Marker #50 Oyster River Massacre

1 12 2009

#50 Oyster River

Marker Text:

On July 18, 1694, a force of about 250 Indians under command of the French soldier, de Villieu, attacked settlements in this area on both sides of the Oyster River, killing or capturing approximately 100 settlers, destroying five garrison houses and numerous dwellings. It was the most devastating French and Indian raid in New Hampshire during King William’s war.

This marker is located on the south side of US 4, just east of its intersection with NH 108, just before the bridge over the Oyster River. Marker #89 “Major General John Sullivan” is just across the bridge to the south.


#50 zpic1No Indians the day I visited. 

The Oyster River Massacre of 1694 wasn’t the first run in with the Abenaki, but it was the first organized by the French.  The trouble really began in 1675 when the Plymouth Colony went to war with the local Wampanoag Indians in King Philip’s War.

Word of the war down south spread quickly among the Native American tribes and among the settlers all over New England. Up the coast of Maine at the Kennebeck River, the settlers looked for promises from the local Indians.  They requested that they surrender their Muskets.  It didn’t go so well.  They began to attack remote settlements that were lightly guarded in Maine, and soon began doing the same in New Hampshire.

Belknap tells the tale, emphasis is mine:

and having dispersed themselves into many small parties, that they might be the more extensively mischievous, in the month of September, they approached the plantations at Pascataqua, and made their first onset at Oyster river, then a part of the town of Dover, but now Durham. Here, they burned two houses belonging to two persons named Chesley; killed two men in a canoe, and carried away two captives ; both of whom soon after made their escape.  About the same time, a party of four laid in ambush near the road between Exeter and Hampton, where they killed one, and took another, who made his escape.

Within a few days an assault was made on the house of one Tozer at Newichwannock [today’s Salmon Falls River –Mike], wherein were fifteen women and children, all of whom, except two, were saved by the intrepidity of a girl of eighteen. She first seeing the Indians as they advanced to the house, shut the door and stood against it, till the others escaped to the next house, which was better secured. The Indians chopped the door to pieces with their hatchets, and then entering, they knocked her down, and leaving her for dead, went in pursuit of the others, of whom two children, who could not get over the fence, fell into their hands. The adventurous heroine recovered, and was perfectly healed of her wound.

The two following days, they made several appearances on both sides of the river, using much insolence, and burning two houses and three barns, with a large quantity of grain. Some shot were exchanged without effect, and a pursuit was made after them into the woods by eight men, but night obliged them to return without success. Five or six houses were burned at Oyster river, and two more men killed.

These daily insults could not be borne without indignation and reprisal. About twenty young men, chiefly of Dover, obtained leave of Major Waldron, then commander of the militia, to try their skill and courage with the Indians in their own way. Having scattered themselves in the woods, a small party of them discovered five Indians in a field near a deserted house, some of whom were gathering corn, and others kindling a fire to roast it. The men were at such a distance from their fellows that they could make no signal to them without danger of a discovery; two of them, therefore, crept along silently, near to the house, from whence they suddenly rushed upon those two Indians, who were busy at the fire, and knocked them down with the butts of their guns; the other three took the alarm and escaped.

Belknap, pp 72-73

The confrontation would continue in Maine and New Hampshire until 1678, when a treaty was signed at Casco Bay in today’s Portland, ME.

The Massacre of 1694

With the onset of King Williams War the French began to to enlist Indians to do their fighting for them.  The French were mostly traders and had few major settlements and a lack of people.  The Indians would be their militia in this war.  The English settlers had signed an agreement with the local tribes to end hostilities in the Treaty of Pemaquid, and the French weren’t too happy.

Villebon, the French Governor of Acadia assigned de Vellieu and the “Fighting Priest” Thury to coordinate the attacks on the English colonies.

As usual, Dr. Belknap has the details. It’s long, but interesting! All highlights are mine:

The towns of Dover and Exeter being more exposed than Portsmouth or Hampton, suffered the greatest share in the common calamity.

The engagements made by the Indians in the treaty of Pemaquid, might have been performed if they had been left to their own choice. But the French missionaries had been for some years very assiduous in propagating their tenets among them, one of which was ‘ that to break faith with heretics was no sin.’ The Sieur de Villieu, who had distinguished himself in the defence of Quebec when Phips was before it, and had contracted a strong antipathy to the New-Englanders, being then in command at Penobscot, he with M. Thury, the missionary, diverted Madokawando and the other Sachems from complying with their engagements; so that pretences were found for detaining the English captives, who were more in number, and of more consequence than the hostages whom the Indians had given.

The settlement at Oyster river, within the town of Dover, was pitched upon as the most likely place; and it is said that the design of surprising it was publicly talked of at Quebec two months before it was put in execution.

Rumors of Indians lurking in the woods thereabout made some of the people apprehend danger; but no mischief being attempted, they imagined them to be hunting parties, and returned to their security.  At length, the necessary preparations being made, Villieu, with a body of two hundred and fifty Indians, collected from the tribes of St. John, Penobscot and Norridgewog, attended by a French Priest, marched for the devoted place.

The enemy approached the place undiscovered, and halted near the falls on Tuesday evening, the seventeenth of July. Here they formed two divisions, one of which was to go on each side of the river and plant themselves in ambush, in small parties, near every house, so as to be ready for the attack at the rising of the sun; and the first gun was to be the signal.

John Dean, whose house stood by the saw-mill at the falls, intending to go from home very early, arose before the dawn of day, and was shot as he came out of his door. This firing, in part, disconcerted their plan; several parties who had some distance to go, had not then arrived at their stations; the people in general were immediately alarmed, some of them had time to make their escape, and others to prepare for their defence. The signal being given, the attack began in all parts where the enemy was ready.

Of the twelve garrisoned houses five were destroyed, viz. Adams’s, Drew’s, Edgerly’s Medar’s and Beard’s. They entered Adams’s without resistance, where they killed fourteen persons ; one of them, being a woman with child, they ripped open. The grave is still to be seen in which they were all buried. Drew surrendered his garrison on the promise of security, but was murdered when he fell into their hands. One of his children, a boy of nine years old, was made to run through a lane of Indians as a mark for them to throw their hatchets at, till they had dispatched him. Edgerly’s was evacuated. The people took to their boat, and one of them was mortally wounded before they got out of reach of the enemy’s shot. Beard’s and Medar’s were also evacuated and the people escaped.

The defenceless houses were nearly all set on fire, the inhabitants being either lulled or taken in them, or else in endeavoring to fly to the garrisons. Some escaped by hiding in the bushes and other secret places. Thomas Edgerly, by concealing himself in his cellar, preserved his house, though twice set on fire. The house of John Buss, the minister, was destroyed, with a valuable library. He was absent; his wife and family fled to the woods and escaped. The wife of John Dean, at whom the first gun was fired, was taken with her daughter, and carried about two miles up the river, where they were left under the care of an old Indian, while the others returned to their bloody work. The Indian complained of a pain in his head, and asked the woman what would be a proper remedy : she answered, occapee, which is the Indian word for rum, of which she knew he had taken a bottle from her house. The remedy being agreeable, he took a large dose and fell asleep ; and she took that opportunity to make her escape, with her child, into the woods, and kept herself concealed till they were gone.

The other seven garrisons, viz. Burnham’s, Bickford’s, Smith’s, Bunker’s, Davis’s, Jones’s and Woodman’s were resolutely and successfully defended. At Burnham’s, the gate was left open : The Indians, ten in number, who were appointed to surprise it, were asleep under the bank of the river, at the time that the alarm was given. A man within, who had been kept awake by the toothache, hearing the first gun, roused the people and secured the gate, just as the Indians, who were awakened by the same noise, were entering. Finding themselves disappointed, they ran to Pitman’s defenceless house, and forced the door at the moment, that he had burst a way through that end of the house which was next to the garrison, to which he with his family, taking advantage of the shade of some trees, it being moonlight, happily escaped.

Still defeated, they attacked the house of John Davis, which after some resistance, he surrendered on terms; but the terms were violated, and the whole family was either killed or made captives. Thomas Bickford preserved his house in a singular manner. It was situated near the river, and surrounded with a palisade. Being alarmed before the enemy had reached the house, he sent off his family in a boat, and then shutting his gate, betook himself alone to the defence of his fortress. Despising alike the promises and threats by which the Indians would have persuaded him to surrender, he kept up a constant fire at them, changing his dress as often as he could, shewing himself with a different cap, hat or coat, and sometimes without either, and giving directions aloud as if he had a number of men with him. Finding their attempt vain, the enemy withdrew, and left him sole master of the house, which he had defended with such admirable address.

Smith’s, Bunker’s and Davis’s garrisons, being seasonably apprised of the danger, were resolutely defended. One Indian was supposed to be killed and another wounded by a shot from Davis’s. Jones’s garrison was beset before day; Captain Jones hearing his dogs bark, and imagining wolves might be near, went out to secure some swine and returned unmolested. He then went up into the flankart and sat on the wall. Discerning the flash of a gun, he dropped backward; the ball entered the place from whence he had withdrawn his legs. The enemy from behind a rock kept firing on the house for some time, and then quitted it. During these transactions, the French priest took possession of the meeting-house, and employed himself in writing on the pulpit with chalk; but the house received no damage.

Those parties of the enemy who were on the south side of the river having completed their destructive work, collected in a field adjoining to Burnham’s garrison, where they insultingly showed their prisoners, and derided the people, thinking themselves out of reach of their shot. A young man from the sentry-box fired at one who was making some indecent signs of defiance, and wounded him in the heel: Him they placed on a horse and carried away. Both divisions then met at the falls, where they had parted the evening before, and proceeded together to Capt. Woodman’s garrison. The ground being uneven, they approached without danger, and from behind a hill kept up a long and severe fire at the hats and caps which the people within held up on sticks above the walls, without any other damage than galling the roof of the house.

At length, apprehending it was time for the people in the neighboring settlements to be collected in pursuit of them, they finally withdrew; having killed and captivated between ninety and an hundred persons, and burned about twenty houses,  of which five were garrisons. The main body of them retreated over Winnipiseogee lake, where they divided their prisoners…

Belknap pp137-141


Marker #151 Newington

9 11 2009


Marker Text:

Boundary disputes among the early river settlers caused this area to be called Bloody Point. By 1640 Trickey’s Ferry operated between Bloody Point and Hilton’s Point in Dover. In 1712 the meeting-house was erected and the parish set off, named Newington for the English village, whose residents sent the bell for the meeting-house. About 1725 the parsonage was built near the town forest, considered one of the oldest in America.

This Marker is in an odd place. From Rt.16 take exit 4, the Marker is located just west of the Rt 16 underpass on Shattuck Way.


The actual location of Bloody Point, and Trickey’s Ferry was on the other side of the highway at the end of Bloody Point Road (marked here as River Rd).  It may be private property, I didn’t go look.

Here’s a Birds Eye view of the end of Bloody Point Road, and the probable location of the Ferry.

Map picture

The name “Bloody Point” can be traced back to the early 1630s.  Capt. Mason, one of the original Grantees of the NH area had sent over two officers Capt. Wiggins, and Capt. Neal, to manage and run the New Hampshire settlement. Wiggins was responsible for the “upper” settlement, Hilton’s Point, and north, and Neal the “Lower Settlement”  Ordiorn’s Point, from today’s Rye and all of today’s Portsmouth and Newington.

Wiggin and Neal had a bit of a disagreement over who actually owned this little spit of land.  They almost settled it the old fashioned way. Sabers, or Pistols at ten paces … you get the idea.  They did peaceably decide, and no blood was really spilled, but the point bears the name of the conflict.

Captain Neal and Captain Wiggin, rival agents, came near shedding blood there, about the possession of the land; " but," says the worthy Mr. Hubbard, " both the litigants had so much wit in their anger as to waive the battle, each accounting himself to have done very manfully in what was threatened ; so as in respect merely of what might have fallen out, the place to this day retains the formidable name of Bloody Point" In 1643, the Bloody Point part was in controversy between Portsmouth and Dover; but it was assigned to Dover.

A History and description of New England Vol1 1859 Page 598

Trickey’s ferry ran from Bloody Point, across to Hilton’s Point in Dover and also provided passage across the river to “Kittery Neck.”  Thomas Trickey owned the farm and land the ferry was on. He died before 1680.  The land was eventually purchased by Captain John Knight (a Huguenot who came to the New World for religious freedom) in 1705, who owned and operated the ferry until 1718 or so, then transferred the operation to his son.  He was a selectman at Newington in 1721, which was soon recognized as a town.

The first bridge spanning the two points was the General Sullivan (aka “Little Bay”) Bridge was completed in 1934.

Miss Thompson, a descendant of John Knight, and the local historian, says : — In a wild, lonely spot is the grave of John Knight, the exile, shaded by sassafras trees and tall white birches, whose boles gleam afar off like shafts of polished marble. It is marked by a low, broad, three-lobed headstone of slate, on which is this inscription :

"Here lyes buried the body of John Knight Esq ,born August ye 30th 1659 and died May the 11th 1721."

Items of Ancestry, 1894, pp45-46

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 #40 Mason’s Patent

28 10 2009

Masons Patent

#40 Mason's Patent

Marker Text:

“New Hampshire, as granted by authority of the English Crown to Captain John Mason in 1629, was bounded on the west and north by a curved line 60 miles distant from the sea. The course of this proprietary boundary, called the "Masonian Curve," coincides with the nearby town line between Wilmot and Springfield.”

It’s located on the west side of NH 4-A, just south of the Springfield-Wilmot town line, and was erected in 1966.


Good thing for all of you that I love maps!  This one had search engine’s working overtime.  The Map at the top (which should open into a new tab or window) is based on an old map, found in of all places, “History of the Town of Goffstown,” which proved to be a great source for this marker.

In 1629, Captain Mason petitioned the Plymouth Company again for a new patent, after the interlopers from Massachusetts tried to take a big chunk of the Laconia Grant (See the last post for details). And he got it:

“…for the land from the middle of Pascataqua river, and up the same to the farthest head thereof, and from thence northwestward, until sixty miles from the mouth of the harbor were finished ; also, through Merrimack river, to the farthest head thereof, and so forward up into the land westward, until sixty miles were finished; and from thence to cross over land to the end of the sixty miles accounted from Pascataqua river; together with all islands within five leagues of the coast." This tract of land was called New Hampshire.

Belknap p8

So the King reaffirmed Mason’s patent, and our good Right Reverend Wheelwright was out some coats and kettles.  Wheelwright wasn’t done. We’ll save that for another marker.

The basic problem with all these Grants, patents, companies and charters is no one knew what was inland!  They had no clue which way the rivers flowed, turned or forked.  Lakes?  What lakes?

Open the top Curve map, and we’ll take a look at how it was made.  My curve isn’t perfect, but it’s a fair representation based on the Goffstown map.  Notice how the town borders often follow the curve? The Springfield Wilmot border (and the marker) is just about at the mid point of the curve.

Why did they draw a curve?  Glad you asked! The idea is that once the end points were defined, any place along the curve would be 60 miles from the ocean.

The Northern end point of the curve came about by following the Pascataqua to it’s head waters, which happen to be at Great East Lake in Wakefield, a bit over 30 Miles (straight line) from Hilton’s Point. That’s where the squiggly part of our border with Maine stops, and shoots straight north#40 zpic2. 30 miles due north, is the border between Conway and Fryburg, Me.  60 Miles to the sea!


It took over one hundred years to settle all the border and boundary issues between New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  In the end, the New Hampshire border runs from about 3 miles above the outlet of the Merrimack and keeps that distance above the Merrimack until it turns sharply North. It’s about 30 miles as the Crow flies.  Then, the border runs straight west.  At the 30 mile point, you’ll find the end point of the Curve 60 Miles from the coast!

I love maps.  All kinds of maps. and Google Earth.  But I think you may have figured that out already.

Meanwhile, back in Europe (1600)

24 10 2009

Next up are some the markers commemorating the first New Hampshire settlements.  Before starting them a brief look at the European political landscape is in order.

England and Scotland had not been yet united into one country when King James IV came into power in Scotland in 1581.  In March of 1603 he would ascend to the English Throne as James I, succeeding the last Tudor Monarch, Elizabeth I.

It was James I that authorized the creation of the Plymouth Company chartered to settle the New World. 

A patent had been granted by King James in 1606, limiting the dominion of Virginia, from the thirty-fourth to the forty-forth degree of northern latitude; which extent of territory had been divided into two parts, called North and South Virginia.  The latter was assigned to certain noblemen, knights and gentleman of London, the former to others in Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth.

After some time, the King, by his sole authority, costituted a council, consisting of forty noblemen, knights and gentlemen, by the name of  "The council established at Plymouth, in the county of Devon, for the planting, ruling and governing of New-England, in America.

The History of New Hampshire

Volume I

Jeremy Belknap


The Grant map.  Green area is Plymouth company, Red is London Company.

James I Mother has quite a story herself.  Mary, Queen of Scots. Here’s a dramatic – and brief – radio dramatization of her untimely execution:

The English and Spanish had been in an undeclared war from 1585-1604, raiding here and there and burning each others Navies and Shipping as the exploration and settling of the New World was just beginning.

The Spanish were busy in South America for the one-hundred years previous to the Plymouth Company.  Balboa crossed to the Pacific, opening up the Western coasts. The Incas, Aztecs and finally the Mayans all were conquered in their turn as Spain colonized South America and the East Indies.

The French had been exploring the Eastern Seaboard as well.  Verazzano mapped much of the coast in 1524.  They tried to set up colonies along the coast but were either frozen out, attacked by Indians, lacked supplies, or got beat up by the Spanish.  They focused most of their efforts after that exploring and settling the St. Laurence seaway, central Canada and the Great lakes.

The Dutch were busy trying to get a piece of the action, as were many others.

As if that weren’t enough, the Barbary Pirates had been harassing Shipping and taking captives for hundreds of years. 

All nations were susceptible.  Some people were ransomed back, or bought their way out.  Others were forced to convert to Islam, or sold into slavery.  They of course were also lured by the riches of the new world and tagged along terrorizing the West Indies and New World.

There was a lot of activity all up and down the east coast, inland and among the Islands in the Caribbean.  Everyone wanted a piece of the pie.  Boats coming and going, Cannon at the ready. Trade goods flowing back and forth, Native South Americans being enslaved – danger and discovery.

It was a good time to come to New Hampshire.

Marker #129 Indian Mortar Lot

22 10 2009

#129 Indian Mortar Lot

Marker Text:

The large mortar found here is in a boulder of glacial origin first hollowed out by water, then by many years of apparent use of Abnaki Indians, and later by the first settlers for grinding corn or maize which was made into cakes and baked over open fire. Also located in this historic lot is a boulder on which a shad is carved, perhaps by the red man to preserve a likeness of his favorite fish, which swam up the Winnipesaukee River when the shadbush blossomed. After the dams were built the fish disappeared.

Erected in 1979 in the town of Franklin, it’s located  at the northwest corner of Central Street (US 3/NH 11) and Dearborn Street.


#129 zpic2

The stone in the center reads:

“This lot contains the ancient stone mortar  used by Abenaki Indians and pioneer settlers of Sanbornton.

Presented to Franklin Womans Club by descendants of James Clark, Esquire.

Native American Artifacts are all over New Hampshire.  Who were the tribes that lived here before the French and English settlers?  Here’s a chance to show off my mad Photoshop skills.

This map is a rough estimate of the tribes of the area.  Most of the Tribal boundaries follow the terrain.  Major Rivers, Mountain Ranges and the like were the borders, but always remained fluid.

tribe map

This map is based on those from

As you can see, most of today’s New Hampshire, Vermont and Western Maine were populated by the Abenaki. Histories currently split them into two groups, Eastern and Western.  The Eastern Abenaki pretty much hung out East of the White Mountains and Maine.  The Western Abenaki lived in the Connecticut River valley west to Lake Champlain.

They were further identified into Bands that should sound familiar such as; Ossipee, Pemigewasset, Souhegan, Nashua, Penobscot, etc.

The first trade between Europeans and the Native Americans probably first occured as Samuel de Champlaine and Pierre DeMonts established Port Royal Nova Scotia about 1605.  The Fur Trade with the Penobscot (an Eastern Abenaki tribe) and Maliseet enriched those tribes with European goods, and created tensions with the Micmac across the bay in Nova Scotia.

Beginning about 1607 the Micmac and Maliseet were at war with the Penobscot, lasting about 8 years.  The fur trade continued with both sides, and the French Jesuits established a trading post and mission at what is now Bar Harbor, ME in 1613.  It didn’t last the year as Englishmen from Jamestown raided and destroyed it.

In 1615, the Micmac finally manadged to capture and kill Penobscot Chief Bashaba, ending the war.  The Micmac swept down the coast of Maine and New Hampshire.  That’s when they encountered Settlers diseases, and epidemics began sweeping the New England tribes.  There is no way to say exactly how many Native Americans died.

By 1616 the French had bailed out of most of their trading posts, save Port Royal and a small post at the mouth of today’s Penobscot River.  The French decided it was safer to head inland to the St. Laurence River Valley where the evil Englishmen couldn’t rough them up.

The first Abenaki contact with the English occured in 1607, at the mouth of the Kennebek River.  The Plymouth Company had attempted to established a colony there.

So there you have it.  A picture of some of the Native American tribes of New England, the impact of early settlers, and a nice introduction to the 1600s and Markers to come.  This site was a gold mine of Abenaki information, and is just one page of The First Nations Website.  You can read much more about the tribes of New England there, if you are so inclined.