Marker Twofer! #75 Portsmouth Plains and #62 Breakfast Hill.

6 12 2009

These two markers belong together.  They both commemorate the same event a few miles apart.

#75 Portsmouth Plains

Marker text:

In the pre-dawn hours of June 26, 1696, Indians attacked the settlement here. Fourteen persons were killed and others taken captive. Five houses and nine barns were burned. This plain was the Training Field and Muster Ground. Close by stood the famous Plains Tavern (1728-1914) with its Bowling Green where many distinguished visitors were entertained.

This marker is located on Rt. 33 in Portsmouth, about 2 miles East of I95 on Middle Rd.


#75 zpic1 Part of Portsmouth Plains today is a Baseball field.


Bonus Marker #62!

#62 zpic1

Marker #62, Breakfast Hill

Marker text:

On the hillside to be seen to the north of this location a band of marauding Indians and their captives were found eating their breakfast on June 26, 1696, following the attack at the Portsmouth Plains. When confronted by the militia the Indians made a hasty exit leaving the prisoners and plunder. This locality still enjoys the name of Breakfast Hill.

This marker is located on Rt. 1 North, in North Hampton.  As you can see from the Photo, it is right at the Rye town line.


The Native American attacks, spurred on by the French, had been occurring since the late 1680s.  The Massacre at Oyster River in the summer of 1694 set the New Hampshire settlements on edge.  Since that day, small Indian raids, harassment and mutilation of livestock and the occasional killing or kidnapping contributed to the anxiety they felt going about their daily lives.

Thursday the 25th of June was a cool unsettled day with occasional lightning and rain.  Early in the day a party of Indians  from the York, ME / Nubble area were seen paddling up the Piscataqua from Portsmouth.   Word spread quickly among the settlements to keep people alert for potential mischief.  That afternoon at Portsmouth Plains the livestock came out of the woods where they had been grazing and seemed somewhat agitated.  Was it just the storm, or were there Indians waiting to attack?  The villagers suspected Indians but decided to stay in their homes for the night instead of seeking the safety of the nearby Garrison.

Etching of a late 1600s Garrison House

As the daylight faded and the people of Portsmouth Plains settled in for the night the Massacre MarshIndians that had previously been seen paddling up the Piscataqua probably slipped quietly back down the river in the dark to meet up with the rest of the raiding party at  what is today Rye.  Previous raids into this area had been launched from south of Ordiorne’s Point.  In 1691 a raiding party came ashore and killed 21 people, burning homes and taking hostages at what is today still called Massacre Marsh. They were also from York/Nubble.  Massacre Marsh is about 2 miles south-east from Portsmouth Plains, and would have provided a safe hiding place for their canoes.

The raiding party made their way to Portsmouth Plains during the night.  Just before dawn they set fire to the barns and outbuildings of the village, only then screaming their war cries to wake the people.  They charged the houses, looting anything that could be easily carried and killed as they went.  The women and children that could escape while the men put up a defense ran for the garrison house just north of the Plains.  The elderly and injured attempted to hide in the nearby woods.

The men of the village fought as well as they could but they were outnumbered.  It was only a matter of time before they too had to retreat to the garrison. 

The raiding party knportsmouth plains routeew the path to the garrison and positioned men along the path in the forest.  They killed, maimed or captured villagers that were alone or in twos as they tried to reach safety.

By the time the garrison had organized a response and returned to Portsmouth Plains, the raiders were gone.  The march to the Plains was a gory one.  Many dead and wounded lay on the path, including 33 year old Mary Brewster.  At first they thought her dead.  She had been scalped and her head split by a tomahawk.  Her head would later be mended with a silver plate and she would go on to live a good long life to the age of 81.

Arriving at the Plains the men of the garrison counted five homes burned. Nine barns in total were destroyed, two of them filled with grain and livestock for the village. There were more dead and wounded. Captain William Shackford of Dover was among the men at Portsmouth Plains that morning and led the pursuit of the raiding party. Following their trail south, they finally found them.  The Indians had stopped to eat on a hillside that is to this day called Breakfast Hill.

The Indians had placed the captives between themselves and any pursuers that may come after them providing a human shield in case they were discovered.  A direct assault would not work without killing the hostages.  Shackford sent men around the hill for the attack.  As the men charged out of the woods the Indians they fled into the marshes to the east and disappeared.   They hid in the marshes the rest of the day, slowly making their way back to the coast and hidden canoes by nightfall.  Shackfords men saved all the hostages and recovered everything that had been stolen by the raiding party.

Portsmouth had been alerted to the attack in the morning and expected the Indians may try to sneak away in the dark.  Men were sent up the Pascataqua to stop escape to the west.  Commander Gerrish was assigned with some Sloops to patrol the coast to cut   off if any attempted escape by sea.    The raiding party was spotted that night attempting to escape North up the coast and Gerrish set the line of sloops in their path.  Unfortunately he misjudged the distance to the raiders in the dark and gave the order to fire early, while they were out of range.  The Indians quickly turned to the open ocean  paddling for  the Isles of Shoals.  Gerrish attempted to chase them but could not catch them as the disappeared around the Isles and headed North back to York.


Postscript: Most of the histories have some mention of this incident all the way back to Belknaps first history.  By far the most complete is found in Rambles About Portsmouth pp 71-76, written by an early Portsmouth columnist Charles Brewster.  This re-telling is based on his account of what happened that day.


Marker #28 First Public School

13 11 2009


Marker Text:

In New Hampshire, supported by taxation, the first public school opened in Hampton on May 31, 1649. It was presided over by John Legat for the education of both sexes. The sole qualification for admission of the pupils was that they be "capable of learning."

Erected in 1965 in Hampton, this marker is on the front lawn of the Centre School, on Winnacunnet Road.



Ok, where to start. I guess we start down in Massachusetts again where the Governor was busy creating new laws for the towns.  This one was known as “The Old Deluder, Satan Act” of 1647. Oh my!

 “How Conveeeeenient!”

Here’s the first few Paragraphs of the Law (PDF):

It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times by keeping them in an unknown tongue, so in these latter times by persuading from the use of tongues, that so that at least the true sense and meaning of the original might be clouded and corrupted with false glosses of saintseeming deceivers; and to the end that learning may not be buried in the grave of our forefathers, in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors.

It is therefore ordered that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read, whose wages shall be paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in general, by way of supply, as the major part of those that order the prudentials of the town shall appoint; provided those that send their children be not oppressed by paying much more than they can have them taught for in other towns.

Actually, teaching children to read and write for the primary purpose of reading and studying the Bible isn’t a bad idea (Don’t tell the NEA or ACLU). There is however a historical story that should be looked at.  Witches!  Oh yeah!

Though Salem, MA gets all the good Witch press, the fact is that folks back in jolly old England had been executing suspected Witches since the late 1500s, and really started going crazy in 1645. And it had spread.  All the way to Massachusetts.

"The first suspicion of witchcraft in the New England colonies began at Springfield, Massachusetts, as early as 1645. Several persons were, about that time, tried and executed in Massachusetts; one at Charlestown, one at Dorchester, one at Cambridge, and one at Boston. For almost thirty years afterwards, the subject rested.”

So by 1647, the Governor wanted to make sure that expanding towns had a school where children could learn to read and write.  The reasoning, is that they would be able to read the Bible themselves, and not be lied to by Witches about what it contains. Perfectly reasonable.

A bit about the first teacher in New Hampshire, John Legat, before we resume.  He was a Hampton resident as early as 1640, but had since moved to Exeter.  The town hired him in 1649:

"On the 2 of the 2 Mo; 1649: The Selectmen of this Towne of Hampton have agreed with John Legat for this present yeare ensueing. To teach and instruct all the children of or belonging to our Towne, both Mayle and Femaile (wch are capiable of learning) to write and read and cast accountes, (if it be desired), as diligently and as carefully as he is able to teach and instruct them; And so diligently to follow the said imploymentt att all such time and times this yeare ensueing, as the wether shall be fitting for the youth to com together to one place to be instructed; And allso to teach and instruct them once in a week, or more, in some Arthodox chatechise provided for them by their parents or masters. And in consideration hereof we have agreed to pay, or cause to be payd unto the said John Legat, the som of Twenty pounds, in corne and cattle and butter att price currant, as payments are made of such goods in this Towne, and this to be payd by us quarterly, paying £5 every quarter of the yeare after he has begun to keep school."

Not a bad curriculum.  Reading, writing, some math if the parents of the students wanted it, and a religious class at least once a week that the parent would specify for their child.  But I don’t think he was happy with the pay. Cows, corn and butter paid once a quarter?  In October of 1650 he sued over his wages, but later dropped the complaint.

Now back to the Witches!


Hampton did end up with a Witch or two as well.  The most famous is Goody Cole, who was imprisoned in 1656, beating the Salem brouhaha by  20 years.

Goodwife Eunice Cole, the witch of Hampton, was for a quarter of a century or more the terror of the people of that town, who believed her to have sold herself body and soul to the Devil. Whom we hate we also fear. The bare mention of her name would, it is said, hush crying children into silence, or hurry truant boys to school. Although she was repeatedly thrown into prison, she was yet unaccountably suffered to continue to live the life of an outcast, until death finally freed the community from their fears. In 1680 she was brought before the Quarter Sessions to answer to the charge of being a witch; and though there was "noe full proof" that she was a witch, yet for the satisfaction of the Court, which "vehemently suspects her so to be," and probably too of the people, Major Waldron, the presiding magistrate, ordered her to be imprisoned, with "a lock kept on her leg," at the pleasure of the Court.

As she was first prosecuted as early as 1656, she must have been a very old woman when this harsh sentence was pronounced. For some years–how many it is not known–Goody Cole lived alone in a hovel which stood a little way back from the spot where the Academy now [1884] stands; and in this wretched hut, without a friend to soothe her last moments, she miserably died. Several days elapsed before her death became known; and even then, such was the fear her supposed powers had inspired, that it required a great deal of courage on the part of the inhabitants to force an entrance into her cabin, where she lay dead. When this had been done, the body was dragged outside, a hole hastily dug, into which it was tumbled, and then–conformably with current superstition–a stake was driven through it, in order to exorcise the baleful influence she was supposed to have possessed.

Samuel Adams Drake 1884


Goody Cole left quite a legacy.  In 1937 the town of Hampton passed a  resolution clearing her of all charges.  And she was immortalized in two poems by John Greenleaf Whittaker: The Wreck of the Rivermouth, and The Changeling.

The Changeling

by John Greenleaf Whittier

For the fairest maid in Hampton
They needed not to search,
Who saw young Anna Favor
Come walking into church,-

Or bringing from the meadows,
At set of harvest-day,
The sweetness of the hay.

Now the weariest of all mothers,
The saddest two years’ bride,
She scowls in the face of her husband,
And spurns her child aside.

"Rake out the red coals, goodman,-
For there the child shall lie,
Till the black witch comes to fetch her
And both up chimney fly.

"It’s never my own little daughter,
It’s never my own," she said ;
"The witches have stolen my Anna,
And left me an imp instead.

"Oh, fair and sweet was my baby,
Blue eyes, and hair of gold ;
But this is ugly and wrinkled,
Cross, and cunning, and old.

"I hate the touch of her fingers,
I hate the feel of her skin ;
It’s not the milk from my bosom,
But my blood, that she sucks in.

"My face grows sharp with the torment ;
Look ! my arms are skin and bone !
Rake open the red coals, goodman,
And the witch shall have her own.

"She’ll come when she hears it crying,
In the shape of an owl or bat,
And she’ll bring us our darling Anna
In place of her screeching brat."

Then the goodman, Ezra Dalton,
Laid his hand upon her head :
"Thy sorrow is great, O woman !
I sorrow with thee," he said.

"The paths to trouble are many,
And never but one sure way
Leads out to the light beyond it :
My poor wife, let us pray."

Then he said to the great All-Father,
"Thy daughter is weak and blind ;
Let her sight come back, and clothe her
Once more in her right mind.

"Lead her out of this evil shadow,
Out of these fancies wild ;
Let the holy love of the mother
Turn again to her child.

"Make her lips like the lips of Mary
Kissing her blessed Son ;
Let her hands, like the hands of Jesus,
Rest on her little one.

Comfort the soul of thy handmaid,
Open her prison-door,
And thine shall be all the glory
And praise forevermore."

Then into the face of its mother
The baby looked up and smiled ;
And the cloud of her soul was lifted,
And she knew her little child.

A beam of the slant west sunshine
Made the wan face almost fair,
Lit the blue eyes’ patient wonder
And the rings of pale gold hair.

She kissed it on lip and forehead,
She kissed it on cheek and chin,
And she bared her snow-white bosom
To the lips so pale and thin.

Oh, fair on her bridal morning
Was the maid who blushed and smiled,
But fairer to Ezra Dalton
Looked the mother of his child.

With more than a lover’s fondness
He stooped to her worn young face,
And the nursing child and the mother
He folded in one embrace.

"Blessed be God !" he murmured.
"Blessed be God !" she said ;
"For I see, who once was blinded,-
I live, who once was dead.

"Now mount and ride, my goodman,
As thou lovest thy own soul !
Woe’s me, if my wicked fancies
Be the death of Goody Cole !"

His horse he saddled and bridled,
And into the night rode he,
Now through the great black woodland,
Now by the white-bleached sea.

He rode through the silent clearings,
He came to the ferry wide,
And thrice he called to the boatman
Asleep on the other side.

He set his horse to the river,
He swam to Newbury town,
And he called up Justice Sewall
In his nightcap and his gown.

And the grave and worshipful justice
(Upon whose soul be peace !)
Set his name to the jailer’s warrant
For Goodwife Cole’s release.

Then through the night the hoof-beats
Went sounding like a flail ;
And Goody Cole at cockcrow
Came forth from Ipswich jail.

Marker Twofer! #103 Shapley Line and #120 Bound Rock

4 11 2009

IMG_0248 Marker Text:

Based on the 1640 southern boundary of Bachiler‘s farm, it was surveyed by Capt. Nicholas Shapley in 1657, dividing the Province of New Hampshire from the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1689-1741. In 1662 three Quaker women, being banished from the territory, were freed south of here by Constable Walter Barefoot. Edward Gove, imprisoned in the Tower of London for leading the rebellion against Lt. Gov. Cranfield in 1683 lived nearby.

This Marker is located on US1 in Seabrook, at the corner of Rocks Road, and was erected in 1975


And the Bonus Marker:


Marker Text:

This rock, originally in the middle of the Hampton River, indicated the start of the boundary line surveyed by Capt. Nicholas Shapley and marked by him "AD 1657-HB and SH" to determine the line between Hampton and Salisbury, HB meaning Hampton Bound and SH, Shapley’s mark. Lost for many decades due to the shifting of the river’s mouth, the original course of the river and the Bound Rock were rediscovered in 1937. This historically important boulder, still serving as a boundary marker, was enclosed by the State of New Hampshire that same year.

Located on a small lot near the End of Woodstock St. At the Light south of the Hampton Harbor Bridge, turn into Hookset St, then left on Ocean Drive, and Left on Woodstock.


This pair of markers represent the settlement of a longstanding feud between the towns of Hampton and Salisbury.  As we have seen previously, the Early New Hampshire Towns were eventually ceded to Massachusetts because of the confusion over the various grants.

Once the Reverend Bachilor recieved his land grant for his farm, the good folks in nearby Salisbury (there was no Seabrook then) complained to the Massachusetts Bay Court that the land belonged to them.  The bickering and surveying went on for years, until finally, in May 1657 Capt. Shapley surveyed the border and the court settled the matter.

The westernmost end of the line was originally a very large tree that stood where the Shapley Marker now is, and was replaced by the stone you can see in the top photo.  The eastern end was marked by Bound Rock.

For many years Bound Rock was lost to the shifting coastal sands and meandering of the Hampton river.  It was re-discovered in 1937.  The town of Hampton purchased the small lot of land it was found on.  As it was found below the ground and an enclosure was built for it.

IMG_0250 November , 2009

The day I was there, looking through the grate that covers then enclosure, all that was visible was a lot of water.  From this photo, it looks as though the rock is about 20 feet below ground.

Lane Memorial Library photo


With the settling of this border spat, the borders of the first 4 towns in New Hampshire – Strawberry Banke (Portsmouth), Dover, Exeter, and Hampton – were defined.

Here is a Map I highlighted to emphasize the town boundaries.  The original is from  Stackpole’s History, Vol 1, Page 31.

shapleyClick the image for a large version.

Marker #119 Old Landing Road

2 11 2009


Marker Text:

“This was the first roadway from the ancient landing on Hampton River taken on October 14, 1638, by Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his small band of followers, when they made the first settlement of Hampton, originally named Winnacunnet Plantation. For the next 160 years this area was the center of the Town’s activity. During that period and into the Town’s third century, Landing Road provided access for fishing, salt-marsh haying, mercantile importing and exporting, and transportation needs of a prospering community.”

It’s Located east of US 1, at the corner of Park Avenue and Landing Road at Founders Park, near Winnacunnet High School. Erected in 1977.



Founders Park, Hampton. 11/01/09

The story of Rev Bachiler is an interesting one.  By the time he made it here to Hampton in 1638 he was already around 77 years old.  His story begins for us with his arrival in Massachusetts in 1632.  For details of his life before arriving here, the Lane Memorial Library, in Hampton has a terrific treasure trove of information on-line

Bachiler first settled in Lynn MA and headed a church there.  But he, like Reverend Wheelwright the Founder of Exeter, ran into trouble with with the Puritan Church in Massachusetts Bay.

In February, 1636, Bachiler moved to Ipswich, the home of John Winthrop, where he received 50 acres of land, but, apparently discouraged by his troubles at Sagus, gave up the active work of the ministry. This latter fact was mentioned in a letter of the period from a Puritan minister in England, as a result of the reign and bigoted spirit in New England, which deterred many from coming to this country.

Early in 1638, in the winter time, Bachiler tried to form a settlement near Yarmouth on Cape Cod, where his Wing grandchildren lived; and walked there from Ipswich. But, says Winthrop, "He and his company being poor men, gave it over, and others undertook it." In the spring of 1638, he removed to Newbury …

Victor Sanborn, 1898

Now there’s an old man with some good shoes! Walked from Ipswich, near Gloucester all the way to Yarmouth half way down Cape Cod.

It was in September of 1638 that Bachiler and others recieved permission for Massachusetts to establish a settlement at Winnacunnet .  “ The settlers went by shallop and begun the settlement October 14, 1638. (Stackpole, pp 47,48)

The Memorial Boulder, at Founders Park, Dedicated in 1925


Memorial Boulder, November 2009

It seems that scandal of one sort or another followed Bachiler wherever he went.  In 1641 when Massachusetts swallowed up New Hampshire he was soon booted out of the church, then let back in later.  By 1644 he had been pastor in Exeter, returned to Hampton, finally settling in Strawberry Banke. You can read all the gory charges, machinations and politicking here, here, and here.

In his mid-80s now and hoping to live out his life peacefully at Strawberry Banke, life would throw him another curve-ball by the name of Mary.  In 1647 and probably infirmed, a young woman was assigned to assist him in day to day life.  She turned out to be a gold digger that tricked him into marriage in 1648.

This woman was, of course, much younger than her deluded husband; but her original name and age are unknown. She soon passed over into the jurisdiction of Gorges’ colony, living on her land in Kittery, and used her married name as a cover for vice. In October, 1650, she was arrested on suspicion of adultery with one George Rogers, and a year later the York records show that she was convicted of the offence, and sentenced to receive forty stripes save one at the first town meeting held at Kittery, six weeks after her delivery, and be branded with the letter "A."  F. B. Sanborn – 1900

Could she have been the inspiration for Hester Prynne in Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter? The parallels are intriguing.


He petitioned for divorce, Gov. Winthrop refused. He returned to England where he died near London in 1656.

I really want to thank the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton again.  Your web site was invaluable for this and markers to come.