Dover is a city in Strafford County, New Hampshire, in the United States of America. The population was 29,987 at the 2010 census, the largest in the New Hampshire Seacoast region. The population was estimated at 30,220 in 2012. It is the county seat of Strafford County, and home to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, the Woodman Institute Museum, and the Children's Museum of New Hampshire.
According to historian Jeremy Belknap, the area was called Wecohamet by native Abenaki Indians. The first known European to explore the region was Martin Pring from Bristol, England, in 1603. Settled in 1623 as Hilton's Point by brothers William and Edward Hilton, London fishmongers, Dover is the oldest permanent settlement in New Hampshire, and the seventh oldest in the United States. It is one of the colony's four original townships, and once included Durham, Madbury, Newington and Lee. It also included Somersworth and Rollinsford, together which Indians called Newichawannock after the Newichawannock River, now known as the Salmon Falls River.
The Hiltons' name survives today at Hilton Park on Dover Point, located where they landed near the confluence of the Cochecho and Bellamy rivers with the Piscataqua. They had been sent from London by The Company of Laconia, which intended to establish a colony and fishery around the Piscataqua. In 1631, however, it contained only three houses.
In 1633, the Plantation of Cochecho was bought by a group of English Puritans who planned to settle in New England, including Viscount Saye and Sele, Baron Brooke and John Pym. They promoted colonization in America, and that year Hilton's Point was the arrival point of numerous immigrant pioneers, many from Bristol. They renamed the settlement Bristol. Atop the nearby hill, the settlers built a meeting house, surrounded by an entrenchment, to the east of which they built a jail.
The town was called Dover in 1637 by the new governor, Reverend George Burdett. With the arrival of Thomas Larkham in 1639, it was renamed Northam, after Northam, Devon where he had been preacher. But Lord Saye and Sele's group lost interest in their settlements, both here and at Saybrook, Connecticut, when their intention to establish a hereditary aristocracy in the colonies met with disfavor in New England. Consequently, in 1641, the plantation was sold to Massachusetts and again named Dover, possibly in honor of Robert Dover, an English lawyer who resisted Puritanism.
Settlers felled the abundant trees to build log houses called garrisons. The town's population and business center would shift from Dover Point to Cochecho at the falls, where the river's drop of provided water power for industry. Indeed, Cochecho means "the rapid foaming water." Major Richard Waldron settled here and built a sawmill and gristmill.
At the end of King Philip's War, a number of aboriginal natives fleeing from the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia took refuge with the Abenaki tribe living in Dover. The Massachusetts militia ordered Waldron to attack the natives and turn the refugee combatants over to them. Waldron believed he could capture the natives without a pitched battle and so on September 7, 1676 invited the natives—about 400 in total, half local and half refugees—to participate in a mock battle against the militia. It was a trick; after the natives had fired their guns, Waldron took them prisoner. He sent both the refugee combatants and those locals who violently objected to this forced breach of hospitality to Boston, where seven or eight were convicted of insurrection and executed. The rest were sold into slavery in "foreign parts", mostly Barbados. The local Indians were released, but never forgave Waldron for the deception, which violated all the rules of honor and hospitality valued by the natives at that time. Richard Waldron would be appointed Chief Justice for New Hampshire in 1683.
Thirteen years passed and settlers believed the incident had been forgotten when King William's War began and members of the newly formed Wabanaki Confederacy arrived. When citizens spoke their concern to Waldron, he told them to "go and plant your pumpkins, and he would take care of the Indians." On June 27, 1689, two native women appeared at each of five garrison houses, asking permission to sleep by the fire. All but one house accepted. In the dark early hours of the next day, the women unfastened the doors allowing native men who had concealed themselves to enter the town. Waldron resisted but was stunned with a hatchet then placed on his table. After dining, the Indians cut him across the belly with knives, each saying "I cross out my account." Five or six dwelling houses were burned, along with the mills. Fifty-two colonists, a full quarter of the entire population, were captured or slain.
Located at the head of navigation, the falls of the Cochecho River helped bring the Industrial Revolution to 19th century Dover in a big way. The Dover Cotton Factory was incorporated in 1812, then enlarged in 1823 to become the Dover Manufacturing Company. In 1827, the Cocheco Manufacturing Company was founded (the misspelling a clerical error at incorporation), and in 1829 purchased the Dover Manufacturing Company. Expansive brick mill buildings, linked by railroad, were constructed downtown. Incorporated as a city in 1855, Dover was for a time a national leader in textiles. The mills were purchased in 1909 by the Pacific Mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts, which closed the printery in 1913 but continued spinning and weaving. During the Great Depression, however, textile mills no longer dependent on New England water power began moving to southern states in search of cheaper operating conditions, or simply went out of business. Dover's millyard shut down in 1937, and was bought at auction in 1940 by the city itself for $54,000. There were no other bids. The Cocheco Falls Millworks now has tenants including technology and government services companies, and a restaurant.