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1623 Three Hundred And Seventy-five Years Ago

February 2024
1min read

He Came, He Saw, He Left

On April 16 a fishmonger named David Thomson, his wife, Amias, and a handful of others became the first white settlers in present-day New Hampshire when they landed at what is now Odiorne’s Point at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. The settlement was on an elevated point of land that could be easily defended, with a good harbor and lots of fresh water. Thomson, who held title to the land, had previously visited New England and may have selected the site in advance.

The settlers built a house from shale and clay, both abundant in the vicinity, as well as structures for drying and salting fish. Their little colony received a number of visitors from New England’s scanty white population, including Miles Standish of Plymouth and Thomas Weston, the financier of the Plymouth Colony, who stumbled in after being shipwrecked and then getting robbed by Indians.

The Thomson party had hoped to make a profit by fishing and trading in furs, but like many early migrants, they found support from home meager and the New World less bountiful than they had hoped. Within a few years, probably in 1626, Thomson and his wife moved to an island in Massachusetts Bay that still bears their name. They left behind a handful of buildings and possibly some settlers. (A second small settlement remained up the Piscataqua in what is now Dover. It had been established shortly after Thomson’s arrival by the brothers Edward and William Hilton, who were also fishmongers.)

Thomson died on his island around 1628, leaving Amias and their infant son. He thus missed the arrival of the Massachusetts Bay colonists two years later. At his death Thomson did not know that he had founded the colony of New Hampshire. Not until the 163Os did settlers start arriving there in large numbers; not until the 166Os was the name New Hampshire widely used; and not until after the Revolution were the dozens of conflicting land grants and patents that crisscrossed the state finally sorted out.

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