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A woman struck by lightning &
the widow gathering wool

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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.

Deer street - Why so named - Houses of Newmarch, Collings and Fitch - Christian Shore - Tradition of the Beehive.

OF the collection of old houses on the west side of Market street, the second north of Deer street, built in garrison style, is the house where a lady was once killed by lightning. It was on the second day of June, 1777. Mrs. Catharine Clark, who had been married but one week, was expecting company. In the afternoon, there came up a heavy shower. After the force of the shower had appeared to pass away, she went into a back room, put her head out of the window to observe the clouds, and was instantly killed by a flash of lightning. It is a remarkable circumstance, that this is the only case on record of fatality from lightning within the limits of Portsmouth. In 1782, some Frenchmen were killed by lightning on board of a vessel in our river.

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The Sign of the Deer

This building on the north of Deer street, near the corner of Market street, was once a public house, with the sign of a Deer. This gave the name to the street. Passing up Deer street, see that old house on the north side. The chimney presents to every passer-by the record of its age, "1705." It was built in that year by John Newmarch. The next house, long the residence of the venerable Richard Hart, was built in 1737, by Capt. John Collings, the great grandfather of Com. J. Collings Long, of the Navy. There is yet in the house some of the original furniture. We have seen there recently a wine bottle stamped "J. Collings, 1736," which has stood the use of over one hundred and twenty years, and is yet as good as new. That house in which Simeon Stiles recently lived on High street, was the residence of Rev. Jabez Fitch, who preached at the North Church from 1724 to 1746.

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Christian Shore

Passing a variety of places of historic interest, we find ourselves on Christian-shore, or as now called, North Portsmouth. We cannot learn why it ever received the name of Christian-shore. Previous to the building of the mill-bridge in 1764, there were only three or four houses on that side of the river. There was the Jackson house on the point, the Ham house on Freeman's point, one or two near where the hay scales now are, and the large Dennett house, sometimes called "the beehive," on an elevation west of the old school house. The latter mansion is more than one hundred and forty years old. Of its early days, when the boys from Christian-shore passed round the head of the creek to attend school on the South road,--and of the troubles which arose when the boat was not at hand to pass the river in the evening,--and of the hundred other little incidents which might be brought up, we will say nothing, although tradition is full. We will give only one sketch relating to the "beehive" or Dennett mansion.

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The Beehive Widow

One of the ship masters employed by Sir. Wm. Pepperell was Capt. Colby, who married Lydia Waterhouse. More than ninety years ago she became a widow, and afterwards was married to Ephraim Dennett, and resided at the above old mansion on Christian-shore. Years rolled on, and she again found herself a widow. Like a good housewife, in those days when no factories were in operation, she kept her flock of sheep, and attended to the various processes of converting their product into cloth; and her fame extended beyond the limits of the town. Near the house is a good spring which still flows on as of old. It was a time for wool washing. Laying aside the widow's weeds, dressed in a leather apron, a man's broad brim hat, and other apparel to match, she was washing her wool at the spring, when a stranger on horseback approached, and inquired for the residence of the widow Dennett. Nothing daunted, she pointed to the house, directed him to the front door, while she stepped round and entered the back way. He was not long in waiting before the lady of the house in comely apparel appeared. The gentleman introduced himself as John Plummer of Rochester. He had heard of her good reputation, said perhaps it was too soon to come a courting, but would ask the privilege in proper time of proposing himself to her favorable consideration. In due time Judge Plummer came again, and they were married. They lived happily together many years, and their grave stones in Rochester record the ages of each at about ninety years.

Whether he ever inquired who it was he found washing wool at the spring, we have never been informed. If the events at the well where Rebecca was found were of sufficient importance to be perpetuated, there is certainly enough of the primitive simplicity in the meeting at that spring to keep it in lasting remembrance by the descendants of that respectable family. To us, whenever we pass the premises--or are reminded of its history by seeing the elevated old mansion even across the millpond, there ever appears the vision of the Judge on his horse, and the industrious widow disguised under her broad-brim and leathern apron.

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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