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Thomas Canney of Dover Neck


Thomas Canney (1605-1681)


Thomas Canney and his wife whose name is unknown are my 10th great grandparents by this path: RWA → Fred Pemberton Abbott → Mary Emma Knowles Abbott → William Knowles → Daniel Knowles → Daniel Knowles → John Knowles → Experience Chamberlain Knowles → Mary Tibbetts Chamberlain → Samuel Tibbetts → Mary Canney Tibbets → Thomas and Mrs. Canney


Although most of my immigrant ancestors entered the colonies through Massachusetts or New Netherland, there were a few who first settled in New Hampshire or Maine. Although these ancestors were primarily still “Puritans,” they were perhaps not quite so Puritanical – a little wilder and free spirited. One of those immigrant ancestors was Thomas Canney. Thomas Canney was a first settler of Dover, New Hampshire which was originally settled in Dover Neck. (The area of Dover Neck is pictured at the top of the page.)


 Dover is the oldest continuous settlement in New Hampshire. There were European explores there as early as 1603 and the first plantation was settled in 1623. The area was lightly populated with just three houses there in 1631. In the mid-1630’s, a group of Puritan settlers purchased the Cocheco Plantation. For a time, the area of Dover was an independent colony called Northam. But the English owners of the plantation lost interest in the settlement and sold it to Massachusetts in 1642. The settlers in Dover tended to build fortified log homes called garrison houses. Dover was sometimes called “The Garrison City.” A depiction of a mid-17th century garrison house is shown to the left.


It is not certain at what date Thomas Canney arrived in Dover, but it was before 1640 as he was signer of what is known as the “Combination of the People of Dover to Establish a Form of Government” which was entered into in 1640. The text of this document is below:


Whereas sundry Mischeifes and inconveniences have befaln us, and more and greater may in regard of want of Civill Government, his Gratious Matie haveing hitherto setled no Order for us to our Knowledge:

Wee whose names are underwritten being Inhabitants upon the River Piscataquack have voluntarily agreed to combine our Selves into a Body Politique that wee may the more comfortably enjoy the benefit of his Maties Lawes. And do hereby actually ingage our Selves to Submit to his Royal Maties Lawes together with all such Orders as shal bee concluded by a Major part of the Freemen of our Society , in case they bee not repugnant to the Lawes of England and administred in the behalfe of his Majesty. And this wee have Mutually promised and concluded to do and so to continue till his Excellent Matie shall give other Order concerning us.


In Witness wee have hereto Set our hands the two & twentieth day of October in the Sixteenth yeare of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord Charles by the grace of God King of Great Brittain France & Ireland Defender of the Faith &c Annoq Domi: 1640.


The first record of a grant of land for Thomas was 1643 when he received 16 acres in Kittery. He received 120 acres in Dover in 1656. As was common, he conveyed much of his land to his children by deed.


In 1652, Thomas and three other men received permission to erect a sawmill on one of the creeks in the area. The area of Dover was served by the Cocheco River which is a tributary of the Piscataqua River. The Cocheco river is pictured to the right. An area near Thomas’s homestead became known as Canney Cove or Canney Creek. The name is still used today, but today it is a housing subdivision.


Thomas and his wife had five children: daughter with unknown name who married Matthew Austin, Mary, Thomas, Hannah, and Joseph. He also had a second wife named Jane who was his wife in 1655. He does not seem to have had any children with his second wife.


Thomas was an active member of his community and a frequent participant in the legal system on both sides of the law. He was a constable, served on grand juries, and was a selectman. He was also often in court suing others and being sued related to debts. He had conflict with his second wife Jane which led to at least one court appearance. In August 1665, Jane was charged with beating Thomas’s daughter from his first marriage (Mary who is my ancestor) and Mary’s husband Jeremy Tibbetts and Jane was also charged with beating Thomas. In 1660, Thomas was in court for "Temapting Ane Jinkines wife of Ranald Jenckings to unchastity." Thomas was also quite a drinker. He was in court five times between 1666 and 1681 for public drunkenness. The last known record of him is in 1681 when his son paid a fine for him related to a charge of drunkenness.




Principe, Bill. (2002). Thomas Canney of Dover. New Hampshire Genealogical Record, 19, 1-7.

Quint, Alonzo. (1851, October). Genealogical Items Relating to Dover NH. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 452-453.

Scales, John. (1923). History of Dover, New Hampshire. Manchester, NH: J. B. Clarke.

Thompson, Mary P. (1892). Landmarks in Ancient Dover New Hampshire. Dover, NH: Concord Republican Press. (p. 38)


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