Arthur Livermore.

Seventy years ago. Reminiscences of Haverhill Corner (Volume 2) online

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Reminiscences of Haverhill Corner


Arthur Livermore.


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Arthur Livermore was born at Holderness, N. H., Jau. 7, 1811;
Graduated at Dartmouth College in 18'29; studied law with Jeremiah
Mason, and was admitted to the bar in 1833; located in Bath, N. H.,
in 1839, succeeding to the practice of Jonathan Smith; appointed
U. S. Consul to Londonderry, Ireland, by President Lincoln in 1861,
and retained this position till 1885; then settled in the practice of
the legal profession at Bath, England, where he is still living at The
Hern, Oldfield Park. His father was Chief Justice Arthur Livermore
of Holderness, and his mother Louisa Bliss of Haverhill. His grand-
father was Samuel Livermore of Holderness, Chief Justice and U. S.
Senator for many years. Harriet Livermore, the '• school-mistress '"
or" guest ■* of Whittier's "Snow-Bound,"' was his cousin, daughter
of Judge Edward St. Loe Livermore.

It was in 1820 or 1822 that young Arthur Livermore came up from
the seclusion of his Holderness home to have his first taste of village
and academy life at Haverhill Corner, then the social, official and
political center of Northern New Hampshire. These reminiscences
in the following pages written by Mr. Livermore for Mrs. Wil-
liam Thompson, daughter of William Nelson, Esq., who is mentioned
in them,were dated Bath, England, Oct. 27, 1888. They were never
intended for publication, and in that fact lies much of their charm.
They are the vivid impressions made upon the mind of a boy at the
age of ten or eleven, recorded some seventy years later. They are
accompanied by valuable notes furnished for the most part by Mr.
Frederick P. Wells, historian of Newbury, Vt. [W. F. W.

Hentjitiscences of l^averbiil Corner.

The very few who can derive pleasure from these reminis-
cences are familiar with the scene of them, the common
around which the people had ranged their seemly dwellings,
a quadrangle sloping gently westward toward the Connecti-
cut and the rich meadows through which it flows.

Moosilauke, Owl's Head, Sugar Loaf, and the associated
heights over which the sun pours its light in the morning,
and many other things might demand notice and description,
if what I am about to relate was intended for the information
or amusement of strangers. But the present generation who
know it best, being familiar with existing modes and means
of communication, cannot easily realize its sequestered state
at the epoch the title of these records denotes.

It was still called by the older people, " The Lower Coos."
North Haverhill now embraces a district known at that time
as " Horse Meadow." " The Catamount" was the name of
a moderate eminence half a mile or more distant from the
common, constituted by nature for a goal and limit to Sat-
urday afternoon excursions through forest paths numerous,
and each in its way diversified by fields and groves, and like

Jesse Kimball was the preceptor of the Academy, and
among his pupils were Benjamin West Binney, who gained
distinction and wealth at the bar in New York, where he died
about fifty years later; Andrew S. Woods, of Bath, who
afterwards became Chief Justice of New Hampshire ; Nathan
Clifford, who gained a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court
of the United States ; Everett Wheeler and Warren D. Goo-
kin, who both became rich and died in New York ; Anthony


W. Morse, who was distinguished in the New York Stock
Exchange by dashing speculation, and the attendant vicissi-
tudes of fortune ; Josiah and Levi Bartlett, brothers, who
made their lives useful in the practice of medicine ; Horace
Soper, who became respectable in the law ; and a number
of others, whose names I might mention, and whom I knew
in the sequel of their lives as worthy perhaps of a distinction
which they never reached, or perhaps aspired to.

Nathaniel Wilson,* a lawyer, at or near Bangor, is, if
living, the sole survivor of the group whom I could name.

On the north end of the common, lived Moses Dow, Esq.,
many years register of probate. On the west side were
ranged Osgood, Swan, the widow Dow, Towle (inn-keeper),
Wright, (cashier of the bank), Coon. On the south was
George Woodward, and on the east were John Nelson and
David Sloan, Esquires ; Williams, the widow Bliss, Noah
Davis, (father of Chief Justice Noah Davis of New York,)
and Captain Adams ; their houses were all painted white,
except two. A few Lombardy poplars remained standing
like sentinels, in front of them, but soon fell victims to the
prevailing dislike that arose about that time towards those
unoffending things. It was a multifarious indictment that
was found by the grand inquest of the people. One would
aver that the tree nursed slugs ; another that it caused
houses to rot ; another that its shade was unhealtful ; that its
great height made it dangerous. In which of these, or for
what other crime the old fashioned dandy tree was doomed to
death, I know not, nor ever did.

The Coon house was then an inn, as appeared by a board
that swung in front of it. But few travellers called to dis-
turb the repose of Dr. Coon, whose age and corpulence made
exemption from such disturbances desirable. The house was

* Born in Haverhill, Sept. 29, 1808, d Orono, Me., January, 1892.


afterwards sawn asunder ; one part, hauled to the south-east
corner of the common, became the residence of Mr. Blaisdell,
the other, removed down the south road, took to itself some
additions which qualified it to figure as the home of Gen.
Pool, who could command a brigade, or shoe its horses, as
occasion demanded. The ground was used for the site of
the Grafton bank. Mr. Woodward's house came at an early
day into the possession of Mr. Bell who enlarged and embel-
lished it.

Mr. Nelson's house presented a narrow front to the view,
but afterward took wings, and hovered a rare brood, long
since dispersed.

Mr. Sloan,* his neighbor, first came to Haverhill as pre-
ceptor of the academy, but afterwards entered the practice of
law, in which he continued till his death.

Mr. Williams made saddles and other gear for horses.
His shop, which was a chamber in his house, was sometimes
shared by Mr. May hew, whose reduced condition forced him
to make paper fly-traps by day and teach the French lan-
guage in the evening. Several boys whom I knew, actually
made such progress under him that they assured me that,
"Cammow-billy-bou-che-long," signified, "What do you call
that ? " That was the same Mayhew whose name was given
to the turnpike from Plymouth to Bristol, and who kept the
inn at the head of it.

Two men had died in Haverhill a few years before the
date of these records ; each somewhat distinguished in his
way, and each has transmitted to the present generation the
evidences of what we designate in animals as thorough

♦David Sloan, born, Pelham, Mass., 1780. Dartmouth, 1806. Died,
1860. Came to Haverhill 1811, married daughter of Col. Thomas
Johnson of Newburj-, and had two sons who were graduates of Dart-
mouth, but died young. Scott Sloane of Woodsville, N.H.,is the son
of one of these.


breeding. I mean that each has impressed upon his descend-
ants his own peculiar marks of form and temperament.
Their somewhat large estates in the northern part of the
town marched, I think, upon one another. Colonel Porter*
was of English parentage, and, if I have not been misinformed,
of English birth, also. His manners and his mode of life
were such as became a gentleman, and his discriminating
hospitalities were generous and extensive. He invested very
advantageously in land in Canada, as well as nearer home,
but did not live long enough to realize the splendid estate
which they would in a few more years have become. It
might not be easy to find his equal among his numerous
descendants, but they have been, to an extraordinary degree,
bright, gay, graceful and winning. Col. Porter was tall
and spare in his figure. He was largely conversant with
men, and a great many of his pithy sayings were currently
repeated seventy years ago.

His neighbor, Gen. Dow,f was less adventurous, but held
his small winnings with so firm a hand that he probably left
an easier task to hia executors than fell to the lot of Col.
Porter's, and a proportionately larger estate. If anybody
in derision could have spoken of him as a log, and taken the
liberty of sitting down upon him, such person would soon
have found the life and subtlity of the serpent within the
cold exterior. If he or his lacked the grace that men admire,
the adroitness with which they are guided, or the brilliancy or

* Col. Asa Porter came to Haverhill about 1770, a graduate of Har-
vard college ; lived where S. F. Southard now lives, on Horse Meadow.
He was a Tory; married a Miss Crocker, aud their daughter married
Mills Olcutt of Hanover, whose three daughters married VV. H. Dun-
can, Joseph Bell, and Rufus Choate. (See History of Haverhill, p. 82).

t Moses Dow, born, Atkinson, N. H. Harvard, 1769. Came to
Haverhill 1770. Owned the present Keyes farm. Major-General of
the State militia. Married Phebe Emerson. He died March 11, 1813,
aged 61. She died July 11, 1842, 91 years, 4 months. History of
Haverhill, p. 252 et seq.


beauty by which they are attracted, they have certainly shown
ability in winning the good things of this world, and are not
unlikely in the end to give a fair account of themselves. As
early as Gen. Dow's time it had come to be suspected that
the good things that men ate were not equally healthful. But
he knew no such differences, and declared unaffectedly,
''The more I eat the better it is for me,"

A son of this gentleman was Moses Dow, for many years
register of probate, and already round. He was a man of
remarkable quietude of manner, and, on sitting down, un-
consciously assumed all the appearance of being f\\st asleep.
He testified in a certain case, which will be adverted to in the
sequel, and which interested the neighborhood a good deal,
concerning somewhat noticed by him at about eight o'clock
in the evening. Counsel arguing the cause to the jury com-
menting upon Dow's testimony, exclaimed, "Eight o'clock
in the evening? Impossible, gentlemen ! My word for it, he
was at that hour asleep ! Do you doubt it? then look at him,
for there he sits, the very image of profound repose?" I
never heard a syllable in disparagement of his character or
conduct in office. He was appointed while its term was dur-
ing good behavior, but the legislature saw fit to change the
law, and Dow and Atherton, who had been long in oflfice
were displaced, and never afterwards appointed.

The widow of General Dow, and two daughters lived at
this time in their house on the west side of the common, and
next to Towle's inn.* These ladles had been genteelly edu-
cated, and possessed the only piano forte, but one in Haver-
hill. Neither of them was ever married, and the willing-
ness of one of them to become the wife of a gentleman, then
of great promise, and afterwards of great eminence in his

* Where Milo Bailey lived. It was somewhat altered after its
damage by the fire in 1848.


profession, was one of the causes of an event that attracted a
vast deal of notice at the time, and the tradition of which
still survives. All the actors, and, I may safely say, all the
spectators of its scenes, have long ceased to care for it, and I
think I may, without risk of grieving any person, set down
what I remember of it. At that time, and tor many years
afterwards in New Hampshire, it was not unusual for a single
gentleman to be received as a boarder in the house of one of
the better class of people. One party to the arrangement
gained in this way a home, and the other a pleasant addition
to their's. It thus became convenient, and perfectly in har-
mony with the usages of the country, for Mr. Bell,* a gen-
tlemanly young lawyer to occupy one of the spare rooms in
the home of Mrs. Dow, and to be upon the terms of mutual
kindness, and of domesticity ordinarily attaching to such re-
lations. Unfortunately they resulted in the formation of ex-
pectations on the part of Miss Mary Dow, which were shared
by her mother and sister, and in consequent disappointment.
It is not necessary to believe that Mr. Bell willingly caused
or knew of the existence of these expectations. The honor-
able sequel of his life, indeed, rather demands that we should
believe the contrary. During his absence these ladies heard
of his engagement to a granddaughter of their old neighbor,
Col. Porter, charged him with it on his return, and expelled
him from the house, hurling his boxes into the road, and giv-
ing publicity to grief in every possible manner. I use the
terms of plurality, because I did not learn that the lady to
whom the alleged wrong had been done, was particularly
active in these demonstrations, or the contrary. She very

♦Joseph Bell, born Bradford, Mass. ,1787. Dartmouth, 1807. Haver-
hill 1811-1842. Keinoved to Boston and became a partner with Henry
F. Durant who founded Wellesley College. President of Massa-
chusetts Senate. I..L. D., from Dartmouth College, 1837. Died at
Saratoga, ISol.— History of Haverhill. Bench and Bar of Grafton Co.


soon retired to the place of her father's former residence,*
near Coos Meadows, and there remained durino- her life in
absolute seclusion. By reason of the shortening of the road,
the house had been thrown into obscurity behind a dense
growth of trees, and underwood, and to the traveller who
with difficulty gained a view of it seemed the fit abode of
gloom and despondency. There were persons of refinement
and position who were sincerely attached to the unfortunate
gentlewoman, and sympathized in her grief.

It would not be strange, therefore, if they shared in her
resentment also, and under its influence gave expression to
opinion not fully warranted by evidence. Her sister, a more
strenuous character, gave expression to her sense of the situ-
ation in a different manner, and, as it was said, she induced her
sister to consent to a suit at law. That unfortunate measure
was attended in the first place with a trial at Haverhill, in
which the jury failed to agree, and finally in one at Ply-
mouth, in which a verdict was rendered for the defendant.
The plaintiff 's principal counsel was Mr. (afterwards judge,)
Fletcher of Boston. The attorney-general, Mr. Sullivan,
argued the case for the defendant with ability that attracted
great commendation.

Previous to this last trial, a proposal was submitted to Mr.
Bell, who replied that his honor was at stake, and that he
could not retire until the end. A large bill of costs was in-
curred, which the defendant never enforced during the life of
the plaintiff, but did revive the judgment against the exe-
cutor, her sister, to whose advice and agency he imputed the
law suit, and who, by some inheritance had become able to
satisfy the judgment without much personal inconvenience,
or any abridgment of the comforts to which she was accus-

* The house on the Kej'es farm ; burned in 1899.


The boxes and other things which the exasperated ladies
had caused to be thrown out of doors, Mr. Bell caused to
be taken to the Grafton hotel, kept by Major St. Clair,
where he took lodgings, and to which place he brought his
wife after marriage. There they abode while the house which
had been George Woodward's was undergoing the required
alterations and repairs. They soon took possession of it,
and there lived until they left Haverhill and went to Boston
to reside, about twenty years afterwards. These twenty
years he devoted to a most successful practice of his profes-
sion, in which he became very eminent, and to the accumu-
lation of a fortune apparently in excess of what that practice
accounts for. He was believed to have been the purchaser
of a considerable part of Col. Porter's lands on terms that
left him a large profit. He was temperate and industrious
by habit, and either denied himself, or did not value, a large
intercourse with his neighbors. His manners were gentle-
manly, and his house a hospitable one.*

In politics his opinions were strong, and his feelings
always sufficiently animated. But he appeared to desire no
office, although his friends once endeavored to send him to
Congress. In person he was of medium stature, plethoric,
of dark complexion, with eyes and brows expressing force
and thought, rather than the mirth and suavity known to
those who were in his inner circle. He died at the age of
sixty, in the fulness of his fame.

Dr. Ezra Bartlett f lived and died in the house next to the
Grafton hotel, | on the east of it. He was son to Josiah
Bartlett, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and,

*Mary Dow difd Feb. 8, 1840. aged 55. Hannah Dow died Dec. 6,
1853, aged 64. (Cemetery.)

fDr. Bartlett was born Kingston 1770, died Dee. 5, 1848.

J The Grafton hotel was the three story house on Court street,
where the late Dr. Phineas Spaulding lived. The house in which Dr.
Bartlett lived is now the second beyond the Dr. Spaulding house.


in his old age at least, took pleasure in adverting to the fact.
Seventy years ago he w^as in full practice of his profession,
sharing v^^ith Dr. Carleton the cure of all maladies through-
out a large district, and so far as I ever learned, performed
his professional duties with ftiir success. Two of his sons,
at least, joined the medical profession, but not in Haverhill,
and his daughters were favorites in society. The doctor had
a leaning towards political life, and was more than once
elected Councillor. He dressed carefully. The frills of his
shirt were always in evidence, exquisitely plaited. His man-
ner and habits were perfectly dignified.

A diiFerent character, though a well dressed person, living
apparently at ease and without any kind of employment,
made daily appearance in public in those days. His walks
were strictly limited within half a mile of the jail, inside
which limit, whether for health or enjoyment he was much
abroad. In brief, he was one of a class rather numerous in
those days, termed "jail birds," unfortunate gentlemen who
had been imprisoned for debt, but by giving bonds to keep
within the prescribed distances from the prison, were set at
laro-e. After a while the gentleman referred to, settled with
his creditors, married a very nice young lady employed as
amanuensis in the registry of deeds, and disappeared from
Haverhill. A granddaughter is at this moment known as a
public singer of some eminence.

There were at that time a number of jail birds at that
place, most of them apparently laboring men, whose estab-
lished character for honesty enabled them to furnish the
required securities, and thus to obtain employment enabling
them to live. Imprisonment for debt was defended by some
sensible men who thought it acted as a restraint upon im-
prudence, as well as an aid to the poor man requiring credit.
He could obtain it by means of this sort of lien, which the


creditor held upon the body of the debtor. But one very
serious mischief of the usage was that many enterprising and
useful men, foreseeing their inability to meet their payments,
absconded to avoid the disaster of their failure.

Imprisonment for debt was gradually alleviated, and in
1840 absolutely abolished, excenting always pre-existing con-
tracts, which the constitution of the United States did not
permit a state to impair, as it would do by weakening in any
form, the creditors' means of enforcing them. Consequently
for a number of years after the repeal, the process ran against
the body of a debtor whose contract ante-dated it, and I re-
member the case of one unlucky man as late as 1848, whose
case was not comprised in the several ameliorating statutes
designed for the relief of debtors, and who was held in close
confinement till he paid.

Prisons are stages at which a considerable class of advent-
urers are arrested, and not a few end, and that check and
eddy of passion results many times in scenes and traditions
very interesting.

I have not much to say of the Haverhill jail. Along with
a troupe of boys I followed to its portals an unhappy man
bound over by the justices of the peace for trial upon charge
of horse-stealing. I witnessed the examination, and pitied
the prisoner, who was a young looking and well dressed man,
and who, as I thought, was weeping during and after the
procedings. But before many weeks that penitent object of
my pity, had, with serrated edge of the main spring of a
watch, severed the iron bars of the casement, and escaped.
He was never recaptured, having, as was supposed, fled to

The story of Burnham, his two-fold murder committed
within the walls of the same jail, and his execution upon the
summit of Magazine hill, lives no doubt in tradition. But a


brief appendix may possibly be new to the present generation,
and may be relied upon as strictly true, however droll. The
two men who were murdered had been committed for debt,
and the precept in form commanded the sheriff to keep them
in custody until released by due process of law. Now the
lawyer by whose agency the two men had been committed
did not 80 far abandon himself to the sensations of horror
generally awakened by the tragedy as to forget the interests
of his clients, and he cautioned the sheriff, who was jail
keeper as well, not to permit nor to suffer the dead bodies of
the prisoners to be removed, as he might by so doing become
liable to the conditions as for an escape, and advised him
carefully to examine the mittimus. The sheriff, old Col.
David Webster, a brave and honorable man, but conscious
of not being quite a match for the astute lawyer, was a little
amazed and puzzled by the condition. "What shall I do?
I cannot keep them till they decay. They will become in-
tolerable, etc., etc." "You can salt them," said the at-
torney. "I'll be d d if I do any such thing, but I'll

soon find out what my duty is." He was soon in his saddle,
and next morning about breakfast time dismounted at Judge
Livermore's in Holderness, who readily restored quiet to the
mind of the sheriff. The jail-keeper seventy years ago was
a Capt. Hoit who became embarrassed in his affairs and gave
place to Dea. George Punchard.

Note. — What has been said about seizing the bodies of de-
ceased persons for debt, was not very uncommonly done in the last
century. On the 28th of June 1785, Judge Thomas Chandler of
Chestei- died in Westminister, Vt.. jail, before he could take the bene-
fit of an act passed by the General Assembly four days before, releas-
ing him from imprisonment. The same penalties used in the case of
the victims of Burnham were threatened. Accordingly his body lay
in one of the cells of the jail until it became so oftensive as to endanger
the health of the inmates. At length Xathan Fisk, the jailer, sug-
gested an expedient which was put into practice. The jail yard bor-
dered upon the burying ground, and a grave was dug within the jail
limits, but sloping 'obliquely under the fence in such a manner


[Stephen] Peabody Webster,* Esquire, was clerk of the
Superior Court, and kept its records in a room in his house,
which he made cheerful in winter with a good fire, and with
the fragrance of paper. He had a farm "out back," which
he enlarged by draining a small lake, and he had lands, not
his farm, in the same vague i-egion and elsewhere. I name
these facts concerning the land, as the genteel form of indi-
catinjr that he was rather straio^htened than flush in the arti-
cle of money, for land in those days was a terrible burden to
its possessor. Esquire Webster led the singing on Sundays
at meeting, and gave it emphasis by nods and gestures, stand-
ing erect in the gallery, and beating time upon the book.
He did somewhat in the politics of the state, in whose Senate
he used to sit. But the light of that house was Mrs. Web-
ster. The pair had been denied children, in order, it would
seem, that the love with which her heart abounded, might be
shed far and wide, penetrating places otherwise loveless and
forlorn, and ascend to the exalted source and worthiest ob-

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Online LibraryArthur LivermoreSeventy years ago. Reminiscences of Haverhill Corner (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 4)