Some men stand out
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.
As those three lofty trees near Breakfast Hill have in past years stood out prominently above the forest, and been landmarks from the ocean, so with a few associates, on the horizon of our local history stands out that devoted patriot, the friend and associate of Washington --JOHN LANGDON-- who as President of the first United States Senate, declared the vote of the nation which elected Washington as President and Adams as Vice President of the United States, and administered to them their oaths of office.
At the head of Sagamore creek, a short distance east from Sagamore road, is the spot where once stood the house in which John Langdon was born. The farm is still in the family, owned by his grandson, John Elwyn. The old house of the Langdons, in which lived Capt. Tobias Langdon, and in which his seven sons and two daughters were born, stood where the little farm house now stands: burnt about 1741. Gov. John Langdon, then a babe, was, it is said, thrown out of a window upon a snow bank. The next house was a good two-story dwelling, nothing at all antique, and in it lived and died his father and mother, John and Mary Langdon. Thomas Elwyn lived there a good deal, and even in the winters. He built a new summer kind of house at the western end of the old one. John Elwyn pulled down the old portion, and let Chandler E. Potter haul to town the newer part, which now stands on State street and is occupied by Dr. E. B. Goodall. Mr. Elwyn then built the present little farm house on the old place, but with a larger and better cellar.
Tobias Langdon Family Tree
Capt. TOBIAS LANODON was born on this farm, which came to him from his grandfather. His first commission of ensign is from James II. He died in 1725 aged sixty-five years. His wife was Mary Hubbard. They had seven sons and two daughters.
2. Joseph, their first son, was born 1694 and died 1767 -- a ship carpenter -- his wife was Mary Banfield. Samuel, born in 1699, died at Rye in 1725--a cooper--his wife Hannah Jenness. William, died 1770 -- a tanner -- his wife Sarah Partridge. Mark, died 1773 -- a carpenter. Richard, a seaman. Tobias -- a cooper -- his wife Miss Winkley. John, born 1708, died 1780 -- his wife Mary Hall. Mary, married George Peirce.
3. The children of Capt. JOSEPH LANODON were one son and three daughters. Samuel, a farmer, born in 1721, and died in 1779 -- his wife was Hannah Storer of Wells. Mary, born 1725, died in 1807 -- wife of Amos Seavey. Hannah, wife of James Whidden. Elizabeth, wife of James Seavey.
4. The children of Capt. SAMUEL LANGDON were two sons and five daughters. Elizabeth died young. Mary, born 1751, died 1836 -- wife of Joseph White. Samuel, born 1753, died 1834 -- married Lydia Brewster. Anna, born 1755, died 1790, wife of James Whidden. Joseph, born 1758, died 1824 -- his wife Patience Pickering. Elizabeth, born 1761, died 1831 -- wife of Andrew Sherburne.
Hannah, born 1766, died 1812 -- wife of Edward Gove.
Capt. Samuel Langdon, and his son Major Samuel Langdon, in December, 1774, were engaged with that band of patriots who removed the stores from the fort at Newcastle. Major Samuel Langdon, on the 22d of May, 1777, took the charge of four teams loaded with gunpowder, to be delivered at Cambridge. In February, 1778, he had charge of two teams from Portsmouth to Valley Forge, Penn., with clothing for the army, and delivered them at Washington's head quarters.
5. The children of Rev. JOSEPH LANGDON, who preached at Newington twenty years from 1788, were four daughters. Mary, born 1791, wife of Amos S. Parsons. Elizabeth, born 1795, wife of Samuel Whidden. Temperance, born 1797, wife of Joseph L. Seavey. Hannah, born 1805, died 1839, wife of Capt. Samuel Langdon. [The latter, a son of Samuel and Lydia Langdon, now occupies the homestead at the junction of the Lafayette and South roads.]
3. The children of JOHN LANGDON, who married Mary Hall, were two sons and four daughters. Woodbury, John, Mary, (married Storer, Hill and Mc Cobb,) Elizabeth (married Barrell,) Martha, (married Barrell, next Simpson, next Gen. James Sullivan,) and Abigail, (married Goldthwaite.)
WOODBURY LANGDON was born in 1739. He was a merchant, a member of the old Congress, Judge of the Supreme Court, and a firm patriot, devoted to the cause of his country. His wife was Sarah, daughter of Henry Sherburne. Their children were Henry S., Sarah, wife of Robert Harris, Mary Ann, Woodbury, Caroline, wife of Gov. Eustis of Boston, John, Joshua, Walter, Harriet, and Catharine, wife of Edmund Roberts. In 1781, the house of Woodbury Langdon was burnt on the spot on which he afterwards erected as his residence the spacious edifice now called the Rockingham House. He died in 1805, at the age of sixty-six years.
The Life of John Langdon
JOHN LANGDON, born in 1739, on the family farm on Lafayette road, attended Major Hale's school. The distance forbade his going home to dinner, and a corn bread luncheon was his usual repast. After a mercantile education in the counting room of Daniel Rindge, he entered upon a seafaring life, but was driven from it by the Revolutionary troubles. He married the only daughter of John Sherburne, (she was the sister of Judge John S. Sherburne.) They had but one child, Elizabeth, who married Thomas Elwyn. John Langdon early took a decidedly American stand. In another ramble is given some account of his aid in the capture of the fort at Newcastle, and also of his quelling the riot at the Pitt street hotel. In 1775 and 1776 he was a delegate to the general Congress. He also took command of an independent company of Cadets, and was present at Burgoyne's surrender. He served in Rhode Island with a detachment of his company, and was present when Gen. Sullivan brought off the American troops. He was a member and Speaker of the Provincial Legislature in 1776 and 1777. When the news of the fall of Ticonderoga reached Exeter, where the Legislature was then in session, John Langdon, the Speaker seeing the public credit exhausted and his compatriots discouraged rose and said:
"I have a thousand dollars in hard money; I will pledge my plate for three thousand more. I have seventy hogsheads of Tobago rum, which will be sold for the most they will bring. They are at the service of the State. If we succeed in defending our firesides and our homes, I may be remunerated; if we do not, then the property will be of no value to me. Our friend Stark, who so nobly maintained the honor of our State at Bunker Hill, may safely be entrusted with the honor of the enterprise, and we will check the progress of Burgoyne."
It is well known that from this noble offer sprang the gallant little army of Stark's that covered itself with glory at Bennington.
John Langdon was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1776, but resigned the next year. In 1778, he was agent under Congress for building ships of war, and was Continental agent for supplying materials for the America 74. In 1779, he was President of the New Hampshire Convention for regulating the currency; and from 1777 to 1782, was Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives; in 1780, he was a commissioner to raise men and procure provisions for the army, and June 30, 1783, was again elected delegate to Congress. In 1784 and 1785, he was a member of the New Hampshire Senate; and in the latter year, President of the State. In 1788, he was delegate to the convention which framed the Constitution of the United States. In March, 1788, he was elected Representative in the New Hampshire Legislature, and Speaker in the House, but took the office of Governor, to which he was simultaneously chosen. In November, 1788, he was elected a member of the Senate of the United States, became the first presiding officer of that body, and was re-elected Senator in 1794. Later in life, he was nominated for Vice President, but declined on account of age. From 1801 to 1805 he was Representative in the New Hampshire Legislature; in 1804 and 1805 was Speaker; and from 1805 to 1808, and 1810 and 1811, was Governor. The degree of LL. D. was given him by Dartmouth College in 1805. He died in Portsmouth, Sept. 18, 1819.
Gov. John Langdon was never a man of severe study. In literary, scientific and legal acquirements, or in oratorical powers, he was not a great man. But his deserved popularity arose from a disinterested devotion to the interests of his country -- sacrificing his property and risking his life in the cause of liberty. He was a good business man; ever judicious, he looked danger calmly in the face, and generally overcame it. The influence of his example was as powerful as the tongue of eloquence.
In the Association Test of 1776, the name of John Langdon appears three times. One was the father of Gov. John Langdon, and the other a cousin, son of William Langdon.
The mansion on Pleasant street, now the property of Rev. Dr. Burroughs, was built by Gov. Langdon in 1784, and occupied by him until his death, in 1819.
Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by SeacoastNH.com
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