A Grandson Remembers Edward Gove

Hampton 350

1638 -- 1988

Rockingham County Newspaper -- July 8, 1988

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[The following articles are courtesy of
Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Hampton's Gove -- Ahead Of His Time

By Doug Gove

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Nearly 100 years before the outbreak of the Revolution, Edward Gove of Hampton led what historians believe was the first armed resistance to the British in the northern colonies. He was, Rev. Edgar Warren wrote in the introduction to the second edition of Dow's History of Hampton, 1638-1892, "a high-spirited and impulsive man, who resolved not to lightly submit to what he considered an infringement of the people's ancient prerogatives."

Many of Gove's descendants can be found in the Seacoast today, and one of them — Doug Gove — has submitted the following account of the man he calls "my grandfather."]

Edward Gove was a rebel, a person who engaged in armed resistance against an established government, England. He was rebellious and defiant in the Province of New Hampshire in New England at Hampton. That's my grandfather, eleven generations removed, of whom his colonial neighbors said "he was a strenuous man, and frank even to bluntness. When he believed he was wronged he quickly sought to avenge himself, as far as possible, by his own individual efforts. He did not refrain from forceful language and personal assault and was before the quarterly court several times for such offenses."

That is one of the skeletons rattling in the closets of most of the Goves in this section of the country.

Fact blends with fiction as Memory Bank travels back in time out 308 years. The King has given Robert Tufton Mason the authority to take care of the affairs of the new province. He is a failure and appoints Unprincipled Governor Cranfield to become his tool. The governor disbands the January 1683 assembly. The people considered this an unreasonable act and an unwarrantable abuse of power. Most however, though indignant at Cranfield's conduct, considered themselves good citizens and remained passive. Not so for Gove and a few others under his leadership who, in the exuberance of patriotism, "determined to revolutionize the government or at least to effect a reform."

The Insurrection

Portsmouth was calm and quiet when the January stillness was broken by the barking of Richard Martin's dog. Another sound, the crunch of frozen snow under the feet of Edward Gove 'and Jonathan Thing, brought Martin to his door.

"We have a design and our swords are by our sides as well as others, and would see things mended before we will lay them down," Gove said. "We are going to Dover and you will hear from us in three or four days."

Friday, January 26, 1688, Reuben Hull, a Portsmouth merchant, was in Dover to pick up. a load of barrel hoops when he met Gove who had his sword and boots on, and said to him, "How now Gove, where are you bound? What's the matter with you?"

"Matter?" said Gove, "matter enough. We at Hampton have had a town meeting and we resolved as one man that. things shall not be carried on as it is like to be, and we have all our guns ready to stand upon our guard. I have been at Exeter and they are resolved to do the same. I have my sword at my side, and brought my carbine also with me which I have left some where. Jonathan Thing came with me. I have to (talk to) John Pickering and some others, and I am going to Major Waldern's to see what he will say to it. He did say that the governor had stretched his commission."

"Gove, what are you mad? Hull replied. "Do you know what you are going to do?"

Gove answered, "If you will be of the other side, we shall know you and if they should take me and put me in jail, I have them that will bring me out."

Day Of Action

Gove undoubtedly expected that when his arrest was attempted, there would be resistance and then a general uprising. It didn't happen. He returned to Hampton Saturday, Jan. 27, 1683.

He and 11 other rebels, all on horseback, moved in two lines into the tiny colonial village on the New Hampshire Seacoast, shouting, "Freemen, come out and stand for your liberties." Led by Gove, they were nearly all from Hampton, with their leader waving his sword and the trumpeter sounding their arrival with a military medley. Gove, seeing no demonstration in his favor at his appearance, lay down his arms and gave himself up to the authorities of the town, as did the others. They were taken into custody by the militia, except the trumpeter, who escaped.

That house arrest didn't hold the men long and they were soon on the dirt road again where Henry Green, a justice of the peace, saw them. Gove threatened him with his gun.

William Marston, the local constable, armed with the governor's warrant, soon arrived at Gove's home and made a diligent search, but he could not find him. Returning homeward in the nighttime, when he could not plainly see, he heard the trumpet as Gove and the trumpeter galloped past them. The constable immediately returned to the Gove homestead. By the time they arrived back at the rebel's door, the latch string was pulled in, but Gove said, "open the door" and defiantly stood before the constable with his sword or cutlass drawn, pointing towards the assembled gathering.

"Hands off," he said. "I know your business as well as yourself. I will not be taken in my house."

Nathaniel Ladd, the trumpeter, stepped to him to assist him with his sword drawn toward the constable's breast. Marston's mouth dropped open, his eyes popped out and in an instant he knew what to do — secure more assistance.

Returning to Gove's home, the Constable saw Edward Gove, Nathaniel Ladd, John Gove and William Hely quickly mount and ride away.

Sunday Showdown

As the rebel horsemen faded into the gloom, Marston likely didn't expect to see them so soon. They were back in Hampton the next day, however, with the Seacoast sunshine.

Edward Gove was in front. The trumpeter blew his trumpet as they approached Mr. Sherborn's house in two files. Their horses pranced and snorted as their breath created plumes of white in the crisp January air. The lieutenant, leading the local militia, spoke to Edward Gove and his men: "Halt and dismount, deliver your arms and surrender. You are being taken directly to court."

Constables with warrants had been unable to serve them. Now the local militia was augmented by other units as Governor Cranfield feared that Gove's party might be too strong and commanded the militia of the whole province to be in readiness. Now a strong guard sent by the governor were taking the prisoners in irons from Hampton to Portsmouth.

They were brought before the governor and his council, where Gove behaved himself very insolently. Each of the prisoners then defended himself and his activities. Edward Gove acknowledged that the testimony against him was true. He "railed" at Governor Cranfield, saying he was a traitor and acted under a pretended commission and demeaned himself with "insolence and impudence."

Judge Richard Waldren pounded his mallet, then solemnly pronounced the sentence. (The followers of Gove were to be held for a later judgment, and most of them were pardoned).

"You, Edward Gove, be drawn on a hedge to the place of execution, and there you shall be hanged by ye neck, and when yet living, be cut down and cast on the ground, and your bowels shall be taken out of your belly, and your privy member cut off and burnt while you are yet alive, your head shall be cut off and your body divided in four parts, and your head and quarters shall be placed where our Sovereign Lord the King pleaseth to appoint. And the Lord have mercy on your soul."

Tower Of London

After the trial in Portsmouth in Feb. 1683, Cranfield, fearing to execute the sentence on Gove, sent him to England for the King to deal with. Gove was on board the ship Richard of Boston when it left port March 29.

The Tower of London is in the east end of the city, a group of stone buildings including an ancient fortress, a dark prison, and a royal residence surrounded by a shallow moat and a high stone wall. This was the destination of Edward Gove, where he was sadly to spend the next three years.

Many letters were written by the prisoner and people on his behalf during this time. Finally, Gove, in his cell, took up his quill pen and sent a petition to the King which brought results. In it he stated, "want of rest for 18 days before my apprehension deprived your Petitioner of the use of his reason and the control of his tongue and was the cause of your Petitioner's indiscreet actions towards the said Mr. Cranfield." He was released on his own recognizance to plead his pardon April 9, 1686.

The Intervening Years

After Gove's incarceration in the the spring of 1683, the rule under Cranfield continued in its arbitrary and cruel manner.

From the Gove Book, written by William Henry Gove and published at Salem, Mass., in 1922, most of the preceding information has been researched. The author wrote, "the people were horrified at the bloody sentence of Gove and cried aloud for vengeance. It was already whispered about that public meetings would be held to express the indignation at the baseness of the manner in which the conviction was obtained and the cruel barbarity of the sentence, which was intended to awe the people into submission. It had a directly contrary effect."

One Sunday, Cranfield's men tried to serve an order in Dover. A tumult ensued, ending when a young girl knocked down one of the officials with the Bible. At other places, the women met the collector of taxes at their doors with scalding water, which proved a perfect barrier to their mission. The men used clubs. Cranfield was removed by the King and escorted, minus his sword, to the Salisbury line with a rope around his neck and his legs tied under the belly of the horse which he rode.

Honor Restored

Edward Gove's gravestone
A stone marks the final resting place of Edward
Gove in Hampton's Pine Grove Cemetery
[Staff photo Bill Murphy]

After Gove' s conviction, his extensive land holdings, buildings and money were confiscated by the governor. This left the family destitute. At a meeting of the council held in Boston, Nov. 9, 1686, it was ordered that a report to the King be made concerning Cranfield's estate in New England and what money he had received from purchasers of the estate of Edward Gove. All of Gove's property was returned to him.

Like returning from the dead, Gove came back to his home and renewed his life in Hampton. He had the respect of the people of the province. From the earliest days of the Province of New Hampshire, Gove was involved in its government. He was elected as a member of the assembly from Hampton. He must have known the widespread disaffection and determination of the people not to yield to the demands of the Cranfield regime, and his views were well known to them because of his outspoken sentiments. He was thought to be the right man for the assembly.

Gove died in Hampton on July 29, 1691, at the age of 61. He always contended that a slow poison was administered to him while in pris on.

While still living in Norfolk County, he was fined five shillings and the cost of court for shooting a hawk on the Sabbath day. That's my grandfather and our patriotic ancestor.

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