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

The Early History of Jaffrey, Part 2

In episode 1 we learned that Captain John Mason was granted all of what was to become southern New Hampshire by royal decree in 1622. The Captain and, through extension, the King planned to reap riches from this new land. But Mason died in 1635 without realizing his expected profits.


  • The first ascent of Mt. Washington was in 1642.
  • The first education laws in Massachusetts were passed in 1647.
  • There were no executions of Quakers in NH but there were some in Massachusetts.

Ok, back on point. On the 18th of September, 1679, King Charles II was getting feedback that the rowdies of Massachusetts might be a bad influence on the NH citizens so he ordered the termination of the union of NH and Mass. To promote loyalty to the Crown he granted full autonomy to the towns of Portsmouth, Dover, Hampton, and Exeter…as long as they acceded to British rule as a province.

To help “guide” this new province the King, on January 22nd, 1680, appointed John Cutt as President, and he in turn chose a Council to recommend the best path of self-government (sort of). The President and Council offered an opportunity for some eligible voters to elect a representative assembly of all the citizens of the four towns. At the time Portsmouth had 71 men eligible to vote, Dover 61, Hampton 57, and Exeter 20. Let’s give them a little democracy, thought President Cutt. What harm can it do? They are still Royal subjects, beholden to the Crown.

On the 16th of March 1680, 209 voters elected eleven representatives for the first General Assembly. Their first order of business was to vote itself sole authority to enact laws and taxes and legal codes, including the ability of each town to choose its own Selectmen. Oh, that’s not quite what we had in mind! cried the President, who urged the good people of NH to just let the royal government take care of the details, like laws and taxes. Next time we will learn what other measures this new legislature took!

-- Bruce Hill