“Founded by Rev. John Wheelwright in 1638, Exeter was one of the four original towns in the colony. Following New Hampshire’s provisional declaration of independence on January 5, 1776, it served as the capital of the new state during the period of the American Revolution.”
Erected in 1965, This marker is located in the Center of Exeter, across the street from the Town Hall.
Before getting to the Founding of Exeter, I’d like to fill in a bit what happened between the last marker (1629) and this (1638). After the Mason Patent defined the boundaries of New Hampshire – effectively dividing the Laconia grant between Mason (NH) and Gorges (Maine) – Captain Mason sent out people to explore the rivers, lakes and lands.
The expedition was Lead by Captain Walter Neal who was sent over by Mason to manage his assets and Became the head of the southern portion of the plantation. They set out on foot in 1632 to “discover the interior and establish trade with the Indians.” (Colony, Province, State by John McClintock p36.)
Accompanying Neal was Darby Field – who has his own marker to come – among others. They explored the lakes region, and made it to the White Mountains (which they named the Crystal Hills) before returning later the same year.
The next year, 1633, Neal along with Captain Thomas Wiggin laid out the towns of Portsmouth (Strawberry Banke), Dover, Exeter, and Hampton.
In the same timeframe as the first New Hampshire settlements, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was establishing itself to the south. Reverend Wheelwright was part of that Colony, and was an outspoken critic of the Puritan views of the leaders. The Puritans had come to the New World for religious freedom, but were awfully intolerant of non-Puritan views.
He made an enemy of Governor Winthrop, and backed his opponent in 1637 (who lost) and got booted out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. So he came to New Hampshire as many disillusioned MA residents still do today.
Oh, I forgot an important point. Captain John Mason, died in 1635, having never seen New Hampshire, the state he got rolling. He died in England. Immediately, folks began squabbling over the Patent, who owned what, etc.
Reverend Wheelwright secured the Patent for Exeter from Neal and Wiggin, established his church, and built a meeting house. He drew up a document for a civil form of government which was signed by himself, and 34 others in 1640.
By 1641, deals were being made and land being seeded to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1642 it was Exeter’s turn, and as Wheelwright was banished from the Colony, he was sent on a little vacation to Wells, ME. He returned a year later after making amends, to preach in Hampton.
From 1641 to 1679, New Hampshire and Massachusetts would become one.