Road Trip 1: The Seacoast, Portsmouth and Rye *Updated!*

3 03 2010

*UPDATE* Printable PDF Road Trip 1

With spring just a few weeks away it’s time to introduce a new blog feature, Road Trips!  This is the first of what I hope will be many that will be cataloged by region in the Road Trips menu bar above.

If you have a request for a trip through a particular region, the Road Trips page is open for comments.  Go ahead and leave a suggestion, and I’ll work one up.

The Seacoast inside I95 is home to 14 markers (15 if we include the Weeks House just on the other side of the highway).  Marker Icons on the maps have blog posts already, green placemarks do not. Blogged markers are linked as appropriate.

There are 2 clusters of markers inside I95; Portsmouth/Rye and Hampton/Seabrook.

This Road Trip will cover the northern markers through Portsmouth, down the coast, and finishing up at the North Hampton/Rye border on Rt 1.  9 markers with an optional 10th (Weeks House).  Hampton and Seabrook will be the next road trip (and a shorter one, at that).

Part 1: Portsmouth.

75zpic1[1] The first marker is #75 Portsmouth Plains . From I95 (north or south) get off at Exit 3, and take a right at the end of the ramp.  The Marker is about a mile past the interstate on your left.   From the south coast, get on Rt 1 north, and take a left at the lights after Lafayette Plaza Shopping Center onto Peverly Hill Rd, the left at the junction of Rt 33 (about a mile) the marker is just to your right.  Not much to see here except a baseball field. It’s more a drive-by marker than a stop and visit marker.  It was a different place 314 years ago.

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.”

road1bFrom here take a right on Peverly Hill Rd just to the east, cross Rt 1 at the lights onto  Elwyn Rd.  Marker #127, John Langdon.  It’s on the left about 1/4 mile past Rt 1.

Signatory to the Constitution, Governor, President of the U.S Senate among other amazing accomplishments.  He was born on this farm in 1741.  This marker is different from many others, the text continues on the reverse side.  The house is open for tours from June through October, or you can rent the grounds for your next shindig.

Mr. Langdon will be covered in detail once we get to the Revolution.

Our next marker is #194 Wentworth- Coolidge Mansion.  Continue east on Elwyn Rd. to the Rotary, then north on Sagamore Ave.  The marker is a mile ahead, just past the intersection with Little Harbor Rd.  Take a right on Little Harbor Rd and follow it to the end to get to the actual Mansion.


I hope you brought some snacks to munch along the way, as this is a beautiful spot on a nice day. The official State Park page is here. I’d recommend this spot for some great photo opportunities.  Here are a few from a visit last fall.

#194 zpic3 #194 zpic5

When you’re finished taking in the view, hop back in the car and head back out to Sagamore Ave.

This next marker is optional.  If you don’t mind navigating across downtown, then backtracking through the city again,  head for marker #114 North Cemetery.  It’s from 1753, and has many famous New Hampshire residents buried there.  Skip ahead if you’re eager to get to the coast markers.


It’s about a mile to the Cemetery. Once back at Sagamore Ave (Rt. 1A), take a right and follow 1A.  Sagamore turns into Miller Ave, and ends at the lights at Middle St, Rt. 1.  Turn right onto Middle St and stay on Middle.  Cross State St. and Islington St., you’re on Maplewood Ave.  The cemetery and marker are 1/4 mile ahead on your left, across from the old Portsmouth Herald building.

“The Town of Portsmouth purchased this land in 1753 for 150 pounds from Col. John Hart, commander of the N.H. Regiment at Louisburg. General William Whipple, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Gov. John Langdon, Signer of the Constitution, Capt. Thomas Thompson, of the Continental Ship Raleigh, are among noted citizens buried here.”

John Langdon, you may remember, we met a few markers ago.  Did you know Portsmouth has a committee to preserve old graves?  Wander down to the right end of the cemetery, and you’ll find the “Old Union” section with a plaque describing some of the people buried there.  After getting your fill here, it’s time to meet up with the folks that skipped this marker for the coast ride.

From the cemetery, turn back around the way you came and head back to State St, and turn left. At the 2nd light, turn right onto Pleasant St, which turns into Rt 1B.

Part 2: The Coast.

If you are skipping the marker #114, take a right on Sagamore Ave., and at the light at the end of the cemetery, turn right onto South St.  You’re looking for Newcastle road on the right (less than 1/2 mile), turn right.  When the road ends,turn right on 1B.  We’re all one big happy group again.


Don’t rush as you follow 1B to center Newcastle.  There are some nice views across the bay on this stretch, and some cute back roads overlooking the bay (with nice homes) once you get near Newcastle.  At the very top of Newcastle turn left onto Wentworth Rd., and the Portsmouth Coast Guard station, marker #4 William and Mary Raids is just on your right with a little parking and picnic area.

If you have the time visit the old fort now known as Fort Constitution.  There is parking outside the gate of the station, and they don’t mind you visiting.  Just stay on the blue line! The fort itself has placards describing what went on there, and what you’re seeing.  Oh, and there’s a light house to photograph as well, if you can find the right vantage point. This is yet another un blogged marker, but we’re getting close.

#4 zpic1 #4 zpic3

road1fThe next marker is only a few miles away, #72 Odiorne’s Point.  As you leave the coast guard station, continue along Rt. 1B (Wentworth Rd), and when it ends, turn left on Sagamore Ave.  At the rotary, go left on Rt 1A.  The marker is located on the left, just across the bridge before the entrance to the Odiorne Point boat launch.

The site of the first settlement in New Hampshire by David Thompson now hosts a very nice State Park.  There are plenty of walking paths to be explored, remains of some of the original settlement foundations, and the Seacoast Science Center to visit.  The main entrance is down the road from the marker on the left.  Check the State Park web site (link above) for opening dates and such.


When ready, continue down Rt 1A to the next mark … err … post sticking out of the ground.  Yes, it’s the infamous marker #18 Isles of Shoals.  As you drive down 1A, the post is on the left at a small parking area, just after Fairhill Ave.  The marker was vandalized, removed and never replaced.  It read:

About six miles directly out to sea, this cluster of islands abounds in legend and history. Before 1614, when the famous Captain John Smith mapped the rocky and surf-lashed Isles, early fishermen, traders and explorers had a part in their history.


A clear day will offer a great view of the islands in the distance.  If you’re trying to take pictures a telephoto lens is probably a good idea.

The next marker is down the road a bit, almost exactly 3 miles, so set your odometer.  No map for this one!  Take it slow and enjoy the views as you pass Wallis Sands State Beach, Rye Harbor State Park and then turn inland for a bit.  Once inland, on the left after Locke Rd.,  Marker #63 Atlantic Cable Station and Sunken Forest is hiding at the edge of the marsh.

#63 zpic1

The receiving station for the first Atlantic Cable, laid in 1874, is located on Old Beach Road opposite this location. The remains of the Sunken Forest (remnants of the Ice Age) may be seen at low tide. Intermingled with these gnarled stumps is the original Atlantic Cable.

Fun fact: I received an email from a reader pointing out that this is not, in fact, the first Atlantic Cable station (Backed up with facts).  I look forward to researching this marker in the future. And now it’s on to the final marker for this road trip.


About .2 miles south of the last Marker, turn right on Cable Rd., then right, onto Central Rd.  Next, turn left onto Grove Rd. which ends at Washington Rd.  A left onto Washington.  Your 5th left is Dow Lane, turn down there it ends at Rt 1.  The marker is actually just a bit south on Rt 1at the Rye/North Hampton town line.


And so we come full circle.  Marker #62 Breakfast Hill.  The companion marker to the first marker from this trip, Portsmouth Plains.

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.


Whew, this was a lot longer than intended and covered a lot of ground. It looked good mapping it all out.  The distances between markers is pretty short, but explaining it all seems wordy.

I’d like to ask regular readers what you think.  Are these worthwhile?  To many markers?  Need something short to print?  Any and all comments welcome.

Be well!



Marker #78 Odiorne’s Point

27 10 2009

IMG_0257 Marker text:

Here, in the spring of 1623, was established New Hampshire’s first settlement, Pannaway Plantation. David Thompson and other hardy fishermen came from England to colonize and develop trade. They built a stone manor house, smithy, cooperage, fort and stages for drying fish on nearby Flake Hill. Thompson’s son, John, was the first child born in New Hampshire.


Located in Rye, on the north side of NH 1-A, by the entrance to the Odiorne Point State Park boat launch.  Erected in 1971. Just after the boat launch, and before the bridge, the marker is located in shrubbery behind the fence.  Park at the boat launch and walk.


The Boat Launch from across the bridge.

First a correction to the previous post.  This marker, as described on the official NH Website notes the date as 1632.  Clearly a typo, the actual marker says 1623.  Also, it does not claim to be a permanent settlement.  My bad.  I’ll leave the mistakes intact as a lesson to myself.

This is where David Thompson (discussed briefly in the previous post) decided to set up his business.  He had a pretty good plan, too.  Fisherman that would operate from the Isles of Shoals would bring their catches here, and he would resell them back in the Old World.

The expedition that had brought Thompson, the Hilton Bros. and others, operating under the grant to Georges and Mason called themselves “The Laconia Company.”

“One of these companies landed on the southern shore of the river, at its mouth, and called the place Little-Harbor. Here, they erected salt-works, and built an house which was afterwards called Mason-Hall.”

Belknap, p4


“The locality which should be the most venerated, not only by our own townsmen, but by every citizen of New Hampshire, is certainly where the first emigrants landed, and the spot on which was erected the first house in New Hampshire. How many associations cluster around this beginning of the history of our State. Less sacred they may be than those which surround the Plymouth Rock, – for the first settlers of New Hampshire came here to trade and fish, while the Pilgrims landed there for the enjoyment of religious freedom.”

Charles W. Brewster – 1850s

Over the next few years, the settlers traded and negotiated with the local Native Americans.  In fact, some managed to purchase tracts of land from them.  Who else, but those meddlers from Massachusetts:

In 1629 Rev. John Wheelwrigth and others of the Massachusetts Bay Colony purchased of the Indians for what they deemed a valuable consideration in “coats, shirts and kettles” a considerable tract of land between the Piscataqua and the Merrimack.

New Hampshire, as it is pp 12-13

Oops.  That was the tract of land granted by the King to Captain Mason, and now those bums from Massachusetts are trying to buy it from the Indians!  You know how New Hampshire used to be part of Massachusetts? You guessed it, this is where it started.  But don’t worry, Capt. Mason was not a man to be trifled with.  We’ll cover that in the next marker.

Back to David Thompson.   For some unknown reason (there is conjecture from historians, but no proof) he abandoned his plantation around 1626, left the land to the Hiltons, and went off to claim Thompson Island in today’s Boston Harbor.

Map picture

He started another trading post there, and died in 1628.

The name Odiorne’s Point comes from the Odiorne family, that settled here around 1660.

Also interestingly, there is a Sunken Forest off shore. An old article here.

Marker #18 Isles of Shoals

23 10 2009

Isle of Shoals 1

Marker Text:

About six miles directly out to sea, this cluster of islands abounds in legend and history. Before 1614, when the famous Captain John Smith mapped the rocky and surf-lashed Isles, early fishermen, traders and explorers had a part in their history.

Erected on Rt 1A just North of Wallis Sands Beach, in 1963.  This marker is no longer present, as vandalism seems to have gotten the better of it.  All that remains, is the post it was mounted on.



“That part wee call New England is betwixt the degrees of 41. and 45: but that parte this discourse speaketh of, stretcheth but from Pennobscot to Cape Cod, some 75 leagues by a right line distant each from other: within which bounds I haue seene at least 40. seuerall habitations vpon the Sea Coast, and sounded about 25 excellent good Harbours; In many whereof there is ancorage for 500. sayle of ships of any burthen; in some of them for 5000: And more then 200 Iles ouergrowne with good timber, of diuers sorts of wood, which doe make so many harbours as requireth a longer time then I had, to be well discouered.”

The description of New England,

Captain John Smith


Captain John Smith. The tales he could tell even before exploring and being the first to map the New England coast.  As you can see in the top picture, the Isles of Shoals was originally mapped and Smith named them after himself.  “Smith Iles” bottom center of Image.  We’ll get to his journey to the New England coast in a minute after we get to know our Captain a bit better.



The Isles of Shoals from the Marker 11/1/09


At 16 years of age he set off to sea as a mercenary for hire.  He worked for the French, killing Spaniards; the Dutch, killing Spaniards; the Austrians killing Turks; Romanians killing Turks, and being an occasional high seas Pirate. Yarr!


The Prince of Transylvania is purported to have Knighted him, given him a coat of arms and a horse for being particularly good at Dueling and killing Turks.


Finally, his luck ran out in 1601 or 2 he was wounded, captured, and then sold in Slavery to a Turk!  Yow, that had to sting. To make a long story short, he escaped and crossed present day Russia and Poland to return to England just in time to earn himself a lot of statues and a New Hampshire roadside marker.


At that time, two companies had been formed in England to colonize the new world.  The London Company, and The Plymouth Company. Smith set sail with the London Company, and became one of the leaders at Jamestown in May of 1607.


It didn’t take long for out brave Captain to get bored, and he unexpectedly walked into a major motion picture shoot and quickly landed the Male Lead for his angelic voice.

pocahontas Does this guy have “it” or what?


The whole Pocahontas legend is outside the purview of this story, so I’ll let you determine it’s veracity on your own.  Suffice it to say, that in 1609 the Jamestown colonists were in open war with Pocahontas’ tribe and John Smith beat feet back to England.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.


And this finally brings us to his second voyage in 1614 Mapping and exploring the New England coast, and the Isle of Shoals.

shoals 2

His mapping expedition took him up and down the New England coast, evaluating potential harborage and depths, key rivers and tributaries, and types of forests game and fish.  He makes note of individual Native American tribes and their settlements, habits and languages.


This information he brought back to London and would prove to be very valuable.  All of the Early English settlements in New England relied on his work to succeed.  His complete book regarding the voyage and full sized detail versions of his maps can be downloaded here.


Captain Christopher Levitt was the first Englishman to set foot on the isles that we know of in 1623.  And he wrote:

"The first place I set my foot upon in New England was the Isle of Shoals, being islands in the sea about two leagues from the main.

"Upon these islands I neither could see one good timber – tree nor so much good ground as to make a garden.

"The place is found to be a good fishing-place for six ships, but more can not well be there, for want of convenient stage room, as this year’s experience hath proved."

From Nooks and Corners of the New England Coast pp 155-156

Samual Adams Drake


I’ll leave you with this. From this past August, Hurricane Bill at the Isle of Shoals.