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This Christian soldier was also a Son of Liberty

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.

Rev. Dr. Haven -- Settlement and residence -- Manufactures -- Revolutionary anecdotes.

PASSING down Pleasant to Gates street, we come to the former residence of Rev. Dr. SAMUEL HAVEN, who came to Portsmouth in 1752, from Framingham, Mass., and was settled over the South church. He soon selected a site for his residence, and probably before his marriage in 1763 erected the house on Pleasant street, at the head of Gates street, now occupied by the family of his grandson, the late Nathaniel A. Haven, Jr. having always remained in the family. About thirty years after, it was remodeled, and early in the present century it underwent a change, from a two-story gambrel roof to a three story structure. In all the alterations, several rooms have remained undisturbed. This feature must be as pleasant for keeping in remembrance esteemed ancestral relations, as the wide spread elm in front, in a more open manner, is an agreeable memento of former days--days when the numerous children with which the Doctor was blessed were players around the homestead, and planting those little twigs--a fit family emblem--which in after years imperceptibly became the overhanging trees in front of this Pleasant street residence.

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How He Came to Portsmouth

In some letters of Dr. Haven before us, we learn that he first received an invitation to settle in Medway, Mass. in April, 1751. This he declined, because the call was not unanimous, and because the salary offered was inadequate "to sustain ye dignity or afford me leisure to perform ye duties to which you would call me, which are well-becoming and absolutely incumbent on ye minister of Christ." He also declined a call, made in February, 1752, to settle in Brookline, from a lack of unity in the call. He adds, "nor may it be impertinent just to mention to you the very agreeable union that appears in the vote of a distant church, by which I am invited to labor in another part of Christ's vineyard."

This latter invitation was from the South church in Portsmouth. The salary offered was "Seventy pounds sterling money yearly." This call he accepted. While in his acceptance he regarded their unanimity, peace and love above any other inviting circumstance, "yet I would by these represent to you how much I confide in your generosity and christian kindness to afford me some further assistance for my comfortable support in your service. And as wood will be a very chargeable article in this populous town, so your generous allowance of eight or tea cords annually, or its equivalent in money would be, though to you an inconsiderable expense, yet to me a very valuable kindness."

He was settled May 6, 1752. As the history of his long pastorate is fully given in Rev. Dr. Peabody's sketch of the South church history, we will only give such matters as are not there stated.

How the item of wood in the salary was settled, does not appear; but probably some of the members of the church and parish were influential in causing the vote to be passed which gave him the use of the training field for his horse and cow pasture, which is spoken of in another place.

That it was difficult to raise even the small salary agreed upon, may be inferred from the fact that at Dr. Haven's decease there was due to him $289.26. His receipts show that his salary was paid in small sums as it could be collected.

In looking over Dr. Haven's early account book, it will be found that he purchased considerable wood, and he often balances his accounts with hay, corn or meal, probably raised in his own garden or field; and in 1783 a shoe bill has often these words recurring, "To your son's shoes, your upper leather, or your leather;" and then credited by "One bushel and a half of salt," made, probably, at his own salt works.

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A Son of Liberty

During the Revolutionary war, Dr. Haven was a genuine "son of liberty," giving the whole weight of his character, influence and exertion to the American cause. When the news of the battle of Lexington reached Portsmouth, he sat up a good part of the night with his family making bullets. And when, in the course of the year, an alarm was given in the night that the enemy were approaching, he shouldered his fowling piece, and went with his parishioners to share in the toils and dangers to which they might be exposed.

His brother-in-law, Mr. Appleton of Boston, visiting Dr. Haven, they rode to Greenland to see his brother, John Haven, who resided there. On returning home the horse stopped to drink at a brook which then ran across the road, the bits were broken, and losing all command of the animal, they were both thrown into the stream, and the horse there left them. Thoroughly wet, they proceeded to the first house, where dwelt a parishioner of Dr. Haven's, a militia captain. He had no clothes to offer his worthy pastor but his regimentals, and so accoutred in them he walked home, exciting the wonder of all he met, and no less the dismay of his own family, at the fear of sudden mental aberration; but an explanation in due time showed that even the preacher of peace might under peculiar circumstances be justified in assuming the militant armor.

There are some tangible evidences left of the patriotism of the clergymen who espoused the cause of their country in the days of the Revolution. We have some documents which show that while the Rev. Dr. McClintock and his sons were in active service, the father prominent in the battle of Bunker Hill, no less devoted was Dr. Haven in preparing for the manufacture of an article so essential to carry on the warfare. Read the following certificate, signed by two physicians of Portsmouth, given only two months before the Declaration:

"This may certify that we, the subscribers, by the request of the Rev'd Dr. Haven, have examined a quantity of saltpetre made by him, and have weighed off three hundred and eight pounds, which we judge to be sufficiently pure and dry.
"Portsmouth, May 13, 1776.

That this was not the close of the saltpetre business we have evidence in the following copy of an agreement, made the week after:
"May 18, 1776. Mutually agreed between the Rev'd Dr. Haven and Messieurs Lang and Melcher, yt the said Haven will deliver up to them his salt petre works for space of one month, yt he find one-half of the wood and potash, and all the utensils; yt he find them collectively one-half pint of rum per day, or one pitcher of cyder, and his horse to hale the nitre earth; and that they, said Melcher and Lang, render to said Haven half the produce of said saltpetre.

"N. B. It is understood that said Haven advance what money is necessary for pott ash and wood, to said Lang and Melcher, and take his pay in saltpetre; that he take off all the saltpetre, and pay them at the market price; and likewise that they count one month from said Haven's return from his intended journey."

The place of manufacture was the then vacant lot north of Dr. Haven's residence, afterwards owned by Edward Parry. Earth from beneath the old South church, from the cellar on which Benjamin Akerman afterwards built a house on Islington near Cass street, and from other localities, was taken for the manufacture. Thus while some clergymen took the field in defence of their country, others were quietly, but not less effectively, turning the soil into the means of national defence.

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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