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Lear House

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Lear House
Hunking Ave, Portsmouth, NH
Illustration (c) 1913 Helen Pearson

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Excerpt from "Vignettes of Portsmouth," (1913) by Helen Pearson and Harold Hotchkiss Bennett, Courtesy of Portsmouth Public Library Collection.



Here was born in 1760, Tobias Lear, son of Captain Tobias Lear, shipmaster and owner of the old Jacob Sheafe farm at Sagamore Creek. The son was graduated with honor at Harvard College in 1783. At this time, General Washington requiring the services of a private secretary, who could also act as tutor for the two children of Parke Custis, whom he had adopted, engaged Tobias Lear, upon the recommendation of General Lincoln, of Boston, and the Reverend Doctor Haven. For sixteen years, or until the end of Washington's life, "the secretary lived as a son at Mt. Vernon, and at the final scene was the chosen attendant to administer such help as could be given." It was a letter of Tobias Lear's that communicated to President Adams, and through him to Congress, the information of Washington's death.

At the time of Washington's visit to Portsmouth, the President came to this house on November 3, 1789, to call upon Mrs. Lear, stepmother of the secretary, and Lear's sister, who had married Samuel Storer. Their son, christened George Washington, was presented to the President, who expressed the wish, that he may be a better man than the one whose name he bears." In after life he was a Rear-Admiral in the navy.

In 1798, when Washington accepted the command of the Provincial Army, Mr. Lear was selected as the military secretary with the rank of colonel. After the death of Washington, and upon the accession of President Jefferson, Colonel Lear was Consul General at St. Domingo. Later, in the year 1804, as Consul General at Tripoli, he acted with Commodore Barron in negotiating peace with that country. He remained in Algiers about eight years, and in 1812, when the Barbary powers declared war, he was allowed but a few hours to leave the country.

Returning to Washington, he was appointed accountant in the War Department, in which office he died very suddenly October 10, 1816.

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