Everett Schermerhorn Stackpole.

History of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : (Oyster River Plantation) with genealogical notes online

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Online LibraryEverett Schermerhorn StackpoleHistory of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : (Oyster River Plantation) with genealogical notes → online text (page 1 of 34)
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liibcral Hrts


Col. Lucien Thompson


of the


(Oyster River Plantation)





Volume One




5 7

I «1 ; 2


\ I



Birth and Growth of the Town i

Early Settlers and Estates 31

Exiles from Scotland 75

Depredations bv Indians 85

Military History 107

Sketch of Church History 169

Roads 219

Burial Places 239

Slavery 249

Education 257

Lawyers and Law Students . 277

Physicians 285

Leaders in the Past . . . . ' 291

Some Men of the Present 315

Post Office and Postmasters 331

Some Old Houses .... 337

Lists of Town Officers 361

First Census of the United States, 1790 371

Marriages 1 379

Baptisms 391

Deaths 395

Index of Places and Subjects 399

Index of Names 405



Col. Lucien Thompson Frontispiece

Shankhassick, or Oyster River 4

Durham Village as Seen from Broth Hill 18

Davis-Smith Garrison, Lubberland 34

Adams Point, First Called "Matthews Neck" 37

Mouth of Long Creek 42

Shore of Little Bay 44

Map of Oyster River Plantation 48

Comfort Mathes Camp 51

Goat Island 61

Bunker Garrison 62

Bunker Garrison 63

Head of Tide Water, Oyster River 70

Upper End of College Reservoir, in "Follets Marsh" 72

The Major John Demerit Residence, Madbury 120

Gen. John Sullivan 134

Sullivan Monument 136

Newtown Battlefield Monument 139

Gen. Alexander Scammell 140

Scammell Grange 142

Lieut.-Col. Winborn Adams' Inn 145

Survivors of the Civil War 161

Major Daniel Smith 163

Samples of Durham Scenery ' 188

Rev. Curtis Coe 202

Rev. Federal Burt 205

Rev. Alvan Tobey, D. D 208

Congregational Church 209

Congregational Church, Interior 210

Congregational Church 212

The Parsonage 214

Lamprey River, Second Falls 220

Residence of the Late Deacon John E. Thompson 222

Oyster River Freshet 224

The Road to Bagdad 226

Spruce Hole 234

Pascataqua Bridge 235

Relics of Pascataqua Bridge 236

Boston & Maine Railroad Station 237

School Houses at Packer's Falls 258

Village School House 263

New Hampshire College 266



Thompson Hall 268

Houses now or once Used by College Fraternities 270

Edward Thomson Fairchild, LL. D 272

Residence of the College President 273

Dean Charles H. Pettee, LL. D 274

Hon. James F. Joy 283

Alphonso Bickford, M. D 289

Judge Valentine Smith 296

Hon. Stephen Demeritt 297

Benjamin Thompson 299

Hamilton A. Mathes 300

Miss Mary Pickering Thompson 301

Deacon John Thompson 303

Deacon John Emerson Thompson 304

Deacon Albert Young 305

Mills at Wiggin's Falls 306

Thomas H. Wiswall 307

Wiswall's Paper Mill 308

Hamilton Smith 310

Ebenezer Thompson 3tl

Mark H. Mathes 312

Gen. Alfred Hoitt 313

Hon. Joshua B. Smith 316

Forrest S. Smith 317

Hon. Jeremiah Langley 318

Hon. Daniel Chesley 321

Charles Wentworth 322

Col. Arioch W. Griffiths 323

Albert DeMeritt 325

Charles E. Hoitt 326

Valentine Mathes 327

Charles S. Langley 328

George W. Ransom 329

Joseph William Coe 333

George D. Stevens 335

Residence of Gen. John Sullivan 338

Inn of Master John Smith 339

Residence of Miss Margaret B. Ffrost 340

Interior of Residence of Miss Margaret B. Ffrost 342

Residence of Mr. and Mrs. George H. Mendell 343

Red Tower, Residence of the Late Hamilton Smith 344

Residence of the Late Judge Valentine Smith 346

Residence of Ebenezer Smith 347

House Built by James Joy 348

Residence of Albert DeMeritt 350

Woodman Garrison 352

Woodman Garrison in Flames 353



Residence of Col. Lucien Thompson 354

Library of Col. Lucien Thompson 355

Residence of Forrest S. Smith 358

Summer Camp of Elisha R. Brown 359

Interior of Mr. Brown's Camp 360


The movement to publish a History of Durham was begun in
1885 by a vote in town meeting, authorizing the appointment of
a committee by the selectmen for that purpose. The committee
so appointed consisted of Joshua B. Smith, Winthrop S. Meserve
and Lucien Thompson. In 1886, in response to a petition signed
by this committee and by James W. Burnham, Benjamin Thomp-
son, Hamilton A. Mathes, William P. Frost, Samuel H. Barnum,
Henry B. Mellen, Albert DeMeritt, Joseph C. Bartlett, Ephraim
Jenkins and John W. E. Thompson, the town voted an appropria-
tion of I900 to assist in the publication of a History not to cost
over I5 per copy, and added Ephraim Jenkins and Joseph W. Coe
to the above mentioned committee. The committee had power
to fill vacancies and was authorized to collect material and secure
the publication of the history with such aid as they thought
best. Printed circulars were issued, stating the scope of the
proposed history, and also there were distributed five hundred cir-
culars full of questions, especially soliciting genealogical informa-
tion. To this circular there were but few replies. In 1887 Albert
Young was chosen a member of the committee to take the place
of Joshua B. Smith resigned. In 1889 Hamilton A. Mathes was
chosen to fill a vacancy caused by resignation of Joseph W. Coe.
Conferences were held with the Rev. Alonzo H. Quint, D. D.,
and Miss Mary P. Thompson relative to the preparation of the
history. Dr. Ham of Dover ofifered all possible assistance. Thus
the records close, — to be reopened over twenty years later.

In 191 1 the matter was taken up again. Messrs. Albert De-
Meritt, Arioch W. Grififiths and Charles Wentworth were added
to the committee, in place of some who had resigned or passed
away. These conferred with the Rev. Everett S. Stackpole,
D. D.,who agreed to write the proposed history. In 1912 the
town voted anew to raise $150 for preliminary expenses, and
the Hon. Lucien Thompson, who had been gathering material
for a score of years, became interested as associate author of the
proposed history. The money requisite for the printing of the
History was voted by the town at its annual meeting, March
1913. At the request of Mr. Stackpole the name of Dea. Win-
throp S. Meserve was added to the title page of the second
volume, as associate author of the genealogical part.


All truths, all facts and all men are related. To know com-
pletely a part of a system one must know the whole. The history
of a town is woven into the history of the world. To separate it
is like tearing off a piece of a garment. Since to know the whole
is forever impossible, we must content ourselves with partial
knowledge and with probabilities. To understand well the
history of Durham one needs to know the first discoveries of the
region of the Pascataqua, the causes that led to its settlement,
the antecedents and ancestry of the first settlers, the ends they
sought, the religious and political state of Great Britain espe-
cially at that time, as well as the deeds the colonists performed.
All this cannot be unfolded in a town history. Such matters
properly belong to a general history of New Hampshire, or of

We are obliged to plunge into the stream of history somewhere,
not too far back, and to float down with the current. We care
mainly for men; their deeds interest us only as they show forth
the character of the actors or influence the lives of their successors.
When we know well and interpret rightly our antecedents, we
may with some degree of safety forecast the future and make
wise plans therefor.

The first settlers left but few records. They had little idea of
the historic importance of their undertaking. They foresaw
not the many thousands of descendants that would rejoice to
find scraps of information about their origin in the old countries
beyond the great sea. Perhaps many came as a temporary ven-
ture, thinking to return home soon. They stayed either from
stern necessity or because they learned to love the new country
and foresaw something of its future prospects. They sought not
so much religious and political liberty as to better their material
conditions. The gift of fifty or one hundred acres was a mighty
inducement to many, who could never hope to acquire a small
piece of land in any of the old countries. The desire of some
leaders to found great manorial estates in the new world was
rudely disregarded by men who had tasted of civil and industrial
freedom. We laugh now at the folly of trying to wrest away by


process of law the farms of the first settlers and restore them to
the English heirs of Capt. John Mason. Any effort to enforce
such a claim would have brought on the Revolution earlier than
it came. The King of England claimed all the land discovered,
just as William the First claimed and distributed all the lands of
England at the time of the Conquest. His grantees could not
hold them. A handful of men got together and formed a town
without any charter and then they made grants of land to them-
selves and to others whom they wished to join them. Some
trifles were given to the Indians to quiet their claims, and so the
lands were seized, to have and to hold.

The fisheries, that had for rendezvous the Isles of Shoals for
many years, first attracted settlers to the mainland. They
combined fishing with agriculture. The Pascataqua and its
tributaries were full of salmon and sturgeon, that gave their
names to waterfalls and creeks. There was abundance of lumber
for ship-building and commerce. The settlers searched in vain
for mines of gold and silver, and iron ore was obtained with dif-
ficulty in small quantities. Wild game filled the forests, and the
fur trade brought revenues to some. But agriculture, the great-
est and most necessary industry for man, soon came to be the
principal occupation, and swarming children pushed in further
from the shores, to which the first settlers clung cautiously and
for the only means of communication. Every settler was almost
of necessity a boatman, fisherman, hunter, carpenter, mechanic
and farmer. The women could spin, weave, make garments of
every sort, cook marvelously, and manage a dairy. Necessity
made the weak strong.

How much we would like to know the number and names of
the men and women who came with David Thompson, in 1623,
from Plymouth, England, to Odiorne's Point and helped him build
his fish-weir near a point of land a little south of the mouth of the
Cochecho River, which has ever since borne his name. Who
besides Thomas Roberts came with Edward and William Hilton
from London to Hilton's Point in the same year? What were
the names of the eight Danes and twenty-two women who came
with Capt. John Mason's colonists from the south of England
to Strawberry Bank and Newichawannock between 1631 and
1634? Who were all those that came from Bristol with Capt.
Thomas Wiggin to Dover Neck in 1633 and gave the name Bristol


to the little city they there attempted to found ? These companies
were the real pioneers of the Pascataqua region. We know the
names of a few of them; we are well convinced that certain
others must have been among them. Of Capt. John Mason's
company Ambrose Gibbons, Francis Matthews, John Ault, and
John Goddard settled in Oyster River Plantation, while James
Nute lived on the west side of Back River, within the present
limits of Dover. Among the companions of Capt. Thomas
Wiggin were probably Elder Hatevil Nutter, Richard Pinkham,
Thomas Leighton, Richard York, William Williams, William
Beard, Thomas Beard, Thomas Stevenson, Samuel Haines,
John Heard, John Dam, George Webb, Philip Chesley, William
Pomfret, William Storer, Thomas Canney, Henry Tibbetts,
George Walton, William Furber, and the Rev. William Leveridge,
At least all these lived on Dover Neck within a few years of
Capt. Wiggin's arrival, and they were joined not long after by
Anthony Emery from Newbury, Joseph Austin from Hampton,
John Tuttle who came in the Angel Gabriel, Job Clement from
Haverhill, Ralph Hall, John Hall, Philip Cromwell, "Mr. David
Ludecas Edling," Capt. John Underbill and the Rev. John

It seems to have been the design of Capt. Wiggin to found a
city or compact town on the hill-top of Dover Neck, giving to
each settler three and a half or four acres for a home lot, while
out lots or farms and pieces of marsh were assigned on the shores
of Little and Great Bays and their tributaries, which they could
easily reach by boat. Probably this was thought necessary at
first for mutual defence, as well as to avoid insufferable loneliness.
After land had been cleared and log houses built and flocks and
herds began to multiply, it became quite necessary to quit Dover
Neck and remain permanently on the farms. Thus by the year
1640 much of the best land along the shores and up to the head
of salt water in the Shankh^ssick, as the Indians called Oyster
River, was in the recognized possession of settlers, and clearing
had well begun. The first comers got the best land. To him that
had was given. Big grants went to the big men, and some fami-
lies soon became prominent because their emigrant ancestor was
fortunate enough to get possession of fertile land easily cultivated,
while those who settled on poor and rocky soil and stayed there
remained poor and of little account.


There were from the very beginning some order and recognized
authority. There is no reason to suppose that Capt. Wiggin
allotted lands, or that he was in any sense a Governor. He was
the agent of a land company, and Ambrose Gibbons was as
much a Governor of Maine as Capt. Thomas Wiggin was of
New Hampshire. The company under the leadership of Capt,
Wiggin were in effect from the start a democratic republic and
regulated their own internal affairs much as the Pilgrims did at
Plymouth. They assumed to be a town and did the chief busi-
ness of a town at that time by granting lots and purchasing lands




IlK'it'^Ffflg^lKg.''- C- !iiBBI

Hi^^^^Kl 'tf '^ ittif* r^^wH


Shankhassick, or Oyster River

of the Indians. William Hilton, in 1641, sold land that had
been granted to him by the inhabitants of Dover. This was at
the head of Oyster River. "The inhabitants of Dover alias
Northam" granted land to the Rev. Thomas Larkham between
the years 1639 and 1642. Darby Field was in quiet possession
of Oyster River Point earlier than 1639. Ambrose Gibbons,
Thomas Stevenson, William Williams and W^illiam Beard, all
of Oyster River, had lands assigned to them by common consent
before 1640. On the i8th of the 8th month, 1652, John Ault
made a deposition as follows:

The deponent sayth that in the yere 1635, that the land about Lamprile
River was bought of the Indians & made use of by the men of Dover & myselfe
both for planting & fishing & feling of Timber.


John Ault and Richard York made oath to this statement
before George Smyth, and to similar effect testified Hatevil
Nutter and Wilham Furber. See depositions in N. H. Prov-
ince Papers, Vol. i, p. 204. The original depositions may be
seen in the archives of Massachusetts, 1 12-14.

In the above statements "the men of Dover" and "the inhabi-
tants of Dover" are mentioned collectively as having power to
purchase lands of the Indians and to grant lands to individuals
as early as 1635. This was the beginning of town business, though
it was not till 1648 that they assumed to assess rates and became
a full-fledged town.

The Exeter Combination of 1639 was signed by two men of
Oyster River, namely. Darby Field and Francis Matthews, and
it is noticeable that these did not sign the Dover Combination of
the following year. Indeed, none of the settlers at Oyster River
signed that compact. It has been called Dover's Magna Charta
rather inappropriately, since it was no concession wrung from a
reluctant king, but a voluntary agreement of forty-two inhabi-
tants of Dover Neck, Cochecho and what was afterward Newing-
ton. It is a formal statement of what had been informally agreed
to from the beginning of the settlement of Capt. Wiggin and
company on Dover Neck, in 1633. If "two or more persons
banded together to do good make a church," as I once heard a
Canon of the Church of England publicly declare, then two or
more settlers in a new country banded together for mutual pro-
tection and self-government make a town, and such a church and
such a town need no higher authorization. The Combination
was as follows:

Whereas sundry mischeifes and inconveniences have befaln us, and more
and greater may in regard of want of civill Government, his Gratious Ma'tie
haveing hitherto setled no order for us to our knowledge:

Wee whose names are underwritten being Inhabitants upon the river Pas-
cataquack have voluntarily agreed "to combine ourselves into a body politique
that we may the more comfortably enjoy the benefit of his Ma'ties Lawes
together with all such Orders as shal bee concluded by a major part of the
Freemen of our Society in case they bee not repugnant to the Lawes of England
and administered in the behalf of his Majesty.

And this wee have mutually promised and concluded to do and so to continue
till his Excellent Ma'tie shall give other Order concerning us. In Witness
whereof wee have hereto set our hands the two and twentieth day of October
in the sixteenth yeare of our Sovereign Lord Charles by the grace of God King


of Great Britain France and Ireland Defender of the Faith &c. Annoq Dom.


John Follet Thorn. Larkham

Robert Nanney Richard Waldern

William Jones William Waldern

Phillip Swaddon William Storer

Richard Pinckhame William Furber

Bartholomew Hunt Thos. Layton

William Bowden Tho. Roberts

John Wastill Bartholomew Smith

John Heard Samuel Haines

John Hall John UnderhiU

Abel Camond Peter Garland

Henry Beck John Dam

Robert Huggins Steven Teddar

Fran: Champernoon John Ugroufe

Hansed Knowles Thomas Canning

Edward Colcord John Phillips

Henry Lahorn Tho: Dunstar

Edward Starr James Nute

Anthony Emery Richard Laham

William Pomfret John Cross

George Webb James Rawlins

The original of the above is in the Record Office at London.
The clerk in copying may have made some mistakes. Edward
Starr is doubtless Elder Edward Starbuck. Tho: Dunstar is
probably Thomas Dustin, afterward of Kittery, whose son
Thomas lived in Haverhill. Thomas Canning is Thomas Canney.
Henry Lahorn may be Henry Langstaff. Hansed Knowles is
the Rev. Hansard Knollys.

Why did no man in Oyster River Plantation sign that Combina-
tion? Already that section of ancient Dover began to feel itself
separate from and independent of the rest of the town. It was
geographically distinct and soon began to clamor for parish and
township rights. Local convenience made this almost a necessity.

In the above Combination no name is given to the town. It
was yet undecided whether it should be called Bristol, Northam
or Dover. The last name became fixed about the year 1642.

There is another reason why nobody from Oyster River signed
the so-called Dover Combination. At this time the inhabitants
of Exeter were claiming that the northern limit of their town was
the Oyster River or a mile beyond, by virtue of a deed obtained
by Parson Wheelwright from an Indian chief. In the first allot-


ment of land in Exeter, December 1639, it was declared that the
meadows "from Lamprey river to the head of Little Bay should
be equally apportioned into four parts." This is all the region
of Durham afterward known as Lubberland. Under date of
12 November, 1640, it is recorded in Exeter thus:

It is agreed upon y Mr. William Hilton is to enjoy those two marshes in
Oyster River w^ formerly he hath possession of & still are in his possession
and the other marsh w"!" Mr. Gibbies [Ambrose Gibbons] doth wrongfully
detayne from him with the rest of those marshes w^ formerly he hath made
use of soe far forth as they may be for the publique good of this plantation, and
so much of the upland (adjoining) to them as shall be thought convenient by
the neighbores of Oyster River, w'' are belonging to this body.

This must refer to William Hilton's eighty-eight acres at the
head of salt water in Oyster River, where the public school
building in Durham now stands, and to the two hundred acres
belonging to Ambrose Gibbons, that formed later the Burnham
farm, on the south side of the river. The inhabitants of Oyster
River were wavering between allegiance to the Exeter Combina-
tion, that two of their number had signed, and to the so-called
Dover Combination. Commissioners decided that the southern
limit of Dover extended down to Lamprey River. The boundary
was long disputed. [See Bell's History of Exeter.]

In 1652 the Commissioners appointed to determine the bounds
of Dover reported that

They have thus agreed that the uttmost bound on the west is a creek on the
east side of Lamprell river, the next creek to the river, and from the end of that
creek to lamprell river first fall and so from the first fall on a west and by north
line six miles,

from nequittchewannock first fall on a north and by west line fower miles,

from a creeke next below Thomas Cannes his house to a certaine Cove

near the mouth of the Great Bay called hogsty cove and all the marsh and

meadow lying and butting on the great bay with convenient byland to sett

there hay. Mass. Archives, 112. 53

John Alt, "aged about seventy-three years," deposed, 2 March
1677/8, that Robert Smart, senior, of Exeter did own and possess
all the meadow on the southwest side of John Goddard's Creek
"and y^ said Smart did possess it twelve years before Dover was
a township and he did possess it sixteen years together." How
shall this be interpreted? When did Dover become a township?
According to this deposition it was not in 1640, the time of the
Combination, for twelve years before that date would carry us


back to 1628, some years before John Ault arrived in Dover, or
Robert Smart in Exeter. The latter was a resident of Hingham,
Mass., in September, 1635, and probably came the following year to
that part of Exeter which is now Newmarket. He needed marsh
grass for his cattle and so took it where he could find it most con-
veniently. Twelve years after his arrival, that is, in 1648, the
first taxes were levied, according to an order of Court at Boston.
Was the authority of the Town of Dover then first recognized by
the inhabitants of Oyster River Plantation, among whom was
John Ault? There are certainly records which speak of the town
of Dover as early as 1642, but then Oyster River Plantation was
debatable land. Selectmen were chosen in 1647 and Ambrose
Gibbons of Oyster River was one of them.

In 1639 a committee of three persons from Dover appeared at
the General Court in Boston, proposing that Dover come under
the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. Their offer was eagerly
accepted and the terms were all that Dover desired. They were
to have their own court at Dover like the courts at Salem and
Ipswich ; they were "exempted from all public charges other than
those that shall arise among themselves or from any occasion or
Course that may be taken to promote their own proper good and
benefit " ; they were to have all the privileges of towns, and church
membership was not required to make inhabitants freemen,
though this was the rule in Massachusetts. In fact the General
Court granted everything for mere supremacy. May 10, 1643,
the County of Norfolk was formed, with Salisbury as the shire
town. Sessions of the court were held annually at Dover, and
the records of the same are now at Concord, N. H. Norfolk
County ceased to exist 8 September, 1679, when the territory
lying between Massachusetts and Maine was made a separate
royal province, in order to try the claims of Capt. John Mason's
heirs to the improved lands of New Hampshire farmers. The
claims seem to us ridiculous but were founded upon laws made for
the benefit of the privileged class. The courts allowed the
claims, but the attempt to collect rents was unsuccessful. Some
Oyster River settlers were by legal process dispossessed of their
estates, but practically they continued to possess them and to
transmit them to their heirs.

Whatever records once existed of town proceedings in Dover
until 1648 have been lost, except a few unimportant leaves. In


1647 William Pomfret was chosen recorder, or as we now say

Online LibraryEverett Schermerhorn StackpoleHistory of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : (Oyster River Plantation) with genealogical notes → online text (page 1 of 34)