New Hampshire: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries

New Hampshire Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

John H. Long, Editor; Peggy Tuck Sinko, Associate Editor; Gordon DenBoer, with George E. Goodridge, Jr., Historical Compilers; Douglas Knox, Book Digitizing Director; Emily Kelley, Research Associate; Laura Rico-Beck, GIS Specialist and Digital Compiler; Peter Siczewicz, ArcIMS Interactive Map Designer; Robert Will, Cartographic Assistant

Copyright The Newberry Library 2007

20 August 1622

The Council for New England granted to Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason all land along the Atlantic coast between the Merrimack and Sagadahoc (now Kennebec) Rivers, to be called the province of Maine. Area covered eastern part of present New Hampshire and southwestern Maine. (Andrews, 1:334; Swindler, 4:264)

4 March 1628/1629

King Charles I chartered the Massachusetts Bay Company to establish a colony in the territory between three miles north of the Merrimack River ("to the Northward of any and every Parte thereof") and three miles south of the Charles River, and extending westward from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean, thereby taking a three-mile wide strip of Maine (area now south of the Kennebec River) north of the Merrimack River. (Andrews, 1:359; Swindler, 5:32-42)

7 November 1629

After Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason divided their 1622 land grant, the Council for New England granted to John Mason the territory to be called New Hampshire, lying between the Merrimack and the Piscataqua Rivers and extending up to 60 miles inland from the coast. The remainder of the 1622 grant between the Piscataqua and Kennebec Rivers was left to Gorges and continued to be known as Maine. (Swindler, 6:304)


In 1633, residents of the town of Exeter and nearby settlements in southern New Hampshire, under the mistaken belief that they were located outside New Hampshire, put themselves under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. (Morison and Morison, 12)

7 June 1635

The Council for New England, faced with competition from Massachusetts and less success than expected in managing its own colonies, tried to protect the interests of its principal members, including Ferdinando Gorges (for Maine) and John Mason (for New Hampshire), by first distributing all its land among them and then, on this date, surrendering its charter to the crown. Members hoped the king would a) confirm the land grants they had made to themselves, b) abrogate the Massachusetts charter, and c) create a new royal colony for all of New England with Gorges as its governor. Technically, this threw all of New England, outside of Massachusetts, under the direct jurisdiction of the crown, but some earlier grants remained effective. (Preston, 305)

14 June 1641

Massachusetts gained all of New Hampshire when the colonists there voluntarily accepted Massachusetts jurisdiction; there had been no effective central government or judicial system there since the dissolution of the Council for New England and the death of John Mason, New Hampshire's principal land holder. (Swindler, 6:319)

10 May 1643

NORFOLK (Mass., original, extinct) created as one of the original Massachusetts counties; NORFOLK included the New Hampshire settlements. (Mass. Recs., 2:38)

26 May 1652

Massachusetts declared an interpretation of its 1628/1629 charter that would make its northern boundary an east-west line through a point three miles north of the most northerly part of the Merrimack River, which it decided later (1 August 1652) was the parallel of 43 degrees, 40 minutes, 12 seconds north latitude. Massachusetts used this interpretation to claim part of Maine and, until 1740, to create a few towns in the southern part of present Vermont and southwestern New Hampshire. (W. D. Williamson, 1:337; Van Zandt, 64)

18 September 1679

King Charles II made New Hampshire a royal colony, separate from Massachusetts; no western limit was specified. NORFOLK (Mass., original, extinct) was eliminated. (Swindler, 6:322; Van Zandt, 61)

17 May 1686

The arrival of its first royal governor inaugurated the Dominion of New England, the new single province that King James II created (8 October 1685) by uniting King's Province (present southwestern Rhode Island), Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine (area between New Hampshire and the Kennebec River). (Farnham, 7:367; Hart, 1:573; N.H. Early Laws, vol. 1, p. 99; W. D. Williamson, 1:576)

18 April 1689

Upon learning of the Glorious Revolution (replacement of King James II by King William III and Queen Mary II) in England, Bostonians imprisoned the royal governor and others, thereby ending the Dominion of New England. Over the next months New Hampshire and the other colonies that had been united to form the Dominion had to resume self-government. (Craven, 224; Morris and Kelly, pl. 11)

19 March 1689/1690

Massachusetts formally extended its jurisdiction over New Hampshire, which had petitioned on 20 February 1689/1690 for the annexation as a means to fill the governmental void left by the fall of the Dominion of New England on 18 April 1689. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 1, p. 261, and ch. 235 [1689]/p. 371)

1 March 1691/1692

King William III and Queen Mary II commissioned a royal governor for New Hampshire, effectively separating it from Massachusetts. Jurisdiction extended from three miles north of the Merrimack River to the Piscataqua River, but, as in 1679, no western limit was specified. Both Massachusetts and New Hampshire granted land and established towns in western New Hampshire west of the Merrimack River, often in conflict with each other. (N.H. State Papers, 2:57)

5 August 1740

King George II settled the boundary lines between Massachusetts and New Hampshire substantially as they are today. Under this decree New Hampshire challenged New York's 1674 claim to the area of present Vermont by first claiming a western limit equal to Connecticut and Massachusetts (20 miles east of the Hudson River) and later (chiefly in 1761 and 1763) creating in present Vermont more than 100 towns, which became known as the New Hampshire Grants. (Farnham, 8:47; Van Zandt, 61)

20 July 1764

King George III established the boundary between New Hampshire and New York along the west bank of the Connecticut River, north of Massachusetts and south of the parallel of 45 degrees north latitude. Although disputes occasionally broke out later, this line became the boundary between New Hampshire and Vermont and has not changed to the present. When New York refused to recognize land titles through the New Hampshire Grants (towns in present Vermont created earlier by New Hampshire) dissatisfied colonists organized in opposition, which led to the creation of independent Vermont in 1777. (Slade, 13-19; Van Zandt, 63)

29 April 1769

New Hampshire created five original counties to cover all territory in the colony: CHESHIRE, GRAFTON, HILLSBOROUGH, ROCKINGHAM, and STAFFORD. GRAFTON and STRAFFORD not fully organized, both attached to ROCKINGHAM for administrative and judicial purposes. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 3, ch. 9 [1769]/pp. 524-530)

30 May 1772

HILLSBOROUGH gained small area of the town of Hopkinton from ROCKINGHAM [too small to map]. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 3, ch. 1 [1772]/p. 576)

5 June 1773

GRAFTON and STRAFFORD fully organized, detached from ROCKINGHAM. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 3, ch. 12 [1773]/pp. 587-588)

4 July 1776

New Hampshire became an independent state. (Declaration of Independence)

12 March 1778

Representatives from New Hampshire appeared before the Vermont Assembly and asked that 17 western New Hampshire towns be annexed to Vermont (the so-called East Union). The governor and council of New Hampshire opposed the move and took the matter to the Continental Congress. (Vt. State Papers, 12:43-44)

21 October 1778

The Vermont Assembly, aware that the Continental Congress opposed the annexation by Vermont of the East Union in New Hampshire, voted against adding the East Union towns of New Hampshire to CUMBERLAND (Vt., extinct). The assembly also voted against including the East Union is a new, distinct county, effectively ending the first attempt to annex part of New Hampshire. (Vt. State Papers, 3:viii-ix, 41-45)

10 November 1778

STRAFFORD gained town of Conway from GRAFTON. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 4, ch. 3 [1778]/p. 170)

27 November 1778

HILLSBOROUGH gained from CHESHIRE when town of Fishersfield (now Newbury) was created from unincorporated lands. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 4, ch. 17 [1778]/pp. 189-190)


In 1780 CHESHIRE gained town of Protectworth (now Springfield) from GRAFTON. (N.H. State Papers, 13:444, 449)

11 April 1781

Vermont made a second attempt to annex part of New Hampshire (the so-called East Union); first attempt was made in 1778 but did not affect counties. Vermont created WASHINGTON (Vt., original, extinct) in New Hampshire, and expanded its WINDSOR (Vt.) and ORANGE (Vt.) so that they overlapped CHESHIRE and GRAFTON. New Hampshire did not lose control of the area. (Vt. State Papers, 13:17-18, 55-56; Vt. Recs. Gov., 2:294-296)

13 April 1781

WINDSOR (Vt.) lost its part of the gore east of the town of Bromley to BENNINGTON (Vt.); area within New Hampshire was unchanged. (Vt. State Papers, 13:19)

23 February 1782

Vermont gave up its attempt to annex part of New Hampshire known as East Union. Overlap of CHESHIRE by WASHINGTON (Vt., original, extinct) and WINDSOR (Vt.) ended. Overlap of GRAFTON by ORANGE (Vt.) and WINDSOR (Vt.) ended. WASHINGTON (Vt., original, extinct) was eliminated. (Vt. State Papers, vol. 3, pt. 2: 67-68)

14 September 1782

GRAFTON gained towns of Campton and New Holderness (now Holderness) from STRAFFORD. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 4, ch. 2 [1782]/p. 479)

27 September 1787

HILLSBOROUGH gained small area from CHESHIRE when town of Bradford was created from Washington Gore and the towns of New Bradford and Washington. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 5, ch. 6 [1787]/pp. 280-281)

16 June 1791

All county boundaries were redefined [no change]. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 5, ch. 14 [1791]/pp. 766-767)

27 November 1800

STRAFFORD gained town of Burton (now Albany) from GRAFTON. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 6, ch. 4 [1800]/p. 647)

1 March 1805

COOS created from GRAFTON. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 7, ch. 33 [1803]/pp. 206-207)

18 June 1805

COOS gained Nash and the gore of Sawyers Location from GRAFTON. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 7, ch. 15 [1805]/pp. 398-399)

20 June 1817

CHESHIRE gained from GRAFTON when town of Springfield gained Heath's Gore. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 8, ch. 24 [1817]/p. 620)

1 September 1817

HILLSBOROUGH gained from CHESHIRE when town of New London gained from town of Wendell (now Sunapee). (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 8, ch. 11 [1817]/pp. 607-608)

2 July 1822

HILLSBOROUGH gained from ROCKINGHAM when town of Hooksett was created from towns of Chester, Dunbarton, and Goffstown. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 9, ch. 42 [1822], secs. 1,4/pp. 141-143)

26 June 1823

STRAFFORD gained town of Chatham from COOS. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 9, ch. 30 [1823], sec. 1/p. 210)

1 August 1823

MERRIMACK created from HILLSBOROUGH and ROCKINGHAM. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 9, ch. 38 [1823], secs. 2, 12/pp. 221, 224)

10 December 1824

HILLSBOROUGH gained town of Pelham from ROCKINGHAM. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 9, ch. 10 [1824]/pp. 301-302)

4 September 1827

SULLIVAN created from CHESHIRE. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 9, ch. 48 [1827], secs. 2, 13/pp. 649-650, 653)

24 December 1828

MERRIMACK gained from STRAFFORD when town of Franklin was created from towns of Andover, Northfield, Salisbury, and Sandbornton. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 9, ch. 62 [1828], sec. 1/pp. 784-786)

2 January 1829

All county boundaries were redefined [no change]. (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 9, ch. 100 [1829], sec. 1/pp. 879-882)

1 July 1829

New Hampshire agreed to a new definition of its boundary with Maine (Maine agreed 28 February 1829) [no change]. (Van Zandt, 60)

21 December 1832

MERRIMACK gained from GRAFTON when town of Wilmot gained from town of New Chester (now Hill). (N.H. Early Laws, vol. 10, ch. 19 [1832], secs. 1-2/pp. 365-366)

13 January 1837

GRAFTON gained from SULLIVAN when town of Enfield gained from town of Grantham. (N.H. Laws 1836, ch. 290, sec. 1/pp. 257-258)

1 January 1841

BELKNAP and CARROLL created from STRAFFORD. (N.H. Laws 1840, ch. 539, secs. 1-2, 16/pp. 455-456, 462)

29 June 1841

Boundary between BELKNAP and CARROLL through Lake Winnepesaukee was clarified [no change]. (N.H. Laws 1841, ch. 621, sec. 1/pp. 547-548)

27 June 1849

CARROLL gained from BELKNAP when town of Wolfeboro gained from town of Alton. (N.H. Laws 1849, ch. 859, sec. 1/p. 402)

5 January 1853

CARROLL gained towns of Bartlett and Jackson and the gore of Hart's Location from COOS. Hale's Location remained part of COOS, although it was surrounded by CARROLL. GRAFTON gained from COOS. (N.H. Laws 1853, ch. 1290, sec. 1/p. 1230)

22 June 1853

CARROLL gained the gore of Hale's Location from COOS. (N.H. Laws 1853, ch. 1425, sec. 1/p. 1348)

16 July 1864

CARROLL gained from GRAFTON when town of Sandwich gained small area from town of Waterville [too small to map]. (N.H. Laws 1864, ch. 2891, sec. 1/p. 2850)

1 July 1868

MERRIMACK gained town of Hill from GRAFTON. (N.H. Laws 1868, ch. 14, sec. 1/p. 148)

2 July 1870

ROCKINGHAM gained small area from STRAFFORD when town of Newmarket gained from town of Durham [too small to map]. (N.H. Laws 1870, ch. 43, sec. 1/p. 428)

10 July 1874

MERRIMACK gained town of Danbury from GRAFTON. (N.H. Laws 1874, ch. 96, sec. 1/p. 338)

3 July 1875

Boundary between COOS and GRAFTON was redefined [no change]. (N.H. Laws 1875, ch. 31, sec. 1/p. 457)

23 March 1897

Boundary between BELKNAP and CARROLL through Lake Winnepesaukee was clarified [not mapped]. (N.H. Laws 1897-1898, ch. 199, sec. 1/pp. 197-198)