In Stratham, as elsewhere on the continent, Native American Indians were the sole occupants of the territory until the arrival of European explorers and settlers. Squamscott Indians, who inhabited the area, had their population reduced by several causes including exposure to small pox from Captain John Smith’s sailors in 1616. Prehistoric archaeological sites are providing information regarding the cultural traditions of the early inhabitors. Several partial excavations, featuring hearths, tools, arrowheads, pottery and foundations, originally were semi-permanent villages or seasonal camps.
Stratham is located in Rockingham County, New Hampshire’s earliest settled area. In 1623, European settlers were attracted by the region’s location and natural resources—lumber, rivers, furs and fertile soil. Settlements were under Massachusetts Bay Colony’s jurisdiction; however, by 1697, New Hampshire became a separate province. In 1623, Edward Hilton, a member of the Fishmongers’ Guild of London, immigrated to Dover Point to engage in commercial fishing. Seven years later, he obtained the Squamscott Patent for the upland “River Piscataquack” territory from the powerful Council for New England. This area on the south side of Piscataqua River and Great Bay extended from Dover Point to the Squamscott River falls in Exeter.
Settling in Dover in 1633, noted community leader Captain Thomas Wiggin, affiliated with the Puritan authorities of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was hired by associates of Hilton from Bristol and Shrewsbury, England, to serve as agent in charge of the Shrewsbury Patent. Wiggin, later Governor of the Dover settlement, built a house in Stratham in 1639.Under the authority of Massachusetts in 1656, the Squamscott Patent was divided into three parcels. The middle section was assigned to Wiggin and his partners and the southern one, to the company known as the “Shrewsbury Men,” with Wiggin as the agent. The Town of Stratham was located within both parcels.
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 King’s Great Highway (Portsmouth Avenue), originally referred to as Country Way, became an important