Sunday, September 4, 2016

David Thomson the Founding Father of New Hampshire

Where the Puritans and the Pilgrims settled in the Colonies primarily for religious reasons, other settlers came to New England for commerce.  Many commercial ventures were set up for fur trading, salted fish and timber.

David's early life

Sir Ferdinando Gorges
As a young Scottish boy living in London, David Thomson developed many connections with important people.  His widowed mother was a servant to Sir Ferdinando Gorges, his mentor.  At the age of 14, David was sent by Gorges to the coast of Maine to assist in setting up a fishing colony located near present-day Phippsburg, Maine. A year later, the colony failed. In 1608, the colonists returned to England with the fishermen after the Spring fishing season ended.
When Thomson went back to England he lived at Plymouth Fort.  There he met William Cole who owned a shipyard.  He married Cole’s daughter Amias on 18 July 1613.  David was 20 years old, Amias almost 16.  In April 1615, Amias’ father gave them a house.  Four children were born in this house, but only two, Priscilla and John, survived past infancy.
After Priscilla was baptized, her father left on a fishing expedition to New England with Captain Abraham Jennings and was accompanied by his former teacher, Dr. Richard Vines who certified him as an apothecary.  Thomson decided he wanted to live on the Piscataqua and asked Gorges for a patent.  His son John was born in January 1619.  By the spring of 1619, Thomson sailed with Captain Dermer and Squanto, the Indian who famously helped the Pilgrims. (It has been said that when Squanto was taken to England, he lived at the Gorges house and young David Thomson was tasked with teaching him English.)  They examined the New Hampshire/Maine coastal area including the Isles of Shoals and the Piscataqua River.  During this trip, they rescued an Indian boy who was stranded, taking him back to his family on the mainland.  In 1623, after Thomson had established his residence, the Sagamore of the tribe gave Thomson the boy.  Later, when Phineas Pratt had visited it was reported that Thomson kept a Native servant.   

6000 acres and an island

In 1619, when Thomson arrived back in England, he convinced the merchants to center their fishing at the Isles of Shoals. In August of 1620, his father-in-law, William Cole was assisting with the repairs for the Mayflower and Speedwell after their failed first attempt at crossing the Atlantic.  Staying in Plymouth for 12 days, the men met with David Thomson for information of New England
Rye Harbor, NH
while Amias visited with the women. Later, Thomson sailed to New England on his ship, the “Jonathan”, crossing the ocean in 8 weeks, sailing to the Isles of Shoals and up the Piscataqua River.  They built a fort at Odiorne’s Point, (Rye, New Hampshire) for the fishermen to winter there. In 1622, Thomson went back to England, reporting to Gorges. By the spring of 1623, Thomson, his wife and son, along with their servants sailed to New England to settle.  Priscilla, 
his daughter remained with her grandparents. 
He became an agent for the Council of New England and was awarded his patent in 1622. The charter granted Thomson 6000 acres and an island. The charter was written so broadly that he was allowed to choose the location from anywhere within the boundaries stated on the grant. This charter was at that time the largest charter granted to one person and when executed, making him truely the Founder of New Hampshire.  

Connections with the Pilgrims

In England, in 1620 he became friends with the Mayflower passengers while they were waiting for repairs at Plymouth Fort.  Later when he was at Odiorne's Point, he had many activities involving the Pilgrims.  He visited them in Plymouth Colony and they came to his residence. Bradford and Winslow mention David Thomson in their correspondence and diaries.  At a time when the Plymouth Colony was struggling for food, Myles Standish asked Thomson for provisions.  He personally delivered to the Plymouth Colony enough salted fish to carry them through until they were self-sustaining again. The second Thanksgiving was celebrated in appreciation for the assistance. When they auctioned off the remains of the failed colony on the Kennebec, Edward Winslow accompanied Thomson to the auction.

Another fishing settlement

The fishing between Dover and Bloody Point (Newington) was plentiful. Thomson built another settlement at Dover Point.  When he left for Boston, Edward Hilton and Thomas Roberts took over managing the settlement.  They all previously had been members of the London Fishmongers Guild together and had built up a long-time trust for each other. The grant and the indenture was signed over to Edward Hilton. 
By 1626, Thomson had built a house and was living on his island in Boston Harbor.  A fellow Royalist and friend, Samuel Maverick had bought Noddle’s Island nearby. Thomson helped him build a house there. Noddle’s Island is in East Boston, where Logan Airport is currently situated. 

Questionable death

Thompson's Island, Boston Harbor
In 1628, a short time after he and his family settled in on Thompson’s Island, David Thomson died under questionable circumstances.  Many theories still remain whether it was accidental, intentional or from natural causes.  His children including his last son, Miles, born about 1627 and widow Amias survived.  After David's death Amias married Samuel Maverick. When the couple moved to Chelsea the island was claimed by Massachusetts Bay Colony.  John Thomson, son of David initiated a lawsuit to retain ownership. It was not until 1650 that he was able to prove his father’s ownership of the island. He ultimately lost the property for bad debt. 
Samuel Maverick and Amias Cole Thomson were parents of three children: Nathaniel, Samuel and Mary.  They also raised Amias’ son Miles.  It is likely that Thomson named his last son after his friend Myles Standish.  
Samuel and Amias Maverick received a grant in Manhattan settling on Lower Broadway.  They both died in 1670. John the oldest son, died in Mendon, Massachusetts in 1685 and Miles the last son, died in an Indian Raid in Berwick, Maine 1724. Nothing further is known of Priscilla who stayed in England. 

My Ancestral lines from David Thomson and his son Miles.
David Thomson m Amias Cole
Miles Thompson m. Ann Tetherly
Amy Thompson m. Daniel Goodwin                                 John Thompson m Sarah Emery
Nathaniel Goodwin m Mary Tibbetts                                     Elizabeth Thompson m
Solomon Goodwin m Abigail Hooper                            1) Mainwaring Hilton                        2) Alexander Gray
John Goodwin m. Mary Plaisted                                   Ebenzer Hilton m Mary Lord              Daniel Gray m Mary Walker
Hannah Goodwin m Daniel C. Emery                             Mary Lord Hilton m James Savage     John Gray m Elizabeth Boynton
Rufus M. Emery m Julia Ann Fernald                            Jacob Savage m Hannah Gray         Hannah Gray m Jacob Savage
George Philip Emery m Emma Trafton                                               John Gray Savage m Sarah Oliver
Forest Bartlett Emery m Ruth Whitman                                             Patience Savage m John Oliver Ratliff
Elinor Francena Emery m Bertram Gerrish                                        John Nelson Ratliff m Lectina McKinney
                                                                                                  Ida Ratliff m Chester Sherman Gerrish
                                                                                                  Bertram Gerrish m Elinor Francena Emery

Just a note: Both Savage and Gerrish lines have documented Gateway Ancestors
Information gleaned from the following sources:
Early History of the New Hampshire Settlements The narration of a video prepared by Alice Haubrich (1905-2005) Curator of the Piscataqua Pioneers, 1990.  Alice Clark Haubrich Curator The Piscataqua Pioneers This "Commentary" was published in The Genealogical Record, Vol.13, No.3, May/June 1990, a publication of The Strafford County Genealogical Society, P.O Box 322, Dover, NH 03820.
Colonial Era History of Dover New Hampshire by John Scales reprint 2008
Pictures: Google Images


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Hi Nancy,

    Just discovered that I also descend from David Thomson through his son John. Just getting started verifying it. Would love to chat to hear about your sources. Good and bad.


    Bob Bell

    1. Congratulations on the discovery. I think David Thomson is an amazing ancestor. The sources I used are what is listed at the bottom of the blog. thanks for reading about my ancestors.

    2. Just stopping by. My ancestors have been researched back to 1500s. David Thompson is one of my grandfathers through John Thompson. I would love to get to know more and would love to hear anything you wish to give. Sincerely Michael Thompson

  3. Hello Nancy,
    I am a descendant of Chickatawbut the Sachem (cheif) of the Massachusett whose territory Thompson Island is in. Did any of your sources mention Chickatawbut? He died from the plagues in 1633 at the Hummuck. Less than a miles from Thompson Island.

  4. Hi, interesting article but some of your "facts" are based on antiquated research. David was born in 1588 in Corstorphine, Scotland to Rev. Richard Thomson and was allied to the Forresters of Corstorphine. His step-mother was Agnes Foulis whose nephew was King James' ambassador to England's Queen Elizabeth and whose niece was married to the Scottish Secretary of State Thomas Hamilton, the Earl of Haddington. As Thomas Morton states in his book, (1637) The New English Canaan, Thomson was a Scottish gentleman and a scholar who was conversant with the Indians. David worked for the Council for New England, not for Sir Ferdinando Gorges and he was a scholar and entered the University of Edinburgh in 1602. The November 1622 grant for Piscataqua (NH) belonged to David Thomson with 1/4th shared with three former mayors of Plymouth, England. He was also named as governor and as the acting attorney on behalf of the Council for New England in the original December 1622 Massachusetts grant to Robert Gorges, Sir Ferndinando's son. Robert did come to Massachusetts in 1624 with a company of gentlemen and in short order realized he didn't like it. (Guess he was a city boy and wanted something a bit more civilized.) But one of the men who remained was Samuel Maverick who married David's widow, Amias Cole following David's death in 1628. Prior to David's death, King James and several key members of the Council for New England and his Privy Council died. That left the field open for Sir Ferdinando and Captain Mason to lay claim on Thomson's property. (David's Piscataqua indenture was "discovered" a few hundred years later in the back of Winthrop's desk.)-- I've had four articles published by the Scottish Genealogical Society Journal in Edinburgh, "David Thomson, a Scottish Gentleman and Scholar." The articles are published under my name, Genevieve Cora Fraser. I'm currently working on a book on Thomson and his legacy, "Standing Near the Candle," which will be published under my pen name, G. Thomson Fraser. I hope to have it out for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Massachusetts. I've put together a few facts and photos on a page by that name attached to my Facebook page. Genevieve Fraser - (By the way, I am directly descended from John married to Sarah and living in Mendon. MA. I've noticed in my AncestryDNA page that I am closely linked to Miles through each of his children.)

    1. Looking forward to reading "Standing Near The Candle" As I am one of fourteen generations of Thompson's (Thomson's) descended from David (son of Richard Thomson) who died on Thompson's Island, Massachusetts Bay, his son John of Mendon Mass. and Piam and Eunice (Washburn) Thompson of Rodman New York. Traced, compiled and printed in hard cover by Great Uncle Uncle, Harry W.Thompson, Reseda Ca., 1965.

    2. Any inquire to my above comment can be directed to e-mail, Thanks. Richard Thompson Southbury Connecticut.

  5. To G Thomson Fraser: Have you discovered any more of David Thomson's lineage going back past his parents in Corstophine in Scotland? If David was Scottish, why do so many spell the name with the "p"? Thompson Island is spelled incorrectly.

  6. I am trying to connect my line to Robert Waterman but seem to not be able to prove he was on the MayFlower. Any help would be great!

  7. i wanna see the manager why is there so much unimportant information