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Before the Irish moved "up the crick" came
the Ham, Jackson and Waterhouse families

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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.


Christian Shore -- Freeman's Point -- The Ham House -- The Waterhouse Family.

In a former Ramble we said we were unable to state the origin of the name Christian Shore, given to the north part of our city.  We since learn that a century ago, when there were but few families beyond where the North mill bridge now is, there were several who were strict adherents to puritan principles, while others were more loose in their habits, and might be found sometimes late at night at Foss's Tavern, enjoying their flip, and cracking their jokes.  When the hour for parting arrived, "Well, we must leave for Christian Shore," was frequently the jocose remark; and from it that part of Portsmouth took its name.  In the town books, that part of the town, two hundred years ago, was designated as "the land on the other side of Strawberry Bank Creek."

One of the most beautiful locations in Portsmouth for river proximity, extensive prospect and varied landscape, is that above Portsmouth Bridge, known of late years as Freeman's Point, but for nearly two centuries previously as Ham's Point.  It is approached by Cutts's lane, and a ride of a third of a mile from North road brings you to the spot where the old deserted mansion house of William Ham, with the marks of where the corn-house and barn once stood, remained until it was taken down in 1868 or '69; and the enclosed square in its rear contains the graves of five or six generations.  Rough stones mark the head and foot of each mound, but they tell not a name or date of those of olden time who sleep there.

It is said that three brothers of the Ham family came to this country previous to 1646: we have, however, the name of William only, who in 1652 had a grant of fifty acres of land at what is now called Freeman's Point, where he erected a dwelling, which is probably the building now standing there.  In 1654, Matthew Ham was granted by the town "a lot of land next to his father's new dwelling house."  In 1660, Matthew Ham was granted twenty five acres--which appears to have been between the Point farm and the present main
road.  In 1668, there was a John Ham in Dover, who might have been another son of William.

In 1664, it appears by the town book that "Wm. Ham, widow Ham, and the rest who live on the other side of Strawberry Bank Creek" made complaint that William Cotton was interfering with their rights by claiming his division of the public land on that shore, whereupon the selectmen decreed that William Ham should have sixty-six acres, joining on the north side Richard and John Cutt's two hundred acre farm.*  That Matthew Ham should have twenty-five acres, on the west of William's, also bounded on the north-west by the Cutt farm.  Roger Knight had thirteen acres, assigned between Matthew Ham's and Richard Jackson's.  Richard Seaward had thirteen acres, east of Knight's; and Richard Jackson was decreed twenty-six acres.

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Jackson House

The Jackson, Ham & Waterhouse Families

On the latter grant the old Jackson house of two stories now stands, which was probably built as early as 1664, and is now more than two centuries old; probably the most ancient house in the city.  It is a rare specimen of the architecture of the early times.  The roof on the north side extends to the ground, covering a wood-house in connection with the dwelling.  The frame is of oak, and the timber which forms the sills projects into the lower rooms, affording around them a continuous and stationary seat for the children of six generations.  It is now owned by Mr. Nathaniel Jackson, a regular descendant of the original proprietor.

The farm of the first William Ham came down by entailment to the oldest sons through four or five generations.  We have no early family genealogy, but as the name of William Ham is continued regularly in the tax lists for many years, there is little doubt that the eldest sons for several generations bore that name and in succession inherited the house and possessed the farm. 

The owner in the year 1700 was Samuel Ham.  His oldest son, William, who was born there about 1712, married Elizabeth Waterhouse and had seven sons--Samuel, who inherited the homestead, Timothy,** George, William, Ephraim, Nathaniel, and Benjamin,--and one daughter who married Capt. John Tuckerman.  The farm came by right of primogeniture into possession of Samuel, who broke the entailment, and more than forty or fifty years since the farm passed out of the family.

It was at a time when the hostile Indians were prowling in this neighborhood, just after Madam Ursula Cutt had been murdered on the adjoining farm, that the Ham boys were left at home one Sunday while the family boat had borne a load to the old mill-dam meeting.  In the midst of the services, a powder explosion was heard.  The meeting was closed instantly, and the worshippers, putting themselves in position to meet the Indians, proceeded to the Point.  They were agreeably disappointed to find that the boys had affrighted themselves as well as the whole village, by the explosion of the great powder-horn.

About a third of a mile north of the old Ham mansion-house on the Point, between the great elm and the shore, in a grove, is the cellar of the house of Timothy Waterhouse.  He was the third son of Richard Waterhouse, the tanner, who married Sarah, the daughter of Dr. Renald Fernald, and owned and occupied Peirce's Island, in 1688.  The other sons of Richard W. were Richard, born in 1674, and Samuel, born in 1676.

Timothy Waterhouse located himself on this cove above Freeman's Point probably soon after the year 1700.  He was also a tanner and shoemaker.  Here were his tan-pits, and his cultivated acres.  His connection with the town was by the river.  His wife was Miss Moses.  Their children were three sons--John, Joseph and Timothy; and six daughters,--Margaret, Mary, Ruth, Sarah, Elizabeth and Lydia.  The parents had the ability to instruct their children, and they gave them a better education at home than girls generally received in that day.  John settled in Barrington.  Joseph settled in some town in Maine, and Timothy removed to Rhode Island, where he became one of the Royal Council.  Timothy had eleven sons; among them was the celebrated Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, a Professor at Cambridge, and the father of vaccination in this country.  [His own son in the year 1800 was successfully vaccinated for the kine pox by him,--the first experiment made in this country.]

Margaret became the wife of Samuel Brewster at the Plains, and was the mother of eight sons and five daughters.  Their first daughter Margaret married Mr. Furbisher of Boston.  Samuel removed to Barrington.  Moses inherited the Plains house.  Timothy died at 21.  John went to sea and never returned.  Abigail married Leader Nelson.  Mary married Samuel Winkley of Barrington, and was the mother of Winkley the Shaker elder.  Daniel occupied the house
next east of the Steam Factory previous to the Revolution--in 1775 removed to Rochester, and in 1795 located in Wolfeborough.  David married Mary Gains, daughter of John, and built the house in Deer street in 1766.  William (Colonel) married Ruth Foss, daughter of Zachariah.  Paul removed to Barrington.  Margaret 2d (born after the death of the 1st) married Joseph Hayes of Barrington.  Lydia married Joseph Hicks of Madbury, the owner of "Hicks' Hill."

Mary married Mr. Spinney, a ship-carpenter.  She had one daughter and three sons, all of whom died nearly at the same time.  Her desire that her children might be restored was answered--having again in due time three sons and a daughter.

Ruth married John Gains, the father of Col. George Gains of the Revolution, and of Mary the wife of David Brewster.  From the latter descended Samuel, Mary and John G. Brewster.

Sarah was one day visiting her sister Ruth after marriage, when Capt. Zachariah Foss in passing saw her.  He spoke to his associate on the beauty of Mrs. Gains, when he was informed that he mistook the person.  "If that is not Gains's wife she is mine," was the reply.  His suit was successful.  On the total loss of his property in a few years his wife disposed of about ten dollars' worth of fine linen and obtained the means for opening a place of refreshment on a small scale.  As their means increased, in after years they built a large stage and tavern house on the spot on Fleet street now occupied by the brick stable of the Franklin House.  The house afterwards came into possession of John Weare, the father of Mrs. Mary A. Gotham.

The children of Zachariah and Sarah Foss were eight daughters.  Sally, the wife of Capt. Cochran who had command of Fort William and Mary when captured by the Patriots in 1774.  [Mrs. Charles Hardy was the youngest daughter of Capt. Cochran] Mary, the wife of Joseph Young of Newmarket.  Elizabeth married Thomas Flagg of Chester.  [After living together three or four years her husband was detected coining money, and eloped with his own aunt to Virginia.  He took his two young children, and the mother never saw her two sons again until they were married men.]  Ruth married Col. William Brewster.  Margaret married Capt. Cullom.  There were also Joanna, Olive and Abigail. 

Once in her husband's absence at sea, Mrs. Foss sold a rich brocade silk dress pattern and purchased the frame of a house with the proceeds.  The house is now standing in Washington street, the Low house.  What Foss acquired by the industry and frugality of his first wife, he lost by the extravagance of a second, who was a widow of Adams of Boston.  Among her bills contracted before the marriage was one of several hundred pounds for sperm candles.  It took nearly all his estate to pay her old debts. 

Elizabeth married William Ham, above referred to, and lived on the farm at Freeman's Point.  They had seven sons and a daughter, whose names are given elsewhere.

Lydia married Capt. Colby, who sailed in the employ of Sir William Pepperell.  After Colby's death, Capt. Ephraim Dennett of Christian Shore took a liking to her, and to save the trouble of frequently visiting Kittery in the winter, paid her board at a relative's on Christian Shore by furnishing the family with their wood for the winter.  In the spring they were ready to be married, and took up their residence in the prominent Dennett house, now better known as the "Bee Hive."  After a few years she became a widow, and her reputation as belonging to a family of smart girls brought her to the notice of John Plummer of Rochester.  For an account of his romantic interview when she was dressed in her leather apron, the reader is referred to the 75th Ramble, 345th page .  Lydia had but one son, Jeremiah Dennett.  [His children were George, Ephraim, John Plummer, Mark, Jeremiah, William, Lydia, Susannah, Ann
and Catherine.]

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Home Alone: A Scary Story

Thus have we almost unwittingly, while standing over the old Waterhouse cellar, conjured up an army of which the germs here first had existence.  We can point also to some remains of the old house which was removed from the cellar about 92 years ago.  It may be found in the ancient mansion house of the late Timothy Ham senior, at the corner of North and Dearborn streets.  But those who gave life to the house a century and a third ago, are subjects of more interest.

There was no little life in that old house--which had under its roof six merry girls and three roguish boys and a slave--and sometimes the staid old folks would tell them that they almost raised the evil one.  One winter evening, somewhere about 1725 the parents were absent for the night, the snow was fast falling, and the boys and girls resolved to have a good time.  So the fire was enlivened with fresh wood, and the dance began.  The slave had a good voice, and as he capered round in a "country dance" merrily sang--

"Don't you see how my head does wag--
Don't you see how my shoulders lag--
Don't you see how my hips do shake--
Don't you see what pains I take,
In dancing of my quivering shake!"

In the height of their hilarity, which would hardly have been enjoyed in the old folks' presence, there was a violent thumping at the door.  In that stormy night, far away from any neighbors, and from any road, there was something frightful in that token.  The singing was hushed, and that parental admonition to beware of "raising the evil one," seemed to flash suddenly over their superstitious minds.  Margaret, the oldest and bravest, led the way to the door, but no sooner had she opened it than she saw what she thought Satan
himself.  The figure was white, with a horrible black face deep in a white lopped hat, which was hanging down over each shoulder!  That the Old Scratch had now come they all believed, Margaret fainted, and it was sometime before the ugly looking but faithful slave of Nathaniel Jackson was recognized beneath his snow covering,--who had "come to get Massa's shoes."

Could those nine children now be recalled on this spot, the fright of that night would doubtless be one of the first events they would bring to remembrance.

The Rambler feels some personal interest in that family, for three of those sisters, Margaret, Ruth and Elizabeth Waterhouse, all hold to him in different lines the relation of great-grandmothers.

(1) This Cutt's farm was that which Madam Ursula occupied thirty years after, when she was killed by the Indians, and is now the beautiful country seat of Mark H. Wentworth, Esq.

(2) The children of Timothy Ham were Timothy, William, Supply, Henry, Elizabeth, Sarah (married Samuel Akerman,) Mary (married Samuel Brewster), Phebe (married Charles Reding), Ann and Jane.

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
Copyright  2002

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