List of colonial governors of New Hampshire
The territory of the present United States state of New Hampshire has a colonial history dating back to the 1620s. This history is significantly bound to that of the neighboring Massachusetts, whose colonial precursors either claimed the New Hampshire territory, or shared governors with it. First settled in the 1620s under a land grant to John Mason, the colony consisted of a small number of settlements near the seacoast before growing further inland in the 18th century. Mason died in 1635, and the colonists appropriated a number of his holdings. Thomas Roberts served as the last Colonial Governor of the Dover Colony before it became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1641 the New Hampshire colonists agreed to be ruled by Massachusetts Bay Colony, which also claimed the territory. Massachusetts governed the New Hampshire settlements until 1680, when it became the royally chartered Province of New Hampshire. In 1686 the territory became part of the Dominion of New England, which was effectively disbanded in 1689 following the 1688 Glorious Revolution in England. After an interregnum under de facto rule from Massachusetts, Samuel Allen, who had acquired the Mason land claims, became governor. From 1699 to 1741 the governorships of New Hampshire and the Province of Massachusetts Bay were shared.
Boundary disputes between the two colonies prompted King George II to appoint separate governors in 1741, commissioning Portsmouth native Benning Wentworth as governor. In 1775, with the advent of the American Revolutionary War, the province's last royal governor, John Wentworth, fled the colony. Under a state constitution drafted in early 1776, Meshech Weare was chosen the first President of the independent state of New Hampshire.
Lower plantation governors, 1630–1641
Permanent English settlement began after land grants were issued in 1622 to John Mason and Sir Ferdinando Gorges for the territory between the Merrimack and Sagadahoc (Kennebec) rivers, roughly encompassing present-day New Hampshire and western Maine. Settlers, whose early leaders included David Thomson, Edward Hilton, and Thomas Hilton, began settlements on the New Hampshire coast and islands as early as 1623, that eventually expanded along the shores of the Piscataqua River and the Great Bay. Mason and Gorges, neither of whom ever came to New England, divided their claims along the Piscataqua River in 1629. Mason took the territory between the Piscataqua and Merrimack, and called it "New Hampshire", after the English county of Hampshire.
Conflicts between holders of grants issued by Mason and Gorges concerning their boundaries eventually led to a need for more active management. Captain Walter Neale was appointed in 1630 by the proprietors of the Strawbery Banke (or "Lower") plantation (present-day Portsmouth and nearby communities) as agent and governor of that territory. Neale returned to England in 1633, and John Mason appointed Francis Williams to govern the lower plantation in 1634. Early New Hampshire historian Jeremy Belknap called Williams the governor of the lower plantation, and claimed that he served until the New Hampshire plantations came under Massachusetts rule, at which time he became a magistrate in the Massachusetts government. However, Belknap's claim is disputed by historian Charles Tuttle, who observes that there are no records prior to 1640 in which Mason or Gorges refer to Williams as governor. Tuttle claims that Mason appointed Henry Josselyn to succeed Neale, and that Mason's widow appointed Francis Norton, a Massachusetts resident, in 1638 to oversee the estate's interests, although when his stewardship ends is unclear.
|Governor||Took office||Left office||Ref|
Upper plantation governors, 1631–1641
The first governor of the "Dover" or "Upper Plantation" was Captain Thomas Wiggin. The exact date of his appointment is uncertain. He was known to be in the area in 1629 and 1631, when Belknap suggests he was appointed governor by Mason and Gorges. He received a more definite appointment for administration of this plantation by 1633, when he was commissioned by Lords Brooke and Say and Sele, who had purchased land in the area from Mason.
The territory then comprised modern-day Dover, Durham, and Stratham. Wiggin is styled in some histories as a governor, and was referred to in contemporary documentation as "[having the] power of Governor hereabouts". However, his powers appear to have been limited to transacting the proprietors' business, including the granting of land, and the proprietors themselves did not possess the power of government. Wiggin and Walter Neale apparently disagreed on territorial boundaries of their respective domains, and supposedly almost came to blows, although whether this occurred in 1632 or 1633 is unclear. In the fall of 1637 the upper communities banded together and formed a government headed by the Rev. George Burdett.
|Governor||Took office||Left office||Ref|
Massachusetts governors, 1641–1680
Mason's widow decided in 1638 to abandon financial support of the colony. After shifting for themselves for a time (during which much of the Mason property was appropriated by the colonists), the plantations of New Hampshire agreed in 1641 to join with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The towns of New Hampshire sent representatives to the Massachusetts legislature, and were governed by its governors, who were elected annually.
|Governor||Took office||Left office||Deputy governor|
|Thomas Dudley||May 13, 1640||June 2, 1641||Richard Bellingham|
|Richard Bellingham||June 2, 1641||May 18, 1642||John Endecott|
|John Winthrop||May 18, 1642||May 29, 1644||John Endecott|
|John Endecott||May 29, 1644||May 14, 1645||John Winthrop|
|Thomas Dudley||May 14, 1645||May 6, 1646||John Winthrop|
|John Winthrop||May 6, 1646||May 2, 1649||Thomas Dudley|
|John Endecott||May 2, 1649||May 22, 1650||Thomas Dudley|
|Thomas Dudley||May 22, 1650||May 7, 1651||John Endecott|
|John Endecott||May 7, 1651||May 3, 1654||Thomas Dudley|
|Richard Bellingham||May 3, 1654||May 23, 1655||John Endecott|
|John Endecott||May 23, 1655||May 3, 1665||Richard Bellingham|
|Richard Bellingham||May 3, 1665||December 12, 1672||Francis Willoughby (1665–71)|
|John Leverett (1671–72)|
|John Leverett||December 12, 1672 (acting until May 7, 1673)||May 28, 1679||Samuel Symonds (1673–78)|
|Simon Bradstreet (1678–80)|
|Simon Bradstreet||May 28, 1679||January 21, 1680||Thomas Danforth|
|Sources unless otherwise cited: Capen, pp. 53–54; Hart, p. 1:607|
First provincial period, 1680–1689
In 1679, King Charles II issued a royal charter for the Province of New Hampshire. John Cutt was appointed president, and took office on January 21, 1680. He was succeeded after his death by his deputy, Richard Waldron. At the urging of the heirs of John Mason, who were trying to recover their inherited claims, Charles issued a new charter in 1682, with Edward Cranfield as lieutenant governor. This government survived until the Dominion of New England was introduced in 1686, although Cranfield departed the province in 1685, replaced in the interim by his deputy, Walter Barefoote.
|Lieutenant-Governor||Commissioned||Took office||Left office|
|John Cutt (as president)||September 18, 1679||January 21, 1680||March 1681|
|Richard Waldron (as president)||January 22, 1680||March 1681||October 4, 1682|
|Edward Cranfield||May 9, 1682||October 4, 1682||June 1685|
|Walter Barefoote (acting)||–||June 1685||May 25, 1686|
|Source unless otherwise cited: Fry, p. 523|
Dominion of New England and interregnum
From 1686 to 1689 the province was joined into the Dominion of New England. After the dominion collapsed in April 1689, the New Hampshire communities were left without government. Although they briefly established a government in January 1690, they petitioned Massachusetts for protection, and Massachusetts Governor Simon Bradstreet de facto governed the colony from March 1690.
|Governor||Took office||Left office||Lieutenant Governor|
|Joseph Dudley (as President of the Council of New England)||May 25, 1686||December 20, 1686||William Stoughton (as Deputy President)|
|Sir Edmund Andros||December 20, 1686||April 18, 1689||Francis Nicholson (appointed April 1688)|
|Simon Bradstreet (as de facto governor)||March 19, 1690||1692||Thomas Danforth|
Second provincial period, 1692–1775
From 1692 to 1699, Samuel Allen was the governor of New Hampshire. For most of his tenure, he remained in London, pursuing legal actions relevant to proprietary land claims he had purchased from the Masons, but he came to the colony briefly before the arrival of his replacement as governor, the Earl of Bellomont. From 1699 to 1741, the governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay was also commissioned as governor of New Hampshire. The lieutenant governor controlled the province, acting as governor unless the commissioned governor was present. In 1741 the governance of Massachusetts and New Hampshire was divided. As a result, during the tenures of the last two governors, Benning and John Wentworth, the role of the lieutenant governor diminished. John Temple, the last lieutenant governor, apparently held the office in title only.
One commission was issued but not used. On February 8, 1715/6, Colonel Elizeus Burges was appointed to succeed Joseph Dudley as governor of both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Before coming to North America, Burges was bribed by Massachusetts operatives to resign his commissions; Colonel Samuel Shute was then chosen to replace Dudley.
The column labeled "Commissioned" indicates the date when the governor's commission was issued in London, and does not represent when the governor arrived in the province to formally take up the government. The column labeled "Left office" shows the date when the individual was replaced by the arrival of his successor, with a few exceptions. Two governors, Bellomont and William Burnet, died while still holding their commissions (although neither was in the province at the time). Governor Shute effectively abandoned his office by abruptly departing Boston for England on January 1, 1723. His administration effectively came to an end then, but he was technically the office holder until Burnet was commissioned in 1728. The last governor, John Wentworth, fled the province in August 1775, after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War brought threats to his rule and family. The province was thereafter governed provisionally until January 1776, when Meshech Weare was elected the independent state's first president under a new state constitution.
|Governor||Commissioned||Left office||Lieutenant Governor||Notes|
|Samuel Allen||March 1, 1691/2||July 31, 1699||John Usher (1692–97)||Allen was largely absentee, only arriving in the province in September 1698, well after Bellomont's appointment was known.|
|William Partridge (1699–1701)|
|Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont||June 18, 1697||March 5, 1701/2||Bellomont was only in the province from July 31 to August 18, 1699. He died on March 5, 1701/2.|
|Joseph Dudley||April 1, 1702||October 7, 1716||John Usher (1702–1715)|
|Vacant||George Vaughan (1715–17)|
|Samuel Shute||May 10, 1716||January 1, 1723|
|John Wentworth (elder) (1717–30)|
|William Burnet||December 19, 1727?||September 7, 1729||Burnet was only in the province from April to May 1729, and died the following September.|
|Vacant||Wentworth's lieutenant governorship briefly overlapped Belcher's administration.|
|Jonathan Belcher||December 11, 1729||December 12, 1741||David Dunbar (1730–37)|
|Benning Wentworth||June 4, 1741||July 30, 1767||Wentworth was a son of the elder John Wentworth.|
|John Temple (titular only, 1762–74)|
|John Wentworth (younger)||August 11, 1766||August 24, 1775||Wentworth was grandson of the elder John Wentworth and nephew to Benning Wentworth.|
|Source unless otherwise cited: The Federal and State Constitutions, Volume 4, pp. 2527–2531|
- Clark, pp. 17–18
- "Fast New Hampshire Facts". State of New Hampshire. Retrieved 2011-07-09.
- Drake, p. 133
- Belknap, pp. 1:21,25–26
- Belknap, pp. 1:44,50
- Tuttle (1887), p. 89
- Tuttle (1887), p. 79
- Tuttle (1887), p. 86
- Tuttle (1887), pp. 79, 86
- Belknap, pp. 1:21,291
- Fry, p. 34
- Quint, p. 17
- Tuttle (1887), p. 69
- Fry, p. 35
- Fry, p. 37
- Fry, p. 38
- Hart, pp. 1:112, 1:607
- Capen (p. 54) incorrectly lists Dudley as deputy; it was in fact Endecott. Davis, p. 163
- Fry, p. 66
- Fry, p. 65
- Fry, p. 69
- Fry, p. 70
- Belknap, p. 1:178
- Sanborn, pp. 109–110
- Tuttle (1888), pp. 1–12
- Barnes, p. 54
- Barnes, p. 69
- Barnes, p. 55
- Moore, p. 385
- Barnes, p. 72
- Tuttle (1888), p. 11
- The American Quarterly Register, pp. 272–273
- Clark, p. 62
- Fry, p. 85
- Fry, p. 84
- Fry, p. 93
- The Federal and State Constitutions, p. 2529
- Fry, p. 258
- Barry, pp. 66, 128
- Barry, p. 119
- Barry, p. 122
- Fry, p. 104
- Mayo, pp. 160–161
- Sanborn, p. 217
- Fry, p. 523. Extant copies of Burnet's commission have no date, but has a marginal annotation suggesting it was issued December 19, 1727.
- Clark, p. 97
- Wilson, p. 106
- Fry, p. 87
- The American Quarterly Register, p. 409
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