiley Face.) From your end, it’s a no-risk proposition.

From my end, I might even gain a fan.

Now, who’s first?

Sawmills, before those for grain

One of the first thing the colonists typically built was a sawmill. From what I’ve seen to date, it always came before a gristmill. I would have thought food would have been the priority, but there are suggestions they imported their flour or even bread instead.

That raises questions of just exactly what their meals were. The Puritans were devoted to their beer and tobacco – and that extended to even their children.

For that matter, how early was Beantown a synonym for Boston?

More than a dozen years after the settling of Hilton Point just across the river, Alexander Shapleigh built the first of two tide mills at his Kittery House estate. Water from the incoming tide was impounded and released later in the day to power the mills. Here’s the site today.
The mill pond remains in today’s Eliot, Maine.

So why sawmills? The early settlers along the Piscataqua apparently erected log cabins, along with fortifications. For that matter, the sole surviving garrison house, preserved at the Woodman Institute, was essentially a log cabin built around 1675.

But flat boards were needed for shipbuilding, wharf planking and bridges, and barrels – for shipping dried fish, especially. Perhaps lumber itself was also an export to Barbados, the Bahamas, and the West Indies.

Let’s remember, too, the construction of dams and mills and their operation required sophisticated skills.

I’m guessing that few of the early English settlers along the Piscataqua were menial day laborers.


Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


Take a sneak peek at my next book’s cover

For several months now, you’ve been getting tastes of my upcoming book, but I have kept much of project under wraps, including the title.

The curtain goes up on that right now.

So roll the drums, please, and take a deep breath of anticipation. Here’s what I’m rolling out:

Do the title and image intrigue you? Pique your curiosity? Hold you for more than a split-second?

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, book covers – and magazines, too – are a specialized design challenge.

The ebook version has to work as a postage stamp, sizewise.

Print editions often get cluttered with pitches of all sorts, just in case one hooks a reader.

An effective title, of course, is a huge consideration, but not the only one.


Creating a compelling image that matches the content has been especially difficult in this case. The book spans more than 400 years, and I couldn’t find anything that quite reflected the place or its people, now or then, or that extended an appropriate emotional appeal.

A seismograph didn’t do it, though several geometric zig-zag patterns looked cool.

One design that excited me featured a portrait of John Greenleaf Whittier’s mother, but others saw her as forbidding. What I saw calm and collected they viewed as sorrowful and inhibited. Oh, well.

But then, while going through my own photos, I came across a late-autumn photo of the Cochecho River, scene of much of the action. I loved its timeless mystery and beauty and the fact it didn’t look generic to just about anywhere else in the world.

One of my earlier posts pointed out that the cover should promise the reader something rather than mirror the story. It’s a matter of eliciting a gut-level attraction.

Somehow, I hope you feel this cover leads backward into time, with the drama of a storm on the way. Just what is around that bend, anyway?


Please stay tuned for the release details in the days ahead.

Those who lived here for millennia need to be acknowledged, too

One of the things the Dover 400 project is doing is raising an awareness of the Indigenous peoples who inhabited the region for millennia before European colonists arrived.

The tribes were far more varied than the generic “Indian” label conveys. Sometimes they were in open conflict with each other, and there were many differences in language, culture, and lifestyles. There were also alliances with other tribes, creating subtle but significant relations across the region.

Some lived in permanent villages, often along streams. Others ranged from ancestral site to site through the year in a cycle of fruit, vegetable, and animal fare.

As hunters and fisherfolk who often traveled by water and lived in villages along the shores, many of their names for places are often translated as some variation of “water,” with distinctive nuances that are lost to Western ears but still hint of sharp observation of the character and advantages of each site.

Their name for Hilton Point, for example, is something along of the lines of “place encircled by water,” while Cochecho is more like “foaming falls,” each one, however, unlike other points or coves or waterfalls.

As for our own names applied to these places? I doubt we give them a second thought other than perhaps their spelling.

And, to our loss, we have none of their mythopoetic stories in their original richness – narratives rooted in their unique environment. At least we can begin to listen to those told by surviving tribes in neighboring Maine.

There are good reasons the Abenaki and other New England tribes didn’t dress like the High Plains Natives far to the west.


WHEN THE ENGLISH ARRIVED in New England, most of the tribes had been decimated by pandemics, many of the illnesses resulting from contact with earlier explorers and traders. The sharp loss of population gave the Pilgrims an opening in their settlement at Plymouth.

The first traders brought items the Natives appreciated as useful – metal pots, knives, blankets – that could be obtained in exchange for furs.

As we know, the dynamic changed. We’ve rarely heard the Indigenous voices tell their side of the struggles. The English, French, and Dutch all have barbaric actions to atone for.

The marker at Ambush Rock on Route 101 in Eliot, Maine, for example, makes it sound like the victims were an innocent party on its way home from church one Sunday in 1697. There’s no mention that the prime target, Major Charles Frost, was Richard Waldron’s cohort in the notorious “games” of 1676 that ended up in the arrest of nearly 400 Natives who were then executed or sold into slavery. The Natives waited 21 years for revenge. Frost was the highest-ranking militia officer in Maine.

For me, the missing details change my view of the event entirely. It’s not an isolated instance.


DOVER WAS IN PENNACOOK COUNTRY, a tribe closely related to the Abenaki – the identities are sometimes merged, suggesting change over time. The Pennacook spanned over much of New Hampshire, neighboring Maine, and parts of Massachusetts. The English jurisdictions didn’t match theirs.

Another consideration is how many of the English settlements occurred at earlier Indigenous villages, as seems to be the case both at the falls in today’s downtown Dover or neighboring Exeter, Newmarket, Durham, Rollinsford, Somersworth, and South Berwick.

A wigwam at the Plimoth Plantation living history museum allows visitors to explore a typical Indigenous winter dwelling. The interior is bigger than you’d expect. (Photo by Swampyank via Wikimedia Commons.)
A Pennacook encampment much like those in the Piscataqua watershed.


ONE THING THAT WAS OBVIOUS TO ME in a visit to the Plimoth living history museum in Massachusetts was how superior the Wampanoag’s communal wigwams were for living through winter compared to the Pilgrim’s drafty cottages of 1630.

I’m sure the same can be said of the shores of the Piscataqua.


Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.

A few things I had hoped to do with Friends Meeting but never quite got around to

The position of clerk in a Quaker Meeting is akin to being president or chairman, except that you’re not the boss. Historically, it was more like being clerk in a courtroom, recording decisions from a judge in the bench above – in this case, Christ or, if you prefer, Light. For Friends of a less Biblical bent, things get more tangled and less focused, at least my perspective.

A Meeting in the Society of Friends, as we’re more formally known, whether of the open, traditionally “silent” worship like mine or of the more widespread pastoral “programmed” variety, has a presiding clerk as well as a recording clerk for its monthly business sessions, as well as a clerk for each of its committees. The Monthly Meetings are then grouped in neighboring Quarterly Meetings, which gather four times a year and have a similar structure, and are then joined together as regional Yearly Meetings that have annual gatherings – and that’s it for hierarchy. There’s a lot of work to do, just as there is in any family.

In my strand of the Quaker world, we don’t have a pastor but we often expect the clerk to fill many of the functions, sometimes everything except preaching or praying aloud on Sundays. I was detailed those expectations in an article published in Quaker Life magazine. In theory, you’re more of a moderator. In reality, you’re the first person the others turn to when a light bulb is out, the key to the door’s missing, or the fire alarm’s going off in the meetinghouse after a power outage. As for real emergencies?

As I’ve observed, there’s a lot of burnout, usually after two years.

I tried to pace myself accordingly in the six years I served as Quarterly Meeting clerk and the five at the head of Monthly Meeting as well as the nine or so I was a member of the Yearly Meeting’s Ministry and Counsel committee.

Along the way, I’ve come to admire some amazingly skilled clerks as well as pastors, priests, and rabbis in the wider community. Few of us, I should note, are really trained in this matter of dealing with people or institutions, and most of us would rather be fine-tuning theology of one sort or another.


As I entered retirement, I felt a curious softening in my personal Quaker identity. Part of it was a consequence of finally having lived with children, in addition to a spouse’s input. Ours never did run along the lines of a Quaker Meeting, as I had once idealistically envisioned. (I would like to be able to go back to interview the now-grown children of a few families I had known who proclaimed “Jesus is the head of this household” to discover how well that had worked, usually in rural settings.)

By the time I left full-time employment, I realized there was no previous period in Friends history where I would have fit in comfortably. I love the fine arts too much, for one thing. Nor could I go Plain today, though I had once flirted with it: the Plain dress and speech need to be part of a community, not of a lone ranger seen only as an eccentric or even scary. For a while, my beard was along the lines of Amish and Brethren, with no mustache, but once I had married, my wife found that look too severe.

I’ve rounded some corner into now. Wherever that is.


Lately, I’ve been sharing with you some reflections as I’ve been comparing my original plans for retirement with what’s actually happened in my life in the decade since leaving full-time employment. The review has included Quaker service as well.

Even before retiring, for instance, I had hoped to send out annual thank-you cards and letters, recognizing Friends for their service. Too often, that goes unacknowledged but still expected or even subtly demanded. I also wanted to invite the clerks and the other officers, such as the treasurer, and their partners to a big dinner, probably a cookout in our Smoking Garden in early summer. I envisioned something similar for the charter school board where my wife was chairman. Alas, these never happened.

Well, our big parties there had pretty much faded from the schedule as the years progressed and other demands crept in. We are hoping to resume them in our new locale, once the renovations and our full relocation are in place.

Something more ambitious was what I termed the Light Project. Prompted by questions asking, exactly, what Friends believe theologically, I had found myself connecting the dots in early Quaker thought and found myself facing an alternative Christianity, one they dared not articulate fully in the open. I’ve presented my take in four booklets you can download at my Thistle Finch blog, and I would love to hear your insights and reactions.

I had expected to be spending more time following up on these foundations, both in journal articles and traveling around the country to lead workshops and discussions, but Friends have had more pressing realities to contend with, as we found springing from the Trump administration and now Covid. On my end, revising and releasing my novels also deeply engaged me, bringing with them a feeling of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.

So, for now, my Light Project has rather fizzled out. Perhaps the release of my next book, a history of Dover Meeting and a wider counterculture in New England, will revive the Light Project, too.


Other unfinished business on my heart involves outreach, attracting like-minded souls to our legacy. Having a booth at community fairs was a start, as was an open house, but I was hoping to do more with the campus center at the neighboring state university, perhaps guiding a weekly “worship sharing” event or Quaker Quest series, as well as visiting more widely among other Friends Meetings and retreat centers, in a tradition called intervisitation.

And then there was hosting the monthly Poetry in the Meetinghouse series I mentioned earlier. It may have even been part of a cycle of weekly events that included folk music concerts, films and discussion, and a lecture.

Oh, my, the last item reminds me of something I had hoped to revive from the local religious leaders’ fellowship – their Cochecho Forum. Look up Bill Moyer’s Genesis project, which aired as a series on PBS, to see how I wanted to launch something similar through DARLA. It would have been exciting.


Well, revisiting all of this reminds me of an old Quaker adage, and perhaps find comfort in it: “Be careful not to outrun thy Guide.”

A map is seen much differently from the water

One awareness I’ve gained living in New England is that when you’re out on the water – say in a sailboat, fishing boat, whale watch, or ferry – the geography fits together quite differently than it does on the land.

For example, where I now live in Maine, it’s only four miles or so from our downtown to the one just south of us. That is, if you’re just looking, going by water, or a bird. To drive, though, you have to head north and loop around Cobscook Bay, a distance of 38 miles and about 46 minutes. At least it has no traffic lights.

The water perspective is especially important in understanding the dynamics of early Dover, centered as it was at Hilton Point and Dover Neck between the Piscataqua River and Great Bay. For example, the heart of the town of Kittery was in today’s Eliot, just a mile away by water but 18 miles by land. And today’s Kittery was ten miles downstream or even longer by land.

Hilton Point was just to the left of the “cat” in Piscataqua, while the Shapleigh Kittery House was just to the cat’s right. Getting there by land, though, means going all the way up to the Salmon Falls River. Even finding a map like this of the watershed can be a challenge. Usually, it’s divided by the state line that runs up the river.

Oyster River, or today’s Durham, was only four to eight miles to the west, depending whether you were stopping at wharves along the way or going all the way to the Lamprey River’s falls and the landing.

A trip by boat between Eliot/Kittery and Oyster River/Dover was – and still is – no big deal.

In fact, by water they were closer to Hilton Point than was the village at Cochecho Falls, today’s downtown Dover.

For perspective, I’ve read that a man on the Isles of Shoals thought nothing of rowing ten miles – six of them on the open ocean – for an evening in Portsmouth and then ten miles back in the dark.

In comparison, the relocation of families from Eliot/Kittery to Oyster River becomes much more sensible than a land-based movement would suggest, and much less puzzlingly.

Also, the boundary between New Hampshire and Maine largely dissolves. The watershed becomes the defining perspective.

In terms of understanding history, “Piscataqua” can mean not just the original settlement at Hilton Point but also the expansion across both sides up and down the river. That seems to be the case when Portsmouth, Kittery, and New Castle all claim a 1623 founding.

You might even say it muddies the water.


Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


Selling Natives into slavery was not an isolated instance  

One of the more disquieting things my examination of early Dover and New England stirred up for me is an awareness of a prevalent expression of white supremacy.

It starts out as fear, expressed in the emphasis on fortifications. The Plymouth settlers, for instance, spent much of their first year on building palisades rather than farming, which led to a nearly disastrous shortage of food through the winter. The defenses were apparently intended against Native raiders more than the Spanish, French, Dutch, or pirates.

Later, Puritans required palisades around their houses of worship as well, as happened at Dover’s second meetinghouse, and ordered that all men carry arms, which were lined up against the wall during public assemblies such as religious services.


THE PREMISE OF WHITE SUPREMACY COMES THROUGH CLEARLY embedded in descriptions of the Indigenous as savages or pagans and is intensified in the resolution of legal conflicts in an unjust system of jurisprudence. Natives always came out on the losing end, with no means of appeal.

Especially telling is the reaction to the killing of John Stone and seven of his crew in 1634 in retaliation for his kidnapping and murder of the Pequot sachem Tatobem. Even though Stone had previously been banned from Boston for drunkenness, adultery, and piracy, and news of his death brought outright joy to some residents in the city, officials demanded the Natives turn over the warriors responsible to face trial. The Pequot, however, refused, even after paying atonement.

Simmering tensions erupted in 1636 after the killing of trader John Oldham and several of his crew on a journey to Block Island, Rhode Island. Even though Oldham was a troublemaker banished from the Plymouth colony, his death caused sermons across Massachusetts and prompted military action that quickly escalated into war.

Telling of the implicit racism is Roger Williams’ line of congratulation to John Winthrop in 1637 for disposing of “another drove of Adam’s degenerate seed.”

Natives being hunted down and captured.


BY 1638, MOST OF THE PEQUOT had been massacred or sold into slavery in Bermuda or the West Indies. An estimated 1,500 warriors had died in battle or been hunted down. And what followed was a landgrab by the colonists.

Military leader John Underhill, responsible for the massacre of Pequot women and children fleeing their burning village, then came to Dover, where he was briefly governor of the upper province, meaning Dover.

Bluntly? From the colonists’ perspective, a bad white man was worth more than a noble Native.



When David Thomson settled at Pannaway in 1623, he had a Native as a slave, presented to him by an Indian leader. Yes, there was slaveholding among the Indigenous, too.

And whites could be enslaved as well, as was seen in threats to sell Quaker children in the late 1650s.

A key turn in the emergence of Merrymount in 1625 was the sale of some of the project’s indentured English male servants to Virginia and the impending sale of more to the tobacco estates, where death within a year was likely. Thomas Morton used the situation to rally the remainder to resist and stay put, leading to his libertine colony south of today’s Boston.

The origins of African slaves in New England are murky, but Pequots were exported so that they could not escape and return to their families or be freed in retaliatory raids. Instead, they were exchanged for Blacks, who could be held at less risk.

Natives labored in Barbados and the West Indies after being exchanged for Africans as slaves.

In 1637, during the Pequot War, the first American-built slave ship, the Desire, was constructed in Marblehead, Massachusetts, outfitted with leg irons and bars, and armed. She set sail to the British West Indies carrying Boston rum, dried fish, and captive Pequots, and returned seven months later with tobacco, cotton, salt, and enslaved Africans from the Caribbean plantations.

Thomson’s friend Samuel Maverick bought two Blacks as slaves in 1638. Another prominent slaveholder was John Winthrop.

In 1641, the Massachusetts Body of Liberties document included a formal recognition of slaveholding.


UP TO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, despite opposition, some Quakers held slaves, and Dover was not exempt. Up to ten were manumitted, likely with the equivalent of a year’s wages. There’s more on this in my book.


Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


She was truly one of a kind

In reflecting recently on the Quaker tradition of creating memorial minutes for “weighty Friends,” I was surprised that one example I had never posted was of another clerk of our Dover Meeting. She was struck down by a particularly virulent, fast-moving cancer, and it’s hard to me to see that nearly five years have gone by since her passing.

There’s much more that I could tell, but the approved minute will give you a good sense of her vibrant character.

Jean V. Blickensderfer

November 11, 1946 – June 16, 2017

Among Dover Friends, Jean was the flash of gold in the morning, a welcoming soul others naturally confided in, a faithful worker who eventually filled nearly every organizational position – from children’s teacher and treasurer, to co-clerk and finally presiding clerk.

Raised Unitarian-Universalist in Methuen, Massachusetts, she came to Friends in the early ‘80s after she and her first husband, Dean L. Davis, had settled in Eliot, Maine, and were seeking the right church for a family that included daughters Thaedra May and Sarah Joy. They were quickly entrenched among us.

Jean was twice widowed.

She married Dean the day after his graduation from the Maine Maritime Academy in 1967, and then managed their home during his long assignments at sea. During his interludes ashore, they built their own post-and-beam house on the banks of the Piscataqua River and could often be found boating, sometimes to visit other Quakers upstream, or on his motorcycle, which they rode to Meeting in good weather. He died in a freak automobile collision in 1992, an accident his wife and daughters survived unscathed.

In 1998 she married Del Blickensderfer and worked as his partner at Del’s Service Station until his passing of lupus in 2006.

Deeply grateful for the mentoring she received from seasoned Friends, Jean was a stickler for Quaker process and, over time, became the memory of the Meeting’s business itself. She sought to walk a line between holding her tongue and being direct, when needed. A witness to the movement of Christ in our midst, Jean’s infrequent vocal ministry could be powerful. Her skills as a professional typist assured the Meeting’s minutes were of archival quality and, combined with her business-school training, led to the Blue Books for committees and their clerks detailing their responsibilities. She was particularly fond of drawing on the Advices and Queries from London Yearly Meeting’s 1994 edition of Quaker Faith and Practice as guideposts for our own action. An avid knitter, she took comfort in seeing others do needlework during our business deliberations, their patience reflecting the work before us. In time, a midweek knitting circle became what she called a “wicked good” time of refreshment, nurture, and fellowship.

More pressing obligations had precluded her attending yearly meeting sessions, a “bucket list” item she resolved to achieve. All along, she warmly welcomed the wider world of Friends to Dover.

Other delights in her life were yoga, visiting with neighbors, shopping and dining with dear friends, walking the beach, doting on her Pomeranian Sumi, and especially being with her grandson Jonah. His living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, did not prevent her from accompanying much of his childhood and youth, from celebrating birthdays and holidays to attending his piano recitals to cheering him on in mountain bicycle races, whenever she could.

In all, her presence, generosity, and deep and lively spirit were a gift.

With loved ones at her bedside through the final days of her cancer, she passed at age 70, peace and grace abundant.

APPROVED by Dover Monthly Meeting July 16, 2017, Charles Cox, clerk

 ENDORSED by Dover Quarterly Meeting July 31, 2017, at North Sandwich, Erik Cleven, clerk