New Hampshire’s Beginnings From Traders to Settlers
Money! The first English people in New Hampshire arrived with the hope of making money!
Native Americans For a time, a mutually satisfying relationship based on trade was established between Native Americans and the new settlers.
For one thing, Europeans wanted to be able to fish the waters in peace along the coast of North America and up its rivers.
Also, Europeans desired animal pelts, particularly beaver. From 1652 to 1674, 16,000 beaver pelts were exported – not to mention the otter, muskrat, moose, lynx, fox, and raccoon that also were trapped and traded.
Beaver were thought to be so plentiful that they were killed in great numbers. Soon, they were virtually extinct in New Hampshire.
For their part, Native Americans were more than willing to replace their stone tools with metal tools that Europeans brought with them. In addition, they began to exchange their leather dress for blue, red, and purple cloth purchased from Europeans.
But the harmony was short-lived. Growing dependence on European goods began to undermine the Indians’ traditional way of life.
Increasing numbers of English settlers demanded more and more land… …land that had once belonged to the Indians. English settlements in… 1670
Village industry supported needs that could not easily be met by an individual farmer. Every village had a grist mill and a sawmill, for example… and tanners produced leather needed for shoes and harnesses.
Industry was a farmer’s second occupation. Samuel Lane of Stratham was a farmer. Also, he was …a tanner …a shoemaker …a surveyor …and a shrewd tradesman.
Industry was a farmer’s second occupation. John Dunlap, a prosperous Bedford farmer, also made fine furniture.
As towns grew, so did demand for more goods. Thriving coastal towns like Portsmouth were major trading centers.
But the colonies chafed under English laws that permitted trade only within the British Empire and restricted the manufacture of finished goods. Britain wished to confine the colonies to producing raw materials—such as timber.
The tall trees in New Hampshire’s woods made the mast trade important. Vestiges of that once- important trade may be seen in familiar names in many towns – Mast Road, Mastway, or Mastyard, for example.
Here again, English policy angered colonists. By law, white pines of certain size were marked by the “King’s Arrow” —distinctive notches cut into the trees. These trees were reserved for use as masts for English ships.
American victory in the Revolutionary War… …which had been caused in part by such unpopular laws and restrictions on trade… once again brought about a change in the way of life in the region.
The change of New Hampshire’s seal reveals a change in perception. This provincial seal of 1775 showed the natural resources for which our colony was known.
The new seal reflected a faith in local industry. This official seal was approved in 1931. It is little changed since the images of a rising sun and a ship under construction were first approved in 1784.
Even though the new state of New Hampshire was a land of small farms, residents depended upon commerce and exchange to supply goods they could not produce for themselves.
Domestic industry increased, and with the increase came the need for better roads to connect villages with each other and with major commercial centers.
Gradually, local industry was supplemented by cottage industries, or “outwork,” which involved a family’s taking work into its home on contract from agents in cities like Boston. The agents supplied raw materials and collected the finished products.
The Hampstead area became well known for its production of braided palm leaf hats, like that above. Also, many farms had “ten-footers,” ten-foot square buildings set aside for the making of shoes using leather supplied by the agents.
In the early 1800s, technological developments made it possible to harness the power of water… and factories developed along every river in the southern half of the state.
In 1827, the Cocheco Manufacturing Company in Dover became one of the first producers of printed cottons in New England.
A section of the small farming village of Derryfield became Manchester, the largest industrialized city in the world. It surpassed even the English city for which it was named.
The Amoskeag Company of Manchester was so large that it controlled most of its own production operations, including making the machines that ran the mills and even locomotives for the trains to transport their goods.
By 1912, the Amoskeag Mills produced enough cloth each day to stretch from Concord to New York City and back—about 500 miles!
The coming of the railroads in the middle of the 1800s changed New Hampshire life in major ways.
Many of the state’s farmers took advantage of the improved transportation to leave New Hampshire’s rocky terrain. Following the advice of Horace Greeley, a New Hampshire native, they headed west where soil was richer and farming more profitable.
But the railroad also brought people into the state… …and created new opportunities for industry as well.
The convenience and speed of train travel made the beauty of New Hampshire’s many mountains and lakes easily accessible to city dwellers in Boston and New York.
Tourism flourished in the White Mountains and the Great North Woods as summer people flocked to the great hotels that dotted the landscape.
Coaches made in Concord by the Abbot- Downing Company continued to transport people shorter distances in comfort… relative to the times, of course.
The timber industry, important in the southern part of New Hampshire during colonial days… …became even more important now that the North Country could be reached by railroad.
By 1874, the state supported 762 lumber mills. The mills produced the raw materials for boxes, bobbins, butter churns and even vehicles and refrigerators.
In addition to producing textiles and timber products, New Hampshire continued to manufacture other products, such as shoes and bricks and glassware.
And certainly we worked with stone. Remember, our nickname is … “The Granite State” (Granite quarried in Concord was used to build the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.!)
Farms still operate in the state, but there are fewer each year.… Tourism is very much important to the economy of New Hampshire, but few grand hotels are still in operation.… Mill buildings still stand in many of our communities, but few serve in their original capacity.
Dover’s Sawyer Woolen Mills eventually became a department store. More recently, it was divided into condominiums.
…but sometimes it is hard to perceive what the future holds. It is often easy to notice as old ways fade in importance…
This postcard from 1912 shows a vision of the future for the town of Newport! How accurate do you think the prediction was?
The history of industry and commerce in New Hampshire is marked by change… What is the nature of industry and commerce today? How is our state changing?… What do you think our future will be like? What will your community look like in twenty years?
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