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Exeter, New Hampshire
—  Town  —

Location in Rockingham County, New Hampshire
Coordinates: 42°58′53″N 70°56′52″W / 42.98139°N 70.94778°W / 42.98139; -70.94778
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Rockingham
Incorporated 1638
 - Board of Selectmen Julie Gilman, Chair
Robert Aldrich, Vice Chair
Don Clement, Clerk
Bill Campbell
Matthew Quandt
 - Total 20.0 sq mi (51.8 km2)
 - Land 19.6 sq mi (50.9 km2)
 - Water 0.4 sq mi (1.0 km2)  1.85%
Elevation 33 ft (10 m)
Population (2007)
 - Total 14,735
 Density 751.8/sq mi (289.5/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 03833
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-25380
GNIS feature ID 0873595

Exeter is a town in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States. The town's population was 14,058 at the 2000 census. Exeter was the county seat until 1997, when county offices were moved to neighboring Brentwood. Home to the Phillips Exeter Academy, a private university-preparatory school, Exeter is situated where the Exeter River feeds the tidal Squamscott River.

The urban portion of the town, where over 69% of the population resides, is defined by the U. S. Census Bureau as the Exeter census-designated place.



Gilman Garrison House in 1906

The area was once the domain of the Squamscott Indians, a sub-tribe of the Pennacook nation, which fished at the falls where the Exeter River becomes the tidal Squamscott, the site around which the future town of Exeter would grow. On April 3, 1638, the Reverend John Wheelwright and others purchased the land from Wehanownowit, the sagamore. Wheelwright had been exiled by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a puritan theocracy, for sharing the dissident religious views of his sister-in-law, Anne Hutchinson. The minister took with him about 175 individuals to found the town he named after Exeter in Devon, England.

One of the four original townships in the province, Exeter originally included Newmarket, Newfields, Brentwood, Epping and Fremont. Thirty-five freemen of Exeter signed on July 4, 1639 the Exeter Combination, a document written by Reverend Wheelwright to establish their own government.[1] The settlers hunted, planted and fished. Others tended cattle and swine, or made shakes and barrel staves.

Thomas Wilson established the first grist mill on the eastern side of the island in the lower falls. This mill was established within the first season of settling in Exeter, and his son Humphrey assumed control of the mill in 1643, when Thomas died.[2]

Some early Exeter settlers came from Hingham, Massachusetts, including the Gilman, Folsom and Leavitt families.[3][4] In 1647, Edward Gilman, Jr. established the first sawmill, and by 1651 Gilman had his own 50-ton sloop with which to conduct his burgeoning business in lumber, staves and masts. Although he was lost at sea in 1653 while traveling to England to purchase equipment for his mills[5], his family later became prominent as lumbermen, shipbuilders, merchants and statesmen.[6][7]

The Gilman Garrison House, a National Historic Landmark, and the American Independence Museum were both former homes of the Gilman family.[8][9] The Gilman family also donated the land on which Phillips Exeter Academy stands, including the Academy's original Yard, the oldest part of campus.[10] The Gilmans of Exeter also furnished America with one of its founding fathers, Nicholas Gilman, and the state of New Hampshire with treasurers, a governor, representatives to the General Assembly and judges to the General Court.[11][12]

The Gilman family began trading as far as the West Indies with ships they owned out of Portsmouth. It was a high-stakes business. In an 1803 voyage, for instance, the 180-ton clipper 'Oliver Peabody,' owned by Gov. John Taylor Gilman, Oliver Peabody, Col. Gilman Leavitt and others, was boarded by brigs belonging to the Royal Navy under command of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Enforcing a blockade against the French, Nelson offered ship Captain Stephen Gilman of Exeter a glass of wine and paid him for his cargo in Spanish dollars.[13] The trip demonstrates how far afield the ambitious merchants of Exeter reached in their trading forays.

Exeter suffered its last Indian raid in August of 1723, and by 1725 the tribes had left the area. In 1774, the rebellious Provincial Congress began to meet in the Exeter Town House after Colonial Governor John Wentworth banned it from the colonial capitol at Portsmouth. In July of 1775, the Provincial Congress had the provincial records seized from royal officials in Portsmouth and brought to Exeter as well. And so Exeter became New Hampshire's Revolutionary War capital, an honor it held for fourteen years until Concord assumed the role.

In 1827, the Exeter Manufacturing Company was established beside the river, using water power to produce cotton textiles. Other businesses would manufacture shoes, saddles, harnesses, lumber, boxes, bricks, carriages and bicycles. In 1836, the last schooner was launched at Exeter. In 1840, the Boston & Maine Railroad entered the town.

According to former governor Hugh Gregg, the United States Republican Party was born in Exeter on October 12, 1853 at the Squamscott Hotel, but nothing came of the secret meeting of Amos Tuck with other abolitionists that day, and the party was not organized in the state until 1856. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, visited Exeter in 1860. His son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was attending Phillips Exeter Academy, the college preparatory school founded in 1781 by Dr. John Phillips. The town was also once home to the Robinson Female Seminary, established in 1867 and previously known as the Exeter Female Academy (established in 1826). Its landmark Second Empire schoolhouse, completed in 1869, burned in 1961.

In September 1965 Exeter earned a place in UFO history when two Exeter police officers, Eugene Bertrand and David Hunt, witnessed a bright red UFO at close range with a local teenager, Norman Muscarello. Their sighting attracted national publicity and became the focus of a bestselling book, Incident at Exeter, by journalist John G. Fuller. The Air Force eventually admitted to the three men that it had been unable to identify the strange object they had observed, and it is still considered by many UFO buffs to be one of the most impressive UFO sightings on record.

Phillips Church in 1911

Exeter has a considerable inventory of structures by prominent architects. Arthur Gilman, descendant of one of Exeter's founding families, designed the Old Town Hall of 1855. The Old Public Library of 1894, which now is home to the Exeter Historical Society, was designed by the Boston firm of Rotch & Tilden. Ralph Adams Cram, who trained with Rotch & Tilden, designed both Phillips Church, built in 1897, and Tuck High School, built in 1911. His firm of Cram & Ferguson designed the entire Phillips Exeter Academy campus between 1908 and 1950. More recent is the noted Academy Library, built in 1971 to the design of Louis I. Kahn. Daniel Chester French, sculptor and Exeter native, created the town's war memorial in 1922. He is best known for his statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, which was designed by Henry Bacon, who also designed in 1916 the Swasey Pavilion at Exeter's town square.

Other features of the town include the Swasey Parkway, which replaced wharves and warehouses along the Squamscott River, and the Ioka Theatre of 1915 on Water Street. The latter was built by Edward Mayer, an Exeter judge and resident. Although frequently referred to as the nephew of Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer, genealogical research does not connect the two families.[citation needed] Edward Mayer's opening feature was The Birth of a Nation, by D. W. Griffith. The theatre's curious name was proposed in a contest by a young woman with an enthusiasm for Scouting. Ioka was a Native American word meaning playground.

Notable inhabitants


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 20.0 square miles (52 km2), of which 19.6 sq mi (51 km2) is land and 0.4 sq mi (1.0 km2) is water, comprising 1.85% of the town. Exeter is drained by the Exeter River, which feeds the Squamscott River. The highest point in Exeter is 250 feet (76 m) above sea level on Great Hill at the town's southwest corner. Exeter lies fully within the Piscataqua River (Coastal) watershed.[17]

The town's center, defined as a census-designated place (CDP), has a total area of 4.5 square miles (12 km2), of which 4.4 sq mi (11 km2) is land and 0.2 sq mi (0.52 km2) (3.74%) is water.


Tuck High School in 1912

As of the census[18] of 2000, there were 14,058 people, 5,898 households, and 3,715 families residing in the town. The population density was 715.9 people per square mile (276.4/km²). There were 6,107 housing units at an average density of 311.0/sq mi (120.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.18% White, 0.42% African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.94% Asian, 0.29% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.87% of the population.

There were 5,898 households out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.0% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.0% were non-families. 31.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.94.

Old Public Library in 1906

In the town the population was spread out with 24.2% under the age of 18, 5.0% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 17.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $49,618, and the median income for a family was $63,088. Males had a median income of $45,091 versus $30,435 for females. The per capita income for the town was $27,105. About 2.9% of families and 5.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.8% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.


Town center

As of the census[18] of 2000, there were 9,759 people, 4,233 households, and 2,539 families residing in the central urban settlement. The population density was 2,230.4 people per square mile (860.3/km²). There were 4,376 housing units at an average density of 1,000.1/sq mi (385.7/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 97.21% White, 0.46% Black or African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.92% Asian, 0.22% from other races, and 0.98% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.77% of the population.

There were 4,233 households out of which 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.1% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.0% were non-families. 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 5.2% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 23.8% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $44,279, and the median income for a family was $53,174. Males had a median income of $41,760 versus $30,000 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $24,663. About 4.1% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 5.8% of those age 65 or over.

See also

Sites of interest


  1. ^ Signers of the Exeter Combination, History of Newfields, New Hampshire, 1638-1911, James Hill Fitts, 1912
  2. ^ Bell, Charles H., "History of the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire." Heritage Books 1979. Pages 317-18.
  3. ^ Some Account of the Gilmans, Otises, Leavitts, Otises & C., History of the Town of Hingham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Solomon Lincoln, Farmer and Brown, Hingham, 1827
  4. ^ John Leavitt, founding deacon of Old Ship Church in Hingham, was granted land in Exeter in 1652, but there is no sign that he took up residence. But his sons Moses and Samuel Leavitt moved to Exeter, presumably to be closer to their maternal grandfather, Edward Gilman Sr.[1]
  5. ^ A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Vol. II, James Savage, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Mass., 1860
  6. ^ Deed of Edward Gillman Sr., Suffolk County Deeds, The Essex Antiquarian, 1905
  7. ^ Gilman deeds, Exeter, The Essex Antiquarian, Sidney, Perley, 1897
  8. ^ Gilman Garrison House, Historic New England, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities
  9. ^ The American Independence Museum, Exeter, N.H.
  10. ^ The Gilmans of America, Searches Into the History of the Gillman or Gilman family, Alexander Gillman, London, 1895
  11. ^ The Gilmans of Exeter,
  12. ^ John Taylor Gilman M.D., Portland, Maine, Charles Henry Bell, Exeter, N.H., 1885
  13. ^ Rambles about Portsmouth, Charles Warren Brewster, Lewis W. Brewster, Portsmouth, N.H., 1869
  14. ^ Probate of Will of Samuel Dudley of Exeter, 1682/3, Lane Memorial Library, Hampton, N.H.,
  15. ^ Memorials of Meredith, New Hampshire, Franklin P. Rice, Massachusetts Record Society, Worcester, 1891
  16. ^ Calendar of State Papers, August 7, 1699, Colonial Series, Cecil Headlam (ed.), Great Britain Public Record Office, Printed for His Majesty's Stationery Office, Fleet Street, London, 1908
  17. ^ Foster, Debra H.; Batorfalvy, Tatianna N.; and Medalie, Laura (1995). Water Use in New Hampshire: An Activities Guide for Teachers. U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey. 
  18. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

External links

Further reading

  • Cross-Grained & Wiley Waters: A Guide to the Piscataqua Maritime Region, Jeffrey W. Bolster, Editor; Peter Randall Publisher, Portsmouth, 2001
  • Exeter New Hampshire 1888-1988, Nancy C. Merrill; Peter E. Randall, Publisher, Exeter, NH 1988
  • History of Exeter, New Hampshire, Charles H. Bell, Exeter, NH 1888; Reprinted by Heritage Books, 1990
  • Images of America: Exeter, Carol Walker Aten; Arcadia Publishers, Dover, NH, 1996, reprint 1998
  • Ports of Piscataqua: Soundings in the Maritime History of the Portsmouth, N.H., Customs District from the Days of Queen Elizabeth and the Planting of Strawberry Banke to the Times of Abraham Lincoln and the Waning of the American Clipper, William Gurdon Saltonstall, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1941
  • Postcards from Exeter, Carol Walker Aten; Arcadia Publishers, Dover, NH, 2003
  • The Exeter-Squamscott: River of Many Uses, Olive Tardiff; Peter E. Randall, Publisher, Exeter, NH 1986, 2004

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EXETER, a town and one of the county-seats of Rockingham county, New Hampshire, U.S.A., on the Squamscott river, about 12 m. S.W. of Portsmouth and about 51 m. N. by E. of Boston, Mass. Pop. (1890) 4284; (1900) 4922, of whom 1066 were foreign-born; area, about 17 sq. m. It is served by the Western Division of the Boston & Maine railway. The town has a public library and some old houses built in the colonial period, and is the seat of Phillips Exeter Academy (incorporated in 1781 and opened in 1783). In its charter this institution is described as "an academy for the purpose of promoting piety and virtue, and for the education of youth in the English, Latin and Greek languages, in writing, arithmetic, music and the art of speaking, practical geometry, logic and geography, and such other of the liberal arts and sciences or languages, as opportunity may hereafter permit." It was founded by Dr John Phillips (1719-1795), a graduate of Harvard College, who acquired considerable wealth as a merchant at Exeter and gave nearly all of it to the cause of education. The academy is one of the foremost secondary schools in the country, and among its alumni have been Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, Lewis Cass (born in Exeter in a house still standing), John Parker Hale, George Bancroft, Jared Sparks, John Gorham Palfrey, Richard Hildreth and Francis Bowen. The government of the academy is vested in a board of six trustees, regarding whom the founder provided that a majority should be laymen and not inhabitants of Exeter. In 1909-1910 the institution had 20 buildings, 32 acres of recreation grounds, 16 instructors and 488 students, representing 38 states and territories of the United States and 4 foreign countries. At Exeter also is the Robinson female seminary (1867), with 14 instructors and 272 students in 1906-1907. The river furnishes water-power, and among the manufactures of the town are shoes, machinery, cottons, brass, &c.

The town is one of the oldest in the state; it was founded in 1638 by Rev. John Wheelwright, an Antinomian leader who with a number of followers settled here after his banishment from Massachusetts. For their government the settlers adopted (1639) a plantation covenant. There was disagreement from the first, however, with regard to the measure of loyalty to the king, and in 1643, when Massachusetts had asserted her claim to this region and the other three New Hampshire towns had submitted to her jurisdiction, the majority of the inhabitants of Exeter also yielded, while the minority, including the founder, removed from the town. In 1680 the town became a part of the newly created province of New Hampshire. During the French and Indian wars it was usually protected by a garrison, and some of the garrison houses are still standing. From 1776 to 1784 the state legislature usually met at Exeter.

See C. H. Bell, History of the Town of Exeter (Exeter, 1888).

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