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John Thaxter Poses Unhappily in the 1850s

John Presents  
Historic Portsmouth #381

Must be the season, but this scary deteriorating close-up photo of poet Celia Thaxter’s son John (second of three boys) reminds me of the Halloween masks that used to come on the back of a box of cereal. The difference is the piercing eyes that look at us through the centuries. John (1854-1929) was clearly not happy posing for his picture. (Continued below)



Celia was 19 when John was born and, according to her letters, was a difficult child. “Baby gets more and more obstreperous every day,” Celia wrote soon after his birth. “He squeals enough to cut your head in two.” John’s parents had a troubled relationship and the boy was often away from the Isles of Shoals with his father Levi Lincoln Thaxter. John married Mary Gertrude Stoddard in 1887 who was from a wealthy Worcester, Mass. family. Their only child was Rosamond Thaxter who never married. “Aunt Rozzie” wrote a biography of her famous grandmother entitled “Sandpiper.” John and Mary Thaxter lived in the Cutts Island house on a large property called “Champernowne Farm” in Kittery where John could best be described as a gentleman farmer. He was very interested in the League of Nations and wrote many letters to politicians asking for their support.  He is said to have planted the lily pads on the little pond across the road from Fort McClary.  (Thanks to Jonathan Hubbard in Chicago for research. Photo courtesy of the Portsmouth Athenaeum.)

John Thaxter on

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018 
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