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Dover History

New Hampshire history begins in Dover. Settled in 1623, Dover was the first permanent settlement in New Hampshire and the seventh oldest in the United States.

Cocheco Mills Central Avenue and Main Street Dover, NH 03820

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The large brick mills in the center of downtown formed the Cocheco Manufacturing Company. The first cloth manufacturing industry was the Dover Cotton Factory, which began up river in 1814. In 1828, new rules were enforced at the mills; the rules barred talking among employees during work hours, prohibited unions, imposed 12.5-cent fines for being late, and reduced daily wages from 58 cents to 53 cents. Female workers rebelled, and on December 30, 1828, Dover was the scene of the first women’s strike in the United States. Half of the 800 “mill girls” walked off the job and paraded around the compound with banners, signs, and fireworks. However, all the protesting was in vain as the mill owners simply advertised for 400 replacements. In fear of losing their jobs, the women returned to work.

Dame Tibbetts Tavern
45 Silver Street
Dover, NH 03820
Sea captain John Tibbetts built this Georgian-style home in 1730. After he died at sea, his widow, Lydia, ran the Dame Tibbetts Tavern here. Under her management, the tavern became a popular gathering place for many significant historical events in Dover, including the 1812 organizational meeting of the Dover Cotton Factory founders. Among the tavern’s regular guests were the members of Dover’s Fish and Potato Club, and Daniel Webster frequented the tavern when he was presiding over court in Dover.

Foster’s Daily Democrat
150 Venture Drive
Dover, NH 03820
Joshua Foster started the Foster’s Weekly Democrat newspaper in 1872, and it quickly gained popularity. In fact, daily editions commenced in 1873. The newspaper’s offices were housed at different locations throughout the city, moving to Central Avenue in 1895 and relocating to their new facility in 2006. Ownership of the newspaper still remains in the Foster family.

Friends Meeting House
141 Central Avenue
Dover, NH 03820
Built in 1768 by the Quakers, this building is Dover’s oldest religious structure. The entrance has two doors, one leading left to the women’s side and one leading right to the men’s side. Famous poet John Greenleaf Whittier often attended meetings here as a child when he came to visit his grandmother, and his parents were married here in 1804. Friends’ meetings still are held here today.

Hilton Park
Dover Point off Spaulding Turnpike Exit 5
Dover, NH 03820
603-742-2887
Much of Dover’s land was part of several grants given by King James of England in 1622. In 1623, English settler Edward Hilton established the first settlement on what is now Dover Point. Hilton Park, which is located at the tip of Dover Point, contains a historic monument that commemorates the site as the location of Dover’s first settlement. Featuring outstanding views of the Piscataqua River and Little Bay, this state park also contains a boat access ramp, picnic areas, and playground. In 1642, the area became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The center of activity in Dover moved gradually from Dover Point to the current downtown area below Cochecho Falls, which came to be known as Dover Landing.

Pine Hill Cemetery
Central Avenue
Dover, NH 03820
603-516-6480
A burying ground for Dover since 1731, American Indians first used the cemetery. The area covers 75 acres and contains many historic markers and tombs of the people who played significant roles in the settlement, development, and growth of Dover.

Ricker House
50–52 Summer Street
Dover, NH 03820
Mrs. Marilla Ricker, who lived in Dover at 50 Summer Street, was a force to be reckoned with and a woman ahead of her time. She was a lawyer, an aggressive suffragette, and a vocal atheist. She was the first woman to be admitted to the Bar in Washington D.C. (in 1882) and in New Hampshire (in 1890), and she was the first woman to be granted permission to practice before the United States Supreme Court (in 1891). For 30 years, she tried unsuccessfully to vote in Dover. She died in 1920, months after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

Sawyer Woolen Mills
Mill Street
Dover, NH 03820
This area had a sawmill in 1649 and quickly developed to include a foundry, a gristmill, and a flannel mill. In 1824, during an expansion in the textile industry, Alfred Sawyer purchased the mills. By the 1870s, the mills produced 900,000 yards of wool a year and employed 300 people. In the early 1950s, two motion pictures were filmed at the location: Whistle at Eaton Falls with Lloyd Bridges, Dorothy Gish, and Ernest Borgnine and Walk East on Beacon, starring George Murphy. Today, the mills serve as beautiful apartments with high ceilings, original beams, and views of Bellamy River.

Tuttle’s Red Barn
123 Dover Point Road
Dover, NH 03820
603-742-4313
Established in 1663, Tuttle’s Red Barn is the oldest family-owned-and-operated farm in the country. Founder John Tuttle received a land grant from Britain’s King Charles I, who was trying to populate the American colonies. Tuttle sailed with his wife and four-year-old daughter across the Atlantic only to lose all of the family’s possessions in a shipwreck off the coast of Maine. The family walked to what is now New Hampshire and, in time, carved out 30 acres of farmland. Along with a handful of other settlers, the Tuttles lived off the land, learning from the Penacook tribes how to grow corn and squash and fertilize the ground with dead fish.

Over the centuries, the family purchased additional parcels to create the existing 240-acre farm. In the mid-19th century, William Tuttle built the region’s first greenhouse, where he grew flowers to sell to neighbors. By the early 20th century, the Tuttles were selling their vegetables to local grocers, hauling produce to town in a horse and buggy.

In the 1950s, the family converted one of their old dairy barns into a farm stand, selling their own corn, squash, beans, peas, and other produce. In the late 1980s, Tuttle’s Red Barn expanded its offerings to include home decor items. Today, the store and nursery feature gourmet items in addition to vegetables, fruits, dairy products, exotic plants and flowers, and home decoration and gift items.

Woodman Institute Museum and the William Damm Garrison
182 Central Avenue
Dover, NH 03820
603-742-1038
Dedicated to the preservation of natural science, art and furniture, and local history, the Woodman Institute often is called a “museum’s museum,” a true turn-of-the-century institute with exhibits displayed throughout a four- building complex that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A new adventure awaits visitors in each and every room. Climb the narrow ladder stairs in the 1675 colonial garrison and wonder how someone could have slept in those old rope beds. See a 10-foot polar bear, a four-legged chicken, and President Lincoln’s riding saddle all under one roof in the 1818 Woodman House. In the 1813 Hale House, admire the table used by Reverend Jeremy Belknap when he wrote the three-volume History of New Hampshire, the law desk used by Senator John Parker Hale, and the pocket watch owned by Josiah Bartlett (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence). The 1827 Keefe House is home to more than 7,000 historical and genealogical documents, including a 1771 tax bill from King George to the citizens of Dover.

Minerals, fossils, birds, butterflies, mammals, shells, American Indian artifacts, scrimshaw, ship models, musical instruments, pewter, china, glassware, antique dolls, police and fire-fighting equipment, paintings, mill memorabilia, and time capsules are just a few of the many fascinating items on display.

The Woodman Institute Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $5.00 for adults, $4.00 for students and senior citizens (65 years and older), $2.00 for teenagers age 14 through 16 years, and free for kids age 13 years and younger. Reservations for groups of 12 or more are requested. Local history books are available in the gift shop. For more information or to secure a reservation call 603-742-1038.

Additional Resources for Historical Information

Dover’s Heritage Trails
Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce
299 Central Avenue
Dover, NH 03820
603-742-2218
The Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce publishes Dover’s Heritage Trails, a brochure featuring three historical self-guided walking tours. The tours cover the old mill area along the river and downtown, the historic residential district, and the Pine Hill Cemetery.

Dover Historical Society
PO Box 1916
Dover, NH 03820
603-742-8281
The Dover Historical Society conducts informational programs throughout the year, as well as walking and trolley tours of the city’s historic sites. Volunteers from the group compile information about historic Dover and arrange and conduct the tours in the fall.

Dover Main Street
100 Main Street
Dover, NH 03820
603-740-6435
Dover Main is a revitalization program that promotes the historic and economic redevelopment of downtown Dover.

Dover Public Library
73 Locust Street
Dover, NH 03820
603-516-6050
The Dover Public Library’s Historical Room houses a collection of historic maps, city directories, city reports, a large collection of photographs dating back to the early days of photography, and much more.

Images of the Past Gallery
35 Atkinson Street
Dover, NH 03820
603-742-7783
Located in a restored carriage barn, Images of the Past Gallery features sepia and hand-colored historic photographs printed from original glass plate negatives. Built circa 1870, the adjacent main building was once the residence of one of Dover’s wealthiest citizens, Joseph Abbott.

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