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In the late1600s boats could
navigate to the center of town

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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.

The Creeks - First Wentworth House - Samuel and John Wentworth.

VERY different must have been the appearance of the scenery on our river in the early days of the settlement from what is now presented. Our creeks, north and south, (now mill-ponds,) as well as the Sagamore creek, were then open and deep enough for the vessels of the day to sail in; and as these creeks were successively visited, (each doubtless abounding in fish,) their location must indeed have been a most inviting feature to induce a settlement. There was also then another smaller, but scarcely less beautiful creek, extending up into the south part of the town, with green banks, and a good depth of water. We wish we could give it a name better fitted to its earlier days, but can only designate it as the Puddle Dock of modern times. In the last century the water not only flowed up beyond its present bounds, but at high tides small boats passed from it over Pleasant street, near the Universalist church, to the South creek.

It was on the south side of this dock that the first Wentworth house, of which we have any record, was built, and that house still stands. It is known as the house of the first Gov. John Wentworth, who was married in the year 1693 or 1694, and then occupied the premises. It is on the south side of the dock, at the north end of Manning street. Samuel Wentworth (the father of the first Governor John and son of Elder William Wentworth of Dover) was the first of the name in Portsmouth. He died of the small pox in 1690. In the year 1670, our town records show him licensed with "libertie to entertain strangers and sell and brew beare." At that time the vicinity of the "Point of Graves" was the principal business part of the Bank, and directly opposite, on the northern shore of the dock, near the present eastern terminus of Jefferson street, was the original "Great House." Some old citizens who have died in our day, recollect the time when the mart of business was in the vicinity of Water street.

The size of the house would seem to indicate that it was built by Samuel for a public house; but of this we are not certain, for in 1678 he appears to have been a resident of Newcastle. There is little doubt of its occupancy by his son John, afterwards Lieut. Governor, at his marriage, in 1693. The avenue extending south from the house, now called Manning street, until within the last twenty years was called Wentworth street. Gov. John, it is said, owned all the land on the west side of the street to where the South church was afterwards erected, and then on the north side of Whidden street to the mill- pond. It is very probable that the Wentworth premises extended so far north as to take in the land on which the last Gov. John Wentworth built the mansion in which Eben. Wentworth now resides.

The old Wentworth house at the dock yet presents a good exterior, and an examination of it shows that it was built in a most substantial manner. The beams on which the floor rests are twelve by eighteen inches, and timber to correspond may be seen in various parts of the house, all now in good preservation. The chambers and stairway are wainscoted, some of the panels of clear boards being thirty-eight inches in width. The size of the base of the chimney is ten feet by thirteen; the bricks are set in clay. Spikes of a foot in length and bearded are as freely used as if the house had been built to "stem tornadoes and the storms defy."

This house was not only the residence of a Governor of truly exemplary life, but was also the birth-place, among his sixteen children, of another Governor, Benning Wentworth, in the year 1695. Lieut. Gov. John Wentworth's commission, given in 1717, was signed by Joseph Addison, the writer of the "Spectator," as Secretary of State. He held his commission until his death in 1730, at the age of fifty-nine. One of his sons, Daniel, was the father of George, who was the father of our present fellow citizen, Eben. Wentworth.

This house, probably as ancient as any in Portsmouth, has been owned and occupied by William A. Vaughan for over twenty years, and for about twenty years previously by the Misses Purcell. As Gov. George Vaughan, son of Major William Vaughan, was a predecessor of the first Gov. Wentworth in the chief magistracy of New Hampshire, it is but right that one bearing the same name, and of the same lineage, should now hold possession of the once royal mansion.

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
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