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Thu May 20, 2010 10:48 pm

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An Old Town is one of the Best English Story.


Thou singest by the gleaming isles,
By woods, and fields of corn,
Thou singest, and the sunlight smiles
Upon my birthday morn.

But I within a city, I,
So full of vague unrest,
Would almost give my life to lie
An hour upon upon thy breast.

To let the wherry listless go,
And, wrapt in dreamy joy,
Dip, and surge idly to and fro,
Like the red harbor-buoy;

To sit in happy indolence,
To rest upon the oars,
And catch the heavy earthy scents
That blow from summer shores;

To see the rounded sun go down,
And with its parting fires
Light up the windows of the town
And burn the tapering spires;

And then to hear the muffled tolls
From steeples slim and white,
And watch, among the Isles of Shoals,
The Beacon's orange light.

O River! flowing to the main
Through woods, and fields of corn,
Hear thou my longing and my pain
This sunny birthday morn;

And take this song which fancy shapes
To music like thine own,
And sing it to the cliffs and capes
And crags where I am known!


I CALL it an old town, but it is only relatively old. When one reflects on the countless centuries that have gone to the for-mation of this crust of earth on which we temporarily move, the most ancient cities on its surface seem merely things of the week before last. It was only the other day, then--that is to say, in the month of June, 1603--that one Martin Pring, in the ship Speedwell, an enormous ship of nearly fifty tons burden, from Bristol, England, sailed up the Piscataqua River. The Speedwell, numbering thirty men, officers and crew, had for consort the Discoverer, of twenty-six tons and thirteen men. After following the windings of "the brave river" for twelve miles or more, the two vessels turned back and put to sea again, having failed in the chief object of the expedition, which was to obtain a cargo of the medicinal sassafras-tree, from the bark of which, as well known to our ancestors, could be distilled the Elixir of Life.

It was at some point on the left bank of the Piscataqua, three or four miles from the mouth of the river, that worthy Master Pring probably effected one of his several landings. The beautiful stream widens suddenly at this place, and the green banks, then covered with a network of strawberry vines, and sloping invitingly to the lip of the crystal water, must have won the tired mariners.

The explorers found themselves on the edge of a vast forest of oak, hemlock, maple, and pine; but they saw no sassafras-trees to speak of, nor did they encounter--what would have been infinitely less to their taste--and red-men. Here and there were discoverable the scattered ashes of fires where the Indians had encamped earlier in the spring; they were absent now, at the silvery falls, higher up the stream, where fish abounded at that season. The soft June breeze, laden with the delicate breath of wild-flowers and the pungent odors of spruce and pine, ruffled the duplicate sky in the water; the new leaves lisped pleasantly in the tree tops, and the birds were singing as if they had gone mad. No ruder sound or movement of life disturbed the primeval solitude. Master Pring would scarcely recognize the spot were he to land there to-day.

Eleven years afterwards a much cleverer man than the commander of the Speedwell dropped anchor in the Piscataqua--Captain John Smith of famous memory. After slaying Turks in hand-to-hand combats, and doing all sorts of doughty deeds wherever he chanced to decorate the globe with his presence, he had come with two vessels to the fisheries on the rocky selvage of Maine, when curiosity, or perhaps a deeper motive, led him to examine the neighboring shore lines. With eight of his men in a small boat, a ship's yawl, he skirted the coast from Penobscot Bay to Cape Cod, keeping his eye open. This keeping his eye open was a peculiarity of the little captain; possibly a family trait. It was Smith who really discovered the Isles of Shoals, exploring in person those masses of bleached rock--those "isles assez hautes," of which the French navigator Pierre de Guast, Sieur de Monts, had caught a bird's-eye glimpse through the twilight in 1605. Captain Smith christened the group Smith's Isles, a title which posterity, with singular persistence of ingratitude, has ignored. It was a tardy sense of justice that expressed itself a few years ago in erecting on Star Island a simple marble shaft to the memory of JOHN SMITH--the multitudinous! Perhaps this long delay is explained by a natural hesitation to label a monument so ambiguously.

The modern Jason, meanwhile, was not without honor in his own country, whatever may have happened to him in his own house, for the poet George Wither addressed a copy of pompous verses "To his Friend Captain Smith, upon his Description of New England." "Sir," he says--

"Sir: your Relations I haue read: which shew
Ther's reason I should honor them and you:
And if their meaning I have vnderstood,
I dare to censure thus: Your Project's good;
And may (if follow'd) doubtlesse quit the paine
With honour, pleasure and a trebble gaine;
Beside the benefit that shall arise
To make more happy our Posterities."

The earliest map of this portion of our seaboard was prepared by Smith and laid before Prince Charles, who asked to give the country a name. He christened it New England. In that remarkable map the site of Portsmouth is call Hull, and Kittery and York are known as Boston.

It was doubtless owing to Captain John Smith's representation on his return to England that the Laconia Company selected the banks of the Piscataqua for their plantation. Smith was on an intimate footing with Sir Ferinand Gorges, who, five years subsequently, made a tour of inspection along the New England coast, in company with John Mason, then Governor of Newfoundland. One of the results of this summer cruise is the town of Portsmouth, among whose leafy ways, and into some of whose old-fashioned houses, I purpose to take the reader, if he have an idle hour on his hands. Should we meet the flitting ghost of some old-time worthy, on the staircase or at a lonely street corner, the reader must be prepared for it.


IT is not supposable that the early settlers selected the site of their plantation on account of its picturesqueness. They were influenced entirely by the lay of the land, its nearness and easy access to the sea, and the secure harbor it offered to their fishing-vessels; yet they could not have chosen a more beautiful spot had beauty been the sole consideration. The first settlement was made at Odiorne's Point--the Pilgrims' Rock of New Hampshire; there the Manor, or Mason's Hall, was built by the Laconia Company in 1623. It was not until 1631 that the Great House was erected by Humphrey Chadborn on Strawberry Bank. Mr. Chadborn, consciously or unconsciously, sowed a seed from which a city has sprung.

The town of Portsmouth stretches along the south bank of the Piscataqua, about two miles from the sea as the crow flies--three miles following the serpentine course of the river. The stream broadens suddenly at this point, and at flood tide, lying without a ripple in a basin formed by the interlocked islands and the mainland, it looks more like an island lake than a river. To the unaccustomed eye there is no visible outlet. Standing on one of the wharves at the foot of State Street or Court Street, a stranger would at first scarcely suspect the contiguity of the ocean. A little observation, however, would show him that he was in a seaport. The rich red rust on the gables and roofs of ancient buildings looking seaward would tell him that. There is a fitful saline flavor in the air, and if while he gazed a dense white fog should come rolling in, like a line of phantom breakers, he would no longer have any doubts.

It is of course the oldest part of the town that skirts the river, though few of the notable houses that remain are to be found there. Like all New England settlements, Portsmouth was built of wood, and has been subjected to extensive conflagrations. You rarely come across a brick building that is not shockingly modern. The first house of the kind was erected by Richard Wibird towards the close of the seventeenth century.

Though many of the old landmarks have been swept away by the fateful hand of time and fire, the town impresses you as a very old town, especially as you saunter along the streets down by the river. The worm-eaten wharves, some of them covered by a sparse, unhealthy beard of grass, and the weather-stained, unoccupied warehouses are sufficient to satisfy a moderate appetite for antiquity. These deserted piers and these long rows of empty barracks, with their sarcastic cranes projecting from the eaves, rather puzzle the stranger. Why this great preparation for a commercial activity that does not exist, and evidently had not for years existed? There are no ships lying at the pier-heads; there are no gangs of stevedores staggering under the heavy cases of merchandise; here and there is a barge laden down to the bulwarks with coal, and here and there a square-rigged schooner from Maine smothered with fragrant planks and clapboards; an imported citizen is fishing at the end of the wharf, a ruminative freckled son of Drogheda, in perfect sympathy with the indolent sunshine that seems to be sole proprietor of these crumbling piles and ridiculous warehouses, from which even the ghost of prosperity has flown.

Once upon a time, however, Portsmouth carried on an extensive trade with the West Indies, threatening as a maritime port to eclipse both Boston and New York. At the windows of these musty counting-rooms which overlook the river near Spring Market used to stand portly merchants, in knee breeches and silver shoe-buckles and plum-colored coats with ruffles at the wrist, waiting for their ships to come up the Narrows; the cries of stevedores and the chants of sailors at the windlass used to echo along the shore where all is silence now. For reasons not worth setting forth, the trade with the Indies abruptly closed, having ruined as well as enriched many a Portsmouth adventurer. This explains the empty warehouses and the unused wharves. Portsmouth remains the interesting widow of a once very lively commerce. I fancy that few fortunes are either made or lost in Portsmouth nowadays. Formerly it turned out the best ships, as it did the ablest ship captains, in the world. There were families in which the love for blue water was in immemorial trait. The boys were always sailors; "a grey-headed shipmaster, in each generation, retiring from the quarter-deck to the homestead, while a boy of fourteen took the hereditary place before the mast, confronting the salt spray and the gale, which had blasted against his sire and grandsire." (1. Hawthorne in his introduction to The Scarlet Letter.) With thousands of miles of sea-line and a score or two of the finest harbors on the globe, we have adroitly turned over our carrying trade to foreign nations.

In other days, as I have said, a high maritime spirit was characteristic of Portsmouth. The town did a profitable business in the war of 1812, sending out a large fleet of the sauciest small craft on record. A pleasant story is told of one of these little privateers--the Harlequin, owned and commanded by Captain Elihu Brown. The Harlequin one day gave chase to a large ship, which did not seem to have much fight aboard, and had got it into close quarters, when suddenly the shy stranger threw open her ports, and proved to be His Majesty's Ship-of-War Bulwark, seventy-four guns. Poor Captain Brown!

Portsmouth has several large cotton factories and one or two corpulent breweries; it is a wealthy old town, with a liking for first mortgage bonds; but its warmest lover will not claim for it the distinction of being a great mercantile centre. The majority of her young men are forced to seek other fields to reap, and almost every city in the Union, and many a city across the sea, can point to some eminent merchant, lawyer, or what not, as "a Portsmouth boy." Portsmouth even furnished the late king of the Sandwich Islands, Kekuanaoa, with a prime minister, and his nankeen Majesty never had a better. The affection which all these exiles cherish for their birthplace is worthy of remark. On two occasions--in 1852 and 1873, the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of Strawberry Bank--the transplanted sons of Portsmouth were seized with an impulse to return home. Simultaneously and almost without concerted action, the lines of pilgrims took up their march from every quarter of the globe, and swept down with music and banners on the motherly old town.

To come back to the wharves. I do not know of any spot with such a fascinating air of dreams and idleness about it as the old wharf at the end of Court Street. The very fact that it was once a noisy, busy place, crowded with sailors and soldiers--in the war of 1812--gives an emphasis to the quiet that broods over it to-day. The lounger who sits of a summer afternoon on a rusty anchor fluke in the shadow of one of the silent warehouses, and look on the lonely river as it goes murmuring past the town, cannot be too grateful to the India trade for having taken itself off elsewhere.

What a slumberous, delightful, lazy place it is! The sunshine seems to lie a foot deep on the planks of the dusty wharf, which yields up to the warmth a vague perfume of the cargoes of rum, molasses, and spice that used to be piled upon it. The river is as blue as the inside of a harebell. The opposite shore, in the strangely shifting magic lights of sky and water, stretches along like the silvery coast of fairyland. Directly opposite you is the navy yard, and its neat officers' quarters and workshops and arsenals, and its vast shiphouses, in which the keel of many a famous frigate has been laid. Those monster buildings on the water's edge, with their roofs pierced with innumerable little windows, which blink like eyes in the sunlight, and the shiphouses. On your right lies a cluster of small islands,--there are a dozen or more in the harbor--on the most extensive of which you see the fading-away remains of some earthworks thrown up in 1812. Between this--Trefethren's Island--and Peirce's Island lie the Narrows. Perhaps a bark or a sloop-of-war is making up to town; the hulk is hidden amoung the islands, and the topmasts have the effect of sweeping across the dry land. On your left is a long bridge, more than a quarter of a mile in length, set upon piles where the water is twenty or thirty feet deep, leading to the navy yard and Kittery--the Kittery so often the theme of Whittier's verse.

This is a mere outline of the landscape that spreads before you. Its changeful beauty of form and color, with the summer clouds floating over it, is not to be painted in words. I know of many a place where the scenery is more varied and striking; but there is a mandragora quality in the atmosphere here that holds you to the spot, and makes the half-hours seem like minutes. I could fancy a man sitting on the end of that old wharf very contentedly for two or three years, provided it could be always in June.

Perhaps, too, one would desire it to be always high water. The tide falls from eight to twelve feet, and when the water makes out between the wharves some of the picturesqueness makes out also. A corroded section of stovepipe mailed in barnacles, or the skeleton of a hoopskirt protruding from the tide mud like the remains of some old-time wreck, is apt to break the enchantment.

I fear I have given the reader an exaggerated idea of the solitude that reigns along the river-side. Sometimes there is society here of an unconventional kind, if you care to seek it. Aside from the foreign gentleman before mentioned, you are likely to encounter, farther down the shore toward the Point of Graves (a burial-place of the colonial period), a battered and aged native fisherman boiling lobsters on a little gravelly bench, where the river whispers and lisps among the pebbles as the tide creeps in. It is a weather-beaten ex-skipper or ex-pilot, with strands of coarse hair, like seaweed, falling about a face that has the expression of a half-open clam. He is always ready to talk with you, this amphibious person; and if he is not the most entertaining of gossips--more weather-wise that Old Probabilities, and as full of moving incident as Othello himself--then he is not the wintery-haired shipman I used to see a few years ago on the strip of beach just beyond Liberty Bridge, building his drift-wood fire under a great tin boiler, and making it lively for a lot of reluctant lobsters.

I imagine that very little change has taken place in this immediate locality, known prosaically as Puddle Dock, during the past fifty or sixty years. The view you get looking across Liberty Bridge, Water Street, is probably the same in every respect that presented itself to the eyes of the town folk a century ago. The flagstaff, on the right, is the representative of the old "standard of liberty" which the Sons planted on this spot in January, 1766, signalizing their opposition to the enforcement of the Stamp Act. On the same occasion the patriots called at the house of Mr. George Meserve, the agent for distributing the stamps in New Hampshire, and relieved him of his stamp-master's commission, which document they carried on the point of a sword through the town to Liberty Bridge (the Swing Bridge), where they erected the staff, with the motto, "Liberty, Property, and no Stamp!"

The Stamp Act was to go into operation on the first day of November. On the previous morning the "New Hampshire Gazette" appeared with a deep black border and all the typographical emblems of affliction, for was not Liberty dead? At all events, the "Gazette" itself was as good as dead, since the printer could no longer publish it if he were to be handicapped by a heavy tax. "The day was ushered in by the tolling of all the bells in town, the vessels in the harbor had their colors hoisted half-mast high; about three o'clock a funeral procession was formed, having a coffin with this inscription, LIBERTY, AGED 145, STAMPT. It moved from the state house, with two unbraced drums, through the principal streets. As it passed the Parade, minute-guns were fired; at the place of interment a speech was delivered on the occasion, stating the many advantages we had received and the melancholy prospect before us, at the seeming departure of our invaluable liberties. But some sign of life appearing, Liberty was not deposited in the grave; it was rescued by a number of her sons, the motto changed to Liberty revived, and carried off in triumph. The detestable Act was buried in its stead, and the clods of the valley were laid upon it; the bells changed their melancholy sound to a more joyful tone." (1. Annals of Portsmouth, by Nathaniel Adams, 1825.)

With this side glance at one of the curious humors of the time, we resume our peregrinations.

Turning down a lane on your left, a few rods beyond Liberty Bridge, you reach a spot known as the Point of Graves, chiefly interesting as showing what a graveyard may come to if it last long enough. In 1671 one Captain John Pickering, of whom we shall have more to say, ceded to the town a piece of ground on this neck for burial purposes. It is an odd-shaped lot, comprising about half an acre, inclosed by a crumbling red brick wall two or three feet high, with wood capping. The place is overgrown with thistles, rank grass, and fungi; the black slate headstones have mostly fallen over; those that still make a pretense of standing slant to every point of the compass, and look as if they were being blown this way and that by a mysterious gale which leaves everything else untouched; the mounds have sunk to the common level, and the old underground tombs have collapsed. Here and there the moss and weeds you can pick out some name that shines in the history of the early settlement; hundreds of the flower of the colony lie here, but the known and the unknown, gentle and simple, mingle their dust on a perfect equality now. The marble that once bore a haughty coat of arms is as smooth as the humblest slate stone guiltless of heraldry. The lion and the unicorn, wherever they appear on some cracked slab, are very much tamed by time. The once fat-faced cherubs, with wing at either cheek, are the merest skeletons now. Pride, pomp, grief, and remembrance are all at end. No reverent feet come here, no tears fall here; the old graveyard itself is dead! A more dismal, uncanny spot than this at twilight would be hard to find. It is noticed that when the boys pass it after nightfall, they always go by whistling with a gayety that is perfectly hollow.

Let us get into some cheerfuler neighborhood!


AS you leave the river front behind you, and pass "up town," the streets grow wider, and the architecture becomes more ambitious--streets fringed with beautiful old trees and lined with commodious private dwellings, mostly square white houses, with spacious halls running through the centre. Previous to the Revolution, white paint was seldom used on houses, and the diamond-shaped window pane was almost universal. Many of the residences stand back from the brick or flagstone sidewalk, and have pretty gardens at the side or in the rear, made bright with dahlias and sweet with cinnamon roses. If you chance to live in a town where the authorities cannot rest until they have destroyed every precious tree within their blighting reach, you will be especially charmed by the beauty of the streets of Portsmouth. In some parts of the town, when the chestnuts are in blossom, you would fancy yourself in a garden in fairyland. In spring, summer, and autumn the foliage is the glory of the fair town--her luxuriant green and golden treeses! Nothing could seem more like the work of enchantment than the spectacle which certain streets in Portsmouth present in the midwinter after a heavy snowstorm. You may walk for miles under wonderful silvery arches formed by the overhanging and interlaced boughs of the trees, festooned with a drapery even more graceful and dazzling than springtime gives them. The numerous elms and maples which shade the principal thoroughfares are not the result of chance, but the ample reward of the loving care that is taken to preserve the trees. There is a society in Portsmouth devoted to arboriculture. It is not unusual there for persons to leave legacies to be expended in setting out shade and ornamental trees along some favorite walk. Richards Avenue, a long, unbuilt thoroughfare leading from Middle Street to the South Burying-Ground, perpetuates the name of a citizen who gave the labor of his own hands to the beautifying of that windswept and barren road the cemetery. This fondness and care for trees seems to be a matter of heredity. So far back as 1660 the selectmen instituted a fine of five shillings for the cutting of timber or any other wood from off the town common, excepting under special conditions.

In the business section of the town trees are few. The chief business streets are Congress and Market. Market Street is the stronghold of the dry-goods shops. There are seasons, I suppose, when these shops are crowded, but I have never happened to be in Portsmouth at the time. I seldom pass through the narrow cobble-paved street without wondering where the customers are that must keep all these flourishing little establishments going. Congress Street--a more elegant thoroughfare than Market--is the Nevski Prospekt of Portsmouth. Among the prominent buildings is the Athenaeum, containing a reading-room and library. From the high roof of this building the stroller will do well to take a glance at the surrounding country. He will naturally turn seaward for the more picturesque aspects. If the day is clear, he will see the famous Isle of Shoals, lying nine miles away--Appledore, Smutty-Nose, Star Island, White Island, etc.; there are nine of them in all. On Appledore is Laighton's Hotel, and near it the summer cottage of Celia Thaxter, the poet of the Isles. On the northern end of Star Island is the quaint town of Gosport, with a tiny stone church perched like a sea-gull on its highest rock. A mile southwest form Star Island lies White Island, on which is a lighthouse. Mrs. Thaxter calls this the most picturesque of the group. Perilous neighbors, O mariner! in any but the serenest weather, these wrinkled, scarred, are storm-smitten rocks, flanked by wicked sunken ledges that grow white at the lip with rage when the great winds blow!

How peaceful it all looks off there, on the smooth emerald sea! and how softly the waves seem to break on yonder point where the unfinished fort is! That is the ancient town of Newcastle, to reach which from Portsmouth you have to cross three bridges with the most enchanting scenery in New Hampshire lying on either hand. At Newcastle the poet Stedman has built for his summerings an enviable little stone chateau--a seashell into which I fancy the sirens creep to warm themselves during the winter months. So it is never without its singer.

Opposite Newcastle is Kittery Point, a romantic spot, where Sir William Pepperell, the first American baronet, once lived, and where his tomb now is, in his orchard across the road, a few hundred yards from the "goodly mansion" he built. The knight's tomb and the old Pepperell House, which has been somewhat curtailed of it fair proportions, are the objects of frequent pilgrimages to Kittery Point.

From the elevation (the roof of the Athenaeun) the navy yard, the river with its bridges and islands, the clustered gables of Kittery and Newcastle, the illimitable ocean beyond make a picture worth climbing four or five flights of stairs to gaze upon. Glancing down on the town nestled in the foliage, it seems like a town dropped by chance in the midst of a forest. Among the prominent objects which lift themselves above the tree tops are the belfries of the various churches, the white facade of the custom house, and the mansard and chimneys of the Rockingham, the principal hotel. The pilgrim will be surprised to find in Portsmouth one of the most completely appointed hotels in the United States. The antiquarian may lament the demolition of the old Bell Tavern, and think regretfully of the good cheer once furnished the wayfarer by Master Stavers at the sign of the Earl of Halifax, and by Master Stoodley at his inn on Daniel Street; but the ordinary traveler will thank his stars, and confess that his lines have fallen in pleasant places, when he finds himself among the frescoes of the Rockingham.

Obliquely opposite the doorstep of the Athenaeum--we are supposed to be on terra firma again--stands the Old North Church, a substantial wooden building, handsomely set on what is called The Parade, a large open space formed by the junction of Congress, Market, Daniel, and Pleasant streets. Here in days innocent of water-works stood the town pump, which on more than one occasion served as whipping-post.

The churches of Portsmouth are more remarkable for their number than their architecture. With the exception of the Stone Church they are constructed of wood or plain brick in the simplest style. St. John's Church is the only one likely to attract the eye of a stranger. It is finely situated on the crest of Church Hill, overlooking the ever-beautiful river. The present edifice was built in 1808 on the site of what was known as Queen's Chapel, erected in 1732, and destroyed by fire December 24, 1806. The chapel was named in honor of Queen Caroline, who furnished the books for the altar and pulpit, the plate, and two solid mahogany chairs, which are still in use in St. John's. Within the chancel rail is a curious font of porphyry, taken by Colonel John Tufton Mason at the capture of Senegal from the French in 1758, and presented to the Episcopal Society on 1761. The peculiarly sweet-toned bell which calls the parishioners of St. John's together every Sabbath is, I believe, the same that formerly hung in the belfry of the old Queen's Chapel. If so, the bell has a history of its own. It was brought from Louisburg at the time of the reduction of that place in 1745, and given to the church by the officers of the New Hampshire troops.

The Old South Meeting-House is not to be passed without mention. It is among the most aged survivals of pre-revolutionary days. Neither its architecture not its age, however, is its chief warrant for our notice. The absurd number of windows in this battered old structure is what strikes the passer-by. The church was erected by subscription, and these closely set large windows are due to Henry Sherburne, one of the wealthiest citizens of the period, who agreed to pay for whatever glass was used. If the building could have been composed entirely of glass it would have been done by the thrifty parishioners.

Portsmouth is rich in graveyards--they seem to be a New England specialty--ancient and modern. Among the old burial-places the one attached to St. John's Church is perhaps the most interesting. It has not been permitted to fall into ruin, like the old cemetery at the Point of Graves. When a headstone here topples over it is kindly lifted up and set on its pins again, and encouraged to do its duty. If it utterly refuses, and is not shamming decrepitude, it has its face sponged, and is allowed to rest and sun itself against the wall of the church with a row of other exempts. The trees are kept pruned, the grass trimmed, and here and there is a rosebush drooping with a weight of pensive pale roses, as becomes a rosebush in a churchyard.

The place has about it an indescribable soothing atmosphere of respectability and comfort. Here rest the remains of the principal and loftiest in rank in their generation of the citizens of Portsmouth prior to the Revolution--stanch, royalty-loving governors, counselors, and secretaries of the Providence of New Hampshire, all snugly gathered under the motherly wing of the Church of England. It is almost impossible to walk anywhere without stepping on a governor. You grow haughty in spirit after a while, and scorn to tread on anything less than one of His Majesty's colonels or secretary under the Crown. Here are the tombs of the Atkinsons, the Jaffreys, the Sherburnes, the Sheafes, the Marshes, the Mannings, the Gardners, and others of the quality. All around you underfoot are tumbled-in coffins, with here and there a rusty sword atop, and faded escutcheons, and crumbling armorial devices. You are moving in the very best society.

This, however, is not the earliest cemetery in Portsmouth. An hour's walk from the Episcopal yard will bring you to the spot, already mentioned, where the first house was built and the first grave made, at Odiorne's Point. The exact site of the Manor is not known, but it is supposed to be a few rods north of an old well of still-flowing water, at which the Tomsons and the Hiltons and their comrades slaked their thirst more than two hundred and sixty years ago. Oriorne's Point is owned by Mr. Eben L. Odiorne, a lineal descendant of the worthy who held the property in 1657. Not far from the old spring is the resting-place of the earliest pioneers.

"This first cemetery of the white man in New Hampshire," writes Mr. Brewster, (1. Mr. Charles W. Brewster, for nearly fifty years the editor of the Portsmouth Journal, and the author of two volumes of local sketches to which the writer of these pages here acknowledges his indebtedness.) "occupies a space of perhaps one hundred feet by ninety, and is well walled in. The western side is now used as a burial-place for the family, but two thirds of it is filled with perhaps forty graves, indicated by rough head and foot stones. Who there rest no one now living knows. But the same care is taken of their quiet beds as if they were of the proprietor's own family. In 1631 Mason sent over about eighty emigrants many of whom died in a few years, and here they were probably buried. Here too, doubtless, rest the remains of several of those whose names stand conspicuous in our early state records."


WHEN Washington visited Portsmouth in 1789 he was not much impressed by the architecture of the little town that had stood by him so stoutly in the struggle for independence. "There are some good houses," he writes, in a diary kept that year during a tour through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, "among which Colonel Langdon's may be esteemed the first; but in general they are indifferent, and almost entirely of wood. On wondering at this, as the country is full of stone and good clay for bricks, I was told that on account of the fogs and damp they deemed them wholesomer, and for that reason preferred wood buildings."

The house of Colonel Langdon, on Pleasant Street, is an excellent sample of the solid and dignified abodes which our great-grandsires had the sense to build. The art of their construction seems to have been a lost art these fifty years. Here Governor John Langdon resided from 1782 until the time of his death in 1819--a period during which many an illustrious man passed between those two white pillars that support the little balcony over the front door; among the rest Louis Philippe and his brothers, the Ducs de Montpensier and Beaujolais, and the Marquis de Chastellus, a major-general in the French army, serving under the Count de Rochambeau, whom he accompanied from France to the States in 1780. The journal of the marquis contains this reference to his host: "After dinner we went to drink tea with Mr. Langdon. He is a handsome man, and of noble carriage; he has been a member of Congress, and is now one of the first people of the country; his house is elegant and well furnished, and the apartments admirably well wainscoted" (this reads like Mr. Samuel Pepys); "and he has a good manuscript chart of the harbor of Portsmouth. Mrs. Langdon, his wife, is young, fair, and tolerably handsome, but I conversed less with her than her husband, in whose favor I was prejudiced from knowing that he had displayed great courage and patriotism at the time of Burgoynes's expedition."

It was at the height of the French Revolution that the three sons of the Due d'Orleans were entertained at the Langdon mansion. Years afterward, when Louis Philippe was on the throne of France, he inquired of a Portsmouth lady presented at his court if the mansion of ce brave Gouverneur Langdon was still in existence.

The house stands back a decorous distance from the street, under the shadows of some gigantic oaks or elms, and presents an imposing appearance as you approach it over the tessellated marble walk. A hundred or two feet on either side of the gate, and abutting on the street, is a small square building of brick, one story in height--probably the porter's lodge and tool-house of former days. There is a large fruit garden attached to the house, which is in excellent condition, taking life comfortably, and having the complacent air of a well-preserved beau of the ancien regime. The Langdon mansion was owned and long occupied by the late Rev. Dr. Burroughs, for a period of forty-seven years the esteemed rector or St. John's Church.

At the other end of Pleasant Street is another notable house, to which we shall come by and by. Though President Washington found Portsmouth but moderately attractive from an architectural point of view, the visitor of to-day, if he have an antiquarian taste, will find himself embarrassed by the number of localities and buildings that appeal to his interest. Many of these buildings were new and undoubtedly commonplace enough at the date of Washington's visit; time and association have given them a quaintness and a significance which now make their architecture a question of secondary importance.

One might spend a fortnight in Portsmouth exploring the nooks and corners over which history has thrown a charm, and by no means exhaust the list. I cannot do more than attempt to describe--and that very briefly--a few of the typical old houses. On this same Pleasant Street there are several which we must leave unnoted, with their spacious halls and carven staircases, their antiquated furniture and old silver tankards and choice Copleys. Numerous examples of this artist's best manner are to be found here. To live in Portsmouth without possessing a family portrait done by Copley is like living in Boston without having an ancestor in the old Granary Burying-Ground. You can exist, but you cannot be said to flourish. To make this statement smooth, I will remark that every one in Portsmouth has a Copley--or would have if a fair division were made.

In the better sections of the town the houses are kept in such excellent repair, and have so smart an appearance with their bright green blinds and freshly painted woodwork, that you are likely to pass many an old landmark without suspecting it. Whenever you see a house with a gambrel roof, you may be almost positive that the house is at least a hundred years old, for the gambrel roof went out of fashion after the Revolution.

On the corner of Daniel and Chapel streets stands the oldest brick building in Portsmouth--the Warner House. It was built in 1718 by Captain Archibald Macpheadris, a Scotchman, as his name indicates, a wealthy merchant, and a member of the King's Council. He was the chief projector of one of the earliest iron-works established in America. Captain Macpheadris married Sarah Wentworth, one of the sixteen children of Governor John Wentworth, and died in 1729, leaving a daughter, Mary, whose portrait, with that of her mother, painted by the ubiquitous Copley, still hangs in the parlor of this house, which is not known by the name of Captain Macpheadris, but by that of his son-in-law, Hon. Jonathan Warner, a member of the King's Council until the revolt of the colonies. "We well recollect Mr. Warner," says Mr. Brewster, writing in 1858, "as one of the last of the cocked hats. As in a vision of early childhood he is still before us, in all the dignity of the aristocratic crown officers. That broad-backed, long-skirted brown coat, those small-clothes and silk stockings, those silver buckles, and that cane--we see them still, although the life that filled and moved them ceased half a century ago."

The Warner House, a three-story building with gambrel roof and luthern windows, is as fine and substantial an exponent of the architecture of the period as you are likely to meet with anywhere in New England. The eighteen-inch walls are of brick brought from Holland, as were also many of the materials used in the building--the hearth-stones, tiles, etc. Hewn-stone underpinnings were seldom adopted in those days; the brick-work rests directly upon the solid walls of the cellar. The interior is rich in paneling and wood carvings about the mantel-shelves, the deep-set windows, and along the cornices. The halls are wide and long, after a by-gone fashion, with handsome staircases, set at an easy angle, and not standing nearly upright, like those ladders by which one reaches the upper chambers of a modern house. The principal rooms are paneled to the ceiling, and have large open chimney-places, adorned with the quaintest of Dutch files. In one of the parlors of the Warner House there is a choice store of family relics--china, silver-plate, costumes, old clocks, and the like. There are some interesting paintings, too--not by Copley this time. On a broad space each side of the hall windows, at the head of the staircase, are pictures of two Indians, life size. They are probably portraits of some of the numerous chiefs with whom Captain Macphaedris had dealings, for the captain was engaged in the fur as well as in the iron business. Some enormous elk antlers, presented to Macpheadris by his red friends, are hanging in the lower hall.

By mere chance, thirty or forty years ago, some long-hidden paintings on the walls of this lower hall were brought to light. In repairing the front entry it became necessary to remove the paper, of which four or five layers had accumulated. A one place, where several coats had peeled off cleanly, a horse's hoof was observed by a little girl of the family. The workman then began removing the paper carefully; first the legs, then the body of a horse with a rider were revealed, and the astonished paper-hanger presently stood before a life-size representation of Governor Phipps on his charger. The workman called other persons to his assistance, and the remaining portions of the wall were speedily stripped, laying bare four or five hundred square feet covered with sketches in color, landscapes, views of unknown cities, Biblical scenes, and modern figure-pieces, among which was a lady at a spinning-wheel. Until then no person in the land of the living had had any knowledge of those hidden pictures. An old dame of eighty, who had visited at the house intimately ever since her childhood, all but refused to believe her spectacles (though Supply Ham made them(1.)) when brought face to face with the frescoes. (1. In the early part of this century, Supply Ham was the leading optician and watchmaker of Portsmouth.)

The place is rich in bricabrac, but there is nothing more curious that these incongruous printings, clearly the work of a practiced hand. Even the outside of the old edifice is not without its interest for an antiquarian. The lightening-rod which protects the Warner House to-day was put up under Benjamin Franklin's own supervision in 1762--such at all events is the credited tradition--and is supposed to be the first rod put up in New Hampshire. A lightening-rod "personally conducted" by Benjamin Franklin ought to be an attractive object to even the least susceptible electricity. The Warner House has another imperative claim on the good-will of the visitor--it is not positively known that George Washington ever slept there.

The same assertion cannot be made on connection with the old yellow barracks situated in the southwest corner of Court and Atkinson streets. Famous old houses seem to have an intuitive perception of the value of corner lots. If it is a possible thing, they always set themselves down on the most desirable spots. It is beyond a doubt that Washington slept not only one night, but several nights, under this roof; for this was a celebrated tavern previous and subsequent to the War of Independence, and Washington made it his headquarters during his visit to Portsmouth in 1797. When I was a boy I knew an old lady--not one of the preposterous old ladies in the newspapers, who have all their faculties unimpaired, but a real old lady, whose ninety-nine years were beginning to tell on her--who had known Washington very well. She was a girl in her teens when he came to Portsmouth. The President was the staple of her conversation during the last ten years of her life, which she passed in the Stavers House, bedridden; and I think those ten years were in a manner rendered short and pleasant to the old gentlewoman by the memory of a compliment to her complexion which Washington probably never paid to it.

The old hotel--now a very unsavory tenement-house--was built by John Tavers, innkeeper, in 1770, who planted in front of the door a tall post, from which swung the sign of the Earl of Halifax. Stavers had previously kept an inn of the same name on Queen, now State Street.

It is a square three-story building, shabby and dejected, giving no hint of the really important historical associations that cluster about it. At the time of its erection it was no doubt considered a rather grand structure, for buildings of three stories were rare in Portsmouth. Even in 1798, of the six hundred and twenty-six dwelling houses of which the town boasted, eighty-six were of one story, five hundred and twenty-four were of two stories, and only sixteen of three stories. The Stavers inn has the regulation gambrel roof, but is lacking in those wood ornaments which are usually seen over the doors and windows of the more prominent houses of that epoch. It was, however, the hotel of the period.

That same worn doorstep upon which Mr. O'Shaughnessy now stretches himself of a summer afternoon, with a short clay pipe stuck between his lips, and his hat crushed down on his brows, revolving the sad vicissitude of things--that same doorstep has been pressed by the feet of generals and marquises and grave dignitaries upon whom depended the destiny of the States--officers in gold lace and scarlet cloth, and high-heeled belles in patch, powder, and paduasoy. At this door the Flying Stage Coach, which crept from Boston, once a week set down its load of passengers--and distinguished passengers they often were. Most of the chief celebrities of the land, before and after the secession of the colonies, were the guests of Master Stavers, at the sign of the Earl of Halifax.

While the storm was brewing between the colonies and the mother country, it was in a back room of the tavern that the adherents of the crown met to discuss matters. The landlord himself was a amateur loyalist, and when the full cloud was on the eve of breaking he had an early intimation of the coming tornado. The Sons of Liberty had long watched with sullen eyes the secret sessions of the Tories in Master Stavers's tavern, and one morning the patriots quietly began cutting down the post which supported the obnoxious emblem. Mr. Stavers, who seems not to have been belligerent himself, but the cause of belligerence in others, sent out his black slave with orders to stop proceedings. The negro, who was armed with an axe, struck but a single blow and disappeared. This blow fell upon the head of Mark Noble; it did not kill him, but left him an insane man till the day of his death, forty years afterward. A furious mob at once collected, and made an attack on the tavern, bursting in the doors and shattering every pane of glass in the windows. It was only through the intervention of Captain John Langdon, a warm and popular patriot, that the hotel was saved from destruction.

In the mean while Master Stavers had escaped through the stables in the rear. He fled to Stratham, where he was given refuge by his friend William Pottle, a most appropriately named gentleman, who had supplied the hotel with ale. The excitement blew over after a time, and Stavers was induced to return to Portsmouth. He was seized by the Committee of Safety, and lodged in Exeter jail, when his loyalty, which had really never been very high, went down below zero; he took the oath of allegiance, and shortly after his released reopened the hotel. The honest face of William Pitt appeared on the repentant sign, vice Earl of Halifax, ignominiously removed, and Stavers was himself again. In the state records is the following letter from poor Noble begging for the enlargement of John Stavers:--

PORTSMOUTH, February 3, 1777. To the Committee of Safety of the Town of Exeter: GENTLEMEN,--As I am informed that Mr. Stivers is in confinement in gaol upon my account contrary to my desire, for when I was at Mr. Stivers a fast day I had no ill nor ment none against the Gentleman but by bad luck or misfortune I have received a bad Blow but it is so well that I hope to go out in a day or two. So by this gentlemen of the Committee I hope you will release the gentleman upon my account. I am yours to serve. MARK NOBLE, A friend to my country.

«´¨`·.Pooja Merchant·´¨`»

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