A Little History

Thomas Leighton travels to the "New World" on the 1633 Voyage of "The James"
Ships Master Captain was Thomas Wiggin
The James left Gravesend, England with 100 passengers
     - 70 got off at Salem, MA
     - 30 went on to Hilton Point (Dover), NH

1623: Dover NH 1st settled by William & Edward Hilton (London fisherman)
1633: First settlement of homes and farming established

Last name: Leighton

Recorded as Layton, Laytoun, Leaton, Leighton, Leyton, and Leaton, this is a famous surname of English or sometimes Scottish, origins. It is locational from either Leaton, a village near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, or one of the various villages called Leighton in the counties of Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Huntingdon, Shropshire or Laytoun in Scotland. All derive from the pre 7th century word 'leac' meaning a leek, and describe leek farms. From medieval times the name holders have made their mark, with Richard Leighton being knighted by King Edward 11nd of England in 1313, whilst in 1330 Randolph de Leighton was similarly rewarded by King Edward 111rd. Other early recordings include Roger de Leyton in the Hundred Rolls of Huntingdon in 1276, and William de Leton who appears in the Cheshire Rolls of 1287. The surname was early into Scotland,with Henry Leghton being bishop of Aberdeen in 1440. Frederick Leighton RA was the first Baron Leighton of Stretton, (1830-1896). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Lecton. This was dated 1201, in the Pipe Rolls of Staffordshire", during the reign of King John, 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Thomas Leighton

Thomas Leighton was born Abt. 1604 in England192, and died January 22, 1670/71 in Dover, NH192. He married Joanna (Thomas's) Leighton.

Spelling was Layton. Probably one of the early planters of Dover, NH ( then called Northam). Settled at Cocheco or Dover Point in 1633 under the leadership of Capt. Thomas Wiggin. His home lot of 10 acres was on the present boarder of Dover and Madbury, later bisected by the Post Road which bridged the Piscataquis River. This area was often referred to as Leighton's Hill. In 1639 he was taxed on property valued at 155 lbs. The largest assessment in the town. In 1640 he was granted 10 acres of marshland on Great Bay. In 1642 he received #18 ofthe 20-acre lots laid out on the west side of the Back River. On April 15, 1646, he was allotted ten acres on Great Bay near Laighton's Cove. (Bloody point which later became the town of Newington)

In 1646 he had the second highest tax assessment. He sold his quarter share in the sawmill at Bellamy's Bank in 1649. On January 10, 1655 he was granted 100 acres on the west shore of Great Bay, and in 1656 another 30 acers of upland adjooining Laighton's Cove and a 100 acres on the south side of Frenchman's Creek. In 1656 he bouhgt 20 more acres adjoining his Back Bay property from Ambrose Gibbons. On January 11, 1658/9 he deeded 20 acres to his apprentice John Mingate and on February 16, 1670 he deeded to Thomas Jr., the house and 160 acre farm north of Royall's Cove which his son was already occupying.

Thomas always signed his name with a mark: a T.

Thomas (Layton) Leighton

"Leighton was first a placename given to a hamlet or town in a lea or meadow (or perhaps a place where leeks were grown); several English localities still bear the name. As a surname it was not uncommon, especially in Cheshire, Shropshire and Bedfordshire. Leightons, with many different spellings, appeared in records as early as the twelfth century."

"So far, the ancestry of Thomas Leighton of Dover has not been determined. Genealogists, who abhor such dead ends as nature abhors a vacuum, sometimes yield to temptation and make imaginative linkages to historical personages. In a letter dated 2 Sept. 1899 found among the Cornman Papers, John Scales, the historian of New Hampshire and of Dover, stated:

'Thomas Leighton Sr. was the son of Dr. Alexander Leighton, the distinguished theologian and Professor in the University of Edinborough, Scotland . . .' Searles even described a Leighton coat of arms which had been first granted in 1260:

'There was a family Bible that belonged to Thomas Sr, and passed on to his son Thomas Jr, in whose possession it remained as long as he lived. In this Bible was engraved the Leighton Coat of Arms; the description of this engraving in the old Bible corresponds exactly with that furnished by the Heraldry Office. What became of the Bible I do not know.'

Despite the improbability of this ancestry many genealogies have confidently shown Thomas of Dover as son of Dr. Alexander Leighton (1568-1649). the Scottish divine and physician had four sons and two daughters but no Thomas among them (Dictionary of National Biogaphy, 11:880-883). We should note, moreover, that Thomas of Dover signed all documents with his mark; it is not likely that Alexander Leighton would have had an illiterate son."

"In his History of New Hampshire [1:33] Stackpole 'safely mentions' Thomas Leighton among passengers on the James. It is very likely but not at all proven that he had been recruited as a planter during Capt. Wiggin's trip to England in 1632 to seek increased financial backing from Shrewsbury merchants."

"Thomas was evidently from the yeoman class of landowners rather than from the gentry. He was a Puritan who displayed no unusual interest in church matters. Nothing is known of his wife Joanna's origin - not even whether the two married in England before the voyage or in Massachusetts or at Dover after his arrival in New England."

"Even more persistent than John Scales's Edinburgh legend is that of the 'three brothers' - usually listed as Thomas of dover, William of Kittery and John of Saco. No evidence has been found that any of the early Leighton immigrants were related to one another."

"Thomas (1604-1672) was born in England about 1604 (deposed aged 60 in Dec. 1665), and died at Dover NH 22 Jan 1671-2 (Vital Records of Dover, N.H. [Heritage Books, 1977], reprinted from Collections of the Dover, N.H., Historical Society [Dover, 1894], 117)."

"Although no record of his arival exists, Thomas Layton (as the name was spelled in early records) was undoubtedly among the planters of Dover (then called Northam) who settled at Cocheco or Dover Point in 1633 under the leadership of Capt. Thomas Wiggin (see Introduction). His home lot of ten acres was on the present border of Dover and Madbury, later bisected by the Post Road which bridged the Piscataquis river; for generations this area was called 'Leighton's Hill' (Mary P. thompson, Landmarks in Anceint Dover, N.H. [Durham, 1892], 118-1119.) About tow and a half centuries after, in 1885, Mary Ann (Leighton) Rollins had a monument erected 'In Memory of the Leighton Household' in the field on the west side of the Back River Road."

"Thomas soon acquired extensive land holdings (John Scales, History of Dover, N.H.: Colonial Era [Mancester, 1923, reprinted in 1977], 202, 235-248); in 1639 he was taxed on property valued at 155 pounds - the highest assessment in the town. In 1640 he was granted ten acres of marshland on Great Bay; in 1642 he received #18 of the 20-acre lots laid out on the west side of the Back River; on 15 Apr. 1646 he was allotted ten acres on Great Bay near Laighton's Cove (on Bloody Point, which later became the town of Newington)."

"On the tax list of 19 10 mo [Dec.] 1646 he had the second-highest assessment (Scales, Dover, 234; for tax lists of 1649 through 1666 see Alonzo Quint, Historical Memoranda concerning persons and places in Old Dover, N.H. [Dover, 1900, reprinted in 1983], 140, 349-364). He, William Pomfret and John Dam were granted mill privileges at Bellamy's Bank in 1649 (Quint, Old Dover, 35); he sold his quarter-share in the sawmill there 8 apr. 1653 (NEHR, 47 [1893]: 469. On 10 Jan. 1655 he was granted 100 acres on the west shore of Great Bay, and in 1656 another 30 acres of upland adjoining Leighton's Cove (Thompson, Landmarks, 118-9) and 100 acres on the south side of Frenchman's Creek. In 1656 he bought 20 more acres adjoining his Back Bay property from Ambrose Gibbons. On 11 Jan. 1658-9 he deeded 20 acres to his apprentice John Wingate (New Hampshire Province Deeds [NHPD], 3:43), and on 16 Feb. 1670 he deeded to Thomas, Jr., the house and 160-acre farm north of royal's Cove which his son was already occupying (NHPD 3:58)."

"Land was usually laid out to settlers according to their ability to develop it. thomas Layton's land acquisitions suggest that he immigrated bringing the money and tools he would need to establish himself in the new world. . . He was influential in shping the pioneer community. His name and mark ('T') are on all the early political documents: the petition against control by Massachusetts Bay 4 Mar. 1640 (N.H. Provincial and State Paters [NHSP], 1:128); the Dover Combination of 22 Oct. 1640 (10:701); the petition on 9 Oct. 1641 for union with the Bay Colony; a petition against the Parentees in 1654 (1:212); and on 10 oct. 1665 a declaration of continued allegiance to Massachusetts (1:284-5). He was repeatedly chosen as selectman, grand juror and constable ('Extracts from Dover town Records,' Hew Hampshire Genealogical Record [NHGR], 4 [1907]: 247; Quint, Old Dover, 1-10). He was made a freeman (having full voting rights) in 1653 and was released from the obligation for military training 26 June 1661 (NHSP, 40:157).

"Thomas Layton's will, made 21 Sept. 1671, was admitted ot probate 25 June 1672 (NHSP, 31:126-7, 212). It was unusual in that his widow was left with a life interest in the whole estate rather than the usual one-third dower right, and that his children were not to receive their shares until her re-marriage of death. An inventory of his estate was made 15 Feb. 1671-2 (New Hampshire Province Probate Records [NHPP], 1:145-6; 2:186)."

"Leighton. (Variously spelled Layton; Laton.) Thomas was born in 1604; came to America about 1633. That years he took a lot of Capt. Wiggans, which is thus described in 1647: - 'butting on the Back River west, and on John Dam's Lott on the North, and on the Lane to ye back Coue on the South.' - He had various grants of land which it would puzzle an Indian to locate now, one of which was, in 1656, 100 acres joining to the 20 acres he bought of Mr. Gibbons, formerly belonging to Mr. Rogers. - He lived on Dover Neck; died 22 Jan'y 1672. His will was dated 21 Sept'r 1671; proved 25 June, 1672. He gave property, therein, to his 'only son and heir' Thomas, and to his daughters Mary (wife of Thomas Roberds, Jr., ) - Elizabeth (wife of Philip Cromwell,) and Sarah."

"The Earliest Tax Lists [Dover, NH]. In 1648, in town meeting - 'A town rate of 4d on a pound was made 19th, 10 mo, on the following persons: - Thos. Layton 156 £ 10s. 0d. Rate 2 12 0"

"The tax list of 1650, for the public charges of the town [Dover, NH], is as follows: Thomas Layton 2£ 12s. 5d. "

" ' Rate maed the 12, 8th, (16) 58 for Mr Reyner his preuetione.' Tho. Layton 2£ 12s. 6d."

"'A Rate maed ye 19th of 9 Month 1662 for Mr. Rayners Prouition.' Tho Layton 1£ 4s. 6d. "

" ' A Prouition Rate made ye 7th, 10th month 1663 Apon all ye Inhabitants of this township of Dover at a penny apon the pound.' Thomas layton 1£ 6s. 7d. "

" ' A Prouetion Rate maed the 2d loth mo. 1666 for Mr Rayner at a penny in the pound throwe the hole towneshep.' Dover Neck Thomas Layton 1£ 7s. 4 1/2 d."

"Atkinson's Hill. This hill is in the sourth-western part of the Back River district, not far from the old Pascataqua bridge. It is partly in Dover and partly in Madbury, and is so named from the Hon. w.m King Atkinson, who acquired landhere at the close of the last century. It is often mentioned in the Madbury records as 'Laighton's Hill,' a name derived from the Leighton family that owned land in this vicinity for nearly 200 years, descendants of Thomas Layton of the Dover Combination of 1640. (see Royall's Cove.) The Atkinson house, now owned by Mrs. Simpson, is in Madbury. The Laighton house, owned by Mr. prescott, is in Dover. The road from Dover to the old Pascataqua bridge crosses Atkinson hill between these two houses. This height affords an admirable view of the neighboring waters extending from the mouth of Oyster river and the opening into Little bay, to a great distance down th Pascataqua. The river directly in front is nearly a mile in width, and dotted by islands, two of which once formed links in the Pascataqua bridge; and beyond the borad expanse are the beautifully varied shores of Newington. Daniel, Webster, who often crossed Atkinson hill on his way to and from Portsmouth when is was court time at Dover, declared this view unsurpassed by any other in New England. (see Laighton's Hill). "

"the earliest saw-mill on the Bellamy is supposed to have stood at the head of tide water. The falls here were granted to John Dam, Thomas Layton, and Wm. Pomfrett the 23d, 9 mo., 1649, but were afterwards acquired by Thomas Beard, Wm. Follet, Thomas Layton, and Philip Lewis. Thomas Layton conveyed his quarter part of the saw-mill here to Richard Waldron, Ap. 8, 1653. "

"Clement's Point. Whitehouse's map of Dover in 1834 gives this name to the point at the mouth of Back river, on the west side. It is also so called in Sanford & Evert's Atlas of Strafford Co. The Clement land in the lower part of the Back River district, adjoining the lands of Samuel Emerson and Thomas Layton, is repeatedly mentioned in the early records."

"Royall's Cove, oterwise Ryall's. . . Thomas Layton, the 6th, 10 mo., 1656, had a grant of 100 acres on the west side of Back river, adjoining a twenty acre lot he bought of Ambrose Gibbons, previously Mr. Rogers' lot; - which hundred acres were 'laid out at the head of this twenty acre lot, 16 poles by the northernmost branch of Riall's cove, and so up the freshett 16 and 13 pole, the creek being on the south side.' (See Franchman's Creek.) thomas layton, Sr., Feb. 13, 1670, 'out of love and affection to his natural son, Thomas Layton, Jr.,' conveyed to him the dwelling house then in his possession, together with eight score acres of land, whereof 20 were granted Henry Tibbets, 20 to Mr. rogers, and the rest to himself, all adjoining;"

Early Life in Hilton Point

Hilton Point - This point of land is at the north end of the railroad bridge connecting Dover and Newington. The Pascataqua river is on its west side, having its rise at Fox Point, where the tide from Little Bay and Oyster River unite and form the Pascataqua; on the east in the Newichawannock [Salmon Falls River], which has its rise at the falls in South Berwick, and ends with its junction with the Pascataqua, below the bridge. For convenience, in old times, the lower half was called Fore River.

The first permanent settlement in New Hampshire was commenced on this point of land in the spring of 1623, by Edward Hilton, William Hilton, Thomas Roberts and others. The first house was built where Hilton Hall (hotel) now stands; a house has been standing over that cellar 303 years. David Thompson had a temporary settlement in 1622, or earlier, at Thompson's Point, at the junction of the Cocheco with the Newichawannock river. On this point he built a house which remained on the earlier Dover tax-lists, down to 1648, as the Thompson Point House." He also had a temporary settlement at Little Harbor in 1623, but later gave that up and lived on Thompson's Island, in Boston Harbor, where he died in 1628.

For two centuries this locality was called Hilton Point; before that the Indians called it "Wecannecohunt," which the English settlers later abbreviated into Wecohamet. During the first decade the Hilton settlement was called "Pascataquack," variously spelled. When Capt. Thomas Wiggin's colonists took possession in 1633, they gave it the name of Bristol; later it was changed to Northam. After it became united with the Massachusetts Bay Colony it received the name "Dover." Why this name was finally decided upon is nowhere explained. None of the early settlers in this section ever came from Dover, England.

POMEROY COVE. Leonard Pomery, or Pomeroy, a rich merchant of Plymouth, England, was the financial backer of Edward Hilton; he owned the ship "Providence" in which the Hilton colonists came over. No doubt he was with them on this first voyage, being a sagacious business manager in those early days of land speculation in New England. The "Providence" landed in the only good place along the shore, the cove, now cut in halves by the Dover & Portsmouth railroad; they named it "Pomeroy Cove" in honor of the financier of the expedition. Of course the name lacks the beauty and glory of the "Plymouth Rock" landing, which was only two and a half years before. William Hilton's family became members of the Plymouth Colony a year later, but finally came up to Hilton Point.

OLD DOVER. Early in October, 1633, Capt. Thomas Wiggin and his colonists came over and landed at Salem. As soon as it could be arranged, they all reshipped to Hilton Point, where Capt. Wiggin had made a bargain with Hilton to settle his colonists. The negotiations commenced in 1630, soon after Hilton had secured his "Squamscott Patent" defining his territory, which he transferred to Capt. Wiggin's colonists. In brief, this included what is now Dover, Somersworth, Newington, Durham, Madbury, Lee and Rollinsford. Up to that time all the houses were on the land between the Point and the Cove. The dwellers thereon were busily engaged in fishing, as the tidewater was abounding in all kinds of denizens of the sea, and trading with the Indians also brought to Hilton and his neighbors valuable furs from animals of the forest. It appears to have been a prosperous and peaceful period; there was no trouble between the white and red men; in fact, there was never any serious trouble, much less war, between the two races during the first fifty years following 1623.

There is no extant record of just what the bargain was between Wiggin and Hilton, but it was such as gave Wiggin's colonists the right to establish a village on what is now known as Dover Neck. The present shape of the hill, on the east side from Riverview Hall along Fore River to the bluff, is entirely different from what it was originally; the slope of the hill was gradual to the water, so that houses were built all along the river front, and River Street was a thoroughfare until brick making commenced in the 19th century; there was no regular brick yard established before 1800. During the 19th century immense quantities of brick were manufactured from the clay banks along the river front.

It appears that when Thomas Wiggin came over here and completed the bargain with Hilton, he outlined in his mind the construction of a village like those in England, in that period of progress. The hill was covered with primeval forest, tall pines predominating, with here and there some hard wood. He planned a street where the state road now is, and named it High Street; on the westerly side of this street, one-quarter of a mile distant, he planned Low Street; on the Easterly side of High street he planned River Street. Between these main avenues of travel were lanes leading to the rivers on both sides of the hill.

There is no record of the names of number of colonists who made that first voyage; maybe there were forty or fifty, and most of the number were men, young or middle aged; well educated, but not college men; skilled in the various trades that prevailed in their old homes. At the landing at Hilton Point they made their temporary home while they were changing the forest into a village.

No doubt the first house erected was the log meeting-house on Low Street. It must have been a large edifice, and was the business center while the construction of log dwellings was carried on. It must have been late in the winter of 1634 when general house-keeping was commenced. Imagine yourself going out into several hundred acres of "Guppy Pines" and you can form an idea of what Capt. Wiggin's colonists had to do. That log meeting-house served its purpose during the first twenty years; it was the place for church services on Sunday; town-meetings on Tuesday; for courts whenever need. The First Church was not organized until 1638, but they were not Godless men; religious services were held before that time. It was in that log house that all the controversies of the first score of years of the town were held; some of them are marvelously interesting, as showing what the common people thought and did.

Maybe the inhabitants on the Point kept fishing and trading, but the lumber business occupied most of the time and attention of the dwellers on the hill. At an early period they commenced ship-building in the yards along Fore River; they had carpenter shops, blacksmith shops, cooper shops, etc., all along Low Street. Dwelling houses, stores, or shops as they were then called, and ordinaries (taverns) were on High Street. The first brewery in New Hampshire was at a spring in Riverview Hall. In that vicinity was the first tannery in New Hampshire. A little farther along the first school-house in Dover was erected. On the other side of the hill, on Low Street, directly behind the meeting-house lot, is the locality in which the first jail and pillory stood, in which they confined Quakers and other church offenders, and last of all the whipping post, at which they punished wife-beaters and Godless topers. So for ninety years this locality on the hill was a large prosperous and happy village. In fact, the views from the summit of the hill are beautiful and need but to be seen to be appreciated. Automobile parties racing over the road at a rate of thirty-five or forty miles an hour have not the slightest idea of the historic and grandly beautiful locality they are passing through.

The Great Migration of the 1630s

In 1630 England was the center of a turbulent seventeenth century dominated by growing religious, political and social unrest between King Charles I and his supporters, and Parliament. On one side were the Royalists, mostly unscrupulous noblemen privileged by birth or rank, and on the other side the so-called "Roundheads," townspeople, farmers and religious Puritans who supported Oliver Cromwell. During this dark period of uneasy peace leading up to the outbreak of Civil War in 1642, approximately 21,000 English men and women immigrated to New England. More than 250 ships embarked for the new world with the Winthrop Fleet of 1630 highlighting the Great Migration.

Not all immigrants were escaping religious or political intolerance. It is likely that many of the early recruits to America were down on their luck Londoners looking for a means of social or economic improvement. Yet they were remarkable people bound together by extraordinary forces of their times. As one modern historian put it, "for these people, going to America was the equivalent to our going to the moon with no return flight." They were departing the old world forever and taking the wrenching voyage to America.

North America in colonial times was a land of farmers. Unlike later immigrants, our early ancestors found no cities or industrial centers to secure skilled or unskilled employment. Only vast regions of hills and valleys awaited them, uncultivated and overgrown from which timber and rocky fields were cleared to carve out an agrarian society. They were common folk, yet they were skilled and industrious and devoted to family, faith and community.

Captain Thomas Wiggin 1592 - 1667

Captain Thomas Wiggin was a strict Puritan who believed the Anglican Church should be rid of all Catholic influence and that to escape its heresy a "New England" was needed in the new world. He commanded one of the early explorations to New Hampshire during this period and was appointed by English entrepreneurs* to make land acquisitions and organize potential settlers. He and his fellow passengers departed England from the mouth of the Thames estuary at Gravesend aboard the ship James. Many of these early adventurers sold their only possessions to pay for the voyage. The journey took about eight weeks and the relatively small but sturdy ship, carrying 100 Pilgrims and Puritans along with horses, cattle, goats and provisions landed at Salem, Massachusetts on October 10, 1633. After disembarking the voyagers who did not wish to go further, Captain Wiggin and 30 hearty passengers sailed up the coast and dropped anchor at Hilton Point, later to be known as Dover, New Hampshire. At this place in the wilderness where no town or civilization existed, forests were cleared, homes were built and a settlement was established.

The Settlement

Colonists in New England needed permission in the form of a patent or charter from the King to establish a settlement. The Royal Charter vested ultimate power in the General Court. Townships only held land on certain conditions. Families in each town had their "house lot," and "acre right" in the undivided meadow and land was held in widely separated pieces. Field meetings were convened at specific intervals to determine the time for planting, harvesting and turning the cattle into the commons for grazing. Authority was given to townships to establish places of public worship, to recruit and support its ministry, to establish a means of defense from Indian attacks, to provide for the safekeeping of arms and munitions and to elect constables and surveyors of highways. Two or three men were selected to oversee the orderly establishment of roads and boundaries and to send to the General Court all names of idle and unprofitable persons, thus the derivation of the name selectmen.

In this wilderness society, the town was the center of civility and survival. Homes were usually built on a knoll or drumlin and nearby fields were cleared for proper drainage, where the rain would run off to ensure the land would dry quickly. The abundance of shell and sea fish in the Great Bay attracted both settlers and indigenous Indians. While several nearby settlements, some as close as Newfields across the river, endured hostile attacks during the Indian uprisings, Stratham had shared in their agricultural prosperity with the native Squamscots during times of famine and enjoyed peaceful relations. As a result not a single attack was recorded.

Other than ministers and a few lawyers, nearly all inhabitants of the settlements were husbandmen or farmers. These settlers learned from the Indians how to "fish the fields" by laying down perch, alewife, smelt and eel to fertilize and replenish the land every three years. Rye, buckwheat, barley and Indian corn were raised along with turnips, beans, pumpkins and peas. Salt pork, smoked bacon, sausage, eggs, domestic fowl, cheese, Indian pudding and molasses were among the foods that provided sustenance and bounty. New Hampshire's geography limited farms to single family production however, and in later generations many New Englanders became fishermen, shipbuilders, merchants and sailors.

Work in the household was extremely difficult and exhausting. Housewives cooked meals, made clothing, gave comfort and administered aid to family illnesses in addition to cleaning. They made household goods to use and sell, took care of their animals, maintained the fire and tended to the kitchen gardens. Society was by and large unappreciative, and as a result their remarkable deeds and contributions are not well documented.

In the mid-1660's, Stratham's population consisted of four families (Wiggin, Veasey, Scammon and Waldron) who owned all the land. Yet, it did not take long for others to discover the area's fertile soils and relatively level topography enabled them to grow successful fruit and vegetable crops as well as feed grains for cattle and hogs and hops for brewing beer.

The Church exercised a powerful influence in the affairs of the community and the seating in the Meeting House was a reflection of stature. Seatings were determined by rank, which was a measure of wealth, profession, ability, and whatever else determined a man's consequence among his peers.