No Respect: Why aren't N.H.'s founders celebrated like the Bay State's?




We've all been to Plimoth Plantation, seen the reconstructed settlement, the replica of the Mayflower, the rock, the whole deal. In Massachusetts, they make a big - and profitable - fuss over their founders.

In New Hampshire? Nada.

We had founders, too. They were here shortly after the Pilgrims, maybe even before. But do we have a reconstructed Pannaway settlement, a replica of the Jonathan, a statue of David Thomson?

Nothing.

"At least they could name a beer after the guy," says local historian J. Dennis Robinson. "It's pitiful." He thinks part of the problem is that most Granite Staters have no clue about the first European settlement on Odiorne Point - and why should they? There's nothing to mark the spot, except for a granite marker that's lost in the weeds somewhere.

"We've been focused as a state on the Old Man of the Mountain for our identity and for attracting tourists," Robinson says. Now that he's gone, what do we have? Could the Thomsons (wife Amias and young son John came, too) take the Old Man's place, maybe even become the same kind of moneymaker that Plimoth Plantation is? Robinson would love to see that happen, but says right now "there's no Thomson buzz."

A first step toward getting people to pay attention to our founders, Robinson says, is to hire an artist to create a portrait of Thomson (whose name is sometimes spelled Thompson). "We have just one possible picture of Shakespeare and look what happened. It could happen with Thomson. First the picture, then the book, the movie, the mini-series and the Burger King cups."

Thomson, a Scot, came to fish off the Isles of Shoals and to trade with the Indians. Robinson says, in addition to being a fisherman, Thomson was a scholar, a clerk, an apothecary, a traveler (there's evidence he visited here as early as 1619) and a gung-ho capitalist.

After arriving on the ship Jonathan in 1623, Thomson, his family and as many as 10 indentured servants (maybe we won't talk about that part) settled on the point of land that is now Odiorne State Park, where the Seacoast Science Center is, a place they called Pannaway.

"Our founding couple - it's sinful," says Robinson, who's been telling this story for 40 years with no traction. "If we wait for the state to ante up and build a statue, it might take another 400 years. So what's in your wallet?"

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