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Many island citizens
were lost at sea

Brewster image

By Charles W. Brewster

Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values.
JDR

Newcastle--the Jaffrey residence--Atkinson--Church yard--The old Cemetery--John and Abigail Frost--Rev. John Blunt--Funeral items--Capt. John Blunt and family--Cromwell anecdote--Newcastle pastors.

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UNTIL 1693, Newcastle was a part of Portsmouth--and if we can estimate the proportion which that part held to the whole from the standing of the early residents of the island, we must call it a valuable portion. As we pass the bridges which now unite the two places, the eye is feasted with the continual change of rich and refreshing land and water scenery, and we enter upon the spot where were once the homes of the ignoble Gov. Cranfield and his associate, Judge Barefoot--of the no less celebrated Judge Charles Story--of Councillor Stileman--of those Honorables, Sampson and Jacob Sheafe, Theodore Atkinson, George Jaffrey, and some other individuals whose names were conspicuous in their day.

On the south part of the island, about a mile from Fort Constitution, may now be seen the early Jaffrey residence. This original mansion was erected about one hundred and eighty years ago. The place near which it stands is now called Jerry's Point. This name is no doubt a corruption of that of the original proprietor, and should be Jaffrey's Point. The house is kept in good repair, and, if no accident occurs, in a score of years will enter upon its third century. It must have been regarded a noble structure in its day. On the land of Mrs. Card some ruins still remain of the old Atkinson house, where it is said the General Court has been convened. There are many old moss covered hovels, which might have been places of renown in early days, but their history is now hidden, and even the old cellar where Cranfield stored his wine cannot now be pointed out.

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Here is the neat little Church edifice, around which is a white open fence, enclosing a refreshing green spot, handsomely laid out with gravel walks, mounds, flower beds, and ornamented with trees, shrubs, vines and flowers. And in its midst, bearing the date of 1856, is a handsome marble obelisk to perpetuate the memory of those who have been buried beneath that ocean which here lies open to the eye. Let us read the inscriptions. First on the north side:

"To the Memory of Citizens of Newcastle lost at sea. 'I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God--and the sea gave up the dead which were in it.' Rev. 20: 12,13."

On the east and west sides are records which show how large a number of the inhabitants in the last eleven years have met with the sad experience of the perils of an ocean life. Here are their names:

"Ebenezer Yeaton, aged 52: Edward Martin, 51; William Amazeen, 49; John H. Gerrish, 33; James P. Baker, 30; Samuel Hall, 15; lost with the Inez, near the Isle of Sable, April 1847.

Benjamin Trefethen, aged 34; Benjamin Hunt, 33; Wm. Amazeen, 24; Nath'l B. Davis, 20; perished on the Balerma, near Prince Edward's Island, in the storm of Oct. 3d, 1851.

Charles Smith, aged 20, lost from the Mexico from Boston for West Port, N.S., Oct 1851.

Calvin D. White, aged 21; lost from the Eliza, from Boston for Baltimore, Nov. l7th, 1854."

The side towards the ocean is yet blank--and many an ocean rover has been led to think of the chances of his own name's being recorded on it.

On the opposite side of the street is a more ancient enclosure, the resting place of some who were once the life and pride of the village. Here, among the numerous old monuments, is one which might receive some notice even in such a place as Mount Auburn. It is inscribed to ABIGAIL, the lovely daughter of Hon. JOHN FROST, who died in 1742, aged twenty four. Her monument presents a specimen of sculpture rarely excelled, probably the work of a foreign artist. Near the top is a group of figures in bold relief. In the centre a beautiful female--on the right a lofty pillar, a flame waving from the capital--below, an anchor and cable--and near it, a female half-reclining, in her hand a branch of olive--on the left among blooming roses, an angelic visitant, bearing in her hand a splendid coronet. Beneath is the following inscription:

  "Released from cares, at rest she lies,
  Where peaceful slumbers close her eyes.
  Her Faith all trials did endure,
  Like a strong pillar, firm and sure.
  Did adverse winds tempestuous roll?
  Hope was the Anchor of the soul.
  We, by the Olive in her hand,
  Her peaceful end may understand.
  And by the Coronet is shown,
  Virtue, at last, shall wear the Crown."

This is rare lore for a tomb stone--far, far above what can be found among many acres of grave stones in more extensive cemeteries. How appropriate to the scenery are the fifth and sixth lines. Who could thus have written more than a century ago, when epitaphs were matters of literary curiosity rather than of sterling worth? This question is readily answered by the respected pastor, by whose care not only the spiritual wants but the present outward adornings of the sanctuary are so well attended to. The writer was probably Mrs. Jane Turell, the daughter of Rev. Dr. Colman of Brattle street church in Boston. She was the first wife of Rev. E. Turell of Medford, of whom some account will be found in Prof. Brooks' excellent work on Medford. Mr. Turell's second wife was Jane, the youngest sister of Sir Wm. Pepperell.

Among the men of eminence in this ancient town, early in the last century, Hon. John Frost held a high rank. He was a native of Kittery, Me., born in 1681, and was the son of Major Charles Frost (who was slain by the Indians, on the Sabbath, July 4th, 1697, as he was returning from meeting), and grandson of Nicholas Frost, an emigrant from England, born in Tiverton, about the year 1595, and settled at Sturgeon Creek, in Eliot, in 1636, where he died in 1663. This grandson, Hon. John Frost, in 1702 married Mary Pepperell, sister of Sir William, the Baronet.

Hon. John Frost and his lady were early established at Newcastle, where he soon rose to eminence. He was a member of His Majesty's Council; at one time commanded a British ship-of-war, afterwards pursued the profession of a merchant, and was much distinguished and highly useful in civil life. His place of residence was on an eminence, westerly of the Prescott mansion (now the alms-house), commanding a view of the spacious harbor, the river and its table lands, with the lofty Agamenticus in the distance. Some remains of his extensive wharf may yet be traced.

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His family was numerous and highly respectable--one of whom was Madam Sarah Blunt, born in 1713, consort of Rev. John Blunt, third pastor of the church in Newcastle; and after his decease, the wife of Hon. Judge Hill of South Berwick, Me. Hon. John Frost died February 25, 1732, in the fifty-first year of his age. It is for their daughter that the above well-designed memorial was erected more than a century ago.

Near by it is another moss covered monument, which bears unmistakable evidence that the same poet who sketched the above chaste epitaph, has also, in as smooth and as strong lines, drawn another marked portraiture. Let us read it.

"To the memory of Rev'd JOHN BLUNT, Pastor of the Church of Christ of this Town who died Aug. 7, 1748, in the 42d year of his age, whose body lies here interred, this stone is erected.

  Soft is the sleep of saints, in peace they lie,
  They rest in silence, but they never die;
  From these dark graves, their flesh refined shall rise
  And in immortal bloom ascend the skies.
  Then shall thine eyes, dear BLUNT! thine hands, thy tongue--
  In nicer harmony each member strung--
  Resume their warm devotion, and adore
  Him, in whose service, they were joined before."

Can any one tell us more of this servant of God, whom no mortal at present living has seen, but whose remembrance is beautifully chiseled in the stone? Here comes the patriarch of the isle, whose four score years have scarcely yet marked him beyond middle life. Capt. Oliver is as well acquainted with our subject as any one we could meet with, for he tells us that seventy years ago he terminated a three years residence in the family of Capt. John Blunt, one of the two sons left by the village pastor, and the father of the five ship- masters of that name who for many years sailed from Portsmouth.

William Blunt, the ancestor of the family, came from England in 1634, and settled in Andover, Mass. His son William (2), lived in Andover, had three sons, William, Samuel and Hanborough, and died in 1709, aged sixty-seven. His grandson, William (3), born 1671, died in 1737. He had two sons, David, born 1699, and John, born 1706. John graduated at Harvard in 1727, and was ordained in Newcastle in 1732. As above stated, he married Sarah Frost, daughter of Hon. John Frost, and died in 1748, at the age of forty-two. He appears to have been a highly approved preacher and useful man. On his death, the town voted to continue his salary to his widow for nine months, and to pay L200 old tenor (thirty or forty dollars) on account of funeral expenses. Some of the items were--for coffin L66, for rings L30, for gloves L28, for grave L2, for rum L2 lOs, for tobacco pipes L1. The use of rum as a cordial to the afflicted, and of tobacco as an assuager of grief, was in those days deemed indispensable.

Rev. John Blunt had three sons, William, Charles and John; and three daughters, Sarah F., Abigail F., and Dorothy. William married a Slade, and afterwards a March, and had twelve children. Among them was Edmund M. Blunt. Charles died unmarried. John married Hannah Sherburne, and had nine children.

Sarah F. married Thomas Furber of Portsmouth, and had three sons. Abigail F. married William Parsons of Alfred, and had nine children, among them Dr. Usher Parsons. Dorothy married a Mr. Campbell of Deer Island, and was the mother of a distinguished gentleman of that name of large estate who died at Newburyport not long since.

John, (the third son of the clergyman) was a shipmaster and farmer. He owned and occupied the peninsula at Little Harbor, which was afterwards owned by Jacob Sheafe and made up about one-half of the Sheafe farm. It was here that Capt. Thomas Oliver resided with the family, and in common with the sons had his seat in the unfinished room to receive instruction from the master of the family. It was here that those five distinguished shipmasters, the sons of John, received their primary instruction--recited their advanced lessons, and from this house they all graduated and entered upon the world. The oldest son, bearing the family name, John, born in 1757, was lost at sea during the revolutionary war. The other sons were Capt. George F. Blunt, born in 1761, who resided at the corner of Vaughan and Hanover streets; Capt. Robert W. Blunt, born in 1763, resided in No.24 Washington street; Capt. Charles Blunt born in 1768, resided in 57 Pleasant street; Capt. Mark S. Blunt, born in 1770, died at sea; and Capt. Oliver C. Blunt, born in 1774, resided in the house now occupied by John N. Handy, 88 State street. The several houses in which they lived were built by them. Of the daughters, Sarah married Mark Simes, Esq., postmaster. Frances and Mary Ann were unmarried.

The family attended meeting regularly at Newcastle. It was in revolutionary times when these boys were born, and the resolution and spirit which characterized their after life was rightly inherited from their father, who is described as a short man, with a bald head, covered with a wig, of full body, and carrying a cane which came down with firmness as he stepped. On the birth of the sixth boy, after a counsel between the parents, William was the name decided upon, and as usual the child was taken to the church at Newcastle for christening. The Rev. Joseph Stevens of Kittery, who that day officiated, leaned on the side of royalty, and gave a sermon expressive of his sentiments, in which Cromwell, as a revolutionist, was denounced in no measured terms. This was grating to the feelings of the patriotic Blunt, and he was determined to resent it. The child is handed up and with it the name, Oliver Cromwell. "What did you say?" said the wonder-struck preacher, hoping that he had misunderstood. In the tones of a boatswain, the reply filled the church "OLIVER CROMWELL!" There was no misunderstanding now, the babe was christened, and hence the name of Oliver Cromwell Blunt.

Edmund M. Blunt of New York, the author of the American Coast Pilot, and John Blunt, a merchant of Brooklyn, formerly of this city, son of Charles, are among the descendants of the old pastor.

Looking into the church, the desk of which for many years has been filled by Rev. Lucius Alden, we find among its neat fixtures a black walnut pulpit, the gift of two of the descendants of the old pastors. Its front panel presents a record of its pastors, on a plain, highly polished and beautiful marble slab. The inscription, in deep cut letters, is as follows:

  Rev. JOHN EMERSON died Jan.21, 1732, aged 62.
  Rev. WILLIAM SHURTLEFF died May 9, 1747, aged 58.
  Rev. JOHN BLUNT died Aug. 7, 1748, aged 42.
  Rev. DAVID ROBINSON died Nov.18, 1749, aged 33.
  Rev. STEPHEN CHASE died Jan. 1778, aged 72.
  Rev. OLIVER NOBLE died Dec. 15, 1792, aged 56.
  PASTORS OF THIS CHURCH.
  " The memory of the just is blessed."

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by SeacoastNH.com
Design © 1999 SeacoastNH.com

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