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The Portsmouth Steam Factory plays
a role in uncovering a family heritage

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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.

Factory site--Nathaniel Adams's seat--Discovery of Lady Stanley's grave--Her husband William Parker--Sketch of the Parker family: William, John, Samuel, Matthew Stanley, Noah, John, 2d.

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The site of the Portsmouth Steam Factory has historical reminiscences of some interest. It is but a few years since that its premises, together with the whole land in front from Parker to Rock street and up to Islington street, was the seat of Nathaniel Adams, the Portsmouth annalist. His mansion was situated on the spot where the factory stands, and a red fence extending around the whole premises enclosed one of the most attractive gardens and prolific orchards to be found in Portsmouth. On the west side of the garden, nearly opposite the end of Marlborough street, (which then extended only from Brewster to Rock street,) might be seen some slate stones nearly buried in the earth, which indicated that graves had long ago been made there.

In opening that street in 1847, before the building of the factory, a drain was laid from the street to the water, which passed near the graves. In covering up the drain, some slabs were found which worked to advantage, and were used for a covering.

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After the Steam Factory company had laid out the ground for a highway in front of the mill, a gentleman in Massachusetts made inquiry whether any graves had been discovered. One who had been employed to dig the drain, recollected handling a square stone, and placing it to cover a portion of the drain. He dug in the centre of the street and soon found it. On being cleansed, the following inscription was found:
"Here lies
Died August 18, 1718,
Aged 53 years."

Tradition says that Mrs. Parker was Lady Stanley, a daughter of the Earl of Derby, who married William Parker in England, without the consent of the Earl; the current of her affections running more in the course of love than in pride of ancestry. She abandoned her claims to nobility, and with her husband fled to the new world. Portsmouth was the place of refuge--this lovely spot by the river side was selected for their residence--and here the fifteen remaining years of her life were spent. In a correspondence with the present Earl of Derby, he says that he finds no record of Zerviah in the family of his ancestors. Her name was either suppressed, changed, or she was not of regular descent. Her family nobility, if she ever had any, did not survive her; but the record shows that from her have descended some who need no ancestral fame. From the annals of the Parker family, and other sources, we have an opportunity of drawing some interesting details.

WILLIAM PARKER was married to Zerviah Stanley, daughter of the Earl of Derby, Feb.26, 1703, and came to Portsmouth, N.H. soon after. The family tradition is, that this was a love match. He was a gentleman of education, but after arriving in this country it was necessary for him to support himself and her; and yet he feared her father's vengeance, who was an arbitrary and vindictive man. Both were very much frightened--our country then being subject to Great Britain he feared legal proceedings. He kept as obscure as possible, working in a tan yard on the east of his residence. It is said of his lady that she suffered sometimes great distress of mind, knowing that she would be disinherited and her children cut off from her father's house. They were buried in the garden which afterwards belonged to Nathaniel Adams, as above stated.

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The Hon. WILLIAM PARKER, the oldest son of the above, was born in Portsmouth in 1703, received his education in one of the public schools, and then became apprentice to his father. He made himself thoroughly acquainted with that business, but relinquished it soon after he came of age, and was employed for several years as master of one of the public schools. In his leisure hours he pursued the study of law, and was admitted to the bar in 1732. He was clerk of the commissioners who settled the boundary line between New Hampshire and Massachusetts in 1737; was appointed Register of Probate by Gov. Belcher; afterwards became Judge of Admiralty, and was for many years the only Notary Public in the Province. From 1765 to 1774 he was a member of the general assembly. In August, 1771, he was appointed a Judge of the Superior Court, which office he held until all those who received their appointment from the King were in the Revolution removed.

After Judge Parker left the bench he was confined to the house with the gout. He took no part in the politics of the day; neither did his health permit him to attend to any other concerns than the education of his family. He died April 29, 1781, aged seventy-seven. Of his character, the annalist of Portsmouth says, "that he was esteemed a well-read and accurate lawyer; he had dilligently studied the law, not only as a profession but as a science. While at the bar he was consulted, and his advice relied on in the most important cases which came before the courts. But his studies were not confined entirely to the law. He gave much of his attention to classical literature and the belle lettres, in which he made great proficiency." In 1763 the corporation of Harvard college conferred on him the degree of Master of Arts, although his preliminary education was received in a tan yard. He was emphatically a self-made man.

His children were Zerviah Stanley, married to William Earl Treadwell, and died May, 1750, aged 22 years. William died June, 1813, aged 82 years. John died Oct. 4th, 1791, aged 59 years. Elizabeth married to Capt. Nathaniel Adams, (the father of the late Nathaniel Adams, many years clerk of the court, etc.) and died Nov. 20th, 1815, aged 81 years. Mary married to Hon. David Sewall of York, Me., for many years Judge of the U.S. District Court, etc. She died May, 1788, aged 50 years. Lydia married Samuel Hale, and died September, 1787, aged 47 years. She was the mother of the late John P. Hale of Rochester, who was the father of Hon. John P. Hale, U.S. Senator, of Dover. Catharine died unmarried September, 1817, aged 73 years. Samuel died December 6th, 1804, aged 60 years. Sarah married Hon. Christopher Toppan, and died July 26th, 1837, aged 91 years. Matthew Stanley died 1787, aged 40 years.

Of the sons above-mentioned, the first, William, was the Hon. William Parker of Exeter, and many years a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and Register of Probate for the county of Rockingham. His children were: William, a distinguished physician, who died of yellow fever; Nathaniel, lawyer, Deputy Secretary and Secretary of State; Jeremiah, died at sea; John T., formerly Register of Probate; Samuel, teller in one of the Boston banks; Elizabeth, married Col. Samuel Adams; and Mary, who married Joseph Lamson.

The other son of the first William Parker, (the husband of Zerviah Stanley,) was John Parker, the father of Noah the Universalist minister, of whom we shall speak hereafter. He (John) died young, leaving Noah a dependent on his brother William.

JOHN PARKER (the second son of William), always known as Sheriff Parker, was an "old bachelor" of the very best sort; for he educated at his own expense nine of his nephews and nieces--among whom was the father of the present John P. Hale. The very first copy of the Declaration of Independence ever received in New Hampshire, was read by Sheriff Parker from the balcony of the Court House in Portsmouth. That scene has been fully described by an old revolutionary soldier, then present. The old cocked hat, the old fashioned coat, the sheriff's sword, the three times three cheers when Sheriff Parker mounted the balcony with the scroll in his hand, and the enthusiasm with which that document was received by those who were at that time present, has been pictured to the life; and yet this man for electioneering purposes has been called a tory! Gov. Wentworth appointed him Sheriff of the Province in 1771, and Sheriff of Rockingham after the Province was divided into counties. When the government was assumed by the people at the commencement of the revolution, he was re-appointed, by the authority of the State, Sheriff of Rockingham; and when the federal government went into operation, President Washington appointed him Marshal of the District of New Hampshire. He held these offices during life, and discharged the several duties of them with fidelity and care. He likewise had the direction of an insurance office, and conducted the business of it with accuracy and skill. He was never married, but his house was the asylum of the widow and orphan; and the children he took charge of were nourished and educated with paternal care. His benevolence was not confined to his relatives, but extended in many instances to strangers, who partook largely of his bounty. In the walks of private life, his virtues were conspicuous. He was a social companion, an accomplished gentleman, a disinterested friend.

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SAMUEL PARKER, the third son of Hon. William Parker of Portsmouth, was born August, 1744. He was elected assistant minister of the Trinity Church, in Boston, in October, 1773. On the 27th of June, 1779, Dr. Parker was unanimously elected rector of the church. His reputation extended throughout the Union, and was rewarded with a doctorate from a respectable university. He was looked up to as the head of the Episcopal church in New England, and inferior to no clergyman on the continent in the essential accomplishments for that sacred office. After the decease of Bishop Bass, he was unanimously elected Bishop of the eastern diocese, which office he accepted. He was consecrated in New York on the 15th of Sept. 1804. He died on the 6th of December, 1804. Bishop Parker was married in November, 1776, to Annie, daughter of Mr. John Cutler of Boston.

Their children were John Rowe, who kept the telegraph establishment in Boston; Samuel Dunn, District Attorney for the county of Suffolk; William has been one of the Aldermen in Boston; Thomas Ives, a physician, and James Floyd, twins, deceased; Benjamin Clark, an Episcopalian clergyman in the western part of Massachusetts, (Lennox, we believe); Richard Green, a distinguished teacher in Boston and author of several school books; Elizabeth died young; Mary Cutler single; Anna died young; Sarah Dunn married to Samuel H. Packer; Maria; Rebecca married Rev. Theodore Edson, Episcopal minister at Lowell, Mass.

MATTHEW STANLEY GIBSON, the youngest son of Hon. William Parker of Portsmouth, settled at Wolfborough, and had the charge of the celebrated Gov. Wentworth farm. He married Anna Rust, daughter of Col. Rust of Portsmouth, who moved in the time of the revolution to Wolfborough. They were married at the house of Col. Toppan, in Hampton, and he afterwards educated their only daughter, Anna Rust Parker, the first wife of Rev. Jaaziniah Crosby of Charlestown, N.H.

The children of Matthew Stanley Parker were, Henry Rust, a farmer in Wolfborough; William Sewell of Troy, N.Y., it is said, kept a bookstore; Matthew Stanley, for many years Cashier of Suffolk Bank; Samuel Hale, the publisher of the Waverly novels, etc.; Nathaniel Adams, who died young; John Toppan; Anna Rust married Rev. Jaaziniah Crosby. Hon. William Parker, 2d, of Portsmouth, had two wives. The first was Elizabeth Grafton. His second wife was Mrs. Abigail Forbes, daughter of Mr. Keais of Portsmouth. The children were by the first wife.

NOAH PARKER was the only son of John Parker, who was the second son of the first William Parker, who married Zerviah Stanley. Noah's father, John, married a Miss Ward, and both died while Noah was an infant,--leaving him to the care of his brother William, who adopted Noah into his own family. He received a good education, after which he chose to learn a trade; but though working several hours a day at his trade, he was a profound student, and became well versed in all the literature of the day. Noah was born 17th March, 1734, and died August 17th, 1787, aged fifty-three years.

Noah had two wives. The first was Elizabeth Cate, who died, leaving three children, viz.: John, Nathaniel and Mary. The second wife was Rebecca Noble, by whom he also had three children, viz.: Edward Parry, Olive Rindge and Zerviah Stanley. His uncle William resided in the house which was afterwards occupied by Nathaniel Adams, where now stands the Portsmouth Steam Factory. There Noah passed his early days, and received his early education. He was a man of unbounded liberality of feeling, carrying his charity so far beyond his means, that he would sometimes borrow to aid one in want, trusting to Providence for the means of repaying.

At the time of the revolution it is said that the mansion setting out prominently on the south-west corner of Daniel and Penhallow streets, was occupied by Noah Parker. It was a great house in that day, and from that circumstance and the name of the occupant, it was called Noah's Ark. In naming the streets in 1778, the street which extended from this house south to Buck (now State) street, was called Ark street, which name it retained until a few years ago it was made a continuation of Penhallow street.

Noah Parker's last place of residence was the house sixty-six Market street, formerly owned by C. Cushing, and occupied in 1869 by Capt. John N. Frost. He was a black and white-smith. His work shop was on High street, on what is now the west end of Ladd street, before this street was laid out. He had two daughters, Zerviah, who died of yellow fever in 1798, and Mrs. Watts, who for many years kept a boarding-house in Portsmouth, and died here some eight or ten years since. He was the first Universalist preacher in Portsmouth, and for him the Church in Vaughan street was built in 1784. This church was latterly known as the Cameneum, but is now no longer the "Seat of the Muses and the Arts."

In the month of June, 1778, Nathaniel Adams and John Parker, Jr. completed a survey of the town and made a plan of it. At their request the town appointed a committee to name the streets, which was accordingly done, and the names entered upon the plan. The original map is still in the archives of the city. The draft is by JOHN PARKER, JR., and is a rare specimen of penmanship. We have also seen an elegant miniature from his pencil. He was the son of Rev. Noah Parker, and father of William B. Parker, of this city. John married Elizabeth B. Wingate, daughter of Moses and Elizabeth B. Wingate, who was the daughter of Elizabeth and George Bennett, who was daughter of George Vaughan, Lieut. Governor of New Hampshire. Madam Bennett was a very learned lady and well versed in the Latin language. She was quite near sighted when young, but as she advanced in life her eyesight became remarkably clear, so that she could see to read the finest print and sew the finest "Holland," as it was then called, without spectacles. After she passed the age of ninety she translated one of the books of Virgil, without the aid of spectacles. She was born about the year 1700, and lived to the age of ninety-three.

John Parker, Jr. was a surveyor, and entered into a contract, in company with several others, with the authorities of Georgia, for a survey of that State, and died at Savannah, in 1792, without prosecuting that survey. William B. Parker was at the time of his father's death five years old.

The tan yard of the first Parker was near his residence on the east, and was used for the same purpose for more than a century after his day. The street parallel with Parker street still bears the name of Tanner's lane. The one a lasting designation of the original residence of the proprietor, and the other of the honorable profession of the son-in-law of the Earl of Derby.

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