New Hampshire was first settled by Europeans at Odiorne’s Point in Rye (near Portsmouth) by a group of fishermen from England under David Thompson  in 1623, just three years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Early historians believed the first native-born New Hampshirite, John Thompson, was born there.
Fisherman David Thompson had been sent by Mason, to be followed a few years later by Edward and William Hilton. They led an expedition to the vicinity of Dover, which they called Northam. Mason died in 1635 without ever seeing the colony he founded. Settlers from Pannaway, moving to the Portsmouth region later and combining with an expedition of the new Laconia Company (formed 1629) under Captain Neal, called their new settlement Strawbery Banke. In 1638 Exeter was founded by John Wheelwright.
In 1631, Captain Thomas Wiggin served as the first governor of the Upper Plantation (comprising modern-day Dover, Durham and Stratham). All the towns agreed to unite in 1639, but meanwhile Massachusetts had claimed the territory. In 1641 an agreement was reached with Massachusetts to come under its jurisdiction. Home rule of the towns was allowed. In 1653 Strawbery Banke petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to change its name to Portsmouth, which was granted.
The relationship between Massachusetts and the independent New Hampshirites was controversial and tenuous, and complicated by land claims maintained by the heirs of John Mason. In 1679 King Charles II separated New Hampshire from Massachusetts, issuing a charter for the royal Province of New Hampshire, with John Cutt as governor. New Hampshire was absorbed into the Dominion of New England in 1686, which collapsed in 1689. After a brief period without formal government (the settlements were de facto ruled by Massachusetts) William III and Mary II issued a new provincial charter in 1691. From 1699 to 1741 the governors of Massachusetts were also commissioned as governors of New Hampshire.
The province’s geography placed it on the frontier between British and French colonies in North America, and it was for many years subjected to native claims, especially in the central and northern portions of its territory. Because of these factors it was on the front lines of many military conflicts, including King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, Father Rale’s War, and King George’s War. By the 1740s most of the native population had either been killed or driven out of the province’s territory.
Because New Hampshire’s governorship was shared with that of Massachusetts, border issues between the two colonies were not properly adjudicated for many years. These issues principally revolved around territory west of the Merrimack River, which issuers of the Massachusetts and New Hampshire charters had incorrectly believed to flow primarily from west to east. In the 1730s New Hampshire political interest led by Lieutenant Governor John Wentworth were able to raise the profile of these issues to colonial officials and the crown in London, even while Governor and Massachusetts native Jonathan Belcher preferentially granted land to Massachusetts interests in the disputed area. In 1741 King George II ruled that the border with Massachusetts was approximately what it is today, and also separated the governorships of the two provinces. Benning Wentworth in 1741 became the first non-Massachusetts governor since Edward Cranfield succeeded John Cutt in the 1680s.
Wentworth promptly complicated New Hampshire’s territorial claims by interpreting the provincial charter to include territory west of the Connecticut River, and began issuing land grants in this territory, which was also claimed by the Province of New York. The so-called New Hampshire Grants area became a subject of contention from the 1740s until the 1790s, when it was admitted to the United States as the state of Vermont.