Now part of the Woodman Institute (along with the Damm Garrison) the Hale House was built by Capt. William Palmer for Dover merchant John Williams in 1813. Williams has been called Dover's "captain of industry" in and era when the Garrison City was among the most successful textile manufacturers in the world.
Williams was the founder of the Upper Factory cotton mill in Dover. He built another cotton mill, a printing company and a nail factory. This stately brick home on Central Ave was Williams' residence until November, 1840 .when he sold it to J P Hale who kept it as his residence for 33 years. Williams, one the wealthiest and influential men in the state, managed to lose his fortune and died a poor man in Boston just three years later, although his efforts brought great prosperity to Dover.
Born in nearby Rochester, John Parker Hale (1806-1873) is best known as the first avowed Abolitionist Senator in the United States. It is an odd irony that, in the two decades Hale was in the Senate, Dover profited from the manufacture of cotton products that were produced by Southern slave labor. Living in Williams own house, Hale took a solid stand against slavery -- a position that earned him enmity from Southern leaders, even a death threat on the Senate floor from a colleague. It also earned Hale a statue in 1892 on lawn of the state capitol in Concord, NH, where his figure now stands with Daniel Webster, President Franklin Pierce and John Stark.
Hale's election gave great hope to the Abolitionist movement, inspiring poet John Greenleaf Whittier in a popular poem to say to other Americans: "God bless NH! What one brave State hath done, can ye not also do?" But despite the work of Dover abolitionist newspapers like The Morning Star, slavery flourished in the United States until the Emancipation Proclamation, that arrived at the end of Hale's Senate career.
In another great irony, White House records show that retiring Senator Hale, defeated after 20 years, met with Abraham Lincoln on the morning of the President's assassination. Hale was granted an ambassadorship to Spain, which he requested partly, it was known, to remove his daughter Lucy from the influence of her new "fiancé", an actor named John Wilkes Booth. Booth killed Lincoln that very evening. The Hale's lived out the next few years in Spain, and JP Hale returned to Dover with his daughter and died soon after in 1873.
The house was then the residence of Senator Hale's widow until her death in 1902, then it became the property of her daughter Lucy, who was at this time wife of former NH Senator William Chandler. After Lucy's death, it was purchased for the Woodman Institute, so it was in the possession of the Hale family for a total of more than 70 years.
William Chandler, widower of Lucy Hale, gave a speech at the Dover dedication of the Institute. Though feeble and fighting off a cold, the former senator and newspaper owner praised Annie Woodman for donating the museum buildings. He praised John P. Hale and spoke at length of Abraham Lincoln and his relationship to the Seacoast region. He mentioned Sen. Hale's widow, but never, as in most of his speeches, did he mention his wife and her strange connection to history. The incident was never spoken of.
Chandler described his famous father-in-law as: "a citizen of public
spirit and high character; an orator of surpassing pathos and power; a
fervid of champion of the oppressed and the enslaved; an inspired
apostle of human liberty; and a conscientious statesman of purity and
Text by J. Dennis Robinson with excepts from Woodman Institute Dedication Ceremony (July 26, 1916), published that year by Rumford Press, Concord, NH under the direction of William Chandler.
See also: Portsmouth Black History
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The Woodman House building is nearly 200 years old, and the Institute
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