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  • New Hampshire Town and County Development

    Sherry L. Gould

    In order to find many records for New Hampshire ancestors it is important to know exactly where to look. This is part one of a comprehensive list of New Hampshire town and county developments over time. Initially, New Hampshire was initially one province with an individual town government. In 1769, an act proposing the establishment of five counties to handle growing demand on government administration was sent to England for confirmation. The Crown confirmed the act in 1771 and the new system was established a year later.

    What follows are descriptions of each of the first five counties, original boundaries, and the towns founded within those bounds. Each town list includes:

    • The name of town with the date it was adopted
    • All known previous names and date name was adopted, when known
    • Date of town grant or incorporation
    • Parent town set off from, when applicable and known
    • Date settled
    • Date of affiliation with county or counties

    All information in this article regarding the formation of counties, their bounds, the towns in each county with dates, and county seats is taken from the preface of Otis G. Hammond, ed. Probate Records of the Province of New Hampshire vol. 39, State Paper Series (State of New Hampshire: 1941), viii. For a statewide alphabetical list of New Hampshire town names see this volume. Also Isaac W. Hammond, ed. Town Papers, Documents Relating to Towns in New Hampshire vol. 6-8, State Paper Series (Concord, NH, Parsons B. Cogswell, State Printer: 1891) was used to obtain information about former names and dates of settlement. When information from these sources conflicted, or dates of settlement were missing, various town histories were consulted. In addition a list of old town names arranged alphabetically found in the New Hampshire Vital Record office, Hazen Drive, Concord, NH, was incorporated. This list is not sourced and when information from the list conflicted with the State Papers series, or did not make sense, it was not used.

    Part two of this article will cover later counties and associated towns.

    Rockingham County was one of the first five counties established under the act of 1769. Its boundaries were then from the mouth of the Piscataqua River, along the river up to the easterly corner of New Market, then northwesterly by Nottingham, Chichester, and Canterbury to the Merrimack River, down the river to the westerly lines of Bow, Concord, and Pembroke, following the river again to the northwest corner of Derryfield (Manchester), then by the easterly lines of Derryfield, Litchfield, and Nottingham West (Hudson) to the province line first mentioned, including the Isles of Shoals belonging to this province. Rockingham County records are kept at Exeter.

    Towns in Rockingham County

    Town Date Adopted Previous/Alternate Name(s) and dates adopted * Date of Grant or Incorporation Parent Town Date Settled Date of Affiliation with County
    Atkinson 1767   Incorporated, 1767 Set off from Plaistow 1728 1771
    Auburn 1845 Chester Woods, Chester West Parish Incorporated, 1845 Set off from Chester    1845
    Brentwood 1744 Brentwood Parish, 1742, Keeneborough Parish Incorporated 1744 Set off from Exeter bef. 1742 1771
    Candia 1763 Charming-Fare Incorporated 1763 Set off from Chester 1748 1771
    Chester 1722 Chestnut Country, by 1719, Cheshire, 1720 Granted 1720     ca 1719 1771
    Danville 1836 Hawke, 1760 Incorporated 1760 Set off from Kingston by 1739 1771
    Deerfield 1766     Incorporated 1766 Set off from Nottingham 1756 1771
    Derry 1827 Nutfield Incorporated 1827 Set off from Londonderry 1719 1827
    East Kingston by 1797 Kingston East Parish, 1738, East Kingstown, by 1784 Incorporated 1738 Set off from Kingston bef. 1738 1771
    Epping 1741/42   Incorporated 1741/42 Set off from Exeter   1771
    Exeter
    Squamscot Patent, 1629 not Granted or Incorporated   bef. 1638 1771
    Fremont 1854 Poplin, 1764 Incorporated 1764 Set off from Brentwood   1771
    Greenland by 1739 Squamscot Patent, 1629, Greenland Parish, by 1716 Incorporated 1721 Set off from Portsmouth late 1600s 1771
    Hampstead 1749 Timberlane, 1739 Incorporated 1749 Set off from Haverhill and Amesbury, Mass. 1741 1728 1771
    Hampton 1639 Winnicunet Granted 1639
    by 1638 1771
    Hampton Falls by 1709 Hampton Third Parish Incorporated 1726 Set off from Hampton, 1712 bef. 1685 1771
    Kensington 1737   Incorporated 1737 Set off from Hampton Falls bef. 1737 1771
    Kingston 1800 Kingstown, 1694 Granted 1694   1694 1771
    Londonderry 1722 Nutfield Granted 1722 Absorbed portion of Dracut, Mass. found to be in NH, 1741 1719 1771
    New Castle 1693 Great Island, 1679, Odiorne's Point, Fort William and Mary, Fort Constitution Incorporated 1693 Set off from Portsmouth 1623 1771
    Newfields 1895 Newfield Village, ca 1681, South Newmarket, 1849 Incorporated 1849 Set off from New Market   1849
    Newington 1714 Bloody Point Parish, "for sometime" bef. 1714 Incorporated 1764 Set off from Dover and Squamscot Patent probably by 1681 1771
    Newmarket 1727 Lampreyville Incorporated 1727 Set off from Exeter bef. 1727 1771
    Newton 1846 New Town, 1749 Granted 1749 A portion set off from South Hampton in 1748 by 1748 1771
    North Hampton 1742 North Hill Parish, 1738, Little Boar's Head Incorporated 1742 Set off from Hampton 1639 1771
    Northwood 1773 North Woods Incorporated 1773 Set off from Nottingham 1763 1773
    Nottingham 1722   Granted 1722   ca 1724 1771
    Plaistow 1749 Haverhill North Parish, Haverhill District, 1741 Incorporated 1749 severed from Haverhill, Mass   1771
    Portsmouth 1653 Piscataqua, Strawberry-bank, 1623 Granted 1631   1623 1771
    Raymond 1764 Freetown, purchased from Natives 1717 Incorporated 1764 Set off from Chester ca 1718 1771
    Rye 1726 Pannaway, Sandy Beach, bef. 1693, Odiorne's Point Incorporated 1726 Set off from New Castle, absorbed Gosport, 1876 1635 1771
    Salem 1750 Methuen North Parish, 1736, Methuen District, 1741 Incorporated 1750 Severed from Methuen and Dracut, Mass., 1741   1771
    Sandown 1756    Incorporated 1756 Set off from Kingston bef. 1756 1771
    Seabrook 1768   Incorporated 1768 Set off from Hampton Falls 1638 1771
    South Hampton 1742    Incorporated 1742 Severed from Amesbury and Salisbury, Mass.   1771
    Stratham 1716 Winnicunet, Spuamscott Patent, 1629, Point of Rocks Incorporated 1715/16 Set off from Exeter 1631 1771
    Windham 1742   Incorporated 1741/42 Set off from Londonderry ca 1720 1771

    * Includes some village names under given towns.


    Strafford County
    began at a point at the northwest corner of Canterbury, across the river, then down it to the Pemigewasset, then to run up Pemigewasset River to Campton, then round the westerly end of Campton and by the northerly side lines of Campton, Sandwich, and Tamworth, then easterly to the province line on the same course with the northerly sideline of Eaton, then down the said province line to the line of the first county, then by the same to the bounds first mentioned. Because Strafford and Grafton counties were in their early growth, they were initially annexed to Rockingham and under the jurisdiction of that court. The county was given independent jurisdiction in 1773, and records since that date are kept at Dover.

    Towns in Strafford County

    Town Date Adopted Previous/Alternate Name(s) and dates adopted * Date of Grant or Incorporation Parent Town Date Settled Date of Affiliation with County
    Barrington 1722   Granted 1722   1732 1771
    Dover 1641 Newichwannock, Hilton's Point, 1623, Swamscot Patent, 1629, Cocheco (Point), by 1715, Dover Neck, by 1715, Northam Not Granted, or Incorporated except as a city   1623 1771
    Durham 1732 Oyster River Plantation, 1669, Oyster River Parish, 1716 Incorporated 1732 Set off from Dover 1669 1771
    Farmington 1798 Farmington Dock, West Parish Rochester, ca 1774 Incorporated 1798 Set off from Rochester bef. 1774 1798
    Lee 1766 Parish of Lee Incorporated 1766 Set off from Durham   1771
    Madbury by 1743 Barbados, Madbury Parish, 1755 Incorporated 1768 Set off from Dover, 1755 prior to 1743 1771
    Middleton by 1783 Middletown, by 1773 Granted 1749     1771
    Milton 1802 Third Parish, ca 1774, Northeast Parish, by 1794, Three Ponds, Milton Mills Incorporated 1802 Set off from Rochester   1802
    New Durham 1762 Cocheco Township, 1749 Granted 1749   bef. 1762 1771
    Rochester   Squamanagonnick, Gonic Incorporated 1722   1728 1771
    Rollinsford     Incorporated 1849 Set off from Somersworth   1849
    Somersworth 1754 Salmon Falls, Great Falls, Sligo Incorporated 1754 Set off from Dover, 1729 Settled early 1771
    Strafford 1820 includes Bow Lake Village Incorporated 1820 Set off from Barrington by 1776 1820

    * Includes some village names under given towns. 


    Hillsborough County was bounded by a line beginning at the southeast corner of Nottingham West (Hudson), then westerly by the province line to the southeast corner of Rindge, then by the easterly side line of Rindge, Monadnock Number Two (Jaffrey), Dublin, the townships Number Six (Marlborough, [now Henniker]), Number Seven (Hillsboro) and Number Eight (Washington), then to the south end of Sunapee Pond, then by the easterly side of said pond to the north end thereof, then by the northwesterly side line of Dantzic (Newbury) and Heidlebourg (New London) , and by the northerly side lines of Heidlebourg and northwesterly side line of Emery’s Town (Andover) to Pemigewasset River, down the river to the bounds of the first county (Rockingham), then by the same to the bounds first mentioned. Hillsborough County records are kept at Nashua.

    Towns in Hillsborough County

    Town Date Adopted Previous/Alternate Name(s) and dates adopted * Date of Grant or Incorporation Parent Town Date Settled Date of Affiliation with County
    Amherst 1760 Quohquinapassakessanahnoy, Narraganset No. 3, 1728, Souhegan West, absorbed part of Monson 1770 Granted 1728   1735 1771
    Antrim 1771 Cumberland, Society Land, by 1770 Incorporated 1777   1744 1777
    Bedford 1750 Narraganset No. 5, 1733, Souhegan East Granted 1733/34   1737 1771
    Bennington 1842 Society Land, by 1770, Factory Village Incorporated 1842 Set off from Greenfield, Francestown, Deering and Hancock bef. 1782 1842
    Brookline 1798 Old Dunstable, Hollis, Raby, 1769, Mile-Slip, 1746, Strip-Town Incorporated 1769   1735 1771
    Deering 1774 Cumberland, Society Land, by 1770 Incorporated 1774   1765 1774
    Francestown 1772 New Boston Addition, Lyndeborough Addition 1753, Cumberland, Society Land, by 1700 Incorporated 1772   1760 1772
    Goffstown 1761 Namaske, Amaskeage, Narragansett No. 4, 1733, Shove's Town, by 1757, Goff's Town, Grasmere Village, Pinardville Granted 1748   1700s 1771
    Greenfield 1791 Cumberland, Society Land, by 1770, Peterborough and Lyndeborough Gore Incorporated 1791 Set off from Lyndeborough 1753 1791
    Greenville 1872 Groton Gore, Mason Village Incorporated 1872 Set off from Mason by 1790 1872
    Hancock 1779 Cumberland, Society Land, 1770, Twitchelville Incorporated 1779   1764 1779
    Hillsborough 1748 Line Town No. 7, 1735 Granted 1735/36   1741 1771
    Hollis 1746 Nittisset, One Pine Hill, West Parish Dunstable, ca 1741, absorbed part of Monson 1770 Incorporated 1746 Set off from Dunstable, Mass., later W. Dunstable 1730 1771
    Hudson 1830 Nottingham West, 1741 Incorporated 1746 Severed from Nottingham, Mass. 1710 1771
    Litchfield 1749 Naticook, Brenton's Farms, 1729 Granted 1729 Set off from Hudson, formerly part of Dunstable, Mass ca 1673 1771
    Lyndeborough 1753 Salem-Canada, 1735 Granted 1735/36   1737 1771
    Manchester 1810 Namaske, Amaskeage, Narragansett No. 4, 1733, Souhegan East, Narraganset No. 5, 1733, Harrytown, Tyng's Town, Derryfield, 1751 Incorporated 1751 Set off from Chester and Londonderry bef. 1751 1771
    Mason 1768 No. 1, 1749, Groton Gore, includes part of Townsend, Mass. after 1741 Granted 1749   1750 1771
    Merrimack 1746 Naticook, Naragansett No. 3, 1733, Souhegan West, Lutwyche Ferry, 1722, Thorton's Ferry, 1774 Incorporated 1746 Severed from Old Dunstable, Mass. 1665 1771
    Milford 1794 Souhegan West, Naragansett No. 3, 1733, Mile-Slip, 1746, Duxbury Farm School, Duxbury, absorbed land previously chartered as Monson, Mill Ford, The Falls, Granite Town Incorporated 1794 Set off from Hollis and Amherst Settled early 1794
    Monson 1746   Incorporated 1746 Severed from W. Dunstable, Mass. bef. 1746, charter repealed 1770 1771
    Mont Vernon 1803 Naragansett No. 3, 1733, Souhegan West Incorporated 1803   bef. 1765 1803
    Nashua 1836 Nashaway, Dunstable, 1741, Nashville, 1842 Incorporated 1746 Severed from Old Dunstable, Mass Settled early 1771
    New Boston 1751 Piscataquog, Lanes Town, 1736 Granted 1735/36   1742 1771
    New Ipswich 1766 Ipswich, 1762 Granted 1735/36   bef. 1748 1771
    Pelham 1746   Incorporated 1746 Severed from Old Dunstable and Dracut, Mass 1722 Rockingham 1771
    Hillsborough 1824
    Peterborough 1738 Noone, Souhegan, Smithville, ca 1780 Granted 1737/38   1749 1771
    Sharon 1791 Rowley-Canada, 1736, Peterborough Slip, 1738, Sliptown, 1768 Incorporated 1791 Set off from Temple 1738 1791
    Temple 1768 Peterborough Slip, 1738, Sliptown, 1768 Granted 1750     1771
    Weare 1764 Beverly-Canada, 1735, Hale's-Town, 1735, Robies Town, 1749, Col. Weares Town Granted 1735   1750 1771
    Wilton 1762 Groton Gore, Line Town No. 2 ca 1749 Granted 1749   1738 1771
    Windsor 1798 Campbell's Gore, 1768, Wheeler's Gore Incorporated 1798     1798

    * Includes some village names under given towns. 


    Cheshire County was bounded by a line beginning at the southeast corner of Rindge, then westerly by the province line to the western bank of the Connecticut River, up the same till it comes opposite to the northwest corner of Plainfield, then crossing the river to the last mentioned corner of Plainfield, then by the northerly side lines of Plainfield and Grantham to the northeast corner of Grantham, then by the easterly side line of Grantham and the north side line of Saville (Sunapee) to the boundary line of the third county (Hillsborough), then by the same to the bounds first mentioned. Cheshire County records are kept at Keene.

    Towns in Cheshire County

    Town Date Adopted Previous/Alternate Name(s) and dates adopted * Date of Grant or Incorporation Parent Town Date Settled Date of Affiliation with County
    Alstead 1763 Line Town No. 4, 1735, Paper Village, Newton, 1752 Granted 1735   ca 1764 1771
    Chesterfield 1752. Fort No. 1, 1735, Fort Dummer, Spofford Granted 1735   1761 1771
    Dublin 1771 Monadnock No. 3, 1749, North Monadnock, 1749 Granted 1749   1762 1771
    Fitzwilliam 1773 Monadnock No. 4, 1749, Stoddard’s Town Granted 1752   1760 1771
    Gilsum 1763 Boyle, 1752 Granted 1752   1762 1771
    Harrisville 1870 Twitchelville Incorporated 1870 Set off from Hancock, Dublin, and Nelson 1760 1870
    Hinsdale 1753 part of Northfield, Mass. bef. 1741 Incorporated 1753   bef. 1741 1771
    Jaffrey 1773 Rowley-Canada, 1736, Hadley, Middle Monadnock, 1749, Monadnock No. 2, 1752, Middletown Granted 1749   1758 1771
    Keene 1753 Upper Ashuelot, 1733 Granted 1733   ca 1735 1771
    Marlborough 1776 Monadnock No. 5, 1752, Oxford, New Marlborough, by 1770 Granted 1752   1764 1771
    Marlow 1761 Addison, by 1753 Granted 1761   bef. 1771 1771
    Nelson 1814 Monadnock No. 6, 1752, Packersfield, 1767, Munsonville Granted 1752   1767 1771
    Richmond 1752 Sylvester-Canada, 1735 Granted 1735   ca 1762 1771
    Rindge 1768 Rowley-Canada, 1736, Monadnock No. 1, 1749, South Monadnock, 1749 Granted 1736/37   bef. 1750 & 1768 1771
    Roxbury 1812   Incorporated 1812 Set off from Keene, Marlborough and Nelson bef. 1797 1812
    Stoddard 1774 Monadnock No. 7, 1752, Limerick, 1752 Granted 1752   1768 1771
    Sullivan 1787 Limerick, 1752 Incorporated 1787 Set off from Gilsum, Keene, Stoddard and Nelson   1787
    Surry 1769 Westmoreland Leg Incorporated 1769 Set off from Westmoreland and Gilsum   1771
    Swanzey 1753 Lower Ashuelot, 1733 Granted 1734   1734 1771
    Troy 1815 West Hill, ca 1765 Incorporated 1815 Set off from Richmond, Marlborough, Fitzwilliam and Swanzey 1764 1815
    Walpole 1761 Fort No. 3, Lunenburg, 1736, Great Falls, 1736, Bellow’s Town, 1752 Granted 1736   ca 1752 1771
    Westmoreland 1752 Fort No. 2, 1735, Great Medows Granted 1735/36   1741 1771
    Winchester 1753 Arlington, 1733 Granted 1733   1732 1771

    * Includes some village names under given towns.


    Grafton County is the last of the five original counties established in 1771. It contains all the land in the province not included in the other counties at the time of establishment.  Grafton, like Strafford, was initially annexed to Rockingham County, falling under the jurisdiction of the Rockingham court until 1773. That year Grafton County was given independent jurisdiction and records after that date are kept at Woodsville.

    Towns in Grafton County

    Town Date Adopted Previous Name(s) and dates adopted Date of Grant or Incorporation Parent Town Date Settled Date of Affiliation with County
    Alexandria     Granted 1753   1769 1771
    Ashland     Incorporated 1868 Set off from Holderness   1868
    Bath 1761   Granted 1761   1765 1771
    Benton 1840 Coventry, 1764 Granted 1764   ca 1776 1771
    Bethlehem 1798 Lloyd Hills 1774 Granted 1774     1774
    Bridgewater 1788 New Chester Incorporated 1788 Set off from Alexandria and Hill 1766 1788
    Bristol 1819   Incorporated 1819 Set off from Bridgewater and Hill   1819
    Campton 1767   Granted 1761   1765 Strafford 1771, Grafton 1782.
    Canaan 1761   Granted 1761   1766 1771
    Dorchester 1761   Granted 1761   aft. 1772 1771
    Easton 1876 Eastern Landaff Incorporated 1876 Set off from Landaff   1876
    Ellsworth 1802 Trecothick, 1769 Granted 1769     1771
    Enfield 1784 Endfield, 1761, Relhan, 1768, Upper and Lower Shaker Village, Lockehaven Granted 1761   bet. 1768 and 1781 1771
    Franconia 1782 Indian Head, 1764, Morristown, 1772 Granted 1764   1774 1771
    Grafton 1761
    Granted 1761   1772 1771
    Groton 1796 Cockermouth, 1761 Granted 1761   1770 1771
    Hanover 1761 Dresden by 1783, Mill Village, bef. 1807 which became Etna, 1884 Granted 1761   1765 1771, Suceeded to VT 1778, Grafton 1784
    Haverhill 1763 Lower Cohos [or Coos], bef. 1763 Granted 1763   1764 1771
    Hebron 1792 Cockermouth Incorporated 1792 Set off from Plymouth and Groton   1792
    Holderness 1816 New Holderness, 1761 Granted 1751    ca 1761 Strafford 1771, Grafton 1782
    Landaff ca 1770 Whitcherville, 1764 Granted 1764   ca 1770 1771
    Lebanon 1761 Dresden by 1783 Granted 1761   1761 1771
    Lincoln     Granted 1764     1771
    Lisbon 1824 Concord in the County of Grafton, 1763, Chiswick, 1764, Gunthwaite, 1768 Granted 1763   ca 1765 1771
    Littleton 1784 Chiswick, 1764, Athrop 1770, Pattenville, 1771 Granted 1764 Set off from Lisbon 1770 1771
    Livermore 1876 Elkins Grant, 1770, Bean and Gilman Grant, 1835, Hatch and Cleaves Grant, Raymond Grant, Sargent Grant Incorporated 1876   Unsettled (as of 1941) 1876
    Lyman 1761   Granted 1761   bef. 1777 1771
    Lyme 1761 Grant’s Island, Lime, 1761 Granted 1761   1764 1771
    Monroe 1854 Hurd’s Location, West Lyman Incorporated 1854 Set off from Lyman   1854
    Orange 1790 Cardigan, bef. 1769 Granted 1769     1771
    Orford 1761 Fort No. 7, 1735, Sugar River Granted 1761   1765 1771
    Piermont 1764   Granted 1764   1768 1771
    Rumney     Granted 1761   1765 1771
    Thornton 1763 Waterville Gore, Blanchard’s Gore Granted 1763   1770 1771
    Warren 1763 Glencliff Granted 1763   1767 1771
    Waterville 1829 Gillis and Foss’s Grant Incorporated 1829   1760s 1829
    Wentworth 1766   Granted 1766   1777 1771
    Woodstock 1840 Fourfold, Peeling, 1763, Fairfield, 1771 Granted 1763     1771
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