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Exeter Town

Exeter Town Hall is located at 10 Front Street, Exeter, NH 03833; phone: 603-778-0591.

Beginnings [1]

Reverend John Wheelright, a friend and fellow-collegian of Oliver Cromwell, who had been vicar of Bisby in Lincolnshire, England, brought his family to this country in 1636, landing in Boston. The next year he was banished from the colony of Massachusetts on account of alleged "antinomian and familistic" religious opinions, and in the spring of 1638 established himself, with several persons who were driven from Massachusetts for the same cause, with a number of his former friends and parishioners from England, and with others of whom we have no definite previous knowledge, at the Falls of Squamscott, to which he gave the name of Exeter. Mr. Wheelright at once gathered a church here and became its minister. He also drew up a form of civil government, which was essential for the peace and good order of the infant settlement, as the laws of Massachusetts were not in force here, and New Hampshire had as yet no laws. The instrument drawn by Wheelright was styled as a "combination," and was signed by heads of families and inhabitants.

The people of New Hampshire remained under the government of Massachusetts until 1680. During that period Exeter was a place of little political importance, not being once represented in the "great and general court," as were Dover, Portsmouth, and Hampton nearly every year. Yet the material interests of the people were steadily on the increase here, and there were valuable accessions to the population.

When John Cutt was appointed the first governor of the province, Exeter furnished him one of the ablest councilors in the person of John Gilman. Then came the eventful period of the Indian hostilities, in which Exeter, being on the frontier, was for a series of years greatly exposed to the incursions of the savages. Many of her citizens lost their lives and others were carried into captivity during this trying period of her history.

  1. Charles A. Hazlett, History of Rockingham County New Hampshire and Representative Citizens, Richmond Arnold Publishing Co., Chicago, 1915.
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