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An Old Town by the Sea 5

Portsmouth NH 350th anniversary strawberry coinOLD STRAWBERRY BANK

In Chapter 5, TB Aldrich recounts the founding of Portsmouth into the 18th century. Although his depiction of slavery and Indian warfare is far from correct, he presents the Victorian prejudices of the time. Aldarich touches on early hangings, Portsmouth’d first newspaper and witchcraft paranoia. .




BACK TO Chapter Four  
LEARN MORE about Thomas Bailey Aldrich
SEE PIX of Historic Portsmouth


(Editor's Note: Aldrich died in 1907, long before the urban renewal project in the 1960s that helped create the Strawbery Banke Museum colonial village now on Marcy Street near the waterfront. He is writing here about the original 1630 settlement in Portsmouth, not the modern day museum. -- JDR)

These old houses have perhaps detained us too long. They are merely the crumbling shells of things dead and gone, of persons and manners and customs that have left no very distinct record of themselves, excepting here and there in some sallow manuscript which has luckily escaped the withering breath of fire, for the old town, as I have remarked, has managed, from the earliest moment of its existence, to burn itself up periodically. It is only through the scattered memoranda of ancient town clerks, and in the files of worm-eaten and forgotten newspapers, that we are enabled to get glimpses of that life which was once so real and positive and has now become a shadow. I am of course speaking of the early days of the settlement on Strawberry Bank. They were stormy and eventful days.

The dense forest which surrounded the clearing was alive with hostile red-men. The sturdy pilgrim went to sleep with his firelock at his bedside, not knowing at what moment he might be awakened by the glare of his burning hay ricks and the piercing war-whoop of the Womponoags. Year after year he saw his harvest reaped by a sickle of flame, as he peered through the loop-holes of the block house, whither he had flown in hot haste with goodwife and little ones. The blockhouse at Strawberry Bank appears to have been on an extensive scale, with stockades for the shelter of cattle. It held large supplies of stores, and was amply furnished with arquebuses, sakers, and murtherers, a species of naval ordnance which probably did not belie its name. It also boasted, we are told, of two drums for training-days, and no fewer than fifteen hautboys and soft-voiced recorders -- all which suggests a mediaeval castle, or a grim fortress in the time of Queen Elizabeth.

To the younger members of the community glass or crockery ware was an unknown substance; to the elders it was a memory. An iron pot was the pot of-all-work, and their table utensils were of beaten pewter. The diet was also of the simplest -- pea-porridge and corn-cake, with a mug of ale or a flagon of Spanish wine, when they could get it.


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Tuesday, February 20, 2018 
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