Destroyed by urban renewal,
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.
King street--John Tufton Mason--His premises and family--Jonn Gaines--Charles Treadwell.
PREVIOUS to the Revolution, the avenue running west from Market square was called King street; and as almost everything relating to royalty underwent a change, so the more republican name of Congress street was at that time adopted.
John Tufton Mason & Mason Genealogy
Among the oldest houses now standing in the vicinity of Market square, on this street, is the Gaines house, next west and in the rear of the old Bell tavern,--a little farther west, nearly on the same line, is the mansion of Col. John Tutfon Mason, who held, by inheritance, the title to the State of New Hampshire. The house is now on Vaughan street, but originally it had a handsome front yard extending to King street. Its situation is directly opposite to the entrance to the Cameneum.
This house was built previous to 1746, at which time John Tufton Mason sold to twelve individuals for L1500, all his State title. Mason kept a spacious lot connected with this residence. It extended from what is now Congress street on Vaughan street to Hanover street, then east to High street, then south to and including the premises of the late Dr. Nathaniel A. Haven, taking up the entire square made by those four streets, except the front lots between Fleet and High streets. One of our aged citizens tells us that he has had good slides in that field commencing on the east side, and running into Vaughan street. Fleet street (for many years called Mason street), was not then opened across the premises. The mansion was elegantly fitted up for that day; it was said to be the first house in Portsmouth that had tapestried walls. None of it now remains, but we have seen some fragments of that mark of its grandeur within the last thirty years. Repairs and alterations have done that damage to the house which the thoughtless servant did to the ancient shield, by scourinig off the rust. The ancient oak, near the residence of C. H. Ladd, which was probably a hundred years old when the premises were first occupied by the grantee of New Hampshire, is still a thriving sentinel of old landmarks. (The old tree, nearly if not quite lifeless, remains in 1873.)
Mason Family Genealogy
Soon after the death of Clement March in 1790, William Vaughan was by the north parish The following is the genealogy of the MASON family:
The names of Sarah Catherine and Anna Elizabeth Mason are inscribed on the elegant marble baptismal vase in St. John's church, presented by them in 1761.
In the year 1766 we find the Mason house was vacated by the family, as it was advertised to let, by Jonathan Warner. It is described as "the mansion house of Col. John Tufton Mason, with a large stable, a good garden, and small pasture adjoining--pleasantly situated on the main street near the State house."
John Moffatt built the spacious house on Market street, now occupied by the family of the late Alexander Ladd, more than ninety years ago. It was afterwards occupied by his son, Samuel Moffatt, who was the father of the wife of the late Dr. N. A. Haven.
Peter Livius built the North Mill bridge in 1761, and was proprietor of the Boyd estate, now Raynes's ship yard. He afterwards occupied the house in Deer street, near the depot, where George Annable now resides. At the time of the Revolution, he received a commission from the crown, and removed with his family to Quebec. The house which he last occupied here was known through the town as "the white house." White paint was but little used on houses in those days.
The oldest house now standing on what was Col. Mason's premises, is the mansion of the late Col. William Brewster, near the corner of Hanover and High streets. It was built about the year 1768.
The nearest house to Col. Mason's was the Gaines house, to which we have above referred. This was built in 1728, by John Gaines. About the same time there was built on the opposite side of the street, by Charles Treadwell, the two-story building next west of the residence of Daniel R. Rogers. The ravages of fire have removed those marks of age which used to be a gratification to the antiquarian eye, but the foundation of the building is still the same, and as it yet retains about its original height enough is preserved to make it the old house still.
Mr. Gaines, a cabinet maker, and Mr. Treadwell, a hair dresser, were natives of Ipswich, Mass. About the year 1724 the young men came to Portsmouth to commence business. They were successful, and in three or four years they built themselves houses. Mr. Gaines purchased a lot next west of the Bell tavern. His friend Treadwell took a lot on the glebe land. The houses were completed in 1728. Mr. Gaines married Ruth Waterhouse in 1727. That now dilapidated building, when entered by the young couple, was handsomely situated almost on the outskirts of the town. It was finished in good style. For architectural symmetry the remaining ornaments of the front door exhibit evidence of good taste which few of modern times exceed. The caps of the pillars retain their beauty to the eye of every architect, after more than a century's exposure. That Mr. Gaines made his own furniture not only handsomely, but faithfully, we have seen evidence in the now daily use of his first parlor chairs, which have passed down in the family for an hundred and thirty years, and are yet as good as new. They never had a price put upon them. The looking-glass, which the parents of Ruth presented her in 1727, in which her young and smiling face had often glanced, and which in its time has made many sad as well as pleasant reflections, hangs now in our office, a looking-glass in common, and a mirror to throw upon us reflections of the past.
John Gaines died in 1743. His only son, George, who was born in 1736, was a cabinet maker and house carpenter, and built a house in which he lived, on the east side of the lot where the Franklin house now stands. He took an active part in the Revolution, and was conspicuous among the most patriotic of the times in opposition to the stamp act. In 1773 he was elected selectman, and held the office upwards of thirty years. For thirty consecutive years (with but one intermission,) he was a representative to the general court. The office of State commissary he held for many years; and as Major he was present in the army at the capture of Burgoyne. He died in 1809. Of several children, the only one with issue was John Gaines, watchmaker, who died in 1853, at the age of seventy-eight, leaving two sons in New Orleans, who are distinguished in the mercantile line. We might add the remark that Ruth Waterhouse was an elder sister of the widow Dennett, whose adventure with Judge Plummer at the wool washing is recorded elsewhere.
The history of the friend and partner of Major Gaines in his journey from Ipswich, is of sufficient interest to occupy a separate ramble.
[ New | Site Map | Talk | Store | Sponsors ]
[ Brewster's Rambles | About Brewster | Theme Sites ]
[ Contact Era | Colonial Era | Revolution Era ]