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.
The site of the Manor House is today, not known for certain. The Odiorne family lost the land to the U.S. government as a military site in the 20th century.
"Here the dark forest's midnight shade began
The locality which should be the most venerated, not only by our own townsmen, but by every citizen of New Hampshire, is certainly where the first emigrants landed, and the spot on which was erected the first house in New Hampshire. How many associations cluster around this beginning of the history of our State. Less sacred they may be than those which surround the Plymouth Rock, - for the first settlers of New Hampshire came here to trade and fish, while the Pilgrims landed there for the enjoyment of religious freedom.
This place, of so much historic interest, is only about three miles from Market Square, and an hour's walk through interesting scenery will find you there. It may seem strange to residents elsewhere that any direction is needed from us to point out the spot to our home readers, - but when it is known that probably not fifty of our population of ten thousand ever visited the spot with any distinct knowledge of the several localities connected with our early history, that wonder will cease.
From the Sagamore House, on the south, is the road which leads to Odiorne's Point. On this road is but one house, which is a quarter of a mile distant. It is owned and occupied by Mr. Eben L. Odiorne, who inherits the farm which extends to the Point, where his ancestors resided for more than two centuries. We find the name of John Odiorne occupying this locality in 1660. Forty-three acres were then owned by him. He was a citizen of Portsmouth in 1657, and probably then resided there; but of this we are not certain. He gave name to the Point. Councilor Jotham Odiorne, who died in 1748, at the age of 73, was the son of John.
Odiorne's Point should be respected as our Plymouth Rock. Here, in 1623, the little band landed, who were commissioned by the Laconia company in England to found a plantation. In a ramble to the Point a week or two since, we found enough of tradition in the occupant, and visible remains left, to locate the spot where the first house, called Mason's Hall or the Manor House, was erected, - to designate also the locality of the first smith's shop. The well of the Manor House is yet to be seen in the field - and the cool, fresh water running from beneath the ledge on the shore, scarcely above the tide water, flows as freely now as when Tomson, the Hiltons and their companions quenched their thirst at it two hundred and forty-six years ago. Perhaps this inviting spring decided to them the site of their habitation.
The present proprietor of the ancient Manor does honor to his ancestors in presenting well cultivated land and a handsome farm residence. He seems however not much to pride himself upon his ancestry or the externals of his locality. So little of inquiry has been made of late years, that even the "garrison field" and "fish flake field" are spoken of as names that were formerly used.
Just before reaching the house, on the opposite side of the road, is a lane which leads nearly to the beach. The site of the old smith's shop was on the north side of this lane, on the highest point of land. Pieces of iron are now occasionally turned up in ploughing there. It is near the end of this lane on the beach that the spring flows. Here in former times, when the memory of the spot was more regarded, might be seen the Sheafes, the Pickerings and others, enjoying a social remembrance picnic and drawing their libations from the ancient fountain of the first residents.
But where was the site of Mason's Hall? Come this way, said Mr. Odiorne. And he led us through his spacious and shady farm yard, and down about twenty or thirty rods, in a southwest direction, from his house. Here, on a spot now covered with cabbage plants, tradition says the first house in New Hampshire was erected. Pieces of brick are yet turned up in plowing, a small piece of ancient brown ware we picked up, and pieces of metal are here sometimes found. Although no monument designates the spot, yet here undoubtedly the Manor House stood. On the south of this site, a few rods distant, is the old well of the Manor; and eight or ten rods on the north is the resting place of those who first sank beneath the toils and privations incident to emigration to a new country.
This first cemetery of the white man in New Hampshire occupies a space of perhaps 100 feet by 60, and is well walled in. The western side is now used as a burial place for the family, but two-thirds of it is filled with perhaps forty graves, indicated by-rough head and foot stones Who there rests no one now living knows. But the same care is taken of their quiet beds as if they were of the proprietor's own family. Large trees have grown up there - one of them, an ancient walnut, springs from over one of the graves. In 1631 Mason sent over about eighty emigrants, many of whom died in a few years, and here they were probably buried. Here too doubtless rest the remains of several of those whose names stand conspicuous in our early State records.
Were there a locality of similar historic interest north of the White Mountains, many an annual pilgrimage it would receive, its locality would be designated by some enduring monument, and a pebble from the first cemetery would be treasured as a mantel curiosity. But now, within a pleasant foot ramble, it is rarely visited, and seems to be almost unknown. When will some proper Monument be erected to identify the spot, and secure to posterity a locality which will with years increase in interest?
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