The Jaffrey Historical Society
Jaffrey Historical Society, 40 Main Street, Jaffrey, NH 03452

The Early History of Jaffrey, Part I

We all know that Jaffrey was incorporated and named in 1773. And most people know that it was called Middle Monadnock prior to that, having been surveyed and laid out in 1749 by the Masonian Proprietors. But how did New Hampshire become settled by the Europeans in the first place?

As Annett and Lehtinen described it in the History of Jaffrey Vol I, from the time of the first permanent English settlement in America in 1606 at Jamestown, “seedy noblemen and merchant adventurers flocked around the King of England, offering their services in development and exploitation of the treasure they imagined to be hidden in the mysterious forests beyond the Western Ocean, for which they would pay the King one-fifth part of all the ‘oare of gold and silver’ they obtained.”

King James I couldn’t possibly manage all these entrepreneurs so in 1620 he chartered a company to do that for him called the Council of Plymouth in Devon, England. The president and most active member was Captain Ferdinando Gorges who soon found a trusted associate named Captain John Mason. In 1622 the Captains were granted, without the benefit of maps or surveys, some large parcel of land north of Jamestown they called Mariana. Over the years, without the convenience of easy communication, various grants were made that overlapped previous grants resulting in conflicts and legal challenges. So it is not surprising to learn there were several succeeding claims to the same land.

It was on 16th of April, 1623, when twenty one men landed at what is now Rye beach and established the first white settlement. Within a couple of years there were four communities: Strawberry Banke (Portsmouth), Dover, Hampton, and Exeter. In 1640 the four villages requested to be affiliated with the Province of Massachusetts Bay for protection purposes.

In 1629 the Captains Gorges and Mason split up their holding over northern New England with Gorges retaining what is now Maine and Mason claiming what he named New Hampshire after the county he hailed from in England. Mason died in 1635 having never realized the fruits of his endeavors. So what happened in New Hampshire over the next 100 years, before Middle Monadnock was settled as a township? Stay tuned for the next chapter at or or at one of these sites on Facebook.

-- Bruce Hill