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Mrs. Treadwell was half saint
and half real estate agent

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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.

Charles Treadwell - His marriage - Successful Store-keeping - Bui1ding of three large houses - Death of Mrs. Treadwell - and her character.

OUR last visit was to the mansion built by Charles Treadwell in 1728, next west of the present residence of D. R. Rogers, which latter is a building of an older date, said to have been the first in Portsmouth in which the diamond shaped window glass was not made use of.

Charles Treadwell, who came from Ipswich in 1724, sought a helpmeet, and found a partner to his liking in Miss Mary Kelley, a daughter of English parents residing at Newcastle. Her family had enjoyed much affluence in England, but by a sudden reverse of fortune they were reduced to poverty. After coming to this country and taking up their residence at Newcastle, Mary's wardrobe was so limited, that a boy's jacket was worn by her for one winter for lack of suitable clothing. But nothing discouraged, she knit nets enough for the fishermen to buy her a new dress, and by industrious application she placed herself in the light of a better fortune. Her good reputation and pleasant manners commended her to her suitor, and in due time they were occupants of the new house. As their husbands were associates, so Mrs. Treadwell and Mrs. Gaines were ever happy in neighborly kindnesses; and so fond were they of an hour's converse, which their industry forbade them to pass in idleness, that Mrs. T. might frequently be seen with her work in hand crossing King street, to enjoy an industrious hour of conversation with her intimate friend. They were of nearly the same age, and their prolonged lives closed within a year of each other.

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The Treadwell Store

Mrs. Treadwell had known the worth of money, and was not content with the slow income of her husband's business. She induced him to open a shop in the house, in a small way, to which she would give personal attention. Her pleasant manners attracted customers; so they extended their shop and their stock by degrees, until they had on hand in the building in which they resided, groceries, dry goods, hardware, and in fact almost every kind of article the country trade needed. They purchased the country produce brought in, and paid out in goods. She was aided by her husband in the store, but was really the manager of the business.

She well knew that the way to the heart is sometimes through tbe mouth. On a cold day, when a customer came in, she would anticipate his wants with the present of some warm drink to cheer him. Around the fire might be seen several tea pots -- and a lady customer from the country would rarely refuse a cup of warm drink, tendered so kindly and opportunely. They made no pretensions to selling at lower prices than others, but her forte was, polite attentions to her customers. By her upright dealing she commended the place of business to the country around. On business days, horses might be seen hitched not only in front of the house, but also west to Fleet street. There were no market wagons in those days. All came on horseback: the better half frequently sitting behind with her arm around her husband -- a model way of riding worth restoring. If any were bringing in provisions in their panniers or saddle-bags, their first call was at Mrs. Treadwell's; and here, more than to any other market, the townsfolks went to purchase their provisions.

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More Real Estate

The family in time increased. As two sons and a daughter were seen growing up around their table, their future occupied her thoughts. She induced her husband to purchase the corner lot adjoining their premises on the west, and on it erected the spacious Cutter mansion, the appearance of which is yet fresh in our recollection. A few years since it was remodeled into the City Hotel, and is now occupied as such. This was given to her only daughter Hannah, who was the wife of the eminent physician, Dr. Ammi R. Cutter.

From the income of the shop was next purchased that well situated lot, on the corner of Congress and Middle streets, and there was erected what has been called the Storer mansion. This she gave to her son Jacob Treadwell, which he occupied. Jacob had four sons and three daughters, William, Daniel, Charles, Jacob, Ann, Mehitable and Mary. Ann was married to Rev. Mr. Eliot of Boston. William and Daniel were the publishers of the Portsmouth Oracle, from 1801 to 1813. Charles and Jacob were merchants--the latter lost his property in the burning of Moscow, and died here a few years since.

She next purchased another lot on the corner of what is now called State and Fleet streets, extending their premises from Congress to State streets. On this was erected that large square mansion for many years known as the Davenport boarding-house, now owned and occupied by J.M. Mathes. This she gave to her son Nathaniel, who occupied it.

Not finding another corner lot to suit, they built a vessel, and gave it to their two sons -- and to equalize the favors, gave to their daughter Hannah the homestead house and store.

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The Unflappable Mrs Treadwell

Mrs. Treadwell died in 1783, at the age of 73 years. She was a remarkable woman, of rare strength of mind, energy of character, and purity of life. Born in affluence, in early childhood, as she once said, she received a lesson which had a lasting influence on her eventful life. Her father gave to her mother a rich brocade dress. On finding soon after that a person for whom she had great antipathy had taken a dress from the same piece, she in a fit of passionate pride destroyed her own. The time soon arrived when by the visitation of providence the mother had to look upon a daughter on whom she had not even a comfortable dress to bestow. Mrs. T. never regarded any as her inferiors, was the model of politeness to all, and the attentive friend of those who were more immediately in her circle of familiar acquaintance. Notwithstanding her devoted business habits, she was ever seeking to do good. So prompt and soothing were her attentions to the sick and afflicted, that it was a common remark of her beloved pastor, Rev. Dr. Langdon, when called to the sick chamber, "You might as well send for Mrs. Treadwell as for me."

We have referred to her history not only to show the source to which Portsmouth is indebted for several of her conspicuous houses, which were reared in the last century -- but also to bring out a hitherto unwritten history of a lady whose traits of character should leave an enduring impression. There is one trait which has not been mentioned, but should not be passed over. She had her particular hours for secret prayer, and when these hours arrived, no matter how pressing her business, she would retire from it all to seek communion with her Maker.

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More Treadwell History

Jacob, a brother of Charles Treadwell, came from Ipswich about the same time with his brother, and built the house at the corner of Congress and Chestnut streets, now occupied by Dr. Perry. It was probably built as early as 1735. Jacob Treadwell was a tanner, and located his yard at the north end of Bridge street. The yard was afterwards owned by Toppin Maxwell. Daniel Treadwell, a son of Jacob Treadwell, graduated at Harvard in 1754, and was a professor at King's College in New York, until his death in 1760.

Another son, Nathaniel, occupied his father's house in 1781, when the first great fire in Portsmouth commenced in his barn. The barn was on the spot where the Temple now stands. Some boys had been making clay marbles, and built a fire in the barn to burn them. The barn was soon in flames, also two barns near by, the jail on the opposite corner south, and the mansion of Woodbury Langdon, where the Rockingham House now stands, were all consumed. The jail had been built but twenty-two years. From Nathaniel Treadwell descended William E., from him Robert 0., and from him Daniel H. Treadwell.

The house on the corner of Chestnut street was afterwards owned by Capt. John Parrott, and was the birthplace of the late John F., Enoch G., and Wm. W. Parrott, gentlemen distinguished in the political and commercial world.

Thomas Treadwell, who is not directly connected with the Treadwell families above referred to, also came from Ipswich, in 1794, and learned the hatter's trade of Deacon Job Harris, in a small shop which was then on the spot where the centre front of the Franklin House now stands.

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
Design © 2001

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