The region was first explored by Martin Pring (1603) and Samuel de Champlain (1605). In 1620 the Council for New England, formerly the Plymouth Company, received a royal grant of land between lat. 40°N and 48°N. One of the Council’s leaders, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, formed a partnership with Capt. John Mason and in 1622 obtained rights between the Merrimack and Kennebec rivers, then called the province of Maine. By a division Mason took (1629) the area between the Piscataqua and the Merrimack, naming it New Hampshire. Portsmouth was founded by farmers and fishermen in 1630.
Through claims based on a misinterpretation of its charter, Massachusetts annexed S New Hampshire between 1641 and 1643. Although New Hampshire was proclaimed a royal colony in 1679, Massachusetts continued to press land claims until the two colonies finally agreed on the eastern and southern boundaries (1739–41). Although they were technically independent of each other, the crown habitually appointed a single man to govern both colonies until 1741, when Benning Wentworth was made the first governor of New Hampshire alone.
Wentworth and his friends purchased the Mason rights in 1746 (see Masonian Proprietors under Mason, John, 1586–1635), laying claim to lands east of the Hudson and thereby provoking a protracted controversy with New York. Although a royal order in 1764 established the Connecticut River as the western boundary of New Hampshire, the dispute flared up again during the American Revolution and was not settled until Vermont became a state.