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Rockingham County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Hampshire. As of 2010, the population was 295,223. The county seat is Brentwood.

History

The area that today is Rockingham County was first settled by Europeans moving north from the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts as early as 1623. The government was linked tightly with Massachusetts until New Hampshire became a separate colony in 1679, but counties weren’t introduced until 1769.

Rockingham was identified in 1769 as one of five original counties for the colony. It is named for Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, who had been Prime Minister in 1765-1766. The county was organized in 1771, with its county seat at Exeter. In 1844 its area was reduced by the formation of Belknap County to the northwest. In 1997 the county court facilities were moved to Brentwood, a rural town adjacent to Exeter.

Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 794 square miles, of which 695 sq mi  is land and 99 sq mi (12.47%) is water. The highest point in Rockingham County is Nottingham Mountain, at 1,340 feet, in the town of Deerfield.

National protected area

Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 277,359 people, 104,529 households, and 74,320 families residing in the county. The population density was 399 people per square mile. There were 113,023 housing units at an average density of 163 per square mile. The racial makeup of the county was 96.80% White, 0.58% Black or African American, 0.18% Native American, 1.11% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races, and 0.92% from two or more races. 1.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 18.1% were of Irish, 14.6% English, 11.8% Italian, 10.5% French, 8.0% French Canadian, 6.0% German and 5.6% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 94.3% spoke English, 1.8% French and 1.3% Spanish as their first language.

There were 104,529 households out of which 35.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.50% were married couples living together, 8.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.90% were non-families. 22.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.11.

In the county the population was spread out with 26.40% under the age of 18, 6.20% from 18 to 24, 32.80% from 25 to 44, 24.40% from 45 to 64, and 10.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 97.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $58,150, and the median income for a family was $66,345. (These figures had risen to $72,600 and $85,361 respectively, as of a 2007 estimate) Males had a median income of $45,598 versus $30,741 for females. The per capita income for the county was $26,656. About 3.10% of families and 4.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.00% of those under age 18 and 6.40% of those age 65 or over.

Attractions

The Rockingham County Botanical Garden is a botanical garden located in Brentwood. Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth is a collection of historic buildings from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. Canobie Lake Park, located in Salem, is an amusement park that opened in 1902. Also in Salem is Rockingham Park racetrack, which features weekly horse racing, and America’s Stonehenge, which claims to be a pre-Columbian collection of stone structures. Derry was home to poet Robert Frost, who taught at nearby Pinkerton Academy. His home, the Robert Frost Farm, has been preserved as a state park.

Rockingham County is also home to New Hampshire’s entire seacoast and features several popular resort towns. Hampton Beach has a boardwalk and Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. The town of Rye features several undeveloped beaches such as Odiorne Point State Park and contains New Hampshire’s portion of the Isles of Shoals. Seabrook contains the Seabrook Greyhound Racing Park and the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, the last nuclear plant opened in the United States.

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