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An ancient lady recalls
old Market Street

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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.

Paved street in 1780, by an old lady - Location of buildings on the east and west sides - Dearborn's school - Dedication of his academy.

IN a recent ramble we gave a sketch of Market street in 1789, when Washington visited Portsmouth. That account was read in 1853 by the widow of Capt. William Brewster, (for several years a resident in Philadelphia,) of the age of eighty-five years, and in the full enjoyment of her mental faculties. She was the daughter of Deacon Noble and the mother of that disinterested young man referred to in our last ramble. In a book published in New York more than forty years ago, in connection with an account of the noble and generous deed of her son, is a high comment on the exemplary religious character of the mother. It is gratifying to know that she is (in 1859) still living at the age of 91, although her faculties do not retain the strength of earlier years. In 1853 she addressed to us a letter in her own hand, in which she says that she is a constant reader of the Portsmouth Journal. Seeing in one of its numbers an account of Paved street in olden time, she thought she could remember ten years further back than that article, and wrote down the following into resting recollections, which are copied from her manuscript:

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Old Paved Street

"At the entrance of Paved street from the Parade stood at the right hand Daniel Rindge's double house, with an open fence around it. Next to the house stood a store; then the old Rindge house (very much decayed) with two doors front. The boys called it the haunted house. Next stood Benj. Dearborn's house, end to the street, with a shop in it, where Mrs. Dearborn kept some articles to sell. The room over the shop Mr. Dearborn occupied as a school room, where he accommodated a large number of scholars. Judge Pickering's house came next, end to the street, with an office in it. Next stood Madam Wibird's large brick house, with a shop in the end. Madam Wibird occupied the whole house herself, with a woman to wait upon her, besides a number of servants in the kitchen. At her decease the property all went into the hands of Mr. John Penhallow. Next to the house there was a lot of land fenced in, and a store next to it; then a large house fronting Spring hill, occupied by Mr. William Gardner. At the decease of Madam Wibird, Mr. Penhallow moved his family into the old mansion house.

"On the left side of Paved street from the Parade there was a large building occupied by a family of the name of Armit, who came from England in the time of the war, and at its close moved to Barrington. Next came a long strain of very old one-story buildings owned by Robert Fowle--his printing establishment was in it. John Melcher was apprenticed to him. He occupied one part as a dwelling house, had a woman, a relative, with him, and an old negro man named Primus (whom I well remember) to wait on him. Next stood a one-story house; then an open yard where a large oak tree stood, and Peter Mann's large double house, end to the street, with two shops, one occupied as a school room--the sign over the other was "pies, cake and ale sold here." Mr. Mann was a barber, and had a shop on the Parade for his business. Then came Deacon Noble's large two story house, end to the street, with a shop in one end, where Mrs. Noble traded during the war; next a paved yard, and then Mr. Joseph Simes's and Captain Mountford's houses, both situated with the end to the street.

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Early School Days

"A few recollections of Mr. Dearborn's school in 1780: Mr. Dearborn taught the first school in Portsmouth for misses, in a large room in his own dwelling house. The scholars brought the Spectator and the Guardian and such books as they had, until suitable books for reading could be procured from Boston. Mr. Dearborn wanted to get up a class in grammar, but could only prevail upon six scholars to join. Many parents thought it an unnecessary branch for misses to attend to. The grammars were obtained from Boston; I have mine still, bought in March, 1781.

"Mr. Dearborn, full of energy and enterprise, determined on raising a building on a lot he owned, back of his house. He went on rapidly and soon had a noble academy under way. When it was completed Dr. Haven delivered an elegant address in honor of the occasion, in the North Church, and Mr. Sewall wrote an ode. The scholars were all present. The next day they were introduced into the new Academy. Mr. Dearborn soon had assistant teachers, all the branches were attended to and the school was in a flourishing condition, when Mr. Dearborn left all for Boston. He was a very good man, and his departure was much regretted by the inhabitants of Portsmouth. I shall always revere and cherish his memory."

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