main menu Sponsor Banner
page menu

James Mcdonough was
never seen again!

Brewster image

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.

Residences on Market and Bow streets--Judge Pickering--John Penhallow--Boyd--James McDonough--Disappearance on wedding night--Boyd's riches.

top of page

As has before been said, there is much of the romantic in the heretofore unwritten history of Portsmouth. A map of the position and a picture of the residences here at the close of the last century, before the desolating fires raged, would now be highly prized for the reminiscenses they would awaken.

Taking that section on the east side of Market street, which extends from Commercial alley around to Bow street, we have the site of three houses of some note, which were swept away by the fire of 1802. First on the northern corner of Commercial alley and Market street, was the residence of Hon. John Pickering. It was a large two-story house, gable end toward Market street, with an entrance on the street, also a front entrance on the court. Judge P. was born in Newington in 1738, and graduated at Cambridge in 1761. A man of eminent ability, which was devoted to the service of his fellow-men. He was a member of the convention which framed the State Constitution, filled the office of Governor when Langdon resigned, and was chief justice of the supreme court for five years.

Next came the residence of John Penhallow, fronting the street, and occupying the spot where Jones & Mendum's store now stands*. (*John A. Lamprey's, in 1873.) The garden extended far back, and included nearly all the land afterwards called Penhallow street, from Daniel to Bow streets. Mr. P. was the brother of Deacon Samuel Penhallow and the father of Hunking and Benjamin Penhallow, who imbibed their father's conscientious nicety, and so long and so systematically and so honestly conducted business on the spot of their birth. If every body could be made to move with the same carefulness and affability, the world would have few accidents to record, and universal respect of man for his neighbor would cover the earth. The influence of such examples does not die in a single generation. John Penhallow, more than sixty years ago, owned and occupied the house on Islington street now owned by Capt. Wm. Parker, where he closed his days.

Now we approach the corner of Bow street. Here, with an open fence in front, seventy years since, was the residence of William Boyd, a son of Col. George Boyd. In front of this very spacious mansion-house, which faced to the north, was an open fence enclosing a small garden plot.

Somewhere in the neighborhood, on what was then called Spring hill, was an English goods store, kept by James McDonough, an enterprising gentleman who came from England with some trading capital about the year 1757. He was successful in business, selling at what was regarded low prices, and his property accumulated so fast, that from a town and province tax of only L2 in 1758, it rose up to L27 in 1768. Mr. McDonough was an officer in St. John's Lodge, and acquired the highest standing in society. He gave his attentions to Miss Abigail Sheafe, the eldest daughter of Jacob Sheafe, and sister of the late Thomas, James, Jacob, William, etc.

top of page

The Missing Bridegroom

Sometime in the year 1768, arrangements for the nuptials were made. The house selected was the one just described, afterwards William Boyd's, which was handsomely furnished, and rich plate provided. The long looked-for evening at length arrived which was to seal the matrimonial bond for better or for worse. At the mansion of the bride were collected the invited guests. But the bridegroom appeared not! No investigations could make any discovery of his mysterious disappearance; nor from that day to this, altho' ninety years have elapsed, has there been any discovery of what became of him! The suspense in which the bride was placed must have been appalling: in doubt whether to indulge in feelings of scorn at the treatment of him who had wickedly fled from her reach, or to give vent to feelings of grief for one who had been waylaid and murdered to prevent the marriage.

The mysterious disappearance was town talk at the time, but as there was a possibility that he might return, the papers of the day made no record of it. It was not until March, 1769, that the least public reference is made to Mr. McDonough, when a notice is published by Benjamin Parke, that having made several payments on a note held by James McDonough when he left the country, now in the hands of Col. George Boyd, he will not pay it.

It appears that all his property (with the exception of some silver ware which is still retained in the Sheafe family, bearing the initials J. McD.) passed into the hands of Col. Boyd, who at once became the richest man in Portsmouth. In 1770 his town and province tax was L67, (increasing L37 in one year,) while the highest tax paid by any other man in Portsmouth that year was L30.

Miss Abigail Sheafe afterwards found a beloved partner in the Hon. John Pickering, whose former residence is pointed out above. She was the mother of the late Jacob S. Pickering, and also of Mrs. Lyman, still living, the mother of John P. Lyman.

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
Design Copyright © 2000

top of page

[ New | Site Map | Talk | Store | Sponsors ]

[ Brewster's Rambles | About Brewster | Theme Sites ]
[ Contact Era | Colonial Era | Revolution Era ]

line rule


Site label
Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801 Email:

line rule