Early Exploration and Settlement

In the 16th century, the upper New England coast was often visited by fishing vessels from the Grand Banks. The first exploration of present New Hampshire was by Martin Pring, who sailed up the Piscataqua River on his voyage of 1603. The area was part of the territory granted by royal charter to the Plymouth Company in 1606, and to its successor company, the Council for New England, in 1620.

In 1622 the council's president, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, took as associate Captain John Mason. Mason had served as governor of Newfoundland 1615โ€“21 and during that period had explored the mainland coast. The two colonizers took a grant for Maine, reaching south to the Merrimack River. Odiorne's Point (now Rye), founded in 1623 by David Thomson, and Dover, founded the same year by Edward Hilton, were the first settlements between the Piscataqua and the Merrimack.

In 1629 Gorges and Mason divided their grant, Mason taking the western portion and naming it New Hampshire. A settlement called Strawbery Banke (later Portsmouth) became capital of the colony. Mason's death in 1635 left his colony without supervision. Religious dissenters from Massachusetts founded Exeter in 1638. In the same year Massachusetts Bay Colony, claiming that its own charter entitled it to much of New Hampshire and Maine, established an outpost at Hampton. In 1641โ€“43 the Bay Colony annexed the New Hampshire settlements.

Massachusetts held New Hampshire until 1679, when the Mason heirs succeeded in having it made a royal province. It was part of the Dominion of New England, a consolidated province formed by James II, 1686โ€“89. From 1692 to 1741 it shared a royal governor with Massachusetts.

18th Century. The boundary with Massachusetts was settled by royal order in 1741 and New Hampshire was given its own governor, native-born Benning Wentworth. In 1749 the governor began issuing land grants in the Green Mountain region beyond the Connecticut River. The frontier suffered frequent Indian attacks, however, and settlement was sparse until the Indians were subdued during the French and Indian War.

In 1761 there was a surge of migration to the western region, known as the New Hampshire Grants, but also claimed by New York. In 1764 King George III decided in favor of New York and set New Hampshire's western boundary at the Connecticut River. Settlers beyond that point resisted New York authority. Controversy between New Hampshire and New York continued until 1777, when the disputed area declared itself the Republic of Vermont.

In December of 1774 New Hampshire patriots received word from Paul Revere that British troops were going to be garrisoned at Portsmouth. Under leaders who included John Sullivan, a member of the Continental Congress, a band of New Hampshiremen stormed Fort William and Mary at New Castle and seized the gunpowder and arms. Six months later the royal governor was driven from the colony. In January, 1776, New Hampshire adopted a constitution and set itself up as the first independent American state. The capital during the Revolution was at Exeter.

In 1788 New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, making its adoption effective. Concord became the permanent meeting place of the legislature in 1808.