Everett Schermerhorn Stackpole.

History of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : (Oyster River Plantation) with genealogical notes online

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Online LibraryEverett Schermerhorn StackpoleHistory of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : (Oyster River Plantation) with genealogical notes → online text (page 5 of 34)
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field, a few rods from the shore, not far from a fine spring of water,
is a depression that marks the cellar of the house built by John
Ault, given to his son-in-law, John Rand, and used as the gar-
rison of this region after 1694. A portion of a brick was found
near the surface.

On the 17th of the 4th month, 1667, Thomas Seabrook and
wife, Mary, conveyed to John Ault, for twelve pounds paid by
Thomas Edgerly, all right, title, and interest in "all such lands
that John Hill did purchase of Thomas Footman, did purchase
and pass over to Richard Bray, situate & lying in y*' Little Bay
on y^ south west side of ye Brooke w'=^ runneth between ye lot
of s^ Richard and ye Lott of Thos Humphreys near John Aults
land wth ten acres of land more ajoyning to the land afores*^."
N. H. Deeds, HI, 149a.

It would seem, then, that Thomas Humphreys' land began at
the mouth of Plum Swamp Brook, near the "Falling-off Place,"
where, on the north side, there is a very old stone wall, that may
have been a division fence. How Thomas Humphreys acquired
this does not appear in the records. His name does not appear
in grants or sales of land. He was taxed at Oyster River in 1659
and is called "Thomas umfirie the stiller," or distiller. He evi-
dently furnished the liquid then deemed almost indispensable.
He took the oath of fidelity in 1661. He married, i December
1665, Hannah, daughter of John Lane of Hingham Mass., where


his sons had famihes recorded. He was constable, sergeant and
clerk of the writs at Sagadahock, Me., in 1674. He and James
Middleton, once of Oyster River, sold land on the Kennebec in
1676. Mention is made of his house at Oyster River, near which
Thomas Canyda was killed by the falling of a tree in 1660, as
said a coroner's jury.

It may be conjectured that Thomas Humphreys got posses-
sion of a small lot on the shore in this way: Thomas Footman
owned land a little north of Plum Swamp Brook. He conveyed
to Rice Howell, 29th of the loth month, 1654, one messuage or
tenement of land on the northwest side of Little Bay next to John
Ault's lot, seven or eight acres, bounded by a freshet that runs
on the southwest side of said land. This land probably passed
from Howell to Humphrey. The "freshet" spoken of is Plum
Swamp Brook, on the farm formerly of the late John Emerson.
Mention has been made of Richard Bray, who had a small lot
just south of Plum Swamp Brook, probably acquired from John
Ault. He had a grant, in 1658, "of twenty acres of upland at
the head of his lot." He was taxed in Exeter in 1664, and there is
no record of how he disposed of his land at Oyster River. He
died in 1665, and his estate was administered by his widow, Mary,
appointed administratrix 10 April 1665, then of Exeter and hav-
ing children, John and Mary. This John Bray was of Middle-
town, N. J., 31 May 1689, when he sold to John Sleeper of Exe-
ter eighty acres in Exeter. The deed is also signed by his mother,
then Mary Whitlock.

April 3, 1674, John Ault sold to his son-in-law, Thomas Ed-
gerly, "one fourth of an acre of land at west end of a field called
Hilliards" and joining Edgerly's land, near Plum Swamp. Did
Emmanuel Hilliard once live here, he who was later of Hampton
and perished in the Wreck of Rivermouth, as sung by the poet
Whittier? He seems to have been the only known Hilliard in
New England at that time.

We have learned that Thomas Footman exchanged a small
piece of land with Rice Howell. The latter was taxed in 1648
and in 1657. The following deposition throws some light on
his pathway: "The Deposition of Philip Chesley this deponent
witnesseth that hee Being at a Bargain making between Thomas
Johnson of Oister River and Rise Howell of the said river which
was to this efTectt that if the said Howell would leave the places


hee was then in where he had good wages and come and live with
the said Johnson hee should have fouer Ackers of Land joyning
to his feild the said Howell Breaking of it up and house Roome
to dwell in all w"'' the said howell was to in Jove as Long as he
lived and further saith not." Deposed 27 July 1661. N. H.
Court Records, I, 87.

It has been shown that Thomas Footman owned a small piece
of land north of Plum Swamp Brook. He had land from Henry
Symson in York previous to 15 April 1640, and lived there as
late as 1648. He had a grant on the northern shore of Great
Bay in 1653 and there he made his home. It is questionable
whether he lived for a short time on the shore of Little Bay, al-
though he owned several pieces of land there.

There were granted to John Hill, in 1655, " six acres between
the land of John Ault on the southwest and land of Jonas Bines
on the northwest, joining to a point of land bought of Charles
Adams." Here we meet with Jonas Bines again. Apparently
about 1648 he had not only a grant near Branson's Creek, as we
have seen, but also "One house and In lott conteyning sixe acres
or there aboutes which hee bought of Thomas Stephenson being
next to the point at the entrance into Oyster River, Compassed
w**^ the river evrie way only the South side and that joines uppon
the land of Mr. fTrancis Matthewes, . . . alsoe a Little
Island conteyning two acres or there aboutes being at the en-
trance into the little Bay over against a point called by the name
of Charles point." On the loth of the 8th month, 1653, Jonas
Bynes had a grant of ten acres of "upland in the head of the
Creeke, joining to his Marsh, on the east side of the Creeke,"
and he had ten acres more granted the nth of the 2d month,
1654. These grants were on Johnson's Creek. Thus he had
at least five small pieces of land widely scattered over the planta-
tion of Oyster River. He seems to have lived on a small lot of
land nearly opposite Ambler's Islands. I have found no record
of the administration of his estate, nor of transfers of his lands,
nor of any family.

Charles Adams bought of John Ault, 10 April 1645, "a mes-
suage or tenement in the plantation of Oyster River," for £20,
and also "so much marsh ground as will keep three cows in the
winter time." This seems to be the land sold by Adams to John
Hill, and here probably Charles Adams first lived and gave his


name to "Charles Point," later called "Ambler's Point." Tra-
dition locates one or more old habitations here, opposite Ambler's
Islands, which three islands are spoken of in old deeds as one
island of two acres, the division into three having been made by
erosion of connecting lands by the waves.

In 1685 Joseph Hill sold to John Smart the farm which he
bought of his father, John Hill, "by y® Little Bay between the
plantations of Joseph Kent and John Ault." Joseph Smith,
attorney for John and Elizabeth Smart of New York, conveyed,
26 March 1703, to John Ambler land and buildings which said
Smart bought of Joseph Hill, on the westerly side of Little Bay.
Here lived the Ambler family for a long time. The cellar of the
house probably built by John Hill and lived in by John Ambler
is easily found, in the edge of a grove in Hon. Jeremiah Lang-
ley's field. The site is sufficiently elevated to afford a fine view
of the bay and the opposite shore.

January 10, 1739, John Ambler conveyed to his son-in-law,
Ephraim Libby, of Kittery, all his lands including the "home
place" and Island, and, 27 March 1776, Ephraim Libby sold
the same to his son-in-law, Thomas Langley, Jr.

Next north of the Hill-Ambler farm was the homestead of
Thomas Willey, that descended to his son, Stephen, to grandson,
Thomas, to great grandson, Stephen, and to great, great grand-
son Stephen. Thomas Willey, who married Margaret Crawford,
deposed in 1680 that he had lived at Oyster River forty years.
This takes us back to 1640, and he must have been one of the
first settlers. He was twenty- three years old in 1640 and may
have lived in the family of Darby Field. Traces of his dwelling
place are pointed out in the field now belonging to Mr. Edward I.
Langley, perhaps thirty rods from the shore of the bay. The road
to Oyster River Falls is sometimes called the highway from Wil-
ley's Creek, sometimes the highway from Bickford's Ferry. In
1658 Thomas Willey was appointed to keep the "ordinary" in
place of John Bickford. Three of the Willey family were car-
ried into captivity in 1694, and the house where Thomas Willey
lived may then have been burned.

Much research has been made to thus make plain the loca-
tions of Branson's Creek, Long or Mill Creek and Plum Swamp
Brook, because Miss Mary P. Thompson, in her indispensable
Landmarks in Ancient Dover, has made these Creeks the same as

Oyster River Plantation


the Great Creek, Matthews Creek, or later Crommett's Creek,
which is near the outlet of Great Bay. This occasions confusion
in locating theearliest inhabitants. When Miss Thompson wrote,
the Provincial Records of New Hampshire had not been indexed,
which fact sufficiently explains the errors of that painstaking and
entertaining writer.

Once at least Matthews Creek is called the Long Creek, when,
in 1653, ten acres were granted to John Hill "between Thomas
Footmans grant & the long creeke on the Nor west Side of the
great Bay."

South of Willey's Creek and some distance from the shore
there are traces of graves, and here was probably the burial
ground of the Willey and Bickford families.

Next north of Thomas Willey and at the extremity of Durham
Point lived as early as 1639 Darby Field, who signed the so-
called Exeter Combination and was the first to explore the
W^hite Mountains. He was licensed to sell wine in 1644. Doubt-
less he kept the ordinary at the Point, since we know that John
Bickford did a little later, to w^hom Field conveyed, 16 July
1645, his house and lot, except the breadth of a lot in possession
of Thomas Willey. Here lived several generations of the Bick-
ford family. The garrison, that Thomas Bickford successfully
defended in 1694, stood near the water, as traces of a cellar
indicate, in a place beautiful for situation. Here terminated
Bickford's Ferry. Before his door passed the extensive com-
merce and travel of a wide region. Some locate the Bickford
garrison "a third of the distance from the shore to the brick
house, looking from said house tow^ard the west side of the
nearest of the Ambler islands."

Next northwest of John Bickford and just within the mouth
of Oyster River were the six acres granted to Jonas Bines, which
he bought of Thomas Stevenson. The place is still known as
Jonas' Point, sometimes corrupted to Jones' Point. Thus the
name of a comparative nobody is perpetuated, while many
great and worthy persons are soon forgotten. \Miat is fame?
There is no discoverable trace of a habitation on this point,
and the soil is comparatively barren. It was acquired by the
Bickford family, and, 8 June 1774, John Bickford conveyed
to his son, Winthrop Bickford, his homestead and six acres
"commonly called Jonas's Point."


Next let us try to locate the garrison house of Charles Adams,
who very early lived at Charles Point, or Ambler's Point, oppo-
site Ambler's Islands. January 30, 1711/12, Rebecca Edgerly,
daughter of John Ault, aged 71, deposed "that Charles Adams
did possess land within the mouth of Oyster River joining to
Francis Mathes above sixty years ago [about 1650] and ever
since till Oyster River was destroyed and then the said Adams
was killed and his house burned by the enemie." John Meader,
senior, aged 82, testified at the same time to the same effect.
In 1656 the town of Dover granted to Charles Adams twelve
acres of land. "It beginneth at a marked tree behind his house
lot about a hundred Rode by the hieway side that goeth to
Oyster River Falls and runneth from that marked tree forty
eaght Rod to A marked tree west and from that tree it Runneth
south sixty Rode to another marked tree and from that marked
tree where it begune it runneth south Twenty eaght Rode and
from that tree it Runeth uppon a straight line west and be
south or thear aboutes to the other Corner." This was laid
out in 1671. On the loth of 2d month, 1654, there were granted
to John Bickford ten acres "behinde the Lott of Charles Adams"
and the same day ten acres were granted to Thomas Willey
"behinde the Lott of Charles Adams."

In 171 1 Joseph Dudy, or Durrell, who had married Rebecca
Adams, granddaughter of the first Charles Adams, together
with his wife and her sister Esther Adams, conveyed to Francis
Mathes the home plantation of Charles Adams, estimated to
contain eighteen acres, "bounded on the north with the high-
way that leads from Willey s Creek to Oyster River Falls,"
together with the twelve-acre grant of 1656 above described.
These conveyances make it perfectly plain that Charles Adams'
garrison stood south of the present road, which is the same as
the ancient one, and the logical place, indeed the only suitable
place for a house, is the site of the brick house built by Washing-
ton Mathes and now in ruins. Fourteen of the i\dams family
perished in the massacre of 1694, and one at least, Ursula, was
taken to Canada, never to return. The bodies of the fourteen
were buried under a little mound close to the tomb on the east
side of the Mathes burial ground, a pathetic reminder of the
hardships and sufferings of those who prepared this beautiful
land for us.



The next lot of land west of Darby Field, or John Bickford,
and abutting on Oyster River, originally belonged to William
Beard, who conveyed it to Francis Matthews, in June 1640,
Francis Matthews was one of Capt. John Mason's colonists
in 1634, the same who married, 22 November 1622, Thomasine
Channon, at Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire. Since 1640 the
land has been in the unbroken possession of the Matthews,
now Mathes, family. The first house is said to have stood
a little north of the site of the present one. It withstood the
attack of the Indians in 1694.

Comfort Mathes Camp

Owned by Miss Fannie Pendexter Mathes. Once the residence of the late
Benjamin and Comfort (Smart) Mathes

Matthew Giles first owned the next lot up the river, and the
middle of the channel of the little creek was the dividing line
between the two Jots. " Giles old field lying between two creeks"
is repeatedly mentioned in old deeds. He died in 1666 and his
estate was divided between Matthew Williams and Richard
Knight. The latter sold it to William Pitman, who willed it
to his son, Francis, and Francis Pitman sold it to Edward Wake-
ham, weaver, 2 May 1695. Wakeham had married Sarah
Meader from the other side of the river and at its mouth, and


here his son, Caleb, hved till he perished in a storm, in 1770,
"supposed to be much in liquor," as Schoolmaster Tate says.
The creek on the west side of Wakeham's lot was long known
as Wakeham's Creek, earlier as Giles Creek.

Francis Pitman sold a portion of the old Giles farm to Nicholas
Dunn, who was taxed at Oyster River in 1680. On the i8th
of October 1699, Elizabeth Dunn, "who was y" wife of Nicholas
Dunn," of Oyster River, conveyed to Edward Wakeham land
joining to said Wakeham's land, that was bought of Francis
Pitman. N. H. Prov. Deeds, X, 369.

The next lot west of Wakeham's Creek was first owned by
Darby Field, conveyed by him to William Roberts, and by him
to William Drew before 1648. Doubtless Drew was the first
one to live here, and the place was long known as Drew's Point.
The cellar of his garrison house may be plainly seen and traces
of the orchard around it. The house was burned in 1694.
Stephen Jenkins acquired this place, 10 May 1712, and sold
it to James Langley, 5 November 17 14, and here lived several
generations of the Langley family. This with the Wakeham
farm eventually came into the possession of the Mathes family,
who seem to have gradually bought everything that joined them.

Between this lot and the next a road was laid out in 171 5
on petition of James Langley. His next neighbor up the river
was Bartholomew Stevenson, son of Thomas. On the nth of
the fifth month, 1644, three acres at the Oyster Point were
granted to Thomas Stevenson, and the neck of land opposite.
September 3, 1680, Thomas Willey, aged 63, and Margaret
Willey his wife, aged 65, deposed that they had lived in Oyster
River forty years or thereabouts, that Thomas Stevenson
cultivated his neck of land forty years ago near the Oyster
Bank, commonly called Stevenson's Neck. This carries Thomas
Stevenson back to 1640, evidently one of the earliest settlers,
who had cultivated land here some years before he received a
formal town grant. The western boundary of Stevenson's land
was called Stevenson's Creek, into which flowed Stoney Brook
from the southwest. Two acres of marsh near the mouth of
Stevenson's Creek very early belonged to Joseph Field and is
repeatedly mentioned in deeds.

On the neck of land between Oyster River and Stevenson's
Creek, at the extreme point is the cellar of Thomas Stevenson,


a deep excavation, with split stone around it and an old wall
and apple tree behind it. The gently sloping ledge in front of
it served as a convenient landing. The place is now surrounded
by woods. On the highest point of this neck of land are found
in the edge of the grove bricks and indications that here may
have once been a house. The view up the river is one of the
very best. In about the center of the spacious field is a low
mound, and here are found several rough oblong granite stones
similar to those used to mark graves in early times.

Above Stevenson's Creek a lot was granted, lo August 1653,
to John Pillin, called also Pillion, Pillon, and Pellinc in deeds,
"forty acres of land beinge upon the noe west side of Stoney
Brooke." Little is known of John Pillin. John Goddard may
have administered his estate, for he sold this lot, 6 April 1659,
to William Williams, senior, forty acres on the south side of
Oyster River, "butting upon a creek commonly called Stimpsons
Creek, which was John Pillions with ye necke of land \\"^ lyes
betweene Stoney Brooke & the IMeeting house Lott." William
Williams and wife Agnes conveyed this lot, bounded in like
manner, 18 June 1674, to Joseph Field. Zachary Field, brother
to Joseph, sold it to John Davis, ii December 17 10. On the
22d of July 1680 there was an agreement made between Nicholas
FoUet and Joseph Stevenson about bounds of land "neare to
ffollets now dwelling house & adjoining to Joseph Fields marsh
and s'^ Stevensons land." This appears to be the land lying
between Stevenson's Creek and Stoney Brook, not extending
down to the river. See N. H. Prov. Deeds, III, 158a.

March 26, 1701, Nicholas FoUett and wife, Mary, sold to
Nathaniel Mcader all lands of his father in Oyster River, in-
cluding that fenced land he died possessed of, bounded with
the land of Joseph Stevenson "on y^ east and land of Joseph
Field on y^ north and y^ lands of Thomas Drew on y® south."
Meader sold this to Thomas Tootman, and it descended to his
son, Francis Footman, and from him to his son, Thomas Foot-
man, by division of estate in 1774, forty acres bounded on the
west by Daniel Davis. This lot now contains the eastern
field of Mr. Clarence I. Smart's farm, and on a little hill in this
field may be seen the deep cellar of what tradition says was a
garrison house. It is somewhat concealed by a clump of trees.
Here, doubtless, lived Nicholas Follett. Not far distant in a


northerly direction and just where Stoney Brook broadens
into Stevenson's Creek are plain evidences of an old wharf or
landing place, where the boats of Nicholas FoUett, mariner,
must have been moored.

On the lot originally that of John Pillin and later belonging
to Daniel Davis a house once stood on a hilltop in Mr. Smart's
field. The cellar has been filled till not a trace remains. At
this point of view one looks down upon the slate tombstone in
the field, where rests the body of Ivory H. Willey, who died
30 September 1832, aged 22 years and 5 months. As much
further beyond one sees a clump of trees and close beside it,
at the extreme point of land, is a very old landing place, repaired
by Dea. James Munroe Smart in his day. From this place
have been shipped to Portsmouth many loads of quarried stone
and of brick dug out of this farm. 1

Not far from the main road and east of Mr, Smart's house
is the cellar of the house where lived Abijah Pinkham, whose
burial place with broken down marble tombstones is hidden
from view by overgrowing shrubbery. It was walled in, a
short distance northerly of where the old barn stood. Here
also lies the body of his wife, Rachel (Huckins) Pinkham, and
there are indications of several other graves. The inscriptions
that can be read appear in the genealogical notes on the Pink-
ham family, in this history.

We come now to the meeting house lot. A meeting house
was built here by Valentine Hill, in 1655, and a parsonage was
built the following year, but the formal grant for the use of the
ministry was not made till 20 September 1668. Then sixty
acres were granted by the selectmen "for the meeting house and
burying place." "It runes from ye water side next to William
Williams sener his Lot and it Runs thear along the highway
from the water side south west 324 rods to a whit oak tree marked
on both Sids and from the tree it Runes south east 35 Rods to
a pitch Pine with 4 Rod alowed ye Length for a high way and
from that tree it Runs northeast to John Palles Lot and soe
by it to the water side by the same point and we have alowed
fower Rod in the Length of it for A high way to go across the
lot. This is the Towne Lott only exsempting Joseph Fields
marsh which is in some part of the front of it." In 1762 there
is an article in the warrant for town meeting, "to see whether


the town will choose a committee to settle the boundary of the
parsonage Lott near the Oyster Bed where the old meeting
house formerly stood." Agreeably to this a committee, con-
sisting of Joseph Smith, Jeremiah Burnham, and Ebenezer
Thompson, renewed the boundaries of the lot, 7 May 1774.
"We began at the River side by a small alder And run South
west 324 Rods (going across a Rock near the house formerly
Stephen Jenkans Deceased) to a Saplin pine and spotted it on
four sides and then South East 35 Rods to a Picked Rock and
marked it T. L. and then North East 324 Rods to the River
and then to the first bounds and we find that in runing these
points we include about one acre of Fields Marsh (so called)."
. . . "We have also run out Two acres of Land for the use
of the Town aforesaid that is now in possession of the heirs of
Daniel Davis Deceased by their liberty. We began by the
water side adjoining said Town lot at the place where was the
old Burying place & Run South west 29 Rods, and then began
again at said water side and run south 67^^ East 12 rods then
S. W. 25 rods and then to the place where the 29 rods ended."
Here, then, were the first church and parsonage and the oldest
burial ground in Durham, on a little plot of ground in the
part of the parsonage lot that lies close to the river. Here is a
slightly elevated ridge of land now covered with a clump of trees
and bushes. Search failed to disclose any signs of graves. The
first church must have stood near by on the river bank. The
parsonage was probably on higher ground, but no trace of a
cellar has been disco\'ered. Here lived the Rev. John Buss.

The road which formed the western part of the meeting house
lot was only a bridle path. The next lot was that of William
Williams. Just when he settled here is unknown, but he came
with Thomas W^iggin to Dover Neck in 1633. There were
granted to William Williams, senior, 24 August 1651, twenty
acres bounded then by lands of John Bickford and Mr. Am-
brose Gibbons, "from William Williams his house to the next
creek westward and from his house to the eastward eight
rods." In 1665 he had a grant of twenty acres more, "to be
joined to his house loot bounded twelve pooU by the water
side next to the meeting house and the rest adjoining to his
former loot backwards." William Williams and wife, Mar>\
and Samuel Hill and wife, Elizabeth, 23 March 1686, conveyed


to Stephen Jenkins of Kittery land "on which the aforesaid
William Williams now liveth, containing f forty acres as it is
bounded between the lands called Roberts his Land on the
North west and the High way or the Ministers Lot on the South
east, and butting upon Oyster River." Here the Jenkins family

Online LibraryEverett Schermerhorn StackpoleHistory of the town of Durham, New Hampshire : (Oyster River Plantation) with genealogical notes → online text (page 5 of 34)